Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises review

So, here we have it, the finale of Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy.
After the astounding The Dark Knight, with its show stopping performance from the late Heath Ledger, could this film in any way live up to the hype?
The answer is yes. Yes it could. In fact, in places it even surpasses what Nolan et al achieved in the previous two movies.
I’m sure you all know the basic premise by now. This is set eight years after the events in The Dark Knight. Gotham is at peace, thanks to the sacrifice of Harvey Dent... but that is all about to change. A storm is approaching Gotham. A storm shaped like an unfeasibly pumped Tom Hardy as Bane.
We first meet him in the jaw dropping aerial opening scene, which was filmed here in the Highlands. But it is when he gets to Gotham that things really heat up, as he sets about his plan to dismantle the city.
While this is happening, Bruce Wayne, who has been moping about feeling sorry for himself, encounters a young lady called Selina Kyle and the shenanigans start there...
There has been a lot of talk about the running time of this movie, and it is a long one, make no mistake. However, Nolan manages to cram in a hell of a lot of plot into it. An awful lot happens. I would desperately love to tell you some of the things that take place, but I will not. I will not even hint obliquely about any of them, because there are some great surprises in here. Some I saw coming, some I did not.
I mentioned Bane and Tom Hardy earlier, and really should give him another nod here. Hardy has a hell of a task here, acting in a mask throughout the entire movie, and talking with an heavily distorted voice (which is actually not difficult to understand), but he manages to do all his acting with his eyes – projecting all his emotion through them. It is a show stopping performance.
Show stopping, but not the best in the movie. For my money, that honour goes to Michael Caine. Caine, as Alfred the butler, gets a couple of scenes early on in the movie that are very powerful. In the hands of a lesser actor they could easily have slipped from pathos into cliché and ham, but Caine is masterful in this.
In fact, every performance is brilliant. Bale, Oldman, Freeman and the rest all bring their best to the screen.
But, is this the last in the series..? Nolan and Bale both say yes, and if they are telling the truth, it is a fitting place to end things. But there are plenty of threads left hanging if they ever want to pick them up again. And I for one really hope that they do.
I went to see the movie at Eden Court, which as you know is the venue for Hi-Ex! each year.
Rather brilliantly, after the movie, the charity The Bat Protection League had a table set up. Now, from what I had just seen, I would suggest that bats are not in need of that much protection...
And go see the movie!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Doctor Who The Lost TV Episodes Vol4 review Pt3

The previous story, The Faceless Ones, ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and this story, The Evil of the Daleks, picks it up nicely. It is unusal to see a second story revisiting some of the locations of the previous one in this way, and makes for interesting listening.

We have some nice, but basic, detective work from the Doctor as he and Jamie track down their missing TARDIS, and with it uncover a deeper, more sinister, plot. I think you can guess who’s behind it by the title of the story…
While this is a highly entertaining adventure, I am curious (but not curious enough to look at the moment) as to what continuity nerds think of it. There is a lot in this story that flies in the face of the Dalek-lore that has went before in and come after, and I’m sure there are fans out there who don’t like that at all. Me? It doesn’t really bother me! Still, it’s interesting to see some of the ideas put forward here echoed and used to a great deal less effect in modern Who tales like Daleks of Manhattan.

What we get is the Second Doctor at the height of his powers; he is at his sarcastic and manipulative best here and poor Jamie is on the receiving end of a lot of it, but his inherent nobility and honesty are a joy to behold.
I would have dearly loved to see these shows ‘in the flesh’ as it where, because Hines and Troughton are just so good here…
Loved this.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Doctor Who Darkstar Academy review

This audio adventure from AudioGo sees the Doctor and his companions Rory and Amy in the very familiar surrounds of an English boy’s boarding school sometime in the mid twentieth century. There are, what I hope are, deliberate nods to The Family of Blood with things like armed schoolboys roaming the grounds.
Of course, this being Doctor Who, things are not what they seem and everything is not as it first appears. There is a pretty good twist in this, so I won’t ruin it here, although I almost did a second or two ago when I was going to write how it reminded me of a particular movie.
The story plays out nicely, and there are some genuinely creep monsters in it. I often think when listening to these that they would be cool to see on television,  but on this occasion, I suspect that the monsters would be one that would provoke a bit of an outcry from being too scary. (Rant coming on) This outcry would only come from a small amount of people, probably with no children themselves and who don’t actually watch the show and who have forgotten what it was actually like to be a child and the thrill of the safe scare on shows such as Doctor Who… but I digress!
It’s a solid story, and the characters are well written, with the Doctor getting some brilliant Doctor-y lines. The story is read by Alexander Armstrong, who also does a fine job, but it’s hard not to imagine it being read by Mr Smith the computer at times!
Another solid release from AudioGo.

Monday, 16 July 2012

XIII Three Silver Watches review

For many volumes now, Jean Van Hamme has been drip feeding us information about the mysterious past of his amnesiac spy XIII.
Well, thanks to a character we have recently met, this book goes a long way towards filling us in on a lot of information. Only… it doesn’t really.
Yes, there is an enormous amount of information imparted here, however it is not about XIII, but rather about his grandparents.
Because of this, there is a real danger that this book could just be two men sitting about talking to each other for the duration, and for the first few pages I thought that this would be the case and that the dynamic cover image was going to turn out to be a big fat lie. I need not have worried though. For while a lot of the book is indeed two men talking, they are talking on the way to foil an invasion or between fights, as Van Hamme breaks his backstory up with an action filled main narrative. A narrative that does indeed include fighter jets doing what fighter jets do best: blowing things up.
And it’s one of these scenes that gives us our most ludicrous and over the top set piece yet. It’s insane and brilliant all at the same time, and wouldn’t look out of place at the climax of a James Bond movie.
This is not the best XIII book, and it is certainly not one for a new reader to start with – they would be lost from the first page. And while it is text heavy and at times heavy going, if you are a fan of the series, it is utterly essential.
Oh, and that’s before I even get to the ending, which left me thankful that I have the next volume sitting on the too-be-read pile already!

Spartacus Legends - First trailer

Here at Hi-Ex! we are big fans of the series Spartacus, so we're really looking forward to this!

Spartacus Legends comes early 2013. Gamers will experience primeval gladiator moments, from training inside the ludus to brutal battles in the arena, all while striving to become a legend.

Featuring thousands of ruthless weapon combinations and a robust skill system, Spartacus Legends delivers a variety of tools for gamers to customize their gladiators and dismember their foes. Gamers will be able to fight as Spartacus, Crixus or one of their own created gladiators as they battle with friends offline or in online multiplayer to join the ranks on the worldwide leaderboards.

Liam McIntyre has been very involved with the Spartacus Legends team. In addition to allowing his likeness and voice to be featured, Liam, a big gamer himself, played early builds of the game and provided his creative feedback throughout the development process.

The Spartacus franchise (Gods of the Arena, Blood and Sand and Vengeance) airs in more than 150 countries and has been translated into 15 languages. In the United States, viewership for the show has grown with each season and is one of the highest rated cable series, with more than six million viewers watching each episode.

In the upcoming final season, Spartacus: War of the Damned, sees the return of Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Dan Feuerriegel (Agron), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) and Ellen Hollman (Saxa). They are joined by Todd Lasance in the role of Gaius Julius Caesar, along with Simon Merrells as Marcus Crassus. Spartacus is produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Sarah Jane Adventures Collection review

This box set of ten stand alone Sarah Jane Adventures adventures is, with the exception of the final two stories, narrated by the late Liz Sladen. And when listening, I couldn’t help but think that there may never come a time when the Who fan isn’t a little bit sad at hearing her voice.
As you would expect with a collection of this size, the stories vary somewhat in quality, but are, as a rule, always worth a listen.
There is a problem with the series as a whole though, that would not be apparent if listening to these, say, one a month or whatever their original release schedule was, but when listening to the back to back, this problem is easier to spot.
And it is this: far too many of these stories revolve around a plot that has one of the main characters either being hypnotised or taken over by some alien intelligence.
A lot of them are structured very similarly too, opening with an action scene then flashing back to show how the characters got there. This is not a bad way to build a story, but if used too often, it becomes weary.
As I said, the quality is generally very good. I won’t got into each of the tales individually, but my favourite was probably 'The White Wolf', which built a lovely atmosphere and had a genuinely intriguing plot.
Naturally, Sladen is superb at reading the tales and her enthusiasm and her love for the role, for the character of Sarah Jane Smith, comes through with every word.
The final two are narrated by Anjli Mohindra and Daniel Anthony, and they too make excellent work of the stories, and leave the listener with some hope that this series can perhaps find continued life here on CD and download with AudioGo.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Assassin's Creed 3 Independence Trailer

Very excited about this!
Cannot WAIT!

Iron Warriors Omnibus review

If you are a reader of Black Library novels, you will already be familiar with the name Graham McNeill. He is the author of many previous novels set in the Warhammer universe, including the bestselling Ultramarines series featuring the impossibly heroic Uriel Ventris.
This collection gathers together McNeil’s stories of the Chaos Marine chapter The Iron Warriors, which can be seen as a spin-off from the Ultramarines series. Each of the tales in this collection features the character Honsu.
Honsu is an interesting character. While he is cast as the arch enemy and opposite of Uriel, he has a streak of honour in him that suggests to this reader at least that they are not quite as diametrically opposed as they would like to think.
On the face of it the first story in this collection, the full length novel Storm of Iron, seems like an impossible task. It is the story of a castle siege, which doesn’t sound like something that could be sustained for a few hundred pages. Add to that the fact that your lead character and all his supporting cast are utterly Evil, I was expecting this to be a hard read.
How wrong I was! There is real tension in this book as McNeill flips the story between the Chaos Legion on the outside and the beleaguered Imperial Guard army within the walls.
Such is the skill of the writer I genuinely could not decide who I wanted to ‘win’ in the end, and found myself rooting for whatever faction I was reading about at the time, while simultaneously worrying what was happening to the other side.
After this comes the story The Enemy of my Enemy, which follows on nicely from this one, and allows us to visit some of the characters from the novel and see what happened next for them, after the rather bloody ending to Storm of Iron.
I’ll not break each story down here, but I will say that each of them is excellent. The novella Iron Warrior and the final story in the collection, are particularly good, and the latter leaves the reader desperate for more.
McNeil says in his forward that he doesn’t think he’s finished with this character yet, and I for one am looking forward to reading what he gets up to next.