Thursday, 30 July 2009

Film Review: STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (2008) [Animated]

Director: Dave Filoni
Running time: 95 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Thursday 30th July 2009.


Filmed entirely with CGI, this movie partially fills the gap between Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
There was an animated TV series that followed on from the film, which I have seen and, for the most part, enjoyed. This film has its faults, but over all it’s fairly entertaining to a fan of Star Wars (but NOT a fanatic).

The young son of Jabba the Hut has been kidnapped by Separatist rebels, agents of Count Dooku. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobiare sent to find the ‘Hutlet’ and return him to Jabba in order to persuade him to let the Republic use his space lanes. They are joined on this quest by the feisty Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s new Padawan learner. There are many battles with the droid army and double crosses along the way, but I think you can guess how it all turns out in the end.

I’m not too sure about this one, having seen most of the subsequent TV series, I’m used to the look and feel of this film, I think it works better on TV, in shorter pieces. Only a few of the cast from the ‘live action’ films leant their voice talents to this version, notably Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Anthony Daniels as C3PO and Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. Voicing the main characters were, Matt Lanter as Anakin, Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka and James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan (amongst others). Over all, fairly enjoyable, but I think it worked better as a TV series.

My score: 5/10

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Film Review: W Delta Z (2007) [a.k.a WAZ]

Director: Tom Shankland
Running time: 105 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Watched on Sky+ Monday 27th July 2009.


This is a very gritty, dark and very gory horror/thriller. There are scenes reminiscent of the Saw films, but it is much darker than them. I’ll admit to being somewhat shocked by this tale of murder and revenge mainly because of the raw emotion shown on the screen. It’s certainly not for the feint hearted.

Eddie Argo is a tough uncompromising detective, hard bitten by too many years on the job. He is called to the murder of a pregnant woman who has, what turns out to be, part of an equation carved into her skin. There he meets his new partner, rookie detective Helen Westcott. A series of killings ensue, each giving more of the formula and each related to a rape and murder that Eddie knows more about than he is prepared to tell…

The film had a great plot, but it is one you have to sit and watch as its quite complex. Several great performances, particularly from Stellan Skarsgård as Eddie Argo, Melissa George as Helen Westcott and Selma Blair as Jean Lerner. Honourable mentions go to Tom Hardy as the psychotic Pierre Jackson and Sally Hawkins as Elly Carpenter. Filmed in both Northern Ireland and New York, the gritty backdrops chosen for filming fitted the story perfectly. Over all, as I said at the start, not one for the feint hearted, a very dark tale of revenge pretty well done, but not perfect. I found, at times the story got bogged down and didn’t flow as well as it did at other points.

My score: 6.5/10

Monday, 27 July 2009

Film Review: SPEED RACER (2008)

Directors: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Running time: 135 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 26th July 2009.


This was the first film the Wachowski brothers made after completing the Matrix trilogy. Based on a Japanese TV cartoon series, it has the look and feel of a comic book with the use of lots of primary colours and some really great special effects. I would have been disappointed with anything less from the Wachowski brothers.

All Speed Racer ever wanted to do was be a racing driver, just like his big brother Rex. While Speed is still quite young Rex gets involved with some bad people who want to fix races for their own ends. It ends badly for Rex when he is killed in a race. A few years later, a mysterious driver appears on the scene, Racer X, who goes all out to disrupt the plans of drivers corrupted by these evil doers. Speed grows up, fulfils his dream and becomes a racing driver, a very good racing driver. He drives a car designed and built by his father Pops Racer. The industrialist Royalton tries to sign Speed and his father’s team and when they refuse… let’s say this is where the fun starts.

As I said at the top, there are some great special effects in this film. It has the look and feel of a comic book and was reminiscent, to me, of Dick Tracy (1990). Good performances from all the cast, Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer, Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer, John Goodman as Pops Racer, Christina Ricci as Trixie (Speed’s girlfriend), Roger Allam as Royalton, Matthew Fox as Racer X and especially Paulie Litt as Speed’s little brother Spritle who’s comic antics with Chim Chim (the chimp) kept me very amused throughout. It was exciting and very entertaining; I guess the only thing that lets it down is its length. At 135 minutes I found the film far too long, especially for younger viewers. Apart from that, it’s not too bad.

My score: 7/10

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Film Review: MOON (2009)

Director: Duncan Jones
Running time: 97 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Watched at the cinema Saturday 25th July 2009.


Because this film has had a limited release, I made a round trip of 36 miles to see it. The question is, was it worth it? The answer is a resounding Yes! Although it has quite a slow pace, I could see people in the cinema looking at their watches after just 20 minutes, I found it quite enthralling. As the film goes on the tension slowly rises and you really feel for the main character Sam.

Sam Bell is the sole custodian of a mining operation on the moon that extracts the precious resource Helium 3 from moon rock. This is done with several giant ‘harvesters’ that traverse the lunar surface, processing the rock as they go. The Helium 3 is then sent back to Earth to be used as a clean fuel. Sam is nearing the end of a three year contract running the facility, assisted by the computer GERTY. Whilst out servicing one of the harvesters, Sam is involved in an accident. He wakes up back at the base in the infirmary with no recollection of how he got there. He eventually convinces GERTY to let him outside and he immediately goes to the site of the accident where he finds an injured person who looks exactly like him. I will not say any more about the plot, but needless to say, from here on in it had me gripped.

A truly excellent performance by Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, ably assisted by Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY. The computer GERTY had a quirky ‘smiley face’ on its display that changed depending on the mood which I found an interesting device. Very well directed by Duncan Jones, who also wrote the original story. I found the film slightly reminiscent of Silent Running (1972), with hints of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but I won’t draw comparisons. Over all, an enthralling drama set on the moon with a great performance by Sam Rockwell.

My score: 9/10

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Director: Eric Brevig
Running time: 89 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Watched on Sky+ Tuesday 21st July 2009.


This film was made in 3D, but unfortunately they haven’t invented 3D TV yet, well not in my price range anyway. I don’t think it matters anyway because I don’t think 3D would have enhanced this film much for me. You know when you see a trailer and think “That looks good, I’ll go and see that one.” and then you see the film and realise that all the best bits were in the trailer. Well, you guessed it, the best bit are in the trailer.

Having found his lost brother Max’s annotated copy of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, Professor Trevor Anderson and his nephew Sean set off for Iceland. There they meet the daughter of Sigurbjörn Ásgeirsson who had been working with his brother. Taking Hannah Ásgeirsson as a guide the trio set off to find out what happened to Max. A freak accident leaves them trapped in a cave that leads them on a perilous journey to the centre of the earth.

Unfortunately, Brendan Fraser has a habit of hamming it up, and in the part of Trevor he hams it up a plenty. I’m convinced he would have been happier to be playing it for laughs, as in George of the Jungle. Josh Hutcherson as Sean and Anita Briem as Hannah weren’t really stretched. I found the special effects quite poor, although this may have had something to do with it being made for 3D. I’m yet to see an adaptation of this story that is as good as the 1959 version directed by Henry Levin. Over all, not too good, ok to put the kids in front of for 89 minutes, but by far not the best adaptation I’ve seen.

My score: 5/10

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Film Review: SUMMER OF SAM (1999)

Director: Spike Lee
Running time: 137 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 19th July 2009.


This tense drama is set in New York in the summer of 1977. Disco is at the top of its game, punk is just starting to get a grip and the .44 Killer is on the loose. The story centres around a group of Italian Americans living in the Bronx and how the events surrounding the reign serial killer David Berkowitz (a.k.a. the .44 Killer) in the summer of 1977.

There is a lot of swearing, a lot of sexual references, and acts for that matter, a lot of violence and an awful lot of dialogue. It’s quite unusual to see these events from the point of view of ordinary people whose lives are affected by them. The main characters are Vinny and his wife Dionna, a young couple and Vinny’s best friend Richie, who’s into punk and, for some strange reason, The Who. Vinny is cheating on Dionna and Richie has a secret about how he makes the money he needs to live. Everyone seems to be doing drugs, which are sold to them by Joey T. There’s a local crime boss who agrees to help the police find the killer. There’s a lot going on.

An interesting film, if a bit long. I found it hard to care about any of the characters apart from Richie; the fact that he wore a Union Jack T-shirt may have helped. Very good performances from John Leguizamo as Vinny, Adrien Brody as Richie and Mira Sorvino as Dionna. Honourable mentions go to Jennifer Esposito as Ruby, Richie’s girlfriend, and Michael Rispoli as Joey T. Over all, interesting, but too long.

My score: 6.5/10

Film Review: HARRY POTTER and the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009)

Director: David Yates
Running time: 153 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12A

Watched at the cinema Saturday 18th July 2009.


First of all, let me say I have not read any of the Harry Potter books, I have, however, seen all of the films. I have found all of the films up to this one exciting, entertaining and enthralling, but with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we have turned a corner into a much darker place. Don’t get me wrong, there is an awful lot of humour in this film as it also deals with the main characters discovering their sexuality, which always has some comical consequences. But Harry’s battle with the dark lord Voldemort is getting closer and this brings about some quite disturbing events in the life of the young wizard.

Just before the start of term Harry is visited by Dumbledore who takes him to see Professor Horace Slughorn, who is persuaded to join the staff at Hogwarts. Harry, Hermione and Ron start the term just like any other, although Harry has suspicions about Draco Malfoy. He is right, because Draco has indeed been drawn to the side of Voldemort. Professor Slughorn had taught at Hogwarts for many years in the past and one of his many students had been Tom Riddle, who became Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore asks Harry to get close to Professor Slughorn in order to find out more about Tom Riddle in the hope that there might me some clue as to where to find Voldemort. Harry takes classes with Professor Slughorn and is given a mysterious textbook with additional notes written by its previous owner, the ‘Half-Blood Prince’. Eventually, Professor Slughorn gives Harry the memory of a conversation he had had with the young Tom. In it, Tom talks about spell that will split his soul into several pieces and hide it in different objects. The only way to split a soul is to commit a murder, and Tom talks about splitting a soul into seven pieces. Dumbledore had suspected this and has located where one of the pieces is hidden. He needs Harry’s help to retrieve it and is badly injured in the attempt. Meanwhile, Draco’s treachery allows agents of Voldemort into the school and aided by Professor Severus Snape, who is the Half-Blood Prince, they kill a weakened Dumbledore. I found the scene after Dumbledore’s death where all of the students point their wands at the sky very moving. There, I said it was dark, of course, as I said at the beginning, there are, at times very amusing, sub-plots involving Ron and Hermione’s relationship(s), so it’s not all dark.

As we have become accustomed, the special effects are quite stunning, excellent cinematography and fantastic sets. Excellent performances from all of the main characters, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione. A particularly good performance from Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn, who’s performance held the whole film together. Honourable mentions go to Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley, Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape and Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. Over all, a quite dark, but also very entertaining film. I left wondering what’s going to happen in the last two films. I may even break with tradition and read ‘The Deathly Hallows’ before the films come out.

My score: 8/10

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Film Review: BLACK WATER (2007)

Directors: David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki
Running time: 86 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 15th July 2009.


It’s Christmas in Australia, well, just after actually, but being Australia of course, that means its summer. Two weeks off work and Gracie, her husband Adam and her sister Lee are on a trip around Northern Australia. They’ve been to a crocodile farm, which was a bit touristy, so they are keen to get out into the bush. The Blackwater Barry tour fits the bill, a boat trip into the swamp for some fishing.

Their tour guide Jim takes them along the river and then into the mangrove swamp for some fishing. Almost immediately, the boat is attacked by a large crocodile and ends up capsized. In the panic that ensues, Adam and Gracie make it to a nearby tree leaving Lee stranded on the upturned boat and no sign of Jim. In the muddy water the crocodile lurks and the three of them that are left are running out of options and running out of time.

This film is very like Open Water (2003) both in the subject matter and style. Having said that, I thought it was very well made and the footage used for the crocodile was excellent. Great performances from all of the main cast, Diana Glenn as Grace, Maeve Dermody as Lee and Andy Rodoreda as Adam. The way the tension was built up was really well done. I guess the thing that let it down for me was the fact that there was no relief from this harrowing tale of these poor people trapped by this monster. I found it all a bit too intense at times, but a really good effort.

My score: 6/10

Saturday, 11 July 2009


Written by: Russell T. Davies
Directed by: Euros Lyn

Watched on TV Monday 6th July 2009 to Friday 10th July 2009 (5 x 1 Hour Episodes)


Where can I start with this? Probably one of the best written pieces of Sci-Fi the BBC has ever produced. Set in the world of today I found it very atmospheric and I could almost believe that, given similar circumstances, a modern government might react in a similar way. I found it thought provoking, disturbing and utterly brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, it had its faults, but I’m willing to accept it as it is and leave the nit-picking to those who are much better at it than I.

I will not try to go through the plot of the whole thing, it’s very long and involved, and you’ll be reading far into the night/afternoon… or whatever time of day it is you’re reading this.

I will try to summarise. The 456, an alien race, returns to Earth, announcing their arrival by controlling all the children of the world, making them say, “We are coming” over and over again. They have been here before, to the UK in 1965 where some children were taken by them in exchange for the cure to a virilant virus. Captain Jack Harkness was involved in this exchange. Since the 456 are returning, the modern day government want no witnesses to their previous encounter and so order the assassinations of all those involved, including Jack. Now, Jack can’t die, so the attempt on him is unsuccessful, but the Cardiff hub is destroyed.

Relocating to London, the Torchwood team, Jack, Ianto and Gwen, who has just found out she’s pregnant, begin to figure out what is going on with the able help of Lois Habiba, a PA who works for John Frobisher, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office. He is the one the government has chosen to negotiate with the 456. During the negotiations, it emerges that a child is attached to the 456, one of those from 1965, and they are using the child as a kind of narcotic. The 456 demand 10% of all the children of Earth or they will wipe out humanity. Jack and Ianto manage to get into the building where the 456 are. They threaten the 456 but they retaliate and release a deadly toxin into the building, which seals itself. Everyone dies, including Ianto… Jack, of course, survives, but is deeply scared by the loss of is friend and lover.

Taken to a cell and left there, Jack doesn’t see a way to beat the 456. Meanwhile, the government puts into effect plans to collect the 10% of children and take them to places where the 456 can take them away. Unbeknownst to Jack, his daughter (yes, he has a daughter) and grandson have been taken by the team lead by Johnson, the operative who originally tried to assassinate him. Johnson is persuaded that the only person who can help is Jack, and he is rescued from his cell and put to work on a way to destroy the 456. He comes up with a plan to destroy the 456 using a “constructive wave” effectively this will turn the children into a deafening sound fed back to the extra-terrestrial addicts. Unfortunately, for his plan to work, Jack knows he must sacrifice one child to transmit the signal, and the only youngster available to him is his own grandson Steven.

We end with Jack leaving the Earth, hitching a ride on a passing freighter. Is this the end for Jack?

Great performances all round, especially from John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Peter Capaldi (John Frobisher), Lucy Cohu (Alice Carter) and Paul Copley (Clement McDonald). Honourable mentions go to Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Liz May Brice (Johnson), Nick Briggs (Rick Yates), Susan Brown (Bridget Spears), Aimee Davies (Mica Davies), Nicholas Farrell (Brian Green), Deborah Finlay (Denise Riley), Ian Gelder (Mr. Dekker), and Cush Jumbo (Lois Habiba). The production was excellent, as we’ve come to expect from the BBC, and I thought the music was particularly well done and fitted the action perfectly. But I must save the best till last, the writing by Russell T. Davies was nothing short of brilliant, I absolutely loved it, although it was very dark and, at times, difficult to watch, I really enjoyed it.

My score: 9/10

Monday, 6 July 2009

Film Review: ONE MISSED CALL (2008)

Director: Eric Valette
Running time: 87 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Monday 6th July 2009.


This is another remake of a paranormal Japanese movie that has been slagged off all over the internet. Well, not having seen the original 2003 Chakushin ari, I have to say that I actually quite liked this rendition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got a lot of faults, but at the same time it’s nowhere near as bad as the reviews I’ve been reading elsewhere. If anything, there were echoes of The Ring (2002), which had much better reviews.

The film tells the story of a group of college students who begin to receive phone calls from themselves at a future time and date. The call is a precursor to the gruesome death of the recipient. The main character, Beth Raymond, sees several of her friends die before deciding to look into what’s happening. She is helped by Detective Jack Andrews whose sister was also a victim of this strange phenomenon. Eventually Beth receives the call and they race against the clock to solve the mystery before her time runs out.

There is a lot of use of CGI, to quite good effect in my opinion. The tension is built up well and there are several “jump out of your skin” moments. Good performance by Shannyn Sossamon as Beth and Edward Burns as Jack. Honourable mentions go to Ana Claudia Talancón as Taylor Anthony, Ray Wise as Ted Summers and Azura Skye as Leann Cole who all met their deaths very well. Not the greatest horror movie in the world, but much better than many a review will have you believe.

My score: 5/10

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Film Review: GONE BABY GONE (2007)

Director: Ben Affleck
Running time: 110 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 4th July 2009.


This was Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, and as such, it’s a pretty good effort. He was also one of the screenwriters, along with Aaron Stockard, for this adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel.

The setting is Dorchester, one of the toughest neighbourhoods of Boston. The story centres around the disappearance of four year old Amanda McCready and how this event affects the lives of those involved in the investigation. Private detective Patrick Kenzie and his associate Angie Gennaro are brought in by Amanda’s aunt, Bea McCready three days after her disappearance. Amanda’s mother, Helene McCready, is a drug addict who seems to care little for her child. Kenzie and Gennaro have the cooperation of the police in the guise of detectives Remy Bressant and Nick Poole and captain Jack Doyle. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot that culminate in the death of Amanda and this is where the story gets interesting…

Great performances from Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie and Michelle Monaghan as Angie Gennaro. Morgan Freeman, as ever, was great as Jack Doyle, but I think the best performances came from Ed Harris as Remy Bressant and Amy Ryan as Helene McCready. Honourable mentions go to John Ashton as Nick Poole, Amy Madigan as Bea McCready and Titus Welliver as Lionel McCready, Bea’s husband.

Beautifully shot and well directed, this film has a lot going for it. The only thing that let it down for me was, at times, I tended to lose the thread of the plot, maybe because I found it a little slow paced. A film that will make you think and one that will stay in my memory for some time.

My score: 7.5/10