Friday, 18 July 2014

Movie Review: How to Train your Dragon 2



How to Train your Dragon was without a doubt one of the most popular movies of 2010. The animated flick was an adaptation of Cressida Cowell bestselling children’s book series of the same name. 

A lot of other reviewers have claimed the new film, How to Train your Dragon 2, is just as good - of not better - than the first. I’ll be the first to break cover here and say that I disagree. That said, it is still a good film and a lot of fun. The animation has stepped up in quality between this and the previous movie, there are a lot of jokes and the dragon fights are really good to watch. 

My problem with the film in my view is the first hour. Unlike the previous film not much happens. It is very dialogue heavy and I appreciate the writers were trying to build character development, but why? There was very little in the first film except for Hiccup and Astrid. So why would this film need it? 

Also for a few minutes the film seems to forget it’s a Dreamworks movie and pretends it’s a Disney one with an awkward musical number sung by Hiccup’s parents. There is no build up to it and there are no other songs in the rest of the movie. So again, why was it there? This movie is also riddled with cheesy lines and bad Holywood style hero speeches. There is one part of the film where it is justified but the rest of it is just cringe worthy. 

It gets 7/10.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book Review: Deadly Secrets


If you’re looking for a slow burning romance, Deadly Secrets will be right up your beach (yes it includes a seaside like all good romance novels need). The book is about a young woman, Helena, who returns to the Mediterranean island of her birth after years spent in England. Helena returns to find answers to her father’s death years before. 

But a strange series of encounters and events convinces her that there was more to his death than simply being lost at sea. While trying to get to the bottom of things, Helena has to deal with the love-tug relationship she develops with housemate Dimitris. 

There is a small paranormal element in this story but it is heavily outweighed by the love story - so not something to worry about if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre. 

The characters are well written and well rounded, making them very believable. The settings are also beautifully described and it’s easy to get lost imagining the landscape. My only critique with Deadly Secrets is that it is sometimes a bit on the slow side. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Tripping the Light Fantastic: Tron Legacy Movie Review



This week we’re stepping back in time to the 80s - an era of weird haircuts, even weirder fashions and ambiguous boy bands. It is also the decade when science-fiction classic Tron was made. Regardless of your feelings about the movie or whether you were young or old when you watched it - most of us remember the film because of its unusual neon visuals and if nothing else - the light bikes. 

Skip forward twenty eight years and Disney finally decided to make a sequel. I know this movie came out four years ago so it’s not new. However, when it was released I had no intention of seeing it because I thought it would be just another pointless sequel that seems to be all the rage this millennium.
I finally saw it this week and I must admit it’s actually pretty good - especially considering it’s a Disney film. However, that’s not to say it’s not without its flaws. 

The movie begins twenty years after the original in modern day. Kevin Flynn - the hero in the original Tron - has been missing for all that time. His son Sam Flynn accidently finds a way into the cyber world of the original film when he visits his dad’s arcade. Discovering his presence, Kevin Flynn’s doppelganger - Clu - tries to kill him. After escaping, Sam is reunited with his father (played by Jeff Bridges) who explains that Clu - the program he created - has gone rogue and taken over. 

Are you all still following? Good. To make things even more confusing Clu looks just like Kevin…or how he did 20 years ago. Clu wants Kevin’s disc (remember those?) as it contains all his knowledge on how he built the cyber world and how to leave it. The rest of the film is spent by Sam, Kevin and a program called Quorra trying to escape back to the real world.

If you managed to read through all of the above without falling asleep you get a medal. It is a little confusing - especially with two characters looking the same. Considering this is meant to be a kid’s film and I was confused, god knows how children find understanding it. There is also a tonne of other confusing plot points which I haven’t gone into thrown on top of that. 

Visually though Tron Legacy is a beautiful. I think this is what the original would have looked like if the production team had access to the same quality of CGI. The light bikes also make a glorious return early on and there are other vehicles thrown in later on. Where the graphics do fail is on Clu’s face. The animator’s attempt to make Jeff Bridges look younger just doesn’t quite work. His face just doesn’t move correctly and it’s just downright creepy. 

Also another gripe I have with this movie is Tron. He’s almost not in it. You see him get killed in a flashback an hour into the movie only to learn later he is in fact still alive…just to see him die a couple of minutes later. Why was the movie named after a character who is barely in it? I know it’s to do with franchising but come on. It’s like titling a book: The Queen, then spending three hundred pages talking about the history of sea fish. 

Also there are a lot of dumb plot holes which could have easily been rectified if the time had been put in during editing…or reading the script for the second time. 

Tron Legacy gets 6/10.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Throwing Eggs: Yoshi's New Island Review



One for Nintendo and especially Mario fans this week as we take a look at Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS. While this is not the first outing for the plumber’s dinosaur partner in recent years, it is for this particular series of games. If you’re not familiar with the Yoshi’s Island series, the original popped up on the SNES console back in the early 90s. 

The premise for the newest arrival to the series is the same: you control Yoshi and have to get baby Mario to the goal of each level, gradually progressing through worlds until you reach the final boss battle.
Like previous games, this is a side-scrolling adventure, harking back to the 2D hay day of the 16-bit SNES. But the game can be viewed in 3D, with Yoshi, enemies and objects jumping off the screen against the background. 

Game play wise it is not very hard. It does become a bit more of a challenge in later stages, but usually a couple of tries is enough to get through most levels. The controls are pretty straight forward as well so it’s a good family game for people of all ages. Even if you do speed through the levels, there are a lot of items to collect which you will never find on the first run. This gives a lot of replay value if you’re bothered about getting 100 per cent completion. 

The only thing that really annoyed me after a while was the music. There is very little variation, with the soundtrack to most levels sounding almost - if not - the same. There could have been a few more tunes recorded for a game with so many stages. 

Yoshi’s New Island gets 7/10.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Enemy Review (The Visitors Saga 2)



You know when sometimes you read a book or watch a movie and certain plot points or ideas are reminiscent of those from other books and films? Well get ready for a lot of déjà vu as we take a look at The Enemy, the second book in The Visitors Saga. 

If you’ve not read my review of the first installation I will some it up as this - aliens kidnap everyone except a few teenagers and they are trying to escape monsters and get to Washington. 

The second one takes off where the first left off with would-be-hero Charlie Freeman being strapped to a medical bed and told he’s gone insane. He’s also told that he has in fact just hallucinated the aliens and the events of the previous few days outlined in the original novel. This concept is strung out for a bit then dashed - making the first part of the story completely pointless. 

Anyway, Charlie is rescued by his friends and they set about getting to Washington (again). The story does pick up a lot at this point with a lot of action and genuinely edge-of-the-sate moments as the humans try to escape the flesh-hungry Grimms. Also thrown into the mix is the revelation that the Grimms can absorb human DNA and essentially becom
e like people. Once Charlie and his friends reach Washington however, the story unravels again.
Like the original novel, The Enemy is not a bad book. It has some great moments, a pretty cover and occasionally an original idea of its own, but it’s let down by poor editing, cardboard cut-out characters, a pantomime villain and too many borrowed ideas from other sci-fi legends. 

It gets 5/10.