Pacific Rim (2013) Review

Prepare yourself, no really, DO IT.

Prepare yourself, no really, DO IT.

Today at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time.  We have chosen to believe in each other!  Today we face the monsters that are at our door, today we are cancelling the apocalypse!

Giant Mechs? Check. Giant Monsters? Check. Failure to blink due to the sheer amount of visceral action on-screen? Check. I sit here finding this review to be the hardest to write. Not because I can’t make my mind up over the movie, but because all I want to do right now is watch Pacific Rim again. I want to feel the rush again. If a movie could ever be classed as a drug, this is it, and I want more.

My most anticipated movie of the year, Pacific Rim is finally here. From instantly falling in love after seeing the first trailer, to being tortured with each trailer released since then, I could hardly contain my excitement as I sat awaiting the movie to start. Not only can you count on Guillermo del Toro to create a fantastic movie, but with a cast just as strong, Pacific Rim was always destined for greatness. Many may argue that it delivers nothing but mindless action and a shallow story, clearly made for children. However, if you want to simply be entertained this summer, then nothing will quite match the level of Pacific Rim.

To combat the giant Kaiju that have emerged from a portal in the sea, a special type of weapon, called Jaegers are created. Controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge, this is mankind’s violent and effective answer to the Kaiju. But even then the Jaegers are proving nearly defenceless in the face of the relentless Kaiju assault. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to their last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

Headlining this movie is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, a Jaeger pilot with a tragic past. For an actor that I’ve not seen much, I was pleasantly surprised with his performance. He delivers on all fronts, being a sympathetic, tragic, but awesome Jaeger pilot. He doesn’t go overboard into the typical action hero role, making for a lead character I liked. Idris Elba plays Stacker Pentecost, a Jaeger pilot from the early days of the war turned commander. Everything he touches is gold, and it’s no different here. Idris Elba is a fantastic actor and thankfully he gets plenty of screen time, with some of the best dialogue in the whole movie. Charlie Day is another personal favourite of mine and here he’s playing Dr.  Newton Geiszler, a scientist with a big interest in the Kaiju and how they work and think. As expected, his character is very much the comic relief of the movie and Charlie Day does what he does best, delivering a laugh in each he occupies.

As for the rest of the cast, Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori, someone with a tragic past and a vengeful hatred towards the Kaiju. She fits in as a great companion to Charlie Hunnam’s character, with a strong relationship being built throughout the course of the movie. Ron Perlman also makes an appearance as the fantastically named Hannibal Chau. I wanted more of his character in the movie, and it’s a shame we don’t get to learn more about him and his past. One slight misfortune about Pacific Rim is the lack character development for the rest of the Jaeger pilots. They’re so interesting but we get little to no information on them, this was definitely needed as the Jaegers started to fall, lessening the impact of their loss.

Guillermo del Toro has some great work behind him, perhaps my favourite being Pan’s Labyrinth. But his work with the Hellboy licence was fantastic and his attempt at a Blade movie with Blade II wasn’t too bad either. Pacific Rim easily exceeds all his past work however. It truly is evident this is was his passion project. Just from watching the movie, you can see that he loved making every single part of it. If the ideas where there, I believe he’d happy making many more Pacific Rim movies in the future.

As far a the story goes, it delivers enough to care for some of the characters, giving reason to their actions and emotions. What it delivers the most, is a great back story, as this movie takes place many years after the first appearance of the Kaiju. The opening to the movie, narrated by lead actor Charlie Hunnam, tells us what has happened in the past, both detailing humanities victories and losses through the first few years of the war against the Kaiju. This is something that is explained and detailed in the graphic novel, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero (Review Here), it fleshed out the events in the movie much more, I recommend picking it up. As for pacing, despite a 30 minute crawl through the mud after the explosive opening, the rest of the movie is full of eye-popping action and brief, but effective character interaction.

You could argue it’s not hard to mess up a movie were you have giant Mechs fighting giant Monsters. But this is Guillermo del Toro’s vision of that, and that, as you may know due to his expertise on great monster design in past movies, goes a long way. Not only are the fight scenes between the Jaegers and Kaiju completing amazing to watch, but they’re extremely impactful, with the sound design and quality of CGI sealing the impression of realism as punches crush bones and metal. The diversity of the Kaiju help too, with fights in water with marine based Kaiju, to fights above cities with flying Kaiju. Same can be said for the Jaegers too, as some specialise in hand-to-hand and others having access to many different weapons, both melee and projectile.

Unfortunately, I felt the highlight of the movie for me, and possibly best fight scene, was at the about halfway through the movie. I say unfortunately because I expected something big at the end, a giant fight with impossible odds and crazy Kaiju. Instead we get some generic Kaiju and a first look at a Category 5 Kaiju. I expected Godzilla himself to pop up from the portal as the first ever Category 5 Kaiju, all we got however was a larger Kaiju we never get a good look at due to the location of the last scene. As for the amazing fight scene mentioned, lets just leave it a boat sword, you’ll know the scene from the trailer, but the fight is simply incredible. As for the 3D in the movie, it may have been converted in post-production, but it was pleasant to watch and they did a great job at implementing it, with debris flying straight at you at a constant basis during battles.

Guillermo del Toro has delivered a movie full of passion, created for that little version of you deep inside. Hopefully talked about for many years to come, this movie has the making of quickly becoming a cult classic amongst movie goers. Up until this point, Man of Steel was the best movie I had seen this year so far. After experiencing Pacific Rim however, the title for ‘Best Film of 2013’ has a new contender. Obviously, I will have to watch both Man of Steel and Pacific Rim a few more times when they’re released on Blu-ray at the end of the year to make a fair decision. Do yourself a favour and go and experience a movie that will no doubt be best experienced in the cinema.

9 Boats used as Swords out of 10

-ast

Coming Soon – Pacific Rim Weekend

pacificrim

In celebration to the release of the highly anticipated Pacific Rim, I’m going to be holding a little Pacific Rim Weekend on my blog here. Kicking things off tomorrow will be my review of the movie, after having experienced it in IMAX 3D. Then over the course of the rest of the weekend, I’ll be posting other articles about possible sequels, all the collectables you’ll be able to pick up in the coming months and possibly a review on the official game, despite how poor it may look.

Due to the unpredictability of the post, I’m unsure if I’ll receive my copy of Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero graphic novel in time. Rest assured, the prequel graphic novel will be read and reviewed as soon as it arrives. I’ll let you know if it’s worth a read and whether or not it adds to the experience of seeing the movie.

Greatest. Poster. Ever.

Greatest. Poster. Ever.

Like me, I hope you’ll be finding time to see the movie this weekend, It’s looking fantastic. Be sure to follow my posts to not miss anything this weekend, and thank you for reading.

-ast

Hotline Miami (2013) Review

Get ready... To die.

Get ready… To die.

Version Played: PS3

I’ve said before that I wasn’t around for the 80’s, but it must have been good as we now have yet another game influence by the time period. Not just that, but Hotline Miami is also heavily influenced by 2011, cult classic, Drive. A movie so entertaining and violent, it’s hard not to enjoy it. But do all these influences make Hotline Miami a good game? No, they make Hotline Miami a fantastic game, one you should have downloading right now. Released on PC at the end of 2012, only now do we see a port of the game on PS3/ PS Vita, with cross-buy no less!

The story of Hotline Miami is a big surprise for me, being extremely twisted and fun to play through. You’ll play as an unnamed character that fans have come to name ‘Jacket’, due to the distinctive jacket he wears. You’ll start off at Jacket’s apartment, and will listen to your phone messages that give you instructions to go somewhere and kill some people. These messages are always discreet, asking you to pick up your dry cleaning at a certain address, when really they’re asking you to go and kill someone there. They are a great read, and can lead to some laughs along the way.

Once at your destination, your then tasked with picking a mask to wear to hide your identity. These masks, all of different animals, give you a perk of sorts, some let you survive a few extra shots, others let you start with a weapon. There’s even a mask that is exclusive to the PS3/ PS Vita versions of the game, a mask that turns the game black and white but leaves in the bright red of the blood, giving a very ‘Sin City’ feel to the game. From here, you have to enter the area and kill everyone inside, one that’s done, you’ll go to somewhere like a V/H/S rental shop or a pizza place and get something for free off your friend there. Then the process repeats itself, with the story moving along with it.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

Straight to the point, I respect that.

All that killing would actually become quite tiresome if it wasn’t for the amazing soundtrack too. Being upbeat, electric and 100% 80’s style, it can get you bobbing your head and tapping you feet in no time. The music makes the game pretty hypnotic too, killing to the beats of the music as it loops in the background. Whilst I’d still say that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon had the better soundtrack of the year so far, I still recommend you pick up the soundtrack as soon as you can.

Then there’s the top-down, 8-bit inspired graphics. From the face close-ups, to the violence taking place on-screen as you murder your way through the level, they are a joy to look at. My worry with this style of graphics is losing some to the detail and not being able to make something out that is relevant. Thankfully, the visuals here are extremely polished and bring back memories of playing the first couple GTA games on the PS1. For that, I couldn’t thank them enough, and the graphics help sell that 80’s feel more so than todays HD textures and detail.

Colour everywhere!

Colour everywhere!

As for gameplay, it’s essentially a twin-stick shooter. I’ve played many of these in the past on various consoles, and most of them have controlled wonderfully. However due to the precise nature needed and the high difficulty in Hotline Miami, I had my doubts. Those doubts were put to rest pretty quickly, it may take a few chapters to really nail the feel for the game as it’s so fast paced, but once you have, the game became a joy to control and with the inclusion of a lock-on button for more precise aiming, you’ll be slaughtering your way through the levels in no time. Despite that though, I feel a keyboard and mouse would still be the most ideal way to control the game.

At just £6.49, it’s impossible to state just how much game you’re getting for your money. I’ve been playing it for so long, completing the game several times and collecting all the secrets, masks and weapons, let’s just say spending £20 still would have felt just as fair. There may not be any extra modes apart from the story chapters, but there are a few extra chapters that are just for fun and a scoring system gives extra incentive to replay and get those A+. The scoring system goes off the combos you’ve managed to pick up during the level as well as time bonuses and how direct you were. This scoring system is what helps unlock some masks and extra weapons that will be available in the chapters.

SPLAT!

SPLAT!

I could talk for hours on the topic of Hotline Miami, a game costing just £6.49 giving me just as much enjoyment as a £40 game. The indie scene is a major player in the games industry moving forward, and if they keep developing games as crazy and unique as this, then I can’t wait to see what pops up in the near future. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the sequel to this amazing game, and whether or not it will come directly to the PS3/ PS Vita alongside the PC release is yet to be announced. Due for release at the end of 2013, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. So treat yourself, whether on PC, PS3 or PS Vita, pick up Hotline Miami, support the indie and put that mask on, it’s going to be a long night.

96 Animal Masks out of 100

-ast

NECA – Predator – Jungle Disguise Dutch Figure Review

If it bleeds, we can kill it.

If it bleeds, we can kill it.

NECA bring yet another Dutch figure to their Predator line. With 2 Dutch figures in the previous Series 8, Series 9 brings us 2 more, and this is a review of possibly the best of the bunch. Based off his appearance towards the end of Predator, this figure of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch character features him in his infamous mud camouflage with the makeshift hunting weapons he makes to help him in his battle with the Predator. The head sculpt here is just a perfect as previous sculpts. We are treated to a new body sculpt however, this features leaves and the cracked mud of the surface of his skin, it looks amazing and when combined with the muddy paint application, it’s definitely of its way for figure of the year.

This must be some of the most accessories we’ve received with a NECA figure I can think of. Contained within the packaging is 2 spears, one with a knife and one with an explosive attached to the ends. Both are fantastically detailed and the choice is yours as to which you have him holding. We also receive his bow and some arrows that can be stored on the bow itself, and whilst underused in the movie itself, it is a real highlight as it can both be held or put around his body so he has it visible on his back. The main attraction is the torch he comes with, it’s very detailed with a transparent flame that gives it a great look when displayed.

NECA's 2013 masterpiece?

NECA’s 2013 masterpiece?

As with the most recent NECA figures, this figure has over 25 points of articulation, giving plenty of display options. NECA are always moving forward in this department and it shows, not only do we have lots articulation, but it’s all hidden rather well. Exposed joints can always make the item look cheap and unpleasant on the eyes. Thankfully NECA isn’t afraid and are confident in their ability to hide them effectively.

I touched upon the paint earlier, but I think NECA deserves more attention in this department with this figure. Jungle Disguise Dutch is mostly grey with brown highlights. Yet even with the limited paint and colour on the figure, it’s truly an eye-catching piece. From the illuminating white of his eyes, to the bright orange of the torch, everything works. It’s hard to talk about sloppy paint work with a figure that is meant to look rough and dirty, so from what I can see, everything is in order and there was not a problem I could find on it. They even went out their way to put a small sliver of blood running from the corner of his mouth.

AAAaHHHHHHHHHHHH...

AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH…

With the way the Dutch figures have been selling, there will be more, there’s already been a confirmation of a 1/4 scale Dutch in the works from NECA. Avid NECA fans would have noticed talk on Twitter to Carl Weathers himself about a Dillon figure too. The future is looking good for Predator fans like myself, NECA have a licence that offers the re-usability of parts like nothing else before it, giving us fans more to collect. We already have Kenner homages and AVP figures announced, what else could we see from NECA in the future of this line? One thing’s for sure though, I’ll be there waiting for those surprise announcements.

Verdict: Must Buy

-ast

Rising from the Grave: Syphon Filter

Your the best, around!

You’re the best, around!

Today, I have to watch and play things in order. It’s who I am. If I fancy re-watching Rocky IV, then I’ll start from the beginning and work my way up the ladder. As for games, when Assassins Creed 3 was due out, I went and replayed all previous games leading up to the release of the third one. I did the exact same thing when Mass Effect 3 was almost out, I went back to the first entry in the series and started a new character I could play as I an inevitable second/ third play through. When I was younger though, I couldn’t have cared less. That’s why I start at Syphon Filter 2, then went on to the first game, and finished with the third.

Syphon Filter is a game series about stopping the release of a deadly virus named Syphon Filter. You usually play as Gabe Logan, however you also are put into the shoes of many of characters in certain levels during your play through of the games. The last Syphon Filter game was released 6 years ago, with the suspected death of Gabe Logan, but he is a videogame character and could easily return with the correct writing. I won’t lie, my experience with the series ended with Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain, which I didn’t like. But the original trilogy was so good, fun to play and had great boss fights. SCE Bend Studio is behind all Syphon Filter games, they’re also behind the more recent Resistance and Uncharted games for the PS Vita. But will Sony now use them to create a new chapter in the Syphon Filter series on PS4 or will they stick with PS Vita development? This is ‘Rising from the Grave: Syphon Filter’.

I hated this level in the first SF.

I hated this level in the first SF.

Why? I could have gone off saying Sony need this because Splinter Cell is seemingly sided with Microsoft. But with Splinter Cell now releasing on PS3 as well as Xbox 360, does Sony really need to bring back Syphon Filter? It’s usually seen as a stealth-action game, and sure we don’t have a load of those right now. I’m finding it really hard to find a reason for them to get behind another Syphon Filter. Don’t get me wrong, I want it. If Sony announced this, it would become one of my most anticipated games ever. Sony have lots of exclusives already announced for PS4, and the more the merrier, and perhaps this is what Sony may want. A stealth-action exclusive game, for PS4, from a studio that knows the genre and licence better than anyone no less. Honestly though, if they did announce the game, I would probably see it as a game Sony got behind to simply add to the number of exclusives for PS4. Nothing more.

How could it improve? New generation, new look. With the power of the PS4 behind them, a globe-trotting adventure of espionage and saving the world sounds nice. People also have certain expectations these days with third person games, so a familiar control scheme will help with selling the game to people who may think Syphon Filter’s golden age has come and gone. I remember playing the multiplayer, split-screen with my mum. A ton of fun, feeling a lot like a third person Goldeneye. Multiplayer is of course a massive selling point for a lot of people, so some imagination and originality would go a long way in making a great multiplayer component.

Realistically, could this game happen? SCE Bend Studio have been working on something for the past couple years, what it is exactly, we do not yet know. They have vast experience working with the PS Vita, however this coupled with the fact that the PS Vita isn’t getting nearly enough games that it deserves, I think if we are to get any new Syphon Filter game, it will only be on the PS Vita. I hope I’m wrong, perhaps being able to stream any PS4 game to your PS Vita will help in the decision to make the next Syphon Filter a PS4 game.

Reminds me of the Air Taser, good times!

Reminds me of the Air Taser, good times!

Probability of Rising from the Grave: 45%

-ast

NECA – First Blood – Rambo Figure Review

They drew first blood, not me.

They drew first blood, not me.

Based off his appearance in the 1982 movie First Blood, NECA is out to prove that they are still the best in the business when it comes to affordable, detailed action figures. Rambo’s appearance on this particular figure is from the end of the movie as he moves through the town with his M60, hunting down the sheriff. The head sculpt is amazing, whilst it may not be quite as jaw-dropping as their Arnold Schwarzenegger likeness on their Predator figures, they still capture the essence of Sylvester Stallone’s look in the movie. As for the rest of the body, everything is proportionate and movie accurate.

He has 3 ammo belts around his torso, which have been reported to be removable, but I’m not that brave, they look fine where they are. On his belt, Rambo has a knife sheath, you can in fact put his knife in here if you don’t want him holding it which is always a nice touch. Accessories include his M60, his knife and an extra hand that is for holding the knife. The M60 is a beautiful piece, with a lot of detail and even a strap so you may strap it around his back if you don’t want him holding it. The knife, thankfully, is very movie accurate, whilst you may not be able to screw the handle off, it still looks great rather in the sheath or when being held.

On the hunt.

On the hunt.

With over 25 points of articulation on the figure, there are plenty of display options available. NECA are always moving forward in this department and it shows, not only do we have lots articulation, but it’s all hidden rather well. Exposed joints can always make the item look cheap and unpleasant on the eyes. Thankfully NECA isn’t afraid and are confident in their ability to hide them effectively.

As far as paint application goes, NECA can be known for some shoddy work in the past. However, I feel the more recent NECA of recent years we’re seeing is really stepping up their game. The Rambo figure I received is near perfectly painted, with one small sloppy paint application holding it back from being perfectly done. Rambo features a cut on his right bicep, seen in the movie, however from various comparisons to other paint work on other Rambo figures, it seems as though the blood running down his bicep is very smudged. Thankfully, this isn’t consistent with the rest of the arm, and everything else is fine.

AAAAAHHHHHHH...

AAAAAHHHHHHH…

With another version of Rambo from First Blood on the way, that being the one with the poncho from when Rambo tries to hide in the forest from the police, I can’t wait to see what NECA has in store for when they start to show us what they’re doing from the second and third movies. Going off their current release schedule, it looks as if we will be seeing 2 new Rambo figures a year. I’m hopeful we will see a version of Rambo from the 4th movie too, but it all depends on the sales and interest of the series. Simply put though, NECA have done a wonderful job with their first Rambo figure and I recommend you pick one up whilst you can.

Verdict: Buy

-ast

George A. Romero of the Dead

A look back at some of the good, bad and ugly zombie movies made by the Godfather of Zombies himself, George A. Romero.

Those glasses are magic, I swear.

Those glasses are magic, I swear.

So after watching World War Z (Review Here), I found myself looking back at some of my favourite zombie movies, most of which come from the mind of the one and only George A. Romero. He has currently done 6 movies in his ‘Dead’ series, but which is my favourite and what should come next?

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – About a small group of people trying to survive the night in a farmhouse, Night of the Living Dead started it all. Being in black & white and seen by many to be the first zombie movie (it wasn’t), 45 years later it’s still an extremely creepy movie with a great atmosphere. Despite being black & white it’s actually quite graphic too and can end up leaving a lot to the imagination of the viewer, a very effective technique.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) – No doubt to be one of the most recognized zombie movies ever made, Dawn of the Dead is a lot of people’s favourite of the bunch, but not quite mine. Feeding the fantasy of everyone on earth, being let loose on an empty shopping centre, it’s no surprise so many people enjoy this movie. About 4 survivors taking refuge in an enclosed shopping centre, making it more like home with each passing week, it shares a similar premise to Night of the Living Dead, but with a different backdrop.

Day of the Dead (1985) – Now this is my favourite zombie movie. Ever. The zombie effects by Tom Savini had been perfected from his work on Dawn of the Dead and just the overall tone of the film was much darker in my mind. About the increasing tension between a group of scientists and military personnel seeking refuge in an underground mine, turned into a make-shift lab, Day of the Dead focuses more the threat we have on each other. From the opening scene in the street to the zombie infested mines of the end of the movie, this movie is full of memorable sequences.

Land of the Dead (2005) – After a 20 year wait, George A. Romero sides with a major studio to bring another zombie movie to the big screen. With a bigger budget, George was able to create the zombie movie he had always wanted to. Unfortunately, the studio had a say in a lot of what happened in the film. What we got to see was glimpse of what George really wanted to achieve. Feeling very Hollywood, the movie is about the conflict between the rich and poor in a walled off city that houses the remaining human population, that we eventually see fall victim to the zombies.

Diary of the Dead (2007) – Trying something new, Diary of the Dead adopted the use of the found footage angle. Set against the backdrop of the initial outbreak of the zombie infection, we follow a group of film students as they travel home, documenting what they see. It was a fascinating concept and one I found myself very excited for. Whilst being a decent movie, I feel we needed more zombie hordes and gore for it to feel more like a George A. Romero zombie movie.

Survival of the Dead (2009) – A sequel to Diary of the Dead, sharing some characters for the first time in the George A. Romero ‘Dead’ series, we follow a group of National Guardsmen as they seek out an Island taken over by a family that have been chaining up zombie friends/ family awaiting a miracle cure. This is by far the weakest of the bunch, I found little entertaining about it, only the fact that it was a George A. Romero zombie movie.

Seventh Movie of the Dead (????) – Let’s all face it, George A. Romero isn’t getting any younger. At the age of 73, does he want to be doing this for as long as he lives? All I ask, as do many fans, is that he does one more movie, his big send off. One that goes out with a bang. Large hordes, plenty of gore and likable characters is all I ask for. Of course the chances of this happening are slim at the moment, as there is little to no news of any movement towards another George A. Romero zombie movie. Also, like rumoured for Survival of the Dead before being canned, it should just be called ‘of the Dead’.

To this day, it’s impossible to think of a zombie movie without thinking of one made by George A. Romero. He deserves a chance to bring the pinnacle of zombie movies to the big screen once again, and I sure hope he gets that chance.

-ast