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Jurassic Games We’d Love to See Happen

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 20th of May 2015

Jurassic Park might well be one of the most loved film franchises of all time, but when it comes to games it seems like 65 million years since we’ve seen something special. As the hype ramps up for Jurassic World, we have been splicing together the DNA of this decade’s best games and resurrecting some old favourites to put together a list of Jurassic games we’d love to see find a way (get it?) to our living rooms:

Jurassic Park: Escape from Isla Nublar 

A Jurassic game that channels the terrifying tension of Outlast and Amnesia would be an incredible entry to their games portfolio. Imagine a game with all the tension of that famous kitchen scene as you find yourself unarmed and completely terrified, with only your wit, guile and reflective kitchen cupboards to protect you from prehistoric predators on the hunt. InGen has gone into complete lockdown and it’s up to you to uncover the secrets of the park as you explore the laboratory, climbing the rafters above the visitor center and hiding wherever you can to avoid those ravenous raptors.

Outlast

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis II 

2003’s Operation Genesis gave fans the power to create their own version of the iconic amusement park. In this Tycoon-style park management game the player was treated to an incredibly diverse builder interface, allowing you to alter the land, build your own enclosures, amenities and most importantly populate your park with your favourite dino-species. With the current power of next-gen consoles and cutting edge PCs skyrocketing it’s the perfect time to return to Isla Nublar to build your own Jurassic Park that’s grander than ever. Just imagine having the ability to design enormous attractions in glorious 1080p, build an aquatic enclosure to house Jurassic World’s Mosasaur or even breaking down the walls or even splice a new dinosaur hybrid of your own for onlookers to admire. Of course there is also much to be said for removing the walls to your T-Rex enclosure and watching her run riot…

Operation Genesis

Naughty Dog Studios Presents Jurassic Park: The Lost World

Think about the most action-packed parts of Jurassic Park, there’s climbing, jumping and running away from nature’s most fearsome creations. The legendary cinematic gameplay that the Uncharted series has championed would be a perfect fit to bring this prehistoric adventure game to life. Picture your rugged adventurer leaping across cragged cliffs as a pack of hungry raptors are in pursuit below, waiting for you to fall as you navigate the island’s dangerously beautiful landscape. Not only would the action be top-tier but Naughty Dog Studios could bring the world of Jurassic Park to life, using their incredible detailed and lush environments and their ability to flesh out their characters so their stories truly stay with you. Imagine characters like Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us making their way through the prehistoric perils of Jurassic Park.

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Telltale Games Presents Jurassic World

This entry is kind of a cheat, as Telltale did in fact release an episodic Jurassic Park series back before their huge success with their The Walking Dead series. Reviews observe that the controls were clunky and the story was uninspired, and people were generally disappointed that the game didn’t measure up to its big screen inspiration. Today the story of Telltale Games has been turned on its head, the ground-breaking studio houses some of the best game writers and designers in the biz, consitently earning critical acclaim and an unmatched reputation for stellar storylines, engaging and intertwining character arcs and their uniquely refined and meaningful player choices and plot twists. Jurassic World would be the perfect opportunity for Telltale to resurrect their partnership with Jurassic Park and start over with Universal’s Jurassic reboot.

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LEGO Jurassic World

This one we don’t have to imagine, as through the power of Warner Bros’ Games and TT, those who grew up on a steady combination of these two mediums can finally combine them in a well-constructed explosion of nostalgia. The game will take players through all three original adventures as well as Jurassic World itself. The family friendly co-operative nature of TT games’ light-hearted romps through some of the world’s biggest franchises bring a sense of fun and charm that is hard not to warm up to, even in the face of 9-inch-long teeth. You can even create your own dinosaur made up of the game’s existing dinos; finally there is a way to give a T-Rex the proportionate arms it deserves. LEGO games always bring a keen sense of imagination when it comes to recreating iconic scenes from classic films, and we’re excited to see how this will work in the unique world of Jurassic Park. 

If the thought of seeing a LEGO Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) fills you with the same feeling of awe as it does for us, come experience it for yourself at MCM London Comic Con this weekend. If you have some ideas for a Jurassic Park game you’d love to see, let us know in the comments below.

LEGO Jurassic World will be released this June, and is available to play this weekend at MCM London Comic Con.

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The Wind Rises Review

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 10th of May 2014.

"All I wanted to do was make something beautiful"

This is it. Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises marks legendary animator, director and inspired storyteller Hayao Miyazaki’s final voyage, and what a voyage it is. This partly autobiographical tale reimagines the life of aeroplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, innovator of  some of the most iconic World War II fighter planes. It draws from Miyazaki’s own love of aircraft and the fantastically serene tone of Ghibli animations to produce a refined and visually astounding masterpiece. This could well be the last film of its kind.

The film follows Jiro from childhood to the heights of his success in aviation, taking on all of the themes that the world has come to expect from Miyazaki and studio Ghibli alike. From the value of kindness to the futility and destruction of war, life is shown to be complex but always beautiful. The story itself is bittersweet from start to finish, yet ultimately it is a celebration of all parts of life that urges you to be creative, determined and caring.

The animation itself is simply stunning, showcasing gorgeous watercolour landscapes, charming character designs and captivating flight scenes that boast vibrant colours and an incredible and classic style. Miyazaki’s direction shows a cinematic sensibility that is unmatched, not only in the world of animation, but in cinema as a whole. The Wind Rises masterfully captures the peaceful beauty of flying. Jiro’s ethereal mentor and Italian design pioneer Giovanni Caproni muses that “engineers turn dreams into reality”, and this is certainly true of Miyazaki and the endlessly talented Ghibli animators. The score is also truly astounding, bursting from peaceful silence into wave after wave of emotion throughout.

This plot itself excellently paced, taking the viewer through critical moments in Jiro’s life whilst keeping the wonderful fantasy of Ghibli’s previous features alive through gorgeous dream sequences and a sense of positivity, which creates a level of quiet maturity none of its predecessors can compete with. The characters are brilliantly fleshed out to the point that it becomes easy to forget they are animated. From Jiro’s cynical but loyal friend Honjo to the kind-hearted but comically irritable Kurokawa, every person Jiro encounters feels honest and proves to be memorable and inspiring in their own way. It is hard to forget the absurd but hauntingly aware figure of Castorp, a visitor to Japan who warns Jiro of the impending war. The adult complexity of the film is often found in the tension between innovation and destruction, from Jiro’s contribution to war as a result of his inspired pursuit of a profound dream.

The Wind Rises Nahoko

Whilst flight gives The Wind Rises a sense of scale and incredibly well crafted visual spectacle, the emotional aspect of the Wind Rises shines through Jiro’s understated but intimate relationship with the strong willed and compassionate Nahoko. Their story is inexhaustibly charming, and the direction their lives take together is both captivating and heartbreaking. In many ways their love reflects the film’s depiction of flight, as it is both beautiful and harmful, but Jiro’s inspired optimism shows how the wonder that is found in life is well worth the pain. Miyazaki’s own experience comes through here as much as in the environmentalist and pacifist tones that emerge throughout Jiro’s adventure.

The Wind Rises stands out as Miyazaki’s most personal picture. It confounds you with beauty, complexity, love and loss and dreams and heartbreak, all the while reminding you that life is a wonderful thing. This message is all the more important considering that this marks the last film directed by one of the great cinematic pioneers of the century. Despite the absence of any nature spirits, magical creatures or wicked witches, Miyazaki’s last outing as a director is inspired, magical storytelling at its absolute finest.

The Wind Rises soars into selected UK cinemas on the 9th of May.

Gravity Review

Originally published by MCM Buzz on the 7th of November 2013Gravity1

Gravity begins in the way every film should, with a list of simple facts about space. Most of this information is already common knowledge, but if you don’t work for NASA and are not a physicist, these things are never dwelled on for too long. The brainchild of director and co-writer, Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), alongside his son Jonas, this dazzling shuttle ride starts as it means to go on, emphasising the very real and rarely explored fact that space is an abyss of deadly silence. The last fact about the final frontier reads “Life in space is impossible”, and this wonderfully dizzying, brilliantly executed, unfathomably beautiful film truly puts that to the test.

The story sees innovative medical engineer and first-time astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) sent out to install her device to the Hubble Space Telescope, under the command of easy-going space veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). After the destruction of a satellite orbiting Earth causes debris to scatter and pick up pace, shooting around the planet with rapidly increasing speed and ferocity, their shuttle is destroyed and the two are left in the staggeringly stunning void, fighting to survive in the dark.

GRAVITY

From the very first sequence, Gravity asserts itself as a major player in the world of film with one of the most dazzling, disorienting and rousing scenes in cinema, certainly in the last few years. In one gloriously extended shot Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki introduce the characters, perfectly capture their personalities and demonstrate an entirely new method of technical filmmaking all while showing just how intoxicatingly beautiful space itself can be. Even when the setting becomes the deadliest place on the planet it is never in question that this deadly force is simply breathtaking, from the beginning Cuarón creates a sense of awe that just doesn’t go away. Danger really has never been so astonishingly gorgeous.

The pace picks up immensely along with the shuttle debris, and because of the inconceivably fluid direction, convincing performances and state of the art special effects, it’s impossible not to be swept away with it. The action is so fast and well executed that Gravity really does pull you in. There is something of a balance in the action sequences, with the intense speed at which everything is shooting across the screen you only find your feet when the camera does, which creates this terribly exciting feeling of being hurled into space and laid at the mercy of the film. After a barrage of entertaining stasis, silent dread and lightning fast action this film is powerfully and brilliantly unpredictable when it comes to pacing. In the scenes where shrapnel is on the horizon, even in the zero gravity conditions, you could hear a pin drop. In fact the film as a whole is continuously surprising and refreshing in an industry becoming ever-crammed with remakes, sequels and re-imaginings. Here it is inspiring to simply see an imagining.

GRAVITY

The back and forth between Clooney and Bullock is nothing short of sublime. The amiable, free-spirited Kowalski is perfectly matched for the sceptical, wounded Dr. Stone and it is truly interesting to see their very different reactions to the hopelessness threatening to engulf them. As the two bounce off each other both verbally and, at times, literally, their dynamic makes for a complex and touching relationship in the nothingness of space. The film is as much about the two characters interactions as it is about the disaster surrounding them. Clooney has his charm levels set to maximum as he captivates the audience and manages to be a strong and guiding force before the first sequence has even finished. Bullock is expertly cast and succeeds in portraying the troubled engineer’s vulnerability, but is also versatile enough to handle the impossibly broad spectrum of emotion explored in this terrifying, enthralling and often sensitive journey.

The soundtrack is powerfully understated, really bringing to the fore the contrast that is constant in the film between silent beauty and subtle emotion, and with it an eerie and malevolent darkness when disaster strikes. The sound itself is an integral part of the film for the very same reason, there is no sound in space, and so when it is present it has a staggering impact that feels so heightened. Everything about this film feels right and remains in keeping with the rest of its parts, it would not be a stretch to say that Gravity exhibits a masterclass in tone. But even without the acting, the direction or the effects, Gravity succeeds first as a film about life, and not simply on a physical level. The film sees Dr. Stone undergo a life-changing transformation that focuses on the value of a life, and why it is a very part of human nature to fight for our lives even when hope is entirely lost, creating a film that is both rare and immensely moving.

GRAVITY

The Big Kowalski

Gravity is visually stunning and wonderfully written with a layered plot, likeable characters and technically revolutionary camera work and visual effects. One thing that has to be noted is that whilst being all these things it remains to be a completely engaging thrill ride that has never been done before in quite the same way. From the initial idea to the cutting room Gravity succeeds in releasing a breath of fresh air into the vastness of space. If you are a seasoned space-veteran or a rookie astronaut, this film has something for you; it captures a glimpse of humanity where there is none, and how it gets there is one hell of a story.

All images are courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

World War Z Review

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of June 2013.

Marc Forster’s World War Z, loosely based on Max Brook’s zombie novel of the same name, follows ex-UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) through the events of a deadly worldwide epidemic. Lane fights to protect his family and uncover the secrets behind the undead pandemic that is tearing civilisation apart, but does this summer zombie blockbuster leave you on the edge of your seat or at the end of your wits?

World War Z (26)The film starts off sprinting, as do the zombies, and once the scene is set and the characters are briefly introduced things take a turn for the worst. You wont find any of Romero’s zombies here as the ravenous creatures hurl themselves at the crowd, even running and jumping with superhuman speed. Another radical change for Forster’s living dead is their motivation, instead of the usual desire to eat your brain or rip out entrails these zombies seem to just have a bite, and when their victim is bitten they move on.

There are a few moments where the frenzied infected will cause brief jumps in the audience, the zombies look the part and the teeth clicking is a great unnerving touch, but ultimately the tension is hindered by the toned-down gore and PG-13 action. In the place of nail biting suspense there are huge action sequences involving swarms of zombies, here the infecting becomes more a global game of tag than a gritty fight for survival. Even a scene where Lane has to save a soldier’s life by cutting off the source of her infection, it seems more of an inconvenience than a serious threat to her survival.

Although World War Z begins in Philadelphia, it quickly moves across the globe to various locations from South Korea to Israel as Lane single-handedly begins to prevent the extinction of the human race. Not only do the wide variety of locations allow for impressive set pieces to take place and some large-scale CGI to be used, but the sets also nod to the sheer attention to detail supplied by Brooks about the different methods of survival each nation would employ. These grand scenes are certainly exciting as zombies begin to form masses of flesh-eating waves beating against cities, but the film can’t seem to find the balance and shifts erratically between small skirmishes in hospitals and apartments to scenes that take place through entire cities, often moving on before the effects of the zombie plague in that area can be fully seen or appreciated.

World War Z (13)There seems to be a nod to the zombie films of old with a concluding skirmish in a quiet and closed off environment, but it seems out of place in this large scale blockbuster. This global scale tale of a plague spreading across the world is definitely entertaining, and the plot itself is not lacking, but it seems that the film itself had not found its footing before it was released.World War Z sets out to thrill audiences in the broadest sense possible; it may be lacking a focus on the arguably essential horror element of a zombie movie, but as a global thriller about one man stopping a deadly virus it’s a fast paced and engaging film with plenty of action and sharp visuals to top it off.

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