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Promised but didn't deliver.

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 27 December 2008 01:34 (A review of Eastern Promises)

The recent David Cronenberg/Viggo Mortensen partnership has spawned two films and Eastern Promises is the one I saw first. It was really a case of not having any solid expectations, but literally thinking that a disappointment was not mathematically possible from this director/actor combination. I was very surprised how lowly I had to rate this film at the end.

Eastern Promises is a rare cinematic look at the Russian mob involvement in London. After the tragic death of a 14-year-old prostitute during childbirth, the midwife attending, Anna (Naomi Watts), finds a diary amongst her personal effects. Seeking to translate the Russian scribbles, she approaches the owner of a Trans-Siberian restaurant, the address of which she also finds in the diary. At first charming, the restaurant owner agrees to help the midwife, though her uncle (conveniently Russian/Eastern European) urges caution and inexplicably bombards her with verbal abuse when she approaches him for help.

During her visits to the restaurant, Anna attracts the unwanted attention of another Russian, Nikolai, (Viggo Mortensen) a driver for the family that own the restaurant. Mortensen's performance throughout the film is a highlight, conveying a realistic detachment and unflappable persona whilst conveying his duties as both a professional driver and seedy undertaker who deals with the more morbid aspects of body disposal for the Russian crime family. It is rapidly revealed that the restaurateur is actually the head of the vory v zakone crime syndicate and his charming demeanour dissolves when he ruthlessly threatens Anna with violence if she continues to follow up her interest in the diary (which implicates members of his family in the young prostitute's illegal trafficking, pregnancy and ultimately, death).

A sub plot follows Nikolai and his ongoing induction into the upper echelons of the vory v zakone. He is the unofficial bodyguard of Kiril (Vincent Cassell), the reckless and petulant son of the restaurant owner. Nikolai is eventually granted the honour of full induction into the syndicate (via the addition of star tattoos) in a prestigious ceremony.

A positive aspect for this film, apart from the performance of Viggo Mortensen in general, is that a completely unpredictable twist still managed to catch me off guard. However, the rest of the film didn't provide anything profound enough to call it a favourite. Again, little time is spent on any character development, meaning we only really get to know a little bit about Nikolai's personality. Vincent Cassell (as much as I dislike him) is a competent actor, who I felt was underutilised throughout the whole film. Naomi Watts grated on me from the get-go with a London accent that flushed my cheeks with embarrassment whenever I heard her talk. I just don't think I've heard any resident of The Big Smoke speak with such an unnatural accent, and framed against the impressive Mortensen and his realistic Eastern drawl makes it even more difficult to wonder how she got away with it.

The film, like A History of Violence, will be predominantly remembered for one single scene of realistic and astonishing violence, only this time Viggo is naked during the brawl for some extra shock value. Ultimately the ending feels kind of ambiguous and completely unfulfilling as Cronenberg once again bends over backwards to make it all fit into a short 90ish minute timespan. At the end, I was disappointed.

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Cronenberg + Mortensen = Disappointment

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 27 December 2008 12:36 (A review of A History of Violence (2005))

I always give David Cronenberg the benefit of the doubt thanks to his 1986 sci-fi masterpiece The Fly, but with that benefit comes a certain degree of expectation that he will deliver a great film. Coupled with Viggo Mortensen - an actor you can generally expect a decent performance from - you have a duo that can't really fail to deliver an entertaining film. At least that's what I thought.

A History of Violence follows Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) as he goes about his unassuming and modest life working in a diner. He lives in a nice house and has a loving caring family and the film goes to great lengths to rub in just how perfect (yet modest!) his existence is, before one fateful day. About to close up one night, his diner is harassed by two small-time criminals who threaten to execute one of his employees. In a moment of adrenaline fuelled violence, Mortensen's character saves the day and waxes his would be assailants.

The ensuing TV coverage elevates him to hero status amongst the quiet townspeople, but he still tries to shy away from the press coverage. Unfortunately, this exposure also brings him to the attention of a Mafioso from out of town, who is certain that Tom is not who he claims to be. His life is then predisposed with sinister interactions with Ed Harris' character, which culminate in another explosive display of violence as Tom attempts to protect himself and his family from the gangster threat.

The movie fails to break through the 'average' barrier because of several different reasons. From the moment Ed Harris' mobster rolls into town you know for a fact that Tom isn't who he says he is. There is never really any chance that this could be a case of mistaken identity, or a revenge killing for the two crooks who bungled the robbery days before. From then in it is a fairly predictable affair.

Secondly, the movie does have some exceptionally cheesy moments - particularly every scene involving Tom's son, Jack. Jack is bullied at school for the most obscene reason (he caught a baseball during a game of baseball) and rapidly transforms to a snivelling victim into a fightin' machine when he is pushed too far. The high school scenes don't really appear realistic at all, and I think that lets the film down - Jack probably could've been edited out of the entire picture without any great detriment to the plot. Come the end of the film, it's difficult to really empathise with Tom after he has admitted his despicable past, but the ending itself is also a severe anticlimax.

At the end of the day, A History of Violence will be remembered for a particularly brutal scene where Tom defends himself from the mob on his front lawn. Nothing else is really memorable enough, particularly the characters. I honestly thought from the DVD description on the box that I would be left mildly scarred from the watching experience and that it would be difficult to re-watch the film because of profound violence or wrecked lives (in a similar way that American History X or Requiem for a Dream are difficult to watch over again). Instead it seems Cronenberg has just gone for a bitesize film that compromises integrity in order to fit into the magic 90 minute timespan that many Hollywood films seem to strive for these days.

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Wasteland wonder

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 3 December 2008 06:31 (A review of Fallout 3)

The third instalment of the Fallout franchise is nothing short of epic. The game takes place in the Capital Wasteland of Washington DC, a huge, desolate environment which houses relentless depression and danger. The post-apocalyptic landscape is littered with the remnants of human society, devastated by nuclear attack. Now, some 30 years after the events of Fallout 2 and 200 years since the atomic bombs fell, humanity appears no closer to rebuilding a safe and productive future.

We are introduced to the game’s protagonist as a newborn in Vault 101. Here we get to pick what our character will look like via hundreds of different facial manipulation options (which, no matter how hard you tweak, invariably results in something reptilian and ugly). The game then accelerates through the first 19 years of your life before ousting you from the claustrophobic (yet relatively safe) confines of the vault and into the expansive and unforgiving wasteland outside. The reason for such disruption in your unassuming life? Your father has inexplicably escaped the vault, and it’s up to you to adventure out to find him.

Upon exiting the vault, you may have already made decisions that affect just how notorious your character will be out in the wastes. The Karma system sees everything, from theft of other people’s property, to stealthy executions and all out massacres of fellow wasteland survivors. Whether you decide to be a hero or a villain builds you a reputation which other people then react to across the map. Your karma can also be altered by your actions during ‘quests’, in which there are often open-ended ways of completing the task at hand. If you decide to help, hinder or euthanise your way through other people’s problems, expect to take the karma hits and the resulting bounty hunters that object to your way of life.

Life on the planes is a harsh affair, with mutated insects, beasts and super mutants all wanting to put an end to your miserable existence. The one thing that prevents you gawping at the marvellous ‘lived in’ scenery is the fact that everything around you is trying to kill you. If you go out into the wasteland unprepared, be sure to expect a rapid demise. Your armour and weapons decrease in efficiency with use, so maintaining them is a must. There’s nothing worse than your gun destroying itself in the heat of a firefight. As well as the numerous bad guys strolling the landscape, there are also various friendlies around who often help you out by trading and occassionally even lend a hand in a firefight if their own life is put in danger.

Once you’re outside, how you live your life is entirely up to you. Whether you want to follow in your fathers footsteps, or completely ignore his existence and write yourself into apocalyptic folklore elsewhere is a choice for you to make. There are scores of side quests to attempt, that often result in some handy hardware and much-needed levelling up opportunities. Upon your emergence from Vault 101, you are almost entirely useless with every weapon at your disposal, so experience is a must and with it brings confidence to explore further into the heart of the Wasteland area.

The game is not without faults, however. On particularly infuriating bug sees your character get stuck in the scenery (under a stair well or in a tiny rock divot for example) and thus, multiple saves - or dabbling with noclipping - is recommended. Another fair criticism of the game is that it lacks enemy variety - each enemy type is generally encountered within the first couple of hours of gameplay - although I have found it difficult to become bored of the encounters in spite of this. Occasionally your mission parameters do not update to the dynamic gameplay of the wasteland - for example, if your mission is to find a gentleman that you have already blown away, then the quest may not always recognise this, leaving you with the option to ignore the task forever, or finish it off with shotgun diplomacy by killing everyone involved. This isn’t always ideal when you are trying to lead a heroic life!

Finally, although on the grand scale the graphics are impressive, closer inspection reveals areas of extremely repetitive texture use and lazy rounded edges. Then again, the strong point of Fallout 3 is the gameplay and anybody looking for crystal-clear realism should probably be playing Crysis: Warhead by now anyway.

All in all, a game this epic doesn’t come around very often, and should be played by as many gamers as possible because of its pure ambition. Even the bugs are relatively easy to overlook and an enjoyable gaming experience awaits anyone willing to give it a chance. Although the primary quest is relatively short, there is well over fifty hours of gameplay locked away in the rest of the Wasteland and an obvious attraction would be to replay it again as an evil/good player (depending on how you went about things first time around).

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Damn dirty apes!

Posted : 10 years, 9 months ago on 28 November 2008 10:51 (A review of Planet of the Apes (1968))

Sci-fi stalwart, Charlton Heston, stars as Astronaut George Turner, who crash lands on a distant planet governed by an advanced race of Ape-like creatures. After travelling through space at the speed of light, Turner and his crew have passed hundreds of Earth years, but aged only several months, before it is time to touch down again in pastures new. After crash-landing on a mysterious planet, it becomes obvious that something has gone wrong. They have been in space far longer than planned and furthermore, one of their crewman - the only female - has died after equipment malfunction.

A soil analysis declares that no life can be supported in their current terrain, so the astronauts trek across miles of desert before coming into contact with an extremely primitive humanoid race. Turner is subsequently captured by a marauding ape-like species which apparently hunts these humans for sport. Turner must then fight for his survival amongst a truly corrupt species who see and treat humans as lower life forms. Despite his obviously complex and advanced abilities, he is still sentenced to an investigative lobotomy which will undoubtedly render his human cognitive functions obsolete.

The immediate emotion I felt whilst watching the film was one of shock. I couldn't believe just how poorly human beings were being treated at the hands of these intelligent apes, until I realised almost at once that this is exactly the way humans treat apes in the modern world. How different would it be if an ape suddenly spoke one day? Whilst we, as a species, wouldn't keep his existence a secret, we almost certainly continue to use their brethren as advanced test subjects in scientific experimentation. This realisation made the rest of the film a lot more uneasy to watch. The way this film ends is now the stuff of legend, so I knew before hand which planet this film took place on, which made the events throughout the film all the more poignant.

Turner eventually breaks free from his captors, along with his new mate (the hottest woman I have ever seen), Nova, and makes a break for freedom with some sympathetic apes. What he uncovers is a conspiracy amongst the ape world to keep humanity and it's intelligent existence a secret. The finale of the film delivers a damning verdict on humanity and it's propensity to annihilate each other, simultaneously destroying the world in which we live. The frustration I experienced throughout culminated in my feeling of anger and resentment towards my own species for the damage that we will ultimately inflict on ourselves in the distant future, somewhere down the line.

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I don't hate Balboa, I pity tha fool!

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 20 November 2008 07:53 (A review of Rocky III (1982))

In the third instalment of the Rocky franchise, life is peachy for the Heavyweight Champion of the world. With the title belt comes all the trappings of wealth, fame and success and Rocky is living the high life. The Stallion even manages to defend his title no less than ten consecutive times, before deciding to retire at the top of his profession.

But a young upcoming boxer has other plans. Clubber Lang is a ruthless, dedicated and ferocious upstart determined to take the title for himself. After publicly ridiculing Rocky at the unveiling of his personal statue, Lang gets his wish of a shot at the title in a battle that is billed as Rocky's last ever fight. However, Rocky is not the man he used to be. In a complete contrast to the previous films, he trains in lavish surroundings in the presence of hundreds of adoring fans, much to the chagrin of his mentor, Mighty Mickey Goldmill and it is not long before he is praying the price, face down on the canvas at the hands of the merciless Lang.

Rocky is down and out. Humiliated, defeated and devoid of all passion for the sport which made him the icon he became. In his deepest darkest moments, an old enemy in the shape of Apollo Creed offers to bring him back to fighting speed by training him for a rematch with Clubber Lang. The thing that sets apart Rocky III from the previous two instalments is the fact that here, Rocky actually learns how to box! Instead of wading in like a punch-seeking missile, Balboa is taught how to move, how to punch and how to win by his former opponent. It makes a genuinely noticeable difference. Stallone looks in even better shape than usual and moves like a real pro. It's a completely different Rocky to the man who won over the public years before.

The film culminates in the devastating rematch with Lang - a man with arms like towerblocks, and punches that could probably bring them down. It's a fight that sent a real chill down my spine. It's pure inspiration, bottled, smeared across a celluloid reel, and broadcast straight into my lazy pores. Other highlights include the charity match which pits Rocky against Hulk Hogan (as Thunder Lips), Mr T's all round performance as his cocky and brutal opponent and the inclusion of a more humane Apollo Creed. All of this is crammed into ninety minutes of masculine bliss.

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Moroccan kids aren't too bright.

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 18 November 2008 11:00 (A review of Babel)

Nobody has ever told me that they enjoyed this film, and weighing in with a hefty 2.5 hours viewing time, I was a little reluctant at first to give it a try. Having missed the other two films in the supposed trilogy of Iñárritu's recent works, I had no idea what to expect, though I honestly expected a pretentious piece that only appealed to limp-wristed media students gunning for a new asset to adsorb into their already feeble persona.

In reality, the inclusion of Hollywood superstars would always deny Babel of a place amongst the 'cult classic' elite of independent films, but that doesn't mean it's easy watching for the average viewer. The film centres around three different groups of people in three very different situations. Although the characters are interlinked, they never interact with one another. In fact, some of the links between the characters are so tenuous that I almost expelled real laughter.

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, from what I can tell, are enduring a torrid and loveless marriage. This all changes when a young Moroccan mountain boy shoots the roof of a bus to test the range of his new hunting rifle. Somewhere in mid air, the bullet changes to an impossible trajectory and comes through a side window, severely wounding the pallid and gaunt Blanchett. You could be forgiven for thinking that she was already a corpse, but this event rekindles some deep-lying feeling of compassion in her husband and he endures to save her life.

Meanwhile, in Japan, a young girl deals with all the uneasy tribulations of youth with the added obstruction of being deaf and mute. Her ambition is to achieve a sense of belonging amongst her young peers, who are mostly ignorant and obnoxious to her disability.

Finally, the nanny of Pitt/Blanchett's children is a Mexican lady, forced to bring the youngsters along to a wedding in her native homeland. After an exuberant and exciting party, she makes the inspired decision to cross back to the USA with her nephew - about 100 times over the limit - as her chauffeur; something Border Patrol don't take too kindly to.

Guessing from the title of the film, Iñárritu clearly had some point to make about language. However, I really fail to see just exactly what that point was. The only storyline in which language was a barrier to functioning was for the Japanese girl who couldn't speak. Both the Mexican and Moroccan story lines all had characters who were multilingual, and the only real frustrations were vented between characters who spoke the same language as each other. The real problem I had with this film is the complete lack of closure from each of the story trails. There seemed to be absolutely no drastic consequences for any of the characters to deal with as a result of the decisions they'd made during the course of the film. The film felt ultimately pointless.

This is an immense shame, considering each story was actually entertaining. At no point was I bored with the chain of events, with the Japanese story being my particular favourite. I thought Babel would be leading to some big, intelligent culmination/disaster/bringing together, but none of this materialised into anything of note and that let the whole film down. Considering I've given it quite a generous rating despite this, I only wonder how great it could've been with a decent finale.

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Revolutionary tale.

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 18 November 2008 09:59 (A review of The Motorcycle Diaries (2004))

Having never read [Link removed - login to see] which form the basis of this film, I never quite knew how it was going to pan out. I half expected the film to be ladened with an overbearing political message and revolutionary rhetoric, but I couldn't have been more wrong with my prediction. Even without any prior knowledge of the films protagonists, this film is still a thoroughly enjoyable biographical adventure across the flank of Latin America.

Ernesto Guevara is a 23-year-old medical student. Opting out of finishing his final semester at medical school, he embarks instead on a road trip with his biochemist friend, Alberto Granado. Setting off with nothing more than a battered motorcycle and without any food or money to supplement their journey, they are forced to fend for themselves whilst travelling the length of the west coast of South America. The film initially focuses on the youthful sense of adventurism and care-free hedonism which accompanies their trip. Ernesto and Alberto are obviously good friends, and the increasingly outrageous schemes they perform in order to get by without any money provide some hilarious moments.

Set amidst a backdrop of outstanding South American countryside, you can't help but feel envious of their journey and the encounters it brings them. Though as they progress, the duo soon reign in their free spirit after increasingly interacting with the continents poorest civilians. Eventually forced to ditch the bike, Ernesto and Alberto continue the epic journey on foot, which brings them face to face with the crippling poverty and exploitation experienced by the indigenous population. On top of the neglect suffered at the hands of mining corporations and land owners, we see the remnants of the once-great Incan civilisation reduced to absolute poverty despite the cultural importance of their hereditary. The injustices witnessed along the path obviously begin to profoundly effect the pair, particularly Ernesto, who tells of his dismay in poetic letters written to his mother.

Eventually, the pair reach a lepers colony, buried deep in the Amazonian jungle, and volunteer their medical knowledge to help the people afflicted. Ernesto's experiences at the camp, though ultimately happy, profoundly impact on his feelings towards the government, nationality and life in general. He leaves the camp a changed man, before continuing his journey northwards and leaving his comrade in Venezuela. Motorcycle Diaries will do nothing to damage the image of Che Guevara. Throughout he is depicted as a knowledgeable and extremely compassionate human being and considering his future exploits, you can't help but feel that his death was a tragic waste for humanity. Fifty odd years on and with poverty still ravaging the globe, it is easy to see why such an icon has stood the test of time and still enjoys international reverence.

Motorcycle Diaries does not require strong political leanings or ideologies to enjoy. It is just an entertaining and enjoyable adventure laced with moments of good humour and youth energy. I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated.

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Brown love

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 18 November 2008 01:54 (A review of Jackie Brown (1997))

Jackie Brown is surely one of Tarantino’s most underrated of films. That’s not really saying much, considering the media frenzy which usually surrounds everything that has his name on. Nevertheless, I felt that Jackie Brown deserved at least as much credit as Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction; two other of Tarantino’s films which seem to ooze an unprecedented amount of acclaim. I held back from watching the movie simply because I hadn’t heard anything about it. I assumed QT had a dud on his hands, but that really isn’t the case.

I guess Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s first attempt at having a strong female lead as the films primary protagonist, and although it took me some time to get used to Pam Grier’s performance, I did end up liking the result. The plot is a classic gangster/money/scam/drugs affair that aided in building the reputation of the director. Jackie Brown is a simple airline hostess, press ganged into smuggling money and drugs back to the United States for a small-time gun-runner, played by Samuel L. Jackson. She is caught by law enforcement agents and it isn’t long before she is forced to co-operate with their investigation. Along with the addition of her bail bondsman, a story of deception burgeons as the police attempt to capture the gun-smuggler, whilst Jackie seeks to serve her own interests in the ordeal.

The film is accompanied by a funk-tastic soundtrack. One of the aspects that hit me the most was how perfect the musical accompaniment was to almost every scene. The actor to steal the show for me was Sam L. Jackson. His character, while initially portrayed as a witless cavalier, soon blossomed into a frightening mastermind who, at times, seemed to be the only character who was in control and knew what was happening. Michael Keaton appears as 100% comedic gold, playing the policeman who reeks of ineptitude. I don’t know what it is about this guy that makes him a total legend, but he seems like he’s having a lot of fun in every one of his roles.

I thought the only negative aspect to the casting was Robert De Niro, which is quite a claim. His part was almost entirely useless. I’m not sure if it was intended as some sort of pretentious irony, to have one of humanities greatest actors play such an unchallenging bit part, but it didn’t fly with me. To think that De Niro still had films like Heat to follow Jackie Brown, even in this late stage of his career, made me wonder why he ever agreed to accept this stoner character who was about as stimulating as a Lemming.

But after all is said and done, I enjoyed myself throughout, and it was refreshing to see some lesser known actors stealing some of the limelight. The soundtrack alone makes this film seem ultimately ‘cool’, and I don’t think it should be overlooked as a weaker Tarantino film.

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Snake knows no pain, Snake knows no fear!

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 6 November 2008 04:38 (A review of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

As a massive fan of the Metal Gear franchise I can say I am utterly ashamed at how long it has taken me to finally pick up and play this instalment. It wasn’t until I saw Snake’s weather-beaten face staring back at me from the cover of MGS: 4 on the shop shelves that made me realise I had some serious catching up to do before I could even contemplate such an extravagant purchase. At the time of its release I was initially fed mixed reviews about it from my friends. Some said it was only average while others enjoyed it immensely, despite their propensity for despising console gaming. I was hesitant myself due to the setting of MGS: 3 – the jungle, as well as the fact that it was a prequel to the previous Metal Gear games.

Considering Konami’s habit of releasing ‘satellite’ titles for the MGS series that act as supplementary games, I wondered if this instalment was supposed to be a standalone game or instead an integral part of the overall storyline. It’s most definitely the latter and I’m thoroughly glad I played it.

The game formats follows that of MGS:2 fairly closely, in that you take on a short initial mission that guides you through the basics of the game – such as hunting for food, camouflage, the radio system and sneaking basics – before you then undertake a related mission that serves as the bulk of the game. You play as Naked Snake, a character visually identical in appearance and speech to Solid Snake from previous games. From the very beginning of the game, references to previous instalments are present in abundance. For a start, Snake begins wearing a disguise to protect his identity, this disguise is a Raiden mask; then when jumping from a plane, Snake’s breathing mask apparatus resembles the Psycho Mantis mask from Metal Gear Solid.

These subtle nuances and references to previous games are what make Metal Gear games so rewarding to play as a gamer. The game constantly ‘breaks the fourth wall’ and treats the player as a spectator who has been through both the good and bad with Snake from the very beginning. On top of visual cues, radio conversations (which you can initiate at random) drop massive hints and foreboding warnings about what might happen in the future if genetic engineering, weapons development and other controversial endeavours are left unchecked. These work so well considering this game is a prequel set in the 1960s. When the radio medic makes a throwaway comment about Snake’s genes being coveted in the future, it ceases to be funny and instead triggers a moment of recognition in anyone who has played all of the MGS games (Snake’s genes being the basis of the Les Enfants Terrible project – and the Metal Gear Solid game). While most game developers might think this is a terrifically clever ploy and rub it in the face of a gamer, it is very easy to miss these pearls of wisdom in Snake Eater, as they sometimes only arise after repeated calls to your radio crew.

I started off thinking the game was worthy of an eight-out-of-ten. I was initially frustrated at the way the game handled for me. The immediate thing to notice is that Snake does not have a radar in the corner of the screen to tell him where enemies are. Granted, this isn’t a problem for gamers who played previous instalments on Extreme difficulty mode, but for me it began as a major frustration. This annoyance is compounded by the awkward camera angles. As a third-person game the camera can often do you no favours. I lost count how many times I had to run forward into an area, switch to first-person view, then run back to assess my plan of action. This gave guards ample time to detect me and generally shoot me to death. It took a lot longer than the initial ‘Virtuous Mission’ segment to get to grips with the controls and become confident as a stealth agent.

I then figured it was worthy of a nine-out-of-ten when I discovered how fulfilling the CQC system was. Using Close Quarters Combat, you can generally silently and ruthlessly dispatch, interrogate (and then dispatch) or knock out (and then kill!) any guard unfortunate to get close to you. The option to slit a guards throat is so instantly satisfying that I almost had the urge to go and try it out in real life. Of course, for the stealthier player, instant knockouts, or using guards as human shields/battering rams may be more satisfying (though I doubt it).

The storyline in comparison to MGS: 2 is infinitely more easy to follow. You are present to rescue a soviet scientist who is being forced to develop a mobile nuclear missile launcher. Set in the height of the Cold War, a renegade general plans to use the device to overthrow the Soviet Prime Minister and then presumably unite the world via a nuclear apocalypse. We can’t let that happen. Along the way, you are to deal with the ‘Queen of the American armed forces’ who has defected to the Soviet Union. She was Snake’s mentor, which breeds an intense relationship between the two as the game progresses. Finally, a band of almost supernatural freaks (much like Vamp et al., from MGS: 2) are also in cahoots with the renegade general and must be dealt with swiftly along the way.

Finally, as with every other Metal Gear Solid game, there are a number of Easter eggs along the way that can be discovered (often by accident) which are also very rewarding. Another example; during an early confrontation with a young Ocelot, Snake renders him unconscious before you resume control of him. If you then put a bullet in Ocelot’s head you are confronted with a Game Over screen and then reprimanded by your commanding officer over the radio for creating a ‘Time Paradox’. It’s exactly this kind of reason that makes a Metal Gear game so unlike any other to play. Given the amount of time I’ve spent recalling the plot over the last few days, I think I might eventually bump the rating to a ten-out-of-ten. If I can overcome the initial frustrations of being inadequate, there’s no reason this game is in any way inferior to its predecessors.

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Six(out of ten) shooter

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 6 November 2008 04:36 (A review of Unforgiven (1992))

I’ve been trying to make up my mind on Unforgiven for the past few days. After seemingly going through a spell of watching only films that were situated in the American West, I thought I owed it to myself to watch Unforgiven, particularly due to the sheer amount of Academy Awards it has managed to win.

Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven is a tale of old age. Formerly a notorious bandit, old father time has caught up with Eastwood’s character and he has since settled into an honest and unglamorous lifestyle, thanks to the gracious influence of his recently departed wife. Struggling financially with his two children and with a flock of animals who are unlikely to provide any income for the family, he is cajoled into accompanying a naive gunslinger to collect a bounty on the heads of two complete strangers. With his shooting, riding and basic ‘staying alive’ skills extremely rusty, he calls on his own former partner, Ned (Morgan Freeman), to assist in the murder. The relationship between the three men is predictable. With age and experience on their side, Eastwood and Freeman are easily frustrated by the youngster’s tall stories and elaborate boasting. On the flip side, with two legends of the west accompanying him, the young schemer feels invincible, yet still taunts his older companions.

Gene Hackman stars as a no-nonsense sheriff who bullies his town into obedience with public acts of brutal violence. It is not long before Eastwood et al. encounter the sheriff and are forcefully driven from his town. Hackman’s performance is a definite highlight of Unforgiven, his character demanding your initial admiration, before his ritualistic bullying causes a change of empathy. The question of whether age will prevent the bounty hunters from completing their mission is never really an issue and the initial theme of ‘murdering innocent men’ soon takes a back seat. Clint Eastwood never convinces in this role. I was surprised to see how unnatural and contrived a lot of the dialogue felt, that was perhaps my main problem with the film. All round the film is solid, in an average kind of way. The plot never bores, mainly thanks to Hackman’s performance, yet there is no real ‘thrill of the chase’, nor any unpredictability towards the climax of the film. I could’ve thought of a more fitting end, but instead Eastwood went with a Hollywood staple and blazed his way out of an impossible gun battle.

To be frank, I am surprised that the Academy awarded mediocrity so highly.

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