L O A D issue 13
CAGE THE ELEPHANT INTERVIEW FILM PREVIEW SPECIAL INSIDE J.J. ABRAMS’ NEW SHOW ‘FRINGE’ EVOLUTION LESSONS WITH ‘SPORE’
RULERS OF THE NIGHT AS CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S HUGELY ANTICIPATED FOLLOW UP TO BATMAN BEGINS HITS CINEMAS AT LAST, WILL THE DARK KNIGHT LIVE UP TO IMMENSE EXPECTATIONS?
MAKING OF THE COVER
Designer behind our wonderful Dark Knight themed cover, artist Tom Whalen takes us through the process of bring the wonderful graphical art to life... “When asked to create a Dark Knight cover for LOAD Magazine, I quickly did a few thumbnail sketches to get my rough ideas for the composition and placement laid out. Next, I gathered as much visual reference as I could from The Dark Knight and began to work up pencil sketches of the main elements in the illustration; Batman, Joker, a playing card and clown goons. I scanned each of these images onto the computer and imported them all into an Adobe Illustrator. I selected a warm gray as the background color and made all of the scans transparent, and then worked out a rough composition based on my original sketch. Next, I began to block in the shapes of the elements by tracing my drawings, moving parts around slightly as I worked. The addition of bats and a simple Gotham cityscape added depth and scale to the piece. From here on out, It’s basically a lot of fiddling and fussing over angles, details and graytones, but this is where the final look really starts to materialise. Towards the end of the process, I decided to add masked out areas of crosshatched lines to add some much needed texture. These areas appear in the clouds over Gotham, in Batman’s armor, on the Joker’s face, and on the clown goons’ heads.” Check out more of Tom Whalen’s work at www.strongstuff.net Tom is also available for commission work and can be reached at email@example.com
music film interviews
10.cage the elephant 14.delta spirit
22.eagle eye 50.classic films. modern 24.the mummy: tomb of posters. the dragon emperor album reviews 26.rocknrolla 28.the curious case on 20.css - ‘donkey’ 20.beck - ‘modern guilt’ benjamin button 21.black kids - ‘partie traumatic’ 21.the shys - ‘you’ll never reviews understand this band the 30.the dark knight way that i do’ 34.hancock 36.hellboy II: the golden army 38.donkey punch 39.somers town 40.wall•e 42.wanted 44.cass 45.man on wire 46.you don’t mess with the zohan 47.meet dave
dvd reviews 48.round-up 1 49.round-up 2
issue 13 - august 2008
cover contributor Tom Whalen
74.super smash bros. brawl
contributing writer Martin Roberts
written, edited and produced by Sam Bathe www.loadmagazine.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you’re looking for a new chef, Ami Hyuga might not be at the top of your list. Full marks for imagination, but serving up human finger sushi probably won’t cut it at even the most exotic of restaurants. Taking the lead in the latest gore-heavy movie from Japan, The Machine Girl, Ami is on the look out for revenge after the son of a Yakuza boss kills her brother, and then turns her arm into tempura. Even the Terminator couldn’t cope with searing hot oil, and after the Yakuza toy with the idea of feasting on her limb, she escapes to the home of two kind mechanics.
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Pilot fever Every year the pilot season captures the imagination of TV fans, as the new wave US fall shows rear their heads with the hope of pulling in hoards of viewers. With the after effects of the writer’s strike still reverberating through production plans and shooting schedules, the frenzy of years gone by will be somewhat subdued but no doubt a handful of new shows will still make the grade and rouse the attention mustered by Chuck, Reaper and Pushing Daisies last fall. Here are our top picks to look out for:
Mixing the outright gore of Ichi the Killer, the creative violence of Battle Royale and Planet Terror’s gun totting machinery, Ami’s lost arm is replaced by a variety of killing machines as she seeks retribution against those who have caused her family so much trouble. Released direct-to-video in America, The Machine Girl hits cinemas in Japan on August 2nd with talks currently in place for European distribution. The Machine Girl is certainly no masterpiece, but it’s all set to take the cult scene by storm, or you too could end up like this...
Off the back of the hugely successful LOST series and his recent forays into cinema with Cloverfield and now the new Star Trek movie, J.J. Abrams is undoubtedly one of the hottest properties in the entertainment industry. And as almost everything he has touched so far has turned to gold, new TV show Fringe isn’t looking to be any different. Mixing The X-Files’ supernatural mysteries with Alias’ overarching mythology. The pilot, sees dissolving flesh and the introduction of a chain of remarkable events called The Pattern, and somehow manages matched the show’s highly anticipated billing. Given Abrams’ history of remarkable mythologies and limitless imagination, Fringe is a must watch. (you can find a full preview of Fringe in our TV section)
...and it hurts, trust us. 6
Based on the legendary novel by Daniel Defoe, Crusoe will follow the happenings of Robinson Crusoe as he is shipwrecked on a remote island for 28 years. Starring Philip Winchester as Crusoe with Sean Bean and Sam Neill in the supporting cast, this somewhat pointless series is said to mix action with comedy but only time will tell if the show will make it far beyond the pilot, let alone into future seasons.
Capitalising on the recent obsession with supernatural dramas, The Listener is a new Canadian series about a young paramedic, the twist? He can listen to people’s thoughts. Using his power to solve mysteries, Toby Logan struggles to draw the line between a shady sleuth and his everyday life, in what sounds like a very promising plotline. The Listener will need to develop an a widespread story with snappy narrative to keep people watching long into the season, but the ingredients are there for success. “Who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?” is a very apt tagline for new show My Own Worst Enemy and will be aired under high expectations after being given a slot after Heroes on NBC, which last season crippled the surprisingly entertaining Journeyman. Starring Christian Slater as a split personality family man/ spy, battling within himself to live two lives, ridding the world of enemy agents and tucking the kids in each night. Whether Christian Slater’s inner turmoil will provide ample televisual entertainment remains to be seen, but with Slater stumbling somewhat in recent years, this could yet be the role to relaunch his career. Based on the 2006 British TV series staring Patrick Stewart, Eleventh Hour follows a US Government scientific advisor who investigates cases of science misuse. The show already has apparent longevity, bought for 13 episodes, well beyond the 4 of the original UK show. Fingers crossed for this project as more information slowly seeps out of CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer. Attempting to break in on CSI and NCIS’ domination of police dramas, The Mentalist follows yet another detective with an incredible ability to spot evidence and solve even the most complex crimes. While the show will need something special to set itself apart from the crowd, The Mentalist at least has an abundence of potential, and if shot with the stylish grace you can expect from the modern realm of TV shows, stay tuned as this could be a hit. Like a number of other shows, the pilot of Leverage leaked online recently, long before its scheduled TV debut, however, unlike other leaks where viewer outcry
has caused the cancellation of programmes before they had even started, blog phenomena have widely praised the series. Based around a team of thieves, hackers and grifters who target those who use their wealth and power to victimise others, this modern day story of Robin Hood gets hearts racing from the opening scene. Similar to popular UK series Hustle, the idea is a proven success, so here’s hoping TNT can pull it off. Initially planned to air this fall but put back to January ‘09 after strike delays, creator of cult TV shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, Joss Whedon, returns with Dollhouse, one of his most promising projects to date. Many of Whedon’s collaborators to date will return to work on Dollhouse, including none other than Eliza Dushku in the lead role. Proving their commitment to the project, FOX have decided to scrap plans to film a pilot, instead pushing on with production of an initial 13 episodes and the construction of the elaborate set. Dollhouse is based around a group of people known as ‘Dolls’ or ‘Actives’. The Dolls are essentially programmable beings, with their personalities wiped clean to be imprinted with a fresh persona and hired out for jobs or assignments. The show revolves around Echo, played by Dushku, who after countless missions, becomes less susceptible to the memory wipes and starts to remember as the Dollhouse becomes a much more dangerous place.
Taking influence from the legendary SXSW and a little closer to home, the Camden Crawl, Concrete and Glass will bring a music and art festival to Shoreditch, London. Spread over a vast array of venues across Shoreditch, all within minutes walk of each other, hosts will include Witchita Records and Rough Trade to showcase the very finest new music and contemporary art. Masterminded by promoter Tom Baker, the man behind London’s Field Day and Underage festivals, the full lineup is set to be announced in a matter of days for the event taking place on 2nd and 3rd of October. Tickets are expected to go fast. 7
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music m o o l e h t Fruits of
Kentucky five-piece Cage The Elephant might be fresh out of small town Bowling Green, but with an excellent debut album already reverberating around UK airwaves and a Queens of the Stone Age support slot to speak of, this is one band with on a fast route to success. We caught up with lead singer Matt Shultz and bassist Daniel Tichenor before their sold out show at Londonâ€™s Water Rats. âž¸ 10
Moving into a house in East London to tour and promote their new album, five young guys from the tiny town of Bowling Green, Kentucky, shouldn’t be more out of place than in the Big Smoke’s bright lights. In fact, rockers Cage The Elephant were almost taken down the Christian music scene. Before singer Matt Shultz and brother, and guitarist, Brad’s parents divorced the pair were only allowed to listen to Christian music but as soon as the opportunity arose, they drowned themselves in Pixies, Led Zeppelin and Talking Heads, and their passion for rock was born. Though without their parents’ Christian heritage, Cage The Elephant would still be a bass player short. After forming a high school band with drummer Jared Champion and a fourth member whom dispersed a while later, Matt and Brad met bassist Daniel Tichenor through their fathers. “Daniel was a childhood acquaintance of ours through our fathers who met in this kind of farm, it was a pig farm, but it was Christian,” explains Matt, “they all lived together and worked together, kind of a hippy thing. Daniel had been coming around and hanging out right before our first band broke up. The bassist left so we asked him to come jam with us and things went pretty well so we started writing some stuff together.” Finding Lincoln Parish, was a little different. “We were looking for a lead guitarist and Lincoln had been emailing, asking if he could jam with us,” retells Matt, “but he was like 15 at the time so we were kind of reluctant.” In the end the group caved in, and after Lincoln suited the dynamic perfectly, the band was born. With five members in tow, the band have progressed fast though lie frustrated after sitting on their debut for some time. “We’ve been waiting for f*cking two years [to release our album],” remarks Daniel. “We’re actually going back into the studio to record our second album in October, we’ve got about 30 songs ready,” Matt proclaims, “we could have done two albums in the amount of time it has taken to get this one out.” And despite sitting on UK shelves, their self-titled debut is yet to be released Stateside. “We originally planned to put it out ourselves,” Matt goes on to reveal, “but then we signed with labels and you know all the stuff that comes with that.” Signing with Relentless, a label owned by EMI and Virgin Records, has though brought other advantages and after launching the band into mainstream, Cage The Elephant were invited to tour with rock superstars Queens Of The Stone Age, an experience Matt especially enjoyed. “I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life. They treated us so well,” he beams. “To this day, of all the bands we’ve supported, they gave us the best rider we’ve ever had, and they didn’t have to do that for us,” Matt continues, “it was kind of cool because there we were, really for the first time, we hadn’t played that many shows out much, we’d just recorded the album and got really lucky and put on the bill. We were hang-
ing out with our heroes. It was pretty amazing.” And despite playing huge festivals across North America America, the bands’ highlight so far came on that very tour across Canada. During a sold-out show in Edmunton, with the pit packed out with fans, Matt topped was is said to always be a fantastic experience, crowdsurfing, by walking across the crowd. “It was that thick down on the floor, the crowd were so packed in there that I crowd-surfed, stood up and started walking, one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me,” explains Matt, with a beaming smile across his face. But this is all in a day’s work for one of music’s most passionate bands, and as you’d expect, with five young men together on tour, the testosterone can easily boil over. Meeting the Kentucky band a couple of hours before a sold-out show of their own at London’s Water Rats, they’re eager to spill the beans on an incident just the day before. “We got in a fight last night,” Daniel chuckles, “he [points at Matt] chucks a f*cking guitar at my back and I couldn’t let it go.” Matt interjects, “We were at somebody’s house hanging out and I’m playing guitar and this guy, he’s one of those kind of guys who like... well I don’t want to say anything bad about him. Let’s just say someone pissed me off earlier in the night so I was already kind of mad about that, and me and Daniel were going to get the bus back to our place.” Matt continues, “So I get on the bus not realising I didn’t have credit, and as we weren’t far from our house, I was like, ‘man I’m not paying two pounds.’” “I’d already got on the bus, swiped my card and I was sitting upstairs when I heard Matt arguing downstairs, so I come downstairs,” adds Daniel before Matt continues, “The guy kicks us off the bus and Daniel’s like ‘I’m going back’, he was going back to our friend’s place to stay the night. And I was like, ‘we’ve got crap to do tomorrow’, plus we were in Hackney and I had no idea which way to go. He just starts walking off so I took guitar and launched it at him. He took off walking real fast around the corner, then all of sudden I see him sprinting back, right at me. We tackled and I speared him to the ground.” “We just looked at each other, and then smiled,” tells Daniel as Matt finishes the story, “We were both about to hit each other and then we just start laughing. In the rain, there’s people standing around and we’re just hugging each other. Like ‘I’m so sorry dude’. We just sat there and hugged for about 10 minutes. Some good man-love. The make-up sex was amazing [laughs].” Cage The Elephant have got the songs, and the personality to match, and given their already impressive CV, expect the Kentucky five-piece to soon become more famous than the Fruit of the Loom underwear of their hometown. Cage The Elephant’s self-titled debut album is in stores across the UK now 11
We’re actually going back into the studio to record our second album in October, we’ve got about 30 songs ready. We could have done two albums in the amount of time it has taken to get this one out.
BASKING IN THE RAYS After independently releasing mesmeric debut album ‘Ode To Sunshine’ late last year, it’s no surprise San Diego’s finest five-piece are primed for major success. A recently signed deal with Rounder Records in their back pocket, and a remixed LP all set for the shelves, the future has never looked brighter for Delta Spirit. We took five with bassist Jon Jameson before talented quintet head out on their biggest headline tour to date. ➸
W hen I say your music collection is missing something without Delta Spirit’s ‘Ode To Sunshine’, I don’t mean just literally. The San Diego quintet have developed a brand of music that will breach fans of all spectrums from indie-rock, alternative and folk to country and Americana.
And for a band that have been invited on numerous radio shows and brought back for a second Daytrotter session, you’d be surprised their burgeoning following has taken so long to build up, although their insider touted next-big-thing status is still a far cry from their humble beginnings. Playing music together for years, bassist Jon Jameson and drummer Brandon Young set out on a new project, determined that this act would stick. Roping in guitarist Sean Walker, the line-up was one short until Young stumbled across Matt Vasquez roaring his busker’s heart out in the early hours of a San Diego night. After putting out in-demand merch. stand EP ‘I Think I’ve Found It’ and maxing the panel up to five, Delta Spirit headed out to the Julian mountains to record new material in a friend’s cabin. The decision to set up their own recording equipment in the hill-side ranch rather than the traditional studio set-up is one the band now revel in. “It definitely gave the album a different feel,” explains Jameson, “for us, the album has a nostalgic feeling when we listen to it. We had an amazing time up there.” Although he can’t help but express one of the biggest reasons for heading out to hills was simply “because it was cheaper.” The band’s obvious joy during the process though undoubtedly comes 16
(left to right) Kelly Winrich, Matt Vasquez, Sean Walker, Brandon Young, Jon Jameson
Rounder was like the girl who’s your best friend that you end up marrying. We dated a few bombshells but they weren’t right for the long run.
through in the finished result but the 10 track salvo ‘Ode To Sunshine’ was almost another EP. The band are delighted they made the decision to record a full length on the spur of the moment, after initially planning to only record another 5-track release. “The idea of a ‘debut’ record can be so over analysed that you miss the point.” Jameson continues, “We wanted to get it done and get it out there and make the second one even better.” Recorded live, it was no surprise the log cabin album was soon pulling in not only scores of new fans but saw record labels circling in ever increasing numbers for the then unsigned band. With a few deals on the table before heading out to Julian, the five-piece passed on major backing in favour of their own approach, eager to get new material into the public sphere at the soonest point possible. After making the LP they all wanted to make, Delta Spirit’s priorities upturned, and like any other band, most important to Vasquez and co. was to make ‘Ode To Sunshine’ as accessible as possible, and the decision was taken to at last give a label a go. “Reaching a wider audience was a big factor for us even signing a deal at all,” reveals Jameson. “We got as far as we could on our own, and Rounder was the next step to reach more people.” Home to the likes of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Rising Sand, Rounder are amongst the biggest independent record labels in the States, set to release Delta Spirit’s debut ‘Ode To Sunshine’ worldwide, bar Australia where Dew Process have reserved the honour. With such a fantastic reputation in the record industry, when Rounder came knocking, whatever their current plans, the band knew this was an opportunity they could not pass up and made the most sense for their future. As Jameson playfully explains, “Rounder was like the girl who’s your best friend that you end up marrying. We dated a few bombshells but they weren’t right for the long run.” Given a new, surprisingly striking, cover, the marvellous album will be re-mixed for the Rounder release with a new version of previous signature track ‘Streetwalker’ bolstered to the core. For an album that already dwelled long on the memory, ‘Ode To Sunshine’ feels that bit more impressive for the extra song, with none of Delta Spirit’s trademark exuberance lost on the commercial release, and Matt Vasquez’s powerful, raw voice as impressive as ever. All set for mainstream success, and after tours with Cold War Kids, Matt Costa and Clap Your Hand Say Yeah and a TV performance in the pipeline, perhaps the most refreshing this about this band is their sheer innocence, and down to earth attitude. When pondering the band’s highlight so far, Jameson proudly proclaims, “When we all became homeowners.” They might not know it yet, but Delta Spirit are on the verge of something very special. Debut album ‘Ode To Sunshine’ is out August 26th 19
CSS ‘Donkey’ (Sub Pop) When then bassist Ira Trevisan left the band in April, whilst undoubted a low point for the Brazilian band, no-one could have guessed the deeper troubles within. Citing her desire to pursue a career in fashion, Ira called time just as CSS were the verge of really setting to work on their highly anticipated second album. When further noise rumbled out, and Ira’s supposed worry for the environment as she felt touring with the band was becoming unacceptably harmful, cracks started to appear in CSS’ jovial front. Ira’s departure marked the end of a tough time for CSS. Touring non-stop over the past months, the six-piece where returning to cheap hotels every night, and struggling to afford breakfast the next morning; a confusing situation for a band who’s debut album has sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide. According to their manager, Eduardo, the money was there, they just couldn’t touch it for tax reasons, and yet every time they saw him, he has wearing flashy new clothes and talking of tales in his expensive Parisian flat. 20
Forcing a showdown with Eduardo, the band discovered he had been withholding earnings from them and funding his own glamorous lifestyle, expectedly the band are currently looking into court action. This left Ira in an untenable position. Dating Eduaro for a significant time before his dealings were revealed, though no-one suspected she was involved in the deceit, she had to make a tough decision. Her own ties were cut with Eduardo immediately, a short time later announcing she was leaving the band about whom she had always had reservations. With the worst days behind them, CSS set about a fresh chapter to help overcome the deep-rooted betrayal of a man once considered their ‘seventh member’. Turning their thoughts to writing, it’s obvious the events influenced sophomore album ‘Donkey’. Boasting a punchier, more aggressive sound to their self titled debut, ‘Donkey’ has a dark heart within and gritty resolve coursing through each track. Yet side by side with ‘Cansei de Ser Sexy’, the parallels are obvious, recapturing the energy and verve of the CSS’s first effort. Previously penning chirpy tracks about art, Paris Hilton and alcohol, ‘Donkey’ frequently charts a tale of argument, worry and disloyalty, under a danceable sheen that will keep fans happy. ‘Rat Is Rage (Dead)’, easily the punkiest track on the album, mixes relentless riffs with an unforgiving bass as Lovefoxxx goes some way to exorcising the band’s
demons, screaming between verses as she tells of a trashed hotel room, written about Ira and Eduardo’s fiery argument after the band confronted their ex-manager. ‘Left Behind’ is another charting CSS’ troubled months, inspired when the Brazilian trendsetters were DJing in Helsinki, overlooking revellers dancing on tables and leaving their troubles behind. Lovefoxxx realised they can get past their recent turmoil and learn enjoy life again. Opening with a sultry synth baseline, the addictive electro-grungy hooks of ‘Left Behind’ will effortlessly charm old fans. ‘Jager Yoga’ will to get the heart beating, boasting an emphatic chorus in between the electropunk ideals powering ever chorus. Album closer ‘Air Painter’ is another nonstop thrill ride, unrelenting on the listener for three and a half minutes of synth tinged guitar play. Despite losing some of the exuberance of their debut, ‘Donkey’ is a very accomplished second album, feeling the weight of major label support as each harmony is treated with a lot more respect and control. At times this harms the result as tracks like ‘How I Became Paranoid’ would have no doubt benefitted from the a natural feel of ‘Cansei de Ser Sexy’. ‘Donkey’ is though no doubt a step forward for CSS, and a marvellous triumph over adversity spread between 11 tracks of energetic electro-punk music and devilish lyrics.
Beck ‘Modern Guilt’ (XL Recordings) Beck’s genre hopping musical style moves back toward the highly acclaimed ‘Sea Change’ with new album ‘Modern Guilt’. Already renowned for his innovation, when it was announced Beck was to be hooking up with super-producer Danger Mouse for his upcoming 10th studio album, anticipation sky-rocketed, and Beck is well and truly back on form once again. As you might assume from the title, ‘Modern Guilt’ is a downbeat, ominous record, though despite the dark lyrics, you wouldn’t necessarily notice from the often lighter instrumentals. With a scent of psychedelia, the rhythmic indie LP is a complex, entirely non-linear bunch of songs. ‘Chemtrails’ is an off-kilter track, with a wonderful flurrying chorus, while ‘Gamma Ray’ is another that will have you going back for more. A hefty chunk of the listening public won’t necessarily enjoy ‘Modern Guilt’ but you can’t deny its obvious quality as Beck continues his steady rise to becoming a musical legend.
Black Kids ‘Partie Traumatic’ (Columbia) Every year a handful of eclectic new bands come along hoping to mix it with the big guns. Vampire Weekend, Foals and MGMT have all successfully made the step up from bands on the brink to leaders of the pack, and Black Kids are hoping to be the next to conquer the mainstream. Tipped by Rolling Stone as an ‘artist to watch’ in 2008 and named 8th in BBC Sound of 2008 poll, Black Kids started the year unsigned but were quickly snapped up labels excited to release their music across the continent after a wave of internet buzz late last year. Releasing EP ‘Wizards of Ahhhs’ for free online, Black Kids racked up a huge amount of fans in a short space of time with their ‘80s reflective indie-synth-pop. Bolstering the EP with a further 6 tracks, Black Kids’ debut album ‘Partie Traumatic’ is a quick fire, energetic 10 song showpiece that backs up their pre-release hype. Despite working hard on completing their first LP, it is, though, undoubtedly the tracks carried
over from the earlier EP that stand out the most. With lead singer Reggie Youngblood’s distinct high pitched synth-esque vocals powered along by a racy electro backdrop, Black Kid’s music harks back to a number of musical ages. Opener ‘Hit The Heartbreaks’ is a storming start to the album; a nonstop power-pop expose, alternating between vibrant chords and sultry, echoing keyboard. ‘Hurricane Jane’ is more of a groover, offering a tickling bass and emphatic vocals. Hit single ‘I’m Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’ is another strong track. With a reference to ‘80s electro, the song reveals Black Kids’ sexy lyrics, barely disguising the darker meaning beneath the exuberant tracks. Beyond the tracks from ‘Wizards of Ahhhs’ the album doesn’t necessarily falter, but struggles to reach the same highs. ’I’m Making Eyes At You’ is a summer classic but by the time you get to ‘Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)’ the album is starting to run out of energy. Still, giving a good name to synth-pop once more, ‘Partie Traumatic’ is a debut record full of spritely tones and seductive lyrics. Black Kids make good their hype without completely living up to the anticipation. ‘Partie Traumatic’ is still, though, packed with a handful of glorious tracks proving this eclectic bunch have a very firm place on the music scene.
ting their on-stage character.
The Shys ‘You’ll Never Understand This Band The Way That I Do’ (Aeronaut) After dropping major record label Sire in order to pursue a fresh direction, The Shys placed a lot of pressure on their relatively inexperienced shoulders. Not willing to be pigeon-holed alongside every other garage rock band, the Cali band have pushed their comfort zone to create a ambitious follow-up LP, boasting a much more mature sound without losing any of their emphatic appeal. Paying tribute to lead singer/guitarist Kyle Krone’s classic rock influences, ‘You’ll Never Understand This Band The Way That I Do’ embodies a more soulful style, delicately constructed songs to give a diverse array of captivating tracks. Hardnosed riffs feel right at home, but not without the subtlety of an empowering, textbook percussion. From ambitious instrumental opener ‘Spanish Village By The Sea’, a silky track that would feel right at home introducing a mafia movie, to heartfelt plea ‘Saviour’, The Shys’ new material has a suave, sophisticated nature befit-
Blockbuster ‘Hangman’ goes some way to stealing the show, boasting clever vocals and pulsating riffs, teasing the listener around each time to the powerful chorus and sultry fadeout. ‘She’s Already Gone’ is another out of the top drawer and another example of maturity far beyond The Shys’ young years. Recalling a lost love, Krone’s storytelling vocals move effortlessly into each memorable chorus. Across warm down ‘La Costa Verde’, the swift ‘All On Me’ and dominating ‘Courage’, delicately complex song composition gives ‘You’ll Never Understand This Band The Way That I Do’ a timeless feeling and assures the LP won’t grow tiresome countless listens in the future. Atmospheric slow song ‘Love Is Gonna Get You’ and ‘Carry On For Two’ suffer from structure a ltitle too obvious in this genre, with vocals less inventive than the rest of the excellent LP, but this is far from a major problem. The Shys deserve a lot of credit for cutting the comfortable major label ties and taking a new direction with a hometown indie label, a challenge which has no doubt benefitted ‘You’ll Never Understand This Band The Way That I Do’. The Shys produce their best work to date, harking back to days of classic British rock without ever forgetting their modern day customs.
After Disturbia more than tripled its modest budget back in early 2007, DreamWorks clearly saw potential; a new dream team in the making. Although he’d already been around for a while, 2007 was really Shia LaBeouf’s year. Landing starring roles in the budget (but successful) Disturbia, and the epic Transformers, the movie world began to take notice of Hollywood’s new golden boy. It is no coincidence that both of those films were produced by Steven Spielberg – the master, it seems, has found an apprentice. Since then it’s been difficult to find a film which doesn’t feature the charismatic twenty-two year old, and his next feature, Eagle Eye, looks to have a winning formula already laid out. Reuniting LaBeouf with Disturbia director D.J. Caruso and executive producer Steven Spielberg (who already cast him in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull this year) Eagle Eye revolves around a young man (LaBeouf) and his mother (Michelle Monaghan) who are framed as terrorists and must fight to clear their names whilst simultaneously being implicated in the terrorist plot. Given the subject matter, the film does run the risk of being preachy, though the early trailers and buzz surrounding the film seem to point to a mature and thrilling prospect, particularly given the talent involved; Spielberg’s Munich, after all, which covered similarly topical territory, was both considered and intelligent. Caruso also has much more money to work with this time, although it remains to be seen as to whether he can transfer the most successful aspects of Disturbia – namely, the tension created in the opening half – into this new project. But with Spielberg behind the scenes and LaBeouf in them, it would difficult to bet against this being a late 2008 success. Scheduled for release in a couple of months, it will avoid clashing with any of this summer’s gargantuan blockbusters (a certain Dark Knight set to rule screens over the next few weeks), and perhaps provide something a little different come the autumn. Eagle Eye is due out in October
WORDS MARTIN ROBERTS 23
A few eyebrows were surely raised when it was announced that the Mummy franchise, which had lain dormant for seven years after a second sequel failed to materialise, was finally returning to the big screen. Initial questions from more cynical consumers might have been: “Why?” and “Why now?” forgetting that the original film and its sequel both made huge profits, despite being relatively average adventure films. What they did have, though, was shiny special effects and a fast paced sense of fun, which did a lot to help audiences overlook the more glaring problems. Brendan Fraser, who will reprise his leading role as Indiana Jonesalike Rick O’Connell, brought charm and likeability to a stock character that meant the films were always at least watchable, if not exceptional. Director Rob Cohen, responsible for The Fast and the Furious and, ahem, xXx, takes over from Stephen Sommers who directed and wrote the first two. Cohen has revealed himself to be something of a student of Chinese history, and he clearly saw a great opportunity to combine his own personal interest and his penchant for epic action filmmaking. Hopefully his enthusiasm will rub off on the film, which by the looks of the trailers is aiming to out-do its predecessors by some margin. Jet Li stars opposite Fraser and Mario Bello’s Evy (replacing Rachel Weisz) as the Dragon Emperor himself, inadvertently raised from a two thousand year slumber by O’Connell’s own son Alex, who is clearly following in his father’s footsteps. A family reuniting subplot is likely to run alongside the action, as the Dragon Emperor’s ten thousand strong undead army faces off against the forces of his long dead enemies, buried beneath the Great Wall of China. If it all sounds a bit silly, that’s because it is; the trailer already reveals glimpses of ice monsters and three headed serpents, along with some spectacular martial arts. Although his track record is hardly strewn with classics, Cohen’s ability to direct action has at least been proven, and so the film should not disappoint in that regard. It is obvious at this point that Cohen does not want to make a straight forward follow up to Sommers’ original two. The old mummy is long gone, as is the ancient Egyptian setting, and the O’Connell family has done a lot of growing up. John Hannah, as Evy’s bumbling sidekick brother, is the only other returning cast member. With a budget rumoured to be significantly in excess of one hundred million dollars, this will be make or break for the Mummy. Maria Bello has already stated interest in returning for a sequel, and from the looks of things, it is certainly on the cards. Even after The Mummy Returns was so financially successful all those years ago, it was still difficult to imagine after seven years that a third film would be a month away from opening, with a fourth seemingly in the pipeline. Contemporary Hollywood cinema is obsessed with sequels and franchise potential, so it will be interesting to see whether the public enthusiasm that made the originals so successful will still be around to help the third entry in the series. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is due out on August 8th 24
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Having disappointed almost everybody with his most recent film, 2005’s Revolver, it looks as if Brit director Guy Ritchie is returning to his comfort zone. Delving once more into a mobster setting and with another ensemble cast in front of his camera, can Ritchie revive his reputation after recent hiccups? Let us not forget that although Ritchie took something of a misstep when he made Revolver, his previous efforts in the gangster genre, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, were both excellent films, shot with a certain ingenuity and individuality that isn’t too often seen in any genre. It remains to be seen whether the same energy from those films can be brought over into the unfortunately titled RockNRolla, but it would be preemptive to write Ritchie off yet; after all, he’s made one dud film, and nobody has told Shyamalan to stop yet. Set against the backdrop of the London underworld, the plot revolves around a real estate con set up by a Russian mobster that subsequently draws all manner of characters into the ensuing chaos. Ritchie is once again blessed with a stellar cast; heading up the list are the charismatic Gerard Butler (fresh from his recent Spartan success) and Thandie Newton, supported by the likes of Tom Wilkinson (who was nominated for the supporting actor Oscar after his performance in last year’s Michael Clayton) and, excitingly, Idris Elba, otherwise known to fans of US TV’s outstanding drama series The Wire as Stringer Bell. The list goes on. But time – and indeed Ritchie himself – has proven that with a great cast comes great responsibility. Russian gangsters in London has been done recently, too – and done well – in the form of David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.
The trailer is out now, though, and it all looks rather promising. Larger than life characters abound, as is Ritchie’s flair for directing them. The only problem may be; is Rocknrolla almost too easy for Guy Ritchie? Lock, Stock... and Snatch were both great, but they were also a little too similar. If he isn’t careful, Ritchie could end up saturating his own niche of the gangster genre, and that would be a shame. For him and for the film. There is nothing wrong with genre films, of course, but a one sided director will only last so long until he ends up asking too much of his audience. That said, RockNRolla does look like it might put Ritchie back on track and after this, he may move on from gangsters and give us something new to get excited about. RockNRolla is due out in September 26
WORDS MARTIN ROBERTS
Adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story of the same name, David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is worthy of our attention for many reasons, not least of which being the fact that this is his third project with Brad Pitt as his star, cementing a partnership that has so far spawned two modern classics: Se7en and Fight Club. Both were dark, brooding, existential films, concerned with real issues that burned beneath their stylish exteriors. Fincher is known for this sort of film, and it is easy to see why Fitzgerald’s oddly haunting short might have appealed to his darker side. The story develops around the titular character, played by Pitt, who is born aged 80, and ages backwards through his life, growing younger as everybody else around him goes the other way. It is a simple yet affecting concept; most humans go through life pondering what is to come, but the story turns traditional endings (i.e. death) into beginnings in a surreal and mature manner. These inflections lead to interesting conclusions as Button moves through his mirrored life, regressing past his relations and experiencing the various stages of human existence in reverse. Fincher has described his take on the story as “dark” and “romantic” which seems to suit the subject matter. Obviously the film will need to elaborate on the narrative of the original, which is very short, but hopefully the process will be a beneficial one. In what is perhaps an effort to attract a wider audience, the focus of the film appears to be on Pitt’s relationship with Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett, and the ill-fated love that they share. Structurally, the film must be handled delicately; Button’s backward growth in some ways lends itself to the sort of narrative progression found in Christopher Nolan’s exceptional Memento. But whilst Button moves backwards through his own life, the world and the film must remain linear; this is the fundamental paradox of the story, and Fincher seems a good choice to transfer it to the big screen. The recent trailer shows that the film is shooting for a far more epic feel than the book, which is largely small in scale, although Button does head off to war at one point. Hopefully the film will not end up being overcome by a desire for grandeur and lose sight of the subtle but pertinent questions that drove the original narrative. We all know that Pitt is more than capable of carrying a film; his superstar status so far failing to intrude on his status as an actor, and this is the way it should be. Clearly eager to stretch himself, despite already portraying a multitude of different characters with great success, it will be exciting to watch his take on such an interesting and difficult role (he will be playing Button at many different ages). Fincher’s last film, Zodiac, was well received, and here’s hoping that his current form will do justice to Fitzgerald’s short but effective tale. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is due out in December 28
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The Dark Knight
Directed by: Christopher Nolan Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart & Maggie Gyllenhaal
Whether it is cinematically the best film of the year or not, The Dark Knight will be THE movie of 2008. Already rousing a great deal of anticipation, the tragic death of Heath Ledger propelled The Dark Knight into widespread attention, building unprecedented excitement toward the film’s release. The Dark Knight, however, is anything but a lot of hot air, and unlike a number of recent much-touted releases, stands up to the mark in every way. From the very opening scene, you’ll be gasping to know what’s going on, who’s who and what’s going to happen next as co-writer/director Christopher Nolan quite effortlessly guides the viewer down a path of intrigue in a mesmerising plot. While The Dark Knight is gloriously bleak, the story starts at least with things taking a turn for the better. A year since the terror of Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Bale), Lieutenant James Gordon (Oldman) and new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) have at last started to clean up Gotham City. The city’s criminals are afraid to emerge at night in fear of the caped vigilante. When a new criminal surfaces, however, Gotham City is thrown into chaos once more. The Joker (Ledger) is an unruly, unconventional felon, with a complete disregard for the law, for other people, and even for himself. Audaciously confronting the city’s mob bosses, he offers a deal to kill Batman for half of their combined money. The criminals accept, putting the Joker’s reign of terror into motion as he warns he will kill one innocent person every day, starting with public officials. The Joker makes good of his claim, drawing the next move from Batman but even after managing to capture the irrepressible criminal, seemingly getting the better of his nemesis, the Joker’s next wave of torment is already motion as an entire city struggle to repress a new class of criminal. Retold to perfection, the dark, gloomy story is an emphatically complete piece of work. The script is immensely clever and mature, with a multi-layered plot that under other directors, might have served to confuse the audience. Christopher Nolan, however, moves between plot elements and different characters with such a natural grace, it is so easy to swept up by the film and take in all of the action as it comes. With such a complex and winding story, you won’t be surprised to see The Dark Knight runs a forceful 152 minutes but at no point does the film feel indulgent. Every immersive scene is necessary to the story telling, leaving not a moment where something important is not happening on screen. Mixed with the sinister plot, this makes The Dark Knight a very powerful and engaging experience, boosted further by remarkable performances across the cast.
Studio: Legendary Pictures Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Release: July 18 (USA) July 25 (UK)
While he may share on screen time three ways with Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger steals the show with a truly magnificent performance as the Joker. With scars up each cheek and eerie face paint applied carefree across his face, Ledger gives the difficult role a world of its own, haunting the audience in every scene with a spine-chilling vocals and a menacing persona. It is a undoubtedly a performance deserving of an Oscar nomination, and while calls are widespread for Ledger to given an award in his memory, it is, of course, still much too early to determinate winners. Not to be outdone, Christian Bale is superb as Bruce Wayne/Batman. It is a very different role to his critically acclaimed part in The Machinist, but this is every bit as good, offering a thrilling portrayal of a man struggling to make the right decisions for, not only himself, but for the entire city of Gotham. Though fans of Aaron Eckhart have been raving about his acting potential for some time now, as Harvey Dent he provides perhaps the most surprising performance. Just as with Bale and Ledger, as the closing credit roll in, you could not imagine anyone else in Eckhart’s role giving Gotham’s D.A. a vulnerable edge beneath the suave, impenetrable exterior. Eckhart’s time on screen and importance to the story might also surprise some viewers, expecting a two-way duel between the Joker and Batman. While before a horrific accident Dent is hell-bent on stopping Gotham’s crime, after his face is irreversibly disfigured, he assumes the identity of legendary Batman villain Two-Face, with Eckhart instantaneously switching to a man lusting for revenge against those who have caused him pain. As Two-Face, Eckhart’s physical appearance is equally powerful, pushing the boundaries to have a huge impact on viewers. Despite Two-Face’s remarkable appearance and the would-be comical colourings of the Joker, The Dark Knight has an immense sense of realism to it, which makes the film feel much much more than just any other comic book movie. The Dark Knight is one of the finest character piece examples, portraying the inner turmoil and outer conflict of three vivid roles, while the breathtaking action sequences keep the excitement pumping throughout. With a perfect conclusion to the plot, The Dark Knight lives up to every ounce of expectation, providing a relentlessly immersive experience and true contender for legendary status.
Directed by: Peter Berg Starring: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron, Eddie Marsan & Jae Head
As Hollywood is quickly becoming rife with superheroes, Hancock (Smith) brings something a little different. Sure, he can fly, has super strength and can deflect a missile with the flick of a finger but dependence on alcohol and an utter ignorance for the repercussions of his action aren’t normally part of the package.
Hated in hometown LA, despite his semi-good will, only PR guru Ray Emrey (Bateman) can see a softer side beneath Hancock’s literally impen34
etrable exterior. Like most of Hancock’s good deeds, after he saves Ray’s life one day, throwing his car out of the way of an onrushing train, his actions always leave astonishing damage in their wake, stopping the train dead in its tracks and derailing the countless carriages behind. Still hugely grateful for the intervention, Ray sets it upon himself to turn Hancock’s life around and win over his local citizens. Correcting Hancock’s blasé attitude with a stint in prison and a new outlook on his crimefighting actions, Ray’s hopes for the
superhero are coming to fruition as Hancock begins a new dawn. Unlike countless other film teasers and trailer, laying out the entire plotline to a point, actually making your way to the cinema would offer no greater insight to a movie, previews for Hancock told of little more than a troubled superhero helped to find a better path in life. But like most high concept movies, the decision of how to develop the idea makes or breaks a film. Sadly as Hancock delves into the second
Studio: Relativity Media Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment Release: Out now
half, an unfulfilling plot twist takes hold. There’s no doubt the film needed to move into new territory once Hancock’s binge drinking days came to an end, but as the narrative sadly starts to fall away, the film draws to an unsatisfactory close, though you’d be narrow-minding not to see the obvious merit along the way. As expected Will Smith steals the show, and as the plot tails into nonsense, he has the charisma
to keep the audience interested. Alongside Hancock’s reluctant allaction exploits, Smith gives the role a comedic element that makes the film so funny and entertaining, at least in the majority. While in prison, when two inmates, he himself earlier rounded up for their relevant crimes, threaten rough treatment, Smith will draw a lot of crude laughs as makes good the offer of sticking one aggressor’s head where the sun don’t shine, but there are also plenty of more witty quips to back the film up.
As you’d expect from modern day CGI, the visual effects are fantastic, but despite a blaze-laden final few scenes, Hancock will leave you with a perplexed taste in your mouth. The movie boasts a fantastic concept, though the screenwriters cannot deny they struggled to develop what is a great idea into an entire film. Thanks to the wonderful casting of Will Smith there’s enough to keep you interested, but you can’t help but think what might have been.
Hellboy II: The Golden A Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, James Dodd & John Hurt
If the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence existed in the real life, the world would be a much safer place. Made up of the meteoric Hellboy (Perlman), boasting a huge stone fist and grounded down horns, his now girlfriend Liz (Blair), a young woman of some temper and the ability to become aflame and Abe Sapien (Jones), a gilled creature and psychic able to sense the recent past and future of any object merely by touch, the B.P.R.D. are a secret government organisation assigned to extraordinary cases and the negation of even more remarkable foes.
After fighting off a seemingly undefeatable Nazi enemy powered by sand in Hellboy’s original cinematic outing, the follow-up this time pits Big Red against even tougher competition. A legendary tale told to Hellboy as a child, after calling on the Golden Army to defeat the humans, King of the Elves, Balor, split the controlling crown between the elf race and surviving humans to ensure the merciless brutality would not be repeated. Wreaking havoc with his monstrous sidekick Mr. Wink, and a cage full of demonic creatures aptly dubbed ‘tooth fairies’, elf Prince Nuada (Goss) is seeking to finish the war his father abandoned. After stealing the humans’ crown piece, he ruthlessly murders his own father to take hold of the second. With the third on the belt of his sister, Nuada’s thirst for power is far from quelled, he merely hits a snag, although when Hellboy and co. pick up the trail he has a real battle on his hands. Investigating the auction house, the B.P.R.D. take their search to a troll market before discovering Nuada’s plans to revive the Golden Army and the almighty tussle for control of crown. Coming up against all numbers of mystical and magical beasts, after the stunning Pan’s Labyrinth, with a bigger budget del Toro has let his imagination run wild when creating humongous foes and remarkable characters. Indeed the entire visual design of Hellboy II is nothing short of amazing but as the film draws to a conclusion and introduces yet another quirky creature you get the 36
impression del Toro and Mignola had so many creative design ideas they loved, they just decided to throw them all in and worry about integrating each into the story later.
Sadly this is just the start of Hellboy II’s shortcomings. While the concept of the story is befitting to the comic books and a marked improvement on the first Hellboy film, the dialogue throughout is clunky and unsatisfying and severely undermines the whole film. Tame interaction between characters and sloppy writing does not engage viewers, making large portions of the film feel overarchingly dull as the visual direction far outperforms all communication aspects. Furthermore, attempts at character development fall short, and compared with the splendour of the on-screen beasts, the relationship between Liz and Hellboy feels insignificant, again caused by the flawed script. Moving away from the dark, brooding subject matter of the comic books, Hellboy II is also given an unerring comedic edge that struggles to impose any real laughs. Despite its many problems, though, Hellboy II is still far from an awful film, just a letdown. Ron Perlman is again perfect as Hellboy, and really without him in the role it would be difficult to imagine Big Red on screen. The casting of Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, is a little more perplexing, creating the voice of B.P.R.D. leader Johann Krauss with a seemingly mock German accent, which wholly ridicules the character. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is worth going to see for the remarkable visuals and imaginative character design alone, although given very limited script, you might struggle to stay entertained in between the stylistic elements. Newcomers to the series will be able to pick up without an introduction to the characters, although the biggest disappointment will come for fans of the marvellous comic book series as they see what is normally snappy narration descend into lazy dialogue.
Studio: Lawrence Gordon Productions Distributor: Universal Pictures Release: Out now (USA) August 22 (UK)
Directed by: Oliver Blackburn Starring: Jaime Winstone, Julian Morris, Tom Burke, Robert Boulter, Sian Breckin, Nichola Burley & Jay Taylor Studio: Warp X Distributor: Optimum Releasing Release: July 18 (UK) TBC (USA)
As far as “lads” movies go, Donkey Punch has got everything; action, sex, drugs, violence, blood and gore. Escaping their troubles back home, three British girls jet off to Spain to enjoy the sun and have a much needed release. Dressed up for a night on the town, it’s not long before the trio attract the attention of some fellow holidaymakers, and after a quick stop by the beach to down their stolen bubbly, are offered the chance to have their own private party on a millionaire’s powerboat. Looking after the cruiser for their rich boss, the four wannabe playboys tempt the girls to sail off with them into the sunset for a wild evening on the seas, only things get a little more serious than anyone had planned. Tanked up on drugs and with adrenaline coursing through the revellers’ veins, all of a sudden things get out of hand, and after a tragic accident the situation turns 38
ugly. Trading euphoria for paranoia, self-survival runs rife through the boat as the need to cover one’s own back causes a ruthless fight between the groups, leaving yet more bloodshed on guilty hands. While there are obvious attractions to Donkey Punch, on first look, Oliver Blackburn’s debut plays out a little too much like torture-porn trailblazer Hostel. With the first act setting the scene, in the middle section Donkey Punch offers up an all too obvious and graphic sex scene that seems to last for almost a third of the film. And combined with the immediate aftermath, the majority of the cast are fully naked for what feels like 30 minutes. Although given some of the zealous gore towards the end, subtlety obviously isn’t Blackburn’s strong point. Blackburn’s forceful style, however, does help to create an intense, thrilling conclusion, which goes
some way to saving Donkey Punch as a whole. As the increasingly bloodthirsty characters chase after each other on the small powerboat, with help from the pounding background music and rapid camera control, Blackburn has created a deathly claustrophobic atmosphere that suits the plot perfectly, ramping up the tension and keeping the audience guessing before the obligatory deaths. While Donkey Punch certainly feels a little over-indulgent, lacking the maturity of the wonderful Hard Candy by throwing such obvious nudity and gore about on-screen, Blackburn has shown a great deal of potential in conducting 90 minutes of forceful exhilaration. Donkey Punch brings together an interesting concept with confident performances but certainly won’t please all film fans. Firm stomach advised.
Directed by: Shane Meadows Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Piotr Jagiello, Elisa Lasowski, Ireneusz & Perry Benson Studio: Tomboy Films Distributor: Optimum Releasing Release: August 22 (UK) TBC (USA)
After blowing audiences away in murderous tale Dead Man’s Shoes before stunning wider audiences with the powerful This Is England, if the film loving public didn’t realise Shane Meadow’s talent before now, Somers Town will undoubtedly seal the deal. Originally scripted as a short film, Somers Town is named after the central London community in which it is set as Meadows found inspiration from the on-going change in the area as St. Pancras station was being regenerated.
logues. Further effortlessly drawing laughs through geezer Graham as he offers Marek an free Arsenal shirt with ‘Terry Henry’ on the back. Shot in black and white, Somers Town is given a harsh atmosphere that, despite Shane Meadows best intentions, feels misplaced, but
alongside another strong performance from the ever-growing Thomas Turgoose, this is about the only problem holding Somers Town from pushing the aforementioned Dean Man’s Shoes and This Is England to be called Meadows’ best film.
Escaping a miserable life in Nottingham, and a soulless upbringing in social care, 16 year-old Tomo (Turgoose) is drawn to London by the hope of new beginnings and the excitement of the capital. But without a place to go, he spends his first night sitting on a council estate wall, and after being approached by a trio of carefree teens, welcomes dawn beaten, bruised and without his one bag of possessions. Almost as new to the city, and with equally little inspiration of how to spend his day is Marek (Jagiello). With his father working on construction at St. Pancras all day, young Pole Maret struggles to fill the hours my photographing local cafe waitress and muse Maria (Lasowski). After a chance meeting, Marek and Tomo garner an unexpected friendship. Hiding Tomo in his room, Marek gives Tomo a roof over his head as the pair take on odd jobs from hilarious cockney neighbour Graham, spending their earnings on an unrequited love for Maria. Telling the surprisingly enticing story of fractured family relationships as frustrated teens find salvation in each other, Somers Town is a wholly engaging affair. Scripted perfectly by Paul Fraser, the interplay between the two young leads draws countless witty and amusing dia39
Directed by: Andrew Stanton Starring: (voices) Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard & Sigourney Weaver
After almost single-handedly bringing mainstream attention to computer animated films, Pixar have since raised the bar to an extent that even undeniably entertaining features from competing studios don’t come close to challenging their critical dominance. Remarkably rolling out a new film every year, 2007 saw rat Remy cook up a storm, winning Pixar yet another Oscar for their efforts on Ratatouille. Finding brilliance in concepts already adorned with imagination and heartfelt grace, after setting new film WALL•E on a desolate, trashridden future Earth, extracting a charming tale from such a harsh environment was touted as being Pixar’s biggest challenge to date. But if you thought for a second they weren’t up to the task, obviously you don’t know Pixar. Over 700 years in the future, you might expect Earth to be a busy metropolis with floating intercity highways filling the skies and ultra-high tech. gadgets powering the business men of tomorrow. Neglecting their planet to the point of waste saturation, the human race is forced to leave, and forge existence on a vast intergalactic ship while an advanced team of specialists are left behind to make Earth reinhabitable. Roaming the surface compacting rubbish and collecting useful items, one robot is still on the job. The last of the thousands of Waste Allocation Load LifterEarth class, WALL•E spends his days cleaning up humanity’s mess. Packing Earth’s rubbish into clunky body’s chest, WALL•E squashes trash into tidy little cubes, day after day, returning back to his little shelter each night to charge-up, and watch a video of an old musical he found amongst the trash. With only a little pet cockroach for company, though, WALL•E’s life isn’t the 40
most satisfying. He’s not unhappy, he just wants a little more. He wants a little companionship. So when a ship lands on Earth, you can’t begrudge WALL•E’s excitement. Sent from the human’s cruiser, what emerges is a sumptuous gleaming white searcher probe, EVE, or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator. Not expecting to find anything moving, with the humans who sent her even less hopeful of stumbling upon greenery, EVE is a little jumpish, and trigger happy for that matter, but as the two robots finally get acquainted, WALL•E can’t help but fall the adorable drone. Finding just the vegetation she was looking for, the ship returns for EVE, and not willing to let his sweetheart get out of grasp, WALL•E hitches a lift back to the human’s travelling home where at last, civilisation awaits. After 700 years, and a robot helper for all your needs, the human race has grown even more slobbish, but after WALL•E’s arrival and the hope of maybe returning to their beloved planet, everyone’s life is about to change forever. Having contributed to the writing of who’s who of Pixar animations, we shouldn’t be surprised by the magnificent and captivating story from writer/director Andrew Stanton. WALL•E’s mere concept shows boundless creativity but to pull it off with such rich narration despite a first third that contains almost no dialogue is a remarkable achievement, giving a story that effortlessly glides onwards to wow audiences. Integral to the Stanton’s success is the viewer’s connection with WALL•E, and the simplistic ease with which you’ll fall for him. Within the first five minutes you’ll
find yourself willing on EVE’s appearance to provide some company for such a charming little character. Pixar have somehow managed to turn an old, rusty, boxlike rubbish collecting drone into one of the sweetest characters in film, following WALL•E as he cutely can’t decide how to categorise a spork and then seeing him throw away a diamond encrusted wedding ring in favour of its box, as the hinged container will be more useful. Completing WALL•E’s persona, Ben Burtt’s gentle computerised simple vocals opposite Elissa Knight voicing a cutesy EVE, work perfectly. Somehow, Pixar have pushed the boundaries of animated feature films once more. Compared with the giant leap in Toy Story, WALL•E’s visuals won’t appear as outright remarkable as Pixar’s earlier work, but from one of Earth’s shabby cities to deep space and finally the humans’ gigantic spaceship, this intergalactic love-story is set in a world designed to perfection. With the input of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins paying dividends. With a story that transcends age and culture, universal audiences will so easily fall in love with WALL•E. ‘Easter eggs’ dotted about the film will keep die-hard Pixar fans smiling, and jokes effortlessly eased into the narration keep laughs going the full duration. WALL•E is one of the most touching, heart warming films you’ll ever see, and after countless mediocre CGI films cashing in on the recent craze for digital animation, restores all faith in the format, and even challenges similar live-action release all the way. Meaning no disrespect to the outstanding Toy Story and co., WALL•E is quite possibly Pixar’s finest creation to date.
Studio: Pixar Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Release: Out now (USA) July 18 (UK)
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp & Thomas Kretschmann
Love or hate the recent the recent spate of comic book adaptations, you have to get them credit for, on the whole, sticking closely to their source material. Bearing the name of the likes of Hulk, Batman and Iron Man in their title gives each film a duty to portray the relevant comic in an appropriate light, and whether they are well produced films or not, in the eyes of die-hard fans they will at least garner some respect. From the very first scene Wanted strays from this category, in fact, soon after Universal acquired the rights to an adaptation of the comic book miniseries, when producer Mark Platt was charged with overseeing the project, he immedi42
ately sought to create a new world, and merely a shade of the comic’s ideals. Bored with his life an office worker and the unrewarding monotony of his day after day tasks, Platt’s re-imagination still though is based around the life of accounts manager Weasley Gibson (McAvoy). Weasley, however, isn’t your average cubicle worker, and after meeting the devilish Fox (Jolie) discovers his apparent destiny wielding a gun, following the footsteps of his recently dispatched father, one of the world’s finest assassins. Of course, for the timid Weasley, the change of lifestyle is far from a simple transformation.
With Fox’s help, after making a narrow escape from his father’s killer, Weasley embarks on a brutal training routine as he attempts to make the grade of the secret assassin society the Fraternity, of which his father was once a member. Slowly mastering the ability to curve bullets, the trademark of the Fraternity’s extraordinary killers, Weasley is at last ready for his first mission, and is sent on the tail of his father’s assassin. While the premise sounds promising, the final product falls flat on its face. Unlike in the original comic book miniseries where the Fraternity is a group of super-villains, working together to eradicate the world of
Studio: Spy Glass Entertainment Distributor: Universal Pictures Release: Out now
superheroes, the film’s assassin community are directed by one of the screenwriter’s creations, the Loom of Fate, instructing leader Sloan (Freeman) by binary code hidden in thread of whom to kill next. A ridiculous filmic device if ever cinema has seen one. Cross-city sniper targeting and the aforementioned curved bullets do little do little to temper the film’s spiral into absurdity as the plot falls away completely with a now customary twist. Luckily Wanted has saving grace, and as the assassins put the Loom of Fate’s instructions into order, glorious action scenes ensue. Director Timur Bekmambetov’s influence is clear for all to see, reminiscent of his
previous raw vibrancy in the Watch series. The multi-million dollar sheen adds an effortless grace to each vigorous action sequences and you’ll be blown away from the first car chase to the final showdown. If only Wanted offered a little more, then the brief moments of fun could be turned into a lasting appeal. And it’s certainly not for lack of trying by the actors. James McAvoy’s remarkable path to Hollywood blockbuster is complete, and he just about pulls off an American accent although he looks a little less convinced as a baulked up assassin when the diminutive frame emerges topless. A tattoo-laden Jolie looks every bit the part, tuning up her pre-
vious role as Mrs. Smith, and Morgan Freeman further fits the bill as the Fraternity’s leader. Action movie lovers will find a lot to keep them entertained, but Wanted draws to a close crippled by flaws. The film’s style overawes substance to a degree the audience could leave their brains back in the lobby and still get as much from the film, but Wanted’s abandonment of the source material is most frustrating. Sticking to the comic book miniseries’ dark imaginative plot would have undoubtedly produced a far better piece, as what yearns to be The Matrix falls very short.
Directed by: Jon S. Baird Starring: Nonso Azonie, Nathalie Press, Leo Gregory, Tamer Hassan, Paul Kaye & Gavin Brocker Studio: Logie Pictures Distributor: Optimum Releasing Release: August 1 (UK) TBC (USA)
You’d be forgiven for thinking Cass was the next in an increasingly long line of thug-based crime dramas from The Football Factory director Nick Love. Bar an appearance from the frequent fist prone characters of Danny Dyer, all the ingredients are in place that made Love’s breakthrough film such a success. Based on the real life story, Cass boasts a heartfelt edge Love’s features have always lacked, following the astonishing life of Cass Pennant. The film kicks off as a hit is made on the now middle-aged man, before jumping back to his youth, retelling Cass’ story from his first memories. Orphaned as a baby, the Jamaican born figure was raised by an aging white couple in 1950s London, back when political correctness was a mere wisp of hope. Struggling to make it through the school day without being racially bullied, after getting caught up in a football hooligan fight, Cass finds his calling, able to release the pent up aggres44
sion that troubles a fair few teens. A few years down the line and Cass (Azonie) has worked his way to the top of the pile, leading West Ham United’s most renowned hooligan gang, The Intercity Firm. Standing out from the crowd in a culture so overwrought with tough characters, Cass, now an imposing six foot black man in a white man’s world, started to get the attention of other firms wanting to get one over their adversary. Unsurprisingly Cass soon finds himself in prison, and after getting through a tough time behind bars, fall in love and tries to turn his back on his violent past, but for a famous hooligan like Cass, turning over a new leaf is harder than he first thought when old enemies come back to haunt him. You would have expected bringing such an enigmatic character to the big screen would have been a difficult task for newcomer Nonso
Azonie but with roles in Atonement and Happy-Go-Lucky already since embarking on an acting career a couple of years ago, and with Guy Richie’s new film RockNRolla to come, Azonie can expect a successful career in front of the camera after an excellent performance as Cass. And given the film’s focus on the strong central character, anything but success from Azonie would have let the entire film down. With thrills and spills where necessary, Cass gives a wonderful insight into the life of one of the most memorable characters in football hooliganism. Towards the end, the film will wrench heartstrings, setting it apart from genre rivals like Green Street, and despite lacking the outright adrenaline of The Football Factory and jumping forward often years at a time to cover one man’s whole life, Cass Pennant can be proud of the big screen adaptation of his life.
Man On Wire
Directed by: James Marsh Starring: Paul McGill, Ardis Campbell, David Demato, David Frank & Aaron Haskell Studio: Red Box Films Distributor: Icon Film Distribution Release: August 1 (UK) TBC (USA)
Since tearing out a magazine page in a dentist’s waiting room as a wide-eyed young seventeen year old, it was Philippe Petit’s dream to walk between the World Trade Centre’s twin towers. Instinctively drawing a high wire line between what were to be New York’s highest buildings on the publicised construction plans, the magazine page represented the start of what would be called “the artistic crime of the century”. Man On Wire documents Petit’s remarkable journey from fantasy to reality as on August 7th, 1974 he stepped out on a high wire between the twin towers to spend 45 minutes, 1,350 feet above amazed New Yorkers below.
Retold in the style of a heist movie, running through Petit’s meticulous planning for what was always to be a life-risking attempt feat, Man On Wire brings together the team behind it all, interviewing the key personnel involved, and pulling on archive footage, adding realism to the experience. With some gaps in the preparation left unrecorded, under narration from the eccentric Petit, a cast of lookalike actors seamlessly slot into the movie, helping provide an excellent insight into the man behind the artistic crime. Including preparatory walks across the support towers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the
story of a miraculous entertainer is at last told. Though Petit’s story is certainly befitting a far wider exposure, the silver screen seems a little wasted on Man On Wire. Director James Marsh’s film is an effortlessly slick and entertaining piece, but you’ll lose nothing from the experience by catching Man On Wire on DVD back home. Documentaries undoubtedly have a very important place in the film industry, and the quality of Man On Wire is just proof of this, the intensity of the cinema experience, however, is at times, a little wasted.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan Directed by: Dennis Dugan Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Lainie Kazan & Rob Schneider Studio: Happy Madison Productions Distributor: Columbia Pictures Release: Out now (USA) August 15 (UK)
Adam Sandler has had his fair share of irregular roles in what seems like an already extensive acting career. From a loveable water-boy to the son of the devil and most recently, a fireman faking a gay marriage. Starring in at least one relatively high profile film every year since his emergence on the scene in The Wedding Singer in 1998, perhaps Sandler has merely been in high demand, but you can’t deny he’s been anything but picky when it comes to selecting roles. You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, however, is his strangest yet. Taking lead, Sandler assumes the character Zohan Dvir, an Israeli counter-terrorism soldier, fed up with life in the army. While he loves saving his country, there is only so much one man can do, and after being dragged in for duty while on his holiday only to be told he must recapture rebel The Phantom, freed in a trade with terrorists, Zohan struggles to see the point. This is the last straw for Zohan and in a showdown with The Phantom he fakes his own death and escapes to pursue his dream in New York City, and become the finest hairstylist in the Big Apple. Assuming the new name “Scrappy Coco” to escape his former life, Zohan struggles to land a job in a salon before finally persuading the owner of a struggling salon to let him sweep her floors for free. Romancing customers behind the scenes, he is at last given his chance and his flamboyant style causes a stir right across town. Unsurprisingly it’s only a matter of time before Zohan’s history catches up with him and he’s faced with a dilemma and to choose between the priorities of his old life, or his new one. As with any Adam Sandler movie, you’d expect the jokes to come thick and fast, and equally as expected, the dumbed down humour 46
is very hit and miss. Sure, you’ll find yourself laughing a number of times throughout, but given the bombardment of japes, it doesn’t hit home as hard as some of co-writer Judd Apatow’s other films. Sandler fans will though be fairly pleased with his new adventure, and despite the premise drawing thin long before the conclusion, he is confident in the lead role. Despite being a marked improvement on some of Sandler’ recent
films though, don’t expect miracles from You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. The plot twist is generic and in the finale, takes a strange direction that will wash straight over the head of a fair few viewers. Although after already making its budget back in the film’s native America just a handful of week since release and with worldwide figures ever growing, financially at least, Zohan has proved his worth.
Directed by: Brian Robbins Starring: Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Scott Caan, Ed Helms, Gabrielle Union & Pat Kilbane Studio: Regency Enterprises Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Release: Out now (USA) July 18 (UK)
After their last collaboration on Norbit, you wouldn’t have necessarily expected director Brian Robbins and actor Eddie Murphy to forge another partnership so soon. Norbit was overwhelming panned by critics and cinema-goers alike, not only for the extremely poor film, but its stereotypical portrayal of the two lead characters. Even more remarkably, however, Norbit was a big commercial success. Budgeted around $65m, the film grossed almost $160m in theatres, and despite 8 Razzie nominations, including a record 5 alone for Murphy, Norbit gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup. The plot for Meet Dave is at least harmless, and sees Murphy once again reprise a dual role, here playing a human-sized alien space ship, and its miniature-sized captain. Crash landing in New York City in search of a cure for their planet’s energy crisis, the crew start to explore their new surroundings. Struggling to control their humanesque ship and fit in with fellow New Yorkers, the crew’s Cultural Officer researches Earth’s most popular name, and their collective being is named Ming Chang, picking up the first name Dave along the way. After picking up the trail of a probe sent to Earth 3 months previously, the Captain’s problems seem to be evaporating but as the crew start to feel emotions they had never felt before, and fall for a kind New Yorker, Dave’s mission becomes anything but simple. At a brief 90 minutes, though any informed film fan wouldn’t expect miracles, they could at least hope for any pain to pass quickly, but Meet Dave feels anything but concise. Suffering from chronically lacklustre jokes, with immature oneliners aimed at kids and misplaced references to cultural phenomena Google and MySpace intended to please adults, the uninspiring script
fails to engage or even vaguely entertain the audience. While Norbit roused maybe one laugh, you’ll be left utterly bored by this new experience, as Eddie Murphy does little to aide his freefalling reputation. Not only does
Meet Dave offer nothing new, it offers nothing outright and if receipts somehow bring a profit once more, paying fans will only have themselves to blame for another dire Robbins comedy.
Be Kind Rewind
In charge of a struggling video store, after Jerry accidentally erases all of the video cassettes, he and friend Mike are forced to stretch to new measures to keep their boss from finding out. The pair film their own homemade versions of each film to rent out and as word of mouth spreads, the video store soon becomes more popular than ever.
From the makers of Switchblade Romance, Frontier(s) is a frenzied French thriller possessing everything that is good about shocking, gory slasher films. Set in Paris at a time when France is over ought with civil riots, a bunch of friends attempt an audacious bank robbery. After the job goes wrong, the thieves head for the countryside, holing up at an edgeof-town hotel, only for the cannibalistic NeoNazi owners to turn on the group.
Filmed as a shot-for-shot remake of director Michael Haneke’s 1997 original, Funny Games is a claustrophobic judgment on the modern audience’s thirst for gore. After a family arrive at their lake house, two of their neighbour’s mysterious friends turn up at their door to borrow some eggs. Breaking the eggs the moment they handed over, they return to borrow some more only this time stay a little longer and take the family hostage in their own home.
With a raw visceral energy, Frontier(s) races to the finish, packed with suspense, excitement and wonderful chase sequences. Some of the graphic killings will not be for everyone but Frontier(s) puts the likes of Hostel to shame, with shocking thrills throughout and a dark edgy feel to the picture. The ‘making of’ gives a great insight into the film, but a little more would have been nice on the extras front.
Displaying no violence to the viewer despite a leg break and numerous other acts of cruelty, Funny Games feel like a lesson in social being, although it is remarkably affective. At times Funny Games struggles to entertain but in the majority, Haneke’s remake honours the cult original perfectly. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth are particularly impressive. Interviews with the cast are entertaining but they don’t provide an adequate insight into this very interesting film.
Sadly All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is all too linear to ever really scare the audience, struggling to build up tension in the mostly daylight setting. The teens are killed off all to predictably and the attempt to twist the story at the end if completely ineffective. All The Boys... is watchable, no doubt, and for a budget of around $750,000 it is still a good achievement, but there are better slasher offerings out there.An extensive interview with lead Amber Heard sounds promising but fails to entertain beyond the first couple of minutes.
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Featuring delightful remakes of Ghostbusters and The Lion King, Be Kind Rewind’s strength lies in the wonderful “sweeded” movies. The story struggles a little and Be Kind Rewind lags behind director Michel Gondry’s previous effort Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but there’s still more than enough magic. Be Kind Rewind is a quirky, funny and charming film, slightly flawed no doubt, but still well worth your time. Packed with an excellent ‘making of...’, funny improvised songs and jazz concert by Mos Def, the special features give an excellent bonus. Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★ 48
All The Boys Love Mandy Lane Mandy Lane is the popular girl in school. You know her type. All the girls want to be her, all the boys want to be with her. One weekend she heads up to a secluded ranch with some friends but after getting toked up on drugs and finishing a keg of beer they earlier stole, an unexpected guest turns up and starts to cause a little terror of his own.
Diary Of The Dead
Pleasing comedy drama about a Michael Jackson impersonator who finds himself with fellow look-a-likes a castle in the Highlands of Scotland. A little slow at times but still sufficiently entertaining.
The latest in George A. Romero’s Dead series bring his zombie vision up date for the YouTube generation. While the story lacks a little invention, Romero’s raw shots work perfectly.
Despite a wonderful comic performance from Reece Shearsmith, this British horror/comedy movie never really comes to life, especially when compared to genre classic Shaun of the Dead.
Let down by unadventurous plot developments, Conspiracy is a promising thriller that fails to rise to the challenge. Despite its fair few explosions, Conspiracy can’t help but feel a little bland.
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Unerringly creepy Japanese horror film about a woman who starts seeing things after having an eye transplant, The Eye is far superior to the recent Hollywood remake, and unbelievably tense in parts.
Pleasantly watchable rom-com that falls down the same generic genre plotlines you’d expect. The laughs comes along frequently enough as 27 Dresses will please regular rom-com fans.
In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Based on the Dungeon Siege video games, this is a perfectly acceptable fantasy adventure but sadly offers nothing new.
Despite a samey story, Hero Wanted provides plenty of thrills and spills as Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in this revenge thriller. Average direction and character developer, however, let the film down.
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★
Film ★★★★★ Extras ★★★★★ 49
C L A S S I C F I L M S . ARTWORK TOM WHALEN
M O D E R N 50
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL PICTURES
FRANKENSTEIN AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNIVERSAL PICTURES
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNIVERSAL PICTURES
STAR WARS AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © LUCASFILM, LTD
STAR WARS AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © LUCASFILM, LTD
THE WIZARD OF OZ AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © MGM
DRACULA AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNIVERSAL PICTURES
THE MUMMY AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNVERSAL PICTURES
THE WOLF MAN AND ALL ASSOCIATED CHARACTERS © UNIVERSAL PICTURES
FEVER PHOTOGRAPHY JASON LEE PARRY
tv G N I S CHA
Exposing viewers to a plane full of passengers suffering from molten skin within minutes of the opening credits, entertainment supremo J.J. Abrams knows how to turn heads, but his fascination with the creation of mystery will be the real pull factor in new show Fringe. âž¸ 68
The mind of J.J. Abrams must be a complex and remarkably intelligent place. Dawning cult favourite TV spy series Alias and the phenomenal LOST, never mind monstrous blockbuster hit Cloverfield and the upcoming Star Trek movie, Abrams’ imagination is unparalleled. Although the Abrams’ writing talents are spurred on by something different, a fascination of mystery. Ever since he was a young boy, Abrams has been deeply intrigued by the power of mystery and suspense. A deep rooted passion that stems from his late grandfather. Opening up electronics to reveal the complex inner workings, purchasing a then 10 year old film start out his first Super 8 camera and most importantly, taking J.J. to Lou Tannen’s Magic Store in NYC as a burgeoning teen, Abrams owes a lot to his grandfather. And it was from this magic store that he purchased a seemingly career defining object; Tannen’s Mystery Magic Box. “$15 buys $50 of magic” explains Abrams, although the box remains unopened to this day. Instead, the box represents infinite possibilities and hope, the mystery of what may be inside and imagination to offer limitless options. As Abrams declares quite succinctly, “mystery is more important than knowledge”, a mantra that has seen aforementioned projects reap wild success. Millions upon millions of viewers tune into LOST each week without any expectance of the show’s bewildering plot to explain itself, it is the possibility and thirst for information that has fans hooked. A full four seasons in, followers are still spending hours outside the show, piecing together clues in the hope of finding the missing link to the story. Now with an end date in sight, the excitement of the conclusion is keeping viewers on edge. Mixing the mysteries and detective nature of the X-Files with Alias’ science and invention, J.J. Abrams’ next project takes equal influence from the mystery box. Entitled Fringe, the sci-fi drama follows young FBI agent Olivia Dunham, delving into areas of investigation, far beyond her comfort zone, and unexplained phenomena that will have even the most hardened viewer hiding behind their cushions.
After the outlandish scientific plot twists of Alias, we already knew Abrams would be right at home working on Fringe, and signs are excellent from an early cut of the pilot. Ironically starting on an aeroplane, within minutes of the start, the entire fleet of travellers suffer from what can only be described as, melting of the skin. A gruesome sight, but true to head show runner Jeff Pinkner’s will to grab the viewer’s attention within the first act. What follows in the adrenaline pumping 2 hour pilot, shot from an impressive $10m budget, will only serve to further hook fans. Trying to make sense of the mystery on the plane, Dunham enlists the help of a certified crazy, yet devilishly brilliant, scientist and his wandering adult son, as future of the series slowly rears its head. Duty bound to follow similarly remarkable events, Dunham is introduced to “The Pattern”, and Fringe is born. Fans can expect a similar overarching mythology that marks any decent series drama/thriller, though with Abrams’ influence, be ready for plot twists and cliff hangers-a-plenty. And similar to ‘The Lost Experience’ and Cloverfield’s online viral web hunt, another digital side-realm is planned, allowing fans to burrow into clues dotted in each episode. With a website for in-series science company Massive Dynamics on the way, the show’s only current officially linked site points to mysterious stories of scientific and genetic marvel, although it is the early pilot leak that has caused the greatest blogger traffic so far. Rumoured to have been intentionally leaked by the show’s creators, a story strengthened by an official topic in FOX’s online blog as to whether fans have enjoyed the leaked episode, Fringe’s early cut pilot was available for the tech savvy months before the air date looms, though intentional or not, the move has paid dividends. With fans raving about the taster 2 hours, Fringe will arrive on the fall season, propelled by a wave of buzz and excitement, and given J.J. Abrams record so far, there’ll be no let up until the finale. Fringe premieres September 9th on FOX 69
LESSONS IN EVOLUTION WORDS MARTIN ROBERTS
PART 1. SPORE Of renowned designer Will Wright’s latest project Spore, a grandiose, life-simulating “massively single-player online game” (a term coined by the man himself to describe his own game), no one had deeper reservations than myself. The scope of the project is enormous, and it seemed to me that nobody could match such high expectations. With the September release date looming ever so close, has anything been done to allay my fears? ➸
PART 2. ORIGIN The game is based around the concept of species creation; the player is given an utterly blank canvas from which to create their own unique species, all the way from microscopic organisms to fully fledged civilisations. This is far more ambitious than Wright’s previous mainstream efforts SimCity and The Sims, both of which have receivedmuch critical and commercial success. In those games, the player is presented with a sandbox in which to play with their toys; in Spore, however, the player is completely free to make even the toys themselves. Conceptually, at least, the game is certainly evolutionary, if not revolutionary. Wright has simply adopted the next logical step in ‘god-gaming’, and what a task he has set himself.
PART 3. GENETICS Ever since it was announced, Spore has turned heads. With a mandate as dauntingly large as this one, it is not difficult to see why. But the question has always been: “Will the gameplay match such lofty claims?” Having already admitted my cynicism regarding this project, I must now, at least in part, go back on myself. On June 17th, the ‘Spore Creature Creation Utility’ was released as a free download to the gaming public, and the response has been, to quote EA, “overwhelming”. The tools, which put any MMO character generation utility to shame, are expansive and user-friendly, allowing the user incredible freedoms in moulding everything from the directions in which the creature’s eyes face to the curvatures of its spinal column. It may sound over-ambitious, but the creation tool is easy to use and, crucially, a fun pastime in itself. This much is clear in the results already seen; having been out for a relatively short time, the community has already produced over 360,000 individual creatures, you heard right, 360,000. At the height of user-traffic, 72
two new monsters were being uploaded every two seconds. EA certainly won’t need to worry about the game’s popularity when it is finally released. Even more enticingly, the tools are largely incomplete. Many of the options are still grayed out and unusable in the current build, so the possibilities will only get bigger. ‘Bigger’, it seems, is the key word in Maxis’ development plan.
PART 4. NATURAL SELECTION With the current PC gaming landscape dominated by titles with exceptionally high graphical standards (and subsequently, equally high system requirements) Spore seems to be aimed squarely at the middle market, attempting to incorporate as many people as possible into its fold. Not that it doesn’t look good – it does – but it’s comforting to see that a lot of people will be able to run this title without having to spend hundreds of pounds upgrading their systems. I said that my reservations have been partially quashed by this intriguing release. It is important to remember that, until September, we only have a small glimpse at what is very much the beginning of the Spore universe. How the species created will interact, and how the latter stages of the open-world environment (in which players have the option to go online and meet each other’s creations) will play out is still up in the air. But for now, Spore is well and truly back up there in the most anticipated games of 2008; now that EA has played its hand, it is encouraging to see such a strong offering. If the rest of Spore’s massively ambitious plans come off as positively as this one, we may just be looking at a defining moment in modern gaming. The gaming world is about to get a lot bigger. Spore is due out in September 73
Super Smash Bros. Brawl Format: Wii Developer: Sora Publisher: Nintendo Release: Out now
If ever “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has applied to a video game, it would be the Super Smash Bros. series. Originally planned as a Japan-only title on the Nintendo 64, the debut title’s immense success soon lead to a worldwide release, spawning the GameCube’s highest selling game Super Smash Bros. Melee and now Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii.
Making revolutionary steps in the original Nintendo 64 game, developers Sora (founded by former HAL Laboratory employee and series creator Masahiro Sakurai) were clever to merely tweak the existing format making Brawl the best outing for the fighters so far and pleasing long term fans with a game they can get their teeth into with ease. Though essentially a fighting game, Super Smash Bros. works differently to similar genre titles. Brawling with
fellow characters on a 2-D stage, instead of the normal health bar, to win you must knock the opposing characters out of the arena area, with a greater existing damage percentage allowing them to be hit further.
Selecting from a total of 35 characters (most of which you must unlock as you play the game), fighting couldn’t be simpler with basic attacks that can be charged for immense power, or special attacks, specific to each character. Being a Nintendo game you won’t be surprised to see the likes of Mario, Luigi, Bowser and Yoshi make an appearance, but after immersing yourself in the game, Sonic and Solid Snake will be more of a surprise. With the most captivating experience found in basic group fights, it’s no surprise to find several tweaks since Melee. With an even greater number of moving, and often changing stages to fight on, players can also now customise the experience with a number of character ailments. Furthermore, with so many characters and limitless completion settings, no two fights are ever the same, meaning you’ll be playing with friends, either in the same room or online, or against computer
controlled characters for weeks to come without Brawl feeling even a little bit repetitive. Though it has never been the series’ strongpoint, Brawl’s story-based single player mode has been given the biggest overhaul. Now featuring a huge campaign to extend the sidescrolling beat-em-up adventure, players must stop a sinister enemy from turning characters into trophies. Lovable quirks from previous titles again return, so you can expect event-based fights, home-run challenges and timed target smashing to fill in the time before your friends make it over. Not forgetting the hundreds of in-game trophies to collect. There didn’t seem to be much room for improvement after the excellent Super Smash Bros. Melee, but Brawl has somehow managed to trump its previous titles, offering an even more non-stop engaging experience, and an innovative take on the fighting genre.
next month LOAD issue 14 available october 2008
it’s time for the annual LOAD holiday, so we’ll be in america for a couple of months catching a few rays and preparing some exclusive feature spreads for the end of the year. when we return however, LOAD will be switching up to a monthly release, and if you live in London, there’ll be details of our first ever print edition. in the mean time, we’ll be posting a bumper amount of stuff on our blog. from reviews to features and of course, the fruits of our travels. you’ll be able to find it all at loadmagazine.blogspot.com