Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

If ever a movie based on a video game had a chance, it was this one. Looking at all the things going for it; big budget, blockbuster producer, reputable director, quality actors – it was video games best chance of hitting movie mainstream. Not since the disappointing “Tomb Raider” movies did such a movie have that chance of breaking the hoodoo of crappy video game movies.

This movie isn’t crappy, but perhaps it set its standards too high. This movie couldn’t afford to just be “not crap”, it was expected to be the next “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

It is not the next Pirates of the Caribbean.

In an attempt to take a beloved video game franchise concept and turn it into Hollywood’s newest blockbuster movie franchise, the result is unfortunately an “okay” film that successfully panders to the core gamer fans with a few good winks and nods from the game, but delivers an otherwise confusing, ordinary film.

Conceptually “Prince of Persia” could really be a nice platform for all sorts of “Arabian Nights” style adventures, but they went one further and specifically chose to implement the key concept of the video game’s most recent trilogy involving the “Sands of Time”, namely the ability for the prince to turn back time. Loads of creative potential there, but somehow the movie finds a way of muddling the exposition up quite a bit, and it becomes a really confusing plot device. A real problem when it’s the foundation of the movie.

The movie promised to be part “Pirates”, part “The Mummy” and part “Indiana Jones”, but somehow delivers mediocrity. For most they will be perhaps pleasantly surprised, but for me, all I saw was wasted potential. I really wanted to like this movie.

As “un-Persian” as the Prince of Persia pretty much was in appearance anyway, Jake Gyllenhaal looked the part (that is to say, he looked quite like the video game character, not a Persian prince…), and his English accent was pretty convincing, though what a Persian prince (or in fact anyone in the entire region where this film is set) is doing with an English accent is one of those things you just accept with Hollywood films. Gemma Arterton meanwhile looks great just being Gemma Arterton – as an aside, I discovered she was born with 6 fingers on each hand. Freaky right?

This is the best movie ever made based on a video game. Unfortunately, that really isn’t saying much at all. I would welcome a sequel with a hope of seeing some improvements made on what was nearly, but not quite – but I suspect that will never come.

When the first Pirates movie came out, there was a dose of cynicism, it was a movie based on a theme park ride for crying out loud, with a well known star but one with no proven ability to anchor a big budget film. That film turned into a roaring success, despite those who thought it might tank badly. Prince of Persia was Bruckheimers second attempt at creating another big franchise, but I fear this time, he won’t have the same success.

Three stars.

Kick Ass

Every once in a while the beauty of low expectations helps make a good film great. I had no idea what to expect coming into Kick Ass, but I came out thinking this was one hell of a kick ass film.

Smart writing and a fresh new take on the comic book genre makes this an incredibly refreshing package. The trailers for this movie don’t do it justice. A movie about a kid with no super powers who decides to try and become a hero anyway – this film finds an entertaining balance between being “real” which, let’s face it would just be a big buzzkill, and pure comic book fantasy. It is the faux-realistic unreality that works so brilliantly for this film.

To give you some idea of how good this film is, Nicolas Cage’s ham fisted acting actually works well here. Any film maker that can take his style and make it a good thing, is clearly a talented man.

One of the best films of the year, no doubt. Four stars.

Batman Arkham Asylum

Forget about the movies, this game is the definitive Batman. It’s remarkable that super hero video games are usually lame, when you consider how awesome the source material is. This game is a refreshing change. Batman is awesome, and most importantly true to form. What makes the game so good, is the fact that it tries to capture Batman as Batman, as best as it can. The result is that the game is awesome.

The melee combat is hands down the best I’ve ever seen for hand to hand against multiple enemies. It is simple yet incredibly satisfying. Batman utilises his detective skills and his array of gadgets excellently, and the setting of Arkham Asylum means a fantastic use of the cavalcade of Batman villains within the story.

A near perfectly constructed game. Graphics, story, mechanics all are top notch. The only comment I would make is the “Detective Mode” – why would you ever want to switch it off?

Four stars.

Iron Man 2

Sequels to blockbusters always come with big expectations. Iron Man 2 delivers in a really satisfying way. It’s still amazing that a B grade superhero like this should achieve such high level status putting it probably on par with the big ones (Spider-Man, Batman and Superman). This can be put down to Robert Downey Jr in a large way, but also to Jon Favreau for not being afraid to pander to the fanboys. The movie is laden with good stuff that must surely have comic geeks drooling.

War Machine, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and what the hell, Thor’s hammer?? Lots of ‘splosions and lots of heart. More Iron Man can only be a good thing. Bring on Avengers!

Four stars.

On tour: The job of being on holidays

Work is a routine. It is about getting up at a certain time, it is about being somewhere, doing something and repeating. Day after day.

So too is being on a tour. There are meetings, engagements to fulfill, deadlines, schedules, things to do, place to be.

There is no pay, but there is reward. It is the best job there can be. If it something you love doing, it is no work at all.
Sometimes when on a tour – you are not operating on your own schedule, but someone else’s. You have to get up early or be somewhere at a certain time, even if you’d rather be somewhere else.

That is when it begins to feel like work. When you’d rather not, when you’d rather be somewhere else. Is that what work ends up being? At the end of the day, work is the thing you do when you’d rather be somewhere else?

Why would I ever want to work?

Oh yeah, money. That thing.