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Medal of Honor

A good shot, but a bit buggy.
Medal Of Honour returns and, with all the trailers and build-up we'd seen, with some panache too... ah but if only.

For the most part, the MOH reboot is a decent effort - an in-depth and heartfelt story more about the soldiers; their brotherhood; inter-dependence and, what we all came for, their sheer bad assery, than it is all-out Michael Bay action like your now annual Call of Duty releases.

Going up against the Taliban in dust-filled villages, treacherous rocky mountains etc etc and not being able to see where the shots are coming from is, at first, overwhelming and a little frightening but then it gets all too frustrating, all too quickly once you realise EA might have gone a -little- far with it when it comes to not being able to see more than 50 feet ahead of yourself (see mission: Belly of the Beast).

Sure, having actual Tier 1 operators on board with the development has helped add an entire new perspective to show you'll view FPSs for some time - new military lingo you've never heard before, some absolutely crackin' stealth-based missions (still don't quite top Modern Warfare's "All Ghillied Up" or World At War's "Vendetta" though...) and a few other touches really make the game feel a little more filled out than most military shooters but it's around this point where the pros end and the cons start to show.

Despite an otherwise brilliant (yet short) campaign and story to boot, there are a lot of bugs in this game. Hit detection, even in offline single player, can be off several times. Sometimes your squad won't move forward even if you do so first. The cover system physics are slightly off at some points, exposing yourself during major firefights - a particular annoyance when playing through on Tier 1 Mode where there are no checkpoints. You die, you restart.

As for the multiplayer, it's about as clichéd as any other FPS online nowadays. You play objective games, you get a team full of idiots more obsessed with getting a killstreak going than a little thing called "winning", you play straight up deathmatch, you get a match full of 85% snipers, 9% random campers and 1% runners'n'gunners who, in the end, are the sole reason anyone gets anything done in those matches.

It can be fun if you land yourself in a good lobby which, unfortunately, is all down to luck. Surely by now developers could simply integrate some system whereby only people who want to get an objective can play the objective games and base matchmaking on well, actually 'matching' players to equals. Sounds absurd I know...

Tl;dr version: Good singleplayer, good story, silly bugs cause great annoyances. Multi is good so long as you get good opponents and not KD whores.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

The Force Unrealised
Ahhh, yes, another entry into the ever-growing and seemingly endless canon of Star Wars related video gaming and all of its hit or miss nature. Although, that's where the true challenge in reviewing this game lies; for all its hits there are misses. It doesn't swing one way or another. It's kinda just… there.

The plot is actually the only driving force behind this game once you get past, say, the first five levels. Vader and his secret apprentice Starkiller (which was Luke Skywalker's original name – surrogate son, anyone?) are continuing the work of Palpatine in hunting down and exterminating all Jedi under Order 66 post-Episode III. The reason you're a secret apprentice goes with what Yoda says in Episode I about "Always two there are, a master and an apprentice, no more, no less", and mostly because if Palpatine found out he'd kill both Starkiller and Vader… Air-knee-way, Vader tells Starkiller he wants his help in overthrowing the Emperor so the two of them can rule the galaxy, yada, yada, yada and you are sent out on several missions to help train you in taking on the biggest baddest Sith of them all via many, many Jedi encounters.

You naturally start off with very little power and a whole lot less skill. But as with most Star Wars games, the more you play, the more you unlock and the more powerful you get. Force Lightning, Grip, Throw, Pull, Repulse, and so on are all very entertaining unlockables but the game seriously lags as soon as you play past the first few levels. It becomes samey all too soon. You find it too easy to simply blast away Stormtroopers and when it comes to finishing off the Jedi you are actually accompanied with on-screen hints on what buttons to press. Challenge? There ain't much of one.

Also, there are some God-awful levels/planets you visit which you are then sent back to at a later date. As if the developers were trying to make an amazing Star Wars game only to bail out and say "Here, go to this crappy psychedelic mushroom planet again, we can't be arsed." Now I am admittedly a Star Wars fanboy, but frankly I cannot even entertain the idea of picking up the controller again now that I've finished this. It drags on and as I stated before – it's the plot more than the gameplay that you'll be interested in.

Given, the game looks beautiful. The graphics bring the Star Wars universe to life brilliantly and there are some great parts to this game such as the teaser trailer Star Destroyer sequence you get to play out, some of the more elaborate combo moves and Force powers, but at the end of the day this feels like a rushed draft more than anything. For what it could have been after all the hype and anticipation, The Force Unleashed is ultimately The Force Unrealised. Although the revelations in the plot which are canonical to the film series make it worth finishing just so you can enjoy some pleasant ironies on the Empire's behalf.

Apart from that, it's a one-play game.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

A fair cop
Ah yes, another remake. But before you pull out the old stake and flames, allow me to try and sway your mind on this one.Okay, given, the original is considered a classic. A milestone in sci-fi entertainment. But it is by no means untouchable, or as so many laud it to be, a masterpiece by any rights. And this update is probably less cheese- ridden than its 1951 source material. I mean let's face it: everyone has seen a sci-fi film from the '50s and they aren't exactly the best that the wide world of cinema has to offer. In the '60s Kubrick topped everything with 2001: A Space Odyssey; the '70s belonged to Close Encounters and Star Wars; the '80s saw Blade Runner, The Fly, Predator and Terminator; while the '90s offered Terminator II: Judgment Day, Starship Troopers, Event Horizon, eXistenZ and of course The Matrix; and the '00s gave us Sunshine, Transformers, Children Of Men, Casshern, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, Signs and even last year's I Am Legend to fill our palate. All the while, the Alien franchise ran through the last four decades. So in light of this, a little touch up on a now out of date concept is forgivable. Especially since those damn Ruskies aren't threatening us any more.

The plot sees a group of strange spherical objects coming to Earth, one which is Keanu Reeves' Klaatu's ride into town, and the ensuing awe and wonder-slash-panic they induce thereafter. Upon interrogation he informs the people of Earth of an impending attack. But this is no classic alien invasion. Unlike War Of The Worlds, or Independence Day, they don't just turn up and start frying folk. No, good Klaatu gives the people a reason for it. In the original it was because of the hostilities of man – Cold War syndrome, much? – but seeing as it has been a far while since the fall of the Berlin wall, a slight change of plot devices is necessary. His reason is this: he is a friend of the Earth, he's out to look after it, but humans are too busy destroying it and there are only so many planets which can support life in the universe, so the human race which has been watched my Klaatu and his kind for many years to see if they change their attitude are now next on the to-be-extinct list. But Jennifer Connelly's Helen is adamant that people can change and begs with Klaatu to change his mind and while he can't see the better things in people and sets about planning the extermination (the spheres actually turn out to be something like mini-Noah arks which protect the planets animals while its other inhabitants will be dying) she takes it upon herself to become the sole saviour of mankind in showing him that they can change, that they will, and they'll be no need to wipe them out.

Reeve's plank-blank face makes him perfectly cast as someone trying to act human. His performance turns from confusion and unease at being in a human body, to disgust at the human race for being so negligent, and eventually to that of pity which makes him mankind's redeemer (God/Christ parallels, anyone?). He is very cool and calculated, always in control, even when you think he's not he finds a way – witness his escape from federal custody for more details. Meanwhile, Connelly turns in a tough, determined woman, Hell-bent on showing the good in people to our alien visitor and his giant robotic friend GORT who does most of the dirty work. But it essentially Klaatu who is the more identifiable character here. He might be an alien, he might be wanting to destroy every last sole on the planet, but when you look at why, you can't help but agree. The update from Cold War fear to environmentalism is a daring step for the crew but it feels less patronising than some may think. Klaatu and GORT may be the interstellar equivalent of militant tree huggers but at least they're doing what they believe in with some gusto.

Visually, the film is a spectacle. The move from any kind of classic UFO form is a wise one, to step aside from those corny clichés, and as stated above they do have their Biblical connotations as they protect from the forthcoming flood (or nanobots which eat everything) from GORT which, when they're released, are quite a sight to behold. As for GORT "himself", a God-knows-how-tall mechanical meany who looks very humanoid; his glowing strip of an eye and sheer power is enough to put the willies up anyone.

In conclusion, and not really caring what the original fanboys want to say about it ("Oh my Gawwwddddd, boycott it!" – yeah, dudes, try something else, because boycotting only gets something more publicity) this reviewer at least will give you an unbiased opinion on a film which, yes, isn't the most original one you might see this year (or next), but its certainly one that'll entertain many an audience.

Read more film reviews at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

The Animatrix

A must for any Matrix fan.
If anyone was left thinking this was just another attempt to make money from the hugely successful film franchise then they can think again. This collection of nine ten-minute long films serves a far greater purpose than to just line the Wachowskis' pockets that little bit more. They go from filling the gap between the first and second film, to telling us, in detail, how it all came to be like this, to how different people escape from the matrix in their own personal ways, to glitches in the system and how some humans try tactics different to all out offensive in their part fighting the war. The collection runs for 90 minutes and each film is different to the next not from just plot but to style, approach and narrative too. Each director brings their own personal touch and their own ideas of The Matrix to the screen with them and it pays off tremendously where many collaborative film collections have usually fallen short and / or been abandoned due to creative conflicts. This is more than just synergy at work here; the Wachowskis are trying to share more of their fantastic creation with us, and giving other directors the chance to help them. While the anime idea was a move which has proved a little niche, but extraordinary all the same.

In conclusion, The Animatrix is a great expansion on the mystery and awe surrounding the matrix and its origins, without completely throwing it out there and still keeping some cards to play later and things for us to find out ourselves yet, the Wachowskis are undoubtedly two of the most gifted creative minds in the film world today. Who else has a franchise so celebrated and brimming with awe and wonder which still feels fresh no matter how many times you watch it? George Lucas can wipe away that hopeful smile on his face for sure, because that title belongs to Larry and Andy Wachowski, and rightfully so. Their ability to even apply their film's ideas to things otherwise outside of it is an inspiring achievement and further cements them as surely some kind of demi-gods of cinema. The fact that they have still got fresh and interesting ideas means we could very well have The Matrix around for a lot longer than anyone first anticipated.

Read the full review (with an in-depth look at each film/episode) at http://www.broken-sky.org/raw/?page_id=291

Dalkomhan insaeng

Give your mind that well deserved break from the rest of what Korea has to offer and gorge yourself silly with this.

Sun-Woo is a protagonist with some credibility. He might be cool, calm, sophisticated and fully capable of killing your face off, but he's also admirably flawed. Inexperienced in the use of firearms. A little too sure of himself, resulting in trouble. But a man who will still see things through to the end no matter what.

Kim Ji-Woon's direction is a spectacle to behold. The action as bloody and relentless as is to be expected of Korea's cinema. And still dotted with that dark dark humour. It might be a little far fetched but there are plenty of explanations (theories) as to why, and the fact that the ending is open to your own personal interpretation means you can enjoy this on any level. Be it for the brain-dead action-fest it is, or for the deeper, more significant and symbolic meanings behind it too.

Lee Byung-Hun's turn as the reluctant but fully capable mob man is a nice twist on what has come to be expected of the genre, and then some. This is a breath of fresh air for the gangster action flick and a wholly commendable one at that.

It's been compared to the likes of Scorsese, DePalma and Tarantino, and rightfully so, but it keeps itself rooted very firmly in its own credibility. With just a few nods to these Western influences.

Seek it out. You won't be disappointed.

Read the full review (as well as many more film, music, book and game reviews) over at wrawreviews.co.uk


Beautiful, moving, and as challenging as any of other Park films
So, Park Chan-wook, creator of the visually and psychologically arresting Vengeance Trilogy, the chilling short Cut and military mystery thriller J.S.A. has adopted a new approach for his latest instalment: the romantic comedy. This is not to say he has gone off his game however. He is still very much on top of it and further cementing his reputation as one of Korea's most original, provocative and sought after film makers. And after making so many films set within the darker corners of the human soul, a little light heartedness is not only welcomed by the man himself, but critics and fans alike.

Now, some more conservative types may find drawing humour from the mentally ill a little touchy but Park handles it with surprising care and avoids stereotypes. Instead of paranoid delusionists/suicidal depressives/schizophrenics he gives us far more interesting and playful characters. The woman whose night socks give her ability of flight after lights out. The singer who's adamant to get into the Swiss choir after years of practising. And the male lead, Il-Soon, a young man with thieving tendencies due to a fear of shrinking into a dot if he does nothing. But he's no ordinary thief. He steals peoples' manners, peoples' table tennis games, and even manages to make off with an entire Thursday… "Damn he's good", Young-goon admires.

Albeit an unconventional love it is somewhat more worthy than those of Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, and can leave the viewer feeling upbeat and moderately happy and secure in contrast to the ultra-provocative catalogue he has behind him. Beautifully acted, and on a par which many Western rom-coms will fall miserably and embarrassingly short of, I'm A Cyborg is inventive, lovely, cute and slightly soppy… But That's OK.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

Chinjeolhan geumjassi

Considering that during the press release for Oldboy a journalist asked Park why he was making a second film revolving around revenge right after Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and he had said on a whim, as a quick retort, that he was in fact planning on making a trilogy, this was always going to be his obligatory film of the three. More of a fulfilment to the critic vultures who would've torn him apart than a true 'conclusion' to the loosely fitted trilogy. Lady often feels rushed in its execution. Although this is not to say it is completely without merit. It does, undeniably, provide us with the more visually pleasing of the three films with incredibly innovative editing and a keen cinematography which could almost make up for the rest of the film's short comings. Almost.

The plot rotates around, for a nice change, the female protagonist Geum-ja who has spent the last thirteen years in prison taking the rap for a crime committed by the shady Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame). In the process her daughter is placed in care and kiddie fiddler / ransom-er Baek appears to have gotten off scott free. But those thirteen years spent on the inside have been far from assuming for Geum-ja. Seen through flashbacks and voice over, we are shown that while she may have made a reputation as a kind hearted angel, she has actually been devising a master plan of revenge. But alas! Someone turns up and re-enters Geum-ja's life which throws everything – her majestic plan of revenge, the meticulous plotting of it – into compromise. Reunited with her daughter after thirteen years – who is now living in Australia with adoptive parents – Geum-ja seems to lose some drive to avenge the time spent in prison. She faces a dilemma: if she goes ahead with the plan then what chance of reconciliation she has with her daughter will be lost, but if she doesn't then how can she ever justify to herself the thirteen agonising years she has used to plan payback only to pull out of it now? The actual revenge, which, ultimately, is what the audience want to see, takes a back seat. And when it does come – bloody and merciless with hands and big toes blown off after a foiled kidnap attempt ignites Geum-ja's maternal instincts – she gives it to the parents of other children killed by Baek. Almost like it is her obligation. Like she herself is Park's obligation to fulfil a rash statement made thoughtlessly.

Admitted, Lady Vengeance does deal with some tough issues – child abduction, ransom and murder – like its predecessors did with black market organ trade and incest, but you come away feeling that if Park had not been so forthcoming in that interview then this could have been a far more fitting 'conclusion' to the incredible Sympathy and Oldboy – the films he will no doubt be remembered for in years to come. Instead we are left with a mediocre film at best, which does have some memorable parts and seethes with that same dark humour of Park's we've seen so much of already, but really Ms. Geum-ja, you are too kind hearted for this kind of job.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Incredible, breathtaking.
Total Film gave it five stars, calling it "a masterpiece". Empire: the same, whilst commenting on how "extraordinary and visionary" it is. And The Daily Telegraph say is it "magnificent, one of the year's best". The bar has been set high for humble reviewer such as myself to write something different and worthy of reading.

Where to start is a hard task. The cinematography is on such a level of extraordinary exquisiteness and diversity that it deserves its own review by itself. Beautifully shot, the film travels along old dusty roads, smoke filled towns, solitary rail roads with engulfing steam and the endlessly stretching hillsides of the old West which alternate in their splendour from snow covered to fruitful. The violence, although tame and sparse throughout the two and half hour run time, is unforgiving in its depiction and the dialogue, of both the actors and the omnipresent voice-over, is beautiful, poetic and lyrical ("insomnia stained his eyes like soot") and weaves a story so detached from Hollywood, you'd have trouble believing this was indeed of the American cinematic machinery.

As for the acting. Well, wow. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck take the eponymous title roles respectively. The young, stammering Ford, who is all nerves around his idol, holds a sinister look in his eyes and when he says he knows he is fated to do great things the tone of the film is reset time and again, growing darker and more edgy as the titular event draws nearer. Pitt, in possibly his finest role since "Fight Club" or "Twelve Monkeys", is absolutely fantastic but no amount of praise could truly capture how well he embodies a man fallen from the top of his game, knowing where his enemies are, to the untrusting, suspecting paranoid wreck he eventually becomes.

Despite the title of the film, the build up to James' death is still tense through out. And when it does happen, a wave of hatred and depression hits the viewer at how coldly and cowardly it is done. Pitt's performance not only draws out our sympathy with a scalpel with the depiction of a man broken but Ford's cowardice helps to do nothing but exaggerate it. The man who dies is not just Brad Pitt: The Actor, but moreover Brad Pitt: Jesse James mark II.

Everything about this film is perfect. Those that do hack it out can rejoice, however, in having just witnessed one of the greatest films of the year and one which will no doubt live on for years and become an undisputed classic.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk


The restored edition. Not the crappy studio edit.
The first time I saw Alien 3 I thought it was the best one of the entire franchise. So when I saw this two disc special edition in a shop and bought it I expected to see the classic Alien 3 I fell in love with at the beginning. What I didn't really expect was the added parts and how much they stick out from the original cut I'd grown so used to seeing over the years. Fincher's everlasting attention to detail is evident early on in his career but his ability to make the norm a menace is showcased even here. Alien 3 is, on the surface, just the next chapter is Ellen Ripley's nightmare encounters with a xenophobic alien with acid for blood and a taste for carnage, but look deeper and you'll see there is so much more to it. This film is so much darker than the other three in the sense that there is the human element which makes it so much more… sinister. These rapists, murderers and so on that Ripley finds herself amongst adds to the already high tension of the movie. The exploration of the human psyche and its elements is an aspect which is becoming more and more closely regarded with Fincher's cinema, perhaps even paramount to it.

Charles Dance's excellent turn as a the prison doctor and love interest is soon destroyed by a regretful confession of his past whereby he killed for joy and sets a tough benchmark to be beaten. And, like the first two films, there is the obvious sense of sexism lurking amongst the men, when Ripley proclaims an alien is with them she is shrugged off and kept in solitary.

With all of this going on, it is easy to see what Ripley faces in this third chapter as she is not only pitted against the xenomorph once again but first she must convince the men there is indeed an alien with them, as well as survive the lusts of these very same men whom have not set their eyes on a woman in the flesh for years…

Alien 3 is, undoubtedly, the true sequel to Ridley Scott's terrific first instalment, unlike Aliens which merely attempted to up the ante and better the original, Fincher's debut actually lives up to it and keeps it within the Alien realm but takes it elsewhere too.

Although in the strictest use of the term this version isn't actually David Fincher's "director's cut" of the film, this extended and restored version gives it more than enough justice and authorship so deserved of Fincher. Although nowadays, thanks to the precious medium of special edition DVDs, those visions can be seen unhampered, unadulterated and in their true, original and intended forms. Which, when you see the slightly altered scene of Ripley's self sacrifice at the end which doesn't have that God-awful clutching of the alien as she plunges herself into the molten iron in some laughable attempt at heroism, you'll be bloody well thankful for.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

Jurassic Park III

One minute you're marvelling at the advancements in technology, the next you're frowning at how shoddy it is
This film is so dire that I found myself writing this review before I'd even reached the halfway point, I was reminded of just how bad it is. There is one thing this film suffers from more than any other of its drawbacks, and that is a disease amongst the film industry known simply as Badfilmmakingitis. What, pray tell, could have caused this? And what are its symptoms? They differ from film to film.

Symptom # 1: A clear knowledge that this island holds no real danger towards our heroes. Symptom # 2: The broken family which pulls together for the happy ending. Symptom # 3: Continuity errors regarding its predecessors. Symptom # 4: One word: overkill. Symptom # 5: That God-awful and down right ridiculous idea to have the satellite phone ringing from inside the Spinosaurus-a-gypsy-curse. Symptom # 6: Deciding to cast All Out Action in favour of Tension. Symptom # 7: The family friendly rating and content.

If there's actually just one good thing to take away from this film it is this: the creatures themselves. Ingen's bad doings have been giving us resurrected dinosaurs since 1993 and with each outing they've looked better and better. They have been created quite beautifully in a mix of practical props and CGI fabrications. Their movements are undeniably majestic, even at their most hectic. But it is not enough to recover from the hour and half you'll undoubtedly feel somewhat insulted after. The raptors have lost that aura of pure menace they once had (who can forget ANY of their scenes in 1 and 2?!) and when they're not being chased by the punkosaurs, our band of 'heroes' are up against the new 'big boy on the block' ol' Spiney-back. These dinosaurs seem they're more from the ASBO generation of harassment than 65 million years ago, causing such provocative hassle for our cast within just ninety minutes.

There is too much wrong with this film and although a few of the DVD special features provide some 'excuses' concerning the drastic change, it doesn't redeem the fact that it has detracted from the mysterious magic and awe of its forerunners. You can't help cheer at that agreeable punch Neill delivers to Macy after he realises he's been fooled, like us, into going onto that island again.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk


And this is why European cinema needs more recognition.
A powerful and daring picture, Black Book could have opened up some very old and painful wounds in its native Holland but instead was received with critical appraise, and is thoroughly celebrated as an appreciative look at the war torn times of WWII and the ends people would go to in order to stay alive.

After her family is slaughtered by Nazis, Jewish Rachel Stein (von Houten) joins the Dutch resistance hoping to have a hand in the downfall of the occupation. Seeing as she has nothing much left to live for she takes a life threatening task – infiltrate the Nazi base by befriending and seducing a commanding officer (Koch) and then leak information to the rebels on the outside. But, as these things tend to be like, it isn't that simple and soon enough lines are blurred, mistakes made and most of all Rachel falls for her Nazi boyfriend Muntz… While their friendship and love blossoms on the inside, the rebels outside slowly grow assured that she has betrayed them and joined the Nazis and as she becomes a marked woman (due to one bastard officer who 'frames' her), both her and Muntz gradually move to a death sentence at the hands of their respective parties. The lines between good and bad are blurred irrevocably, and rather ingeniously in this film as the freedom fighters Rachel works for are made out to be savage bastards who will kill anyone if they meet even the slightest of loggerheads whom you grow to detest when in actual fact you'd think you'd be supporting them and sympathy for Muntz, for a German Nazi officer, rolls in, as it becomes clearer that he has lost faith in the war effort – or even had any to begin with – and he hopes to escape with Rachel to live out the rest of the war in peace in the countryside.

For Paul Verhoeven, the driving force behind such tripe as Total Recall and Starship Troopers, this is a fantastic and surprisingly mature step in a promising direction and carries echoes of such great war films as Wolfgang Peterson's epic Das Boot where the human spirit is studied and incorporated into German officials of the era in favour of typecast "Nazi = evil" representations. By creating a contrast in who's who in the war and who to root for, as well as making their characters so heavily tainted in grey there is no black and white way of looking at these people, Verhoeven has crafted a piece of cinema which is challenging yet merciful and surely a must-see for anyone who is sick of Hollywoodisations of the war.

Read more film reviews at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

Chapter 27

Good, but...
Over the years Mark Chapman has changed his reasoning for his actions. These range from being obsessed with a book (The Catcher In The Rye) so much that he thought himself as the main character who saw phoneys everywhere whom he had to kill without choice; to the classic "voices in the head" syndrome; even right down to just wanting some attention and recognition for something he had done. Well the phrase "be careful what you wish for" could only be applied so righteously to few other men.

This relatively short film (a mere 80 minutes) incorporates two of the above reasons, and as we see Chapman (Jared Leto, almost unrecognisable under waves of body fat and a Georgia accent) in the three days leading up to Lennon's death, it becomes clear pretty early on that this guy did not have all his marbles upon arriving State-side from Hawaii. He has a distinct and direct distaste for many of the people he comes across – laughing in their faces at things they say, becoming hostile or just plain ignoring them – while an unnerving voice over provides a retrospective look back at the events as Chapman recalls them from his cell. Amidst rants about homosexuals, perverts and other undesirables as well as the phoneys of Hollywood, he waltzes around his room practicing gun drawing and concealment while he goes on about being "a normal guy, not like these lot".

The slow decay of Chapman's mind builds toward a reminiscence of Robert DeNiro's incredible turn in Taxi Driver, but this is so much more gruelling and engaging and, essentially, terrifying. Because this is the man who killed John Lennon. He is not an actor playing in front of the camera. He is planning out how to do it and the anxiety of what is to come becomes nigh on unbearable.

So you can see that Chapter 27 captures a twisted, tortured mind artistically and fully, and tries to make sense of the actions it took; Leto's acting is impeccable (and no doubt a hard choice to play it considering the internet controversy the film caused) but you can't help but feel it was made solely for Lennon fans who want to see Chapman for more than the human being he is, they want to see a monster and that's what this film gives us, a man who got wrapped up in psychological troubles and made a mistake. A huge one, agreed. But Lennon is dead, and no amount of dehumanisation of his killer can change that. The finale is what people want to see this film for, the moment where the trigger is pulled; the reasons behind it are a secondary want. It's heartbreaking and depressing and enraging all in one, but if you ask Chapman now he'll tell you he doesn't know why he did it; and this film tells you the same: John Lennon was needlessly, pointlessly slaughtered and no one has a reason for it.

Read the full review and more at www.wrawreviews.co.uk

Funny Games

Gruelling, mesmerising, unforgivably a masterpiece.
A film which challenges the institution of violence inherent to cinema was never going to be an easy pill to swallow, and with Funny Games, Austrian auteur Michael Haneke makes damn sure that this is the case. Funny Games is so, so, so much more than simply entertainment. It quizzes you endlessly. It delves into why you'd want to watch something like this. Why you'd want to watch some pour souls suffer at the hands of torturous, teasing foes. Haneke provides a bleak, satirical reality check (leg wounds actually incapacitate, escape plans fail, the good guys don't always win) blasting with a side helping of irony. Breaking the sacred fourth wall of cinema which divides us from them, which keeps our worlds separate and safe, Frisch has several pieces to camera which shock and invoke contemplation. When they make the bet that by 9am the next morning the family will be dead he turns and asks "what do you think? Ah, you're probably on their side anyway aren't you?" and towards the end when Lothar, near to hysteria, asks why they're doing it and hasn't it been enough, Frisch retorts with not only some outrageous and, frankly, hilarious false reasons, but turns to us again asking "what do you think? Has it been enough? Surely you want a plot development?" Haneke took a wild chance by making a film as ballsy and pretentious as this but it pays of admirably. Towards the end you do find yourself questioning the violence in cinema, and while some may find they cannot make it to the end – which, Haneke has stated, means they have no need for this film, while those that stay do – we are finally delivered one Hell of a boot to the teeth which has been in the waiting since reel one.

This film is 100% gruelling, testing just how much you can take, it ups the ante to eleven and as the Haneke-helmed U.S. remake makes it to our screens this year it will undoubtedly be the original which will live on as the true masterpiece it is while the remake gets thrown onto the ever growing mound of Hollywood's failed attempts to incorporate into its own the far superior cinema of the wider world.

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Pretty interesting.
The trailers looked hit or miss. The dialogue an extension of blandness 101. Not to mention Christensen leading whose turn as a certain 'one to restore balance to the Force' bought about the downfall of the myth and brilliance of one of cinema's most iconic villains. From the get go this didn't look utterly thrilling or enticing. But I must protest. Nay sayers beware, this is an interesting and, admittedly, surprising little picture. Granted, Christensen cannot act. But we can get over that. And once we do, Jumper is just what to be expected from a Liman picture, creator of The Bourne Identity which set a new benchmark for the spy flick and the (albeit hollow) thoroughly entertaining comedic Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

I'm sure you all know by now but let's recap: young man realises he has the ability to teleport and so goes about living his life as he pleases. He robs banks, steals cars and bikes and countless other valuables. Knock, knock. Who is it? Convention? Who're you? Get outta here! I say, our protagonist appears to be no more than a thief who manipulates his supernatural gifts for use to his own ends. Gone are the ways of Spiderman, Superman, Daredevil and the X-men who use theirs for justice. This guy's in it for himself. What, ho?! It's little wonder then, that a group of Paladins wanna take this guy down along with his peers. Jackson – despite looking a bit daft with that hair – is actually quite disturbing as the man after Christensen. He has a coldness about him which lets you know he ain't much of the talking type. He shows a brutality which, I must admit, scares you if you're used to Jackson's more heroic roles. And the way he likes to taunt his victims with unreasonable, non negotiable preachings before plunging a knife into them is… well… hard as.

Of course, being a product of today's cinema there are twists and turns galore and an opening left for a follow up (which will undoubtedly then go on to trilogy-dom) and although most people say it's the originals that are always the best, I must declare that the successors will probably be so. This is just the set up. It gives us the back story, ties it in to historical events (witch hunting) but keeps enough cards close enough to its chest to still hold an air of mystery about it. It lays the brickwork for a small time battle finale but nothing spectacular and Jumper 2 will no doubt up the ante. In the mean time, whack this in your DVD player, switch your brain to 'off' and enjoy.

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Das Leben der Anderen

Finally, an amazing German film which isn't about Nazis
It is little wonder that this bleak tale of a government attempting to control everything begins in the magical year of 1984, a certain sequence of numbers which can not possibly be thought of without connotations of George Orwell's powerfully oppressive novel of totalitarian government monopolies – unlike you're a complete philistine who has been living under a rock since 1948 – and it's from this setting of mood that we can judge the rest of this amazing piece of cinema from. The first scenes see a prisoner of the state being interrogated for an entire day - no rest, no food, no drink, even no toilet, just questions – and it being spliced together, via cassette recordings of the questioning, with students attending a lecture on how to spot, arrest and bring out a confession from a person suspected of anti-Socialist behaviour. And who is their lecturer? Why no other than the interrogative bastard we've just seen verbally beat a man into submission. So, before we've even met our protagonist yet, and having been introduced to an agent so devout of his cause, we can't help but feel sorry for the man whom is going to come under twenty-four hour surveillance in an attempt to take him from the theatre world where his political plays are causing a fuss amongst the big wigs.

But that is not to say that this marvellous piece of cinema is completely without more humane elements. It is, after all, a study of these men and their incredibly differing characters. Of the man whose job it is to spy on the country's citizens and the man who writes plays with political undertones. And how their lives become so entwined (unbeknownst to the latter as he lives on in blissful ignorance of his surveillance) that his watcher starts to actually feel something. This character he watches and listens to provides him with so much depth, dimension and life he soon realises that this man has everything that his own life has been drained of in the years of his blind obedience to the state. And the question starts to bug him, then burn, before he finally goes about answering it: does he continue his duty to the state, his bosses and his job and just wait for enough evidence to arrest the man and throw him behind bars indefinitely to be subject to the endless questioning we've seen him capable of already? Or does he reassess his morals due to the humanity in this man that he misses – and almost seems to crave – and change daily reports from the surveillance tapes, microphones and cameras which will send the rest of his team off the trail, so there is not enough evidence to arrest him and so his quiet, intrigued voyeurism can continue? This film is cinema as its best for character depth, emotion and identification. A truly powerful piece of film, with an ending which pulls at the heartstrings at even the most toughened of cine-geeks. In a word: beautiful.

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Right at Your Door

Wholly original thriller. Edge-of-your-seat realism.
What can I say about this film?

It is certainly one of the most interesting films I have seen in recent months and most definitely already a favourite. It has everything a good, solid film needs: a disruption to the everyday equilibrium of life, the happily married couple / love interest story line and the ultimate threat that is laid upon them. And, as is ever common in contemporary cinema - a sting in the tail which left me speechless, and let me tell you that not many films have done that to me. (Either I've lived a sheltered film life or film fails to impress me, you decide.)

Not only does the plot revolve around the married couple and show the devastating effects of the "live-or-die" scenario it has on them; but it never trails away from the bigger picture: - the neighbour's handyman, little Timmy, Mary McCormack's family - everyone's story is told in one way or another and adds to the tension and emotional weight behind this fine film.

Both Mary McCormack and Rory Cochrane's performances are touching, IMO. Cochrane's initial confusion and agitated pacing stirs up the question of just HOW exactly would you react if you were in his shoes. McCormack's panicked return home and enraged denial at not being let in ask you if you could cope with your dearly beloved, infected and potentially lethal, sealed out of your home.

All in all this film will slowly but surely gather a somewhat cult following as it gets more and more exposure.

Enjoy the ride!

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