Captain America: The First Avenger – Review (Film)

I am very excited about the upcoming Avengers movie. Joss Whedon is one of my favourite creative people in the industry and the fact he is helming such a huge blockbuster fills me with confidence.

Having only seen the first Iron Man film I figured I should start making my way through some of the other Avengers character films, starting with Captain America: The First Avenger.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Captain America, having had a toy figure of him when I was kid as part of a Marvel playset. Still, I have no idea what his story is or where he comes from.

Fortunately for me Chris Evans is on hand to relive Captain America’s genesis story. He plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid who is desperate to join the army and fight for his country. Unfortunately he’s too small and has lots of illnesses which prevent him from doing so.

Eventually his persistence pays off and they accept him… but only as part of a top secret government project that involves trying to create a ‘super-soldier.’

The film has just the right balance of comedy and action – even after Evan’s transformation the film doesn’t immediate follow the path you would presume it would take, which was a refreshing change.

And that transformation is seriously well done – the CGI making Evans appear smaller than he really is had me impressed and it makes a huge difference than if they had just had him go from normal to having super muscles.

Unfortunately I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that this film was just a set up to the franchise and that Captain America’s real adventures will begin in his next film (as well as being a part of The Avengers).

A lot of the battle/action sequences felt like ‘action-by-numbers’ and I didn’t feel that the story was anything special – although the filmmakers have to go by the story that exists so you can’t complain too much I suppose. The ending was great though and is a cool set up for them to take the character forward.

Overall Captain America is an average, if enjoyable, action romp that has some decent character CGI and does a nice job of setting up the franchise. Worth a watch but there is nothing ground-breaking here.

Rating: 6/10

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‘An Idiot Abroad’ by Karl Pilkington – Review (Book)

‘An Idiot Abroad’ is the book that accompanies the excellent TV series of the same name that saw Karl Pilkington, a not very well travelled Englishman, being sent abroad to visit some of the wonders of the world.

As I have mentioned before (indeed it won ‘Best Factual’ in my TV Awards in 2010) the series was great fun and it definitely did show you a different side to the wonders of the world.

Told from Karl’s perspective the book gives you some further insight into just what was going through his mind while all this madness was going on around him. Whether it’s the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal, you can guarantee it won’t be a straight forward affair – especially as it’s Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant that are planning the trips for him.

So if you’ve seen Karl in action on TV already, do you need to check out this book?

Unfortunately, almost all of the best bits of the book will be stuff you’ve already seen which obviously dampens the impact and to some extent the enjoyment of them.

I wouldn’t recommend reading ‘An Idiot Abroad’ if you’ve seen the show however for those of you with no plans to view it, this is a good, solid read that is worth checking out.

Rating: 7/10

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Rage – Review (PS3)

Rage is a title that relies on that old game cliche of the world being post-apocalyptic, however in this instance the damage done to humanity wasn’t self inflicted via nuclear weapons but the result of an asteroid crashing into Earth.

What little is left of mankind scrabbles to rebuild itself into small communities and groups of bandits. Ahead of the disaster ‘The Authority’ arranged for some people to be buried in ‘Arks’ underground and released a safe time after the event.

You play as one of these people, emerging from your damaged Ark into a world you have no knowledge of.

It’s very much a ‘by the numbers’ post-apocalyptic scenario, familiar from other games like Fallout: New Vegas or Borderlands.

Rage is probably closest in scope to Borderlands but rather than the cell shaded look Gearbox’s title went for, Rage really goes to town on the graphics front. Sure it’s also a stylised cartoon look but it’s much more realistic looking.

While the graphics are definitely the game’s strong point, along with some lovely character animation, I did feel let down by the sheer amount of pop-in throughout the world. Every time you turn it takes the game a second or so to catch up, which can be extremely odd at times.

Seeing a blurry looking wall suddenly jump to a gloriously rendered wall destroyed the game’s bond with me and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game.

The buggy driving and fighting is good fun but in the end I just kept boosting past buggy fights as they didn’t feel worth the hassle as I made my way from A to B.

The shooting is solid and some great weapon design means things don’t feel too stale when choosing your armoury. Shots pop nicely, the weapons have a decent weight to them and the recoil is well balanced so that each shot counts.

Rage is a real slow burner from the start. Your initial introduction to the world with Dan Hagar (the criminally under-used John Goodman character) is impressive but you are then saddled with about 3 or 4 hours of fetch quests.

The game doesn’t really get going until you leave Wellspring which is a real shame because once it gets going it improves greatly.

As you progress and find yourself doing some of the larger missions Rage seems to hit stride. This ties in with the unlock of new weapons and the fact you will probably have more money to spend on equipment.

Clocking in at about 10 hours, Rage is an above average shooter that fizzes when at its best. Unfortunately there is too much filler in the first half of the game and the struggle with it’s graphics engine causes a big distraction. This means it doesn’t quite hit the lofty expectations most people had for it.

Rating 7/10

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