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Thursday, 31 October 2013

November 2013: The 15 Releases You Can't Miss

It's Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary this month, but that's not all. Discover 2013's biggest period of releases right now!
If you've been under the impression that the past couple of months of entertainment have been just a little underwhelming, then November is here as the perfect antidote to that dissatisfying previous mixture. Of course, Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary will be a major event to watch out for, manifesting itself in a multitude of different ways, yet there are lots of other major 2013 releases launching this month which simply cannot afford to be missed.

In fact, the shortlist is so extensive that we've needed to expand our 'The 5 Releases You Can't Miss' feature not to ten releases, but a whopping fifteen must-see entertainment experiences launching before November's end. Here, then, is our full round-up of every essential purchase, viewing and the like coming to an entertainment venue near you very soon:

15. ARROW- The CW's accomplished superhero drama got off to a stunning start last month with Season Two's opening episodes, especially with Black Canary entering the fray. Here's hoping, then, that Arrow reaches even greater heights as its continues the first act of its run- get ready to discover exactly what the League of Assassins and Ra's Al Ghul himself have planned for Starling City! (Monday 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th- Sky1)
14. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY EXTENDED EDITION- An unexpected expansion, perhaps? Quite to the contrary, this second version of The Hobbit's first instalment is a natural development given the popularity of the Lord of the Rings extended cuts. Thirteen minutes of new footage lie within this updated feature, including more of Bilbo's antics in Hobbiton, further sequences in Rivendell and an expanded Goblin King song in the Lonely Mountain...(Monday 11th)
13. DOCTOR WHO: THE TIME MACHINE- AudioGo's 50th Anniversary Destiny of the Doctor range reaches its dramatic conclusion this month. As the Eleventh Doctor faces an invasion of time by the deadliest of adversaries, can he contact his ten past incarnations, rallying them together in a dastardly quest to reclaim lost and vital relics in time to save reality and the Void space from utter annihilation? (Thursday 7th)
12. PLAYSTATION 4- One of two major video game hardware launches in November, Sony's PlayStation 4 may yet hold the upper edge thanks to the company's lack of policy changes in the history of the console's promotional campaign. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the PS4 can do much more than claim to have a consistent strategy, its video recording and online gameplay capabilities hardly up and above Microsoft's offerings. Time will tell. (Friday 29th)
11. DOCTOR WHO: THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD- And speaking of time- this is one for the Doctor Who classic series fan, to be sure. The first of BBC Worldwide's DVD releases of their recently recovered Patrick Troughton stories, The Enemy of the World casts Troughton as both the Second Doctor and his shady counterpart Salamander, and while it's not exactly a recovered version of The Power of the Daleks, any opportunity to see more Troughton Who content is more than welcome! (Monday 25th)
10. CHILDREN IN NEED 2013- The BBC's Children in Need live show is always a celebrated annual event, and rightly so. Its 2013 edition should be no different in this regard, packing surprises from Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, One Direction (sigh) and more in an ever-commendable evening of fundraising which continues to warrant the viewer's attention thirty three years on from the programme's inception.(Friday 15th- BBC One)
9. GRAVITY- Now September and October behind us, you can anticipate a bunch of major blockbuster films releasing before 2013's climax. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney lead one of the year's most notable science-fiction inclusions, Gravity, which leaves its protagonists hurtling through space after their satellite station is torn apart by debris. Critics are already calling this high-flying motion picture one of the year's standout greats, and you'll find our verdict on the film in all its glory soon after release...(Friday 8th)
8. FORZA MOTORSPORT 5- Turn 10's latest Forza retail release is launching exclusively on the Xbox One. Don't expect major gameplay innovations here, yet the visuals are stellar, the competitor AI has been refined to exemplary standards, and the online campaign's lifespan will match Grand Theft Auto V and FIFA 14 for sheer longevity here. Suffice to say that if it's a graphical showcase that you desire to kick-start your One's video game catalogue, then Forza Motorsport 5 is the perfect experience! (Friday 22nd)
7. BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA EPISODE 1- As if Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag weren't enough these past couple of months, a reprisal of BioShock Infinite's storyline is here to kick-start gamers' inner adrenaline once again this month. Burial At Sea takes place before the collapse of the underwater city of Rapture, and in Episode 1, the player encounters Agent Booker in a new guise, as the mysterious Elizabeth offers him a dangerous quest which threatens to bring world-changing secrets to light about the realm he inhabits. (Tuesday 12th)
6. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE- After what seems like an age and a half, Katniss is back in action in the second film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hit The Hunger Games franchise. Catching Fire takes place just days after its predecessor, as the Girl on Fire commences her Victory Tour of the twelve Districts, only to discover that social upheavals across Panem could threaten to change everything. Seeing as this particular tale was the best of its series in its original novelised guise, I've high hopes for the motion picture version, although the only concern is that things can only go down from here...(Friday 22nd)
5. DOCTOR WHO: THE LIGHT AT THE END- A light confession- we already know that this is going to be great. The reason? The Light at the End is already available as a digital release at Big Finish, yet the retail version of the studio's 50th Anniversary Special audio drama won't arrive until later this month. Suffice to say, though, that regardless of the medium that you use to experience it, Light is a brilliant multi-Doctor adventure that should raise the listener's anticipation for The Day of the Doctor higher than they had ever thought possible! (Saturday 23rd)
4. AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME- Set to broadcast shortly before the 50th Anniversary Special, Mark Gatiss' nostalgic docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time depicts Doctor Who's innocent yet incredible origins. Harry Potter and Game of Thrones' David Bradley gives a spectacular portrayal of the First Doctor, William Hartnell, and is joined by a wealth of other British stars including Jessica Raine, Brian Cox, Reece Shearsmith, Gatiss and the iconic Daleks and Cybermen in what should be an amazing prologue to this month's main event. (TBC- BBC Two)
3. LEGO MARVEL SUPERHEROES- Another thrilling video game launching in November, LEGO Marvel Superheroes' release comes nearly a month after its US début. Nevertheless, at least players already know for certain that they're in for a treat, since the product has amassed a worthy 84% score on Metacritic. Over 100 unique superheroes and supervillains star in the campaign and its outlying Free Play modes, making this an essential purchase for anyone who can't get "Excelsior" out of their vocabulary...(Friday 15th)
2. XBOX ONE- Well, it's finally here. Despite the iconic, infamous 'Xbox One-Eighty' reversal from Microsoft, the new console is looking absolutely smashing. With launch titles including Forza 5, Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct, right now Microsoft certainly has the upper hand in terms of its initial exclusives, but of course, the journey to discover which of the two major publishing behemoths will come out on top in the hardware race will be long and exhilarating! (Friday 22nd)
1. DOCTOR WHO: THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR- But inevitably, on the throne of November's justifiably anticipated releases must come the one that we've all been waiting for. In twenty-three days' time, we'll have reached the big day, Doctor Who's landmark 50th Anniversary. To celebrate, Steven Moffat is giving fans the ultimate present, a 75-minute blockbuster adventure starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as three Doctors destined to battle it out against the Daleks and Zygons, with plenty of groundbreaking twists and blasts from the past along the way. The Eleventh Doctor's days are numbered, but The Day of the Doctor should prove to be nothing less than a captivating celebration of Matt's incarnation, each Doctor who has come before him and the stunning legacy of Doctor Who! Now, is it the 23rd yet? (Saturday 23rd- BBC One, UK Cinemas and BBC Networks worldwide!)

Call of Duty: Ghosts Xbox One Version Delayed

Activision's latest Call of Duty instalment won't hit Microsoft's next-generation console at the same time as its other platforms...
Activision Games have today announced a new release date for the Xbox One version of their upcoming first-person shooter Call of Duty: Ghosts. A spiritual successor to their Modern Warfare trilogy, Infinity Ward's fourth addition to the annual video game franchise will mark the series' tenth full outing and features the implementation of an intelligent AI dog companion in both its campaign and its online component.

To be frank, there's honestly nothing to worry about in this particular setback. The Xbox One doesn't retail in stores worldwide until November 22nd, nor the PlayStation 4 until November 29th, and thus to have the chance to purchase either version of Ghosts before the hardware ships is somewhat bizarre in itself. Whether this latest COD chapter will turn out to be a worthwhile investment is the more intriguing question at hand right now, seeing as Battlefield 4 has been met with relatively high critical acclaim already, averaging 86% on Metacritic.

Call of Duty: Ghosts retails for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU and PC on November 5th, and the Xbox One version is now set to ship on November 15th.

South Park: The Stick of Truth Delayed

One of the most notoriously shifting video game products of recent times...gets set back again.
Ubisoft Games and Obsidian Entertainment have today announced an alteration in the release date of their upcoming animated RPG South Park: The Stick of Truth. Until today, the Trey Parker and Matt Stone-helmed title was due for release this December, but unforeseen development issues have initiated a setback into the early months of 2013.

On one level, it's always a great shame to see any anticipated title such as this pushed back by a considerable length of time. At the same time, though, at least Ubisoft, Obsidian and the narrative's writers are intent on reaching, as Parker and Stone so eloquently put it, the "crappy standards of the show" rather than merely releasing the product for financial gain in a hurry. Ubisoft can't be pleased on this matter, however, as it essentially means that Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is their final major entertainment product launch of 2013 when Watch Dogs and The Stick of Truth were originally both set to launch in the weeks following its release. Thankfully, the developers have at least presented their fans with a brilliant gameplay trailer, which can be viewed below.

South Park: The Stick of Truth will now fart-blast onto Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on March 6th, 2014.

New Avengers: Age of Ultron Star Announced

And no, sorry, it's not Chloe Grace Moretz. There's still exciting news, though...
Marvel Studios have today confirmed a new actor set to feature in the cast of their upcoming superhero film Avengers: Age of Ultron. Bringing together the World's Greatest Heroes once again for a new battle, the sequel to 2012's ensemble hit has been written by Avengers Assemble's Joss Whedon and will be directed by the very same man.

It's thrilling to learn that Aaron Taylor-Johnson will play the role of Quicksilver in the 2015 follow-up. Taylor-Johnson is best known for his portrayal of the titular wannabe superhero in Kick-Ass, although between his appearances in the 2010 comedy smash success and its mediocre 2013 sequel, the English star (you read right, Superman, Spider-Man and Quicksilver are all now played by British thespians!) has featured in other productions including Anna Karenina and Savages, with a primary role in next year's fantasy thriller Godzilla lined up too.

He joins Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Scarlet Johnasson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smaulders (Maria Hill), James Spader (Ultron) and allegedly Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) in one of the most astounding ensemble line-ups for a film in some time, and it's quite probable that he can bring a sensitive level of gravitas to the oft-camp mutant character. Where Taylor-Johnson won't feature, though, is in X-Men: Days of Future Past- as of 2015, there will be two different incarnations of Quicksilver situated in two different Marvel universes, Disney's and Fox's narrative worlds.

Avengers: Age of Ultron assembles in cinemas worldwide on May 1st, 2015.

The LEGO Movie Theatrical Trailer Released

The bricks are assembling as we speak- the second spectacular preview of 2014's blockbusting film is here!
Warner Brothers Pictures have today released the second full theatrical trailer for their upcoming animated movie The LEGO Movie. Based on a wealth of franchises adapted by the titular Danish brick-building brand including DC Superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and plenty more, this half-CGI, half-stop motion flick promises to be a brilliant watch for kids and adults indulging their inner child alike.

Better yet, The LEGO Movie is launching at a relatively safe time in 2014, which gives the motion picture a substantial chance of box office success. By releasing in cinemas worldwide prior to Muppets Most Wanted, Rio 2, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the Summer of Film's other major animated flicks, with any luck this big screen take on a beloved kids' toy franchise will take its chance to soar with both hands, because going on this noteworthy trail (below), it could certainly be a piece which deserves both financial and critical acclaim.

The LEGO Movie builds its foundations in cinemas worldwide on February 7th, 2014.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer Announced

Catch your first glimpse at the Webbed Wonder's next cinematic outing in December.
Sony Pictures and director Marc Webb have today announced the release date of the first theatrical trailer for their upcoming superhero film The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  Launching in 2014's Summer of Film, the much-anticipated sequel to Sony's 2012 Spider-Man reboot will pick up one year after the events of its predecessor, as Gwen Stacey mourns the death of her father and Peter Parker must decide his true alliegances when supervillains Rhino and Electro emerge onto the streets of New York to wreak chaos.

Fans will find the teaser trailer running ahead of screenings of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on December 13th. This is a sound move from Sony in terms of promoting their next major motion picture to a sizeable worldwide audience, with Desolation already set to sell by the bucketload if the anticipation for the second instalment in Peter Jackson's prequel trilogy is anything to go by. We can expect Electro to feature extensively, although shots of Harry Osborn, Rhino and the rumoured 'The Death of Gwen Stacey' storyline adaptation aren't out of the question either...

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swings into cinemas worldwide on April 18th, 2014. For those interested, here's our round-up of all of the superhero films premièring next year:


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Expose: Batman Arkham Origins Review

Check out our verdict on the Dark Knight's latest video game adventure at Expose via our link article...
As you'll no doubt have noticed from this particular On-Screen article's title, we're adding another secondary source to which yours truly contributes to our roster of URL articles. Whenever I post a film, video gaming or general entertainment-based piece over at the University of Exeter's student magazine Expose, you'll know about it right here at On-Screen.

What's first on our roster? Why, none other than a full review of Warner Brothers Montreal's debut video game product, a superhero prequel by the name of Batman Arkham Origins. I'm saddened to admit that it's not up to the standard of Arkham Asylum or Arkham City; however, there's some quality content in there which deserves to be witnessed and played by hardcore fans. Our final score for the title here at On-Screen is 6/10. Here's the link: http://xmedia.ex.ac.uk/wp/wordpress/alternative-review-batman-arkham-origins/

Angry Birds Star Wars Next-Gen Retail Release Announced

As if Angry Birds hadn't reached enough platforms, the franchise is now extending its wings to new hardware!
Activision and Rovio Entertainment have today announced the retail release of Angry Birds Star Wars on next-generation video game consoles. The downloadable puzzle physics title is currently available on iOS and Android devices along with its sequel Angry Birds Star Wars II, and the product will retail on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS and PC later this week.

The most probable reason for this expansion of platforms is that the impending current-generation versions of this themed Angry Birds edition were noteworthy enough to warrant further upgraded versions. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be the next pieces of hardware to receive the game, each of the two new versions featuring Kinect and touch-pad controls to suit the consoles' respective functionalities and features. The 20 levels added to the 360/PS3 (etc.) retail version will be transferred across here, though there's no news yet on whether further levels will come as a result of the motion functionality.

Angry Birds Star Wars flutters onto Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS and PC on November 1st, with the Xbox One version set for release at launch on November 22nd and the PlayStation 4 version at its console's launch on November 29th.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Teaser Trailer Released

Fox follow up on Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer with a teaser for their own 2014 superhero epic...
Fox Studios have today released the first teaser trailer for their upcoming superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past. Set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and The Wolverine, this ambitious blockbuster will bring together a huge ensemble of mutant characters from both the original trilogy and the First Class prequel universe.

As one might hope of a preview for an ensemble piece such as this, the first trail (below) reveals virtually all of the X-Men characters set to feature in the film itself. Series regulars such as Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, Beast, Iceman, Rogue, Shadowcat and Storm all make appearances, along with newcomers including Cable and Quicksilver. The Wolverine was a solid return to form for this fledging motion picture franchise, and yet it could be with Days that the franchise regains its posture as one of the more groundbreaking members of the superhero genre.

X-Men: Days of Future Past materialises in cinemas worldwide on May 23rd, 2014.

Who News: New 50th Programmes, Airdates Announced

Twenty six days to go! As the countdown continues, the BBC unveil new broadcasts and confirm airdates for Doctor Who's 50th celebrations.
The BBC have today announced a series of programmes and broadcast dates for their impending Doctor Who 50th Anniversary celebrations. A variety of fictitious and factual programmes based on the show's history will première in the weeks leading up to The Day of the Doctor's broadcast, so fans won't be able to look anywhere on the BBC schedule without finding their favourite show present in the weeks ahead!

First up, then, let's look at the latest programmes announced to feature in the celebratory month of November, with our round-up of the announced projects below:

  • 12 AGAIN: DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL- In this special edition of the CBBC's hit nostalgia series 12 Again, the stars and fans of Doctor Who unite to celebrate our entry into the sci-fi drama's sixth decade and the ongoing success of the programme. Guests will include Sylvester McCoy, Tommy Knight, Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey and Louise Jameson. (Broadcast Date TBC, CBBC)
  • BLUE PETER- Two dedicated instalments of Blue Peter will be focused on Doctor Who in the week preceding its landmark anniversary. These episodes will feature the announcement of the winning designs in a competition to create new technological devices for Vastra, Jenny and Strax to utilise in Series Eight. (November 21st & 23rd, CBBC)
Next, we've got a very useful round-up of all of the announced broadcast dates for upcoming Doctor Who 50th Anniversary programmes on BBC One, BBC Three and beyond...
There's plenty more than all of this to expect, of course- Mark Gatiss' docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time (a new poster for which can be glimpsed below), BBC Four's broadcast of the show's first episode An Unearthly Child, a trio of BBC Radio 1/BBC Radio 2 recordings and more programmes still to be announced.

Doctor Who returns for its blockbuster 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, on BBC One, in cinemas and across TV networks worldwide on November 23rd.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Doctor Who Audio Drama Reviews Round-Up

The 50th Anniversary Special will broadcast in one month's time, and in anticipation of that event, here's plenty of new reviews of Who audio dramas!
It scarcely bears belief that Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary is almost upon us, 2013 having progressed at an alarmingly rapid rate to the extent that we're now just one month away from witnessing The Day of the Doctor. Over at Doctor Who News Page, I've recently posted a number of reviews of new audio dramas based on the show's illusive history which have been released in the past few weeks.

Here's our round-up of URL links to each and every one of the (hopefully) enlightening verdicts on several much-anticipated Doctor Who audio drama CDs:
Doctor Who returns for its momentous 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, on BBC One, in cinemas and across BBC channels in 75 countries simultaneously on Saturday, November 23rd.

Muppets Most Wanted Promotional Poster Released

With five months to go until the film's release, Walt Disney première a new poster for Muppets Most Wanted!
Walt Disney Pictures have today released the first promotional poster for their upcoming comedy film Muppets Most Wanted. A spiritual sequel to 2012's hit revival piece The Muppets, this second instalment takes Walter, Kermit and the rest of the Muppet crew abroad on an international quest to clear Kermit's name after he is framed for a dastardly heist.

As is generally the case with teaser images, the first full poster (below, released by and property of Entertainment Weekly) doesn't reveal much beyond the main cast ensemble. Among them are Ricky Gervais, The Office's Tina Fey and Modern Family's Ty Burrell as the lead human stars, with Kermit, his identical twin Constantine, Miss Piggy, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, Walter, Gonzo and Animal. Suffice to say that seeing as The Muppets was one of the most accomplished films of 2012 in this writer's humble opinion, Muppets Most Wanted is a hugely exciting prospect here, and with any luck should end up as one of the more successful motion pictures of 2014's first half.

Muppets Most Wanted bursts into cinemas worldwide on March 21st, 2014.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Coming Up This Week: October 28th-November 3rd

Put the hammer down on October, as we move into the penultimate month of 2013 this week!
Where has October gone? The final few days of this hectic month feature the remainder of its major releases, including the return of hit franchises such as Thor and Battlefield, while we've got some exciting content to tease what's ahead coming our way soon too. In short, October will end with an almighty crescendo and November should be kicking off in style.

Returning after a three-week hiatus, here's our regular feature summarising all of the entertainment highlights coming in the next seven days:

DOCTOR WHO: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SERIES- With The Day of the Doctor just around the corner, what better way could there be to catch up with the Doctor's adventures than to pick up this fifteen-episode boxset on DVD or Blu-Ray? Incorporating each of Series Seven's blockbusters from The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe to The Name of the Doctor, along with three exclusive mini-episodes, USA TV specials and all of the online content made available alongside the season, this is the definitive version of the latest run for hardcore fans. (Monday 28th)
THE NEWSROOM: ELECTION NIGHT, PART 2- All good things must come to an end. The question is, though, will the News Night team meet their end as The Newsroom reaches its season finale? Jobs are on the line, court cases loom and perhaps the most important broadcast in the fictitious news studio's history is upon them in Episode 9, which covers the final hours of the night of Barack Obama's re-election as President of the United States... (Monday 28th- Sky Atlantic, 9pm)
ASSASSIN'S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG- A wise man once said that the end is where we start from. In the case of Ubisoft Montreal's latest Assassin's Creed video game instalment, that couldn't be more apt, as the player moves on from the tales of Desmond, Altair, Ezio and Connor and into the Golden Age of Piracy as the manipulative rogue Edward Kenway. Prepare for ship-on-ship battles, smuggling missions, open-world naval exploration and loads of new features which could make Black Flag one of 2013's defining surprise hits! (Tuesday 29th)
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST TRAILER- Not content to let Disney and Marvel get away with taking advantage of Thor's oncoming success via a new Captain America trailer last week, Fox are rolling out the first teaser for X-Men: Days of Future Past in two days' time. A Vine preview of the video confirmed that Mystique, Wolverine and both youthful and elder incarnations of Professor X and Magneto will all feature in this initial clip, so don't miss out on the chance to see the bold new direction in which the X-Men film franchise is heading next. (Tuesday 29th- 5pm)
THOR: THE DARK WORLD- It seems as if no time at all has passed since the release of Iron Man 3 and the commencing of Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Two film series, yet here we are, six months later, with another chapter in that aforementioned sub-franchise. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston return after their smash success in Avengers Assemble as Thor and Loki in what promises to be a stellar follow-up to their 2011 debut. Doctor Who's Christopher Eccleston stars as the vengeful Dark Elf antagonist Malkeith, while Star Wars' Natalie Portman returns as the similarly vengeful (though her motives are far more superficial) Jane Foster in an audacious superhero film that deserves any willing fan's time...(Wednesday 30th)
BATTLEFIELD 4- Last but not least, DICE return to the video gaming industry after a mediocre attempt at reviving the Medal of Honor series last year, this time going back to the roots of their own acclaim. Battlefield 4 looks to scrap the linear nature of its predecessor's campaign, reintroducing open-world shooter mechanics into the fray and presenting its players with the most cohesive and engaging online Battlefield experience yet. It won't top Call of Duty: Ghosts' sales by any stretch, but in this case, quality really will mean more than quantity! (Friday 1st)
AND THERE'S MORE- Watch continues its broadcasts of BBC America's Doctor Who: The Doctor Revisited series with episodes focusing on the Seventh and Eighth Doctors this weekend. On top of that, Arrow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. both debut new instalments of their second and first seasons respectively on Monday and Friday, plus Now You See Me lands on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow (well worth a watch if you missed it at cinemas!)...
AND NEXT WEEK...November gathers pace, its first full week offering up the sensational science-fiction epic Gravity, the DVD and Blu-Ray release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- Extended Edition, the final Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctor instalment in The Time Machine and Activision's major FPS of 2013, Call of Duty: Ghosts!

Toy Story Of Terror! Review

Does this Toy Story short fly, or simply fall with style? Our verdict on Sky Movies Disney's Halloween special.
Fair credit must go to the screenplay drafting team behind Toy Story Of Terror!- even in the space of just twenty minutes, these accomplished scribes manage to pack in genuinely heartfelt and relevant issues in a manner that could encourage its target audience to see Halloween in an altogether different way. Nevertheless, despite packing some of its studio's trademark charm and innovation, this brief return from Disney's finest leaves a lot to be desired.

That's not to say that the revived cast ensemble disappoints; in fact, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the rest of the old gang are all present and accounted for, as well as Carl Weathers stepping up to the plate as Combat Carl, with each character recieving at least one or two remarkable gags or dramatic sequences. Timothy Dalton in particular manages to effortlessly steal the limelight (or in this case, the torchlight) during every scene in which his Mr Pricklepants appears, his portrayal a major highlight of the Special as a whole. Yet with such a brief running time, characters who are central to the episode's themes and motifs- mainly built around the noble concept of overcoming fear through self belief- naturally acquire more screentime than their supporting comrades, an inevitable balance which surprisingly shortchanges Hanks and Allen by sidelining Woody and Buzz for a notable period.

Some might argue that within a confined holiday instalment of Disney such as this, opening the Toy Story franchise up to a broadened perspective through a renewed focus on Jessie is a valid call from the writers and producers. At the same time, this character-driven narrative echoes many of the same beats as Toy Story 2 (1999) and its successor (2010), the deja vu that comes as a result rather out-of-place in a series lauded for its indifference to following the crowd. Only Pricklepants' meta-esque allusions to the wider horror genre (of which Toy Story Of Terror! is an unashamed parody, through and through) successfully elicited fresh laughs from this reviewer, the full episode itself a rather soulless watch in comparison to recent hit animated flicks such as Wreck-It Ralph and Monsters' University.

Is it unjustified to judge this particular bite-sized helping from Pixar against its feature-length franchise and studio predecessors? Perhaps an argument could be made along those lines, were it not for the level of gravitas and dramatic impact acheived in the short films which accompanied Disney's last pair of animations, The Paperman and The Blue Umbrella. Both of those five-minute pieces represent hallmark examples of inspired, confined modern storytelling, packing charm and heart aplenty, the likes of which are severely lacking here. Toy Story Of Terror! is fun while it lasts, but nothing more, its ever-enthusiastic cast burdened with sub-par comedy and a lacklustre narrative and the viewer burdened with a heightened longing for the genre's true greats as a result.

BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1 Release Date Announced

Ready to return to Rapture? The wait will be shorter than you think!
Irrational Games have this week announced the worldwide release date for their upcoming DLC campaign BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1. The first of two digital expansion releases, Episode 1 features a new incarnation of Booker exploring the underwater city of Rapture before its downfall, all the while meeting a mysterious woman named Elizabeth who claims to hold a dangerous secret.

BioShock Infinite remains one of this writer's favourite video games of 2013, its narrative in particular covering bold new ground for the science-fiction genre in spite of its gameplay merely conforming to that of its predecessors. The second 'episode' of Burial At Sea will offer a significant alteration of the status quo, however, as the player takes control of Elizabeth and discovers the truth of the connection between BioShock's Rapture and Infinite's Columbia. And after that? Irrational will likely head to other licenses, although a return to the BioShock saga in the future isn't out of the question given its recent successes.

BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1 retails on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and PC this November 12th.

Atlantis Second Season Commissioned

BBC One recommissions its new fantasy drama series for a second run...
The BBC have this week announced the commissioning of a second season of their fantasy drama Atlantis. Currently broadcasting its initial run on BBC One each Saturday night, the show depicts protagonist Jason's trip through time to the ancient lost city of Atlantis, and the destiny that awaits the unexpected hero upon his arrival in this magical realm.

On first glance, Atlantis' recommissioning makes perfect sense, with the first three episodes of the first series having averaged 6.65 million viewers in their final BARB ratings and yesterday's première broadcast of Episode 5 accumulated 4.39 million viewers. The latter figure is more concerning, though- even when its promotion was at its very weakest this Spring, Doctor Who didn't drop as low as Atlantis has just a few weeks in, and the same goes for the Beeb's other popular dramas such as Luther and The Village. It's clear that BBC One were in desperate need of a Merlin replacement this year, but that Arthurian drama's constant 5-6 million viewership must not have fully transferred over due to its Greek follow-up's underwhelming premise.

Another aspect of speculation here will be how and when Atlantis will return beyond 2013. Season Two is confirmed to enter production, of course, but no firm production commencement dates or transmission windows were offered by the BBC in their official press release. As of now, it seems that Doctor Who will return for Series Eight in Autumn 2014, broadcasting twelve consecutive episodes and a Christmas Special in the latter months of the year. Where does Atlantis fit, then? It's unlikely that BBC One will play host to two of its flagship dramas at once, which could lead to a transmission delay for Howard Overman's latest creation. As ever, time will tell!

Atlantis continues next Saturday, November 2nd at 8.15pm on BBC One.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Teaser Trailer Released

Marvel Studios bring their fans a preview of the next Avengers Phase Two instalment!
Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios have today released the teaser trailer for their upcoming superhero thriller film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Set in the aftermath of Avengers Assemble, the sequel is an adaptation of one of the most popular Captain America comic-book arcs, a dark and visceral epic which reintroduces a key character from the protagonist's World War Two escapades.

This initial bout of footage (below) presents the viewer with tonnes of thrilling setpieces, light romantic drama, comic sequences and a shady antagonist waiting to strike against the Star-Spangled Avenger. Having Scarlet Johnasson return to the role of Black Widow looks to be an inspired strategic decision on Marvel's parts, and with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury too, there's a strong chance that The Winter Soldier could end up as the most successful and critically acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe entry pre-Avengers 2...

Captain America: The Winter Soldier sky-dives into UK cinemas on March 28th, 2014. Marvel fans can expect in addition the first trailer for Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past to launch next Tuesday, October 29th.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Arrow: City Of Heroes & Identity Double Review

The Hood is back, but he doesn't want to be called by that title anymore- our verdict on Arrow's Season Two double-bill première...
In the case of Arrow's return this week, this reviewer is in a rather unique and privileged position in being able to deliver a verdict on not only the first episode of Season Two, but in addition the second instalment. Rather than rating these two episodes separately across a pair of individual articles, we've compiled together our assessments of both City of Heroes and Identity into one piece.

Without further ado, then, let's return to a world of gritty superhero action and intense emotional drama. Here's our take on the impressive opening instalments of Arrow's latest run:

  • CITY OF HEROES (4.5/5)- If the show's production team wanted to bring the series back with a bang in its début episode of Season Two, then they've succeeded in strong measure. By placing Oliver back on the island which transformed him into the man we saw develop over Season One, now in exile after the unjust demise of his friend Tommy in the Spring finale, writer Greg Belanti sets up a darker and ultimately more realistic tone for Arrow in its upcoming instalments. City of Heroes skilfully incorporates a plethora of story arcs into its overall narrative, although at times this flexibility proves to be its most detrimental component, shifting focus from the more integral elements of the ongoing journey towards Queen's becoming the Green Arrow in favour of love triangle repercussions, mother-daughter conflicts and copycat archers (who all-too-closely resemble John Barrowman's Dark Archer antagonist). Thankfully, this occasional tendency from Belanti to deviate from the series' most relevant aspects doesn't rob the episode of its intensely effective humour, action and dramatic impact. Quite to the contrary, those consistent strengths are prominent enough to mask those shortcomings for the majority, producing an extremely satisfying opener.
  • IDENTITY (4/5)- A common rule of thumb right now seems to be that a season's second episode is never quite as strong as its first. All the same, Identity holds its own admirably, progressing individual story arcs in an unexpected manner and building to a tantalising climax. Where it does slip up once again, though, is in its lacklustre antagonist- the introduction of social hero Sebastian Blood should be a thrilling change in the series dynamic as Oliver is forced to defend himself not only in combat but in the media too, yet Blood comes off as little more than a Harvey Dent Dark Knight rip-off at this stage. On the plus side, the development of Laurel and the Arrow's relationship here is intricately handled, and the cliffhanger which brings the gradually increasing tensions to their crux is simply superb.
Arrow continues next Monday, October 28th on Sky1.

Batman Arkham Origins Launch Trailer Released

Every tale has its origin- discover the beginnings of the Dark Knight this Friday, and get ready with a final trailer!
Warner Brothers Montreal have today released a final launch trailer for their upcoming open-world superhero video game Batman Arkham Origins. Releasing later this week, Origins tackles the titular Caped Crusader's second year as a vigilante on the streets of Gotham City, with Batman finding himself hunted by eight assassins on Christmas Eve.

Who are the eight assassins in question, then? While the video (below) reveals Lady Shiva as the seventh hitman (well, hitwoman) on Black Mask's roster, thanks to screenshots leaked at Arkhamverse, we can now confirm the full shortlist: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, Firefly, Electrocutioner, Lady Shiva and Killer Croc. Some of these characters will only make cameo appearances in the main campaign, as the Dark Knight must then track them down and best them in 'Most Wanted' side missions, whereas others will have profound roles in advancing the lengthy core origins narrative...

Batman Arkham Origins launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (with WiiU, 3DS and Vita editions set for a November release) this Friday, October 25th.

New Anchorman 2 Theatrical Trailers Released

Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and the rest of the gang return for more comic escapades in two new trailers.
Paramount Pictures have today released a pair of full theatrical trailers for their upcoming comedy film Anchorman: The Legend Continues. The sequel to 2004's cult hit Anchorman, the second movie is set years after its predecessor, its narrative based on Ron Burgundy's return to the limelight on the eve of an international news takeover.

Admittedly, on the basis of these two latest videos (below), you'd be hard pressed to fathom any kind of concrete plot details. Instead, we've got funerals, racist and homophobic remarks, green screens, cruise control, drugs, alcohol and deodorants (fans, you know the drill!) all reduced to a state of parody over the course of five minutes' worth of new footage. Given the tendency of comedy trailers to emphasise the film's best gags, it's too early to pass any judgement on The Legend Continues' potential to match its esteemed predecessor, but the initial evidence here is promising if nothing else.

Anchorman: The Legend Continues swaggers into cinemas worldwide on December 20th, 2013.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Avatar 2 Cast Member Announced

James Cameron announces the latest Avatar cast member confirmed to return for the much-anticipated sequel...
20th Century Fox and director James Cameron have today announced a 'new' cast member for their upcoming science-fiction action follow-up Avatar 2. That use of inverted commas comes off the back of one single element of the reveal- the cast member in question was an integral part of the original film, meaning that his is a return for the second outing, if an unprecedented one.

Stephen Lang will reprise his role as Colonel Miles Quatrich in the second instalment of the series. Quatrich was Avatar's antagonist, and was seemingly killed in the first movie's final battle. His return, then, comes as something of a surprise, and would be more shocking were it not for the fact that Sigourney Weaver has been confirmed to reprise her role as Dr Grace Augustine in spite of her supposed demise. Unless some kind of elaborate double bluff has been enacted, it appears some kind of elemental force will resurrect lost heroes and villains in the sequel, although Cameron's announcement seems to suggest that Lang's character will not necessarily be the antagonist next time. Both Lang and Weaver will star in Avatar 2, Avatar 3 and Avatar 3, so don't expect to see the back of either Augustine or Quatrich anytime soon!

Avatar 2 glides into cinemas worldwide in December 2016.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Poster Released

Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Two saga continues with a present-day thriller next Summer!
Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios have today released the first promotional poster (below) for their upcoming superhero thriller film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The sequel to 2011's hit World War Two flick Captain America: The First Avenger, this second instalment features Captain America (Chris Evans) teaming up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johnasson) to battle an old friend-turned-foe who returns from the dead and threatens to destabilize a nation.

For Marvel, the Avengers train will of course just keep on rolling when The Winter Soldier does land in cinemas. Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Two series of films premiered with Iron Man 3 this April, while Thor: The Dark World will launch in the UK next week and after the Captain America sequel, fans can expect Guardians of the Galaxy and ultimately Avengers: Age of Ultron to bring this phase of blockbusters to its climax. The fun doesn't even stop there, as we'd do well to recall that The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Fantastic Four are all set to launch within the next two years too- in short, it's a great time to be a fan of the superhero film genre...

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ricochets into UK cinemas on March 28th, 2014. A new trailer for the film will première this Thursday, October 24th.

Titanfall Release Date Announced

Respawn Entertainment's Microsoft-exclusive first person shooter blasts into retailers next Spring.
Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment have today announced the release date for their upcoming first-person-shooter Titanfall. Shipping exclusively on Microsoft consoles, the near-future adventure has been met with a wealth of acclaim ever since its E3 2013 début, which should no doubt set expectations high for the quality of the final product come its release.

If nothing else, Titanfall is landing within a release window which currently is not inhabited by many other major video game releases. Fable Anniversary and Infamous: Second Son are due in February, with Dark Souls II set to launch in March, yet other than those titles, the opening quarter of 2014 isn't offering up much in the way of notable Game of the Year-competing content. Watch Dogs will be launching within the Spring months after its delay from November, so Respawn will have to rival Ubisoft's renewed marketing campaign in order to come out on top, although EA certainly don't need to be worried about the extent of their own promotional campaigns based on the evidence from Battlefield 4 this Autumn.

Titanfall launches on Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC on March 13th, 2014.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Doctor Who: 50 Years- The Day of the Doctor Trailer Released

The Day of the Doctor draws near- see the incredible, specially-shot teaser trailer!
The BBC have today released a full teaser trailer for Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor. Recorded specially after the episode's filming, the incredible video (below) features each of the Eleven Doctors battling some of their most memorable enemies from the past five decades, with Matt Smith's current incarnation teasing a day which he has been running from all his life, the titular 'Day of the Doctor' itself!

A brief word of warning before you press Play, though- this is a spectacular teaser for Day, make no mistake, but it's not intended to show off footage from the core 50th Anniversary episode. This footage is taken from outside of the 75-minute Special's production, although a full Day trailer is likely to be released within the next week too. For now, anyway, enjoy what is without a doubt one of the best television, make that overall entertainment, trailers we've seen in 2013 by a long way...

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor broadcasts on BBC One, across 75 countries simultaneously and in cinemas worldwide on Saturday, November 23rd.

Glee: The Quarterback Review

The hardest word to say is goodbye, and yet that same word provides Glee with one of its best ever episodes...
This was never going to be an easy one- much as the zesty and uplifting Beatles two-part opener attempted to divert our attention from the impending matter, Glee's eventual focus on the passing of Cory Monteith (Finn) was an event which was only ever so far away. That particular moment came this week, with Monteith's death being echoed with the off-screen demise of Finn Hudson, provoking much the same level of grief and emotional struggle as the real-world news did for fans earlier in the Summer.

In spite of its flaws, Glee's track roster has often done a fine job of reflecting accurately the tone of an individual episode, a trait of the show which has never been more true than in The Quarterback. Whether in subtle performances of West End tracks (Seasons of Love is pulled from Rent to this end) or in an unexpectedly sombre rendition of what seemed a more optimistic track (Adele's Make You Feel My Love particularly subverts expectations in this regard), Ryan Murphy and the writing team have clearly dedicated plenty of thought in selecting the music which accompanies the often tear-jerking drama on display in the fifth season's third episode.

No fan would have blamed one or more of the series regulars for skipping this instalment due to the sheer hardship of filming it so after their loss, so the number of cast members old and new who do crop up in the course of the 45-minute running time is mighty impressive indeed. Naya Riviera's Santana in particular has some stellar content to work with in the script, her visceral verbal and physical attack on Sue Sylvester a truly accurate depiction of what fans might imagine her reaction to grief to be based on past experience. That's not to say that Sue is shortchanged in the episode's narrative, though- to say the least, this is Jane Lynch's moment to shine, her final discussion with Santana regarding the fact that now Finn is "just gone" and her dealing with the implications of her relentless antagonism towards him again completely rendicative of the emotions many of us hold when it comes to looking back on our time with the dearly departed.

It's surprising that amongst all of the immense pathos of this heartfelt requiem, then, that Glee retains some comedy. At first that might appear peculiar, however in fact this minor element of the episode only serves to enhance the genuine realism in how proceedings are presented- when we do recall the deceased in the aftermath of their life, what can be both comforting and simultaneously heartbreaking is remembering all of the joy and laughs which that person brought with them, the latter emotion naturally felt in recognising their future absence. As such, the ongoing battle for ownership of Finn's jacket transforms from an aesthetic, superficial teen drama to something with far greater resonance for any viewer regardless of their age, a coping mechanism as much as anything that can help us to remember all we cherished in times gone by.

Thanks to two relatively strong opening episodes and this utterly spellbinding early mid-season finale, Glee is in a far superior position already in comparison to the regular troughs of Season Four. Moving on from this loss is going to be difficult for the show's writers, directors and its lovable cast ensemble- at the same time, this reviewer can potentially foresee this initially overwhelming grief being turned to the show's dramatic advantage, finally reviving some of the raw emotion and human realism found in Glee's earlier episodes but seemingly lost in recent instalments. The Quarterback is the best episode that Ryan Murphy and company have offered us in years, quite possibly the show's greatest episode so far to boot. Rest in peace, Cory Moneith- you haven't been forgotten by your cohorts and fans, and quite frankly, you never will.

Best of Who Awards: Top 5 Greatest Torchwood Episodes

Five weeks to go! Ahead of tonight's 50 Years trailer on BBC One, we reprise our Best of Who Awards feature and look back at Doctor Who's first spin-off!
"The twenty-first century is when everything changes- and Torchwood is ready." Overcoming the hurdle of bringing Doctor Who back to television screens in 2005 was a terribly arduous challenge for Russell T. Davies in itself, so why he then convinced his production team to create an entire spin-off show in the same universe come the end of that year is absolutely beyond this writer.

Without a doubt, though, Torchwood's emergence onto BBC Three, BBC Two and ultimately BBC One was a thrilling journey over five years, the impact of which on the success of Doctor Who as an overall brand must not be understated. This week, then, we're celebrating Captain Jack's courageous, raunchy and ever-enduring team of human heroes brought together to tackle the most dangerous of extraterresterial forces without the help of a certain Time Lord. Here's our round-up of the best episodes of Torchwood ever to hit our screens...

5. FRAGMENTS (2008)- Throughout Torchwood's second season, a narrative arc including mysteries such as the motives of Captain John Hart, the reason for each team member's integration into the organization and the return of Jack's long-lost brother had been slowly teased out by the audience. Come its penultimate episode, tensions were higher than ever, and a fine balance between flashback sequences and present day storytelling was struck in Gwen and Rhys' desperate search for their comrades within the rubble of a bomb-rigged warehouse, where Jack, Owen, Toshiko and Ianto each then recalled their first experiences with Torchwood. Burn Gorman's performance as Owen was stellar throughout the run, yet in Fragments, in the midst of the truth of the character's tragic past being revealed, Gorman spectacularly out-shined his cast competitors, his portrayal of a scarred and determined medical expert now afforded new layers of melancholy and justification.
4. EXIT WOUNDS (2008)- Although Fragments was a brilliant opening instalment in Season Two's final two-parter, its denouement was by far the more notable outing of the pair. Once again, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori gave it their all, this time in their final portrayals of Owen and Toshiko, two characters who were here forced to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to stop Gray's genocidal plot descending upon Cardiff. Meanwhile, it's a crime that James Masters never reprised his role as John Hart after Exit Wounds, since his hilarious, empathetic portrayal of the anti-heroic character worked brilliantly. In the end, though, the true summary of Torchwood's greatness comes as John Barrowman's Jack, Eve Myles' Gwen and Gareth David-Lloyd's Ianto survey the personal and national devestation of this final battle- Gwen claims that she can't move on from their losses, at which point Jack reassures her that she will, for "the end is where we start from"...
3. CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS (2007)- Torchwood's first run was a mixed bag, make no mistake. Between Cyberwomen, lost and suicidal time voyagers and devilish fairies, the show struggled to establish a definite tone in its initial thirteen episodes. Nevertheless, the penultimate episode of Season One, Captain Jack Harkness, did the seemingly impossible, offering captivating further insight into the enigmatic titular Captain, and featuring one of Barrowman's best turns in his (literally and metaphorically) immortal role. Murray Melvin's understated performance as the similarly mysterious Bilis Manager is guaranteed to send shivers down the viewer's spine too, echoing all of the greats of psychological horror in the space of a single, terrifying and effortlessly heartbreaking, 45-minute period. Funny how such a small amount of time can lend itself to fascinating science-fiction drama which can cast an entire conflict in a new light- remind you of any show in particular?
2. CHILDREN OF EARTH: DAY FIVE (2009)- The five-part masterpiece that was Children of Earth wasn't exactly lacking in noteworthy instalments, but two episodes in particular stand out from the rest upon reflection. Day Five showed with unrelenting detail the extents to which Jack was willing to go in order to protect the Earth in the Doctor's name, sacrificing his own grandson to the 456 as a final act of defiance that would destroy the creature once and for all. Lucy Cohu's portrayal of Jack's daughter Alice still haunts this writer to this day in its devestatingly realistic rendition of a mother's reaction to her own son dying before her eyes, and Peter Capaldi's sensationally understated performance in his necessitated murder of his family and his suicide was superb, but top credits must go to Barrowman again here, the transformation of his character into a heartless and relentless presence whose shame drove him to the stars masterfully depicted by the Scottish star.
1. CHILDREN OF EARTH: DAY THREE (2009)- You know, Gareth David-Lloyd really doesn't get enough recognition for his work on Torchwood. Or at least, he didn't before Day Three. While Owen and Toshiko's demises were pitched perfectly in Season Two, the loss of Ianto after an enhanced arc of character development over the course of Children of Earth was simply horrendous to witness. Murray Gold's soundtrack does this momentous scene of sacrifice and collateral damage its fullest justice, enabling Day Three to become the show's landmark episode by a huge margin, and to capably demonstrate why Torchwood can (and perhaps one day will be once again) make for such incredible television drama, regardless of its place in the Doctor Who universe!


Friday, 18 October 2013

DriveClub Delayed

Watch Dogs fell first, now DriveClub has lost its slot in the PlayStation 4 launch line-up...
Sony Computer Entertainment have today announced a delay in the release scheduling of their upcoming racing video game DriveClub. Originally set to be one of the exclusive titles available in the PlayStation 4's launch line-up next month, the product will now ship next year due to unforeseen difficulties in development.

Watch Dogs' setback hasn't done the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 any favours, and DriveClub's own delay isn't helping matters for Sony. It leaves the publishers with just Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall as their launch exclusives for the PS4, and while those aren't underwhelming releases, at the same time they're hardly the console-sellers which the company might have originally anticipated. Microsoft aren't on the strongest form at this stage either, though, with only Forza Motorsport 5 and Killer Instinct marking their Xbox One exclusives at launch. With that in mind, it's perhaps advisable to stick to current-generation consoles for the remainder of 2013, seeing as the most impressive content of the year is available on both 360 and PS3.

DriveClub will now retail exclusively for PlayStation 4 in Spring 2014.

September 2013: Best Release

Two and a half months of 2013 remain- which enthralling product has set a staggering precedent for their releases?
Well, was there ever any doubt? Short of a miraculous turn of events for one of September's other scarce releases- though Agents of SHIELD and Rush both put up a good fight- or a scandalous turn of events for Rockstar, their success with Grand Theft Auto V already seemed assured from the outset.

Nevertheless, it's a profound joy to confirm that GTA V is just as thrilling, diverse and innovative as fans could ever have anticipated. Its narrative takes on a completely different guise to its predecessors, the three protagonists at the helm engaging in an all-manner of controversial, outrageous yet ultimately exhilarating activities which can't help but keep the player engaged throughout the main campaign and beyond. Once again, the product's replay value and the sheer immersion enabled in its open-world is absolutely astounding, and as with any great entertainment release, it should have fans and newcomers alike coming back for months, years or even until the next Grand Theft Auto rolls around.

There's sympathy to be had, then, for 2013's remaining video game releases, with Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, LEGO Marvel Superheroes and South Park: The Stick of Truth all now set the mighty challenge of matching or besting this already-iconic representation and satirical take on modern day society before the year's end. Who cares, though? What matters for now is that Grand Theft Auto V is unquestionably one of the best entertainment releases of the year, and we'll be hard pressed to find a superior video game product in the months ahead!



The Hunger Games: Catching Fire TV Spot Released

Lionsgate provide another teaser for their biggest blockbuster film release of 2013.
Lionsgate Studios have this week released a new television trailer for their upcoming fantasy film sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The second instalment in the studio's series of adaptations of Suzanne Collins' acclaimed teen fiction novels, Catching Fire takes place days after the events of 2012's The Hunger Games, with Katniss forced to endure a Victory Tour in the aftermath of the Games, and a rebellion threatening each of the twelve districts into chaos, leaving the Capitol with just one option.

With 2013 rolling towards its climax at an alarming rate, Catching Fire faces a difficult challenge in making itself stand out from its competitors, including Gravity, Anchorman: The Legend Continues and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. There's every chance, however, that the much anticipated follow-up will be another commercial success for Lionsgate, an outcome which the studio are no doubt aiming for what with a two-part adaptation of Collins' final act of the trilogy, Mockingjay, already well into production.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire burns into cinemas worldwide on November 22nd.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Grand Theft Auto V Review

One month on from its release, here's the only verdict you need on 2013's most audacious Game of the Year contender yet.
I know what you're thinking, and you're right. It's been an entire thirty days since Rockstar launched Grand Theft Auto V across the world, gaining their fair share of critical acclaim and subsequent controversy in the process. A month is a long time, though, and with hindsight it only leaves this reviewer better equipped to confirm all of the key aspects of the studio's latest product which elevates beyond each and every one of its recent open-world competitors.

First and foremost, the element which I believe to be of the most paramount importance in terms of Grand Theft Auto's ongoing success lives on brilliantly in its latest instalment- its world is alive. The player can truly find themselves lost in the highways, the interior environments and the vast rural areas which Los Santos has to offer them from the outset, the level of immersion present here unlike anything we've seen since, well, Grand Theft Auto IV. The series has moved with the times since 2008, of course- your 'iFruit' mobile device now utilises in-built internet browsers, 'selfie' camera functionality and the all-important Cab Service contact number- yet it is in the flexibility and depth of AI characters around the city and its outlying areas, the sense that Los Santos can transcend the traditional boundaries of its narrative to become a consistently developing sandbox which ensures its place amongst the all-time greats of the franchise, Liberty City and San Andreas' original guise included.

On an aesthetic level, Rockstar's insistence upon pushing the functionality of the game world itself has perhaps hindered the graphical prowess of the product somewhat. It's hardly a Pyrrhic sacrifice that doesn't justify the quality of the overall gameplay experience, and without a doubt the visual technology used to power the facial models rivals those utilised in L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3, only when placed in comparison to BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us, one might argue that this particular world doesn't push the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 hardware's limits quite so heavily as its competitors. Only Infinite can rival this for pure narrative excellence, however, a field in which the developers and writers have excelled in to an exhilarating extent come their fifth main entry.

If the rather depressing monotones of GTA IV's drab Liberty City and its borderline-soulless protagonist Niko Bellic left fans cold five years ago, then the three 'heroes' headlining its follow-up are the perfect antithesis to such overt melancholy. Michael Townley, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Phillips are each seemingly clearly defined in their initial appearances, yet their character arcs progress in unexpected and genuinely thrilling directions as the main campaign develops through its seventy missions. Those missions in themselves are similarly subversive in terms of the player's expectations, thanks to there being little in the way of 'excess fat', or rather patronising tutorial missions, these now shed in favour of a blockbuster style to the campaign that gradually cranks up the action to eleven. Six incredible heists await over the course of the core narrative, each bigger, bolder and more beautifully outrageous than the last, and each warranting at least another play-through in order to fully appreciate their open-ended nature.

Even the act of replaying a mission has become far less cumbersome here, with Rockstar rightly adopting the more streamlined approach of their The Ballad of Gay Tony DLC and Max Payne 3 by including a Mission Replay list in the pause menu. In order to approach heists in completely different manners to your initial tactic, it may be necessary for a full campaign replay to be instigated, and yet the unrelenting adrenaline one accumulates through the mere act of playing any section of this game more than warrants any extra time necessarily invested. This is in no small part due to Rockstar's deviously astounding implementation of endless parodies of modern pop culture, their satirical radar taking in everything from Apple to Facebook, Call of Duty to Saint's Row and naturally the integrity of federal agencies nationwide. The latter element finds itself manifested in the main campaign in a sequence which has garnered considerable controversy already- while I shan't be drawn on exactly what the mission entails, suffice to say that it may have the player questioning the morals of their flawed yet undoubtedly human protagonists, and thus the morals which influence the ideology of our society and its limits to date.

The elephant in the room at this particular point of time is, of course, the matter of Grand Theft Auto Online. Since Rockstar have portrayed that online experience to be essentially a standalone product (albeit one packaged within the GTA V framework), we'll review it as such at another stage when the situation of play isn't quite so tenuous and unstable. For now, the sheer level and range of content offered within the single-player mode of the overall product will have players busy for months upon months, and the immersion which Los Santos offers in its radios (anytime Radio GaGa commences, this reviewer succumbs to the urge of raising his TV monitor's volume considerably), film screenings, triathlons, races, physical and vehicular modification options, TV shows, online web-pages and so much more besides will have them coming back far beyond their initial playthrough. Not since Grand Theft Auto IV has such unrestrained immersion and player engagement with an open-world been possible in this reviewer's humble opinion, and the only real question is whether the wait will span another five years until Grand Theft Auto VI for another such accomplishment to take place.

When it comes down to it, the old cliched mantra that "it's not the destination, it's the journey" couldn't be less accurate here. Indeed, the incredible and painstaking journey which Rockstar have taken in order to bring their latest vision onto video games consoles is barely half the story, with the true credit of its accomplishments coming in the much-earned plaudits and accolades the fifth GTA received upon its release last month. A new generation of video games consoles is dawning, but if there's one fact which Grand Theft Auto V has confirmed to spectacular effect, it's that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have plenty of life left in them yet, especially should developers continue to utilise this technology in innovative forms. The only caveat? Our concept of what 'innovation' truly is has been raised to a higher level of esteem by Rockstar's efforts, leaving the rest of the industry to simply stand in awe and wonder quite where they can go next.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Who News: New 50th Special Images Released

The Day of the Doctor is five weeks away- discover more photos of the 50th Anniversary Special.
The BBC have today released a series of new photos from the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor. Set in the aftermath of the Series Seven finale The Name of the Doctor, the 75-minute blockbuster episode sees the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) team up with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) to face a dark incarnation of the titular hero (John Hurt).

While they're light on plot details, these new images (below) do offer one or two intriguing tidbits on the 50th adventure. For instance, John Hurt's Doctor has a red-tipped sonic screwdriver in his pocket, and his costume appears to be a blend of the Eighth and Ninth Doctors' attire, suggesting that rumours of a Doctor forged in the Time War and somehow lost may not be far off the mark. Steven Moffat has teased that the character's regeneration limit may be broken in Day, and thus you can be sure to expect big surprises when the episode broadcasts in 75 countries simultaneously next month!

Doctor Who returns with its blockbuster 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, this November 23rd on BBC One and in cinemas worldwide.

Kingdom Hearts III Gameplay Trailer Released

Disney and Square Enix reprise their partnership for an almighty trilogy finale in 2015!
Square Enix have today released a new gameplay trailer for their upcoming fantasy platformer Kingdom Hearts III. Announced at E3 2013, the third full instalment in the hit series features characters from Disney franchises and the Final Fantasy titles, and is currently in development over in Japan.

One thing's for sure- no matter how brilliant this preview (below) looks, fans still have a long time to wait until they get their next full dose of Kingdom Hearts. On the brighter side, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 has been announced to be in development for an exclusive PlayStation 3 release next Summer, so at least PS3 followers of the series will have a HD version of the franchise's finest hour so far to keep them busy. A 360 or Xbox One launch of a Kingdom Hearts compilation to bring newcomers into the adventure before its trilogy's climax isn't off the cards either, but we'll keep you posted on that front.

Kingdom Hearts III tosses its Keyblade into retailers worldwide for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2015.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Global Release Date Confirmed

With Watch Dogs pushed back to Spring 2014, Ubisoft confirm some exciting consolatory news!
Ubisoft Montreal have this week announced a new global release date for their impending historical action-adventure video game sequel Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Set for release on two generations of consoles, this sixth adventure in the century-spanning war between Assassins and Templars casts the player as Edward Kenway while Abstergo search Desmond's memories for a vital secret.

Now that Watch Dogs is set for a release in early 2014, some kind of compensation from the development studio was certainly required, and the new worldwide release date for Black Flag is at least a slight consolation. Next year, the studio won't be lacking in major releases, with Watch Dogs, The Crew and Tom Clancy's The Division all launching before 2014's end, yet Black Flag is Ubisoft Montreal's final chance to hit it big in 2013 after underwhelming sales for their other franchises.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag will launch worldwide on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo WiiU on October 29th, with a release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC set for November 22nd.