Monday, 29 August 2011

Film Review: AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (2009)

1179947_big Directors: Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
Running time: 102 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Documentary/Biography
USA Release date: 14th May 2010

Watched on Sky+ Monday 29th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

To the people in the know, Bill Hicks is revered as one of the greats. I must admit I wasn’t all that familiar with his work before seeing this documentary. I may have seen the odd snippet here and there, maybe even caught part of the odd TV appearance when getting back late from the pub, but this is the first time I’ve actually sat down and watched any his work properly. You’ll be pleased to know you’ve got a convert right here! I can see why he was so successful over here in the UK; his style of humour is just the kind of thing we love. But I digress, here’s a bit about the film.

bill1_1631778c We are told the story of Bill Hicks right from birth until his death, tragically young, only 32 years later. It’s quite fascinating how he started out as a teenager with his friend Dwight Slade, and how they’d sneak out of the house to go and play gigs at a local comedy club. He gains some success and ends up solo when Dwight has to move away and we follow his career through alcoholism, drug abuse and back again. It’s only when he cleaned up that he had his greatest successes though. Sadly he never really made it really big in his home country during his lifetime, but he left us with some truly memorable and thought-provoking comedy… In my book, a genius.

american__the_bill_hicks_story_9 Rather than just having lots of talking heads in between scenes of Bill on stage, the filmmakers used some photo-animation to illustrate certain parts of the story. This worked very well and served to keep the audience interested in the narrative. Many of his friends and family contribute to the story, which gives this version of events a lot of credence. I found I was not only intrigued by his life story, but also by his comedy. I will certainly be looking at more of the work of Bill Hicks… Recommended.

My Score: 8.2/10.

IMDb Score: 7.9/10 (based on 1,716 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1179947/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82/100 (based on 55 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/american-the-bill-hicks-story/

american-the-bill-hicks-story-1 LINKS:
Official Site: http://www.americanthemovie.com/
Trailer:

Film Review: THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE [El Espinazo del Diablo] (2001)

The Devil's Backbone poster Co-Writer/Director: Guillermo del Toro
Running time: 106 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Mystery/Fantasy/Horror/Drama
USA Release date: 30th November 2001

Watched on Sky+ Monday 29th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This is the second review in my mini ‘del Toro Fest’, if you missed the first one, you’ll find it here. I have heard many good things about ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ over the years, but this is my first viewing. I must say I’m impressed with what I saw, despite the subtitles; it’s quite an engaging tale. I’ll tell you more after this brief summary.

A0000164 Set during the Spanish civil war, the story surrounds the goings on at a remote orphanage. Carlos has been left there after his father is killed at the front and, under the care of the people who run the orphanage, principally Dr. Casares and Carmen; he is assigned a bed and introduced to the other boys. Other people at the orphanage include the surly Jacinto, and the young maid, Conchita. One of the boys, Jaime, is slightly bigger than Carlos and, at first bullies him a bit, but they eventually become friends. On his first night, Carlos hears a noise that turns out to the ghost of a boy who was murdered at the orphanage. This boy, Santi, knows a secret, the place where they are hiding some gold. Unfortunately, Jacinto also knows the secret and is already looking for a way to get it. I’ll leave it there or the Spoiler Police will be putting me in that water-filled pit in the basement again.

devils-backbone-santi-slideshow-pic2 This is, again, a beautifully made film, filled with the little nuances I’ve found del Toro puts in many of his films. It’s very much a character-driven piece and they are, for the most part interesting and well rounded. As usual, it’s quite hard to judge performances in a foreign language, but I could find no fault with any of them. Marisa Paredes did a great job as Carmen, as did Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto and Federico Luppi, who bears a striking resemblance to Christopher Lee, as Dr. Casares. Fernando Tielve was great as Carlos, as was Íñigo Garcés as Jaime. Finally, I thought Irene Visedo was good as Conchita, although I thought her character was a little under used.

devils_backbone_lead As I’ve already said, this is very much a character-driven piece, where the interrelationships between the various characters are very much to the fore. Some are quite surprising and, at times shocking. Quite a complicated plot, but well worth sticking with as it all ties up in the end quite neatly. It did, unfortunately fall a little flat in the middle, but I feel further viewings will probably iron out any problems I found there. Over all, though, a rather excellent drama with a great visual style that, at times, can be quite subtle. I really enjoyed it!... Recommended.

My Score: 8.4/10.

IMDb Score: 7.6/10 (based on 20,256 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0256009/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91/100 (based on 103 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/devils_backbone/

devilbackbone1 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Casares: What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.

LINKS:
Trailer:

Film Review: CRONOS (1993)

Cronos poster Writer/Director: Guillermo del Toro
Running time: 94 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller
USA Release date: 16th September 1994

Watched on Sky+ Monday 29th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I must admit to being a bit of a fan of the work of Guillermo del Toro, and so, in an effort to see more of his work I’m looking at a couple of his earlier films. We have this one today and later ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ will be viewed and reviewed in, what I’m calling my mini ‘del Toro Fest’. And so to part one, Cronos, this is an interesting horror film with all the visual style you would expect from a del Toro film. I should warn those who are not fans of subtitles that, although there is some English dialogue, most of it is in Spanish… with the dreaded subtitles. I found a lot more humour than I expected, but also a very dark side to the story. I will tell you more after this brief summary.

cronos-movie I guess the best way to describe how the Cronos device came into being is to quote from the opening sequence of the film (If you consider this a spoiler then please feel free to skip the next paragraph):

“In 1536, fleeing from the Inquisition, the alchemist Uberto Fulcanelli disembarked in Veracruz, Mexico. Appointed official watchmaker to the Viceroy, Fulcanelli was determined to perfect an invention which would provide him with the key to eternal life. He was to name it... the Cronos device. 400 years later, one night in 1937, part of the vault in a building collapsed. Among the victims was a man of strange skin, the colour of marble in moonlight. His chest mortally pierced, his last words... Suo tempore. This was the alchemist.”

Jesus Gris runs a small antiques shop in Mexico. His young granddaughter Aurora quite often helps out and the pair have a strong bond between them. One day a man comes in, checking out some of the small statues, archangels, he has in the store. He pays particular attention to one of them before leaving. Later, when insects begin to come from the statue, Jesus investigates and finds a gold clockwork device in the base, which he keeps. The next day another man, Angel de la Guardia turns up and buys the statue. He is buying it for his rich uncle, Deiter de la Guardia, who has some terminal disease, but also has a document describing how to use the Cronos, the device Jesus has hidden. That evening Jesus is cleaning the device when he activates it and it attaches itself to his hand. He rips it off, but it’s too late, he is now under the spell of the device and it will lead him down a path of pain and despair. I will not say any more, but needless to say, when de la Guardia discovers Jesus has the device, things get a bit feisty.

206409_122537611157544_120331651378140_162290_5111115_n I love the visual style del Toro brings to his films, they are always beautifully lit and everything about the production has a certain quality to it. I also liked the music by Javier Álvarez, it fitted perfectly. Good performances all round, particularly from Federico Luppi; I thought he did a great job as Jesus Gris. A very young looking Ron Perlman played Angel de la Guardia and Claudio Brook was his uncle Dieter de la Guardia. Margarita Isabel was Jesus wife, Mercedes and Tamara Shanath did a great job as his granddaughter Aurora.

cronos perlman There are many things to like about this film, including the visual style, the cinematography, the music and the performances, but I felt there was something lacking. Although I did enjoy it, I did find the narrative a little weak, I felt it lacked a little spice, strange, considering its origins. Even so, it did entertain me and it did add a nice twist to an established horror sub-genre (no clues here), and so… Recommended.

My Score: 7.8/10.

IMDb Score: 6.8/10 (based on 7,842 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0104029/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90/100 (based on 41 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/cronos/

206714 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
[discussing why Deiter wants the Cronos]
Jesus Gris: He thinks it will help him live longer.
Angel de la Guardia: [laughs] That f*cker does nothing but shit and piss all day, and he wants do live longer?

LINKS:
Trailer:

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Film Review: SERPICO (1973)

Serpico poster Director: Sidney Lumet
Running time: 130 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama
USA Release date: 5th December 1973

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 28th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This film is based on a book by Peter Maas, it tells the true story of cop Frank Serpico and how he exposed corruption amongst members of the New York Police Department. I did see it a lot of years ago but couldn’t appreciate then just what a very good film it is. Yes, it seems a little dated today, but it’s more about the characters than the surroundings. I’ll tell you more after this brief summary.

serpico-movie-still-2 We begin with Frank Serpico being rushed to hospital in a police car having been shot in the face. We then go back to the beginning, with him graduating from the police academy. He soon finds that life on the streets is very different to what he expected. For instance, cops get free food for turning a blind eye to double parking at a certain diner. Eventually, after trying a couple of departments, he ends up in plain clothes and is transferred to a new division. It’s when he’s handed an envelope with money in that he realises just how widespread the corruption has become. Unable to take it to his commanding officer, he turns to his friends, the mayor’s office, anyone who’ll listen. He makes it clear to his colleagues that he won’t take any money and, despite extreme pressure, he never does. He is given the run-around by all those he thought he could trust and eventually it gets too dangerous for Frank. He has to turn to his one last hope; but is it too late for Frank? I’ll leave it here so the Spoiler Police don’t get the idea I’m on the take.

serpico I should mention that the film doesn’t just concentrate on Serpico’s working life, but his personal life too. The women he lived with and how his situation affected his relationships with them. An excellent performance from Al Pacino as Frank Serpico is the highlight of this one, he is really great! Also worthy of note are; John Randolph as Chief Sidney Green, Jack Kehoe as Tom Keough, Biff McGuire as Capt. Insp. McClain, Barbara Eda-Young as Laurie, Cornelia Sharpe as Lesley Lane and Tony Roberts as Bob Blair. Oh, and I also spotted a brief appearance from Judd Hirsch as a Cop (uncredited).

Serpico steps I won’t say this film is all about Al Pacino, there are many other factors that make this a great film, but without him I’m sure it would have been very different. The film was made just a year after the real Frank Serpico retired from the force and went to live in Switzerland (according to the closing credits) and so I guess the story must have still been pretty fresh in the memory of many New Yorkers. It has a very gritty feel to it, as many films of the period do, and this really lends itself to the stark reality of the situation Frank finds himself in. I must say I got really involved with the plot and, despite having seen it before; I was still intrigued to see the outcome. It’s a great film with one of Pacino’s finest performances… Recommended.

My Score: 8.5/10.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 30,502 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0070666/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90/100 (based on 39 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/serpico/

Serpico 1 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Tom Keough: Now I ain’t sayin’ who. They just said ya’... ya’ couldn’t be trusted, you know?
Frank Serpico: ‘Cause I don’t take money, right?
Tom Keough: Frank, let’s face it. Who can trust a cop who don’t take money?

LINKS:
Trailer:

Film Review: TIMECRIMES [Los Cronocrímenes] (2007)

Timecrimes_poster Writer/Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Running time: 92 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
UK Release date: 6th February 2009

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 28th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

This is a very interesting Spanish film with a nice twist on the subject of time travel. There is much to like about this film, but you have to be prepared to not ask too many questions of it until the end. I watched it with subtitles, which I didn’t find too much of a distraction, but if you’re not into reading subtitles then this may not be for you. A very direct style adds a certain quality to the piece that you seldom see in a Hollywood film these days. I enjoyed it quite a lot… more of my thoughts after this very brief summary.

timecrimes-hc Hector and Clara have just moved into a new house in the countryside. They are renovating it and so it is still in a state of disrepair. One evening Hector is checking out the woods through his binoculars when he sees a naked woman. Deciding to investigate he takes a walk and eventually finds her lying in a clearing. He tries to wake her but to no avail and it is now that a mysterious man with a bandage around his head stabs him in the arm with some scissors. Running away, Hector finds a seemingly empty house. Searching it he finds a walkie-talkie and manages to raise another man who is in a silo at the top of the hill. The man tells him that the bandaged man has followed him and it breaking into the house. Hector hurriedly runs to the bunker where a young man waits for him. The young man tells Hector he can hide in a large tank in the centre of the room. He does so and this is where things really get very interesting for Hector. I won’t say any more or those Spoiler Police will start playing with time again… and I really don’t want to go through that again.

Mask1 A well made film with, as I’ve already said, a very direct style. I really like the device of using the radio to keep the audience informed of where they are in the time-line (you may not understand that if you haven’t seen it yet, but trust me it will make sense when you do). Good performances all round, although it’s a little hard to tell when it’s in a foreign language. Karra Elejalde did a good job as Hector, as did Candela Fernández as Clara. Bárbara Goenaga as the young (naked) woman and Nacho Vigalondo as the young man (in the lab) were both pretty good as well. Time sketchjpg Although I did find it a little predictable at times, I did very much enjoy this film. Partly, I think, for the fact that Hector and Clara aren’t thirty something’s, they are a more mature couple. I can see a Hollywood remake where they are much younger and I don’t think that will work as well. You can see that Hector gets out of breath climbing up a hill and, to me, this makes it more real. I didn’t find it a scary film at all, although there is some level of violence, but I did find it quite entertaining, if a little predictable… Recommended.

My Score: 7.4/10.

IMDb Score: 7.2/10 (based on 9,121 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0480669/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88/100 (based on 68 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/time_crimes/

TimeCrimes_03 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Clara: Hector...
Héctor: It’s okay.
[throws the scissors]
Héctor: We still have a while before it starts raining.

LINKS:
Trailer:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Film Review: JONAH HEX (2010)

Jonah Hex Poster Director: Jimmy Hayward
Running time: 81 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy
UK Release date: 3rd September 2010

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 27th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I was quite excited when I first heard about this film, the premise looked really great. It’s funny how a great looking idea can be turned into something really terrible though. I know I occasionally have to look at a bad film if just to remind me how good the great ones are, but this was truly awful. I will tell you more after this brief summary.

Jonah-Hex-movie-image-Josh-Brolin Jonah Hex is a survivor of the American Civil War, brutally scarred by Quentin Turnbull, the man who murdered his wife and son as he looked on helpless. After this, Hex was taken in by the Crow Indians who healed him, well almost, he found he could speak to the dead. He left and became a bounty hunter, until the day he gets word from the government that Turnbull is alive. It’s now all about revenge for Hex, who is out for blood and nobody is going to stop him. I’ll leave it there, there is more but the Spoiler Police will have me fired from a cannon if I say anything else.

Jonah-Hex-movie-image-Josh-Brolin As I said at the beginning, the premise of this film was quite appealing, the execution, however, was quite appalling. As far as the performances go, well, everyone was professional but the material they had to work with was woeful. So, honourable mentions go to; Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex, John Malkovich, who I can’t believe took the part of Quentin Turnbull, Megan Fox, who played, well, Megan Fox as Lilah and finally, Michael Fassbender as Burke. If I was any of these performers I would be having very serious words with my agent.

John-Malkovich-Jonah-Hex-movie-image It has the distinction of attaining the lowest score of any film I’ve watched so far this year (162 at this point in time). The dialogue was turgid and didn’t really go anywhere and most of the action happens at night so it’s very hard to follow. On the plus side (rare, I know, for this one), I thought the make up effect for Hex’s scar was very well done. I do try to watch all films with an open mind, but this was just awful… NOT recommended.

My Score: 3.2/10.

IMDb Score: 4.6/10 (based on 17,723 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1075747/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12/100 (based on 142 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jonah_hex/

megan-fox-jonah-hex FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Jonah Hex: Keep him fed and watered. Don’t you tie him up. If I don’t come back for a spell, he’ll know it. He’ll head out on his own way.
Boy: He got a name?
Jonah Hex: Yeah. Horse.
[to the dog]
Jonah Hex: You. Yeah, I... I don’t what to say to you.

LINKS:
Official Site: http://jonah-hex.warnerbros.com/dvd/
Trailer:

Friday, 26 August 2011

Film Review: WINTER’S BONE (2010)

Winter's Bone Poster Co-Writer/Director: Debra Granik
Running time: 100 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
UK Release date: 17th September 2010

Watched on Sky+ Friday 26th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I have been looking forward to seeing this film for about a year now. So many good things have been said about it and I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Of course it didn’t play at my local cinema, and it only had a very limited showing at the nearest multiplex… at a time that wasn’t convenient for me (of course). And so a year later it finally airs on TV and, at last, I get to see this much anticipated film. I don’t think the wait helped, it meant that, little by little, small details about the plot came to my ear and this, ultimately, affected my enjoyment of it. But more of that later, here’s a brief summary first.

wintersbone1 Ree Dolly lives in the Ozark Mountains with her younger brother, Sonny, her younger sister, Ashlee and her sick mother. Her father, Jessop, has been gone for some time, and so it’s up to the 17 year old Ree to hold the family together. One day the Sheriff turns up and tells Ree that her father has been arrested, but has posted bail. As part of the bond he has put up their house and their land. She has about a week to find him before he’s due to appear in court. Ree sets off to talk to the close-knit community but gets short shrift at every turn. Even Jessop’s brother, Teardrop, refuses to help her, but Ree is determined and continues looking. Nobody is prepared to step forward and Ree ends up pushing to too far, so far in fact that she puts her own live in danger. But she has an unexpected ally… Of course, I would not be thanked for continuing at this point, so I’ll leave it here. The Spoiler Police have already been making inquiries in the area and I don’t want them to find me.

winter's bone 1 The picture deliberately has a very stark look to it and this adds to the bleakness of both the surroundings and the situation Ree finds herself in. I also like the music chosen for the film, some traditional Ozark songs fit the mood perfectly. The film is notable for a tremendous performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, I thought she was outstanding. Also worthy of note was John Hawkes as Teardrop; I thought he put in a good turn too. Lauren Sweetser was good as Ree’s friend Gail and the children, Isaiah Stone as Sonny and Ashlee Thompson as Ashlee were also very good. Finally, honourable mentions go to both Dale Dickey as Merab and Garret Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin.

john_hawkes_winters_bone1 The plot has quite a slow pace and it is very much a character driven piece, so it may not be to everyone’s taste. I enjoyed it, although it did lose me a little towards the middle; having said that it’s well worth sticking with. There are a couple of scenes that some people may find a bit disturbing, but, I’m told, these things really go on. It’s quite a serious film, addressing some very dark issues, but one I found ultimately did deliver. The performance from Jennifer Lawrence is what holds it together and I must admit to being enthralled by it… Definitely recommended.

My Score: 8.4/10.

IMDb Score: 7.3/10 (based on 32,855 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1399683/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94/100 (based on 158 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10012136-winters_bone/

winters-bone_02 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Sonny: [on gutting a squirrel] Do we eat these parts?
Ree: [grimly] Not yet...

LINKS:
Official Site: http://www.wintersbonemovie.com/
Trailer:

Film Review: EAST IS EAST (1999)

East is East poster Director: Damien O'Donnell
Running time: 96 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Drama/Comedy
UK Release date: 5th November 1999

Watched on Sky+ Friday 26th August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I live and work in an area of the UK with a very large Pakistani population and so I thought this film might throw a little light on that community. A lot of people I know are always telling me that this film is really good and a great comedy. Well, even though I don’t ‘get’ a lot of comedies, I thought I’d take a look, and I must say, although it has some amusing moments and some very funny dialogue, it’s not really a comedy. I will tell you why after this brief summary.

east-is-east-2-1 Set in Salford, Manchester in the early 1970’s, this film tells the story of chip shop owner George Kahn, his wife Ella and their children. There are six sons and one daughter, oh, and I should point out that Ella is white and from Manchester. George wants to bring the kids up in the traditional Pakistani manner. Unfortunately for him, they don’t particularly want to be brought up like that. He is insistent though, and goes ahead arranging marriages for his sons without telling them until the very last minute. We get a look into how the youngsters are just typical teenagers/young adults, who just want to be able to have a good time with their friends. The relationships between the various family members are also looked at quite closely, particularly Ella’s relationship with George. I really don’t want to go into too much detail as I’m very wary of giving too much of the plot away (Them Spoiler Police are very strict these days!).

1_midi A very well made British film with some nice insights into a very interesting, and diverse family. The highlight for me was the performances of the main characters, both Om Puri as George Kahn and Linda Bassett as Ella Kahn were excellent. All the kids were very good; Jordan Routledge as Sajid, Archie Panjabi as Meenah, Emil Marwa as Maneer, Chris Bisson as Saleem, Jimi Mistry as Tariq, Raji James as Abdul and Ian Aspinall as Nazir.

F-CTE12594 For me, I thought this film worked much better as a drama; this aspect of the plot brought out the best performances and was much more interesting. I did feel that a lot of opportunities went begging, but I could see that the filmmakers were very wary of causing offence. It was almost like they wanted to make a full-blown comedy, but the, more interesting, story about relationships and family life got in the way. I should mention that there are scenes of domestic violence that some may find distasteful. Having said that, I did quite enjoy this film and I think so long as you’re not expecting a raucous comedy, it’s one I can deem… Recommended.

My Score: 6.6/10.

IMDb Score: 6.7/10 (based on 9,232 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0166175/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81/100 (based on 31 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/east_is_east/

274_4_screenshot FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Mark: Gunga Din! Drinking the white man’s brew!
Fat Twat: What are you doing here, Abdul?
Abdul Khan: It's me stag night. I’m getting’ married.
Mark: Who to?
Abdul Khan: Dunno. Me dad hasn’t bothered introducing us yet.

LINKS:
Trailer:

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Film Review: TRON LEGACY (2010)

TronLegacy_poster Director: Joseph Kosinski
Running time: 125 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
UK Release date: 17th December 2010

Watched on Sky+ Monday 22nd August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I admit I was a fan of the original 1982 film TRON and, despite many poor reviews I was still intrigued to see the updated version. Well, visually, it’s quite stunning, but to be honest, the writers of those many poor reviews did have a point. I did like the music though, even a reprise of the song from the original film; “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey. Most of the original music was produced by Daft Punk, which seemed to fit the technological mood pretty well. But more of my thoughts later, here’s a brief summary first.

Tron-Legacy-Jeff-Bridges-8-7-10-kc Kevin Flynn became a successful businessman at the end of the first film. He later got married and had a son, Sam. Several years later he mysteriously disappeared without a trace. His son, now grown up is disillusioned and refuses to take control of the company that is rightfully his. One of the directors, and friend of his father, Alan Bradley, comes to him one day saying he’s been paged by Kevin. Strangely though, it has come from Kevin’s old games arcade that hasn’t been running for years. Sam goes there and finds Kevin’s old workshop. Turning devices on, he is digitised and downloaded to ‘The Grid’. Now, ‘The Grid’ is run by a program written by Kevin called Clu, who looks like Kevin did 30 years ago. Clu’s mission is to remove any imperfections on ‘The Grid’. Sam is made to play games or risk being killed. He reluctantly plays, but is rescued by the mysterious Quorra. She takes him off ‘The Grid’ to meet his real father. Sam desperately wants to get his father out of there and it’s a race against time to escape the world of TRON. I won’t say any more as I don’t want the Spoiler Police to de-res me.

Tron Legacy Light Cycles As I’ve already said, the visuals are quite stunning in this one, I cannot fault most of the CGI. I saw it in 2D so I cannot comment on the 3D-ness of the picture. Decent performances all round; Jeff Bridges did a good job as both Kevin Flynn and Clu, although he was CGI’d as Clu and that didn’t quite work as well as it might. Garrett Hedlund was ok as Sam Flynn, as was Olivia Wilde as Quorra. It was also nice to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley and reprising his original role as TRON.

tron_legacy01 I think the main problem with this film was that it was too much like the original, as far as the story goes. It’s all about getting from one place to another to escape something bad and get home. Very ‘Wizard of Oz’ if you like. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with that story and after a while it becomes boring. Yes, the visuals are quite stunning, but that doesn’t make up for a rather predictable an, sadly, dull plot. The dialogue didn’t help matters much either, it was all far too pedestrian I’m afraid… Sadly, the critics were right in this case… Not recommended.

My Score: 5.3/10.

IMDb Score: 7.0/10 (based on 83,476 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1104001/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50/100 (based on 221 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10011582-TRON_legacy/

tron-legacy FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Quorra: [Quorra is showing Sam the book collection] Just between you and me, Jules Verne is my favourite. Do you know Jules Verne?
Sam Flynn: Sure.
Quorra: What’s he like?

LINKS:
Official Site: http://www.disney.co.uk/tron/index.jsp
Official Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Tron
Official Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TronLegacy
Trailer:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Film Review: ZULU (1964)

Zulu_poster Co-Writer/Director: Cy Endfield
Running time: 138 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
UK Release date: 22nd January 1964

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 21st August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

I have seen this film many times before; it was a particular favourite of mine as a youth. It’s a story of immense bravery against seemingly insurmountable odds, and I guess that’s what attracted me to it. Add to that, it’s based on real events and you’ve got me sold! The British army has fought in many battles over the years and many medals have been won. The highest award for bravery is the Victoria Cross and no fewer than eleven were won by the defenders of a small outpost called Rorke’s Drift in Natal, Africa on January 22, 1879.

Zulu_1964_01 Having already won a great victory, slaughtering 1,200 British soldiers, Zulu warriors are on the march. Four thousand are headed for Rorke’s Drift, a small missionary hospital in Natal. A detachment of troops from a Welsh regiment are stationed there under the command of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. An officer of the Royal Engineers, Lieutenant John Chard, is also in the vicinity when word comes of the defeat. Having seniority, Chard takes command and begins to make preparations for the coming attack. A missionary, Otto Witt and his daughter, Margareta are also there, but are proving more of a hindrance than a help. After the first Zulu attack the Witts’ are sent away as Otto is distracting the men with his talk of death. Wave after wave of attacks ensue with great losses on both sides, but the garrison remains undefeated. Can they hold out? Will help come in time? Of course I can’t tell you here or the Spoiler Police will have me clapped in irons and put on Company punishment again.

vlcsnapionel00866 Mostly filmed on location in Natal, you really get a feeling for the place. Of course the filmmakers couldn’t get 4,000 extras to play the Zulu army, but they did a pretty good job with what they had… Remember, no CGI back in 1964. This film is famous for being the first major film role for Michael Caine, who did a great job as the young aristocratic Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. Equally good was Stanley Baker as Lieutenant John Chard R.E. Other performances of note came from; Jack Hawkins as Otto Witt, Ulla Jacobsson as Margareta Witt, James Booth as private Henry Hook and Nigel Green as Colour-Sergeant Bourne.

zulu4 The story is told entirely from the point of view of the garrison and this does make matters seem very one sided. Of course the battle scenes are all very well choreographed, but nothing like as brutal as they would be if it was made today. I loved this film when I was growing up and, believe it or not, I still love it today. It is most probably because of the story it tells, rather than it being an outstanding piece of filmmaking. I must admit, though, that Michael Caine does stand out in this one, his star potential is there for all to see. Over all, a film I have no problem recommending, even though it may not be politically correct to do so these days.

My Score: 8.4/10.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 13,839 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0058777/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92/100 (based on 13 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/zulu/

zulu91 FAVOURITE QUOTE:
Colour Sergeant Bourne: It’s a miracle.
Lieutenant John Chard: If it’s a miracle, Colour Sergeant, it’s a short chamber Boxer Henry point 45 calibre miracle.
Colour Sergeant Bourne: And a bayonet, sir… with some guts behind.

LINKS:
Trailer:

Film Review: RUNNING SCARED (2006)

RunningScared_poster Writer/Director: Wayne Kramer
Running time: 122 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Drama
UK Release date: 6th January 2006

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 21st August 2011.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Now, a friend of mine, who has steered me wrong in the past, recommended this one. I am always wary of his recommendations, particularly when it’s a film I’ve never heard of before. It was only because he was most insistent that I put this one in the planner and, for the most part, it was just about ok. Don’t get me wrong, there are many many things wrong with it, but, as a piece of entertainment, it was ok (just). I’ll give you my reasons after this brief summary.

2006_running_scared_002 A drug deal is going down when some masked dirty cops interrupt it. A shoot-out ensues in which several of the cops are killed. Hoodlum, Joey Gazelle, is given the task of disposing of some of the guns used in the shooting. He decides, however, to stash them in his basement as ‘insurance’, or so he tells his wife, Teresa. Their son, Nicky, was playing with his friend Oleg, who lives next door, when they see where Joey hid the guns. Oleg’s step-father, Anzor, is an abusive Meth addict with a John Wayne fixation. When, later that evening, shots are heard from next door, Joey goes round to find Anzor shot and Oleg nowhere to be seen. Fearing the worst, he rushes back home to find one of the guns missing. It’s now a race against time, Joey has to find the boy and the gun before either his fellow gangsters, or the cops, do. If either of them beat him to it, he’s sunk. I’ll leave it here so as not to enrage the Spoiler Police… I’ve spent too much time in the cells recently.

cameron_bright3 Quite a well made film with very much a comic book/graphic novel feel to the storytelling. This is achieved with the use of some nice CGI work and some interesting camera angles. The performances were all pretty good, although a little too much ‘over the top’ at times. Paul Walker was OK as Joey Gazelle and Vera Farmiga also did a good job as Teresa, his wife. The young Cameron Bright was excellent as Oleg Yugorsky, as was Chazz Palminteri as the sleazy Detective Rydell.

725_5 As I said at the beginning, there are many things wrong with this film, first of all, its way too long. Secondly, the plot is far too complicated, I know we are supposed to suspend reality, but there are limits; it got so convoluted and brought in so many peripheral characters that I was beginning to think I was watching cheap rip off of ‘The Sopranos’. I couldn’t sympathise with any of the characters, we’re supposed to care about a hoodlum just because he has a wife and son… I don’t think so. There is, however a nice twist at the end which, they, again try to mess up by dragging it out way too long. There were one or two points I did like about it though, but these were few and far between. I would have definitely scored it higher if it wasn’t for the appalling ending.

My Score: 5.5/10.

IMDb Score: 7.5/10 (based on 45,106 votes at the time of going to press).
http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0404390/

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40/100 (based on 129 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10004288-running_scared/

running-scared-20050927110513817-000 LINKS:
Official Site: http://www.newline.com/properties/runningscared.html
Trailer: