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Lucky Number Slevin (DVD)

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley

Rated: 18

Story: Slevin Kelevra (Hartnett) gets mistaken for a man who owes money to two feuding crimelords (Freeman & Kingsley). He has to play them off against each other in order to survive. He is helped by a new girlfriend (Liu) and hindered by the schemes of a bigshot assassin (Willis). He talks a lot.

Comments: This starts well. The storyline whips all over the place in an intriguing fashion and the dialogue is fast and witty. Slevin's predicament is amusing and, as things get more complicated, it becomes obvious that a really clever solution is needed. Everything appears set to build to a tense climax...

...but then doesn't. The film spends two-thirds of its length jumping around in time, keeping us as confused as Slevin, and then takes half an hour explaining everything in tremendous detail. Worse than that, the trick's on us, not just the crimelords.

Everything's just about plausible but doesn't seem very likely and isn't very satisfying. It's an average story that's told back to front in an effort to make it more interesting and less nasty. Unfortunately this just makes it disappointing as well as distasteful and uninspired.

Explosions: One.
Gory Deaths: A few.
Fast, Hip Dialogue: Constant.
Tiresome Plot Twists: An excess.
Unconvincing Facial Hair: Almost worth waiting for.

Rating: 2/5

Children of Men (DVD)

Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor (the Alliance agent in Serenity)

Rated: 15

Story: It is the year 2027 and there are no children. Everyone has been infertile for years, the youngest person on Earth is eighteen and the world has descended into despair and chaos. Britain has a totalitarian government which uses immigrants as scapegoats, locking them in cages and then carting them off to ghettos ready for deportation.

Theo Faron (Owen), an apathetic bureaucrat, finds himself caught up with a group of rebels and is persuaded into helping them transport a young female refugee named Kee to freedom. The plan quickly unravels and Theo is forced to become a hapless action-hero in order to keep Kee safe and protect the hope for humanity which she may represent.

Comments: I expected this to be fairly slow and depressing so I was happily surprised by the tension and action. By action I don't mean Bond-style fisticuffs perilously perched on the arm of an enormous crane, I mean trying to jumpstart a car on a muddy hillside to escape a mob of New Age misfits, but it's no less thrilling. It's also easier to empathise with Faron than with Bond. This is the kind of messed up getaway I could attempt. I'm pretty sure I'd remember my shoes, though...

I've had a soft spot for Clive Owen ever since he starred in the live-action cutscenes in Privateer 2. This is odd because he was a bit rubbish in that and the ongoing rise of his career over the years has been something of a mystery. He does well enough here, though, as does Moore during her brief appearance. Michael Caine is Michael Caine as always, just with manky hair this time. There is a slight feeling, however, that the entire cast was the second choice somehow. Only Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee seems spot on. The film itself is often the star - several lengthy scenes are shot without cuts which gives a gritty immediacy to proceedings.

The script attempts to cover difficult subjects such as immigration, faith, despair and loss but the questions asked are often vague and we are left to draw conclusions for ourselves. The plot is similarly hazy, with little explanation of the broader picture and setting. Even the ending requires the viewer to fill in the blanks. All that remains are a couple of assertions: a) Immigrants can offer solutions not problems. b) Children belong to us all and without them there is no future.

There's nothing wrong with this approach but if you like loose ends wrapped up then you're going to be frustrated. Science Fiction tends to start with a well-drawn world which is sometimes almost incidentally populated by characters. Children of Men is about one muddled bloke searching for hope in a world very like our own but blighted by a couple of convenient plot devices. Again, there's nothing wrong with this but just be warned that the movie is more Gattaca than Minority Report. Expect to put in some effort.

Conclusion: Memorable and almost brilliant. Great for shoving in the face of anyone who reckons children are a lifestyle choice or grumbles about having to pay taxes to subsidise the health and welfare of other people's kids. The wealth of a society is in its children.

Explosions: Some
Bleakness: High
Inappropriate Footwear: Plenty

Rating: 4/5

Rayman: Raving Rabbids (Wii)

Story: The limb-less French wonder, Rayman, has been kidnapped by psychotic rabbits while out on a picnic. He is forced into becoming a gladiator and must fight his way through an arena of wacky, rabbit-filled mini-games each day in order to win a plunger. Enough plungers and he might be able to organise an unlikely escape... (Oh, seriously, why do I bother?)

Gameplay: Fifteen rounds of five mini-games. The first three games in each round are short, fairground entertainment: pump the wiimote and nunchuk up and down to milk a cow; tilt the wiimote to get a ball through a maze; move the wiimote on a horizontal plane and press A in order to whack rabbids on the head; that kind of thing. The fourth game in the round is always a rhythm game where you must help Rayman disco by drumming with the wiimote and nunchuk in time to the music. The final game is occasionally a race but usually an on-rails shooter. You must point and fire with the wiimote like a lightgun game (except in most lightgun games you're not usually firing plungers at psycho rabbits).

Save System: The game saves only after you successfully complete all the games in each round. This means that if you have to switch off for any reason you might lose twenty minutes progress. Grrr.

Comments: The Wii has had an amazingly successful launch. This is particularly astonishing considering that the major launch title was a GameCube port, the console's name is particularly unfortunate and that playing one frequently results in minor injury to pets and small children. Despite these disadvantages, Nintendo is selling the machine left, right and centre to people who, until recently, thought all games were played on an X-Station Thingy and that they still looked a bit like Pac-Man. The reason for this success is, of course, the bundled Wii Sports selection of games. Suddenly grannies can pick up a controller, flail it about and be trouncing their bemused progeny within minutes. Everyone wants a shot. Give them some bowling, a game of tennis and then follow it up with some shooting on Wii Play, and they're convinced. Everyone wants a Wii.

Christmas is over now, though. Granny's gone home, Twilight Princess is almost finished and downloadable Virtual Console games are too expensive. What are we going to play on our Wiis?

Not this.

Rayman: Raving Rabbids is fun for an hour or so but quickly becomes repetitive and frustrating. Some mini-games use the Wii functionality in a meaningful way (usually where you have to point) but others have you shaking the nunchuk for the sake of it when pressing a button would work just as well. Some, like dagger throwing, don't work and others have you wishing you could just use the analogue stick for tighter control. A few are amusing; most are teeth-grindingly annoying. You have to complete all of them to progress and there's a good chance that at some point you'll get stuck and give up. If you lack rhythm then you're particularly stuffed.

Everything gives the impression of being rushed: poor graphics, long loads, awkward navigation, annoying structure and 'whatever sticks' gameplay.

EyeToy on PlayStation had a similar initial success to Wii but then no one seemed to know what to do with it. We ended up with various collections of mini-games, and interest waned. To avoid becoming a dusty novelty, the Wii needs proper games. We have Wii Sports, Wii Play and WarioWare. Mario Party 27 can't be far away. That's enough comedy multiplayer arm-waving to last us all beyond next Christmas. Don't bother with this sub-standard effort.

Graphics: Looks like a GameCube game.
Length: Short.

Rating: 2/5

Gone in 60 Seconds (DVD)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Christopher Eccleston & That guy who played Phoebe's brother in Friends (Giovanni Ribisi).

Rated: 15

Story: Memphis Raines (Cage) is The Best Car Thief in the World Ever(TM) but has given it up for a saintly existence running a small garage and teaching children to go-kart. Unfortunately he's forced back to crime when his little brother Kip (Ribisi) messes up some thieving specially commissioned by Dr Who. In order to stop his brother being fed to a Dalek, Raines has to fulfil the contract in time, leaving him a day for angst, a day to get his crew together, a day to plan and only a single night to steal fifty cars. Even at a minute a car, this makes things quite tight...

Comments: The movie begins by posing a difficult moral dilemma: Is it OK to commit a crime (in this case, theft) in order to prevent an even greater crime (murder)? Unfortunately it almost immediately returns the answer: 'Heck, yeah! Now let's go outwit some cops, steal some cars and drive really fast to a climactic shoot-out.' Never mind that Raines is getting paid, enjoys stealing cars and he and his brother got into the mess through stealing cars in the first place - we're on their side. This is only reinforced when they manage to miraculously arrange that no police officer receives a scratch in the ensuing automotive carnage. Only the A-Team causes more chaos with less collateral damage to law enforcement.

Stars, thrills, high production values and incredible shallowness make this the definition of a typical Hollywood action film. Cage is as watchable as ever, most of the cast looks reassuringly familiar, everything moves at a decent pace and nothing will surprise you in the slightest. Vinnie Jones occasionally steals the show (and possibly forms the inspiration for the lead character of Saint's Row).

Good if you are partial to a decent car chase and don't mind a bit of blatant emotional manipulation. You probably won't remember any of it by a week on Wednesday though.

Explosions: Few
Cars: Many
Stunts: Plenty of driving, including an excellent final chase. (Not as good as that bit on the bridge near the start of Bad Boys 2 but at least you don't have to watch any of the rest of Bad Boys 2 to see it).

Rating: 3/5

If nothing else, this film helps you appreciate the depth of mid-life crisis Brad Pitt must have been going through in order to dump Jennifer Aniston in favour of Little Miss Tomb Raider...

Online Games Rental

It's possible to play videogames cheaply if you don't mind living in the past. Go to the second-hand section of GameStation with £100 and you could probably pick up an Xbox and a dozen games. That will last you a while. Stick up a calendar from 2005 and pretend Dr Who hasn't been on telly for fifteen years and you'll be right at home.

The problem is, when you actually turn on the TV, you'll be seeing shiny adverts for games like Mass Effect, Motor Storm and Metroid Prime: Corruption. An Xbox 360, PS3 and a Wii will set you back around £900 altogether once you've added in extra leads and stuff like that. You'll probably be wanting a large HDTV to really get the most out of the first two as well (or at least a decent computer monitor). A good surround-sound system is nice too.

That's a lot of birthdays and pocket money.

After all that, the games still cost £40 each for the latest releases. You can hunt around for bargains and trade-ins but that takes time and, if you have children, that's time you don't have. At the very least, it's time that would be better spent playing games rather than sifting through clearance racks full of rubbish. There's no point having a shiny new console, though, if you've got no games. You want games. You need games... Games... Want games... Games...


Anyway... If you're happy playing whatever's in the bargain bucket, then stick to the PS2/Xbox/GameCube generation of consoles and save yourself some cash. If you hanker after hi-res shininess or can't resist a Wii, then you might as well play the decent (expensive) stuff. However you look at it, though, if you want to buy the latest and best, then you're going to need a well-paid and understanding partner.

Shh... She can hear you thinking.

Alternatively, you could rent rather than buy. If you live right next to Blockbuster then check them out but for most of us the simplest and cheapest way is online rental.

How does it work?

  1. You pay a monthly subscription based on the number of games you can have on loan at a time (roughly £15 for two games).
  2. Via the rental company's website, you create a list of games you'd like to rent. You look through the online catalogue, click on the ones you want and put them in order according to how desperate you are to play them. You can choose any game from any console that they stock.
  3. The company sends the game or games nearest to the top of your list that they have available.
  4. You play the game(s) and send them back in individual, pre-paid envelopes when you're done. You can keep games as long as you like.
  5. When the company gets a game back, they send another game from your list.


You can play the latest games for a relatively small monthly subscription. It's a bargain if you play lots of games. It also allows you to try different styles of games at no risk - if you don't like a game you can send it straight back and get another one.


Unfortunately, online rental is not for everyone. There are a few things you're going to have to be able to put up with:

  • No instruction book. You get sent just the disc in a clam case. To be honest, this can be liberating. Nearly all games have some form of tutorial to get you up to speed and without an instruction book you can just get on with playing. If you get stuck, you can always check out GameFAQs.
  • You don't have much control over what you get next. It just depends what everyone else has returned at the same time as you. If you really can't face another first-person shooter for awhile then your only option is to remove all of them from your list. Sometimes you're lucky and get a game you really want on day of release. Sometimes you won't get it for months. You'll get it eventually, though.
  • You are at the mercy of the Royal Mail. First-class post is supposed to arrive the next day but that doesn't always happen. If you finish a game early on a Thursday evening, post it on the Friday and it doesn't make it for Saturday, then it's going to be at least Tuesday before you get another game. That's a while. Also, post sometimes goes missing. If you don't have proof of postage (which is realistically too much like hassle to get every time) then the the rental company might hold you liable. They probably won't but it's still stress and you'll have one game less than you should for nearly a fortnight. I'd say I've had about one rental in fifty be eaten by the postie in one direction or the other.
  • Loss of retail therapy. There's no point going into games shops once you're renting. You'll need to own a game or two to tide you over if you fall foul of a string of unwise rentals. You might want to have a couple of multi-player titles as well. But that's it. If you want to play a game, add it to your rental queue - don't buy it. Particularly avoid buying games that you can't be bothered to rent. No matter how much of a bargain they are, that's just madness.
  • You need to like playing through one game at a time. If you like dipping in and out of a selection of games then renting isn't for you.
  • No PC games. There are registration, piracy and installation issues involved with PC games which mean no one rents out discs. There is at least one PC download rental service, though. You pay for access to a library of games. You can download as many as you like, when you like, but they only work as long as your subscription is still valid. This obviously does away with many of the problems of a disc-based systems. You'll need a good broadband connection, however, and the selection of games is limited.

Recommendations - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, DS, PSP

Swapgame has a wide selection of games. It's the only place to rent GBA games and back-catalogue DS games but they don't have many copies of these games in stock. You can rent one, two or three games at a time. It can take them a while to answer emails and deal with problems.
A solid choice if you want three games at a time or own a Nintendo handheld. - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, DS, PSP

Again, a wide selection of games. DS games are a recent addition, though, with a limited catalogue. You can rent one or two games at a time. Slightly cheaper than Swapgame if you subscribe quarterly. Customer service is excellent.

The best choice if you don't own a Nintendo handheld. - Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP, Wii, PS3

The main focus of this site is DVD rental but, for a little extra each month, you can rent games as well. They haven't added any new games to stock since October 2006 which makes the additional charge seem a little cheeky. Useless if you mainly want to rent games but worth a look if you mostly want to watch movies (particularly if you've just bought an Xbox 360 and want to try out some of the older games). You can rent one, two or three discs at a time. Customer service is generally good until you try and find out when they're getting more games.
UPDATE 20/2/07: Hurrah! They've finally added an absolute stack of new games including all the latest 360 titles. This makes for a much better gaming prospect. (Still no Canis Canem Edit (Bully), though).
UPDATE 5/07: They're stocking Wii games now! (And Canis Canem Edit). Now very enticing.

A good choice if you're up half the night comforting a baby. Catching up on Battlestar Galactica with the subtitles enabled beats watching baseball on Channel 5.