This film review of Star Trek: Into the Darkness merits so little of my time, so here are some simple bullets for your swift perusal:

* Visually beautiful
* Quality CG
* Progressive Scottish accent
* Ample opportunity for homoerotic innuendo
* Mediocre action scenes
* Embarrassing script
* Zero likeable characters
* Turn off tracking system? Star Wars anyone?
* Spock is a pompous, lego-haired (”It’s only lego-ical”) c@#t

Yep, that covers it.

Django_unchained_banner

Quentin Tarantino hits the silver screen once again, deploying his familiar style in a hereunto unexplored cinema type, with the eagerly-anticipated Western flick, Django Unchained (“the ‘D’ is silent…”).

Though this may seem perhaps unfamiliar territory for the director, Tarantino is well-established as a director unafraid of new challenges, exploring new ground rather than simply rehashing old material. He’s the celebrated chameleon of cinema – and not just because he looks like a lizard.

Quentin Tarantino Chameleon

Chameleon – Tarantino

Tarantino has a penchant for genre deconstruction, comfortably immersing himself into entirely disparate cinema types with a confidence and eagerness. Of recent note is his dabble into modern military history with the Second World War counter-caust found in Inglourious Basterds. Less successful, in my Chan/Li/Lee/Hung loving opinion, was Quentin’s martial arts mishap Kill Bill. Now, we see him dive head first into the spaghetti western. The verdict? This spaghetti needs a little more meat.

For a film that approaches 3 hours in length, it’s surprising how linear and superficial much of the content appears. Now, I wasn’t expecting a thorough diatribe of pre-American Civil War slavery, but perhaps something more than a simple, and predictable, revenge narrative. The real problem is that Django Unchained is plainly too fanciful. From confused morality to the unconvincing romantic quest that drives the plot, there is perhaps too brittle a foundation for the audience to comfortably place their feet, spurs and all.

Take dentist come bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, a welcome return by Christoph Waltz. For a man whose compassion and support for the hero protagonist persists throughout the film, whilst also combating the racial hierarchy in the Southern states of America, there is an odd sense of calm surrounding his calculated murder of wanted criminals. It is interesting that Tarantino selected Waltz for this morally ambivalent role, particularly after his striking performance as Hanz Landa, a man whose undeniable hatred of the Jewish race suddenly dissipates at the end of Inglourious Basterds in favour of a quick deal. He is an opportunist through and through, much like Dr Schultz.

Schultz is a bounty hunter, mercilessly killing for financial gain; wealth is his ultimate goal. Though his targets are wanted criminals, and he does explain that he’s a man of the law, his efforts are entirely in pursuit of monetary reward, not as a result of some judicial desire for justice. This being the case, it seems incongruous that he would want to share his earnings, let alone risk his own life to help a man who he has no substantial affiliation with, particularly a secondary citizen, a slave. Schultz’s desire to partner up with Django is completely untenable.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the dentist is an old romantic. Let’s pretend he’s a virtuous hero, unable to ignore the plight of a devoted, loving couple. Then, and I emphasise, only then, can we begin to understand his motives. Clearly this isn’t the case in Django Unchained though, this fragile argument further damaged by the notable lack of any substantial reference to the relationship between Django (Jamie Foxx) and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Though there are a few flashbacks to earlier events in the couple’s lives, they revolve entirely around a bumbled attempt to flee their masters and the bitter punishment when caught. This is certainly believable fuel for Django’s violent quest for revenge, but the audience never witnesses any real tenderness, any sincere depictions of love. And if we can’t see it, how can Schultz? Their relationship is presented as fact: they are in love, they are destined to be free together, and we must simply accept it, despite feeling that it’s been sadly skimmed over.

High on the frivolity list is QT’s incessant use of the word ‘nigger’ in Django Unchained. Though he’s argued that it’s used simply to authenticate the language used in the film as a construct of its time, one feels that perhaps he gets a little carried away. I don’t feel so strongly as to censor the word entirely, and I agree that it’s useful as a point of verbal emphasis and linguistic accuracy. But 110 times?! Enjoying your cinematic freedom a little too much eh Quentin? Jackie Brown (1997) only had 38 mentions of the racial epithet, that’s an increase of 4.8 n-bombs a year. Yeah, I did the maths.

Not seen Django yet? Stop here!

Towering over all of these criticisms however, is Django’s hugely disappointing ending. Really, the film should be 20 minutes shorter, which would have helped my bladder to no end. The entire film builds in anticipation of the final showdown, as the heroes confront the figurehead of white oppression, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django and Schultz make their way to Candie Land, one of the largest plantations in the South, with blood on the hands and a hankering for more. When a covert attempt to rescue Broomhilda fails, an explosive action scene ensues, one which sees the death of 2 key characters. The end of the film is nigh, it has to be. Suddenly, Django is alone, up against the wall facing waves of Candie’s men. But, as conventional heroes always do, he survives. White jacket after white jacket is splattered with blood as Django claws on to life. And then he surrenders…. What? After the intense build up, he simply gives in?

And then he gets captured, sold into slavery once again, only to return to Candie’s estate for his final revenge – all in the space of 10 minutes! This dual ending seems completely pointless, entirely breaking the pace and fluidity of the film up until this point. It deflates the ending, resulting in a needless anti-climax. Was this supposed to be some sort of plot twist? If so, it came far too late and had too little consequence. Surely the final scenes couldn’t get any worse? Well yes, throw in a poor quality cameo from the lizard man himself, including a horrendous Aussie accent I might add, and we’ve hit bottom.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positives in Django Unchained: momentum gathers early on and is maintained throughout the film (until the final scene, anyway); stylistically, the film adheres to Tarantino’s acclaimed style, musical score in tow; action scenes are gritty and relentless but powerful, brilliantly juxtaposed with pithy humour, not delivered so gloriously since his cult classic Pulp Fiction. Samuel L Jackson executes a first-rate comic performance as institutionalised house slave Stephen, while the Ku Klux Klan scene engenders some unexpected comic relief, effective in its rarity and sudden transition to slapstick hilarity.

Django Unchained. Decide for yourself.

AVOIDTony Hawks Pro Skater HD

Tony Hawk Pro Skate HD Case

Developer: Robomodo

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3PC

 

Tony who? Tony Stark? T Hawk? Oh, you mean the aging, 900 degree-spinning, lanky-legged, commercial face of skateboarding Mr Tony Hawk? The birdman himself – he really did grow into his beak…

Tony Hawk Child

Talk about a Nose Slide….

Ok, so maybe I won’t be asked to perform a eulogy at his funeral.

Forgive the rather harsh introduction, I actually have a lot of love for the skate veteran. Undoubtedly the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles helped to shape what has become a real interest in skateboarding. A combination of simple, frantic skating, and quirky somewhat ridiculous tasks, the original titles were immediately accessible and importantly, had real replayability. Moreover, the reward of short FMV clips displaying real skate footage of the in game characters is a brilliant bonus; it felt like an actual achievement, something worth working towards. Unfortunately, the franchise has made significant transitions throughout the many iterations over the years, including the infamous Underground series which made a slight stab at enhanced realism.

But now we go backwards, delving into the past, with the new Xbox Arcade release of Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD. It brings with it nostalgia, excited memories and… disappointment.

In age of ever increasing media entertainment realism, Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD simply doesn’t work. That isn’t to say that there isn’t room for arcade fun – this just isn’t it. It looks pretty, the controls are as smooth as ever and gameplay is simple. The problem is that it just isn’t as enjoyable as the original versions. Playing the demo repeatedly for an hour, I tried to put my finger on the central issue and I think it’s probably the speed of your skater.  There is patently too much pace, far more than was present in older games, which entirely damages the gameplay. Furthermore, the Warehouse level you are given to play is too compact to effectively manage this increased speed, causing you to overshoot and destroying your lines. It doesn’t help that the demo play time is a measly one minute thirty, despite the in game timer displaying two minutes – the typical objectives (like collecting ‘S-K-A-T-E’) are memorable but provide no gratification whatsoever when there is so little time to complete any more than one task. Perhaps this was intended as offering a tempting teaser, or possibly an exciting challenge. I just see it as a restrictive removal of freedom inducing a sense of linearity.

The one saving grace is the incredible soundtrack, comprising tons of songs from the original games, including ‘Superman’ by Goldfinger and Millencolin’s ‘No Cigar’. Yet, even the great audio accompaniment is not enough to save the game from inevitable obscurity. Jump back on Skate instead, or why not dust off the original Tony Hawks titles?

DOWNLOAD: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead XBox Case

Developer: Terminal Reality

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3PC

 

Zombies, zombies everywhere and not a brain to… use.

While the gaming industry is known for regularly jumping on the bandwagon of a successful genre/theme, only to rattle out tired, ill-thought titles while it’s the ‘in’ thing (I swear I’ve sneezed longer than AVP had dev time), games featuring zombies are refreshingly sparse.

Ok, perhaps sparse isn’t the right word but they’re certainly kept to the realm of sporadic, good quality titles – Resident Evil, Left For Dead, Dead Rising, Dead Island and now, The Walking Dead.

I’m always troubled when games are being adapted from cult television, cinema or literary hits. Inevitably there is going to be something lacking when the original source is already held with such high esteem. Few adaptations have ever produced something that mirrors the original, or more importantly, something that is fresh and reinvigorates it.

The Walking Dead manages this with aplomb. Now on it’s third instalment, the series is well into it’s cycle, receiving top reviews and celebration despite the slightly hefty price tag (400 ms points per instalment).

Though I haven’t read the books, I have dabbled in the graphic novels and I love the television series. The Walking Dead game has managed to capture the same sense of desperation, the same empathy and emotional connection to protagonists seen in the original source.

Though the series initially appears fairly pricey, the cost is entirely justified. Each instalment is extremely replayable, supported by a game mechanic that ensures you are the driving force behind progression. The primary feature of The Walking Dead is a decision system whereby you must choose a particular action or verbal response, often in a limited time frame (choices are set up as QTEs, much like Scene It, without the annoying fucking announcer). These immediate choices force you to really consider the outcome of your actions, making your own thought process and planning essential, elements often overlooked in zombie titles. Most zombie-themed action games are pretty brainless, beyond the need to conserve ammo and health. Violence and head-exploding action seem to always come to the forefront, with relationships and the contextual impact upon them treated very superficially, or even entirely overlooked. Furthermore, having various ultimatums thrust unexpectedly in your face engenders a fervent desire to replay the game, deliberately choosing alternating options in order to examine the impact they will have. The Walking Dead is hugely replayable because of this, boosted by statistical comparisons at the end of each installment – once a chapter is completed you are presented with a screen detailing what decisions you made throughout and how this compares to other gamers.

In the interests of balance, the negatives. The game perhaps feels a little linear at times, though this is in the very nature of what it’s trying to achieve. It’s not a sandbox or an rpg, it’s a simple action title that wants you to feel trapped and claustrophobic. Puzzles aren’t the most difficult that you’re going to find in a game, but they don’t need to be. The story is so engrossing and you are so engaged by the decision making process that you genuinely feel your choices have an impact on the outcome of each instalment. This feeling imbeds you right in the centre of the story, a rare occurrence these days.

The Walking Dead, download it now. Because a skateboard would be useless in a zombie apocalypse, Dead Rising taught me so.

image

AVOID: Binary Domain

Binary Domain Box Xbox 360Developer: SEGA

Publisher: SEGA

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

 

With some impressive titles under their extensive belts, games developers SEGA bring you a new third person shooter in the form of
Binary Domain. The trouble is, it’s just not worth playing.

As shooters go, the concept is interesting. You play a team of future soldiers attempting to rescue Tokyo from a 2080 robotic invasion. That’s where the intrigue ends.

Why? Because it’s Gears of War 4. Everything about this game reeks of Epic’s renowned sci fi shooter series. Binary Domain has exploited various features directly from the franchise, including the cover system, roady run, weapon inventory menu, blindfiring, bleed outs, grenade animation and the hilarious quota filling found in the core team (White American? Check. Huge Black guy? Check. Woman? Check). Now although these features are staples of most third person shooters (ok, perhaps ignore the last one), the way they look and function in Binary Domain is unequivocally Gears-esque. This is entirely unforgivable considering how acclaimed Gears of War is, and undoubtedly SEGA is aware of this.

The robotic enemies are interesting, though I found myself becoming tired of them just in the demo, and the ‘Trust’ system which affects your team mates’ obeying of orders has the potential for being a unique addition. It’s just not enough though.

I applaud SEGA for giving you two playable levels, it’s generous of them. Ironically, it’s worked completely against them however. The first level plays well, it’s engaging and almost, ALMOST, exciting. This is as a result of the pace and variety of action that awaits you. Then you play the second level and this all goes out the window. Binary Domain suddenly becomes tedious and unadventurous, just another mediocre shooter.

Binary Domain. It’s tired, it’s been done before. It’s Gears of War. Save yourself the time and just play the original.

DOWNLOAD: Minecraft 360 Edition

Minecraft 360 Box Xbox 360Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios

Publisher: Mojang

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC

 

Minecraft is a creative triumph, offering glorious respite from a gaming market saturated with guns, blood and an ever-increasing sense of linear realism.

After the cult success of Minecraft for PC in 2011 (as well as for iOS and Android), developer Mojang has caved in to consumer demand and released a version for Xbox Live Arcade. The Swedish developer, fronted by creative genius Markus ‘Notch’ Perrson, worked in conjunction with Scottish devs 4J Studios (also responsible for XBLA ports of Banjo Kazooie and Perfect Dark) to make the transition to the Microsoft console. Importantly, Notch has stated publicly that the game will only be available for Xbox 360 as a console platform.

Though I’m sure you have some idea about what the game entails from the massive publicity or the interesting merchandise, I’ll give a brief description. Essentially it’s a sandbox creation game, allowing the player to forge his own world out of pixel-like 3D cubes. You must investigate your surroundings, mine resources, create buildings, tools, weapons and all manner of luxury items in order to sustain yourself. Along the way you’ll also need to protect your character and your constructions from monsters of the night who threaten to attack you and everything you’ve built. The game really is what you make of it.

Though Minecraft 360 Edition is currently based on an earlier Beta version of the PC release, there are some interesting additions including 4 player split screen, 8 person online multiplayer, Kinect functionality, and a comprehensive in game tutorial, notably lacking from the original.

The inclusion of this tutorial is vital for your first jaunt into the world of Minecraft. It explains the basics of mining resources, your inventory, and combining materials to generate new ones. After completing it you feel sufficiently prepared to release those creative juices, especially in the completion of your house – you’ll see stolen beds and fences all over the shop! The tutorial is enjoyable, slowly learning the game mechanics in a manner of structured guidance that also affords you some creative freedom; you can mine as much wood as you like, and explore the small opening area for the entire demo if you so choose.

However, the real wonder of Minecraft is revealed when the tutorial is completed, as you exit the miner’s house into a beautiful open landscape. The tutorial felt somewhat like looking out into the world through a keyhole, but suddenly the player gets a significant glimpse into the actual scope of the game. No spoilers, but what you see really captures your imagination about what can be created and across what sort of expanse (that miner’s house you developed and were pretty proud of? Well yeah, now it looks like a bungalow in Hackney). From this point on you are aware of Minecraft‘s true majesty, and you cannot help but be completely enthralled by it. Until the short demo runs out that is…

… but then you play it again! I myself played the trial three times straight off the bat, my appetite whet for exploring this foreign land. The combination of limited demo time and the gradual exposure of the picturesque landscape successfully engages your curiosity, demanding that you play again to discover what you may have missed the first time round. It’s been a long time since I’ve replayed a demo so excitedly, forming an ideal mindset for future purchase.

Games like Minecraft 360 Edition are few and far between. Make sure you at least try this one out!

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Banner

With trepidation I hesitate to admit that I’ve racked up an unhealthy 13 days on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s multiplayer. Though this is likely to figure me as a target of ridicule (from Battlefield fanboy’s and the general populace alike), I still play it now. MW2’s multiplayer is wonderfully addictive; the varied maps are pleasantly spread across long and short range maps, they’re well designed and perfectly suited for facst-paced shooting action. It was flawless…. well, Commando aside.

With this is mind, I pre-ordered the Elite edition of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, eager to get my hands on what I entirely expected to be the next big waste of my life. It sold for a pricey £90, but knowing that it included access to all three DLC drops (all of which I purchased for Modern Warfare 2) and a yearly subscription to the Call of Duty Elite service, my fears were suitably assuaged.

How wrong I was.

So far I’ve racked up a measly 20 hours, my FPS addiction preferably satiated by the superior Battlefield 3. So where did it all go wrong?

Experimentation is the key. Rarely do I chastise a franchise for experimenting with a system that, let’s be honest, is a little stale. However, when reinventing a series that is so well-established, and loved, it’s vital to ensure that developers inject some new life whilst maintaining the key features that initiated success in the first place. This is where Activision let the ball, rather the grenade, drop.

For me it comes down to two key failings:

– General game design, and

– A misguided attempt to mimic the market opponent Battlefield.

Essentially, maps are poorly designed. The selection is far too limited, tailored singularly for close combat. Yet conversely, Activision have implemented new features that are more suited to the team-based range warfare of titles like Battlefield 3. The addition of a three tier Strike Package – formerly known as Killstreak Rewards – only serves to confuse a game that was celebrated for its simplicity. Whilst Modern Warfare 2 plainly offered offensive rewards for an achieved killstreak (including the likes of Predator Missiles, Sentry Guns and Pave Lows, now found in the Assault Strike Package), players now have the option of instead selecting from the Support or Specialist Strike Packages. Though this innovation is fresh and affords the player further specialisation of classes, what’s included is disappointingly redundant.

As you’ve guessed, the Support Strike Package is more defensive, targeted towards the benefit of your team including the likes of Ballistic Vests, EMPs and Recon Drones. The issue is that Call of Duty is NOT a team game. While inevitably the prospect of success is entirely subject to the joint efforts of each player in your team, there is no tangible team unity. You don’t cover comrades with suppressing fire, you don’t strategise plays, and you don’t work together –  beyond the vague direction that you are all shooting the same people. This makes these types of killstreak rewards entirely useless. I mean, who is going to choose an EMP instead of an Osprey Gunner?

And no, that’s not some kind of bourgeois hawk hunt.

At its core, Modern Warfare is a solo game. Yes, you are working towards team success in the long run, but when you earn a killstreak you are undoubtedly going to use it for your own benefit, that is to say, to extend your killstreak. This will take the form of Assault Package rewards like the AC130, rather than supporting your team with armour. What matters in COD is coming top, performing the best (KDR), regardless of whether your team wins or not. Tragically, this has been witnessed throughout Modern Warfare‘s online experience, with many players choosing to play strategy game types (like Domination or Sabotage) simply to achieve high kill ratios rather than working together to effectively execute the mission. It’s a one man army, this forming a primary reason why my loyalties have shifted towards EA’s uber shooter.

I will admit that the Specialist Strike Package, offering additional perks as you obtain uninterrupted kills, is a nice touch especially for those with a dedicated understanding of Modern Warfare‘s Perk system and how it impacts the game. However, unlocking a perk that slightly improves your aim or speed (until you die – unlike the other killstreak tiers) hardly compares to the immediate gratification of an enhanced kill ratio at the click of a button. It’s certainly interesting, but weighing up the potential benefit, the Assault Strike Package will always win.

There’s more though….

Some of the more quirky game types like Gun Game and One in the Chamber have been directly ripped from Black Ops, placed into a mixed server called FFA Gunplay which also includes the new All or Nothing. This manoeuvre in itself can be infuriating; after all, the three game types are so different and you may only be interested in playing one of them. I myself have a particular penchant for One in the Chamber, highly reminiscent of Golden Gun matches from Goldeneye 64. Black Ops managed to provide them all as single game lobbies so why is there the need to create a mixed lot Activision?

The biggest issue I have with these game types though is a product of the game’s general flaws. They’re unbalanced, infuriating and simply not fun. The maps are often too small and enclosed to provide suitable combat grounds for these particular game types, especially noticeable in Gun Game. Worse still, the idiotic lack of varied spawn points results in ridiculous respawn traffic, whereby you often find yourself appearing round a corner from an opponent or even directly in front of them. Clearly this is hazardous during one hit kill games. Whenever you respawn it becomes entirely necessary for the player to immediately check behind them which only leaves them vulnerable to attack from the front.

As a result of these significant failings, Modern Warfare 3 promotes a single strategy: Turtle Beach camping. With spawn points being haphazard and illogical, it makes little sense to sprint around the map awaiting inevitable death from behind. Instead you will find many people camping in a corner to ensure their posterior is free from spawn kills whilst keeping a wary eye in front of them. The additional use of a Turtle Beach headset enables the player to hear exactly what direction enemies are arriving from.

As you can imagine, this makes for a tedious online experience.

So twenty hours and £90 down. The verdict? Stick with Modern Warfare 2, you won’t be disappointed.

Safe Film Banner

Over recent years, mainstream cinema has taken a new action hero under its generously proportioned wing. He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s butch, and he’s British.

No, not David Walliams.

It’s East end beefcake, Jason Statham.

Safe Film Jason Statham

“Maybe I shouldn’t have had that burrito for lunch..”

Since his cinematic debut as Bacon in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 smash Lock Stock and Two Smoking barrrels, Statham has become a Hollywood darling, entirely synonymous with high-octane, brutal action. Perhaps it stems back to his role as mute, psycho goal keeper Monk in Mean Machine, who knows? Regardless of its origin, Jason can always been seen in a host of action-packed films, including the Transporter trilogy, Crank one and two, and most recently, and indeed most high profile, the Expendables series. He also voiced Sergeant Waters in the original Call of Duty and Tybalt in Gnomeo and Juliet – how’s that for masculinity!

New release Safe, sees Jason once again performing the role of an aggressively heroic Prince Charming (rather, Prince Harming), devoting his life to the rescue of another. It’s a cinematic archetype that’s worked for him in the past, but is perhaps getting a little tedious now. All three Transporter films situate Statham as a protector, delivering his human ‘packages’ alive and well, no matter what the personal cost. Talk about customer service, it’s Parcel Force meets Apocalyse Now.

Safe Movie Jason Statham

It’s ok Jason, there’ll be another train along in a minute!

His role as Luke Wright in Safe is a tired, Statham-shaped mould, unfortunately rendering the narrative of little significance. We’ve seen it all before:

– victim in trouble  > Statham becomes aware and assumes role of protector > they are attacked consistently > he ensures the victim’s safety –

We can fill in the rest of the story by ourselves. It doesn’t help that the narrative of Safe is treated with such superficiality and speed. Within the first five minutes we are thrust into the separate world’s of Luke and Mei, hastily presented with each of their predicaments (she has been kidnapped because of her knowledge of a secret code / his wife has been killed, because he knocked out a viral YouTube sensation in a cage fight, costing gamblers huge stakes – take that Tay Zonday, yoot bes’ be singin’ ’bout Chocolate PAIN from now on. Getme fam?) Though the film does marginally explore Wright’s ostracism after his battle blunder, there is no evidence of any kind of emotion as to the horrific murder of his pregnant wife. This is perhaps the greatest flaw of Safe; apart from a single moment where he considers suicide, Luke never really relinquishes the tough guy exterior. But hey, perhaps that’s Hollywood’s fault for type casting Statham so much, maybe he just can’t do sensitive?

Safe Film Mei

Cor bliMei…

Furthermore, the viewer is allowed no time whatsoever to sympathise with Jason’s rather staid performance, as the plot progresses far too rapidly. Similarly, Mei’s troubled home life is soon dismissed, instead replacing it with a somewhat absurd narrative regarding her photographic memory and a highly sensitive numerical code. It doesn’t really get any better from there….

For me, Safe was reminiscent of Luc Besson’s incredible thriller Leon, in so far as it depicts a young, vulnerable girl with sensitive information being protected from vast hordes of menacing villains, including crooked cops. Though, to say the film cowers woefully in it’s impressive shadow is a huge understatement. Where Leon details the life of a reclusive hitman Jean Reno, suddenly interrupted by a recently orphaned Natalie Portman, a glistening performance I might add, it manages to deliver a real tenderness. The blurred emotional, even sexual, boundaries between Leon and Matilda are genuinely heart-warming, and the viewer has a huge investment in the films solemn conclusion. With Safe, you just simply don’t care. Yeah you have the general desire for Statham to rise victorious, and for Mei (played by Catherine Chan) to remain unharmed, but there is no real connection to the plot or its characters. And for a storyline centred around survival this is a problem.

Also, the Russian mob boss looks like Lou Carpenter. Not quite Gary Oldman eh?

Safe Film Police

Reservoir dogs they ain’t!

The real trouble with Safe is that Jason’s brand of cockney militance is delightfully watchable. By all reasoned logic I should hate this film… but I don’t. I’ve always found Jason Statham a likeable chap, if somewhat two dimensional. Back since the Transporter I’ve been slightly in awe of him, first getting a glimpse of his ‘got to be photoshopped’ six-pack, which was entirely hidden from view in Lock Stock and Snatch. Moreover, as a huge fan of martial arts, it was particularly exciting to see a British film star begin to make a name for himself in the industry. The Transporter was brilliantly choreographed, with some wonderfully memorable fight scenes (of note, the bike pedal on oil-covered floor – it was like something out of Strictly Come Dancing!) Statham’s now worked with some of the finest names in the action and martial arts industries, including Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jet Li. Go on moi san!

The choreography in Safe has more of a gritty realism than Statham’s usual fight scenes, but is still enjoyable. The scope of his acting however is severely limited, and the only thing less convincing than his accent is his ability to eat a sandwich on screen. The plot is indefensibly poor; but can it be any worse than Crank, a horrendous take on the Speed franchise?

And you thought Cruise Control was bad.

Safe, is just that, ‘safe’. It’s thoroughly watchable, with adrenaline-fuelled action permeating the entire film. You won’t find any intellectual discourses here and certainly won’t be challenged. But isn’t that the level of comfort you expect from a Jason Statham film?

Max Payne 3 After the Fall Cover

With the impending release of Rockstar’s third installment in the series looming just ahead of us, the renowned game developer has collaborated with Marvel to create a unique animated Max Payne 3 comic book, entitled ‘Max Payne 3: After the Fall’.

With the comic cell-like storytelling of the games cut scenes, it seems an ideal platform crossover to adapt Max’s troubles into a comic mini series.

Max Payne Comic Storytelling

Cut scenes in Max Payne were stationary, with the impression of a comic book.

The three part series has been written by Dan Houser, Vice President of Rockstar creativity, and Sam Lake, Remedy Entertainment’s man behind Max (he was involved heavily in the production of the first two games, writing scripts, had input with level design, and was actually the face model for the protagonist – look at his ugly mug below).

Max Payne Face Sam Lake Face

What Marlon Brando called the ‘touching cloth’ face…

Max Payne 3: After the Fall will examine more explicitly details of Max’s tormented past, delving into the early years of his life as well as the issues surrounding all three games.

The best part is, the Max Payne comic book is totally free to download!

If digital comics aren’t your thing, Rockstar are also giving away ten exclusive printed copies of After the Fall edition one, just make sure you enter before July 12th!

I cannot wait to actually get my hands on the game being a fan of both the original titles. Let’s hope my fears aren’t proven correct though… Onward to May 15th!