Friday, 8 July 2011

Something Borrowed

Case gone cold...

By her 30th birthday, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a dedicated attorney, bemoans the fact that love is not in her court. Her best friend Darcy (Jennifer Hudson), however, is closed to being married to Dex (Colin Egglesfield) whom Rachel met in law school. After a few drinks together Rachel confesses to Dex that she always had a crush on him which leads to both sleeping together. With Darcy's wedding not long away, Rachel finds herself in dubious territory.

Something Borrowed had the potential to be a multifaceted affair. On one hand it is your average romantic comedy and on the other it offers a portrayal of ethical issues surrounding love. It is a pity the latter is downplayed to a rather basic understanding of the issues. The narrative does its best to help the viewer identify with Rachel and it is not difficult to do so for the first third. She is the good girl who is studious and in love with a guy who she feels is too handsome for her, but loses him to her best friend who always has to be better than her. This sort of identification begins to fall away with Rachel's self pity, which is thankfully attacked by her long time friend Ethan (John Krasinski), and her rather willingness to engage in an affair. While the ending is not something new for the genre, it is quite surprising how the film appears to glorify the act of cheating to the point of it being acceptable. There are no dire consequences to actions and so the narrative becomes unfortunately one dimensional. That said, there is no denying the fun factor associated with the romantic comedy nature of the film so it is not all bad.

Thankfully, the actors do a decent enough job of keeping the story afloat. Goodwin and Egglesfield are perhaps not quite up to par with Hudson and Krasinski. This is easily due to Hudson having the most exciting role and Krasinski stealing scenes with his humour and charisma. This merely leaves the more romance orientated and weak dramas scenes for Goodwin and Egglesfield to wade through.

Considering the thematic elements expressed in the story, sexual content is fairly tame and without nudity. Violence is only really shown through a horror film being watched by some characters and language is on the tame side.

There is potential to push past the romantic comedy genre, but the story of Something Borrowed is light hearted to its detriment as the possible avenue to build a thought provoking tale is never really attempted. Additionally, not all of the actors are given the strongest material to work with and this becomes evident when the best scenes require particular characters. On a simple level Something Borrowed does work, but with such pressing issues alluded to early on in the story it is saddening that nothing comes of them: something blue indeed.


Screen date: 8 July 2011
Release date: 8 July 2011

Friday, 10 June 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

On slowing tides...

On the way to hopefully finding the fountain of youth, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself in a dire predicament when he is captured by his ex-lover Angelica (Penélope Cruz )and the nefarious Blackbeard (Ian McShane). They require Jack's help in finding the fountain in order to save Blackbeard while trying to avoid the clutches of Barbossa (Gerofery Rush).

As a sequel to the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, On Stranger Tides attempts to refresh the series by concentrating on an uncomplicated narrative. Instead, the film takes a page out of the original film in the series but not quite as successfully. There are a few plots being weaved together but they all come up short in execution which ultimately threatens the potential of various associated characters. The core reason is due to the lack of detailed exposition. The most problematic of these is the love story between Philip (Sam Claflin) and the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) which is evidently undeveloped and unimportant to the overall narrative. Their growing love lacks tangibility and it becomes frustrating when their conclusion becomes a guessing game for the audience. There are various plots developed but they are underwhelming and this hurts the film as the action sequences alone cannot stop the odd scene from dragging along. For the most part the film is a fun watch but just not a particularly great one.

The acting is passable enough as Depp and Rush convey their characters in a similar fashion to older films. Cruz and McShane add positively to the cast with the former bringing some zest to the film while the latter does bring the expected arrogance to Blackbeard. Claflin and Berges-Frisbey are not able to be quite as convincing. However, this is mostly due to their limited capacity in the film, which comes from the limited nature of their respective plot on the overall narrative of the film. On Stranger Tides also sports a far less noticeable and capable supporting cast when compared to the original trilogy which is disappointing, so the chance to offset the major situations in the film to the lesser cast is next to impossible.

There is an extensive use of CG throughout the film and predominately with good results. What is a strange decision is to have a large portion of the film shrouded in darkness. A lot of the film deals with enlightenment, either by faith or common humanity, but the filmmakers attempt to ensure you do not feel the same way as the lack of visibility can, at times, hinder the viewing experience.

The film contains no sex though the mermaids are clearly naked even though nothing explicit is shown. Language is mild at best as it is more in the name-calling variant. Violence comes in a variety of forms but deaths are mostly tame.

On Stranger Tides appears as a semi-reboot of the series, being more in liking with the original film and therefore losing the unnecessary scale At Worlds End attempted to provide. But the simplification has gone perhaps a little too far with a thin narrative and a thin cast of characters that ultimately fail to ignite. At its best, On Stranger Tides has everything that made the franchise good, but these moments are never frequent enough or long lasting making the film like spotting a mermaid: if you blink it will most likely be gone; and that just may well be a good thing.


Screen date: 20 May 2011
Release date: 20 May 2011

Monday, 6 June 2011

Sony E3 2011 Conference Overview

- Battlefield 3: Battlefield 1942 exclusive to PS3 copy.
- Bioshock Infinite: Move support; PS3 copy includes original Bioshock.
- Dust 514: from CCP, developers of EVE Online. FPS, connected to EVE on PC; supports Move, Home space; PSV support; exclusive PSN.
- God of War Origins Collection: remastered in HD and 3D.
- ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection: remastered in HD.
- Infamous 2: release date 7 June; creation tools via Move.
- LittleBigPlanet 2: deeper Move controls.
- Medieval Moves: new Move IP from Zindagi Games.
- NBA2k12 - Move support.
- Need for Speed the Run: 7 exclusive cars for PS3.
- Resistance 3: single player campaign demoed; Sharpshooter bundle $150.
- Ruin: compatible with PSV version via save transference.
- Saints Row The 3rd - exclusive DLC.
- Sly Cooper Thieves in Time: 2012 release.
- SSX - Mount Fuji track exclusive to PS3.
- Starhawk.
- Star Trek - move support and exclusive DLC.
- Star Trek PSN - exclusive to PSN; move support.
- Uncharted 3: single player campaign demoed; beta: 20 June; Subway initiative for early MP access.


Vita: means life; OLED screen, dual cameras and analog sticks, touch screen and rear touchpad.
Price: wifi - $249, wifi+3G - $299.

- at&t: official provider of 3G PSV.
- Bioshock PSV: new title based on Bioshock universe.
- Party mode app: cross chat.
- LittleBigPlanet.
- ModNation Racers - new title; access to all PS3 creations.
- Near app: social networking between PSV owners.
- Ruin: action RPG from SCE San Diego
- Street Fighter X Tekken: Cole from InFamous is a character.
- Uncharted: Golden Abyss: developed by Sony Bend.
- Wipeout 2048 - play against PS3 users.


- CinemaNow partnership. stream TV and film.
- Playstation Suite: PS content on non-PS hardware.


- Playstation branded 3DTV - 24 inch; desperate image feature; bundled with 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3 - $499.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Is Sony Santa Monica's new IP 'Heartland'?

Sony's new rumoured PS3 exclusive from Santa Monica may very well be the revival of a previously canned PSP title: Heartland.

Recent rumours have pointed towards Sony Santa Monica working on a new IP that requires personnel with experience in 1st or 3rd person shooters, experience in vehicle combat and open-world development. On top of this, David Cage of Quantic Dream made mention that he was asked to advise on a modern FPS for the PS3. Presumably, this title is an exclusive and since Sony 1st party developers share tech, chances are this exclusive is from a 1st party studio.

It is quite possible that this title is the cancelled PSP game 'Heartland' which David Jaffe, of God of War fame, was spearheading with Incognito (now LightBox Interactive) until development was stopped. Jaffe described the title as an emotional FPS which involved the Chinese invasion of the USA, and that it was a response to the Bush administration of the time. Jaffe explained that the level design was going to be large in scale but not quite an open-world affair, and that QTE's would be used in some capacity. Lastly, Jaffe was being pressed by Sony to make the title for the PS3 as opposed to the PSP .

With this considered, here are the following reasons why Sony Santa Monica's new IP may very well be the revival of Heartland:

1) Heartland was a FPS and the new IP requires FPS experience.
2) Vehicle combat is likely considering Heartland was based on modern warfare and because:
3) Jaffe originally stated that Heartland would involve large levels, and Santa Monica is looking for open-world development.
4) Cage was asked to aid in a modern FPS for the PS3: since the story of Heartland was meant to be quite poignant it is possible that Cage was asked to offer his opinion on the narrative. Additionally:
5) Heartland was originally going to make use of QTE's, something both Santa Monica and Cage have experience with.
6) Sony Santa Monica helped co-develop Warhawk, a prominent PS3 exclusive from Incognito. Considering Heartland was going to be developed by Incognito, it is possible that Santa Monica's relationship to Incognito has allowed the title to fall into Santa Monica's hands.
7) Sony wanted the title on the PS3, which is the very platform the new IP appears to be heading to for.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Water for Elephants

Departing along gently...

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) has a bright future ahead of him: with the Great Depression ravaging through America he has the chance at a good job as a veterinarian and a stable life. This all changes when he discovers that his parents have been in a car accident and that he is illegible to own their house. He tries to renew his life's purpose and by chance comes across the circus troupe of the Bezeni Brothers where he meets the cruel owner August (Christoph Waltz) and dazzling Marlene (Reese Witherspoon).

Titanic on a train: you would be forgiven if this was your estimation of the film based on previews and for the most part you would be right. Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, Water for Elephants tells the story of a man who has to redirect his life after it is derailed from some unfortunate events. The story is told in a linear fashion and it is a pity that not more is made of the idea of reality vs. illusion which is a noticeable subject in the odd dialogue interchange. While this concept has more in liking with who a character really is and what information they know but do not let on, the concept is nevertheless never fully developed and ultimately explained by the characters themselves. Nevertheless, other themes present themselves in more subtle and interesting ways such as the images of railroads and water allowing the experience to not be all dictated. In the end, the film feels like a reworking of James Cameron's Titanic with a new setting and a new cast, but it most likely will not have the same cultural impact.

Romance becomes pivotal to the development of characters and the respective actors prove capable. Robert Pattinson will obviously be the centre of talk for the film and he does well for himself here. If you did not feel that Remember Me was a step in the right direction from a Twilight-esque future, then this film will surely give you the impression that Pattinson at least has the potential to mature his acting in a commendable manner. Witherspoon does an adequate job in her portrayal of Marlene and wriggles in workable chemistry between herself and Pattinson, but ultimately she does little to truly shine beyond her male counterparts. But experience is what steals the show with Waltz exemplifying a character who can pull you in with his charisma and idealistic hopes but who can also repulse you with his cruelty. Waltz is indeed the strongest link in the acting department but do not let his performance undermine the rest of the cast, especially the supporting roles who help create a holistically believable set of characters.

All of this is strengthened by some decent costume design and film direction which brings every scene to life gracefully. There is some questionable CGI use for animals towards the end and the environment does not get quite the showing it could but the film feels balanced and admirable in portrayal of one man's journey of self-discovery.

Sex and nudity are, at most, hinted at and language is mild at best. There is some violence mostly in the regard of fist fighting but also the rare off-screen violence towards an animal.

As mentioned earlier, Titanic on a train could very well be an apt explanation of the film. There is thankfully enough substance to allow the story to craft its own image but only just. This coupled with some slight CGI mishap and a narrative that does not always allow one to ponder on certain ideas, are not enough to truly hurt the overall quality. The story is lovely; the acting is strong; and the filming is delicate in what it offers. It may not be the Titanic of the time, but it is hardly a bumpy ride either.


Screen date: 15 April 2011
Release date: 15 April 2011

Friday, 25 March 2011

Red Riding Hood

Raw meat...

The small village of Daggerhorn is an isolated one and for good reason: for 20 years it has been subject to attack from a werewolf during every full moon period. The village has a pact with the werewolf as they offer it live animals in hope that none of their people are harmed. This appears to change one day when the sister of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is killed by the beast. Coupled with issues of love and her future, Valerie is caught between two potential suitors and a frenzy hunt for the wolf.

Adapting the tale of Little Red Riding Hood was always going to be an interesting undertaking, but the result is a mixed bag. The narrative obviously expands past the scope of the original tale in order to create a cohesive context in which the story can unfold. The main problem with the story is the apparent lack of depth. Many possible themes arise including issues of sexuality, feminism and identity, but these go largely unexplored and mean little by the time the credits roll. The action that is presented is merely to mask a romance story which is pretty predictable by nature: the question is not who Valerie will end up with but rather when it will happen. It does not help that characters fall into the stock variety, such as Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who ends up being quite cruel with his methods of helping the village. Characters also go underdeveloped: besides the small arc involving infidelity between two families, characters just seem to exist for the sake of it. Take into account that decisions that appear so obvious for characters are ignored just to build tension, then it is no wonder that the films length begins to feel artificially made. Add in come clichés and a mystery which resolves itself out of nowhere, and you have a narrative that is both lacking in cohesion and quality.

The range of actors is by no means impressive but it is definitely both intriguing and manageable. The younger cast are sadly quite wooden most of the time and considering they are the ones around which the love triangle revolves, the chemistry is just lacking. The love between Valerie, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and Henry (Max Irons) never rises above its Twilight roots. Seyfried can be given some credit since she does convey a larger set of emotions than everyone else in the cast. Sadly, the older cast do not exactly fair much better, but it is unfortunate that it is up to Oldman to lend acting experience to the film, and he definitely has presence in his scenes.

If there is a saving grace it is the overall atmosphere of the film. The opening scenery is testament to a film that is trying to create an overarching environment in which to position the village in isolation, but also to present the mystical feeling of a fairy tale. While not the most striking scenery, the woods look straight out of Twilight for example, the effects give a fantasy element that very much cements the film in its fairy tale origins. The CGI for the Werewolf is lacking but it is a minor issue in a film in which director Catherine Hardwiche is able to mesh both darkness with the odd scenes of gorgeous scenery fairly well.

Language features minimally throughout the film and nudity is nonexistent. Sex never really features though sensuality is present at times. Violence is quite apparent and besides a quick shot of the removal of a body part, violence is neither gory nor that bloody.

The angst of teenage love in dark fantasy is definitely a hot topic for cinema, but Red Riding Hood does not expand the idea in any meaningful way. The scenery is great, Gary Oldman is great, and Seyfried is adequate, but that is about all the film does right. Acting is generally weak and the story offers mild entertainment worth. With a superior script, Red Riding Hood could have offered a delightful retelling of its original material because the potential is there, but as it stands the film will not have many filmmakers green with envy.


Screen date: 25 March 2011
Release date: 18 March 2011

Friday, 28 January 2011


Old is new...

Stuck in a secret tower for almost 18 years of her life, Rapunzel has been lead to believe that her special hair is a treasure which should be guarded from the world. She has never left the tower ever since being locked away, but this changes when Flynn, a thief, enters her life.

The classic tale of Rapunzel has many variations and Disney has decided to add their take to the tale by imbuing Rapunzel's hair with the ability to grant health and youth. It is through this very change that allows Disney to retread a narrative formula they used so effectively during their golden age of animation: the young princess at odds against an older, yet wicked, woman. This is introduced early in the story and constant interaction between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel ensures the audience never forgets the tyranny that has taken place. Tangled is, without a doubt, a story of self-discovery, and both Rapunzel and Flynn are evident of this growth. Naturally, this is more obvious through Rapunzel, and it comes as a breath of fresh air that Disney has allowed one of their princesses to act her age. Gone are the mature thinking and acting lead women of older stories as Rapunzel is childish, but ultimately charming. The self-discovery story arc does feel undeveloped as the credits roll, but thankfully the narrative is filled with symbolic gestures, such as the visual connection between lanterns and Rapunzel's hair, and life lessons for both children and adults alike. This is all bolstered by some strong humour that is never overused resulting in the narrative being a highlight of the film.

The voice actors do not disappoint as each is convincing as their respective character. Moore is delightful in displaying Rapunzel as a teenage girl who learns to be independent; Levi brings charisma to Flynn; while Donna Murphy ensures that Gothel is villainous but one who can manipulate that very label.

For the most part, the computer imagery achieves the desired goal of 3D variation of Disney 2D animation. Colour is rich, characters and animals are enjoyable to watch, and the complete sense of wonder is indeed present. If watched in the 3D perspective, the animation does slightly come to life but it never overly used and feels minimally underdeveloped. If there is a slight flaw to be found in the animation it would the occurrence of what appears to be unfinished textures. Many boulders, for instance, look rough at times, but this is thankfully uncommon.

This is a Disney animation through and through so the lack of sex, nudity and language is expected. Violence is tame and at times even comical, ensuring the usual Disney animation that kids can enjoy.

Tangled is a true gem for Disney and animation in general. While it lacks the overall appeal that has made Pixar animations such a treat, it is nevertheless a step forward for Disney as they retread the type of animation that made them so famous. There a few graphical niggles and the story never quite reaches the promising depth suggested by the material, but these are minor problems in what is largely an entertaining and pleasing animated venture.


Screen date: 28 January 2011
Release date: 28 January 2011