Killer Elite

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsManaged to sneak in a quick film this afternoon as gran popped round. We we ran out of the house, giggling like loons while she had her back turned and left her with the kids.

Killer Elite

“Blood doesn’t bother me. It’s ink I’m worried about.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: retired hired assassin is dragged back into the world of shooty death to save the life of a colleague

See it if you like: impressive thrillers dressed up as action films with excellent casts, intriguing “based on real events” storylines and brutal fight scenes

I mentioned the cast up there, and impressive it is indeed. Jason Statham at his very best (actually acting, not just being a tough guy), Robert De Niro in as meaty a role as you’ll ever see him in and Clive Owen crossing the good guy/bad guy part impressively. Yvonne Strahovski (from TV’s Chuck) also appears as the eye candy, getting to use her native Australian accent – though it does sound a little Kiwi. Please don’t tell her I said that.

Unusually for a film that is – or must be – pretty much fiction or at the very least hypothesis, it’s based on events described in a book partially regarded as non-fiction: Sir Ranulph FiennesThe Feather Men. Set around the Oman war, it details or alludes to a large amount of British involvement which to this day is classified under the Official Secrets Act. Read the Wikipedia article (linked previously) for more information on the interesting story behind it.

The film runs for around 2 hours and crams a lot into that time. Statham plays Danny, one of a band of mercenaries who gets out of the game after one job too many. He is dragged in some months later by a rich oil sheikh who wants one last job done – the killing of three SAS soldiers, guilty of killing three of his sons. As an extra incentive for doing the job, Danny’s friend and ex-partner Hunter (De Niro) is held hostage.

Danny drafts a couple of old friends and they set out on their mission, eventually coming up against the novel’s titular “Feather Men” and their rogue member Spike (Owen).

There shouldn’t really be any clear good or bad guys in the film, but of course Hollywood won’t allow that so there’s an element of non-ruthlessness in places where you’d expect more from the characters. Aside from that, it’s a fairly brutal and unforgiving film very well filmed and with some excellent fight scenes and set pieces. Best of all, though, is that they’re wrapped in an excellent plot.

With such a strong cast, it’s almost a relief to have s decent story to go along with it. Nothing is too over-the-top, even the gore. It keeps the interest right the way until the end credits.

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30 Minutes Or Less / The Change-Up

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsA night of comedy for our first cinema trip in a fortnight. We toyed with catching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as well, but I was pooped and Gillian had work to do. So back-to-back comedies it was!

30 Minutes Or Less

“Sometimes fate pulls out its big ol’ cock and slaps you right in face.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad man wants to kill other bad man which means paying another bad man which means roping some other poor sap in to rob a bank.

See it if you like: the idea of Harold and Kumar Rob a Bank

Jesse Eisenberg returns to one of his more common roles as a bit of a layabout in this over-the-top comedy. He plays Nick, a pizza delivery guy whose job it is to get pizzas to customers within thirty minutes. Hence the title. Unfortunately, one one fateful delivery he finds himself trussed up, rigged with an explosive vest and ordered to rob a bank of $100,000 by madman Dwayne (Danny McBride) . Dwayne, you see, wants to off his dad and this will cost him a hundred G’s which he doesn’t have.

He teams up with his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari), and together they set out to try and save Nick’s body from vapourisation. There’s a little more undercurrent in that Nick is in love with Chet’s twin sister, and Chet isn’t really happy about this.

Everything ties together well. There are plenty of characters who are all mad at each other for one reason or another. This means plenty of shouting and insults, most of which are gutter-level. Perfect for a night when the brain just needs to be tickled.

There are plenty of laughs and the story runs along well, never getting tired. Eisenberg and Ansari play very well off each other. I’d really like to see them together in something else in the future.

Certainly not high-brow, but it is funny – something some comedies seem to be lacking these days.

The Change-Up

“You are not having sex with my wife.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: two life-long friends with very different lives swap bodies after pissing in a fountain together. As you do.

See it if you like: the idea of 17 Again, Vice Versa, Freaky Friday etc. with nob gags.

Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star as Mitch and Dave, two lifelong friends whose lives have gone in different directions. Mitch is a lazy “actor” who womanises and spends his days wasted. Dave is a lawyer pushing for partner with a hot wife (played by Leslie Mann) and three kids. After a few beers one night, they find themselves caught short in front of a fountain, syphon the python and – as they wish they each had the other’s life – something “magical” happens…

The two actors play each other’s characters very well indeed as Mitch tries to handle nappies and MENSA-level pre-teens, and Dave tries to remain faithful to his wife despite landing in Mitch’s bohemian life.

Of course, being an American movie it needs a dollop of schmaltz and life lessons. Thankfully these are handled well, with a good mixture of slapstick, low-brow humour, swearing and a handful of really very touching moments as our two heroes realise where they’re going wrong in their respective lives.

In the background is the search for the fountain, removed by workmen the morning after the incident – a quest reminiscent of Josh’s search for the Zoltar Speaks machine in Big. And what do they guys do when they finally find out where it is?

This is a really enjoyable film, and certainly better than the trailer made me think it would be. There’s a superb balance of giggles, awkward moments and pathos with the whole thing tying together well at the end.

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De Blob 2

De Blob
The first game, which we haven't got. Yet.

Harking back to a recent post, I mentioned that there is very little in the way of small-child-friendly software for the Xbox as opposed to the Wii or the PC.

One of the titles we picked up by chance some time ago is called De Blob 2 (I’m assuming it’s a sequel, confirmed by the box cover I found to the right). Our youngest – 3½ – has picked up on it recently after getting a little bored with repeating the opening levels of Lego Star Wars (mainly as he hasn’t figured out the save and load mechanism yet which, in fairness, is rather over-complicated in these games).

He is loving it and it’s a great game for kids of his age – and of mine!

I’ve not read the plot or anything, but essentially you’re the hero blob. You live in a world where a nasty individual has removed all the colour, leaving everything a boring grey. Dotted around are fountains and waterfalls of coloured paint which you soak yourself in, and then use yourself to “paint” buildings, trees, people and parts of the landscape.

It sounds nice and simple, and at the bottom level it is. As the game goes on, though, it gets a little more complicated as you have to destroy some things, go into platform-game style stages between levels, and learn how to mix colours (great for the younger kids) to get just the right ones. There are also side-missions, which don’t need to be completed, and bonuses dotted around all over the place.

If I have a quibble, it’s a small one – the right joystick is used to pan the camera around as it is in many games. However, it seems to work in a reverse fashion to every single other game I’ve played which is quite annoying. There may be a setting somewhere to change it, but I’ve not spotted it as yet.

After having sat with Little Mister for some time as he’s worked his way through the early staged, I think De Blob 2 has just become next on my “to do” list once I finish off Lego Indiana Jones.

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Kids and computer games

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Little Mister's current favourite

I still hear a lot of people whinging about how children play too many computer games, and how they’re bad for them. I have a lot of experience of video entertainment (this doesn’t mean I’m any good – I’ve just played them a lot), and some limited experience in the child-rearing side of things but here are some things I’ve noticed.

Our littlest is around 3½. Despite his age, he’s still not a talker and has some communication issues which are mainly due to problems with his hearing. We got an Xbox at Christmas and he, of course, wanted to play all the time. But he was rubbish. Worse than me rubbish. Which is very rubbish indeed. He’s very active – too active, frankly. Runs circles round us and will chase the dog or cat for hours, bounce on the trampoline, run around outside until he falls over and comes home screaming… you know, a proper kid. As such I’ve no issues with him spending some time glued to the telly if it keeps him quiet and out of our hair for a bit.

There aren’t that many toddler-friendly games for the Xbox, but what we have so far are: De Blob 2, Megamind (scratched to hell and unplayable), Toy Story 3, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars. Over time, he watched us playing and we often let him have a spare controller in co-op mode. This usually involved him twiddling the two joysticks randomly and giggling when a Lego character dropped off a cliff in an explosion of coins, releasing a Wilhelm scream. Or Wilhelm Wookie roar. Or whatever.

Hey, he was happy.

Over the last few weeks, though, he’s taken to it big style. He can’t read yet, which means we often have to explain things to him, but if the game has good use of imagery then this can help. Toy Story 3, for example, has “help” bubbles that show you a ghosted image of a character performing an action while the keys you need to press are displayed next to them. The Lego games are similar, although both games suffer from the player often having to be in just the right position for those buttons to work.

What’s amazed me, and prompted me to post this, is how quickly he’s come on since we sat him down with a controller and let him loose by himself. I just sat with him this morning as the played through the train stage at the start of TS3. Aside from one section which I did for him, he completed the whole thing himself. Picking aliens up and throwing them off the train, throwing bouncy balls at moving targets, smashing boxes open, jumping and double-jumping gaps and obstacles. Wow.

Lego Star Wars has captured his imagination more than the Indy game and its simple problems in the early levels are just right for him. After some demonstration from myself, he’s able to work out some of them with no assistance. Swapping to use the correct characters to perform a task is an example. If he sees a C3PO head, he knows he needs the right kind of droid. Sparkly things? Jedi force. Bounty Hunters only? Wander off, find a helmet machine, get a helmet, go back and get through the door.

And so on.

He can now control the characters and camera independently using the two joysticks. His timing for jumps is good. Not brilliant, especially double-jumps where he often can’t hit the jump key quickly enough in succession, but still pretty damn good.

Now, he’s a good kid with his other toys. He loves tool kits and his Toy Story figures – and his sister’s Lego much to her annoyance. But I don’t think we have much else that has improved his logic skills or hand-eye coordination as these computer games.

I actually think his communication has improved slightly as well, as he tries to explain where and how he’s stuck, or tells us what he’s managed to achieve.

Over and above that, he’s learned how to check whose profile is active when he comes to the console and change it to his own. It’s simple image recognition (as I said, he can’t read but he can identify the icons and avatars), but it also shows he’s aware of what “belongs” to him and to others.

So to those who say that kids shouldn’t be let anywhere near computer games? Think again. There’s a time, a place, and a use for them.

 

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Kill ListBurn After Reading

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWell, we took a trip to the cinema last night to see Kill List, but the projector failed. We sat through almost ten minutes of sound with no picture before giving up and walking out. Shame, as it’s now unlikely we’ll get a chance to see it at all as we’re otherwise engaged next Friday night.

Instead, we wandered through Asda on the way home and perused the cheap DVD section and grabbed some movies. Gillian watched Shutter Island which I’ve seen before and quite enjoyed it. Next up was a toss-up between Moon and the Coen BrothersBurn After Reading. As Gillian was in the mood for  comedy, and the box said “Comedy Of The Year” we popped that disc in.

Good. Gumption. What a complete load of arse. I mean, “comedy”? Didn’t someone tell them that comedies are supposed to be funny? I’m not even going to give this a full review. Suffice to say that despite an very good cast, it was an utterly awful film and a complete waste of an hour and a half. It was badly scripted, slow, tedious, boring, didn’t go anywhere, and the wrap-up at the end viewed as if someone had told them to cut the last ten minutes and replace it with a quick tie-up.

On Twitter and facebook last night, I found one person and her hubby who had found it hilarious. Pretty much everyone else hated it, including one comment of “Worst. Film. Ever.” Perhaps not. But damn close.

Burn Before Watching would have been a better title.

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