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Burning_Darkness

Burning_Darkness

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since 12/06/2009

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The Beast (DVD) 26/05/2015

"Its hard to be a good soldier in a rotten war"

The Beast (DVD) Made in 1988, The Beast is a war film set in 1981 during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, following the crew of a Soviet T-62 tank that gets seperated from its unit and ends up in a barren desert valley, pursued by a group of mujahadeen warriors who are out for revenge after the tank unit kills the inhabitants of their tiny village.Indeed, the film opens with the attack on the settlement, in which one prominent village leader is mercilessly crushed under the wheels of the T-62 at the behest of its unhinged commander, Daskal. The film is part anti-war film, part psychological thriller, the focus being split between Taj- the new Khan after his father and brother were murdered- and his men on the one hand as they pursue the tank in the hopes of destroying it with a lone RPG, David and Goliath style, and Commander Daskal and his crew, who obey his increasingly maniacal commands out of fear. There are elements of Das Boot, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now here, although the message of the film is very much of its time, with its strongly Anti-Soviet angle meaning that the Mujahadeen are portrayed in a more sympathetic light as freedom fighters, in line with the (very different) American outlook of the time. The photography is superb however, making the landscape (actually Pakistan) appear like a strange alien world, and the film is well directed as well. Given its political ramifications, it's impossible not to view this film through hindsight, as with Rambo 3, but it ...

Cannibal Apocalypse 11/06/2012

Vietnam! Cannibals! 70s Funk!

Cannibal Apocalypse As has been mentioned elsewhere, the premise of Cannibal Apocalypse is essentially an exploration of the question "What if the A-Team had been cannibals?". It stars the legendary John Saxon, who was apparently so repulsed by the film that he has never watched it. The film starts out in Vietnam, with Saxon leading his men into battle with the Viet Cong to rescue a group of American POWs imprisoned in a pit in the earth. The ensuing gunfight is fairly standard 70s/80s action film stuff, except for the fact that a wildly incongrous, Boogie Nights-esque 70s funk soundtrack is played over the top of the action, making for a rather bizzarre spectacle that reaches its peak as a vietnamese girl runs around on fire, but wearing a flame-proof suit so thick that it looks like she has a mattress tied to her back. Anyway, said unfortunate girl falls into the POW's pit, whereupon the captured soldiers immediately begin to devour her, as something has caused them to turn into wild-eyed cannibals during their incarceration. The resucued soldiers return to the US, where they end up going on a cannibal rampage. One soldier starts chomping on a woman in a cinema, before going on a shooting spree and holing himself up in a supermarket, besieged by both the local police and the campest, least threatening biker gang of all time. In true Rambo tradition, his commanding officer, Saxon, is sent in to talk him down, with mixed results. In short, Saxon starts to come around to his flesh-eating ...

The Last Samurai (DVD) 07/04/2012

Not bad at all...

The Last Samurai (DVD) By the standards of modern Hollywood, Last Samurai is excellent. Set in the 19th Century, Tom Cruise plays an American soldier, haunted by memories of the atrocities he took part in against native americans (Sand Creek?), whereupon he accepts an assignment to Japan, to put down a supposed rebellion by a band of Samurai who have gone to war against the Emperor's troops, believing that they are in fact serving the Emperor in doing so. Cruise's character is captured, and ends up associating with the Samurai, in a plot that is reminiscient of Dances With Wolves, but manages to avoid feeling overly hackneyed and stale. Cruise is suicidal as a result of being unable to come to terms with his past actions, and his seeking of death in battle allows him to rediscover a sense of honour via the code of the Samurai, ultimately fighting alongside them against the modernised Japanese army who are overseen by Cruise's despised ex-commanding officer. The film is set to the backdrop of Japan's sharp transition from feaudalist isolationism to modern industrailisation, and this theme is colourfully demonstrated in the contrast between the Samurai's ancient warring practices and ideology and that of the westernised, technogically advanced Imperial troops that they face. The plot is simplistic without being stupid, and whilst it can be a bit saccharine this is Hollywood we are talking about after all. The portrayal of the Japanese people, both the traditionalist Samurai and their westernised ...

Red Dwarf - Series 1-3 - The Bodysnatcher Collection (Remastered)(Box Set) (DVD) 24/03/2012

Red Dwarf gets the George Lucas treatment...

Red Dwarf - Series 1-3 - The Bodysnatcher Collection (Remastered)(Box Set) (DVD) The first 3 series were given the remastering treatment in an effort to make the earlier series of Red Dwarf palatable to the overseas audiences, particularly to sell them in the lucrative US and Japan markets. This is not cynicism on my part, but rather the paraphrased words of Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor on the accompanying documentary included in this boxset. It contains series 1-3, and these have all been 'improved' by adding CGI effects and upped sauturation/resolution levels to the original shows. Series 1-3 in partiuclar always did look very grey, something that the show's creators were never happy with, but whilst the remastered versions do look a lot more colourful and visually punchy, the dull, cardboardy feel of the original sets became part of the earlier series' charm, meaning that some of that charm is lost here. Far worse however is the franky horrendous intrudocution of CGI effects on top of the original footage. Take the very first episode, 'The End', for example. In one of the very first scenes, in which we are introduced to a squabbling rimmer and lister on maintenance duty, two crudely rendered CGI scutters whizz by at the bottom of the screen, looking like the wacky ident from some Saturday-morning kids tv programme. Nothing dates like CGI, but even when this was originally released it looked jarring and lame. Later on, when Captain Hollister is giving the Eulogy at Mcallister's funeral, the back of a load of heads, again grotesque CG creations, have ...

Avatar(DVD) 23/03/2012

Derivative and Dull

Avatar(DVD) Avatar is famous for two things, namely for its absolutely massive budget, and for pushing the studio (as opposed to public)-led demand for 3D technology. There really was no escaping the Avatar publicity machine at the time of the film's release, with adverts appearing absolutely everywhere, with non-stop trailers on tv and testimonials from excited punters on the radio, all enthusiastically exhorting the merits of this new 'landmark' in cinema. Unfortunately however, Avatar is utter, utter tripe from start to finish.The plot concerns the human invasion of Pandora, a whimsical fantasy world populated by the NaVi, an indigenous tribe who live in harmony with their natural surroundings, with the humans suppressing the native population to fulfil their aim of appropriating the planet's rare natural resources. Parallells can immediately be drawn between the humans and the US Military, given their technologically sophisticated gung-ho nature in the film, whilst the Navi seem to be constructed from the stereotypical image of the Northern Native American peoples in terms of their spirituality, appearance and general wordview. As such, the film lends itself to an allegorical reading, most notably with regards to the recent invasion of Iraq, although it also works just as well as a more general critique on American Imperialism, but whilst I have no problem with this approach, my problem is with its overtly patronising, lowest common-denominator execution. The evil fascist humans ...

Resident Evil (GameCube) 15/03/2012

A fantastic remake

Resident Evil (GameCube) A successor to the old Alone In the Dark games, the original Resident Evil on playstation and PC is a hugely iconic third-person survival horror in which you find yourself running around a creepy gothic mansion infested with zombies, solving puzzles, carefully conserving your limited ammo and er, eating pot plants in order to stay alive (okay, so technically they're herbs). The Gamecube remake is very faithful to the original, with a very similar atmosphere and art direction, full of creepy rooms and ominous, creaking starcases, whilst shambling zombies and rabid, undead dogs lurk around every corner. The zombies are brilliantly done, looking and sounding pretty damn scary, with excellent animation to boot. Ammo is scarce, as before, but there is a twist to the game mechanics here- once you have put a zombie down, you now need to douse the body with kerosine and burn it, else it will come back as a faster, tougher 'Rage' zombie (unless you blow off the head with a well-aimed shotgun/pistol round, that is). There are also one-use 'Defensive' items this time around, and these are pretty cool as well. WHen a zombie lunges at you, hammering the buttons will cause your character to stab the zombie in the eye with a ceremonial dagger, or stick a flash grenade in its mouth, that can then be detonated by shooting it. The controls are clunky as before, but then that was always part of the charm of the original game, whilst the (all-new) puzzles are pretty taxing, if a little too ...

Outpost (DVD) 10/03/2012

What a waste!

Outpost (DVD) Honestly, how do you mess up such a great premise so badly? What a waste. Outpost has a simple yet brilliant setup- a group of modern-day mercenaries are recruited by a shadowy academic to recover a mysterious artifact from a bunker somewhere in Eastern Europe, only to realise too late that they are surrounded by nazi zombie-ghosts hellbent on tearing them to pieces. The acting is surprisingly good, with Ray Stevenson of HBO's Rome fame doing his best to carry the film along, but even with a solid supporting cast the lousy writing stops the film from ever really getting off the ground. The film does a reasonable job of building up tension at first, but then fails to do anything interesting with it. The main problem is that the ghost/zombies' powers seem to change throughout the film- sometimes they can teleport behind our heroes, sometimes they can't; sometimes they can be put down by machinegun fire, sometimes they are invincible. This effectively kills off any suspension of disbelief, whilst the story ark is disappointingly predictable, with our protagonists getting wiped out one by one whilst they flounder about looking for a way to escape. There is a sense of the film just falling apart, which is hugely frustrating, given that it could have worked so well as either a psychological horror or a straightforward zombie survival flick. Also disappointing is the implementation of The Plot Device, aka the artefact that the mercenaries are looking for; no explanation at all would ...

Southern Comfort (DVD) 09/03/2012

Terror in the swamps...

Southern Comfort (DVD) Released back in 1981, and directed by Walter Hill, who is also responsible for The Warriors, Southern Comfort is an intriguing survival thriller set in the fearsome swamps of Louisiana. The plot concerns a squad of National Guardsmen on a weekend training exercise in the area, who get more than they bargained for when they tick off a group of local Cajun huntsmen by they stealing their canoes. This is made worse when a hotheaded young member of their unit jokingly opens fire on the huntsmen with his M60 machinegun from the middle of the river. The rounds are all blanks, but the Cajuns dont know that, and they return fire, crack shots to a man, taking down the unit's sargeant with a well-aimed headshot. From then on in the troops find themselves in a desperate fight for survival, with only a few live rounds each, the huntsmen lying in wait out of sight, laying traps and setting hounds on them as the unit slowly tears itself apart from within. There are a good range of characters, well acted, that keep things tense and interesting. leadership falls to the well-meaning but incompetent subordinate sargeant, who is good at reciting the training manual but less effective in active service and discipline, and the troops under him, all poorly disciplined, vie for leadership and turn on eachother as the situation becomes increasingly desperate. Its psychologically involving, helped along greatly by some excellent cinematography, with plenty of long, lingering shots of the harsh and ...

Resident Evil 5 (PC) 01/02/2012

Doesn't really feel like a Resident Evil game....

Resident Evil 5 (PC) The fifth instalment in the Resident Evil franchise differs considerably from its predecessors in a number of ways. First of all, whilst the game is still played in third-person, the game no longer requres you to move through a series of static pre-rendered screens, but rather adopts the standard moving viewpoint as used in games like Tomb Raider. Secondly, though the game is still nominally the same, in that it requires you to kill hordes of zombies, defeat bosses and solve puzzles in order to progress the story forward, it is now much much more action-based, more closely resembling the Halo/Gears of War generic modern thrid person shooters than the old Alone In The Dark- style gameplay that the Resident Evil series is better known for. Thirdly, the game has move to a very different setting, now taking place in Africa. The end result is that the game isnt really Resident Evil any more, which will disappoint a lot of long-term fans. The action-based gameplay is briefly entertaining, but it just feels too repetitive to hold the attention for all that long. The game does look technically stunning, with highly detailed visuals and excellent character-model animation, but the art direction is almost non-existent: whereas the original games felt very stylised, 5 just blends in with the dull, bland, brown and grey colour palatte presentation of much of the rest of the mainstream console shooter competition. The story is average, and the game isnt hugely immersive, although the 2 ...

Alien Trilogy (PlayStation) 31/12/2011

Not a patch on Doom

Alien Trilogy (PlayStation) Alien Trilogy was one of the flagship games for the doomed Atari Jaguar console, and was later ported to the PC. By the standards of the Jaguar it's actually a reasonably decent game, but that speaks more about the dire paucity of decent titles on the Jaguar than anything else. When compared to older FPS games like Doom, or even the original Wolfenstein, it just doesn't hold up. Like Doom, Alien Trilogy has rudimentary 3d environments with 2d sprites for enemies and items. The game takes place in scenes from the films- LV426, a prison complex, and so on, and has you fblasting away at the usual Gigeresque Xenomorphs, dog-aliens, facehuggers, eggs, and also human soldiers who have clearl gotten their priorities very wrong indeed. The weapons are also taken from the game, including a shotgun and neat pulse rifle, but the gameplay is fairly sluggish and slow, and nowhere near as exciting or dramatic as in the mighty Doom. The level design is mediocre, consisting of endless repetitive rooms and corridors, and whilst the visuals are overally pretty good for the time, they were nothing amazing, even back then. The pace of the game is surprisingly slow, rather than fighting massed hordes of enemies, a la Doom, you tend to be blowing a way slow-moving foes with no great feeling of tension or urgency. Ironically, the fan-made Aliens Mod that someone made for the original doom comes much closer to capturing the feel of the film, even if all it did was change the weapons and enemy ...

Time Crisis 3 (PS2) 20/11/2011

Good, but the second one is better

Time Crisis 3 (PS2) The original Time Crisis was an innovative arcade lightgun classic, with impressive, dynamic visuals and a great duck-and-cover system that required you to release a foot-pedal in order to hide from enemy fire and reload your gun. The second game improved upon the formula of the first, with better graphics and more exciting levels, and is the definitive instalment in the series. The third game is still great, but doesnt really manage to improve upon its predecessor. The level design remains innovative- the game even has you doing things like hanging upside down from a doorframe to shoot at enemies this time-, and it also tries to develop the in-game weapon system. In the second game this was quite simple- in addition to your standard semi-automatic pistol, you could also collect limited sub-machinegun power-ups from time to time that allowed you to hold down the trigger and blaze away at your foes until you'd emptied the clip. This time around, you can now get a total of three additional weapons- the sub-machinegun, a shotgun and a grenade launcher. The sub-machinegun is great, as before, but the shotgun feels rather odd- it unsurprisingly causes damage over a wider area- being effectively four or five pistol shots all fired at once, but it can be fired at the same rate as the standard pistol and doesnt feel as realistic or gratifying as the original weapons, making it considerably less fun to use. Finally there is a slow-firing grenade launcher, which basically kills all ...

Clash Of The Titans(DVD) 25/10/2011

Better than I'd expected...

Clash Of The Titans(DVD) I was all ready to hate this film, because I'm sick of hollywood churning out inferior CGI-d up remakes of old classics. The fact that it was retrofitted into 3D in order to cash in on said fad didnt exactly endear it to me either. Plotwise, it follows the story of the original 1981 film, tweaking it slightly by putting emphasis on there being a war between mankind and the Gods against whom they are rebelling. Zeus, played by William Neeson, sets the banished Hades (ralph fiennes) onto makind to punish them for their disobedience, and its up to the half-god, half-human Perseus (sam worthington) to prevent mankind's destruction. Sight variations aside though, it's essentally the same story: antihero Calibos, The Three Sisters, Medusa and the dreaded Kraken all put in an appearence, though the clockwork owl from the original only appears in a single pandering scene. Plus there are some giant scorpions and desert Djinn thrown in for good measure. The CGI effects can be decent at times at other times they made me feel like I was watching a computer game (particularly the fight with medusa). In any case though,they never have the appeal or charm of the old harryhousen effects for me. Calibos and The Three Sisters are played by actual actors, and these fare better, although again they have much less impact than the originals. The film's backdrops are dramatic and impressive though, and the dramatic score does its job pretty well, and overall the film manages to be a colourful, ...

Duke Nukem Forever (PC) 08/10/2011

Duke deserves better than this

Duke Nukem Forever (PC) Oh for crying out loud. Released back in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D was a superb FPS, with visuals that were hugely impressive for the time. It relied on the BUILD engine, which allowed for the creation of more realistic environments, as well as the ability to jump and to look up and down, all of which allowed for new and exciting gameplay possibilities that were explored to the full in the game's superbly well-designed levels. The game boasted an inventive arsenal of weaponry for the player to mess about with, and had a great (midi) score, as well as some excellent voice acting for the Duke, essentially an action-hero charicature who offered up hilarious one-liners throughout the course of the game. Upon finishing Duke 3D, the player is informed by Nukem that he will be taking some much needed R and R, and will be back for more alien ass-kicking adventures very soon. Excited at this prospect, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Every now and again some teaser screenshots would appear in the gaming press: images of the hotly awaited game using the Quake engine, then the Quake 2 Engine, and then what looked to be a modified version of the Half Life engine. The years started to pile up. Even George Romero's Daikatana emerged from its development hell, many years late, but still no sign of the Duke. The PC gaming market all-but shrivelled away, unable to compete with the newest generation of cheap, tecchnologically competitive consoles, and PC Zone magazine closed its doors ...

The Sunbird - Wilbur Smith 26/05/2011

A great historical novel with more than a flavour of Indiana Jone

The Sunbird - Wilbur Smith 'Sunbird', written in 1974, is based around an the discovery of an ancient city in Africa, so badly ruined as to be almost invisible, and depicts the journey to uncover the secret of the city's destruction by a hunchbacked archaeologist and his beautiful, feisty young assistant. Ben, the archaeologist, seeks to prove his theory that the city was ruled by a higher caste of Phonecian elites, and it is clear that Wilbur Smith researched deeply into the subject, as the evidence unfolds in a way that is fascinating and gripping to anyone with so much as a passing interest in ancient history. The history of the great 'City of the Moon' unfolds alongside gun battles and terrorist attacks in the unstable African region, and the book very quickly becomes almost impossible to put down. The book is split in two however, with the second half chronicling the dying years of the doomed Kingdom, and is full of epic battles, sea voyages, bloody elephant hunts, political intrigue and conflicting loyalties. The various characters in the two sections of the book closely parallel eachother, hinting at a more mystical significance and adding further depth. It is a tremendous read, set in a universe full of violence, danger and ancient mysteries, yet still grounded enough in real history to be hugely believable. The only downside for me was that the two sections fit together in a rather disjointed fashion- the first half ended rather abruptly just as my excitement was peaked. It is also a little ...

300 (DVD) 26/05/2011

This. Is. Mediocre.

300 (DVD) 300 is a comic-book style depiction of the legendary battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, in which King Leonidas I of Sparta held off an invading Persian force of a quarter of a million men with only a handful of loyal warriors. I went to see it the big screen, and although it did entertain me I can't say I like it all that much. The film borrows heavily from the greatly superior Sin City, plundering its comic book style and reducing one of the greatest battles in history to just one more wacky Hollywood adventure. Both films are based on graphic novels by Frank Miller, but whereas Sin City was inventive 300 just feels derivative. The lead character, King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler), comes across as stubborn and arrogant and is essentially unlikable, whereas King Xerxes of Persia appears to be a cross between Dhalsim from Steetfighter 2 and Skeletor from He-Man. The plot is underdeveloped and the film is devoid of any historical depth, giving no real insight into the political landscape of the time- what could have been a gripping psychological battle between the two leaders played out over a backdrop of widespread carnage is reduced to a cartoonish "goodies versus baddies" affair. The sub-plot in which Leonidas' wife is manipulated by a slimy politician whilst the King is away is also incredibly flimsy and predictable. The film is enjoyable if you just sit back and watch the action unfold without trying to place the events in a wider context, but that's as far as it ...
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