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Enjoyable anime that gave us the best Highlander sequel
Sequels to the 1986 original Highlander weren't exactly groundbreaking achievements, but this, the 6th movie in the series trumps them all and may even give us the best entry in the entire franchise.
Highlander: Search for Vengeance goes down the same path, switching between the past and the main plot with the immortal Colin MacLeod remembering back over the past 2000 years when he fought and died many times, the first example being in 2nd century Scotland when his wife is murdered by a Roman general, Marcus Octavius, who is also immortal.
Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll) sets us through many different battles in history expertly, putting lots of attention to detail for the settings (especially in the post apocalyptic New York City of the year 2187).
The English dub voiceovers are great, especially Alastair Abell, who does a much better job than Christopher Lambert with a Scottish accent in the flashback sequences that span the first 1000 years of Colin and Marcus' existence as immortals, and voice acting veteran Scott McNeil taking 3 roles including Colin's ghostly accomplice and mentor Amergan is on top form.
A well written story, with well developed main characters and impressive battle scenes that don't skimp on the violence and bloodshed, Highlander: Search for Vengeance is a must for fans of the original and anime fans alike.
Fine return to form for the Muscles from Brussels
Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren come back on the big screen together for the first time since the 1992 original and it's been well worth the wait.
Van Damme returns as "retired" Universal Soldier Luc Deveraux, who is struggling to adapt to life among humans, and is quickly brought to Boone Industries to help the military stop an Eastern European terrorist group from setting off a bomb in the disused Chernobyl power plant that will unleash a powerful radioactive cloud on the world. Most of the screen time is given to the main villain of the story, a Next Generation UniSol (or NGU) played by UFC wrestler Andrei Arlovski, who carries out orders for the terrorists to ensure their plot to kidnap a Prime Minister's children and demand that political prisoners are released within 72 hours run smoothly.
The first half of the movie is quite slow, but when the time comes for Deveraux to go into action, the movie really lights up and comes to life with a huge bang.
Sadly only being released straight to DVD, this movie really does put cinematic action flops like Die Hard 4 and the last 2 Terminator movies to shame.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
One time great comedy becomes sad by-product of America's Dark Age of comedy
To be honest, I've been a huge fan of the Simpsons since first watching it at the age of 6, and am always an avid fan of the classic seasons (1 to 8) and seasons 9 to 12 at a stretch. But since 2002, the show's fallen flat and failed to produce even a fraction of the humour or originality from it's heyday. I dreaded the release of this movie, knowing it would really only be one aimed at the younger audience that never got the opportunity to start with the classic episodes.
In the few months before its release, we were promised a new storyline and fresh, new, original jokes. However, it took 11 writers (one being the show's creator Matt Groening) to produce an overlong episode of the series as it is today, with the culmination of sad homophobic jokes and the same 8 sub-story lines that have been used since the classic era, but with extremely stale jokes.
The story (or small shred of what should be a storyline) consists of Homer taking in an obscure animal as a pet (overused subplot #1), single-handedly causing an environmental cock-up that has the rest of the townspeople baying for the family's blood (overused subplot #2) and forcing the family to flee Springfield (OSP #3).
During all of this, Bart disowns Homer for being a negligent parent (OSP #4), Lisa experiences first love for the 217th time (OSP #5), Marge and Homer fall out to an extent where they threaten to divorce each other (OSP #6), so it's up to Homer to try and patch up the family's differences after having an apparition telling him to go back to Springfield and sort out the mess (OSP #7).
If you're still awake by the end credits, make sure you catch Maggie's (10th) first word (OSP #8), that is if you haven't already lost the will to live after the extremely unfunny jokes and soul-destroying cameo scenes from rock band Green Day and actor Tom Hanks.
Avoid this movie at all costs. Alternatively, If you want to watch it for the only witty joke in 8 miserable years of pro-Bush humour, fast forward your borrowed DVD or online video to the final 5 minutes which involves Homer literally being.... I won't give it away for those who haven't seen the movie already or avoided it up to now. Other than that, it truly is one to avoid and a total waste of money, proof that Groening should have pulled the plug on the series at the turn of the millennium.
Star Trek (2009)
Average at best. Wait for the DVD release.
To be honest, I was actually dreading the prospect of a reboot of the dead Star Trek franchise, even more so when word got out that JJ Abrams was directing, as he had killed off another franchise 3 years previously with Mission: Impossible III. The months that followed saw me labelling this new movie 'Miscast Trek' upon hearing the main cast of actors. After its first month of release, however, I was talked into seeing it on the big screen, and although I was wrong about some parts (I actually grew to like some of the casting and performances), I was still thrown off by the poor directing and writing skills of Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzmann that made M:I III excruciating, as well as the costume designs that would have been proudly showcased in Batman & Robin.
The special and visual effects were quite impressive and although the story was a bit hit and miss, the performances of Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy as the two Spocks were the main highlights of the movie, along with Eric Bana's evil performance as Romulan villain Nero.
Chris Pine will leave you gritting your teeth at his irritating and very wooden turn as Kirk, and even convert the biggest Shatner-haters in the world to actually praise the 60's Kirk, and Karl Urban's take on Dr. McCoy was a bit too hammy at times, but also quite enjoyable for most of his on-screen time.
It was always guaranteed to be a box office smash, whether it be hit or miss, but it's really one that could easily be saved for a quiet night-in on DVD.
Street Fighter IV (2008)
The greatest Next-gen fighting game of our time!
On February 20th 2009, the wait was over. The eagerly anticipated Street Fighter IV was finally released, and it was well worth the wait.
Taking the classic fighting system from the SF series and combining it with crisp, state of the art 3D character designs and 2D/3D backgrounds for fighting designs is probably the main selling point for this game, and the main reason why it's such a fantastic game.
Updated takes on the classic character's theme music tracks are also a winner as well as the amazing Japanese dub voices, but unfortunately it's the English dub that once again lets it down. The voice actors are in good form, but it's really the dialogue in cutscenes that are the poor point. The choice of characters receives a mixed reception from the fans, with huge favourites from the classic series returning , including 14 of the original 16 SFII characters and 5 from the Street Fighter Alpha series. 4 new characters are introduced and it's tough to adapt to their command lists and fighting styles at first, but the training and challenge are a huge help in helping the player master characters' abilities.
Like most fighting games however, it's the arcade mode's final boss that sticks out like a sore thumb as the worst character in the game.
Nevertheless, the game is still a huge winner, and easily a top contender for one of the top games of 2009, proof that when it comes to fighting games, Capcom will never be beaten. The SF series just keeps getting better with age, and this is as close to the perfection of the fantastic 1991 Street Fighter II original.