Thursday, 31 December 2009

Film Review: AUSTRALIA (2008)


Director: Baz Luhrmann
Running time: 159 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 30th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This is one of those big rolling epic films that sometimes you wish people wouldn’t make. I saw the version cut for TV that, at a massive 159 minutes, was quite long enough for me. In fact it would have been batter to expand the second half and make it as two films, IMHO. Anyhow, I digress; the film is set just at the beginning of World War Two in Darwin and at the cattle station of Faraway Downs.

Lady Sarah Ashley has travelled from England to find out what her husband is doing about selling the Faraway Downs property. Unfortunately she arrives just after he has been killed. She decides to move the cattle from the property to Darwin and use the profits to keep the property going. To do this she enlists the help of Drover, a local cattle man, his man Magarri, a few others and, most importantly, Nullah. Now Nullah has an aboriginal mother and a white father, Fletcher who is the son-in-law of the major landowner in the area, Carney. Fletcher wants nobody to know about the boy because of his wife and her connections and so he is trying to get him taken away to a mission for such children. As they are driving the cattle to Darwin, Carney gets wind of what they are doing and sends Fletcher to stop them. He nearly succeeds but they manage to get there and sell the cattle under the nose of Carney. Lady Sarah asks Drover to become her station manager which he, at first, refuses but later relents when it’s clear that the two are more than just friends. At this point we’re about half way through, & I’ve missed an awful lot out, so I’m going to leave my summary here as I don’t want to spoil the second half of the movie for you (honest).

As I said at the beginning this is a rolling epic film. It’s almost like one of those massive westerns they used to make, but set in Australia. Technically it’s pretty well made; some of the action scenes when Darwin is being bombed by the Japanese are really well done. Decent performances from the leading cast members, Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley, Hugh Jackman as Drover, Brandon Walters as Nullah, David Ngoombujarra as Magarri, David Wenham as Neil Fletcher and Bryan Brown as King Carney.

As I said at the beginning, this should have been two films, one establishing Lady Sarah’s role and the drove to Darwin, and one showing what ensued including the bombing of Darwin. It’s almost like the filmmakers were trying to tell a story that is too big and I don’t feel they succeeded. I got that Lady Sarah and Drover fell in love, but I didn’t get her strong connection to Nullah, very important in the second half of the film. It kind of fell flat for me there and never really got going again. Maybe I found the plot a bit too predictable, I don’t know. But there you have it, it’s long, it’s a love story and there’s some bombing. Not sure I’d recommend it, but fans of romance movies may find something in it.

My score: 6.1/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0455824/
Official Site: http://www.australiamovie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi1784152089/

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Film Review: AVATAR (2009)


Director: James Cameron
Running time: 162 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12A

Watched at the cinema Tuesday 29th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I have been waiting for the chance to see this film for quite a while now and I finally got it today. The gods were against me, it seemed, what with bad weather or other social engagements, I thought I’d missed it. Fortunately I saw a window of opportunity and took it. And believe me I was NOT disappointed!

Jake Sully is a marine whose twin brother had trained to control an Avatar on the wild moon called Pandora. Unfortunately he was killed and Jake, himself a paraplegic, was persuaded to take his place, given he has the same genetic make-up as his brother. The program is run by Dr. Grace Augustine and Jake takes to controlling the Avatar very easily. A group of them venture into the forest where an accident leaves Jake stranded there at night where he meets Neytiri, a native Na’vi. Gaining her trust, he is taken back to the tribal village where Neytiri is tasked with teaching him the ways of her people. Now, being an ex-marine, Jake is persuaded by Colonel Miles Quaritch to find out as much about the Na’vi as he can in order to give the military an advantage over them. At first he does this willingly, but as he learns more about them he comes to appreciate their way of life and he also falls for Neytiri. Having found the biggest deposits of Unobtanium (stupid name, I know), a very valuable ore, are to be found under their village, Parker Selfridge, the representative for the Resources Development Administration orders the troops into Na’vi territory. I’ll leave my short summary here, there is a lot I’ve missed out and a lot more to come, but I urge you to go and see it on the big screen, you’ll thank me.

Although I did find the story a little predictable, I absolutely loved the experience of watching this film. It is absolutely stunning to look at. There is a sequence where the Na’vi are catching and bonding with Mountain Banshee's, flying creatures, that is breathtaking. All of the cast did a great job, Sam Worthington as Jake Scully, Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine, Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch, Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon, Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge, Joel Moore as Norm Spellman, CCH Pounder as Moat and Wes Studi as Eytukan.

Technically, I cannot fault it, the effects are stunning, it’s almost like you are taken to Pandora for 162 minutes. As I said before the story is a little predictable, but it looks stunning and I urge you to see it on the big screen. I only saw it in 2D and it looked impressive enough to me, so if you get the chance I can highly recommend it.

My score: 8.6/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0499549/
Official Site: http://www.avatarmovie.com/index.html
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi531039513/

Film Review: FROST/NIXON (2008)


Director: Ron Howard
Running time: 117 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Monday 28th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Based on a play by Peter Morgan, this film tells the story of how the British TV presenter David Frost got the interview of a lifetime with disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon. It also tells how Frost got Nixon to admit to his wrongdoings in the Watergate affair that caused his resignation in 1974. The interviews took place in a house in California in 1977.

The film begins with David Frost having the idea to interview Richard Nixon soon after his resignation. A deal is struck with the ex-president’s people and Frost just has to secure the backing and a deal with an American TV network. None of them are interested and so Frost decides to do the interviews anyway and syndicate them afterwards. This leaves him with the problem of financing the whole thing himself. He assembles a team, James Reston, Jr., an American political writer who has written books on Nixon, John Birt, a producer from England and Bob Zelnick, a TV editor from America. Nixon’s staunchest ally in this is his former chief of staff, Jack Brennan. At first the interviews go well for the former president, Frost allows him to ramble on, avoiding any sensitive issues. As time passes though, he becomes much more aggressive but the former President is a worthy adversary. We get to the final day’s filming and they are going to talk about Watergate when Frost has a revelation. I’m not going to give it away though, but it’s really worth seeing.

Technically, a very well made film, it’s right up there with films like Apollo 13 (1995), by the same director, for getting the audience involved with the subject matter. Great performances from the two main protagonists, Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost. Honourable mentions also go to, Sam Rockwell as James Reston, Jr., Kevin Bacon as Jack Brennan, Matthew Macfadyen as John Birt, Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick and Rebecca Hall as Caroline Cushing, Frost’s love interest.

I found it a very compelling film to watch, beautifully paced and brilliantly acted. These are events that happened in my lifetime, although I must admit, as a teenager at the time they did pass me by somewhat. I didn’t expect to enjoy this film as much as I did and I highly recommend it.

My score: 8.2/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0870111/
Official Site: http://www.frostnixon.net/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3600351257/

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Film Review: THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (2008)


Directors: Sam Fell & Robert Stevenhagen
Running time: 90 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): U

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 26th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Set in the mythical city of Dor to where a small mouse, Despereaux, is born. He is different to all the other mice in that he doesn’t cower when threatened and is all in all a brave little mouse. Events prior to his birth, however, have shaped the world he lives in. A rat, Roscuro arrived by ship on ‘Royal Soup Day’ and is mesmerised by the aroma of the soup. He finds his way to the Royal dining room and, distracted by the sights, sounds and smells, accidentally falls in the queen’s soup. The queen has a heart attack and dies. Roscuro is chased into a vent that lands him in the deep dark dungeons where the really bad rats live. The king in his grief orders soup to be forbidden and rats banished, and the city falls into eternal darkness and famine. Roscuro meanwhile, meets Botticelli, the brutal leader of the rat world.

In an effort to make Despereaux more like other mice, his brother takes him into the library, where is supposed to nibble the pages of books. Unfortunately, he learns to read and is inspired by tales of knights and their brave deeds. He finds and befriends Princess Pea, who is sad because of the way the city has become. Upon finding out that Despereaux has broken the law by speaking with a human; the Mouse Council banishes him to the dungeons, where he is saved from the other rats by Roscuro. Despereaux tells Roscuro of the princess’s gloom, which touches the rat. Roscuro approaches the princess to apologize, but she is terrified of him and he is chased out. Hurt, he decides to kidnap the princess. He enlists the help of a servant girl, Miggery Sow, whom he later double crosses, and locks in a cell. The princess it taken by the rats and it’s up to Despereaux to rescue her. I think that’s enough of the plot, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers.

This is really a film of two halves, the first half was good, charming and worked, whereas the second half was a bit of a train wreck. Up until the point where Roscuro kidnaps the princess it’s fine, but from that point onwards it becomes a real mess. There are pointless sub-plots and some really crazy characters, not least the vegetable spirit in the kitchen. Decent enough performances from the voice talents of, Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, Emma Watson as Princess Pea, Tracey Ullman as Miggery Sow, Kevin Kline as Andre, William H. Macy as Lester, Stanley Tucci as Boldo, Ciarán Hinds as Botticelli, Robbie Coltrane as Gregory and Sigourney Weaver as the Narrator.

To be honest I felt a little disappointed by this film. It showed a lot of promise for the first half, but veered so far off target in the second. The animation was pretty good but the story let it down big style. This is why I find I cannot give it a very high score; I think the report card should read ‘Could do better!’

My score: 5.4/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0420238/
Official Site: http://www.thetaleofdespereauxmovie.com/splash/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3839623449/

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Film Review: QUARANTINE (2008)


Director: John Erick Dowdle
Running time: 86 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 18

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 26th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This is a remake of the Spanish film [Rec] (2007) which, for the record, I have not seen. The setting is Los Angeles where a young reporter, Angela Vidal is following the LA Fire Department for the night shift. She has her cameraman with her, Scott Percival and is assigned to follow two firemen, Jake and Fletcher.

The film begins pretty light hearted with Angela being shown around the fire station where she does the usual sliding down the pole, etc. Things are looking pretty dull until they are called out to a building where the screams of a woman in her apartment have alerted the authorities. The police have already arrived by the time they get there and the firemen are forced to break the woman’s door down when they can get no reply from her. They find a very frightened elderly woman who eventually attacks one of the policemen, biting him on the neck. The take the policeman downstairs leaving Fletcher alone with the old lady. A few minutes’ later Fletcher lands in the foyer of the building having been thrown two floors down the stairwell. On top of this, they find they cannot get out of the building, it has been quarantined and outside they can hear helicopters and sirens. I won’t say too much more as I don’t want to give too many spoilers away.

We see all the action through the eyes of the cameraman, Scott, a style that seems to have been in vogue since The Blair Witch Project (1999). I guess, because of this, I found the film to be a little disjointed at times and the action a little bit too chaotic. Decent performances from the main cast members, Jennifer Carpenter as Angela Vidal (who you may know better as ‘Debra Morgan’ in the TV show "Dexter"), Steve Harris as Scott Percival, Jay Hernandez as Jake, Columbus Short as Danny Wilensky and Rade Serbedzija as Yuri Ivanov.

A pretty exciting horror film that, through the middle section at least, kept me on the edge of my seat. Towards the end it did get kind of predictable, but I’ll forgive that for the exciting middle section. Certainly not one for the squeamish, it’s pretty gory in places. Over all, an exciting horror/thriller that keeps you guessing, for the most part, pretty well made but for a little over-acting and a slightly predictable ending.

My score: 5.9/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1082868/
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/quarantine/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3133276441/

Monday, 21 December 2009

Film Review: INKHEART (2008)


Director: Iain Softley
Running time: 106 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Monday 21st December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I quite like fantasy films, even ones made for younger audiences, in fact Stardust (2007) is one of my all-time favourite films. I remember there being quite a lot of hype about this film when it came out and so I was interested to see it. Particularly given that there were quite a few big names in the cast.

Mo Folchart is a ‘silvertongue’, this means when he reads aloud the characters he is reading about literally come to life in the real world. One day he is reading from a book called Inkheart to his young daughter when some of the characters, in particular the evil Capricorn, appear. Mo and his daughter, Meggie, are saved by Dustfinger but his wife has disappeared. Years later Mo is trying to track down copies of the, now rare, Inkheart, but he hasn’t told Meggie about exactly what happened to her mother. They go to Italy to see Meggie’s aunt, Elinor Loredan and it is here that Dustfinger catches up with them. He wants Mo to read him back to the world of his book but Mo is reluctant to do it fearing he might loose his daughter too. So Dustfinger has sold them out to Capricorn and they are taken to his castle where all kinds of other literary characters have been conjured by another, less able, ‘silvertongue’. After finding out that Mo’s wife has been brought back, but with no voice, Dustfinger is now in a quandary and Capricorn wants to bring ‘The Shadow’ into the real world and that would not be good! Things look pretty grim…

This is a very well made film that, in my opinion just fails to hit the mark. I think the mix of the fantasy world with the real world doesn’t really work in this case. There are some really good special effects; ‘The Shadow’ in particular is very menacing and really well done. Decent performances from all of the main cast, Brendan Fraser as Mo Folchart, Eliza Bennett as Meggie Folchart, Paul Bettany as Dustfinger, Helen Mirren as Elinor Loredan, Andy Serkis as Capricorn and Jim Broadbent as Fenoglio. Special mention for Brendan Fraser, it’s good to see him in a more straight acting role for a change, I hope he sticks with it; I’m not a fan of his ‘hamming it up’ roles. Also I thought Andy Serkis was an excellent bad guy.

Over all, a pretty well made fantasy adventure that didn’t quite hit the mark. I thought the plot was too complicated, particularly for a younger audience, but there were some good performances. The special effects were pretty good but this didn’t make up for an over complicated storyline.

My score: 5.7/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0494238/
Official Site: http://www.inkheartmovie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi1905656601/

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Film Review: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)


Director: Henry Selick
Producer & Writer: Tim Burton
Running time: 6 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 20th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I was flicking channels this morning when I noticed that ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was coming on next on one particular channel. Quickly I set my trusty Sky+ box to record. And so late this afternoon I settled down to watch this wonderful film that I have seen just once before. It was great to watch it again and even better than the first time I watched it!

Here’s a quick summary: Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town is a bit disenchanted with the whole Halloween thing. He goes for a walk in the woods with his dog and they come across a grove of trees with strange symbols on their trunks, like doors. Intrigued with the door that looks like a decorated fir tree he opens it and is transported to Christmas Town. There he is enchanted with the whole idea of Christmas and a plan starts to form. Halloween Town would make Christmas their own next year with Jack playing the role of Santa. He gets the Mayor to organise all the ghosts, ghouls, vampires and various creatures of the night to make presents and he gets Sally to make his costume, although she has misgivings about the whole affair. For the plan to work they must kidnap Santa Claus and he selects Lock, Stock and Barrel for this task, although they are in league with the evil Oogie Boogie. With preparations all made and Santa safely tucked away, Jack sets off to distribute joy and presents to the world… or so he thinks…

As I said at the beginning, I found this film both enchanting and wonderful. From the imagination of Tim Burton I guess we could expect no less. Everything from the way the animation is done to the many songs, it was quite a wild ride, but one well worth taking! Great performances from the voice talents of Danny Elfman as Jack Skellington (singing) / Barrel / Clown with the Tear away Face, Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington (speaking), Catherine O'Hara as Sally / Shock, William Hickey as Dr. Finkelstein, Glenn Shadix as Mayor, Paul Reubens as Lock, Ken Page as Oogie Boogie and Edward Ivory as Santa.

Over all, a truly magical journey through a really strange take on Christmas, but one that will leave you most satisfied. If you haven’t seen it before I can highly recommend it, but maybe not for the very young though.

My score: 8/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0107688/
Official Site: The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney site)
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/screenplay/vi2168717337/

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Film Review: THE ROCKER (2008)


Director: Peter Cattaneo
Running time: 102 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12A

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 16th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I was in a rock band, yes, this forty-something was a drummer in a band. Unfortunately The Antibodies didn’t really get anywhere, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t swap for the world. This is why I found myself drawn to this film, thinking, I really hope it’s better than ‘School of Rock’. And guess what, it is! More of that later…

Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman is the drummer with ‘80’s up-and-coming band ‘Vesuvius’ who are on the verge of signing a major record deal. Unfortunately for Fish, part of the deal is that he is replaced. We now fast-forward twenty years to the present day where Vesuvius are major stars and Robert is in s dead-end job that he has just lost. He goes to live with his sister whose son. Matt, is in a band along with Curtis and Amelia. They are called A.D.D. and are playing at the prom but are short of a drummer. Robert is persuaded to play and he really enjoys it. He develops a friendship with the guitarist and song writer Curtis and tries to get them a gig. He succeeds and they steal his sister’s car to go but are arrested and returned home. Finding themselves grounded, Matt finds a way to connect them via the internet so they can practice. Fish just happens to be drumming naked and Matt’s sister records the footage and puts it in the net. After about a million hits on the site a record company becomes interested and the band is booked into a studio. I won’t say any more about the plot, don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

Quite a well made film, but typical of the modern comedy in that most of the funny bits aren’t so funny (to me). Decent performances from Rainn Wilson as Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman, Christina Applegate as Kim (Curtis’s mum), Teddy Geiger as Curtis, Josh Gad as Matt Gadd, Emma Stone as Amelia and Jeff Garlin as Stan.

I guess there were two things that made this film stand out for me. One was the fact that there was actually a coherent storyline, too often the story gets lost amongst all the one-liners and stunts. The second was a really good soundtrack, most of the songs were original and most excellent, to pinch a line from the infamous ‘Bill & Ted’. Over all a pretty enjoyable film with a decent story and about two funny bits, but most of all a really good soundtrack!

My score: 6.9/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1031969/
Official Site: http://www.bearocker.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi2648899865/

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Film Review: THE DESCENT: PART 2 (2009)


Director: Jon Harris
Running time: 94 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Watched at the cinema Saturday 12th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Having seen and quite enjoyed The Descent (2005) I was looking forward to the sequel. I was keen to see how they would move the story on, maybe some background on how the creatures came to evolve in the caves or some kind of scientific expedition. No, neither of these scenarios were considered, it was just a dumb rescue mission story. I should have guessed from the advertising, telling us it is the “Sh*t Scared Film of the Decade!” But I digress, I’ll tell you a bit about the plot and then I’ll tell you what I really think.

At the end of The Descent (2005), one of the characters, Sarah escapes the caves by putting a climbing axe through the leg of Juno to attract the creatures. This film picks up where that one left off with Sarah outside the cave, delirious, and finding a passer-by in a truck. By this time a search and rescue mission has begun, but they are looking in the wrong cave system. Desperate to find the missing party, the sheriff, Vaines, and his deputy, Rios, take Sarah in a catatonic state, back to where a dog has followed her trail and the right caves. With them are a small rescue party, Greg, Cath and Dan. It’s not long before they have their first encounter with the creatures and Sarah begins to remember the events that had preceded. Of course, certain members of the party are taken by the creatures as they get separated from each other. Just as Vaines is being attacked he is rescued by Juno who has survived and is still trying to find a way out. I’ll leave it there; I think that’s enough spoilers for one day!

Some decent cinematography and the creature effects were very well done, but far from the “Sh*t Scared Film of the Decade” I was lead to believe it was. What we basically had was the original film re-made with some of the cavers having the advantage of having been there before. Decent performances from the main cast members, Shauna Macdonald as Sarah, Natalie Jackson Mendoza as Juno, Krysten Cummings as Rios and Gavan O'Herlihy as Vaines. In the end though, I found it pretty disappointing and not one I can particularly recommend.

My score: 4.8/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1073105/
Official Site: http://www.thedescent2.co.uk/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3770025241/

Monday, 7 December 2009

Film Review: PATHFINDER (2007)


Director: Marcus Nispel
Running time: 106 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on DVD Monday 7th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

First of all, I have to admit I have (sort of) seen this movie before. Unfortunately I tried to watch it when I was really tired the first time around and ended up falling asleep about half way through. This time, however, I have the ‘Extended Edition’ on DVD and managed to stay awake all the way through! Set in North America in about 800 AD, that’s 600 years before Columbus, it tells the story of a Viking boy shipwrecked and found by a tribe of Natives. He is brought up as one of their own and grows to be a strong warrior called Ghost. He is somewhat shunned by boys his own age because of the colour of his skin, but he keeps the Viking sword that was found with him and secretly practices with it.

Fifteen years after he was first found, Ghost is out on a hunting trip when he is alerted to the return of the Vikings. They have raided his village and killed almost everyone in it. He tries to fight back but they are too powerful and he is injured escaping them. He goes to the next village and is nursed by Starfire, a young woman and her father, Pathfinder. When he’s rested he warns them to leave the village or they will all be killed, he had seen it before as a boy before the shipwreck. The villagers pack up and leave and Ghost sets off to delay the Vikings and possibly lead them astray. Unknown to him, Starfire has followed him and is in danger of being captured. The leader of the Vikings, Gunnar, has found out who Ghost is and knew his father. I’ll leave it there, not too many spoilers this time.

Made in a style similar to films like, 300 (2006) and Sin City (2005), it almost has the feel of a graphic novel. There is plenty of blood splatter and gore to go around. Fortunately there is not much CGI; a lot of physical stunt work was used, which was nice to see. Decent enough performance from all of the leading cast, honourable mentions go to Karl Urban as Ghost, Moon Bloodgood as Starfire, Russell Means as Pathfinder, Clancy Brown as Gunnar and Jay Tavare as Blackwing.

Unfortunately the plot and pace of this film seems to meander around before it decides to go anywhere. I found it hard to place exactly where the characters were from one minute to the next. The plot seemed to get lost in the middle and only began to take shape again towards the end. Over all, some good stunts, plenty of gore but unfortunately not a lot of direction.

My score: 5.2/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0446013/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/screenplay/vi4020175129/

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Film Review: THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008)


Director: Rob Minkoff
Running time: 100 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 5th December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Legend has it that the Monkey King, a fierce and respected warrior, was tricked by the Jade Warlord and turned to stone. Before this happened, he sent his weapon, a fighting staff, out into the world to hide it from the Warlord. It is said that someone would return it to him and when that day came the Jade Emperor would return to the world and free it from the tyranny of the Warlord.

A teenager from Boston, Jason Tripitikas, is obsessed with old Kung Fu movies. He gets bootleg films from Old Hop, who owns a pawn shop in Chinatown. On one of his visits there he finds an old mysterious staff tucked away in a back room. Old Hop shoo’s him out of the shop and he sets off home only to be confronted by a gang of local thugs. They know that he goes to the pawn shop and plan to rob the old man, using Jason as a means to get inside. They get to the store and start searching for the money when the old man tries to stop them. The leader pulls out a gun and shoots the old man. In a panic, Jason grabs the staff and runs for the roof. He seems cornered when the staff seems to push him over the edge. The next thing he knows he’s in ancient China! There he meets Lu Yan, a drunk who knows Kung Fu; he also meets Golden Sparrow, a female musician who is on a mission to kill the Jade Warlord. These two save Jason’s life when the Jade army come for him. They set off towards the Mountain where the Warlord lives and Jason persuades Lu Yan to teach him Kung Fu on the way. A mysterious silent monk takes the staff one day but ends up travelling with them and also teaching Jason the ways of Kung Fu. As they approach the mountain a witch is waiting for them, sent by the Jade Warlord. I’ll leave the summary there; I think you’ve had enough spoilers for now!

A very well made film with some truly excellent fight sequences, but with the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the cast, I would expect nothing less. I must admit it’s nice to see Jackie Chan in a more classical Chinese fantasy type role as opposed to the more Westernised roles he tends to play these days. Great performances from all of the cast, honourable mentions go to Jet Li as The Monkey King / The Silent Monk, Michael Angarano as Jason Tripitikas, Jackie Chan as Lu Yan / Old Hop, Yifei Liu as Golden Sparrow / Chinatown Girl and Collin Chou as Jade Warlord.

Over all, quite an entertaining film with a lot of very good fight sequences. The only thing that slightly let it down was the fact that one or two of the fight sequences went on a little too long, and the plot was a little weak in couple of places. Apart from that, pretty entertaining stuff!

My score: 6.5/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0865556/
Official Site: http://www.forbiddenkingdommovie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi1605501209/

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Film Review: BODY OF LIES (2008)


Director: Ridley Scott
Running time: 128 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 2nd December 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Set against the war on terror, this film deals with the work of the CIA and their efforts to capture one of the terrorist leaders. Seen from the perspective of Roger Ferris, an agent on the ground, and Ed Hoffman, his handler back in the USA, it gives an interesting perspective to events in the region. Throw into the mix an enigmatic Jordanian security chief and a Muslim nurse who Ferris is interested in, and you have an enthralling espionage thriller.

As I said at the beginning, Roger Ferris is the agent on the ground, and we begin with him watching a suspect being tortured to death. Not a promising start, I know, but it does illustrate the point that torture does not work. Through several twists and turns, he picks up the trail of the terrorist leader Al-Saleem. We mostly see Ed Hoffman on the phone while taking his kids to school, or in the office, but when things really hot up, he makes the trip to Jordan where they are watching a safe house. They have solicited the help of the Jordanian security chief Hani Salaam, an enigmatic character who insists that Ferris always tells him the truth. Ferris has met a nurse, Aisha, and their relationship is just beginning to flourish when she is kidnapped. Thinking Al-Saleem is behind it, Ferris offers himself in exchange for the girl. And this is where I’m going to stop; I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

A very well made film, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Ridley Scott. Technically, I couldn’t fault it, the only problems I found were that the plot was very complicated to follow and it was a little long. Great performances from all of the cast, honourable mentions go to Leonardo DiCaprio as Roger Ferris, Russell Crowe as Ed Hoffman, Mark Strong as Hani Salaam, Golshifteh Farahani as Aisha, Oscar Isaac as Bassam, Ali Suliman as Omar Sadiki and Alon Abutbul as Al-Saleem.

I think I would have to re-watch this one to give it a fair go, but I will score it on my first viewing. Should I watch it again, I will re-score it. Over all, apart from the comments I made earlier, I quite enjoyed this film. Although it does help that I am a massive fan of the director.

My score: 6.5/10 (on first viewing)

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0758774/
Official Site: http://wwws.warnerbros.co.uk/bodyoflies/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi1783038233/

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Film Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)


Director: Oren Peli
Running time: 86 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Watched at the cinema Saturday 28th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Katie and Micah are a young couple who have been living together for about three years. When strange noises in the night start to occur, Micah decides to find out what’s causing it by recording themselves at night using his video camera.

At first it’s a bit of fun, they joke around and nothing scary really happens. Katie has arranged for a psychic to come and see them. She tells him that she has been experiencing these events since she was eight years old. The psychic says that she is being haunted by a demon, not his field of expertise, and leaves them the number of an expert. He warns them not to antagonise the demon or things could get very ugly. In the night the door moves and this is caught on film. Micah is determined to solve this mystery without any outside help. As the nights progress, more and more strange events occur and Katie gets more and more anxious. At one point she even gets up, stands by the bed for an hour and then goes and sits outside in the yard. Micah finds her, but she has no memory of how she got there. I won’t say too much more, but needless to say the film builds to a pretty scary ending!

Considering the reported budget of US$15,000, I thought it was a very well made film. Made entirely in one house with very few actors and most of the action being filmed on just one camera. Also, some really effective use of sound, whenever the demon was about to put in an appearance we had an eerie low hum. Great performances from both Katie Featherston as Katie and Micah Sloat as (not surprisingly) Micah. They both really captured the mood and played their parts really well.

Over all, a pretty scary movie, it certainly made me jump more than once! If I have one criticism, it’s that Katie seems a little too normal. If this thing has been happening nearly all of her life, then surely she would be slightly more paranoid. Don’t get me wrong, she appears genuinely scared at points, but then appears normal the following day. Having said that, it is without doubt the scariest film I’ve seen in a very long time!

My score: 7.6/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1179904/
Official Site: http://www.paranormalactivity-movie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi309003545/

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Film Review: VANTAGE POINT (2008)


Director: Pete Travis
Running time: 86 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12A

Watched on DVD Saturday 28th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Set in Salamanca, Spain, this film tells the story of an assassination attempt on the American President. Seen through the eyes of eight witnesses, we get eight different points of view of the attack. From these different perspectives we can then determine who is responsible.

The president is attending a summit in Spain to work out a treaty on terrorism. Starting with the coverage of a TV station we see the events leading up to and including the assassination attempt on his life. We then rewind and see the same events from the perspective of presidential guards, Thomas Barnes and Kent Taylor. Barnes has just returned to duty having been injured protecting the President from a shooting attempt. As with each of the different ‘vantage points’ used, we get to see a little bit more of the action and glimpses of who is behind the assassination attempt. An American tourist, Howard Lewis has an interesting perspective, being in the crowd with his video camera as events unfold. I won’t detail all of the perspectives; I’ll be here all night!

A very well made and exciting film with a great car chase thrown in. Filmed partly in Mexico and also in Spain, it had the look and feel of a Spanish town. Good performances from all of the major cast, Dennis Quaid as Thomas Barnes, Matthew Fox as Kent Taylor, Forest Whitaker as Howard Lewis, Bruce McGill as Phil McCullough, Édgar Ramírez as Javier, Saïd Taghmaoui as Suarez, Ayelet Zurer as Veronica, Zoe Saldana as Angie Jones, Sigourney Weaver as Rex Brooks and William Hurt as President Ashton.

Over all, a decent action thriller, but it had one major fault. We are never told why the bad guys are trying to kill the President. I guess it is assumed that US foreign policy is to blame, but there is no background at all on the terrorists. This, for me, totally unbalanced the plot and made a bit of a mockery of the whole film. I’m still going to give it a reasonable score because the production was pretty good, it’s just a shame the script didn’t give us a bit more depth.

My score: 6.6/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0443274/
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/vantagepoint/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi1420951833/

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Film Review: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (2008)


Director: Chris Carter
Running time: 104 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on DVD Sunday 22nd November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

A young female FBI agent is abducted from her home in Virginia. A psychic ex-priest, who also happens to be a convicted paedophile, has led the FBI to a clue to her whereabouts. Unfortunately, this leaves the FBI in an awkward situation and they are forced to contact Dana Scully in the hope that she can find Fox Mulder, who is the only man with experience of this kind of thing. Scully is now working as a full-time doctor and wants nothing to do with the FBI, but she contacts Mulder and persuades him to come out of hiding.

The lead FBI agent, ASAC Dakota Whitney, has nothing to go on except a severed arm, not belonging to the missing agent, that Father Joseph Crissman led them to in a frozen lake. There is much scepticism about Father Joe, particularly from her colleague Agent Mosley Drummy. Mulder, however, is prepared to listen to the priest and he eventually leads them to the abductors. I won’t say too much more, not wanting to give away too many spoilers.

It was good to see Mulder and Scully back on the screen again; even Walter Skinner puts in an appearance towards the end of the film. As usual, David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully were excellent is the roles we’ve come to know them so well for. They were ably supported by Amanda Peet as ASAC Dakota Whitney, Billy Connolly as Father Joseph Crissman, Xzibit as Agent Mosley Drummy and, of course, Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner.

A very well made film that, like the TV series, was quite slowly paced, but kept you interested. There was just one thing that irked me a bit, the character of Father Joe was dropped about three quarters of the way through. They a built him up a lot throughout the film and all of a sudden he was just cast aside, which seemed a bit callous. Apart from that, a pretty good effort, no great special effects or action sequences to speak of, but a very atmospheric piece that was quite reminiscent of the TV show I grew to love.

My score: 6.9/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0443701/
Official Site: http://xfiles.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi4142334233/

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Film Review: CLOVERFIELD (2008)


Director: Matt Reeves
Producers: J.J. Abrams & Bryan Burk
Running time: 81 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on DVD Saturday 21st November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Manhattan, evening, a group of friends are throwing a party for Rob who has got a promotion at work and is moving to Japan. His brother Jason and his girlfriend Lily are throwing the party and Jason has got Hud, one of Rob’s best friends to document event for Rob to take to Japan with him. Hud is interested in one of the guests, Marlena, who doesn’t show much interest in him. Also at the party is Beth, an ex of Rob who he still has feelings for but has turned up with her new boyfriend. As you can tell, it’s gonna be a swell night!

Just after Rob and Beth have just had a big row and she has left, there is, what appears to be, an earthquake and all the power goes out. It comes up again and someone switches on a TV where a reporter says a tanker has exploded on the harbour. Most of the guests rush to the roof to see what’s happening. Another explosion, this time on land heralds the approach of the monster. Deciding it’s not safe on the roof, they rush down to the street where something big is thrown into a building further down and bounces to land just outside. It is the head of the Statue of Liberty! Rob, Jason, Hud, Lily and Marlena decide to try to get out of Manhattan and head for the Brooklyn Bridge. While crossing the bridge, Rob receives a call from Beth saying that she was trapped. At this point the bridge is attacked by the monster and one of their number doesn’t get away. The rest of the film deals with Rob’s attempts to get to Beth and the efforts of the military to defeat the monster. I won’t go into details, don’t want to give too many spoilers away!

It would be hard not to draw parallels with the amateur footage shot during the 9/11 attacks. The scene where a building collapses and a wall of smoke and dust blows down the street is uncannily similar. In fact, the filmmakers admit as much in the extras on the DVD. It is also very hard not to draw parallels with Godzilla, although different, a monster attacking New York is always going to look similar to the 1998 Roland Emmerich film.

I have to take my hat off to the filmmakers for the way the film was shot. It cannot have been easy to stage the footage they got. Also the special effects were pretty good, the main monster and the smaller ones both looked pretty scary. A good job by all of the main cast, Lizzy Caplan as Marlena, Jessica Lucas as Lily, T.J. Miller as Hud, Michael Stahl-David as Rob Hawkins, Mike Vogel as Jason Hawkins and Odette Yustman as Beth McIntyre. Although there was a bit of over-acting going on at times, it was nowhere near as bad as in The Blair Witch Project (1999)!

Over all, a pretty exciting film with lots of edge-of-your-seat action. The first twenty minutes are pretty dull, but once the monster makes an appearance, things really hot up very quickly. Made in a documentary style, similar to The Blair witch Project, as already stated, I quite enjoyed not knowing where the next attack was coming from, or who might be the victim.

My score: 7.9/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1060277/
Official Site: http://www.cloverfieldmovie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi78774553/

Gig Review: MOTÖRHEAD + THE DAMNED + GIRLSCHOOL at the Leeds O2 Academy 20th November 2009

GIRLSCHOOL:

Girlschool are: Kim McAuliffe (Vocals/Guitar), Jackie Chambers (Lead Guitar), Enid Williams (Bass/Vocals) & Denise Dufort (Drums).

Unfortunately we missed the first half of Girlschool’s set due to the lateness of our departure from base. I have heard some of their studio stuff and I must say I haven’t been all that impressed. Now having seen them live, I have changed my opinion. They really know how to get the crowd moving and play some pretty good tunes too! I even recognised some of the tracks, ‘Hit & Run’ I remember from way back, ‘Emergency’ from the 1981 ‘St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’ EP with Motörhead has always been a classic and they closed the show with ‘Race With the Devil’, a track I always liked, but hadn’t realised it was Girlschool who recorded it! A great show from the entire band, they put a lot of energy into their performance and it showed!

My score: 8/10

Official site: http://www.girlschool.co.uk/


----o0o----
THE DAMNED:

The Damned are: Captain Sensible (Guitar/Vocals), Pinch (Drums), Cave Vanian (Vocals), Stu West (Bass) & Monty Oxymoron (Keyboards)

I haven’t seen The Damned live before, but, having been into Punk a long time ago I am pretty familiar with quite a lot of their early stuff. They opened with ‘New Rose’ a loud bawdy number that got the crowd moving. It was quite funny watching the people around me in the crowd, there were several bemused faces, but also quite a few singing along & I guess, like me, quietly reminiscing the late 70’s & early 80’s. There were several tracks I didn’t recognise, but I didn’t mind, they were OK, but not the classics I wanted to hear. The band then surprised me and played two tracks from my favourite Damned album, ‘The Black Album’. It was really great to hear ‘Curtain Call’ and ‘History of the World Part 1’, both of which are a bit avant-garde and a bit of a departure from the more raucous numbers. Towards the end of the set the better known tracks, ‘Neat Neat Neat’, ‘Eloise’, ‘Love Song’ and finally the classic ‘Smash it Up’ closed the show… Well, almost closed the show… Captain Sensible attempted a solo performance of ‘Happy Talk’ as they left the stage and had to be ‘assisted’ off by one of the road crew! Although I’m not sure they were for everyone at a Motörhead show, I quite enjoyed The Damned. Even after all these years both Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian still know how to put on a good show!

My score: 8/10

Official site: http://www.officialdamned.com/


----o0o----

MOTÖRHEAD:


Motörhead are: Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister (lead vocals and bass guitar), Phil Campbell (guitar and backing vocals) & Mikkey Dee (drums and percussion)

By the time Motörhead hit the stage the place was pretty full. Lemmy announced “We are Motörhead… and we play Rock and Roll!” and they opened up with a couple of classics of which ‘Over the Top’ was best received. With the usual appearance of ‘Metropolis’ I was nearly tempted to go in search of a T-shirt, but endured this dirge of a track, I don’t know why they always play it! I’m pretty glad I stayed because they soon redeemed themselves with ‘Killed by Death’, one of my all-time favourite Motörhead tunes! The set was littered with classics; the likes of ‘Stay Clean’, ‘I Got Mine’ and ‘Just cos You Got the Power’ were all well received. A smattering of new tracks also put in an appearance along with a cover of a Twisted Sister track whose title, I’m afraid, escapes me right now. Of course, at the end of the set we got the classics ‘Bomber’, ‘Ace of Spades’ and they ended with ‘Overkill’. Over all a really good show from the boys, I really enjoyed it. Towards the end I finally broke for the merchandise stand & got a T-shirt. I then watched the end of the show from the back, which gave me the advantage of being able to see, and I could also hear the music properly.

My only complaints are that the venue, when full, is not very condusive to being able to see the stage, particularly if, like me, you’re only 5 feet 7 inches tall! Secondly, don’t get me wrong, I like loud music, but when it’s so loud it is distorted to the extent that it doesn’t sound like music any more, then it’s not too enjoyable. It was only when I stood at the back towards the end that I could see most of the stage and I could actually hear the band. Over all, a pretty enjoyable show, slightly ruined by a venue that didn’t make it easy to see and an over-enthusiastic sound engineer.


My score: 7.5/10

Official site: http://www.imotorhead.com/

Friday, 20 November 2009

Film Review: 88 MINUTES (2007)


Director: Jon Avnet
Running time: 108 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Friday 20th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This is a taught thriller set in Seattle where Jack Gramm, a forensic psychologist for the FBI lives and works. Nine years previously his evidence had convicted brutal serial killer Jon Forster, a.k.a. the Seattle Slayer and it is nearing the time of his execution. Jack is now a successful lecturer at the local university as well as working for the FBI.

With just a few hours to go before the execution, Jack receives a mysterious phone call informing him that he has just 88 minutes to live. The time, 88 minutes, is very significant to Jack, but I will not divulge it here. In trying to find out who is behind this call, and all the while suspecting Forster, Jack reveals a twisted plot that leaves several bodies in its wake. Somebody is copying the Seattle Slayer’s crimes and leaving evidence implicating Jack. I won’t say too much more, not wanting to give away too many spoilers, but needless to say it all culminates in a big show-down where the copy-cat is revealed.

A well made film, although I did find it a little stale. I didn’t really engage with any of the main characters and the story had elements of many of this type of thriller I have seen before. Decent performances from all of the main cast members, Al Pacino as Jack Gramm, Alicia Witt as Kim Cummings, Leelee Sobieski as Lauren Douglas, Amy Brenneman as Shelley Barnes, William Forsythe as Frank Parks and Neal McDonough as Jon Forster. I thought Neal McDonough was particularly good as the slightly psychotic Forster.

Over all, a pretty well made thriller that didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me. Maybe because Pacino played the part of Gramm in his ‘larger than life’ style, it gave the character a bit of arrogance that I did not find particularly appealing. I did like the twist at the end though.

My score: 5.5/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0411061/
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/88minutes/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi2058486041/

Film Review: TWILIGHT (2008)


Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Running time: 118 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12

Watched on Sky+ Friday 20th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I guess I’m definitely not the target audience for this film, however, I feel I can therefore be a little more objective about it. Set in the small town of Forks in Washington State, it tells the story of Bella Swan and her love for the vampire Edward Cullen. Bella has recently moved to live with her father, Charlie, to allow her mother and step dad to go on the road.

On her first day of school, Bella meets Edward who, at first doesn’t seem to like her. He then disappears for a few days, during which a man is mysteriously killed by what is thought to be a wild animal. On his return, Edward seems to have changed and starts taking more of an interest in Bella. Edward is being fostered by Carlisle Cullen and his wife Esme, there is also Alice, Emmett and the twins Rosalie and Jasper. Bella’s father is the local sheriff and his best friend Billy Black and his son Jacob also have a part to play in this tale. Edward’s attraction to Bella grows strong and she, in turn, begins to fall for him. Eventually she figures out exactly what Edward is and confronts him with it. She is not scared and they begin to see each other, secretly at first, but then in the open. Bella is taken to meet Edward’s family who, it turns out, do not feed on humans, but are kind of vampire vegetarians and only feed on animals. I won’t tell any more as I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, I’m sure there must be one or two out there that haven’t seen this yet.

A beautifully shot movie with, surprisingly, not too many special effects. A pretty good soundtrack too, but any soundtrack with the band Muse in it can’t be all bad! Decent performances from all of the main characters, Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, Billy Burke as Charlie Swan, Gil Birmingham as Billy Black, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black and Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen. I particularly enjoyed Billy Burke as Bella’s understated father; I think he really nailed that part.

Over all, although I haven’t read the book and, as I said at the beginning, I’m certainly not the target audience, I quite enjoyed this film. I didn’t really engage with the characters too much though. The plot was not too difficult to follow and it was quite entertaining. I can’t give it too high a mark though because I felt there wasn’t enough of an edge to it. For instance, Bella should have been scared when she figured out Edward was a vampire, but she wasn’t and we, as an audience, just had to accept that, which, to me, made the vampires seem a lot less threatening than they should have been.

My score: 6.2/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1099212/
Official Site: http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight_movie.html
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi710344729/

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Film Review: CHANGELING (2008)


Director: Clint Eastwood
Running time: 141 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Thursday 19th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Based on true events and set in Los Angeles in the late 1920’s through to the mid 1930’s, this film tells the tale of Christine Collins and her search for her missing son Walter. At a time when police corruption is rife she battles the LAPD and the mayor’s office in her efforts to find the truth. This is, at times, a harrowing tale and one of great courage on Mrs Collins part despite the odds being stacked against her.

Coming home late from work one evening, single parent, Christine Collins finds her son, Walter, is missing. She goes around the neighbourhood, but there is no sign of him. She calls the police but they are indifferent to her pleas for help. Eventually they do turn up but seemingly do little in the way of investigation. A boy matching Walter’s description is eventually found several months later and the police, needing some good press, arrange for the press to be present at the reunion. The boy is clearly not Walter but the police captain J.J. Jones, insists he is despite Mrs Collins saying so. Adamant that the police have got it wrong, and with the help of the Reverend Gustav Briegleb, Christine gets testimony from Walter’s dentist and teacher stating that the boy is not Walter. This is still not good enough for the Captain Jones and eventually Mrs Collins is thrown into the psychiatric ward at the Los Angeles hospital. Meanwhile the case of a serial killer is revealed and it is though the Walter may have been involved. I think that’s enough of the plot, I don’t want to give too much away.

A beautifully made film, the locations and feel of it were just right for the period. Also a really fitting score written by Clint Eastwood (Damn, he so talented!), set the mood perfectly. A tremendous performance by Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, she has really gone up in my estimation with this one! Honourable mentions go to John Malkovich as Rev. Gustav Briegleb, Jeffrey Donovan as Captain J.J. Jones, Colm Feore as Chief James E. Davis, Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott, Amy Ryan as Carol Dexter and Michael Kelly as Detective Lester Ybarra.

This is a pretty long film, over two hours, and it has quite a slow pace, but it’s worth persevering with. I found it truly inspiring the way Christine would not give up on her son despite the authorities telling her otherwise. I really enjoyed it and this is, I hope, reflected in my score.

My score: 8.2/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0824747/
Official Site: http://www.changelingmovie.net/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3944284185/
Further reading: http://www.latimesinteractive.com/advertising/changeling/Changeling-V5.html

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Film Review: HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE (2008)


Director: Robert B. Weide
Running time: 94 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 15th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Based on the autobiographical book by Toby Young, this film charts the rise to fame of magazine journalist Sidney Young. From a failing magazine in London, he is lured to the bright lights of New York City by ‘Sharps’ magazine boss Clayton Harding. This is where most of the film is set, although there are scenes set in both London and Los Angeles.

Having arrived in New York, Sidney, looking to make an impression, can do nothing right. He finds that things are done very differently in the Big Apple and he finds it difficulty to tow the line. The only one of his colleagues that will talk to him is fellow journalist Alison Olsen. It turns out that Alison is having an affair with another colleague who happens to be married. Throw into the mix Publicist Eleanor Johnson and her starlet Sophie Maes, who Sidney is very interested in, and we have a bit of a comedy on our hands.

This is a British comedy, there’s no getting away from it. Although most of the action takes place in New York, there is a very British sense of humour about it. Well shot with a really good soundtrack. Good performances from all the leading roles, Simon Pegg as Sidney Young, Kirsten Dunst as Alison Olsen, Danny Huston as Lawrence Maddox, Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Johnson, Megan Fox as Sophie Maes, Max Minghella as Vincent Lepak, Jeff Bridges as Clayton Harding and Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Kowalski (Sidney’s landlady).

I guess my main problem with this film is that I didn’t really care for the main character very much. He was such an arsehole at the beginning of the film I really didn’t care whether he got the girl or not towards the end. No reflection on Simon Pegg’s performance, I think it’s more to do with the writing. So, over all, a very British romantic comedy set in New York that maybe alienated the audience a bit too much from one of the main characters. Could have been better.

My score: 6/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0455538/
Official Site: http://www.howtolosefriendsmovie.com/intl/uk/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi903610649/

Film Review: 2012 (2009)


Director: Roland Emmerich
Running time: 158 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12A

Watched at the cinema Saturday 14th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

The Mayans predicted the world would end in the year 2012. Like many predictions of Earths’ destruction, it was forgotten until, in 2008, a scientist in India found the effect a massive solar flare was having on the Earth’s core. The radiation was acting like a microwave, destabilising the core and eventually the Earth’s crust. Governments were informed and plans were formed to save what they could of humanity… Those that could pay anyway.

During the destruction of the Earth we follow, amongst others, the fortunes of failed writer Jackson Curtis, his estranged wife and two children, and scientist, and government advisor, Adrian Helmsley. Having met Helmsley when Jackson takes the kids to Yellowstone for a holiday, our heroes take separate routes to salvation. It is apparent that something is up in Yellowstone and crazy reporter, Charlie Frost is on the case. Jackson meets Charlie and they discuss his theories. During this discussion Charlie lets out the fact that he has a map showing the location of giant ships being built by the governments of the world. To cut a long story short, when it all goes to hell in L.A., Jackson remembers the map and during their escape they manage to get to Yellowstone and retrieve it. Now desperate to get to China they luckily bump into Jackson’s boss, Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov, who happens to have a ticket for one of the ships. They manage to get to China where Jackson and his family are dumped by the greedy Russian. Meanwhile, Helmsley has been advising the president on how best to handle the crisis. Trying to persuade him to let the people know the world is about to end is quite a hard job! Eventually the president has a change of heart right at the last minute and decides to ‘Go down with the ship’, leaving his daughter escaping to China with Helmsley. There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave the plot here… I think you’ve had enough spoilers for one day!

Visually, the film is quite stunning; most of the effects are quite breathtaking on the big screen. Adequate performances from all of the major cast members, honourable mentions to John Cusack as Jackson Curtis, Amanda Peet as Kate Curtis, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Adrian Helmsley, Thandie Newton as Laura Wilson (The President’s daughter), Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost and Danny Glover as President Thomas Wilson. I must admit I loved Woody Harrelson’s over-the-top cameo as Charlie Frost, worth seeing just that section of the movie alone.

I found the film exciting and, once all the destruction started, quite a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, what let it down was the fact that it was just too long at 158 minutes and the fact the there were far far too many clichés in the storyline. It’s almost as if Roland Emmerich decided to put in bits of every other disaster movie ever made! Also, the story was a tad on the lame side, or have I just seen one too many disaster movies. Over all, a very good special effects movie that was let down by being a tad too long, had far too many clichés and had a storyline that was a little lame.

My score: 6.4/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1190080/
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/2012/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3444113945/

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Film Review: MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008)


Director: Bharat Nalluri
Running time: 92 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 14th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Not the kind of film, I guess, you’d expect to find in my blog, but I must admit to being a bit of a fan of Frances McDormand. Ever since I first saw her in Fargo (1996) I have been an admirer of her work. In fact I recently watched and reviewed her most recent film, Burn After Reading (2008). But I digress; this film is set in London just before the outbreak of World War II, where Miss Guinivere Pettigrew is a rather unsuccessful nanny. Via a bit of subterfuge she ends up at the door of Delysia Lafosse, an American club singer and socialite who is in need of a social secretary. And this is where Miss Pettigrew’s day begins.

It’s quite a complicated plot, so I’ll just give you a taste of the action. Thinking that she is to be employed as a nanny, Miss Pettigrew thinks nothing when asked by Delysia to get Phil out of bed. She soon discovers that Phil is a little older than she had expected. He is putting on a show in the West End and Delysia has been trying to persuade him to give her the leading role. Having got Phil out of the flat, it’s not long before Nick arrives. Some quick thinking on Miss Pettigrew’s part gets him on his way and they head for a fashion show where they meet Joe Blumfield and his much younger on/off fiancée Edythe DuBarry. After the show, they take Miss Pettigrew to Edythe’s boutique and get her a make-over and some new clothes. On returning to the flat they discover Michael Pardue, Delysia’s pianist at the club and who is the only one who truly loves her for who she is, but she still has higher ambitions… Told you it was complicated! I won’t say any more, but believe me, its well worth watching.

A really well made film, I liked the kind of washed out colour effect used which fitted the period really well. Great performances from all of the leading cast, in particular Frances McDormand as Miss Guinivere Pettigrew, Amy Adams as Delysia Lafosse, Lee Pace as Michael Pardue, Ciarán Hinds as Joe Blumfield, Shirley Henderson as Edythe DuBarry, Mark Strong as Nick Cordorelli and Tom Payne as Phil Goldman. It starts of as a kind of screw-ball comedy come farce, but there is an underlying seriousness that is brought out in conversations between Guinivere and Joe. They are both of a similar age; both remember the First World War and both lost loved ones in that conflict. I think, because of that serious aspect, I enjoyed this film a lot better than I would have done otherwise. Overall then, a really enjoyable gentle comedy with a hint of reality which, I think, gave it a little edge over similar movies.

My score: 8.3/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0970468/
Official Site: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Official Site
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi800194841/

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Film Review: TAKEN (2008)


Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Running time: 90 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 18

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 8th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

A retired CIA agent, Bryan Mills, wants to re-connect with his 17 year old daughter, Kim, in L.A. His ex-wife, Lenore, has re-married and Bryan knows he cannot compete with Kim’s stepfather. Weary of the world, Bryan is very cautious when Kim announces that she wants to go off to Paris with a friend for the summer holidays. He eventually relents and they set off for their big adventure, not realising that not everyone they meet is as nice as they may seem.

Kim is on the phone to her father when she sees her friend Amanda being kidnapped; she knows she will be next, so Bryan tells her to shout out any details about them she can. Using these few clues, and with the help of some of his CIA colleagues, he goes to Paris to find her. What ensues is a very brutal investigation, in which no stone is left unturned in Bryan’s determined effort to find and rescue his daughter from the Albanian white slave traders who have taken her. I won’t go into details, but, believe me; it’s definitely not for the squeamish!

A thriller with plenty of well made action sequences, particularly the outside shots set in Paris. Plenty of explosions and lots of violence. Good performances from the leading cast members, Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, Maggie Grace as Kim, Olivier Rabourdin as Jean-Claude and Famke Janssen as Lenore, although Kim, played by Maggie Grace did come across is a bit whiney and annoying. The French police, and in particular the Albanians, came out of this quite badly, the Police for being corrupt and the Albanians for being slimy gangsters. I’m sure it’s not the case for all of them! Over all, if you like violent revenge thrillers then this is the film for you. If you’re a bit squeamish, I’d avoid it. Personally, I liked it a lot!

My score: 8/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0936501/
Official Site: http://microsites.craveonline.com/taken/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3488219417/

Film Review: GHOST TOWN (2008)


Co-Writer/Director: David Koepp
Running time: 99 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12A

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 8th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

First of all, I must admit to not being the greatest Ricky Gervais fan in the world. I have seen, and enjoyed, his TV series ‘Extras’, but most of what I’ve seen of his other output hasn’t really hit the mark IMHO. This film is set in Manhattan where Bertram Pincus is a dentist who doesn’t really like people. Frank Herlihy is a businessman who is cheating on his wife and, at the moment of his death, happens to be outside the building where Bertrum Pincus lives.

Having been in hospital for a routine operation, Bertrum Pincus discovers he can see dead people, or ghosts if you prefer. One of these ghosts happens to be a very pushy individual named Frank Herlihy, who insists Bertrum splits up his ex-wife, Gwen and her new fiancé, Richard. Frank believes Richard is using Gwen to get at the money she got from his life insurance. Reluctantly, Bertrum agrees, but as fate would have it, he finds himself falling for Gwen.

A really well made film, I particularly like the use of music throughout, it set the tone perfectly. Great performances from all of the cast, in particular, Ricky Gervais as Bertram Pincus D.D.S., Téa Leoni as Gwen and Greg Kinnear as Frank Herlihy. As a romantic comedy, I really enjoyed this film, I felt it got a bit lost in the middle, but came back strong at the end. As I said at the beginning, I’m not the greatest fan of Ricky Gervais, but I have heard that this is much better than The Invention of Lying (2009), which I’m prepared to believe, although I haven’t seen it yet. Over all, a really engaging romantic comedy. It looks like they had a lot of fun making it too; some of Téa Leoni’s laughter looked really genuine!

My score: 7.5/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0995039/
Official Site: http://www.ghosttownmovie.com/intl/uk/#/home
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3501196057/

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Film Review: PRIDE AND GLORY (2008)


Director: Gavin O'Connor
Running time: 125 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 7th November 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Set in the Washington Heights district of New York, this gritty police drama depicts the consequences of corruption in the New York Police department. It also tells how these events effect the Irish-American family, the Tierney’s, caught up in the centre of it all.

Four police officers are killed in a shootout in Washington Heights and Ray Tierney is persuaded by his father, Francis Sr., to join the investigation team. They uncover a corruption scandal that involves Ray’s brother-in law, Jimmy Eagan. Jimmy is an out-of-control cop who, along with his colleagues, has been involved in dealing drugs for some time. His boss, Ray’s brother Francis Jr., was unaware that Jimmy had strayed so far because of his own problems at home with his wife who has cancer. Jimmy has alienated many of the more unsavoury elements in the district and this, in the end, proves to be his undoing.

A very well made film with some great performances from all of the main cast members. Honourable mentions go to Edward Norton as Ray Tierney, Colin Farrell as Jimmy Eagan, Jon Voight as Francis Tierney Sr., Noah Emmerich as Francis Tierney Jr. and Jennifer Ehle as Abby Tierney.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t decide whether the film was a family drama or a crime thriller. It seemed to flip between both stories, which, I think unbalanced it and which I also found quite distracting at times. Also, I thought the film was a little too long and, maybe because of the ‘flipping’, a bit too slowly paced for my liking. Over all, some great performances, but a film that is a bit too long and paced a little too slow.

My score: 6/10

LINKS:
IMDb Site: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0482572/
Official Site: http://www.prideandglorymovie.com/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/imdb/vi3217162521/