Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews from your very own Skip and Drew, as well as our guest bloggers.

Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III title

Review – Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III

Seth Green and the Robot Chicken crew returns to the Star Wars Universe with Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III. Yet again they show their love for George Lucas’s creation while gently, and sometimes cruelly, poking at it with a double bladed lightsaber.

As always, the writers deliver on the laughs and there are plenty of in-jokes to keep the fans satisfied, while those new to Robot Chicken and Star Wars will also be entertained. The stop motion animation is simply superb and does show that a lot of effort and love has gone into each skit. Whereas the previous episodes’ running times were around the 35-40 minute mark, we’re given a real treat with episode III with over 40 comedy gems – a total of an hour’s viewing pleasure.

While RC fan favourites Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett get the best skits, there are a couple that I found truly hilarious and really do stand out.
Anakin Skywalker is encased into his life support suit and becomes the Vader we all know. After and funny disco scene, Vader realises he needs the bathroom. How does the Dark Lord of the Sith get out of his leather suit and use the toilet? What about the cape? Well Robot Chicken tackles the question that everybody has asked…
During a quiet moment in the summer palace, Padmé insists on having a chaste conversation, taken from the actual movie Attack of the Clones, while at the same time tormenting Anakin with her very suggestive behaviour…
The Emperor calls Jar Jar Binks to apologise for manipulating him in the Senate. We finally find out who truly manipulated who in a sketch that makes the Binks very, very cool…
And finally, featuring RC Stormtrooper Gary, we find out the about the last tragic few moments of Luke’s aunt Beru and uncle Owen…

We love the previous Robot Chicken Star Wars specials and we wholeheartedly recommended Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III is released on DVD on the 4th July 2011.

Not forgetting the ever-popular DVD extras, this edition is loaded with 3 hours of special features, including: For the Love of Toys Featurette — For the Love of Star Wars Featurette – For the Love of Filmmaking Featurette – Trailers – Skate tour – Sunday in the – Boardroom with George Lucas – SW Celebration Panels – Easter Eggs – Voice Records Featurette – Writing Process Featurette – VFX Featurette – Skywalker Ranch premiere – Deleted Animatics – Chicken Nuggets – Gag Reel — Commentaries.

Millions of years from now, after Socrates, Shakespeare and the bible are long forgotten, only two great works will remain: the sci-fi cinema epic Star Wars and Adult Swim’s stop-motion animated, cheap gag extravanganza Robot Chicken. And now, for the first time, they come together for the third time, in this all-new special.

That’s right, all your most beloved Star Wars characters are going back through the comedy meat grinder. Watch Darth Vader fall into a toilet, while Emperor Palpatine rides the endless Death Star escalator! See Gary the Stormtrooper’s speederbike test-drive come to a gruesome, Ewok-splattering end! And witness the firepower of Boba Fett’s fully armed and operational T-SHIRT CANNON! Plus much, much more! It’s Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III. Set your phasers to ”fun”! (Oh wait, wrong franchise.)

X-Men First Class banner

Review – X-Men: First Class

I’m sure by now you read most of the reviews for X-Men: First Class, and they’re all good. Well guess what, they’re all right. Matthew Vaughn has successfully breathed life back into Marvel’s X-Men movie franchise.

First of all I have to say that I’m not one of the X-Men: The Last Stand haters. Yes it was deeply flawed, with too many characters, Scott Summer’s “death” and the wasted potential of using the Phoenix force. However, Famke Janssen looked great as she flicked from Jean Grey to Dark Phoenix and the scene between her and Xavier was brilliant. Brett Ratner was accused of taking the heart out of the series and yet in the final moments between Phoenix and Hugh Jackman’s, I couldn’t help but feel emotional as he killed Jean.

Matthew Vaughn has continued to deride The Last Stand, and perhaps he feels justified in doing so, as First Class delivers so much more than the previous installment.

Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.

With the film taking place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the franchise continues to ground itself in our world, giving it a true feeling of realism – despite the blue and yellow costumes making their appearance. Surprisingly not looking too camp even though set in the sixties.

I loved the fact that the opening, featuring a young Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents, was shot scene for scene from Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie. Kevin Bacon plays the evil Nazi scientist role really menacingly, without going overboard, as he does Sebastian Shaw. Seeing the Hellfire Club set in swinging 60s Las Vegas was a real hoot, along with Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert and the other totties strutting in their underwear. The whole thing smacked of early James Bond with the tiniest touch of Austin Powers – groovy baby!

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy scenes together are just brilliant and adds to that great “friendship” we saw with portrayed by Ian McKellan and Patrick Steward in the previous X-Men trilogy. I love it that they play chess in a number of scenes together while debating their points of view on how to handle mutants and humans. Charles plays the role of mentor to the fledgling band of mutants, helping them develop and control their abilities, while Erik tries to teach them they’re now the evolved and dominant species. While Charles wants Raven to hide her true form from the world, Erik tells her to be proud of her true self, slowly seducing her to the dark side.

We have the emotion with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto as he searches for the man responsible for the death of his mother in the Nazi concentration camps. We have the heart, as Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy, searches for other mutants to help mankind. There’s also some touching scenes between Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult).

However there are a few points I’d like to pick out which slightly disappointed me. Riptide (Álex González) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng) had no character development, they were just there to move the plot along and the same could be said for Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) and Havok (Lucas Till). I was also unhappy with the ending, as the divide between Charles and Erik happened too soon. I had hoped that we would’ve seen more of their great friendship develop, only to then pull apart over the course of two or three films.

There’s two funny cameos featuring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn. Certainly made this nerd laugh!

Ultimately X-Men: First Class is an excellent origins movie which isn’t bogged down by striving to have all the background story. By concentrating mostly on Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, we’re treated to wonderful chemistry between the characters, as well as Fassbender and McAvoy. The story is well paced and at no point did I feel its 132 minutes running time. Bad points aside, Vaughn delivers a classy film with all the 1960s chic geek appeal it deserves.

Attack the Block

Review – Attack the Block

I really wanted to like Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, I truly did. Attack the Block premiered at the SXSW 2011 festival in Austin Texas to rave reviews, so I was really excited to see yet another homegrown movie doing well. It ticked all of the boxes for me; based in the UK; British cast; Joe Cornish as director; Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead fame producing; and Nick Frost. And yet, when I left the cinema I couldn’t help but question why Joe Cornish thought the story would be appealing…

Usually I try to write reviews with the negative points first and the positives after, so that I leave the reader with happy vibes. Perhaps even encourage you to go see the movie based on our opinions. I just don’t think I can with Attack the Block, so I’ll start with the good.

I love the fact that Attack the Block is set in London as it’s my home town. We don’t have enough genre films set in the UK. The actors all do a pretty top notch job on the acting front, including the largely unknown cast that make up the Sarf London yoofs (UK pronunciation for South London youths). The are funny jokes and scares that make you jump out of your seat. I really loved the alien design – though Drew thought they looked like a bunch of guys running around in Gorilla suits, albeit good ones. The black fur and glow in the dark teeth are particularly effective in the film. There are some nice sci-fi nods too, such as naming the block of flats Wyndham and the alien meteors resembling the Triffid spores. The cinema photography is also really good – who knew a council block of flats could look so beautiful on the big screen.

However, despite all of the above, the film as one huge major flaw, the story. Set on a council estate in South London Jodie Whittaker’s character Sam is mugged by a gang from the block. She only gets away because of a meteor crashing into a nearby car, distracting her assailants. The gang, Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Biggz (Simon Howard) who are lead by Moses (John Boyega) investigate and are attacked by a small creature. Chasing it to a park, they kill the beast and revel in the fact.

At no point throughout the entire film do they show any enough redeeming qualities for the audience to show any sympathy for the gang. Joe Cornish tries, by having the gang try to behave as good little boys in front of their families, but they’re lying, so they can go back out onto the streets. Towards the end Sam finds out about Moses home life which again is supposed to endear sympathy but to me it doesn’t excuse his actions. The local drug dealer recruits Moses to sell “white stuff” and the rest of the gang are proud. How is this a good thing? If one of them was Cuba Gooding Jr and the other Ice Cube a la Boyz n the Hood and showed their struggle to better themselves, then perhaps I would’ve felt felt better about the story. As it stands, I wished more of the gang was killed off as it would’ve made the movie more entertaining – they would have got what they deserved.

I’ve read a number of reviews that go on about the morality of the story, but I don’t think the yoofs of London will get it. It glorifies gang violence. As long as the gang in Attack the Block know you live in the block, they’ll leave you alone – Well that’s alright, innit!? Perhaps I’m feeling too uncomfortable with the story because I’ve been the victim of mugging – more than once. Perhaps I would’ve liked to have seen Attack the Block‘s bastards killed to feel some satisfaction. The story failed where it could’ve been great.

That leaves us with Jodie Whittaker’s Sam. The victim of a mugging who feels she has to follow the gang to stay alive, and who does more to keep them alive. Sam may have been suffering from Stockholm syndrome judging her actions towards the end of the movie. However, the real hero isn’t the gang leader who protects the block from alien invaders, but a young female nurse who got mugged.

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, Attack the Block stars Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones and Simon Howard and is out now.

The Walking Dead Bicycle Girl

Review – The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

Robert Kirkman with Walking Dead Zombies
Robert Kirkman with Walking Dead Zombies

What proved to be one of the most anticipated television shows to premiere in 2010, The Walking Dead gets its UK DVD & Blu-ray release on 16th May 2011 with The Complete First Season.

The Walking Dead TV series is an adaptation of the highly popular graphic novels bearing the same title, written by the rather hunky bear Robert Kirkman. The story sees deputy sheriff Rick Grimes awaken from a coma and faced with a world forever changed in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. As Grimes ventures out into the zombie infested America, he searches for his lost family and becomes the leader of a small group trying to survive unbearable horrors.

First all all let me say thank you to the production team who didn’t skimp on the gore. THANK YOU! A zombie TV show without the blood and gore would’ve made for poor viewing. It’s refreshing to see shows from HBO, Showtime, FX and of course AMC, producing more mature content. Shows like Tru Blood, Dexter, Spartacus: Blood and Sand and The Walking Dead prove that there is a place for high quality drama, that just so happens to have a good amount of the red stuff splattering all over the screen.

AMC and Frank Darabont have come up with a great drama series that really does feel like a zombie plague has swept America – has it spread to the rest of the planet, who knows? The production certainly feels like it has a big budget, with dead cities, overturned cars and creature FX that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster. Our first sighting of a zombie shows how beautifully crafted the special effects are and that it doesn’t rely much, if at all on CGI. Known as “Bicycle Girl” the below video – one of the DVD extras – shows the casting process as well as how the make-up was designed and fitted. The short video is fascinating viewing, as well as the other featured extras, such as the zombie school, which Shaun of the Dead also had.

Speaking of extras, there’s quite a few to choose from (full list below). Our American cousins grumbled that many of the extras were already available via AMC’s website. However these videos weren’t available in the UK and so are a welcome addition.

At the heart of The Walking Dead is not so much the zombies, but the emotion behind the story. Although The Walking Dead is told from Rick Grimes’s point of view, it is every bit about the survivors he meets and their stories. Some already suffering from their struggles, and some with more suffering to come as loved ones are killed by the undead. The cast do a great job and you truly feel for the characters, even the ones that a just as hideous as the zombies themselves – Merle Dixon is particularly nasty and must’ve been a delicious character for Michael Rooker to sink his teeth into.

Whether you’re a fan of the graphic novels or just a zombie nut, if you like your TV shows to have a bite, then The Walking Dead will not disappoint.

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season on UK DVD & Blu-ray is released on 16th May 2011 .

Synopsis:

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season”breathes new life into the zombie genre as it unfolds a post-apocalyptic saga that follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually), who searches for a safe haven and, hopefully, a new home, far from the undead that now roam the earth hungry for human flesh.  Each episode explores the challenges of life in a world overrun by zombies, and the toll it takes on the survivors who now find themselves going to extremes just to see another day. In this horrific world gone mad, each turn brings new surprises and dangers, as the survivors try to regain some semblance of a normal life.

The Walking Dead” is based on the popular Image Comics’ comic book written by Robert Kirkman. The series premiered on AMC Fearfest Halloween night and immediately became the most watched drama series in cable’s history among Adults 18-49 with 3.5 million viewers. It also gained a following among critics (from People to Vanity Fair) who have hailed it as one of the best new series of the year.

Starring:

  • Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
  • Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh
  • Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes
  • Laurie Holden as Andrea
  • Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale Horwath
  • Steven Yeun as Glenn
  • Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon

DVD bonus features include:

Featurettes:

  • The Making of The Walking Dead
  • Inside The Walking Dead: Episode 1-6
  • A Sneak Peek with Robert Kirkman
  • Behind The Scenes Zombie Make-Up Tips
  • Convention Panel With Producers
  • The Walking Dead Trailer

Extra Footage:

  • Zombie School
  • Bicycle Girl
  • On Set With Robert Kirkman
  • Hanging With Steven Yeun
  • Inside Dale’s RV
  • On Set With Andrew Lincoln
Thor poster

Review -Thor

This year’s superhero season has kicked off with an almighty punch as Marvel’s Thor comes to the big screen. When I first heard that Kenneth Branagh was taking the role as director, I wasn’t sure what to think. A man renown for his leanings towards the more highbrow productions, I was interested in how Branagh’s Shakespearean background would bring Thor and the Norse gods to life. It could’ve gone bad like Ang Lee’s Hulk or, as is the case, Branagh could’ve brought those Shakespearean themes such as deception, family betrayal and character driven drama.

The epic adventure “Thor” spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the mystical realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth, where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the ways first. Most of the Earth based scenes aren’t anywhere near as interesting as those that take place on Asgard and Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants. Natalie Portman is adequate as Jane Foster (Thor’s love interest) and Stellan Skarsgard her research scientist colleague Erik Selvig. They are however easily outdone by Kat Dennings who plays their assistant, Darcy Lewis. A gutsy, cool and hip chick, Dennings does comic relief really well. The only other highlights is seeing S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson from Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and an uncredited cameo by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye. There are also a few fun moments with Thor and his interactions on Earth.

The post production 3D conversion adds nothing to the overall feel of the movie, but as least it doesn’t impact it badly, like it did with Clash of the Titans.

The real magic lies in Asgard, as Thor and Loki vie for the attention of their father Odin, King of the Asgardians. Chris Hemsworth playing the titular Thor to good affect as the good natured, but quick to temper god, who is ruled by his emotions. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is deceitful, easily manipulating those around him. Loki constantly keeps the audience guessing where his allegiances lie. On top of these two solidly good performances is Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Odin who steals every scene he is in. The film is more about the relationship of the father and two sons and as Hopkins describes “It’s a superhero movie, but with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in”.

Also of note is Idris Elba as Heimdall, the all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the Bifrost bridge. He has a gravitas about him almost as good as Anthony Hopkins. Elba’s casting prompted a a planned boycott by the Council of Conservative Citizens and a debate amongst comic book fans, some insisting it was wrong for a black man to play a Nordic god. In response Elba called the debate, “ridiculous” and rightly so, he was simply brilliant.

Aside from a couple of dodgy scenes (Thor against the Destroyer on Earth), the special effects are top notch. Asgard and the Bifrost look stunning, as do the Frost Giants and Jotunheim. Branagh grounds the idea of Norse gods into the Marvel film universe with a sense of realism – yes despite it being a story about gods – and tying magic and science together as one and the same adds to this.

Thor is an extremely fun movie to watch and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a movie that children will like as well as adults and comic book fans alike. With Captain America: The First Avenger set for release this summer and The Avengers movie next year, Thor successfully expands the Marvel film universe.

Paul Nick Frost Simon Peg Kristen Wiig Blythe Danner

Review – Paul

Fan boys Simon Pegg and Nick Frost not only co-star but also wrote the script for Paul and their obvious love for the sci-fi genre simply slaps you in the face almost every minute of the movie.

Sci-fi uber-geeks, Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), set off on a road trip to explore famous alien sightings across America where they happen to stumble upon the foul mouthed fugitive alien, Paul (voiced brilliantly by Seth Rogen). Pursued by federal agents and the religiously fanatical father of (accidental) female kidnap victim Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), the film keeps up the pace, with plenty of action and laughs. Though all the cast are brilliant, for me and the geeks this movie is aimed at, the true star is the script and the many references to sci-fi movies and TV shows. I don’t think I got half the references but included are Aliens, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T., Star Trek and of course, Star Wars.

However you don’t have to be a sci-fi nerd to enjoy Paul. With plenty of gay and anal probing gags, there’s enough jokes to keep even a non sci-fi movie goer laughing throughout. The special effects are mostly excellent and Pegg’s and Frost’s interactions with Paul are very believable.

Despite losing the British charm that permeated Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and with some predictable plot threads, this funny road movie about alien bromance is truly genius. And I defy anyone not to laugh at the big joke at the end.

Night of the Living Trekkies

Review – Night of the Living Trekkies

The publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, boldly go where no science-fiction mash-up has gone before! Night of the Living Trekkies.

There have been a number of books where diverse genres have been mixed together yielding unexpectedly brilliant flashes of genius. Most notably Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Well now, we have a place where our beloved Star Trek and zombies collide in this very funny parody.

Jim Pike, former special forces soldier and Star Trek fan, is the assistant manager of a hotel hosting the “largest Starfleet Convention in the western Gulf Coast region”. Disillusioned after his time in Iraq, all Jim wants is a quiet life with minimal responsibilities and stress. When a number of strange incidents happen, Jim slowly discovers all is not right in the hotel. As Jim finally discovers that a strange virus outbreak results in a flesh-eating zombie horde attacking the hotel, he has to dig deep and summon the courage to save the ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls. On top of all of that, if it wasn’t enough to deal with, Jim and his crew have to save the planet as it faces total apocalypse. Aiding Jim in his endeavor are; Jim’s sister, a Klingon weapons designer, a Vulcan, a red shirt and Star Wars’ Slave Girl Leia (who’s consistently quoting Star Wars without realising it).

Each chapter of Night of the Living Trekkies is titled after an episode from the Star Trek franchise and there are plenty of jokes from both Star Trek and Star Wars to keep any science fiction fan entertained. The story is well paced. The authors, Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall, clearly have a love of Star Trek, knowing the difference between Trekkies and Trekkers. If you don’t think there is a difference, take some advice, never use either term infront of a Dutch fanboy.

It maybe unofficial, unimaginable, unbelievable! It may not be Jane Austen. But, Night of the Living Trekkies is one of those rare books that I could not put down until I had read it cover to cover. A highly entertaining and very much recommended read. And, if I’ve not convinced you yet, check out the trailer for Night of the Living Trekkies below, which gives you a bloody good taste of things to come.

Quirk Books has given us four copies of their Star Trek zombie mash-up book Night of the Living Trekkies to giveaway in our competition. To enter, click here.

Order your copy from Amazon UK or Amazon US .