Monday, 27 October 2008

Max Payne


A painful re-telling...

Working the cold case unit, Max Payne (Mark Wallberg) has undergone a major character change after he was unable to protect his wife and child from being killed in a robbery gone wrong. After Max's former partner, Alex Balder (Donal Logue), finds some evidence off a killed woman leading to the killer of Max's family, Max begins his journey of revenge, assisted by the unlikely source of the murdered woman's sister, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis).

Max Payne is a simple, yet vastly altered, re-telling of a complex story which is one of the first of many problems for the film. There is a basic premise to which holds the film together but the very scenes which tell the story are often disjointed and unrelated to one another. In one scene, Mona is at her home/ office/ hideout place in civilian clothing, only to end up in the very building Max is in so she could save his life. She then promptly leaves. Another being how Max is in the cold case unit, but in the three years since his wife's death he never ever bothered trying to discover what her job entailed: imagine how the rest of the poor sods feel knowing their cases were probably tossed away due to laziness. Things like this occur in the film, and it's very difficult to understand character motivation for most of what's going on. The film goes as far as having a couple of scenes which serve no purpose to the film: they do not expand the story or characters; they do not provide any action; they do not provide any titillation. Simply put, Max Payne feels abstract like it is a part of whole, and it might be safe to assume that a lot got cut out of the film to get a PG-13 rating... in fact a lot should have been cut out or the director has honestly chosen the wrong vocation.

This also results in characters being awkwardly out of place. For starters there are way too many characters for what is meant to be occurring in the film. Characters will appear for an important story advancement moment, say a line or two just to never be seen or heard of again. Even the character of Mona Sax feels vastly underplayed, and could have easily been cut from the film with virtually no bearing on the story whatsoever. The only character with some purpose is Max himself, but that is to be expected. Nevertheless, Kunis brings an interesting seductiveness to Mona, but is never the femme fatale she should be, and Wahlberg gets the lone wolf mood right while never ever really able to capture the grief which haunts Max or the insightful nature of the character either. The former is more difficult when it takes so long for the story to present the death of his wife and child in its entirety. In the end, both are adequate enough to make their characters seem interesting in some fashion. The other main roles are all short lived and definitely not fleshed out enough to have them have a real impact to the film.

Another aspect of the video game original which did not translate well was the action sequences. First off, there is too little action in the film, and it's not a well-rounded affair. There are moments, such as the SWAT shoot off and the finale sequence, especially the start of it which is breathtaking. Sadly there a lack of the staple bullet-time, and even inappropriately used when one man throws himself to his death. One scene with uses the technique is ruined: while Max tries to shoot a man who is firing at him, the director made the terrible mistake of making it appear as if the assailant was blind: it is evident that the bullets being fired land no where near Max.

There is no nudity, though a woman without a top on can be seen from the back. Sex is hinted at but never show or even performed by any characters. Language is kept to a minimal and violence is not gory and hardly bloody.

From bad editing to lack of character development to an action film with little action: one can only wonder how a video game which could so easily be translated to the cinema medium went so wrong. And while it is an adaptation, the film bares little resemblance to the source material's complexity, even nullifying the staple slow motion scenes which was popularized in the Matrix trilogy. Still it is possible that an uncut release can be seen on DVD, and could possibly fill in the many problems of the theatrical run. Nevertheless, Max Payne is not entirely devoid of entertainment, with the actors at least trying to portray their respective characters and some fun action sequences, of the little there was. The post-credit scene hints at a sequel, which should include a new director, and hopefully the sequel will make up for the mishaps of this.

5/10

Screen date: 28 October 2008
Release date: 25 October 2008

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Lakeview Terrace

Playing it safe...

Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) Mattson are a married interracial couple who decide to start their new life by settling in a new house. While having a police officer as a next-door neighbor seems like a bonus, it turns out that the police officer, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), is greatly opposed to Chris and Lisa's interracial relationship. Turner begins to terrorize the Mattson's, forcing Chris to retaliate.

Lakeview Terrace presents a unique concept but decides to portray the story rather simply, and so it is via the characters that the film keeps itself alive. The two most interesting are Chris and Abel who showcase much of the racial tendencies of the film. Chris is married to an African woman, listens to rap music and dedicated to his work and wife. Abel is a very rule orientated man, trying to protect his children from the evils of society. Both Wilson and Jackson portray their respective characters with ease, but neither feel distinguished in doing so. Nonetheless, both have a certain charm which makes for engaging viewing. Washington portrays her character with well, but she lacks the dynamic nature of her male counterparts.

One of the film's greatest strengths, also ends up as one of its greatest flaws: depth. On one hand, Lakeview Terrace pays homage to, and can be well intertexted with John Milton's Paradise Lost. The synopsis and previews simply appear to be about an a police officer harassing his new neighbors, but what director Neil LaBute does so well is to make Abel Turner seem in the right for the first third of the story. The film begins with Turner as he shapes into the film's protagonist, mimicking the appearance of Satan in Paradise Lost. The viewer sympathizes with Turner, like Satan, but as the film progresses, we begin to learn that Turner is very much Milton's Satan - his reasoning becomes perverse and illogical. And like Paradise Lost, the text shifts to Chris and Lisa, who become the Adam and Eve figures. It is this sort of intertextuality which makes Lakeview Terrace a compelling watch especially when it shares many other similarities to the epic poem Paradise Lost.
However the film also lacks the very depth it requires. The race issue is not as hard hitting as it can be: racial tension is perceived from a black perspective and while an interesting view take on events it is still nonetheless not as tangible as racism from a white perspective. There are also two other elements which are underplayed. Abel's police partner Javier (Jay Hernandez), comes across as pivotal somehow but has minimal impact in Abel's favour. The film also has a side plot of the nearby forest fires. While easily metaphorical of tension and the escalation of problems which exist between both Chris and Lisa, and Abel, the fires get way too much attention that the metaphor either becomes too stated, or that the director somehow forgot how to correlate the subplot to the main plot beyond being a means-to-an-end approach.

There is no nudity, but sexual themes do crop up once and a while. Violence is fairly tame while language does appear every once and a while.


Lakeview Terrace is a good film; it is just not a great film. The acting is good; the story is interesting; there is a decent level of social commentary; and is suspenseful. Though nothing ever reaches a level of excellence, with some smaller elements being of a lower caliber to the main. In essence, Lakeview Terrace is the type of film that has easily been simplified as as to appeal to a wider audience which is a great pity since it had all the makings to be a topnotch, thought provoking thriller.


6/10

Screen date: 25 October 2008
Release date: 25 October 2008

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Summary that is South Africa

As a South African there has always been one thing I've always hated: South Africa. It all really started with the whole Hansie Cronje debacle and then I no longer supported the national cricket team. But it stems further then that: for all the great scenery that encompasses South Africa, relatively warm weather throughout the entire year, and the whole vibe of Durban, my city, there is also a whole lot of mess. Be it the insane level of crime and violence, the even higher failure rate to lower the levels of crime and violence, the awfully inadequate government with the supposedly next president facing corruption charges.. heck, we don't even have a Starbucks. Regardless I think it's pretty obvious that South Africa is caught up in a flux of dire circumstances.

What you are about to see is a live news broadcast with the financial department (the local currency is doing severely worse then normal compared to foreign markets... no wonder Playstation 3's cost double the price than in America). While funny, I still feel sorry for the humiliation which follows (and you should to), but nothing summaries the instability of the country more then the following video:




Luckily Mr. Nhlanhla Nene took the situation well:
'The wheel came completely off'

Nene chuckled at the thought of the number of people who had watched the 26 second clip. "It was quite embarrassing because you know you can imagine when the millions are watching..."

He said colleagues had teased him about it since.
News24 article

Good on you Mr. Nene, at least something is right in South Africa :)

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

PS3 DivX Video on Demand compatible sites

So firmware 2.5 brings a new feature to the PS3 which can easily rival Microsoft's Netflix deal: DivX Video on Demand support. However it does not appear to be the easiest feature to use. While you get it working, here are a few sites which appear Divx VoD compatible:

SugarDvd (adult only)
The Movie Library (offers DivX encoded files)

Not much, but it's a start to all curious PS3 owners who wish to have access to a large number of films.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Drona

Unexpected fantasy adventure falls short...

Aditya (Abhishek Bachchan) lives with his adoptive parents but is only cared for by his father, with his mother and brother treating him as a subordinate. Unbeknown to Aditya, he is actually part of a lineage of male warriors who protect the universe from demons, and each comes to be known as Drona. He discovers his true identity when he is rescued by Sonia (Priyanka Chopra) after he is attacked by forces from the Demon Riz Raizada (Key Key Menon).

Drona shares may similarities to other films, such as the humble beginnings of Harry Potter, to Lord of the Rings, though most notably with Prince of Persia. With a few name changes and a title change, anyone could have been fooled into thinking Drona was the film adaption of the popular video game series. Nevertheless Drona is the first Bollywood film deal with the realm of fantasy on such a large scale. Earlier this year the science fiction genre got a first with love Story 2050, but where Love Story faltered in ever way, being only watchable due to the fact that it was a science fiction Bollywood film, Drona actually has some substance going for it. The plot is nothing amazing, and fairly simple. Luckily, it doesn't take Drona to the intermission to get into the fantasy realm, but does so rather soon in the film. Though what Drona lacks in story, it makes up for in mythos. The opening, which is done in a comic form, builds up potential for future films as it appears there is so much left to tell in the world of Drona. Regardless of whether you enjoy the film or not, there is definitely hinted at for potential sequels.

The acting side of Drona is not as good as hoped. Jaya Bachchan is underused, and Priyanka Chopra is not entirely up to scratch, though her performance is thankfully better then that from love Story 2050. Abhishek starts off slowly and seems out of sync with his character. He gets better as the film progresses but seems more capable of the silent hero type than the normal everyday person. Whether this is indicative of how well his acting is, is difficult to gather from Drona, but its very possible that his acting skills won't be viewed greatly by the masses even though he definitely has the ability.Though it is Kay Kay Menon who steals the show: his role as the creepy, clownish, and somewhat nervous Riz Raizada is very fun to watch. His character is similar to the likes of Kefka from the popular video game Final Fantasy 6 - he is a villain who seems somewhat maniacal, and Menon plays the part well.

Drona's weakest aspects is definitely its special effects and music. Beyond a few scenes, the CG looks either too cartoon like, or just not well textured. There are however a few gorgeous special effects spotted every once and a while, but for a big budget fantasy film like this, everyone once and a while just does not cut it. The music is also disappointing, though thankfully quite unique to the usual Bollywood selection. There are a select few tracks which are listenable, with the rest being on the forgettable side. One such track also happens to occur during one of the most boring parts of the film making it a very slow preliminary to the final arc of the story.

No sex, nudity or language, Drona does depict some violent acts with a fairly decent amount of sword fighting involving stabbings. While none of the throat slitting occurs on screen the after effects are shown briefly, and blood does make an appearance.

Drona 2 is apparently ready to roll when ever Goldie can get to it., Honestly,he should do a film or two before proceeding with the sequel. The biggest factor in Drona not being as good as it should be is because it is evident that Goldie is still trying to find his feet in the directing world. With some more experience, Drona 2 can shape up to be quite a worthwhile experience. He'll be able to rectify the music selection, special effects and even his own cinematography. It was not everything it was marketed to be, but Drona has created a decent enough mythos for potential sequels. It is not a bad film at all, and a great individual in a flood of clich├ęd romance offerings.

6/10

Screen date: 08 October 2008
Release date: 03 September 2008

Friday, 3 October 2008

Sony at Tokyo Game Show 2008

With the Tokyo Game Show just around the corner, and Nintendo holding a rather impressive conference of their own, all eyes are on Sony: will the PS3 be able to build upon an impressive foundation of upcoming titles? Will Sony be able to answer Nintendo's DS revision, the DSi?

Playstation 3:
If E3 and the Gamers Convention proved one thing, it is that Sony are trying their best to put the PS3 as the console choice for gamers. With some excellent showcases, TGS is the final major convention stop for all companies and Sony will want to end the year with a bang. Though Japan has become a touchy issue for Sony as of late: they lack JRPG's to entice the majority of the Japanese market, and the PS3 has recently been outsold by the Xbox360 in the region for a few weeks straight, due in turn to JRPG releases. Simply put, TGS 2008 will require Sony to showcase a few RPG titles. Now Sony has 11 playable unannounced titles for TGS. How many of these are actual new games, and merely known games receiving their first Japanese release and showcasing, is unknown, though the former is perhaps more desired.

Famitsu has had some information on new titles and in doing so, have probably unveiled some of these announcements for TGS. One title which is bound to get some attention is Demon's Souls, mainly because its an RPG. It seems like a grat synthesis of King's Field, Oblivion and Shadow of the Colossus. Awesome! Though this title is from the same team who created the average Enchanted Arms. Not so Awesome! Another two of the titles come from IREM and Konami. IREM have Spelunker HD (what ever happened to Steambot Chronicles 2?) and Konami's title seem more or likely to be Zone of the Enders 3... or Coded Arms has resurfaced from cancellation (better then nothing I suppose). Either way, whether Demon's Souls and Spelunker HD are part of the unannounced titles, it is difficult to tell, but it leaves Sony with merely nine unknown titles (or eight if you count a possible ZOE3).

Team ICO is bound to break the silence and showcase their new title, and it very much one of the more anticipated moments of the show. This leaves seven titles remaining, but it must be said that these titles will most likely come from Japanese developers. The reason for this is simple: E3 showed off American developed titles, such as God of War 3 and MAG, and the Gamers Convention showed off European developed titles such as the new Singstar's. There is a possibility that the three Cellius projects: Brace Arms, Chain Limit and Second: Season 01 are shown. The apparnetly online-only Tears of Blood could finally be showcased, along with Kurayami from Suda 51 (though this title could be published by EA leaving it as multi platform). If these is the case, that leaves two titles.

There is bound to be a PSN title, but where are the JRPG's? One can only fathom that Sony will do what Nintendo have done at their recent conference and resurrect a sequel to an older IP, the most notable for Sony in the JRPG genre being The Legend of Dragoon. This title is perhaps the most required from Sony as it would show their commitment to the JRPG genre and even allow other developers to follow.

It is difficult to really predict what will be shown because of the flux of titles that were announced for the PS3 but have since fallen off the radar. Whatever the case, Sony has to prove not only that it has the software to compete with Nintendo's recent announcements, but also that it is not going to abandon the RPG scene.

Playstation Portable:
Nintendo's DSi proves quite valuable to Nintendo's handheld efforts, regardless of whether you think its viable for them to release a new revision or not. However there are many moves Sony can make to counteract the euphoria around Nintendo's announcement. Firstly, the DSi is going to debut at 18,900 yen, which is merely 900 yen cheaper then the PSP-3000's debut price of 19,800. With a difference of around $8.5, Sony is now more competitively priced to its rival. While its unlikely, Sony could easily announce at TGS a new price for their handheld, being equated to the DSi. If this were to occur, sales will merely rely upon hardware and software alone, mainly the latter.

The video game representation for both handhelds are pretty impressive, with Sony being most fortunate for a sudden proliferation in third party support from Japanese developers. While it will be key for them to outline many titles, especially the likes of LocoRoco 2 and Patapon 2, and other key titles such as the Final Fantasy's from Square Enix, what could work more in Sony's favour would be to outline upcoming firmware updates. With the DSi, Nintendo has created a more media capable handheld, and Sony could capitalize upon this by showing off software for the PSP's OS.

Much has been expressed about the PSP gaining the addition of direct PSN access. This is of much help to PSP users allowing them to cu the middleman of a PS3 or PC to get content for their PSP. This also highlights Sony's stance for downloadable content for the PSP, however one aspect of Sony's overall strategy is still missing: the numerous downloadable PSP-exclusive PSN titles. Beats was the first, and Sony promised more titles, with a FPS, action and rhythm titles coming. If Sony can demonstrate this feature while showing at least of of these titles (if they even still exist), then the DSi's virtual console support becomes undercut a little, though it is still an important factor of the DSi.

Other features will be important to outline: a PSN ID, friends list and trophy support. These three don't counteract anything about the Dsi, but it gives the PSP a lot more functionality, albeit somewhat trivial in helping hardware sales. Though what could be key in challenging the DSi's new found media capabilities, would be for Sony to prove the rumours of wmv. and avi. support. Such a feature will allow the PSP to be a rather hefty piece of equipment, and the price tag would seem even more justifiable.

The overall point would be for Sony to make the PSP-3000 seem far more important to customers than Nintendo's Dsi. They might not be able to stop what could be amazing DSi sales, but they can easily create doubt in the mind of consumers. And with what looks like hefty support from Japanese develpers, Sony could easily see another PSP boon in Japan for a while, which is required in order to help their market prospects elsewhere.