OS Cover Image

OS Cover Image

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

January 2014: The 5 Releases You Can't Miss

The New Year is here, and we might just have the most exciting January line-up in years!
Traditionally, January has been a disappointing follow-up to the chock-a-block festive period which precedes it, but in this respect among so many others, 2014 looks to be a year of thrilling firsts. Its opening month brings with it loads of major entertainment releases that warrant fans' attention, yet as ever, here at On-Screen, we've seen fit to compile the five titles which show the most promise of all.

Party poppers at the ready? Right, then, let's wave sayonara to the year of 2013, and investigate what the coming five weeks of entertainment have in store!

5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET- Leonardo DiCaprio nearly took the crown for 'Best Male Performance of 2013' in the role of Calvin Candy this time last year, and if the critics are right in the States, then The Wolf of Wall Street may bring him even closer to doing just that this year. Based on the true story of 1980s business extraordinaire Jordan Belfort, this cash-laden biopic has a lot to live up to if it is to match DiCaprio's finest performances, yet Django and Gatsby both confirmed that the potential remains for such an occurrence even decades into the star's career...(Friday 17th)
4. AMERICAN HUSTLE- The cracking cast line-up adorning David O. Russell's 80s crime drama American Hustle is enough to justify the price of admission alone, unless viewers can resist the temptation of experiencing Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner sharing the big screen. Beyond that, the movie is already up for its fair share of awards and accolades, evidence if any more was needed that O. Russell's latest effort will be a profoundly significant contribution to the film industry in 2014. (Wednesday 1st)
3. THE MUSKETEERS- Despite a mostly mediocre festive line-up, the BBC are welcoming a grand ensemble of esteemed dramas to the televisual fray in the coming weeks, including Nan (just kidding), Call The Midwife and this ten-part adventure series. The most engaging element of the latter? Its first run will feature Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi as Dumas' famed antagonist Cardinal Richelieu, although that Merlin's Santiago Cabrera is one of the show's lead stars is scarcely an ill omen either! (TBC- BBC One)
2. THE BOOK THIEF- Here in the UK, the wait for the cinematic version of Marcus Zuzak's hit World War Two novel The Book Thief has been more of an endurance test than usual, with the transfer delay period between the States and our humble realm consisting of a difficult two months. The time has thankfully arrived, though, and with Geoffrey Rush and Emily Blunt heading the subtle but talented team of actors and actresses tied to the project, it could deservedly be an utter pleasure to experience soon...(Friday 31st)
1. SHERLOCK- So, just how did Sherlock live? Season Two commenced broadcasting with The Reichenbach Fall on New Year's Day 2012, and two years on, our anticipation for Sherlock's latest run has never been higher. Three ninety-minute episodes await once more, The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three and His Last Vow, as do new regular cast members Amanda Abbington (Mary Morstan) and Lars Miekellsen (Charles Augustus Milverton), and provided that the show's writers cope without the presence of Andrew Scott's incredible Moriarty, then Season Three will be a Great Game, indeed! (Wednesday 1st, Sunday 5th & Sunday 12th- BBC One)

Xbox Games With Gold January Titles Announced

The two games set to go free next month for Xbox Live Gold subscribers are confirmed...
Microsoft Game Studios have today announced a pair of previously-released video games set to be offered as free downloads in their Games for Gold service next month. Launched in the aftermath of E3 2013 in June, the Xbox 360 service offers subscribers to Xbox Live Gold two new products on a monthly basis for no charge.

In January, United Front Productions' Sleeping Dogs and Crystal Dynamics' Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will be integrated into the service. The former open-world shooter is set to the backdrop of Tokyo for an action-packed blockbuster narrative, and earned a decent 6/10 rating at On-Screen upon its release last year. Guardian of Light, meanwhile, met with reasonable critical acclaim as a digital exclusive retail product in 2010, currently holding a 85% average score on Metacritic. It's promising to see that Microsoft are stepping up their game (no pun intended) with the service in 2014, after more than a few underwhelming 'presents' to fans in the second half of this year, and with Games for Gold confirmed to expand onto Xbox One next year, the potential for greater satisfaction still certainly exists!

Sleeping Dogs retails for free in the Games for Gold program on January 1st, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light follows on January 16th.

Who News: Steven Moffat Talks Series 8 Direction

The Twelfth Doctor returns for new adventures in 2014- see the first details here.
Executive producer Steven Moffat has this week begun discussions with the media on what the next season of Doctor Who will entail for fans. Series Eight has already entered production, and filming on the opening two-part story- which stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald- is set to take place in January.

Speaking to Nerd 3 today, the showrunner divulged a few tidbits on the tone of the eighth run since the show's return in 2005. Here's what Moffat had to say: "If Russell had stayed on, Doctor Who would still have changed. I remember when we had our handover chat, he was saying 'so what are you going to do, are you going to change that? and I said 'well, what would you change?' and we both agreed 'it's time to kick a lot of stuff out.' And actually, it is time again to do that. It changes all the time, and it's keeping ahead of the audience in a way. All shows age and they all age sort of in the same way. You learn how to do it, you get really slick at it, and then you think you're really, really slick at it and everyone's started to yawn. So now we've got to actually get a bit raw at it and do it in a different direction. It happens on every show- you get good at it and 'good at it' is the true enemy in the end."

Doctor Who returns to BBC One with a new series in August 2014.

Fast & Furious 7 Delayed

Paul Walker's tragic passing results in a production setback for the seventh instalment in the action-adventure franchise.
Universal Pictures have today announced a new worldwide release date for their upcoming action-adventure film Fast & Furious 7. The sequel to this year's Fast & Furious 6, the movie's production was affected dramatically last month by the tragic death of lead star Paul Walker.

Walker's fans need not worry, however, as the content that he shot for the seventh instalment will be included to honour the late actor's legacy. By launching shortly before the Summer of Film's commencement, Universal do stand a fair chance of succeeding in the box office, but in 2015, practically any eventuality is possible. Indeed, with Avengers: Age of Ultron set to premiere in May, their promotional campaign will require nothing short of a miracle to sustain the flick's sales beyond the end of April.

Fast & Furious 7 will now shift into gear in cinemas worldwide on April 10th, 2015.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Best Of 2013 Awards: Best Male & Female Performances

Two days ahead of 2014, find out the talented actors who gave this year's best turns.                 
This year, our annual tradition of naming the best actors and actresses of the past twelve months is changing up a little. The awards will now go under the title of 'Best Male Performance' and 'Best Female Performance', and we'll highlight the Top 3 in each category in depth before revealing the remainder of our Top 15 shortlist.

Hold onto your hats and viewing spectacles, as we journey back through 2013 with a view to a thrill, in search of the year's greatest portrayals:

3. LEONARDO DICAPRIO- Short of the period being graced only by one of his few box office flops, any year featuring Mr DiCaprio is virtually guaranteed to present the viewer with a fleeting yet tangible glimpse of actorial mastery. In 2013, Leo worked magic in both Django Unchained, where he gave a electrifying, terrifying turn as the piece's central antagonist, and The Great Gatsby, where his rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic protagonist was similarly spellbinding for a menagerie of different reasons, the replication of the character's "endless capacity for hope" at the heart of its brilliance.
2. CHRISTOPH WALTZ- Another of Django Unchained's illustrious cast line-up, Waltz has been a mainstay of recent efforts from Quinten Tarantino (Inglorious Bastards in particular). However, only now have we witnessed this Austrian-German thespian fulfill his potential to the furthest extent, in a performance as the intricately layered character construct of Dr. King Schultz. Simultaneously hilarious and emotionally raw, Waltz eclipses his co-stars from the moment that he first takes to the metaphorical stage, and signs off with one of the most memorable one-liners of any script released this year.
1. PETER DINKLAGE- For those who missed it, Game of Thrones earned the accolade of On-Screen's 'Best TV Show of 2013' earlier this month, and its current lead star remains amongst the most significant components of the series' ongoing success. Set to feature in the ever-growing ensemble of X-Men: Days of Future Past next year, Peter Dinklage nevertheless seems firmly tied to HBO's engaging fantasy drama for the most part, and thank the Lannisters too. One need only experience Dinklage's exchange (as Tyrion) with Charles Dance (Tywin) in Season Three's final episode to remind themselves firsthand of the man's astounding dramatic power, the resonating gravitas of his performance which stays on the mind long after the credits roll...
 RUNNERS-UP- #15: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln); #14: John Hurt (Doctor Who); #13: Jim Carrey (Kick-Ass 2); #12: Paul McGann (Doctor Who); #11: Stephen Amell (Arrow); #10: Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3); #9: Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man 3); #8: Phil Davis (Being Human); #7: David Bradley (An Adventure In Space and Time); #6: Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables); #5: George Clooney (Gravity); #4: Matt Smith (Doctor Who) and special mentions go to Tom Baker!
3. JENNIFER LAWRENCE- As if her return to the big-screen with Silver Linings Playbook on the eve of 2012's end wasn't enough, Katniss Everdeen herself gave perhaps her career-defining performance in this year's sequel to The Hunger Games. Catching Fire was a more refined adaptation of Suzanne Collins' work in every area, but nowhere moreso than with Lawrence, whose talents have multiplied infinitely in the space of a year-and-a-half, and could continue to do so even further by the time of Mockingjay's launch if the promise of American Hustle is anything to go by.
2. SANDRA BULLOCK- Make no mistake, when the Oscars roll around next month, Sandra Bullock will feature amongst the nominees in some capacity. This writer can confirm with no degree of shame that until Gravity, I hadn't thought highly of Bullock's work, yet here there are virtually no shortcomings or gripes to speak of whatsoever. No doubt as a result of the profound level of empathy that Bullock's implementation of the sueprb screenplay's dialogue enables between her character and the viewer throughout, the actress mesmerises in every scene of the picture, ensuring that despite our incredible immersion into the realms beyond the planet Earth by helm Alfonso Cuaron, the audience is constantly grounded in their engagement with a character who represents each and every inherent care and emotion present in humanity's darkest hours...
1. NATALIE DORMER- If you find yourself still unconvinced by the masses of the essential status of Game of Thrones, of a reason to test the programme out, then let the fact that both of our 2013 'Best Performances' awards have gone to respective male and female stars of the show suffice as the instigator of your leap of faith. Natalie Dormer's Margaery Tyrell (the fiancee of Joffrey Lannister) is a fascinating antiheroine to see develop in Season Three, but the actress' prowess doesn't stop short of other genres, for Dormer captivates both in her cameo role within Ron Howard's Rush and even more prominently as the first female Moriarty in CBS' US Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary. Should you desire to know a relative newcomer who begs the world's attention in the next year or so, then look no further than Dormer, who'll be back for more Elementary and Game of Thrones yet, as well as making her debut in the Hunger Games franchise with Mockingjay Part 1!
RUNNERS-UP- #15: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass 2); #14: Jane Lynch (Glee); #13: Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby); #12: Emilia Jones (Game of Thrones); #11: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables); #10: Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables); #9: Billie Piper (Doctor Who); #8: Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who); #7: Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones); #6: Samantha Barks (Les Miserables); #5: Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks); #4: Jessica Raine (An Adventure In Space And Time)

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Musketeers TV Trailer Released

Not three but FOUR adventurous heroes lead the BBC's latest drama!
The BBC have today released the first TV trailer for their upcoming drama series The Musketeers. Set to broadcast early next year, the 10-part run is based on Alexander Dumas' classic adventure novel The Three Musketeers, with each of the episodes boasting a 60-minute running time.

This video preview (below) makes wholly apparent what has been clear from the outset of the studio's marketing campaign- The Musketeers aims to become one of the BBC's superior dramas of 2014. Despite the majority of the cast consisting of relative newcomers, we've got talent from The Hour, Skins and Merlin present and accounted for, plus the current Doctor Who himself, Peter Capaldi, filmed his role as the narrative's ongoing antagonist before his acquiring of the role of the Twelfth Doctor, which should be reason enough for us to give this a try...

The Musketeers slash through the schedules and première on BBC One this January 2014.

Fantastic Four Vs. X-Men Rumoured

With a new Marvel Cinematic Universe building up via a third party, could a major crossover be in the works?
20th Century Fox may be planning a crossover film for their impending standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe, if reports are to be believed. From the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past next year onwards, the studio have made clear their intent to build a vast narrative overworld, and this will expand in 2015's The Fantastic Four and 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse.

While here at On-Screen, we rarely post articles on rumours and reports, the current lull in entertainment news regularity and the potential anticipation that could be generated by such a project more than warrant a mention, even if the project's current premise is unoriginal. According to The Motley Fool, Fox are developing a film titled Fantastic Four Vs. X-Men for release after the latter franchise's 2016 instalment. If the rumours are true, then the motion picture entry will be based on the 1987 comic series of the same name, as Professor X's team of mutants battle it out with the Richards, the Grimms and the Storms when dangerous secrets come to light about F4's past.

X-Men: Days of Future Past time-travels into cinemas worldwide on May 23rd, 2014, while The Fantastic Four releases on June 19th, 2015 and X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th, 2016.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2014

The next generation has begun-  your guide to its major hitters, right here.
Twelve months ago, gamers were more than content with their current-generation hardware in the form of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Now? Well, in fairness, a decent few of us are still more than content with those consoles, despite the release of the (substantially priced) Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

2014 should be an intriguing period for the industry, then, as its fanbase appears split in the middle over the prospect of next-gen gaming. Make no mistake, some technologically enhanced products will remain exclusive to the One and PS4 this year, but with this split now a prominent conflict, developers may have to recall the limits of last-gen hardware more frequently than they might have originally envisioned. Perhaps by December the playing field will have shifted, but for now, the old refuses to simply make way for the new.

Here, then, are On-Screen's picks for their Top 10 Most Anticipated Video Game Releases of 2014:

10. GAME OF THRONES- Telltale shocked the world earlier this month in their revelation of a fully-fledged digital episodic Game of Thrones project that one of their countless development teams have in the works. Based on the hit HBO TV series, although at present inhabiting an unknown window in George R.R. Martin's vast mythology, expect nothing short of greatness from the staff behind the acclaimed The Walking Dead episodes (which, incidentally, will continue in 2014 too!). (Autumn)
9. ASSASSIN'S CREED V- This mainstay annual franchise is now always a given entry in the Autumn of Gaming, and short of Ubisoft having mastered the art of deception themselves, their survey released to the press on future AC instalments all but confirms a sixth consecutive yearly release is on its way. Black Flag was the closest the franchise has come to matching the heights of ACII and Brotherhood in some time, and we see no reason why ACV shouldn't take that all-important final step back onto the throne of action-adventure video gaming! (November)
8. METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES- The first multi-generation Metal Gear Solid chapter, Ground Zeroes is a prequel to the core MGS V experience, The Phantom Pain. Teasing many of the gameplay elements set to be integrated into the full open-world experience in 2015, this prologue of sorts brings its protagonist into the year 1975, where a global conspiracy threatens to destabilise governments and revolutionise terrorist factions- same old, same old in other words, for Solid Snake...(March)
7. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT- Geralt's journey as a Witcher began on PC, then transferred over to Xbox 360 for The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, and in 2014, it reaches its end with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Aptly enough for a saga which has frequently pushed the aesthetic boundaries of its respective hardware, Wild Hunt is a no-question-asked next-gen exclusive, launching on the Xbox One, PS4 and PC next year- prepare to be dazzled, provided the tough-as-nails RPG gameplay sustains your interest. (Spring)
6. BROKEN AGE- Brutal Legend's Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions return for a brand new indie experience which threatens to enter the big leagues of mainstream appeal. Broken Age stars Elijah Wood and Jack Black, taking the form of  a sci-fi/fantasy 2.5D epic where the animation style eclipses just about any hand-drawn Disney classic that fans can think of, and the gameplay itself could prove to be one of the most innovative experiences of the entire year! (January)
5. HALO 5- To be brutally frank, 343 Industries' first solo foray into the world of the Master Chief with Halo 4 was, in hindsight, a little underwhelming. That said, the developers have clearly demonstrated their respect for the franchise with their acknowledgement of virtually every comment and criticism laid before them on the forums, and with that in mind, the prospect of their return via the next chapter in the Reclaimer Saga, Xbox One-exclusive Halo 5, is absolutely thrilling...(Autumn)
4. DESTINY- And speaking of Halo developers, ex-helm Bungie are also returning to the limelight, albeit with a totally isolated project published by Activision. Marking the commencement of an entirely new franchise of video games, Destiny could be an MMORPG like no other, and in its premiering on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PC should ensure that Bungie have the opportunity to take the broadest demographic of gamers possible by storm once more. (September)
3. LEGO THE HOBBIT- LEGO The Lord of the Rings remains one of this writer's personal highlights of TT Games' LEGO video game adaptation franchise two years on from its release, and thus the opportunity to reenter the developers' envisioned Middle-Earth is a pleasure, no less. LEGO The Hobbit chronicles the events of both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, from the Shire to Erebor, and if handled with as much aplomb as its predecessor, it has every right to become the perfect prelude to December's release of the film franchise's finale, There and Back Again! (Spring)
2. SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH- Twelve months ago, as well as remaining content with the current-gen hardware, we were also eagerly awaiting the March 2013 launch of South Park: The Stick of Truth. Come the dawn of 2014, we're still waiting for the March 2014 launch, and the product has switched publishers with the fall of THQ. Nevertheless, the E3 and VGX teasers for Stick displayed potential in multitudes, so counting this frequently-delayed title out should be our last priority right now, with our anticipation instead remaining high for a game which should at the very least be a gem in the rough, and at most a Game of the Year contender...(March)
1. WATCH DOGS- The victor of this list is another unexpectedly delayed project which nevertheless remains one of 2014's most anticipated video game experiences. Were it not for some lurking issues in the gameplay framework detected at Ubisoft, Watch Dogs would have made it to shelves in time for the launch of next-gen consoles, yet in pulling out and reverting to a Q1 2014 release window, the publishers and developers essentially put many gamers off next-gen hardware for another half year. As such, the pressure is on for the team at Montreal to deliver, but if Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is anything to go by, and this experiment with a new engine pays off, then Watch Dogs may be exactly the video game that the next-generation is currently searching so desparately for in vain. (Spring)

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films Of 2014

Our guide to the hottest upcoming films releasing in the next twelve months.
Let's begin with a word of warning, as such a prelude is necessitated here: 2014 will not likely be remembered as one of the film industry's defining years. Like 2015 (which could in turn either revolutionise or destroy the industry as a whole), the next year of cinema is stuffed full of sequels, prequels and reboots, and while there are certainly a good deal of great cinematic ventures to look forward to, the slate isn't quite as thrilling as it was when we initially looked upon 2015.

Even so, what 2014 does have should still do the box office proud. The main purpose of this article is to educate you, dear reader, on the ten blockbusters and more subtle works of cinema which promise to highlight the next twelve months. First, though, we'll open with those flicks that have narrowed missed out on a place in the final ten, yet which will still definitely warrant the industry and its audience's attention before the end of the coming year...
  • #20-#15 (in descending order): How To Catch A Monster (Release Date TBC); Transformers: Age of Extinction (June); How To Train Your Dragon 2 (June); Transcendence (April); Guardians of the Galaxy (August); Captain America: The Winter Soldier (March)
  • #14-#11 (in descending order): Into The Woods (December); The Wolf of Wall Street (January); Interstellar (November); 12 Years A Slave (January)
With that business done and dusted, onto the main event. Here are On-Screen's Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2014:

10. THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE 2- Jay, Simon, Neil and Will all made their big-screen debut with The Inbetweeners Movie in 2011, and after the shock smash success of the Brit film here in the UK, Film4 predictably commissioned a sequel. The gang are off to Australia in their second cinematic outing, where an all manner of crass antics will no doubt ensue within moments of their plane landing...(August)
9. AMERICAN HUSTLE- Christian Bale. Jennifer Lawrence. Amy Adams. Bradley Cooper. If those four actors' names aren't enough to make American Hustle an essential night out for viewers, then some serious consideration of your priorities may be in order. Surprisingly, American Hustle is going down a hit with awards committees too, so expect a film worthy of both mainstream and critical audiences here! (January)
8. THE LEGO MOVIE- It was only a matter of time: what with Travellers Tales' amassed acclaim in producing their LEGO videogame franchise from LEGO Star Wars to LEGO Marvel Superheroes, Warner Brothers have now scooped up the rights for a full-blown block-busting motion picture. Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman himself are all on hand to assist in the assembling of potential greatness. (February)
7. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2- Despite a merely above-average first instalment in his rebooted franchise, the Webbed Wonder is back for a sequel with more villains than ever. Whether a single narrative can handle having Rhino, the Green Goblin and Electro remains to be seen, but the journey to discover the truth of the matter should be akin to that of a rollercoaster ride! (April)
6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- Though an age feels as if it has passed since Rise of the Planet of the Apes' 2011 release, anticipation for the sequel hasn't diminished one iota. For the fictitious world at large, an age has passed- ten years, in fact, in which humanity has virtually gone extinct thanks to a deadly plague, leaving just a few survivors in the midst of an ape civil war. Bring it on...(July)
5. THE BOOK THIEF- Brian Percival's film adaptation of The Book Thief is one of the most anticipated films of 2014 for many movie-goers, and with good reason. Marcus Zuzak's teen fiction novel remains a cult hit, its replication of Nazi Germany still regarded as a chilling, incredible rendition through which an unforgettable narrative is conveyed, a narrative ripe with cinematic promise. (January)
4. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1- I was taken wholly off guard by the unrelenting strength of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire last month, in no small part as a result of Francis Lawrence's accomplished direction. Lawrence returns for both halves of the franchise's two-part finale, set to commence next Winter as Katniss spearheads a revolution against the omnipotent Capital...(November)
3. MUPPETS MOST WANTED- Not since The Muppets' launch in 2012 have we witnessed a movie reboot which has managed to shock and inspire such a vast plethora of fans old and new. Crafting a sequel in the hope of reaching the same levels of acclaim must have Muppets Most Wanted's production team in angst right now, but the signs that the follow-up could be a hit are particularly strong so far. (March)
2. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS- The Descendants' Shaliene Woodley may have been axed from the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in post-produciton edits, yet at least she's still got a major chance to shine with this long-in-development adaptation of John Green's beloved sick-lit text. The Fault In Our Stars is already an absolutely essential read, and the film may well earn much the same cult status! (June)
1. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST- As of December 28th, I can't clearly determine a film set for release in 2014 which has me quite as excited as Les Miserables did this time last year. All the same, of what is on offer, X-Men: Days of Future Past is currently the pinnacle in terms of overall anticipation. The pre-/se-quel brings together the cast ensembles of the original X-Men trilogy and 2011's First Class against an army of time-warping Sentinels led by Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, and unless the teaser trailer houses literally every subtle and emotional moment in the piece, then Days of Future Past could be the most dramatically charged instalment of the series yet, a true redefining of the benchmark on which superhero films, and indeed movies in general, are currently measured and assessed. (May)

New Super Smash Bros For WiiU/3DS Character Announced

A returning combatant from past Smash Bros instalments is confirmed!
Nintendo have this week announced a new member of Super Smash Bros for WiiU and Super Smash Bros for 3DS' ensemble of fighters. Prior to this reveal, the character most recently announced to feature in both versions was Super Mario Galaxy's Princess Rosalina (and her pet Luma).

Next up? Princess Zelda, a warrior who returns to the franchise after appearances in Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Smash Bros Brawl. While the Nintendo WiiU and Nintendo 3DS packages will vary in terms of the characters, special moves, trophies and arenas that they offer, the Legend of Zelda mainstay will be a part of both products, as will her series protagonists' Link and The Wind Waker's Toon Link. Other series regulars such as Ganondorf have not yet been confirmed to feature, but fans should be more than satisfied with these three much-anticipated inclusions anyway.

Super Smash Bros for WiiU and Super Smash Bros for 3DS retail on their respective Nintendo consoles in 2014.

Batman: Arkham Announcement Teased

A New Year brings a new battle for the Dark Knight- find out more on December 31st!
Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment have this week confirmed that an announcement on the next chapter of the Batman: Arkham video game franchise will be made next week. The news comes after the release of Batman: Arkham Origins on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo WiiU and PC in October.

Right now, it's difficult to assert quite what the upcoming reveal will entail. The Batman: Arkham Twitter feed had this to say on the matter:
Their hashtag #ArkhamOrigins appears to imply that a new downloadable content expansion pack for Batman: Arkham Origins is on the way, presumably containing new missions set after the game's main storyline campaign. One possibility is that the DC Universe's infamous Suicide Squad will feature as the DLC's central antagonists, a sub-narrative which was hinted at in the title's post-credits sequence, and while many fans remain hopeful that a third Rocksteady Arkham product will be announced, if that project is in the works, expect the news to come in the early months of 2014 instead.

The future of the Batman: Arkham franchise is revealed on December 31st.

Best of 2013 Awards: Top 20 Best Films Part 2

Our countdown of 2013's greatest movies reaches its conclusion...
The original plan for the remainder of On-Screen's 'Best of 2013' Awards feature articles was for them to be incorporated into a few more Advent Adventure posts between Christmas and New Year, but with the festive day itself done and dusted, focusing on a prolonged Advent season doesn't seem quite right.

With that in mind, then, we'll stick to the general article title format, and get going with the final ten films in our 'Top 20 Best Films of 2013' shortlist. Here's our Top 10 Best Films of the year, compiled into one definitive feature piece:

10. MONSTERS' UNIVERSITY- Although Monsters' Inc. wasn't the most remarkable Disney Pixar outing of recent times, its prequel outing Monsters' University was a stunning spiritual successor. I'm sure that the vast majority of the series' fans would agree that if we simply spent more time in the company of Billy Crystal's Mike and John Goodman's Sully- the pair's vocal chemistry here is nothing short of spellbinding- that would be enough to power an entire animated franchise for years to come!
9. WRECK-IT RALPH- Evidently not content to allow their Pixar branch to take all of the animated glory for 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studios opened the year with an absolute belter. Wreck-It Ralph rekindles the lost nostalgia-ridden days of classic video gaming, satisfying the memories of those players old enough to have experienced Pong and Pac-Man in their heyday while still sating the innocent fantastical passions of their traditional target audience. If this hidden gem passed you by in February, then why not catch it on Sky Movies HD, where it's currently running on a daily basis free of charge?
8. THE GREAT GATSBY- Never go into a film adaptation of a literary text expecting a pitch-perfect reproduction of the original. The Great Gatsby teaches the viewer this vital lesson in good measure, its transforming the traditional eclectic jazz hits of 1920s and 1930s USA into the modern stylised beats of hip-hop by director Baz Luhrmman an inspired feat which only achieves its desired empathetic impact once past readers relinquish Fitzgerald's classic transcript and view the picture in at least a form of isolation. Once that process has transpired, then the appreciation gained for Leonardo DiCaprio's haunting rendition of James Gatz, Carey Mulligan's frantic, aptly-inconsistent Daisy and most of all Luhrmann's vivid visual mastery and accomplished soundtrack direction is all the more profound, cementing this twenty-first century big-screen adaptation as amongst the strongest of its kind.
7. RUSH- Even if Ron Howard's splendid Formula 1 biopic is destined for accolades from the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, Rush remains a wholly accessible, brilliant piece of cinema which scarcely alienates the mainstream viewer in favour of earning awards. Too many of the supposedly great Oscar nominees these days are prominent bait, clearly created with the intention of recieving critical acclaim rather than bringing across a cohesive, ambitious narrative, yet in spite of the familiarity of the true story it depicts, this Chris Hemsworth-starring flick never ceases to strive for a benchmark of quality in terms of innovation and pure entertainment which its soon-to-be competitors lack to a large extent. Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde and Natalie Dormer each justifiably dominate the action, yet again, the final word must go to Howard, whose direction fuels Rush to transcend the screen-placed boundaries between the viewer and his characters more richly than any sports film has before it...
6. DJANGO UNCHAINED- This effortlessly captivating Western ode-turned-parody from Quinten Tarantino has that rare cinematic quality of instant replay value- no two viewings will ever be quite the same, a previously neglected detail of intricacy only emerging upon the next screening, with secrets galore still awaiting discovery long beyond the second watch. Django Unchained is not only one of Tarantino's finest works thanks to the director's stylistic assurance and manipulation, though; Leonardo DiCaprio's thrilling, oft-terrifying portrayal of Calvin Candy sends the motion picture into legendary territory, and Christoph Waltz's hilariously subjected Dr. Schultz doesn't exactly run far behind!
5. IRON MAN 3- Following the masterful work of Joss Whedon on Avengers Assemble must have appeared a near-impossible proposition for Marvel Studios, yet in the end, only one element really needed to slot into place- the hiring of Shane Black as the director of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's next chapter. Iron Man 3 is immediatedly a more engaging endeavour than its franchise predecessor in its layered narrative, but Black's helming is what ultimately elevates it above Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and even this year's Thor: The Dark World with ease. It's telling that even a somewhat disappointing final antagonist reveal can't diminish the film's overall effect, with Ben Kingsley's secondary villain character being one of the most memorable inclusions in the MCU's mythology so far.
4. FROZEN- Well, readers can feel free to raise their hands if they saw this one coming, because this reviewer can confirm that they did not for a moment prior to December. The third animated contribution from Walt Disney Pictures on our list, Frozen reigns dominant on the basis of the reprisal of an element of Disney classics which has too long been absent from the genre- musical narrative. Each viewer will depart the auditorium with their own personal favourite tunes, but regardless of their response to the melodies, they are guaranteed to strike a profound relationship with the simplistic yet subversive character constructs, the likes of which have not attained the same depth and empathetic potential since Up or Toy Story 3. Twelve months ago, this was a studio which would hardly have registered as holding much potential for future hits, but as 2013 ends, Disney have reestablished themselves as an industry competitor to watch, and we now lie in avid anticipation of their next production...
3. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE- Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire was always the superior entry in her Hunger Games trilogy of novels, and as such, that Lionsgate's blockbuster adaptation of the text could have already have earned the title of the superior instalment in the film franchise comes as no surprise. From Jennifer Lawrence's performance to the now superbly paced narrative, virtually no element of The Hunger Games has been left in an unrefined state. With a two-part version of Mockingjay on the horizon for Christmas 2014 and 2015, the franchise has never risen higher than it stands today, and the knowledge that Catching Fire's director Francis Lawrence will return to helm the latter two instalments only sweetens the deal, offering hope that Lionsgate can pull a Twilight and transform the finale's underwhelming resolution into a meaningful and dramatic denouement.
2. GRAVITY- If Howard's Rush commences a directorial process of transcending the boundariesA and limits of cinema as an entertainment medium, then Alfonso Cuaron expands his predecessor's reach tenfold with Gravity. Never has 3D technology been put to greater effect than it is here, nor has the immersion that a viewer has openly felt within the universe (here literally) of a motion picture's narrative been so prominent. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney each provide award-worthy, career-defining performances, and these portrayals act as the essential icing of the cake which Avatar was found wanting for atop its dazzling visuals in 2009. In light of Cuaron's masterpiece, James Cameron must come to realise that aesthetic finesse in film is a mere supplement to a bold, gripping narrative and excelled character portrayals- to use a rather apt cliche, it's high time that he saw the gravity of the present situation!
1. LES MISERABLES- Eleven months on from their commencement, this reviewer can still hear the people sing. Tom Hooper had little to prove after his fantastic work with The King's Speech, and yet in many ways, his take on Les Miserables is so much more fulfilling. Of course, Hooper's incredible expertise in helming the big-screen rendition of Victor Hugo's classic novel and Alain Boubil's West End spectacular is just a singular component of the film's grandeur, its greatness, for without the correct thespians on hand to voice Jean Valjean, Javier and the remainder of the iconic character ensemble, the situation would fall to pieces. Enter Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter, all of whom factor immensely into the masterpiece which launched in the New Year here in the UK. Evidently, if Les Miserables and Frozen (and 2012's remarkable Rock of Ages) are anything to go by, then the musical genre is making a comeback, and so long as the ambition and dramatic power present in both the latter and particularly the former reside, then thanks to Hooper, the film industry has a irresistible opportunity to enter into a new renaissance. Master of the House, indeed.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor Review

The clock strikes twelve, but is Matt Smith's final episode his best?
More than any Doctor Who Christmas Special before it, The Time of the Doctor was hand-crafted for the show's hardcore followers. Key story arcs ranging from episodes as far gone as The Deadly Assassin and The Five Doctors to tales as recent as The Wedding of River Song and The Name of the Doctor were developed and/or resolved throughout, with scarcely a loose plot thread (bar Gallifrey's hidden status) left hanging come the credits.

With writer Steven Moffat's focus on appeasing the fans' enthusiasm for closure, though, came a weight of inaccessibility on the episode's core narrative. Compelling and layered this festive yarn may be, but standalone and simply cohesive- as A Christmas Carol and The Snowmen were- this is not. Moffat clearly stated in press previews for Matt Smith's final adventure as the Doctor that he wanted to move away from the 'Doctor Who-lite' stigma attached to modern-day Christmas Specials for the science-fiction drama, and yet this reviewer would be hard pressed to argue that the emphasis on dealing with continuity voids here isn't detrimental to the viewing experience at times.

In part, this detriment manifests itself in Time's frantic pacing. That secondary plot sequences such as Clara's Christmas dinner gathering and perhaps the inclusion of the Cybermen as a whole could and should have been removed to make way for further impactful content along the lines of Matt's dazzling pair of final speeches becomes particularly obvious once Peter Capaldi emerges in the TARDIS, confined to a mere minute of screen time thanks to the traditional one-hour slot of this annual instalment. When the Eleventh Doctor (or should that be Twelfth or Thirteenth? Best not to think on that one for too long...) made his debut in The End of Time Part Two, the promise of Matt's fulfillment of the role's criteria was not necessarily as high as fans might have hoped, and similarly, Capaldi's performance seems to simply mirror Smith and David Tennant's, a resemblance which must rapidly fade if the revived series is to survive beyond its eighth season in 2014.

Thankfully, this was still an episode which was packed with aesthetic and narrative highlights, the former evidenced in the notably above-average production values of the events on Trenzalore. Witnessing the Doctor and the Silence form an alliance against the Daleks with the religious order's assurance that the Time Lord would not reveal his name was a complete visual spectacle (thanks in no small part to Hide director Jamie Payne), the explosive battle which befell Christmastown matching much of the aesthetic splendour of last month's The Day of the Doctor. Impressive CGI work is by no means the mark of a great drama, of course; however, it remains assuring to discover the monetary faith which the BBC evidently hold in their flagship sci-fi series eight years on from its 2005 return. At this rate, Series Eight will pack the most impressive digital elements that Who has displayed yet.

What Series Eight won't have, though, is another actorial masterclass from the phenomenal Matt Smith. Even if Moffat's script isn't the strongest produced in Smith's four-year reign as Theta Sigma, The Time of the Doctor marks the future How To Catch A Monster star's finest performance in the role to date, a remarkable accolade itself given the strength of his previous work in Vincent and the Doctor, The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon and so many other episodes besides. If the British actor's triumphant final challenge to the Daleks to slay their elderly adversary wasn't enough to ensure that fans will miss him greatly, then the concluding exchange between the Doctor, Jenna Coleman's Clara and (in a heartwarming surprise cameo) Karen Gillan's Amy confirmed the future pathos of Smith's immediate absence in upcoming episodes. Jenna can afford herself an indulgent pat on the back this week as well, since her portrayal of the Impossible Girl has come on leaps and bounds from Series Seven, to the extent that the concept of having her return alongside Capaldi next year is far more enticing than it once might have been.

Eastenders' and Sinbad's Orla Brady's guest appearance as Tasha Lem has been likened through the actress' portrayal to that of Alex Kingston's River Song. In fairness, Kingston has plenty on her plate right now, and Moffat rightly asserted that The Name of the Doctor brought about a meaningful conclusion to the character's narrative- in which case, Brady at least acts as an immensely satisfying substitute. The explanation provided regarding 'the Kovarian Chapter' of the Silence attempting in vain to avert the Doctor's voyage to Trenzalore was an efficient clarification of the religious order's plans in Series Five and Six, yet again, there was a convoluted air to the nature of this arc resolution, with questions still arising as to the significance of River's assassin spacesuit and why the Doctor said "who else?" if he was truly confronted with the image of a crack in space and time in Room 11 during Toby Whithouse's stunning pseudo-horror escapade The God Complex. Nitpicking shouldn't be the name of the game when judging an oft-lighthearted attempt such as this to see off Smith's era with a bang, yet it would be churlish not to recognise that shortcomings such as these do prevent Time from matching its acclaimed predecessor.

When all is said and done, however, The Time of the Doctor remains a fitting denouement for the latest incarnation of the centuries-old Time Lord (lord knows quite how many years were truly elapsed in his time on Trenzalore!), with Matt Smith's portrayal of the character reaching its peak at precisely the correct moment in time. An argument could be made that if Day displayed and reinforced the major strengths of Moffat's era on Who, then Time brings to light some lingering cracks in the framework, yet not in such a manner that the episode as a whole is crippled by its continuity references, pacing errors or the like. Even if Peter Capaldi has some work to do in terms of restoring our confidence in the production team's capability to create wholly distinct incarnations of the Doctor, for now, let's remember with grand fondness one of the best incarnations of the lot, for Smith's absence will no doubt be profoundly felt by the series' creators and viewership alike for some time to come.

"I will not forget one line of this, one day, I swear. I will always remember the time when the Doctor was me." Never were truer words spoken, Matt- all the best of luck in the plethora of future projects that await. Your moment has been long prepared for!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


A brief festive message from On-Screen...
Well, here we are- December 25th. As ever, I'll keep this short so as to allow everyone to recommence sleeping and plentiful festive celebrations, and On-Screen's output will come back to full strength on Boxing Day (although a review of Matt Smith's final Doctor Who episode this evening isn't out of the question).

Most importantly, though, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Make the most of the precious time you'll spend with family, friends and the rest, and cherish the seasonal goodwill that strangely only resides in this time of year consistently. Now, it's tradition here at On-Screen for us to post a Muppets Christmas Carol song's video on the big day, so I thought I'd subvert expectations for once, and post another festive track or two instead...
Just kidding, of course- how could I possibly resist this single annual opportunity?

On-Screen Advent Adventure: Day Twenty-Four

Our Advent Adventure is nearing its end, but its story will continue on past Christmas Day, up until New Year's Eve in fact. Today, on the eve of Christmas itself, another segment of our 'Best of 2013 Awards' feature series locks into place.

Videos take precedence this time around, as we delve back through the past twelve months to discover the greatest promotional trailers produced by marketing teams between January 1st and December 31st. Nostalgia, thrills and spills await, so let's waste no further time:

10. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE 'ATLAS' TV SPOT- Coldplay's new track Atlas was already a superb addition to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's soundtrack, yet it wasn't until it launched definitively with this TV ad for the film that the song truly came into its gravitas-fuelled own.
9. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON COMICCON TEASER TRAILER- When Joss Whedon took to the stage at ComicCon in order to confirm the future of Marvel Studios' Avengers franchise, no fan could have anticipated the glorious teaser trailer for his upcoming sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, that would emerge...
8. DOCTOR WHO: '50 YEARS' ANNIVERSARY TRAILER- Ten months. That's how long Steven Moffat and the Doctor Who marketing team spent having to put up with fans' unnecessary accusations of their neglecting the show's 50th Anniversary, only to premiere this spellbinding CGI prologue trail for The Day of the Doctor!
7. IRON MAN 3 THEATRICAL TRAILER- Against all the odds, Iron Man 3 turned out to be a bold and quite brilliant successor to Avengers Assemble, with this final full trailer heightening our anticipation considerably in its revelation of the army of untested Iron Men assembling to battle the Mandarin's forces in the skies.
6. BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA TEASER TRAILER- If only its first major DLC expansion had been as consistent as the original product, then BioShock Infinite might have dominated 2013. Nevertheless, the first preview of Burial At Sea was stylised genius, a beautiful reproduction of the noir genre in miniaturised form...

5. MUPPETS MOST WANTED THEATRICAL TRAILER- Backed by Vinyl Hearts' infectious tune Let's Go, this initial trail for the sequel to The Muppets gets the ball rolling at a fair pace. Here's hoping that the final product lives up to its Film of the Year-nominated predecessor!
4. THE NEWSROOM SEASON 2 DESERT TRAILER- Another trailer on the list housing one our 'Top 20 Best Songs of 2013' picks. The Newsroom needs some work if Season Three is to return to the heights of its debut run, but at least Tom Odell's Can't Pretend lends a profound and powerful sense of haunting desolation here.
3. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG TEASER TRAILER- And speaking of Desolation, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug's first preview was an astounding teaser. What a shame, then, that the full film couldn't help but disappoint compared to An Unexpected Journey...
2. THE GREAT GATSBY FINAL TRAILER- Featuring the track which we awarded our 'Best Song of 2013' title, Florence + The Machine's Over The Love, the final video trailer for The Great Gatsby is an absolute stunner both aurally and visually, and thank goodness that the movie was much the same!
1. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST TEASER TRAILER- Whether the motion picture contains Rogue or not, X-Men: Days of Future Past has every right to be one of 2014's greatest hits, and its teaser trailer in no way tells us otherwise. Future marketing teams, take heed: this is a masterclass in how to send fans into a flurry without revealing key plot details too early in the promotional process. Is it May 23rd yet?


Sherlock: Many Happy Returns Released

"The Game Is Back On!" Sherlock returns in eight days, but first...
The BBC have today released a new mini-episode of Sherlock ahead of their detective drama's return next week. Set two years after the events of The Reichenbach Fall, the third run again comprises three 90-minute episodes: The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three and His Last Vow.

What can be fathomed from this 7-minute teaser (below), titled Many Happy Returns, then? In short, not blooming much. Jonathan Aris' Anderson, Rupert Graves' Inspector Lestrade and Martin Freeman's John Watson each feature in the prologue, but beyond a cameo or two, Benedict Cumberbatch is nowhere to be seen in his present day guise. Nevertheless, having the Sherlock cast back on our screens is a treat unto itself, and the video will surely only make the wait until January 1st all the more challenging for fans!

Sherlock returns to BBC One this New Year's Day, 2014.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

On-Screen Advent Adventure: Day Twenty-Three

In just 48 hours' time, the big day will be upon us, and here at On-Screen, we hope that you're getting the chance to relax and indulge in the season goodwill in anticipation of Christmas itself. Our 'Best of 2013 Awards' are beginning to reach their almighty climax two-thirds of the way through December, continuing today with the remainder of our Top 20 Best Songs of 2013 shortlist.

Comprising twenty different artists deriving from a variety of genres and current statuses of fame, the list recaps some of the greatest music to grace the radios over the course of the last twelve months, along with YouTube videos for each track. Here, then, are entries #10-#1 of this compilation of 2013's superior melodies...

10. I SEE FIRE (ED SHEERAN)- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug may not have matched the charm and accomplished pacing of An Unexpected Journey, but at least Ed Sheeran's tie-in single was a worthy successor to Neil Finn's Song of the Lonely Mountain. His I See Fire is a melancholic and simultaneously empowering tune which was a perfect book-end to the film after its shocking cliffhanger...
9. TOGETHER OR NOT AT ALL: THE STORY OF AMY AND RORY (MURRAY GOLD)- Somewhat late to the party in its releasing a year after The Angels Take Manhatten's broadcast, Murray Gold's accompaniment to the departure of Karen Gillan from Doctor Who is by far the Complete Series 7 soundtrack's standout entry, replicating the immense pathos of Amy's demise in audible form perfectly.
8. SOME NIGHTS (FUN)- Following up on their sensational debut with We Are Young in 2012, Fun's latest single was released later in the year, although it only became a prominent mainstay in the charts earlier in 2013. Some Nights is just as infectious as its predecessor, if not moreso, and as such that it remains such a pop hit come the end of the year should hardly come as any great shock!
7. LET'S GO (VINYL HEARTS)- This little-known indie contribution from Vinyl Hearts hit the big time with its première within the Muppets Most Wanted marketing campaign in March and beyond. Let's Go is but a taste of the band's immense talents, but as first impressions go, they don't come much more justifiably tantalising and promising than this.
6. HEY JUDE (GLEE CAST)- Only Glee could achieve one of the best covers of a beloved Beatles track at the same time as constructing a surprisingly successful parody of Carrie in the process. Love Is All You Need and Seasons of Love were both close contenders for the ever-strengthening ensemble cast's best contribution in 2013, testament to the production team's continuing ability to stun in spite of the series' tropes.
5. ONE DAY MORE (LES MISERABLES CAST)- As a newcomer to the realms of Les Miserables at the time of the film's launch, this writer's experience of One Day More for the first time on the big screen was an eye-opener in every sense of the phrase. Jackman excels in the voice of Jean Valjean, yet it's Crowe's Javert who proves hauntingly iconic here in one of the film version's bountiful array of highlight moments...
4. DEMONS (IMAGINE DRAGONS)- Believe me when I confirm that the competition in the Top 5 rankings on the list was particularly substantial, arguably to a greater degree than any of the other 'Best of 2013 Awards' shortlists. Imagine Dragons' captivating Night Visions track Demons misses out on a Top 3 placement by an inch, yet it remains the band's finest hour so far, a masterful showcase of their potential!
3. CAN'T PRETEND (TOM ODELL)- Again, Tom Odell's Long Way Down featured multiple tracks worthy of note, but ultimately, my aim was to have each entry on the 2013 shortlist be unique in style and tone, so I've chosen the artist's most effective song of the lot. Can't Pretend found fame in The Newsroom Season Two's promo campaign, but as a standalone piece it more than outranks that sub-par televisual run.
2. LET MY LOVE OPEN THE DOOR (LUMINATE)- Another Newsroom-founded gem, albeit coming from a band who were barely known before their 'on-screen' début. Newcomer Luminate's cover version of Pete Townshend's Let My Love Open The Door is a rousing rock anthem that is sure to see out 2013 (via any New Year's Eve party host willing to add it to the playlist) with a triumphant bang...
1. OVER THE LOVE (FLORENCE & THE MACHINE)- With criticisms so often laid before Baz Luhrrman's Summer adaptation of The Great Gatsby, music fans musn't forget that the film's soundtrack offered up the year's peak in musical finesse. Florence & The Machine return to the limelight (or should that be green light?) with Over The Love, and it's safe to say that from this point onwards, any doubts of the band's capability to outperform each and every one of its competitors will undoubtedly have faded away into the darkness along with Gatsby's ultimately intangible realisation of the American Dream.