Feature: Resident Evil HD


Re-enter the survival horror.

Despite being a proverbial clown-car full of horror clichés and god-awful dialogue, Resident Evil is for gaming what Night of the Living Dead is for film – a massively-entertaining pioneer of the horror genre.

Almost 20 years have passed since the release of Resident Evil on the PlayStation, a 5 S.T.A.R.S. game which spontaneously mutated into a franchise that ran tyrant with success, at the pinnacle of which sat Capcom’s exalted progeny, Resident Evil 4. Thousands wept as they witnessed critics put down the rabid Resident Evil 6 like Travis shooting his beloved Old Yeller (sniff); a veritable Frankenstein-esque mix of action-horror that lacked any sense of cohesion or unified vision.

However, Capcom made like Chris Redfield and got to the ‘root of the problem’ (see above for ‘god-awful dialogue’), and have returned, quite literally, to the series’ roots. Resident Evil HD Remastered is the second refurbishment of the famous mansion, an update to the 2002 GameCube remake which set the benchmark for re-imagined video games.

Born from modern technology and the inexorable perpetuation of nostalgia, the 2015 conception will purportedly make use of an immaculate 1080p on respective current-gen platforms, and will feature alternative aspect ratios (4:3 or 16:9) and classic/modern control styles to suit one’s personal preference.

With lighting and textures sharper than Barry Burton’s one-liners (‘Jill sandwich’ – anyone?), it seems wise to remember that Capcom are attempting to offer something (relatively) new, unlike the personified trollface that is Square Enix with their recent Final Fantasy VII announcement. Wiser still, do remember to take note of Wesker’s words at the beginning: ‘Don’t open that door!’.

Resident Evil HD Remastered is available digitally for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC on January 20


Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2


The Volt in Our Stars

It may seem redundant to describe The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as ‘amazing’, and yet here we are. Where director Sam Raimi fundamentally failed, the aptly-named Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) skilfully conducts an aptly-titled superhero sequel, weaving an intricate narrative web of high-voltage villains and sentimental undercurrents which don’t succumb to the same plot overload that short-circuited Spider-Man 3.

Where Raimi’s second instalment showcased a burdened Peter Parker (played by Tobey ‘Marmite’ Maguire) struggling to balance his dual identity, Webb’s follow up shows the wisecracking Webhead (Andrew Garfield) fully embracing his world of masked vigilantism. That’s not to say Spidey is completely carefree, and his tenuous on-off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is pushed to new heights, particularly by the re-introduction of Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Not to mention the bumbling Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee who is obsessed with the webslinger – a soon-to-be supervillain who suffers a case of crossed wires, in more ways than one.

If the first addition to the galvanised reboot offered anything refreshing, other than Garfield’s acting prowess, it was that Webb can spin achingly authentic and searingly intimate human moments with such believability that it’s hard not to notice an awkward degree of cinematic voyeurism. Of course, this is in large part aided by the magnetic on-and-off-screen partnership of Garfield and Stone, who repeatedly tug at the heartstrings until threadbare. In a film that gravitates around the world of science, it’s wonderful to see so much chemistry between the couple, who effortlessly generate as many sparks as Electro’s voltaic violence.

Naturally, CGI is paramount to any silver screen superhero success, and while the last film drew some criticisms for some not-so-special effects in places, the quality has been massively amplified this time round. Charged with electrified energy, the visuals genuinely crackle and sparkle, and the spectacular, slow-motion sequences are undoubtedly some of the most thrilling blockbuster set-pieces to grace the big screen. Seeing Spidey’s bullet-time reactions as he goes to such lengths to protect each single bystander makes for marvellous viewing, and goes to show why he steals far more hearts than the Man of Steel. Hey, they don’t call him your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man for nothing.

Although sidestepping the landmine of narrative convolution, there is a small sense of incoherence especially in regards to character development, or the lack thereof. Dillon’s disposition switches like lightning, flashing quickly from unassuming victim to generic antagonist, whilst his transformation is not nearly as emphatic as Alfred Molina’s complex Doc Ock. But despite some minor forgivable flaws, there is little to fault in our stars; this is a shockingly well-executed affair, and these few frayed wires offer minor resistance to an otherwise electric performance.

The fault in our stars is that most fans, particularly our ever-omniscient comic-book fans, know how the film is going to end before it even begins. There is a pervading sense of inevitability throughout, personified quite literally by Denis Leary’s haunting cameos, and the funereal toll of a clock tower is just all too familiar to some. And here we are: like Peter, senses tingling yet powerless to stop what is fated to be. Nevertheless, you can’t help but enjoy every single minute of the ride. Amazing indeed.


Review: Only God Forgives


Oscar Wilde once advocated a curious notion: ‘All art is quite useless’. A sentiment which, in many respects, can be applied to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, a neon-drenched nightmare which is every bit as ostentatious as it is daring. A film which, paradoxically, is rarely a film, but a glorified PowerPoint presentation of electric aesthetics – a compelling case of style over substance.

Julian Thompson (Ryan Gosling), is a US expatriate part of a drug smuggling operation. A disquieting man, Julian is brother to Billy, a violent sociopath who is murdered after killing an underage prostitute. When their mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), arrives in Bangkok, she demands Julian to seek the men that killed her son; this is a story of vengeance and deep-seated mother issues, set in the criminal underworld of seedy Thailand.

First and foremost, this is some picturesque cinematography from Larry Smith – each scene drips and crackles with style, with rooms saturated in blood-stained reds and chilling blues. Beneath the thick sheen of incandescence and fluorescence is a vacuous tale, but the plot, or the lack thereof, is redundant; Refn makes for a contemporary Stanley Kubrick, directing and painting a motion picture with tracking shots as harrowing as The Shining, and plenty of the old ultra-violence à la A Clockwork Orange. As Alex DeLarge himself would say: ‘Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh’.

The Gosling name will assuredly lure many into this neon nightmare, but it’s about as much of a Ryan Gosling film as No Country for Old Men is a Josh Brolin film. No, like Javier Bardem‘s minacious character in the Coen brothers classic, this is about Lieutenant Chang: the Angel of Vengeance, divine retribution personified – a supernatural performance from Vithaya Pansringarm.

Brevity is a double-edged sword. The ever-smouldering Gosling remains silently stoic, sulking for most of the film, effectively reprising his role from Drive and exhibiting another cool performance to cement his indie stardom. The depraved dialogue, however, greatly illuminates how underwritten the narrative and characters actually are. Ergo, to many it may seem almost obnoxious, a contrived stylisation which stubbornly refuses to conform to the conventions of other crime-thrillers, or indeed, reality.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and these characters are so very cold. Inhuman almost, like Dorian Gray himself. As a result. It’s not nearly as accessible as the adrenaline-fuelled Drive. The ending, meanwhile, is as abstruse as it is disappointing. Some might say it’s anticlimactic, but the film never quite builds enough impetus to suggest there should be a superior alternative.

Art – as impressionistic as it is subjective – a visual spectacle which inevitably polarizes and divides. As for Only God Forgives: is it pretentious? Certainly. Is it perfection? Certainly not. But only God could deny the fact that this is art. Not high art, necessarily, but art nevertheless.


Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine

After X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed to tear asunder everyone’s favourite clawed antihero, shredding him limb from limb with antiquated set pieces and the nonchalant walking away from explosions worthy of Hollywood’s worst B-movies, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this X-Man might finally hang up the claws once and for all.

Alas, the Wolverine returns. Following the death of telepath Jean Grey and dissolution of the X-Men, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now an unshaven recluse who finds himself amidst a feud in post-feudal Tokyo, upon greeting his old friend Yashida, whom he once saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Entrusted with protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from the Yakuza, a syndicate who are perhaps as unorganised as organised crime can be, this is big trouble in little Japan for our prickly protagonist.

Heed this warning: trailers beguile, for this is not the film many will be expecting. The premise that Wolverine’s healing ability has been removed is as redundant as it is short-lived, for Logan continues to slice and dice despite sustaining multiple gunshots and otherwise fatal blows. “‘Tis but a scratch,” the Black Knight from Monty Python would attest, and it’s as hard as ever to care about the self-destructive mutant, whose only threat of danger is a blunt minute or two during the climax of this edgeless escapade.

This wounded mortal’s most mortal wound, however, is the 12A rated leash bound tightly round his neck, stifling and suffocating the Wolverine, rendering him as vicious as a common housecat, as he is prevented from afflicting any degree of satisfying damage to his enemies. The lack of authentic mutilation and lacerations again leaves a pang of disappointment, as many will be left unsatisfied and thirsting for the blood that his adamantium appendages deserve. With a love interest as cold as his skeletal core, and a thoroughly uninspired and terribly brief appearance from the Silver Samurai adding insult to injury, it’s a truly dull affair.

Unfortunately, yet another solid performance from Jackman entrusted with a few sharp jokes sewn into this average adventure cannot suture the sense that Knight and Day director James Mangold has opened old wounds. Such a shame, really, considering the previous instalment to this superhero series propelled X-Men from second rate to First Class, regenerating the fast-paced fights and excellent character development that mutated in X2. Given there is a distinct lack of Ryan Reynolds, however, and some rather enjoyable (albeit formulaic) action sequences throughout, it’s still better than Origins. But then, most films are.

Indeed, it’s interesting that a film so preoccupied with death should condemn this uninteresting antihero to life support once more.


Review: Monsters University


What’s that coming over the hill..?

Some people might argue that sequels are inherently fated to fail, forever doomed by the success of the original and inescapably lingering in their predecessor’s shadow. But for every Grease 2 and Speed 2: Cruise Control, there’s The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back. Pixar rather emphatically quashed such suggestions with Toy Story 2 and 3 – two sequels which (arguably) are as good, if not better than their animated ancestor. But is Pixar’s second monster mash a dead cert smash?

Pixar’s first prequel, Monsters University is an origin story of University adversity: when Mike met Sulley. Michael “Mike” Wazowski has dreamed of being the scariest scarer at Monsters, Inc ever since he was a little monster. Now a scare major, who isn’t majorly scary, Mike begins University and meets James P. “Sulley” Sullivan – a furry, blue giant who is riding the coattails of his family’s name. After suffering setbacks due to their fierce rivalry, Mike and Sulley must work together as they compete in the Scare Games, a frightening mini-Olympics. And with one huge, shiny eye on the prize, Mike assembles a bunch of mismatched monsters and devises scare tactics to give his fraternity a leg, paw and tentacle up on the competition.

The film just screams beauty; it’s a florid canvas dripping with a profusion of vivid colours and glorious textures and shapes. Some monsters ooze charm, others ooze wit, whilst some just simply ooze. And with an abundance of voice actors who are every bit as dynamic as these creatures great and small, from Billy Crystal and John Goodman, to Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion, it’s as animated as animation can be. It truly is a resplendent realisation of Pixar’s imagination, which frequently tugs on the heartstrings, and is surprisingly even a little scary at times.

Unfortunately, the problem with Monsters University lies in this fact: whilst fans of the original might have matured over time, the plot and characters have regressed, and despite many amusing instances, it doesn‘t quite register the amount of laughter that powered the cinemas and the world of Monsters, Inc the first time round. And considering where Pixar left the story in 2001, it just doesn’t seem a logical narrative advancement. Instead, it almost undermines the former’s moralistic ending – when Monsters, Inc became Feel Good Inc – and the lack of the adorable little Boo is sorely evident.

But fear not, it is by no means abominable. Although Monsters University isn’t as incredible as The Incredibles, and doesn’t ascend to the lofty, heartbreaking heights of Up, it’s still miles better than Cars 2 and the usual kiddie flick, making for some solid family entertainment which children will adore.


Review: This Is the End


Apocalypse now seems to be the modus operandi in Hollywood these days, with Oblivion and World War Z both authenticating Earth’s demise with some outstanding visual effects, whilst trailers for Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s latest Cornetto collaboration The World’s End are duly circulating meanwhile. Ergo, it’s not surprising that people might expect Seth Rogen’s apocalyptic black comedy to be a lazy attempt at milking the same proverbial cash cow. But quite the contrary, This Is the End is one hell of a funny movie.

Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen play Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen, two old friends and fellow thespians who are enjoying a chemically-enhanced reunion in Los Angeles, and decide to attend a house-warming party held by James Franco (played by James – well, you get the picture). A raucous affair, this is a twisted Gatsby-esque party, playing host to a plethora of famous faces. From Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, to Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and even Rihanna, this is an outrageous drug-fuelled cocktail of well-known celebrities; it’s a who’s who of comedy’s finest (and Emma Watson), and everybody’s playing themselves. Oh, and what better to warm a house-warming party, than the great fires of hell itself.

Evan Goldberg has directed and produced some uproarious endeavours in recent years, from hilarious stoner films Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, to the bawdy coming-of-age classic Superbad, and This Is the End stands shoulder to shoulder with these comedy greats. Like Shaun of the Dead, it’s as meta as genre parodies can be, and with Seth Rogen taking joint (pun intended) helm with his directorial debut, you’ll be busting a gut as celebrity guts bust all over the Hollywood Hills. Indeed, as Jay, Seth, James and Jonah try to survive Judgement Day, at 106 minutes long, this superstar last supper is more flagrant with the deaths of big names than HBO’s Game of Thrones.

If you’re not a fan of Seth Rogen, don’t expect to be converted here. Like Superbad, it is crude, lewd and downright rude. A scorching barrage of one-liners and intertextual jibes, supplemented with enough gore, drugs and sexual references to ensure eternal damnation for each of the protagonists. Naturally, a few jokes are hit-and-miss, and it’s thoroughly immature, but for most fans, this is not the end of the world.

Like the biblical book referenced throughout, This is the End is a revelation, and a testament to Rogen’s comedy prowess. It is devilishly witty, and frequently side-splitting, both on and off the screen. An inspired turn from Michael Cera, in particular, had the otherwise innocent actor snorting copious amounts of cocaine, and the audience snorting out loud. And with some divine CGI and a heavenly cameo at the end to boot, this is a highly recommended watch.

Well I’ll be damned – who’d have thought the rapture could be so sweet.


Review: World War Z


Dial Z for Zombies

Based (very loosely) on the 2006 Max Brooks novel of the same name, here lies Marc Forster’s take on the zombie genre. A genre well and truly done to – well – death. So the burning question that nobody asked remains: what does World War Z bring to this table of unimaginative set-pieces and brainless narratives? Very little, it would seem.

Producer Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. employee and doting husband and father who is drafted during a zombie pandemic of gargantuan proportions. Five minutes in, and the film begins promisingly, treating the audience to a fantastic exposition, demonstrating absolute pandemonium in Philadelphia as Gerry and his family fight through hordes of manic civilians. And thus, the premise is set: there are but 12 seconds of separation between the bitten and the biters. So far, so good.

Some horror films in the past have portrayed crowds of zombies, some even few and far between. Here we have masses, tidal waves of rabid bodies lurching forward ceaselessly, whilst others plummet from buildings like fleshy hail from the sky. It’s The Day After Tomorrow – zombie edition – and with the help of some surprisingly efficient CGI, it’s an impressive apocalyptic spectacle.

However, like the infected, the film suddenly appears to lose all sense of identity, especially during the latter half. Beginning as a conventional action-thriller, before mutating and manifesting as a survival horror more akin to 28 Days Later, this uneven pacing is undoubtedly representative of the troubled development of the film, and the ending, somewhat noticeably, appears tacked on: a severed appendage of post-production. Not to mention the fact that the plot will quickly eat away at fans of the novel, with an attention to its source material (or lack thereof) rivalling Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of I Am Legend.

To completely tear this film limb from limb would be unfair though; like The Day After Tomorrow, it is frequently entertaining. Despite prosaic supporting characters, such as Gerry’s escort soldier (who can’t help but channel Natalie Portman circa V for Vendetta), and enough generic conventions to make you groan louder than the crazed undead, it is a solid performance from Pitt, who carries friends, family, and indeed the whole film, offering salvation in light of its many flaws.

To suggest that such a genre deserves to stay dead and buried, like the ever-present Paranormal Activity series, isn‘t totally necessary. Indeed, the recent Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us proved to be a breath of fresh air, delivering harrowing realism and peerless character interaction like an emotional shotgun to the head. Unfortunately, World War Z manages to dig this genre a deeper grave with this gutsy, but ultimately banal attempt, best summarised in the style of The Simpsons’ Troy McClure:

I hate every zombie film I see,
From World War A to World War Z