US Box Office Report: 24th February 2014

The Lego Movie, 3 Days to Kill, Pompeii and more!

REVIEW: The Lego Movie

Our review of the biggest animated movie of the year!

REVIEW: She-Hulk #1

All-New Marvel-Now continues, but is She-Hulk any good?

REVIEW: Metro 2033

Prepare for Metro 2034's English language release with our review of the first book!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

An Open Letter to What Culture!

As I write this it has been one day less than a year since What Culture - the entertainment website about movies, games etc. - approved me as a contributor to their website. That contributor status was today revoked in, I can only assume, another attempt at the site remaking its image. In the e-mail informing me of my removal from the site, the What Culture editorial explain that they are looking to use a "smaller, more dedicated" team of writers going forward. This I feel is a mistake that is the latest in a long line of changes that I feel may be damaging to the site.

To anyone from the What Culture editorial who may be reading this I say please do not see this as an attack from a disgruntled former contributor, but instead some sincere words of advice about the future of your great site from an outsider's opinion. There were many frustrating events in the last few months of my What Culture career and now it seems unlikely I will be a part of the site going forward, I simply want to voice some concerns and opinions on the site and its recent changes.

"a smaller, more dedicated team"

First, I want to address the biggest change in What Culture's management yet: the reduction of its writing staff. That is, after all, why I'm able to write this letter. When I was accepted into the What Culture community of writers, one of the best things about it - aside from the larger audience than that of this blog - was that it was there whenever I wanted it. Currently I am in full-time education studying to do my AS Levels next month, and as a result I don't have huge amounts of time to write articles. However, on school holidays I would almost always take the time to write an article for the site because I did enjoy it, and I'm hoping to pursue a career in Journalism post-A-Levels.

I am sure that I'm not the only aspiring Journalist on the What Culture team, and I am equally sure I'm not the only writer who is still in education be that school, sixth form, college or university. To bar entry for people in my position who are unable to write frequently for the site due to unfavourable circumstances, I believe is highly unfair. Dismissing a writer from your team should be done if that writer is not writing well, not if the writer cannot post regularly. The saying "quality over quantity" comes to mind.

I feel that it is a great shame to remove these less active, but still passionate, contributors as it not only limits them in terms of what audience they can reach, but it also damages the site's image. One of the best things about the site is that it is run by volunteers predominantly, people who write articles for the site because they love to write with no financial motives whatsoever. While there will still be unpaid volunteers I'm sure, the fact that there will be far fewer is disheartening. It doesn't make What Culture look more professional (I assume that was the idea behind the reduction?), but it does make them seem like they do not care about their writers. And having written a couple of e-mails to the editorial team (who ensure you in their e-mails that if you have any questions, "don't hesitate to ask"), only to have been ignored, I'm not entirely surprised.

Shifting Focus

Another cause for concern in the new era of What Culture has been the website's shifting focus particularly towards what the site is calling "Offbeat" articles. While the website itself still manages to strike a delicate balance between most sections of the site, the What Culture Facebook page has been devoting a lot of its time lately to these offbeat articles. Take a glance at the What Culture Facebook posts of the last few weeks (March 20th to April 10th) and you'll see 2 posts linking to music articles, 3 to TV articles, 9 to film articles, and 21 to "offbeat" articles. This strange emphasis on the "offbeat" section of the site is puzzling. 

I can only assume that this section of the site is being spotlighted as it allows for more mainstream articles, possibly bringing more visitors who do not have an interest in the somewhat niche genre of movies, games and comics. While I don't have a problem with the site expanding its subject matter, it should not be to the detriment of other parts of the site - parts that have given the site the popularity it has today.

Case in point: the comic book section of the site. In my time as a contributor the section I posted to most was the comic-book one, and in the short time I was there I saw it be harshly tossed aside. While a contributor I requested to write many comic reviews, almost all of which were denied to me due to the reviews apparently getting a low amount of views. The frustrating thing about this is that while the section has never been the most popular part of the site, it certainly had its fans and those fans I'm sure would grow had the editorial made an attempt to revitalise the section. Instead they seem to have given up on it. The site currently only posts comic-book articles that are lists, with editor of the comic-book section Noel Thorne the only one with the ability to publish comic reviews, and being only one man the reviews are small in number.

Had the What Culture editorial encouraged comic reviews, they could have been able to grow a comic section the size and popularity of IGN's, or Newsarama's. However, it almost feels like they have a vendetta against the comic book section going so far as to remove it from the list of sections on their homepage. To wrap-up this section of the letter, what I am saying is don't neglect a loyal audience who have long been a staple of the What Culture website, in order to pursue a new audience that frankly seem a little out of place in a website about entertainment.

This time, it's impersonal

An interesting frustration I had with What Culture in my last few months there, was there strong reluctance to include any personal touches to their articles. Using "I" or "I'm" in a review is apparently forbidden and it puzzles me as to why. To put this in context, one of the only comic reviews I was able to write before What Culture's decision to end them was of New Avengers #14. One of my opening sentences in the post I sent to editorial was the following:

"The book went through a short phase where it lacked direction, a phase which I'm happy to say, is coming to an end."

Upon viewing the published article, this had been changed to a more grammatically incorrect, but infinitely less personal sentence:

"The book went through a short phase where it lacked direction, a phase which happily to is coming to an end."

This I bring up only because it is yet another bizarre decision by the What Culture editorial. Reviews are after all the opinion of one person and the use of "I" is common in reviews from many outlets because of this. I could perhaps understand the desire to change the "I'm" to "I am" in order to come across as a little more formal, but to remove "I" completely replacing it with a sentence that makes no grammatical sense is just odd.

5 Great Things About Lists (and a hundred annoying things)

My final and perhaps most significant frustration with What Culture comes from their over-reliance on lists. Aside from a few reviews, and occasionally a news story (if the news is big enough), What Culture is comprised entirely of lists. But why? Lists certainly have their place in a website, and I'm not saying they shouldn't post lists, but it does confuse me as to why they confine themselves so strictly to lists. Why not editorials? Why not more news articles? These would give the site a lot more variety, and would stand it up against more established entertainment news outlets more fairly.

Additionally, some of the lists thought of by What Culture staff for their Unclaimed Assignments page, are so ridiculously esoteric that a writer would need huge amounts of time to research the information necessary for one entry, let alone five, ten or however many they are asking for. This again bars entry to anyone who has other commitments outside of writing for the site, whether that is education, work, children or any other time-consuming things.

I really think that What Culture are doing themselves a disservice by relying so heavily on these lists, and would ask them to consider injecting some more variety into their website sooner rather than later.

To conclude

I once again would like to stress that I have no bad blood with What Culture. They gave me an opportunity to produce writing for a much larger audience than this blog will likely ever give. However, I needed to get the points in this letter off my chest, as I had been bottling my frustrations with the site for a long time. I feel it is likely - particularly after this post - that I may not have the opportunity to write for What Culture again, so I would like to say thank you for the opportunity.

David Craig, Editor of TEN

Monday, 10 March 2014

TEN Movie Awards 2014: The Winners

Did you miss the inaugural TEN Movie Awards? Then why not catch up below? The TEN Movie Awards are a fun ceremony, that aims to represent the movies that the Oscars, Golden Globes and other award shows often miss. Be sure to check out the first ceremony below, and also see the list of winners and nominations:

Best Supporting Actor:

Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Anthony Hopkins (Red 2)
Nick Frost (The World's End)
Jim Carrey (Kick-Ass 2)

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Emma Watson (This is the End)
Helen Mirren (Red 2)
Lin Shaye (Insidious: Chapter 2)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)

Best Lead Actor:

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man 3)

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World)
Simon Pegg (The World's End)
Chris Pine (Star Trek Into Darkness)

Best Lead Actress:

Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Jessica Chastain (Mama)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass 2)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring)

Best Visual Effects:


Iron Man 3
Man of Steel
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Comic-Book Movie:

Kick-Ass 2

Iron Man 3
Red 2
Man of Steel
Thor: The Dark World

Best Action Movie:

Pacific Rim

Star Trek Into Darkness
The World's End
Kick-Ass 2
Man of Steel

Best Drama:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

American Hustle
Star Trek Into Darkness
The Conjuring

Disappointment of the Year:

Movie 43

The Hangover Part 3
The Wolverine
Monsters University
This is the End

Best Film:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Iron Man 3
Kick-Ass 2
American Hustle

Disagree with any of our winners? Be sure to let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

X-O Manowar #22 Review

X-O Manowar hit a slump during the Unity event, simply because it felt a little unnecessary. The main Unity title was telling most of the story, with X-O filling in blanks in between the next issue. Thankfully the crossover between the two titles is now over, and while this series is nowhere near as good as it once was, there has definitely been a boost in quality which gives me good feelings for what comes next.

X-O Manowar sees Aric reunited with his Manowar armour and freed from jail after the events of Unity. As an added bonus, the US Government has even secured a nice plot in Western Nebraska for Aric and his Visigoths to settle down in. But, as expected, the government isn't doing all of this for nothing. By settling in the USA and accepting Nebraska as his new home-place, Aric has unwittingly put himself in the pocket of the US government. While this new development doesn't do anything ground-breaking in this issue, it should prove interesting in issues to come with moral issues and real-world conflicts bound to play a part somewhere down the line.

Artist Cary Nord ends leaves the book with this arc, however the artwork he produced does not leave the same impact as his work on the opening issues of this series. Due to a different colourist, and what feels like a slight change in style from Nord himself, the art in this arc of the series is nowhere near as good as his previous work. The colouring isn't as defined. The faces aren't as realistic - it's disappointing work from a very capable artist.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 Review

I don't need to tell you how much people love Firefly. The short-lived TV show has a huge following of 'browncoats' and I count myself in their numbers. I finished the TV show, and its film spin-off Serenity fairly recently and found myself completely obsessed with getting my next Firefly fix. Naturally, I was excited to see this six-part comic series continuing the story of the beloved crew of Serenity. However, after a promising first issue I have to say I'm disappointed with the second issue of this series. To my fellow Firefly fans I say this: Please don't hate me for this review.

The second issue of "Leaves on the Wind" continues the story of Captain Mal Reynolds and the crew of Serenity on the run from the alliance, and trying desperately to help Zoe who is still struggling after the difficult birth she went through last issue. This story is not the problem, it has potential to show everything that is great and strong about these characters. However, I feel like that potential is not being fulfilled due to some weak scripting from Zack Whedon.

While Whedon's script does capture the basic voices of each crew member, there's something lacking in their interactions. In the TV show, the interactions were witty at times and when jokes were not appropriate you could still feel how close-knit all the characters were. Here though, that sense of closeness has been lost somehow. It feels like the characters we know and love have had 80% of their personalities removed, leaving just their simplest traits to be seen here.
Additionally, the issue just doesn't flow well. Scenes change quite jarringly with no elegance whatsoever in the transitions to each one. It feels like I'm watching events unfold that have little to do with each other simply because everything happens so quickly. It leaves little room for any memorable moments, and makes me think that perhaps this story would have been better off in a different format, or at least a series larger than six issues.

Additionally, I had some real problems with the art in this issue from Georges Jeanty. While in the first issue I had some doubts, overall the art was passable. Here though it has really degraded. Many characters faces change throughout the issue on a scale from "quite a resemblance to the actor" to "who the hell is that even meant to be?" with the latter half of the scale the most frequently used. Even if Jeanty could get a better grasp on the cast's faces, the art is still coming across as relatively unremarkable and I feel a more capable artist could have really helped this series.

The Wake #6 Review

It feels like it's been a long time since the last instalment of The Wake, but the Vertigo series from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy finally returns this week with the first issue of "Part 2" of Snyder's epic story. I'm happy to say it is a resounding success. This issue has the daunting task of setting up not just a whole new cast of characters, but also a whole new time period and civilisation and yet somehow it pulls it off. The Wake continues to be some of Snyder's strongest work, and the beautiful art from Murphy doesn't hurt either.

As I said in the intro, The Wake #6 picks up 200 years after the events of the last issue. The savage water-dwelling creatures who terrified the crew of an underground oil rig in "Part One" of this story, have now taken the Earth for themselves with the remaining humans simply learning to live around them. Snyder introduces us to a future that it is immediately clear he has put thought into, establishing such aspects as territories made up of what land remains above sea-level and the people who rule them. As rulers so often are, these people don't seem to be particularly friendly and by the end of this issue we get a clear picture that they will cause a significant amount of bother for our main character Leeward.

Leeward was a character we saw glimpses of in previous issues, but get our first real introduction to the character here. She's your standard future bad-ass punk girl, but adapted to suit Snyder's dystopian future. This means that while she's not yet wildly different from character's we have seen before, she does have an element of uniqueness - and a super-cool dolphin who in his short panel-time has already made a lasting impression on me. Seriously, the dolphin is genuinely cool.

The artwork from Sean Murphy continues to shine in this series as well. His artwork is clear, and his character designs each very different eliminating the problem I get with some books where it is unclear who is talking or present in a scene. Additionally, the fight scenes really stand-out in this issue. It's easy for fight scenes to look disappointingly motionless and static in a comic-book, but here the scenes really flowed and I felt as if I could see the weight of Leeward's punches and kicks which made the fight scenes far more entertaining than if they were done under a less capable artist.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie has already become a huge success worldwide, and you've likely already seen many rave reviews of the movie - but just in case you're not convinced just yet, let us add one more to the pile. The Lego Movie is a very fun time for all ages, filled to the brim with jokes, great voice acting, and a touching story. Overall, it is a must see.

I can't say huge amounts about the plot of the Lego Movie without spoiling it, so I'll keep these details brief and vague. The lead character, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is an extremely average Lego-man. He follows the instructions to life exactly, and it isn't until he stumbles upon the piece of resistance that he starts to explore his creative side. From here he is taken on a crazy journey with a group of "master builders" that range from original characters such as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), to well-known faces like Batman (Will Arnett).
The story is full of laughs, surprises and emotional moments and is an absolute blast to behold. With that in mind, I'll say no more. The Lego movie is best watched knowing little about it beforehand.

What I will say however is that the voice cast in this movie is phenomenal. The aforementioned main cast made up of Pratt, Banks, Freeman and Arnett are the core protagonists and all of them do a great job. While some have more comedic experience than others, all of them are naturals in this genre and show some hilarious comic timing and tone. Other stand-outs in the star-studded cast include Liam Neeson as Bad Cop, a role that winks at his new action star status, while still being totally original in itself. Finally, Charlie Day was brilliant as 80s space-man Benny who, while not getting as much screen time as the other characters, is a very memorable and loveable character.

What is really great about this movie, and what separates it from many other animated films is its great messages. While on the surface the main message appears to be about being yourself, and being creative it actually goes a lot deeper than that. Through the use of a surprisingly sophisticated Lego dystopia, the film subtlety encourages the viewer to stand up to the suits and governments of this world, and take an active involvement in our own lives rather than letting the people higher up make our decisions for us. Not something you'd necessarily expect to see in a Lego Movie, but powerful and effective nonetheless.

I tried hard to think of something to fault this movie with, but I really can't do it. I have been criticised before in my review of The Avengers for singing its praises and not criticising it for anything. However, my view is a review is an opinion and when films like The Avengers and The Lego Movie come along - films that I love - that love will be shown in my review.

US Box Office Top 10: 24th February 2014

In a relatively small week for movies, it is The Lego Movie that comes on top - for the third week running! Pulling in another $30 million this week, the movie has now made over $180 million in the US alone. This is great news for Chris Pratt who needs all the positive coverage possible to make Guardians of the Galaxy appeal to the mainstream. If you are yet to see The Lego Movie, be sure to rectify that! It's a great movie, and if you want to hear more be sure to check out our review that will be on the site soon.

Kevin Costner's 3 Days to Kill manages to enter the top ten at number two, albeit with a fairly lacklustre haul of $12 million. While on the surface this seems fairly unremarkable, the film did have a small budget of just $28 million and so should turn a profit by the end of its run. Although, poor word of mouth might hurt the film, as it is currently getting savaged by critics - a trait it shares with the other new entry of the week, Pompeii.

Pompeii is the latest offering from Resident Evil director Paul W. S. Anderson. The film steals a trick from Titanic, adding a love story to a tragedy, however by most accounts doesn't pull it off quite as well. Met with negative reviews and a debut of just $10 million, the film's $100 million budget looks a long way off.

Here's this week's top ten in full:

1. (1) The Lego Movie - $31.3 million
2. (-) 3 Days to Kill - $12.2 million
3. (-) Pompeii - $10.3 million
4. (3) Robocop - $9.81 million
5. (4) The Monuments Men - $7.91 million
6. (2) About Last Night - $7.53 million
7. (6) Ride Along - $4.62 million
8. (7) Frozen - $4.4 million
9. (5) Endless Love - $3.97 million
10. (8) A New York Winter's Tale - $2.17 million

Let us know what you've seen recently in the comments below, and be sure to come back next week for more box office analysis.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Bunker #1 Review

Joshua Hale Fialkov's The Bunker debuted on Comixology some time ago to much acclaim, and despite being a fan of the writer I simply couldn't pick it up as I have no way of buying digital comics. Enter ONI Press, who have very kindly presented a print version of the book for people in my situation. So now the real question is, was it worth the wait? Definitely. The Bunker #1 is the start of a very interesting, if slightly confusing, story and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it develops.

The Bunker follows the story of a group of college students who, when attempting to bury a time capsule, come across an underground bunker filled with information that their future selves have left for them. You see, this isn't just any group of students - this group will go on to wipe out most of the people on the planet. This concept is a very clever indeed, and while it takes some time to wrap your head around, is explained well for the most part by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, and captured expertly by artist Joe Infurnari. His art style adds a real sense of darkness to the story due mainly to the beautiful colouring which gives the book a shadowy, painted style that looks great.
Although at times I did have problems figuring out which characters were speaking and which were in the scene, these moments were few and far between, and the many breathtaking panels Infurnari brings to life more than make up for these panels.

Speaking of characters, Fialkov's character work shines in this issue. His group of five main characters each have a very different voice, and very different backgrounds. And it is these backgrounds that make it so interesting to see how each character reacts to their respective warning. The stand-out character for me was Billy whose story looks to be the most interesting, with hints being laid throughout the book that disaster is waiting for him in the next few issues.

The only real flaw, I can think of from this issue is that sometimes the story lost me. The book flashes forward, particularly near the end, and then flashes back and I had a hard time figuring out what some scenes meant, and what had happened. However, I'm sure these scenes will be elaborated on more in future issues, and may also benefit from a second read-through.

Metro 2033 Book Review

Metro 2033 is a very difficult book for me to review, and this is because while it had several features that I loved, it also had several that I disliked. What this does is put me in a very difficult position of trying to weigh up whether the good things can outweigh the bad or vice versa, and that has been a very difficult decison. Either way, I would still say Metro 2033 is worth reading, but be warned it is not an easy read.

Metro 2033 follows the last surviving Russian people who have exiled into the Russian underground train system - the Metro - after a nuclear catastrophe has ravaged and poisoned the land above them. In the metro they have to deal with not just the occasional mutant, but also extremist groups of humans, keeping themselves fed, and keeping out of trouble.
The biggest thing that this book has going for it is how interesting the world is. I found it very interesting how some of the most dangerous things that lead character Artyom encounters are not the mutants, but his fellow humans. It provokes some powerful thoughts on what we become in extreme situations. When the game of survival gets serious, there's no limit to the atrocities a person will commit to stay alive. Additionally, author Dmitry Glukhovsky has clearly put a huge amount of thought into what his future looks like. There is so much history, and so many cultures living in the tunnels - each one is thought out to the last detail, despite the fact that few are significantly spotlighted. This is a testament to how dedicated Glukhovsky is to this book and it's wonderful to see.

Additionally, Glukhovsky has also put a lot of thought into his characters. Despite the fact that Artyom is the only character that stays in the book from start to finish, he may well be one of the least interesting. This is due to Glukhovsky bringing in a new character almost every chapter, developing them and then abandoning them for a new one and so on. However because we only get a small amount of time with each character introduced, it makes them far more interesting leaving some unanswered questions and a desire for more. The stand-out character of the whole book for me was Khan, a man who believes he is the reincarnation of Genghis Khan and has some very intriguing dialogue throughout the book.

While Glukhovsky's world-building and character work is absolutely outstanding, as I said in the first paragraph I did have a few problems with the book as well, and these problems actually made the book quite hard for me to finish. First, while Glukhovsky's future was beautifully thought out, it was also a very sad and depressing future that by the end of the book was genuinely getting me down a little. This I have no doubt was intended as the book has very strong anti-nuclear, pro-environment messages throughout. The whole thing reads as a severe warning that if we send our nuclear warheads to action the outcome could be more disastrous than any previous war. While this is a message that I strongly agree with, and I love the fact that the book has a message and isn't meaningless, by the end of the book I couldn't help but feel a sense of hopelessness of our impending doom.

Also, the book did seem to drag on a little by the end. While it was interesting to see the cultures of Glukhovsky's creation, by the time I was around 3/4 of the way through the book, I really just wanted it to end. This may be due to the aforementioned depressing feeling that accompanies Glukhovsky's future, but it wasn't helped by the huge word count of the book. Metro 2033 is deceivingly long. While at first glance the book appears a fairly average length, when you open the book and see the size of the text and the very filled pages you will be able to understand that the book is not going to be a quick, nor an easy read.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

She-Hulk #1 (2014) Review

All-New Marvel Now has been a mixed bag thus far with books like Loki: Agent of Asgard hitting, and books like The Punisher not so much. It's because of this that I approached She Hulk #1 with some degree of caution, after all Charles Soule's ridiculously high level of output has got to crash at some point, hasn't it? Apparently not. She-Hulk #1 is a fun debut, reminiscent of Mark Waid's Daredevil and as a result has some suitably fun moments.

Straight from the offset, you can see that the man behind this new series is Charles Soule. The writer shares a day job with She-Hulk, as the pair of them are lawyers and as a result this series suits him down to the ground. You can tell from the well-written dialogue that the man has a level of expertise in his field, as the legal aspect of the character shines through more here than ever before. And if you're the type who isn't interested in legal drama than do not be discouraged, Soule mixes in a nice amount of humour to keep things interesting.
This is helped largely by Javier Pulido's artwork which I was pleasantly surprised with here. The man's simplistic, nostalgic style is truly charming. I still don't believe that this style works with all titles, but here - and combined with Muntsa Vicente's bright colours - it definitely adds something fun to the book. Not to mention Pulido has some interesting panel layouts in this book which really work to not just add to the story, but also absorb the reader into what She-Hulk is experiencing.

However, while this book was entertaining, it wasn't phenomenal all the same. The story was fun, but was in the end just a one-shot tale that sets up the status quo of the series, and gives us an idea of what we can expect going forward. It would have been nice to see some longer-term threads begin being sewn here - if only to squash any fears it will end up being one-shot after one-shot with no real direction as Nathan Edmonson's Black Widow seems to be - however I can understand why Soule would want to spend his debut issue introducing us to his She-Hulk.