How I’ve seen WarCraft getting craftier

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness Game Box Cover

The first proper PC game I ever owned was WarCraft 2: Tides of Darkness. I first played it from a demo disk and seeing as the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre was a rarity on the Mega Drive (which was my main entertainment device at the time) I thoroughly enjoyed the new experience and wanted more. Continue reading How I’ve seen WarCraft getting craftier

Film Review: A Sound of Thunder

A Sound of Thunder Butterfly on a dark background Movie Poster

Synopsis: In the future the ability to travel through time has been mastered and a new branch of the Government created to regulate the company “Time Safari” that uses this technology to travel to the Cretaceous period and take down an allosaurus 5 minutes before it dies. There are 3 rules: Don’t change anything in the past; don’t leave anything behind; and most important, don’t bring anything back…..

At the conclusion of this film I was left with thinking how unrepresentative the title of this film is, okay at a stretch you could associate the Dinosaurs foot-steps with the thunderous pound oh so brilliantly demonstrated in Jurassic Park, but as I say this is a stretch.

That being said there are many good points to this film, one of which is the post-modern environments the characters are placed in, the detail is comprehensive and the variety of extra elements such as the broad array of automobiles driving up and down the street. However when something affects the environment such as the pavement collapsing the street apparently has no depth and the illusion shattered (pun intended).

Edward Burns remains austere for the entirety of the film, perhaps its his guise for portraying the severity of the storyline or perhaps its something for more amateur… Ben Kingsley delivers a sturdy performance demonstrating that he’s always on his ‘A’ game even if the highest prospects of the film are sub-terrainian.

Reading further on this film and finds it was originally scheduled for realise in 2003 and only just made it to DVD now because the original production company went bankrupt, still you have to be amazed at the graphics quality in comparison to the big budget movies like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that came out that year and they must’ve had at least 10 times the amount on CG imagery.

The premise is promising, reminiscent of Thrill Seekers, a low budget 90s film, also about the pitfalls of time travel, predictably even when rules are set by ourselves for the benefit of all humanity someone has to take a shortcut because their egomania deludes them into thinking they are above causality.

Certainly a blockbuster if a some post-production financial aid came through sooner or a some thorough dialogue adjustments made but sadly time travel doesn’t exist and we will never know. There are better films to spend your £3 rental on, ranking this one somewhere close to the top of the sucky film pile.

Rating: 48%

Film Review: Zathura

Would you like to play a game? Ordinarily a harmless request but this is an extraordinary game. Zathura takes you into the Jumanji universe where board games aren’t just pieces being moved around a board, they’re adventures beyond your wildest imagination.

Although a film targeted at children I found this thoroughly enjoyable; there are plenty of jokes for all ages and a deeper story about how hard it can be for children after a divorce.

The story starts with a father and his 2 sons enjoying their weekend together playing games, intermittent with him finishing preparations for a presentation at work. Typically the boys compete for their father’s attention and in the process raise some minor havoc which leads to one of them being tricked into the basement and discovering a cool looking game.

The discoverer opens it up and starts playing; a card is ejected but being so young he can barely read and asks his slightly perturbed brother what it says. Upon reading, a meteor strikes, devastating the living room. Looking out of the window they are stranded in space with no parents and an apathetic sleeping teenager – what are they going to do?

I thoroughly enjoyed Zathura. Usually there’s an obvious formula to children’s movies meaning you can almost predict what’s going to happen next, but Zathura certainly kept it interesting for me. You expect a big hoohah seeing aliens immediately and then getting back at them but Zathura takes a different approach, withhold seeing them until absolutely necessary. Get the kids thinking of the most disgusting and scary monster alien they can imagine, and just when they can’t bare it any longer they show you and it’s pretty intimidating but nothing a 5 year old can’t handle.
A good film to go and see if you’re looking for some easy entertainment, firm acting from the cast, thoughtful plot and respectable CG effects. Certainly worth the price of a cinema ticket.

Rating: 82%

Film Review: War of the Worlds

War Of The Worlds 2005 Film Poster

Another Tom Cruise film directed by Steven Speilberg, those that did enjoy Minority Report probably will enjoy this film; both exhibit fantastic special effects and good performances.

War of the Worlds brings two methods seldom used for protagonist movies to audiences, firstly we spend the majority of the film seeing the main character Ray Ferrier (Cruise) lead his family as fast as he can in the opposite direction to danger. Usually something expected of minor cast members, example in the film Independence Day where one of the main characters runs straight to his military base to help in the effort despite seeing everyone around him running to the hills. Whilst Ferrier’s behaviour adds to the suspense for roughly three quarters of the film there is the inevitable act of courage that is just enough to save the day and adds some hope to a seemingly dire situation.

The second which is held to rigidly we see everything the main cast see, on the one occasion when we might see a full blown military engagement with the enemy the main character charges to within meters of seeing the action in a vain attempt to stop his son going “unto the breach” and retreats to protect his youngest child and run for safety.

Whilst some scenes seem preposterous with the sheer volume of destruction shown its worth noting that such scenes are nothing short of what has been seen across the news in 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. I think that the scenes are creative a giving you a full grasp of the situation and drawing you in.

A film worth watching if only once, this will likely be revered for a decade or so but I doubt that it will hold it’s weight as long as 1953 H.G. Wells counterpart.

Rating: 67%

Film Review: Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker Film Poster

A diamond in the rough, this is definitely not another Napoleon Dynamite. What Napolean did for Pop Culture Thumbsucker does the exact opposite to the teen angst genre producing one of the first films to be widely regarded as “American Indie”.
Thumbsucker brings all those problems that we are so used to seeing to new sensational heights.

Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) is 17 and still sucks his thumb. It’s not surprising that Justin is still clutching to his “security blanket” as his mother dreams over of television heartthrob and his father mourns his college football days. In addition to this both insist that their children call them by their first names in a vain attempt to not be perceived as old.

His ‘problem’ combined with his parents might be overcome if there were some other strong role models for him to turn to but unfortunately there are not any. The closest is possibly Mr Geary (Vince Vaugh) the teacher in charge of the schools debate club, a character that feels it’s entirely acceptable to summon the entire club to the men’s room for a pep talk.

Keanu Reeves, a name everyone should know by now, performs brilliantly with a dialogue consisting mainly of “hippie psychobabble” as the alternative inspirational mentor. Reeves plays a orthodontist who believes that he can treat teeth damaging problems psychologically. Using various methods such as encouraging Justin to summon his power animal to pointing out that sucking your thumb is a substitute for a mothers nibble. Whilst encouraging he isn’t without his own problems as he performs on his reclined open mouth patents.

Diagnosed by his principal and treated for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with Ritalin-type drugs Justin then begins his metamorphosis. The transition begins with Justin being held in limbo, opportunities have now opened to him and he’s lost with choices. Whilst this sounds incredibly samey to other films you really feel the despair as you are essentially shown Justin’s entire world before this happens giving you a full panoramic of where he is and how hard it is to see where he’s going.

The personal growth of Justin is entirely undermined by the fact that his parents resent being adults something that whilst not as obvious as a hit in the face adds to the tethers that is holding him back.

The Director/screenwriter Mike Mills transfers Walter Kirn’s novel perfectly (yes I enjoyed the film enough to read it) expecting vast plot points and internal insecurities to be placed in the dark for the film I was surprised to see how many were portrayed if even subtly into the film.

Certainly something to see if you have the chance although I wouldn’t choose it for a first date, perhaps for a third or forth when you can both happily sit together and take in everything that you are bombarded with. Stunning story, well cast and enjoyable to watch.

Rating: 76%

Film Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Large Aslan (Lion) head overlooking cast members in a snowy atmosphere

If like me, you’re old enough to remember the 80’s television series of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe you can remember that it used what was considered at the time the cutting edge of technology, every week you would tune in to see a television masterpiece which captivated your imagination. This film to had me suspense, I had been anticipating it for over a year and my expectations were not let down in the slightest. I watched in wonderment as I was gradually introduced to the o-so familiar characters and their situation. The story progresses smoothly as their lives are up heaved from their home sending them on a long journey to a country home little so they know that his is only their first step on an epic journey from this world to another and back again.

For those that don’t know this story you should be asking yourself 2 things; Why have you not read the books, for they are a marvellous pieces of literature that feature prominently in most lists of the top 100 books for the 20th Century.

The other must be why do you not know the story? Three inconceivably linked things; a lion, big scary and linked intuitively with nobleness, A Witch, spells, mischief (whether good or evil) and fantasy, and to make things that little more curious a Wardrobe, which for those that have no idea will be thinking “what?” a wardrobe and will be instantly bewildered and want to know more.

Never the less here is a brief non-spoiler version of the story. Four children loved by their family living in central London during the World War II bombings are sent to a Professors residence in the country for their protection. As they adapt to their new surroundings, which quickly lose all interest to the four making their lives dull and boring.

One day during a rather risky game of hide and seek Lucy the youngest of the four stumbles upon a wardrobe, which she promptly hides in. Of all the hiding places one could find this was possible the best for she found that the Wardrobe is a doorway to the Land of Narnia, though it does look ordinary at first but soon starts speaking to a Faun (think merman but instead of a half fish/half human think half goat/half human) called Mr. Tumnus and listens to stories about the magical world of Narnia with its talking animals and ancient myths. Throughout their tea and biscuits Lucy learns that Narnia has fallen under dark times due to the reign of an evil witch. Mr Tumnus not wanting Lucy to suffer to the same fate soon sends her on her way back home.

Back in the countryside home Lucy tells her siblings of Narnia and they, of course don’t believe her. Sometime later the children are trouble with the house keeper and it turns out that Edmund, the second youngest, had actually been to Narnia as well using this knowledge they flee to Narnia to escape their punishment.

Upon arriving they start exploring discover further the peril that Narnia, and they, are now involved in. Being just children they are scared and do not want to get involved, Edmund however had unwittingly been talking to the Witch and after being offered as much Turkish Delight as he could eat willingly agrees to ‘introduce’ his brother and sisters to her. So the children are divided one tricked by evil to betray his family and the others intending to somehow rescue him.

Personally I think using a relatively unknown cast is a benefit, we as an audience do not have any preconceptions about them, and it adds to the sanity-questioning concept that the film is in fact real. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a film but think about an 8 year old seeing this film they might think its real and will go home wanting to be a knight or king and go around the house saving people.

Awe inspiring visuals, hair raising orchestral audio, pristine effects a fantastic film well suited to any and everyone. Definitely a worthwhile watch and certainly a film to rent or buy.

Rating: 92%