{16 March 2009}   Review: Left 4 Dead

Award winning multiplayer shooter Left 4 Dead has been storming the games market since its release in 2008. The game follows four “survivors” with various backgrounds as they attempt to escape a city full of zombie-like creatures referred to as “infected”.

The experience of single-player mode is impressive, with detailed graphics and realistic gameplay, but the real strength of the game is in the co-operative player modes. This can either be through split screen with 2 players, or up to 8 online. There are 4 survivor slots, but selection of the “vs mode” pits 2 teams of up to 4 players against eachother.

During this mode, players take it in turns to be one of the 4 survivors, or one of 4 special infected characters with different abilities. The range of achievements on the Xbox360 version of the game encourages players to complete these missions in order to damage the survivors as infected characters.

The game, which is also available on PC, is heavily online based, but even single player modes are an enjoyable experience. This game is a deserved winner of the numerous awards it has accumulated, including Best Multiplayer game of 2008 and Computer Game of the Year from such organisations as the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA), IGN, NoFrag and GameSpy.

Kirsty Watkinson

Left 4 Dead Survivor Gameplay Tips – Andrew Hemphill
Left 4 Dead Infected Gameplay Tips – Andrew Hemphill


Following a  trend of self-help related films set by Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Yes Man, romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You is a hit-and-miss attempt at turning relationships on their head, in a way that is entertaining, but a little disjointed.

With the odd interview and title screen splitting up the film into what could vaguely be referred to as “chapters”, the fluidity is definately lost. But the experiment is saved by the all-star acting and the quirky relationships between characters. With stars such as Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore, the cast is strong enough to generate interest, and their consistent acting holds the weakening plot together.

Much of the main storyline, if there is one, centers around Gigi (played by Ginnifer Goodwin), the typical advice-junkie who seeks books like the one the film is based on to guide her in relationships and dating situations. When her date does not call her back, she strikes up a friendship with his barman friend, Alex (Justin Long), who tells her so stop deluding herself by waiting for him to call her.

This leads to a number of quirky situations, where she relys on him for advice, while he insists to her that if the guy wants to make it happen he will.

The remainder of the storylines cover fresh relationships and old ones, affairs, marriage and splitting up, in a mesh of complicated, overlapping plots. Though this film is a complicated,it is still pretty easy to follow, and an enjoyable watch for fans of romantic films, but for the majority of the audience it’s a little too sporadic to keep interest.

Kirsty Watkinson

Stu-Ents Archive:
Yes Man – Review
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging – Review

It’s been a year since the sudden tragic death of Heath Ledger, when the film industry mourned the passing of an aspiring young actor, proving his talents in a wide variety of testing roles that have delighted audiences in their individuality and passion.

Following from his earlier roles, in Australian soap Home and Away and as a small character in Paws, Ledger’s big-screen break came when he landed one of the lead roles in Gil Junger’s adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. 10 Things I Hate About You saw Ledger in a quirky romantic role alongside Julia Stiles, providing him with a rugged, bad-boy edge, that later saw him play a soldier alongside Mel Gibson in The Patriot, a character who defies his father to join the fight and suffers hardships in the battlefield. The film won several awards, and helped to catapult Ledger into the spotlight on a different level to his previous roles.

This was shortly followed by his casting in the lead role of A Knight’s Tale, a comic adaptation of medieval times, with some heartfelt moments mixed in with parodical modern twists, such as the jousting crowd performing a Mexican wave and chanting an adaptation of Queen’s infamous hit, ‘We Will Rock You’.

This film became an iconic role for Heath Ledger, but he still remained as versatile as ever, working his way through numerous characters until his casting opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Ang Lee‘s Oscar-winning masterpiece, Brokeback Mountain. Released in 2005, the film follows the lives of two cowboys, played by Ledger and Gyllenhaal, who embark on a secret, forbidden relationship. The passionate love affair is represented beautifully by both actors, highlighting once again Ledger’s skill as an actor, and cementing him as a household name throughout the world.

However, it was Ledger’s performance in Christopher Nolan‘s sequel to Batman Begins that many considered to be his most powerful and breathtaking performance. The Dark Knight followed on the story seamlessly, showing Bruce Wayne’s battle against a terrifying new villain. Although Christian Bale was fantastic in his role, it was Ledger’s performance as The Joker that really made the film stand out, acting as an emotional roller-coaster for the audience and creating a delicious tension that kept everyone on the edge of their seats.

Sadly, this film was to be Ledger’s last. He died of an accidental overdose on 22nd January 2008. The release of The Dark Knight was almost a tribute to his passing, as he has been nominated to receive an Oscar for his performance.

Heath Ledger’s death was extremely saddening for his fans. In his 28 years he showed true potential as an actor, and it’s clear his premature death ended what was set to be a spectacular career.

On a personal note, I shall be lighting a candle for him tonight. Prayers for his soul, and may he never be forgotten.

Kirsty Watkinson

Stu-Ents Archive
The Dark Knight – Review

The shock of Heath Ledger’s tragic passing increased the excitement for his role as the joker in The Dark Knight ten-fold. What was already set to be a great, iconic performance would now become the actor’s swansong. As the prospect of a post-humus Oscar looms with near-certainty, the quality of Ledger’s performance is difficult to ignore.

Despite this, the film isn’t called The Joker, and leading lad Christian Bale is the guy we should be focusing on. Rightly so, as Bale’s performance, aside from the questionable ‘gravely’ voice, is nothing short of outstanding, bringing more depth to the character than the teenage brooding of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.

The story follows on from the teasing ending of it’s prequel, with The Joker’s clowns robbing a mob bank, only to be taken out one-by-one after they’d done their job. The opener owes a lot to Michael Mann’s Heat, which also features William Fichtner in a bank robbery, and sets the tone of the film exquisitely.

Director Christopher Nolan, who also co-writes, has pitched the balance between action and character perfectly, giving the audience just enough explosions and acts of mayhem from The Joker to spice things up, but leave the audience wanting more.
The returning supporting cast enhance their performance, and Aaron Eckhart is masterful as twisted attorney Harvey Dent, but newcomer Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s efforts as childhood friend and romantic interest Rachel Dawes falls short of the mark, and it soon becomes clear that the role was written specifically for Katie Holmes, who donned the dress in Batman Begins.

The film earns its record-breaking reception, delivering one of the most nail-biting comic-book action flicks for a generation, rivalling Richard Donner’s original Superman in terms of impact.

There have been numerous parallels drawn between The Joker and terrorism, none more apparent than in the Gotham Hospital scene, which destroyed the actual building as its climax, but to limit The Joker’s larks as mere reactions to world-wide terror would be unfair, Ledger’s Joker is sarcastic and personal, pushing the Batman’s buttons and providing the most convincing scene of the film with his ‘magic trick’.

Hi-def Blu-Ray does this film the justice it deserves, but this is a film that everyone should own, since it sublimely transcends it’s genres to offer a comprehensive cinematic experience.

James Parry
Entertainment Editor
Pluto Student Newspaper

{19 January 2009}   Review: Seven Pounds

Not much can be said about Will Smith‘s latest film, without divulging too much information about the plot. This is the sort of film you have to watch blind, with no idea of what’s to come, or the experience will be ruined.

The story unfolds gently, though in places a little too slowly. There are plenty of moments which leave you guessing, or feeling confused, but by the end of the film everything makes sense. Make sure to bring your tissues along, because tears will be shed in one of the most painfully passionate stories ever crafted for the big screen.

From start to finish the acting is breathtaking. Smith steals the show with a dramatic performance that invokes strong emotion and empathy from the audience, but he is supported by a flawless array of characters, each played with precise art and passion to create a mesmerising display. Supporting actors include Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy and Barry Pepper, each providing their own powerful edge to the film.

If you’re very sensitive, make sure you don’t watch it alone, and pay close attention to the details in order to get the best out of it. Seven Pounds is one of the most heart-wrenching films ever made, tackling issues of love and redemption in a beautifully crafted masterpeice that will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching it.

{17 January 2009}   Review: Yes Man

Many remember Jim Carrey as the talented comic actor from classic films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Me, Myself and Irene and Liar Liar. But he proves once again that his skills surpass his ‘funny-man’ reputation with his role in hilarious romantic comedy, Yes Man.

The film follows social recluse Carl Allen (Carrey) who, after losing his wife, adopts a purely negative outlook on life, making excuses to his friends and struggling to climb the ladder in his job as a loan approver in a local bank.

Things change when Carl is coerced by a friend into attending a local self-help seminar, and making a pact with the eccentric host to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, no matter how obscure.

Following the rules of the agreement, Carl soon finds himself in a variety of bizarre, and sometimes disturbing, situations, leading to hilarious consequences. Despite the intensity, and often insanity, of the method , Carl’s enjoyment of life begins to improve, as he learns new skills, improves his career prospects, and finds romance with quirky, spontaneous musician Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel.

Although the film is led in many ways by Carrey’s buoyant personality and skilled acting, there is far more on offer to entertain the audience. Fresh from her leading performance in The Happening, Deschanel gives her character a vibrance and energy that connects flawlessly with Carrey’s, providing the inspiration needed as a romantic interest to fuel and match the newfound spontaneity of the pact.

Though hers is far from the only talent supporting Carrey in this thought-provoking and enlightening film. Bad boy of Wedding Crashers, Bradley Cooper, also gracing the big screen with his role in upcoming comedy He’s Just Not That Into You, gives depth and empathy to the role of Carl’s long-suffering best friend, Peter. Award winning actor Terrence Stamp, from stunning historic drama Valkyrie and action thriller Wanted, plays the enthusiastic seminar host, while Flight of the Conchords actor Rhys Darby provides a typically geeky twist as Carl’s superior, Norman, who desperately longs to be considered ‘cool’ despite his frequent fancy dress parties.

Carrey’s comic genius has made a welcome comeback with this film, following his more serious roles as seen in The Number 23 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This delightful comedy carries some striking morals, urging the audience to examine their own lives in relation to the film. For many, saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity is impractical, if not impossible, but if you’re a little more creative you’re likely to get much more out of life than if you stay in your comfort zone.

Although a little slow in places, and rather outlandish in others, there’s much amusement to be had watching the antics of some of the more eccentric characters. This film may not be for everyone, but for those who can enter the spirit of the story, it’s an uplifting romantic tale about one man’s quest to change his life. And for those who aren’t so taken by the film’s charm, if you take nothing else away from watching it, at least know that if life is approached with an open mind (and a little spontaneity) there’s no telling where it might lead you.

Kirsty Watkinson


“This is entertainment” – review by James Parry
“Empire” – review by Philip Wilding

Following the trend of films such as Juno and The Princess Diaries, a fresh teenage character is born in the delightful mishaps of 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson, played by Georgia Groome, in the plucky teenage romantic comedy, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

Set in Eastbourne, Sussex, the film’s title is derived from Georgia’s adventures, as she learns valuable lessons on boys, life, and the best methods of kissing. With a dysfunctional family and a flawed self image, her world is turned upside down when London twins, Tom and Robbie, (played by Sean Bourke and Aaron Johnson) transfer to her school, causing a stir with her three best friends, Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ellen (Manjeeven Grewal) and Rosie (Georgia Henshaw), otherwise known as the Ace Gang.

Georgia’s character is so lovable because she derives from the younger teenage generation, and demonstrates flaws and ambitions throughout that are real and identifiable to the audience. Her family situation, with her loved-up parents (played by Alan Davis and Karen Taylor), costume-obsessed younger sister (Eva Drew), and her deep affection for the family cat, Angus, reflects the background of many young girls, dealing with issues of popularity, crises of self confidence and uncertainties about loyalty and relationships.

Director Gurinder Chadha crafts the film into a wonderful British masterpiece, working with UK actors to target younger characters than typical Hollywood films, therefore creating a more realistic and identifiable film for younger audiences, and reminding older ones of their own adolescence. Despite the film tackling real issues and serious problems, it still remains light-hearted, with some emotional moments, and an uplifting ending which is surprisingly enjoyable, despite first impressions.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging reflects teenage life in a comic environment, providing identifiable characters and hilarious situations that amuse and entertain audiences of all ages.

Kirsty Watkinson


{7 January 2009}   New year, new beginning…

Hey blog fans, just a short note to say that, now my personal life is finally starting to turn around, I’m hopefully back on top writing form and intending on blogging again.

Hope everybody’s having a great year so far. I’m hoping to catch up on my gig reviews, including past performances by Linkin Park, Jimmy Eat World, The Music and Feeder, and some upcoming ones such as The Audition, Alkaline Trio and Rise Against. I’ve also been keeping up with my films, and should be including scores of big-screen reviews, as well as a few book reviews such as the Twilight series.

Also coming up this year I’m expecting a guest post or two from the Entertainment Editor of my student paper, James Parry, and hopefully several others from various people.

So plenty to look forward to. Watch this space!

Kirsty Watkinson

{24 October 2008}   A personal note…

Due to a large number of personal problems, the blog has not been updated for some time. But for those of you who are really interested, bear with me. I am hoping to get back on top of things really soon and start blogging again.

Thank you for your patience.

Kirsty Watkinson

As an avid fan of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles throughout my childhood, I was extremely satisfied with the Hollywood adaptation of the most famous of his seven Narnia books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, after seeing several other screen adaptations from a variety of producers. I was, therefore, eager to see the sequel, and I was in no way disappointed with the end result.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian sees the return of the four Pevensie children, as they struggle to adapt to life back in their own world after their adventures in the mythical, wonderful world of Narnia. The story opens as eldest brother Peter, longing to be back in his kingdom, takes out his frustration in a fight with another boy. Sensible Susan looks on with her ever-constant disdain, while Edmund piles in to help with the brawl. But as always, when teleported back into Narnia, it is passionate, caring little Lucy who finds herself closer to the magic, and to the all-powerful presence of the Lion lord of Narnia, Aslan.

Though all is not as it was when they left. The time passes much quicker in Narnia, and they return to their beloved home, Cair Paravel, when it is in ruins over 1000 years later. Telmarines have invaded, and now control the kingdom they once ruled. It’s up to the four of them to grant Prince Caspian his place on the throne by defeating his uncle, King Miraz, but with tension between Caspian and Peter throughout the battles, things are far from easy, especially since no one but Lucy can see Aslan’s infrequent appearances, and once again the others find it hard to believe their sister.

Honestly… after last time, you’d have thought they would have learnt their lesson!

I was concerned that the sequel would be a disappointment, but I couldn’t be more wrong. For me, there wasn’t a flaw throughout! The acting was perfect, the storyline was tense and engaging, and the effects were just as polished and realistic as they had been in the previous instalment.

The performances of the four children stood out foremost. Georgie Henley continued her outstanding portrayal of little Lucy Pevensie, showing her siblings up for their weaknesses with innocence, unwavering trust, and the ability to follow her heart. William Moseley‘s performance was possibly better than in the previous film, giving Peter a petulant, competitive streak that led to intense rivalry between him and Caspian. Edmund’s role was considerably smaller in this film, but actor Skandar Keynes still held his own, as did Anna Popplewell, playing Susan to perfection as she is given more depth with the introduction of a romantic interest or two.

Other notable performances included Ben Barnes, who almost stole the show as noble Prince Caspian, alongside supporting acting from such names as Liam Neeson (voice of Aslan), Sergio Castellitto (Miraz) and Eddie Izzard (voice of Reepicheep).

If this film is anything to go by, the wait for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will not be in vain.

Kirsty Watkinson

et cetera