Reviews & Rants, Films for You?
- Life Of Pi
[27/december/2012] Score: 9/10
A mature fantasy tale that will delight and enlighten older children, but some of the more sombre elements may go over the heads and understanding of the youngest. Combining religious experiences enough to delight every mad priest in the middle east and wondrous fantasy that will amaze and thrill every child-at-heart this is the kind of tall tale you grow up with when not being drowned in a deluge of saccharine Hollywood nonsense.
Verdict: Could change your life.
- Jack Reacher
[26/december/2012] Score: 8/10
A fairly straightforward but well-produced investigative action story of murder, innocence and conspiracy we’ve seen many times before but here well-executed with my big hate of misogynistic murder of women to entertain. It has the usual by-the-book elements of the lone/outcast hero saving the day with a keen mind and lots of shootings before riding off into the sunset until the next time.
Verdict: A good target for your holiday entertainment.
- Pitch Perfect
[21/december/2012] Score; 7/10
With a tongue very firmly stuck in everyone’s cheek this nowhere takes itself seriously as two gangs of American fantasy teenagers in a world-away-from-reality college take on the battle to win a singing, “with our mouths” contest while battling personality disorders surrounding them and in themselves.
So, we’ve seen and enjoyed it before with dance gangs, and will probably see it many times to-come, (zombie gang-romance coming soon according to the trailers), but it doesn’t stop a new generation discovering a sweet uplifting way to while away a couple of hours at the pictures.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
[16/december/2012] Score: 10/10
Erm, there’s this Hobbit, and a wizard, and lots more Hobbits, then some Dwarves, and a Really Big Dragon, and lots of fighting, and an Orc, then some more Orcs, and more Dwarves, and another Orc, and something else, big giant rock monsters, and Goblins! More Wizards, necromancers, ghosts returning from the dead zone and something else I can’t remember, and more fighting, and chasing, and racing, and Elves! There are big cities, little cute cities, Huge Caverns, and more chasing, and fighting and racing, and big doggy-catty-monster things with TEETH! And there are Lots of Goblins, and fighting and Big Birds, but no muppets here.
Take a notebook, or visit several time to take it all in.
Verdict: My Precious!
- Seven Psychopaths
[8/december/2012] Score: 9/10
A different sight-seeing trip from the low budget British version last week. Not quite pure family viewing but if you want a blackly comic story of murderous psychopaths and the twisted perversions of Hollywood then here’s a delightful journey into the desert of your soul, with enough knowing nods at its own nature of story writer making a story of psychopaths finds himself living and chasing amongst them in the most absurd situations.
Verdict: Not for puppies.
[1/december/2012] Score: 7/10
A critical lesson for all those who believe that internet dating can lead to your destiny, which could turn into more of a trip through hell than you could ever dream of and two completely nicely psychotic suburban types find each other and set out on a journey of self-exploration that takes a twisted route off the normal maps.
Verdict: See the places not on your SatNav.
[24/november/2012] Score: 6/10
An old-style crime caper comedy thriller as a bunch of kooky characters get up to all kinds of silly antics. Painfully silly, daft and embarrassing at times it just about pulls you through to the almost predictable but satisfying ending.
Still can’t see why there was an obsession with all the jokes about dropping your pants all the time.
Verdict: Take a gamble, you might enjoy it.
- End of Watch
[24/november/2012] Score: 7/10
We’ve been on LaLa Land police patrols so many times before we can almost repeat the lines in our sleep, but this has enough street-level energy and vitality to keep you buzzing right through to the end.
The intimacy afforded by the close-in personal video camera style keeps you close to the action and through the occasional slow periods but there are a few loose ends that leave questions about why this or that happened, just for the drama or a realistic representation of how hasty action can lead to trouble?
Verdict: Worth a watch, but “be careful out there people”.
- Silver Linings Playbook
[21/november/2012] Score: 8/10
Kooky sweet romantic comedy with a twisted interpretation through the eyes of two semi-drugged mentally disturbed characters struggling through ordinary life and all the issues twisting them around. Once more reinforces the impression that half the USA is crazy, and the other half are just struggling with the mess, and glad you don’t live there.
It takes time to realize this is a Rom-Com and not just another drama about family life living with an violent obsessive lunatic and the laughs are minimal preferring to emphasise how crazy the world is, in Americaland. For anyone who wants to enjoy good dramatic performances as the actors go off their own meds to perform their best.
Verdict: A good play.
- Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2
[16/november/2012] Score: 8/10
At last the soppy sage of little wet woman drips to dawn and the concluding episode of evil (vampires, evil, remember?). Miss gets all hormonal about her baby and anyone out to harm her while a whole gang of vamps assemble to confront her and her various families and friends, and others.
Breaking one story into two films has still left a whole list of characters to be introduced as it races to the Final Confrontation, and a serious amount of camp over-acting.
If you’ve seen and enjoyed the rest of the soppy saga then this will be worth the wait, but for the rest you need to bite into the rest before you understand who, what, why, etc., of all this.
Verdict: Forever ends.
- Here Comes the Boom
[12/november/2012] Score: 4/10
Take away the Hollywood gloss and there is nothing but a standard do-good comedy as poor children are helped out by one adult determined to go far beyond the call of duty to help save their cause while having a chance as romance and fame, while ably assisted by an assortment of the standard weird and wonderful sidekicks. As for the climax, once you see it, ask why the other guy got so dopey at the end?
Verdict: Silent boom.
- Love Bite
[9/november/2012] Score: 5/10
This will appeal primarily to a focussed audience of male boys aged 13 to 17. Beginning with the now almost “traditional” silly Swedish hiking girls and swerving through a thick mist of overly loud hormone- soaked embarrassing teenage boys trying to find a mate (I’m being polite here for a delicate middle class readership).
There are two good redeeming features which earn it a couple of extra points: at least one or two good jokes (bananas) and a conclusion that twists you around its finger. Shame all the fingering and playing with itself and the audience in the meantime didn’t do it much good service, but just about worth staying around, and watching repeatedly if you’re the right age grope.
This is certainly not Twilight (due out next week to saturate the country).
Verdict: Worth a little nibble.
- The Sapphires
[8/november/2012] Score: 7/10
Seen oft-time before but still a great story of four girls becoming local stars as they adventure from the outback of Australia to Vietnam on a singing musical tour to entertain the troops. Based on the true adventures of four Aboriginal girls who went on and continue to fight for the rights of their people in Australia.
[7/november/2012] Score: 8/10
Surrealistically true story of how six Americans were helped to escape from Iran after the fall of the Shah, mixing high camp Hollywood humour and the insane terror of every new revolutionary republic settling old scores and killing its enemies in paranoid terror, while a handful of men and women struggle to hold on to their lives, work and sanity.
Good to see a little taste of reality and what people can achieve without Hollywood special effects, except for the Hollywood special “effects” in creating a totally fictitious movie project, although the climax sounded slightly contrived and over-dramatic, or was it..?
Verdict: Argo see it.
[30/october/2012] Score: 8/10
The third part in the “reboot” trilogy(?) as Bond completes his renewal of the ultimate spy hero for the remnants of Little England.
A lot of people are commenting on radio, TV and elsewhere that this is “the best Bond, like, so way ev-er”. Like, so-so.
Going back to the roots of Bond will appeal to traditionalists, but it felt at times too interested in this aspect and wiping the slate clean, than in creating a greater story. Not that the story isn’t excellent, if you ignore a few little technical errors of a Hollywood kind (SPOILER: computer experts DO NOT plug foreign machines into their internal networks for fear of virus attacks, ask your friendly teenage boffin).
As a solid spy/chase story in the Bond tradition this holds up quite well but felt sentimentally slushy at times at times.
And then again, perhaps if you abandon the thought of a pure Bond story, whatever that is really supposed to mean, and accept you have a very good solid, adventure drama, here’s something for you.
Verdict: Fell below expectations.
[19/october/2012] Score: 5/10
Yet again, as I’ve mentioned before, here is an essentially adult horror story given the childish treatment with a few underlying adult themes that will go over the heads of youngest children. If you don’t know the adult story, and, like all children enjoy a good “squishy, icky, yuckie”, moment then this is as good as you can have for those dark nights to terrify the young ones in the nicest possible way.
If at least it encourages children to search out the original novel, or the better adult films when they grow up it might have achieved something.
As usual fat ugly children are laughed at.
Verdict: Frankly, average.
- Hotel Transylvania
[13/october/2012] Score: 5/10
A “typical” average Hollywood animated adventure for older children that twists all the traditional adult horror characters and themes into a sweet, sanitised children’s film with plenty of noise, action and nonsense. Add in the now-common cultural jokes and slang for the young pre-teenage American audience and you have a passable but nowhere near great story.
Problem is who is it supposed to appeal to? Older children and teens would prefer the horror of a really grown-up story and younger children won’t get all the jokes and a few teen romance/adult themes.
Equally with this style of story younger audiences will be spoilt for the original adult themes. Who is going to sit down and read or watch a mature Dracula or Frankenstein story with this at the back of their minds making them giggle?
Verdict: A little nibbler, but no big bite.
- Taken 2
[5/october/2012] Score: 6/10
Back to being kidnapped our hero’s ex-wife and daughter again battle it out with very few good lines of dialogue while he goes “punch”, “chase”, “stab”, “shoot-shoot” and “threaten” with gay abandon all across the otherwise beautiful and hospitable city of Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul along with some too-predictable nonsense (why did he leave his ex. lying around in the middle of the evil lair?) that downgrades it from good to average action.
Verdict: Take it or leave it.
[30/september/2012] Score: 6/10
Starring Bruce Willis as on lead this is slightly reminiscent of “12 Monkeys” as he chases a haunting dream of a better life. Apart from that it’s the usual time travel nonsense and silliness from Hollywood’s interpretation of cosmic reality in which assassins seem to have exclusive access to time travel machines which aren’t patrolled by any kind of law in the future allowing them to get away with murder. Until one man tries to use the system to his own ends.
Through all this silliness there is a strong storyline about love and what people will do to protect it, but you’ll have to dig deep to find it.
Verdict: The giggling 13th Monkey?
- Resident Evil 5: Retribution
[29/september/2012] Score: 5/10
Another episode/level in the “Resident Evil” movie game series as “Project Alice” as we shall now know her, struggles through another dark maze (yes, they still haven’t found the light switch) to escape the Umbrella Corporation’s evil plots to dominate the world, or the remains of the world after unleashing plagues of zombie viruses and assorted other nasties.
The girl has all the bad luck in the universe as she can never escape from or win against her eternal and almost-but-not-quite-all-powerful nemesis. I’m not sure what the point is in the storyline but I guess we’ll eventually arrive at some kind of resolution, won’t we?
Or is this some reflection on the eternal and exhausting struggle we are all supposed to face in the battle of good versus evil?
Verdict: For all zombies out there.
- Killing Them Softly
[26/september/2012] Score: 5/10
A bunch of supposed low-life hard men burnt out by the world recession bitch endlessly about their personal problems, issues and the world in general, amidst some pretty slow motion artistic butchery of other men in glorious technicolour, all the the background of politicians bitching about the state of the world and how they, not the other side’s bitches, are going to solve it all.
The only, tiny redeeming feature is the very last speech about the true state of America, which sums the whole thing up, if you survive that long.
[22/september/2012] Score: 5/10
Three dippy, trippy, hippy Californians who “play” at dealing in drugs find themselves attracting the attention of all the wrong people from the wrong side of the border, resulting in lots of bloodbaths and other nonsense, while like, trying to stay “real cool”.
Overly romantic hippy nonsense about a seriously dangerous subject.
Verdict: Savage criticism.
[15/september/2012] Sore: 6/10
Once again suffering the American kiddie film syndrome of a few too many cultural in-jokes and occasional adult gags this slightly misses the full child experience, although well-provided with ample “yucky, icky and sticky/smelly” moments that will give all children a thrill and giggle. A spooky non-horror film of zombies rising from the dead and only Normal, who speaks to dead people, can save the small town from the horror visited on an ancient witch’s curse.
Verdict: For all your little horrors.
- The Sweeny
[15/september/2012] Score: 5/10
With added SPOILERS.
What begins as a dramatic tense crime story slowly falls into disrepair of appearing more like an over-budgeted ITV “Sweeny” episode. Shall we immerse ourselves in the dramatic pace or begin picking out the glaringly daft questions or the repeated and stupid “motivation” of standard misogyny as two women are sacrificed in the name of dramatic entertainment with an increasingly bizarre set-up to the story?
Why does one cop enter the dark mysterious car park without a bullet proof vest, why doesn’t the other cop cover their back, why do the crooks kill their helper, and why do the supposed professional cops miss this glaring action with all the signs and sirens blaring “THIS IS A CLUE”, why do the crooks hold a jewellery robbery to attract the police, leave evidence around then, with a trail of clues pointing to them and head off for a big bank robbery, when any professional would by as stealthy as possible?
Most people won’t see these as issues and enjoy the pacy drama, but it still sticks out if you stop to think it through.
And do they really have to have the “street-cop-versues-desk-cop/bureaucrat-arguments” (my paperclip is more powerful than the whole of your elite task force on a good day) again, and again, and again, isn’t this becoming tiring, and so very predictable?
Finally, for now, in keeping with the great traditions of 1970/80s British TV cop car chases there ARE boxes to crash through, only the old cardboard ones have been replaced with bigger ones – caravans. Happy now?
Verdict: You’re on your Todd mate.
[9/september/2012] Score: 5/10
Based on a true story about the semi-romantic Prohibition Era in America when they tried vainly to stop drinking about a family battling for survival in harsh times against harsh people without themselves being corrupted by the world around them.
Verdict: Fight for justice against the law.
- Anna Karenina
[9/september/2012] Score: 6/10
Keira Knightley does good frock in this intriguingly artistic slightly surreal interpretation of the suicidally depressing Russian novel as beautiful and vibrant woman is systematically destroyed by cold husband, lover, society and huge railway train, although the train was the innocent one in this story.
Verdict: Call the Samaritans.
[8/september/2012] Score: 9/10
Avoiding the temptations to go totally over the top with comic-book styling this is a tightly presented and confined story that keeps to a gritty sense of the overpowering heat and bleakness of the scorched Earth and Megacity as our hero, the remorseless Judge Dredd, has to take on the role of mentor to the new rookie Anderson on her final exam that will be the ultimate pass or fail test of her ability to serve justice in this blasted world, or die trying.
Verdict: Dreadfully good.
- Total Recall
[1/september/2-12] Score: 7/10
I seem to remember seeing this somewhere else, or was that a dream?
The problem with Total Recall is the core point of the story – is it real, or is it a dream? And the problem with that for any good story-telling is the suspension of disbelief that makes for a great immersive story fails. You keep looking for the “right” ending, an answer, but this, being a Philip K. Dick story, is what you’ll never have as you’re twisted round his fingers reaching out to alter your mind’s perceptions of the whole idea of reality and identity. A superb adventure, but you’re never quite thrown into the deepest sense of reality, always that slight suggestion on the fringes of your perception – is this “real”?
This isn’t improved when you wonder why a New York subway has been built under London and why do London police drive American style black & white cop cars, although at least they are on the proper side of the road, or was that the clue to the dreamstate?
Verdict: I do, therefore I am.
- The Watch
[27/august/2012] Score: 5/10
Following on the modest success of the British comedy “Attack The Block” this is the Hollywood responses.
A normal American, eager to be part of his community is so many, irritatingly over-enthusiastic ways that makes you want to reach out and strangle him, takes it one step beyond into the twilight zone (and I don’t mean the sulky sweet young teenage soppy Twilight, which is an entirely different, erogenous, zone) and find himself lost in suburbs (which is a bit like lost in space but not really), and ends up shouting a lot, and shooting things in that inimitable American way of “solve-it-by-shooting-it”.
Verdict: Attack the suburbs, please?
- The Expendables 2
[19/august/2012] Score: 7/10
More expendable bullets than an A-Team episode (you need to have been there to understand the joke), more A-List golden tanned hard men than an Olympic event, more one-liners than a Las Vegas joke shop, what else can you say about an Expendables movie than sit back, stuff your ears with popcorn or good earplugs if you remembered to kit yourself out for it, and switch brain into “bang, bang” mode.
- The Wedding Video
[18/august/2012] Score: 6/10
What starts off as a low budget-looking painfully un-funny British comedy slowly turns into a bitterly sweet and silly romantic comedy.
- The Bourne Legacy
[18/august/2012] Score: 8/10
Born out of the first trilogy and setting a good pace with plenty of loose ends dangling left, right and centre to lead you up the path to another trilogy, we start as the first trilogy ends, with Jason Bourne’s expose of the Treadstone conspiracy leading to a rushed scramble by all the secret agencies to hide their secret agents, preferably in graves.
Verdict: The end, of the beginning, etc.
[17/august/2012] Score: 7/18
Wee Scottish teenage lass does what all wee teenage lasses do everywhere and takes a bow and arrow to her family life because she “Wants her FRREEEEdom!!” etc.
So, nothing new there, but a great wee romp over the highlands of Hollywood amidst the great wee lochs of stereotypes and och-assionaly sassy-nacks, etc., the wee.
I assume big nessie will appear in the wee sequel.
Verdict: Take your wee braves to see it the nooo.
- Step Up 4: Miami Heat
[16/august/2012] Score: 8/10
Forget the core story, but for dance energy and imaginative vibrancy there’s nothing like stepping up to fulfil your dreams as another bunch of rich boys/girls mix and mingle with a bunch of poor boys/girls to skip and dance over all the social conventions preventing them from fulfilling their dreams.
Verdict: Hot, hot, hot, in Miami.
[15/august/2012] Score: 7/10
Winner of the months’ seriously bad adult taste movie this teddy bear deserves a good stuffing, but has already received one.
Verdict: Good stuff.
- Dark Knight Rises
[20/july/2012] score: 10/10
A superb conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy and my ongoing inspiration for the design of the Rumbler sports car. The dramatic tension and pace through the story helps to suspend disbelief and stop you thinking too much about the little niggles as you’re swept through one increase in tension to the next until the final battle for the future lives of every character and of the blighted Gotham City. This is a tremendous piece of work, the film and the trilogy, that will stand amongst the best in the world for a very long time.
Verdict: Rise and applaud.
- Killer Joe
[10/july/2012] Score: 7/10
If you want an erotic, sexy, violent, blackly comic drama translated from the stage about low lifers struggling to survive at the bottom of society, with actors given the opportunity to act their socks, and everything else, off, then this is the one for you.
Verdict: “Killer” thriller.
- The Amazing Spider-Man
[5/july/2012] Score: 8/10
A.K.A. the untold story. Or, at least, the story not told by the movies yet – The Gwen Stacy Years. So this fills in some of the gaps, and looks at other characters and events not told in the previous trilogy. Focussing on the teenager College years for the teen audience, with more hunky male quota to appeal to teenage girls as much as the boys for all the adventures.
Unlike the previous trilogy this is more true to the comic books, with Peter Parker’s science skills shows to advantage (inventing his own web throwers, etc.) but I still can’t figure out how he makes his own suits so much better than Kick-Ass’s scuba suit.
Verdict: A new web of entanglement to master.
- The Five-Year Engagement
[24/june/2012] Score: 7/10
Less of the slapstick you normally expect from a Hollywood RomCom and more mature comedy with plenty of great laughs, and sex, as you’re dragged through the lives to two lovers trying to organise, and delay, and rearrange, and delay a wedding amidst family upsets, career distractions and other normal “life” nonsense.
- Lay the Favorite*
[23/june/2012] Score: 6/10
Based on a true story of one girl’s experience in the gambling industry. Although she’s played as a cutie, naive, innocent girl, she’s also set up as trying to break up a marriage and that isn’t explored in as much depth as we’d like to understand how and why such a situation arises, it’s all brushed over into a light witty comedy.
(*American spelling of “favourite”.)
Verdict: Lay down with it for a fun run, but nothing else.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
[21/june/2012] Score: 5/10
Comic book nonsense of “heroic” American President’s “real” secret identity as a vampire hunter, bursting through the bounds of disbelief into incredulity, with a really big chopper.
Verdict: Chop it.
- Red Lights
[17/june/2012] Score: 10/10
A surprisingly successful blend of scientific method, detective story and psychic mystery with well-balanced performance from all involved resulting in a very nicely composed film that will leave you uplifted with the concluding revelation.
Verdict: Don’t be blind to the understated story.
- Rock Of Ages
[16/june/2012] Score: 8/10
I never caught on to the stage musical so came to this with an open mind. A standard plotline of young ambitious boy meets young ambitious girl in the Evil Sin City of Los Angeles amidst the magic and power of rock music and some of the craziest, over-the-top characters you can imagine, or you’ve already seen at the last rock concert you attended.
A great celebration of rock music at the height of it’s theatrical mountain of excess and yet another in the line of uplifting youth-empowerment and romance.
Verdict: Rock on Tommy!
[5/june/2012] Score: 7/10
There are certain rules about an “Aliens” movie, or this prequel. First the lead character is a woman, heroines rule. Second there are plenty of flamethrowers lying around on civilian vessels. I have no idea why all these spaceships carry flamethrowers but they do. Thirdly the emergency escape pod/ship/lifeboat is always badly positioned at the wrong end of the mothership and you have to clamber, crawl or run hysterically through ducts, sewers, dirt, grim, around the kitchen, through the top secret laboratory and into the airlock, where the big nasty alien has been waiting for you, probably munching on tea and biscuits while it waited, and you have to have a weird android that gives good head.
Prometheus ticks most of those boxes in one way or another, but also contains a Gigantic Spanner. If you’re making a Predator movie you’ll be worried about this – the genesis of the Aliens.
One of the great obsessive traits of modern Hollywood productions is the obsession with trying to explain everything, it’s thoughts, feelings, motivations (I expect to see an Alien on a psychiatrist’s couch any day nowish) and its origins. Here in Prometheus they’ve tried to create a new “rebooted” mythology for the whole story chronology and tried to explain life, the universe and everything (42) about Aliens. In the process they’ve also created such a mish-mash of thinking about the earlier stories that it defies a lot of the logic behind them. Rather than a mystery we now have answers, and in any story the answers are never as good as unravelling the mystery.
Maybe that’s for the next couple of sequels of this new Promethian adventures.
Verdict: Mythic missing.
- Snow White And The Huntsman
[30/may/2012] Score: 6/10
There are some wonderful magic moments in this film and some moments that just plod in an undramatic fashion as a children’s tale is squeezed for every, tiny, detail and thrill it’s worth, as every moment is twisted and turned, wrung dry before you’re carried on to the next moment.
Twisting the story to focus on what amounts to a long drawn out bitch fight may be good for the teenage girl audience, but then throwing in a whole realm of fairytale magic throws up such a contrast that you might feel disconnected by the story.
Even Snow White comes over without a dramatic thrust to her journey, we feel little for her as everything appears handed to her on a plate by magical fairy folk – there is a lack of dialogue or drama that will focus her and everyone on her destiny and what needs to be done.
For all that it will fill the time and entertain plenty of people.
Verdict: Not a true reflection in the mirror.
- Moonrise Kingdom
[28/may/2012] Score: 8/10
A magical children’s adventure story of the “Old School” as the two eccentric children “trapped” on a small island adrift in 1960s normality set out to escape their world. It may be too stylised for many but has that special storybook imagery that will appeal to many a child and many grown up children who remember those innocent pre-modern times before we became afraid of the monsters and perverts behind every corner.
Verdict: Hike to it today.
- Men In Black 3
[26/may/2012] Score: 7/10
The men J & K return for what amounts to a single episode-style adventure if this were a TV show as J has to uncover a secret hidden decades in the past and reveal why K is such a surly old bugger.
(It did give me one good idea for my future “Batmobile for Real” – SUV-B1-505 – escape pod bikes.)
Verdict: I don’t remember, some one flashed this little blue light in my eyes.
- The Raid
[19/may/2012] Score: 6/10
With high hopes raised from what seemed an endless optimistic promotional campaign through cinemas for the last few months this was bound to disappoint some who were expecting the most powerfully dramatic martial arts film of the year, if not the decade.
They will be disappointed, but the drama is still worth the attention if you treat this as a straightforward “cop raid gone bad” story.
Verdict: Worth a hit, but not too punchy.
- How I Spent My Summer Vacation
[13/may/2012] Score: 5/10
With a smug grin and the ease with which all “heroes” are able to sweep through even the most insoluble problems our anti-hero of the day stumbles and skips gaily through one disaster and obstacle after another in a “vacation” in Mexico’s criminal underbelly. I’m sure the Mexican tourist authorities are not amused.
Verdict: Vacate quickly.
- Dark Shadows
[12/may/2012] Score: 6/10
There’s something just a little wrong about the cold aloof playing of vampire here that gives it a comic coolness and eccentricity that shouldn’t be there. Do all vampires have to end up speaking like they’re from Transylvania, it is something in the blood?
Of course it is supposed to be a comic satire of vampire films with a whole family of gothic nutcases in a big old house (now where have we seen and heard of that before?) and for that it works well enough, with a couple of good laughs along the way.
Verdict: Stay in the shadows.
[5/may/2012] Score: 5/10
Shooting by numbers as a bunch of evil Russian gangsters shoot, shoot, bang, bang, chase, shoot, explode, fight a bunch of evil Chinese gangsters chase, chase, shoot, shoot, shoot, bang, explode, shoot, bang, after a “former special forces/cop” punch, punch, throw, jab, punch, stab, shoot, punch, throw, chop, shoot, shoot, bang, shoot, punch, shoot, chase, chase, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, punch, shoot, shoot, with a little genius Chinese girl who loves numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, in New York.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the standard-by-numbers Hollywood misogyny, or “motivation”?
Verdict: Shoot off to see it if you love a mindless bang-fest.
- Marvel’s Avengers Assemble
[26/april/2012] Score: 10/10
The big superhero action ensemble we’ve been promised, been waiting for and anticipation, is just as good as expected if you’re a serious enthusiast for all things related to the work of Joss Whedon and Marvel’s comic book heroes.
With Iron Man stealing many of the best lines and buddying up with the Big Green Thingy, it’s a value-for-money experience watching all the key characters come together, bicker, quarrel and finally weld into a monster-besting monster squad.
Any problems with the story? Some people may complain it’s too long, but you need at least this length just to give each character a chance to reveal him/herself. Only the slightly lesser Hawkeye character gets less of a look-in than the rest.
Verdict: Assemble at your nearest cinema today.
[21/april/2012] Score: 5/10
Another silly, but stunningly pretty B-list girlie character with powerful Daddy gets mixed up with a big bad bunch of bad guys and it’s left to a “maverick” cop/ex-special forces/somebody-or-other to save her cute bod. for the good guys.
Yes, it’s the standard plot we’ve seen in many a science fiction/cop B-list prison/forbidden zone style escape-from-danger films, complete with the obligatory deadline, suggestions of corporate corruption, and a hidden traitor in their midst.
- Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
[20/april/2012] Score: 8/10
A gentle romantic drama that slowly rolls forward driven by the strength of the well-played characters and the quirky situation. It starts off slowly but sticking with it delivers a fine catch.
Verdict: Fish out some time and catch it while you can.
- The Cabin In the Woods
[15/april/2012] Score: 8/10
It’s that time of the year, when an amazingly stupid group of 5-8 American teenagers wander off into the woods, or the High School Prom, or the “Big Old House At The Bottom Of The Lane”(TM) to get slaughtered one-by-one.
This ritual of Spring, and Summer, and Winter, is brought to us by Hollywood so that the rest of us might be comforted in our homes, safe in the knowledge that the world is less half-a-dozen truly stupid American teenagers. But what is the True Story, the truth That IS Out There, behind these rituals?
At last we have an opportunity to peek behind the magical curtain and discover the terrible hidden secrets of these “Culls Of The Stupid” (TM).
Verdict: Truly terrible truth.
[11/april/2012] Score: 10/10
Yes, a full score for entertainment value and mesmerizing nonsense that will grip you to your seat as you too get to see a bunch of daft fictional military, versus daft fictional aliens as they play a game of Battleship, complete with a “real” battleship.
Silly aliens, who, like all Hollywood-style space travellers, loose their delicate and highly critical communications tower, land on Earth to seize control of the planet from the silly humans, but stand by for a handful of plucky humans in just the right places to thwart their evil plans. For this episode in what could be another tremendous trilogy by the standards of this tall tale.
Verdict: A blast.
[7/april/2012] Score: 9/10
There is an interesting aspect in the recent wave of Scandie movies – a sense of old school thriller mixed with the bleakness of the culture and the environment, and a rebellious quirkiness to challenge your conceptions. Headhunters has it all and makes for a great thriller, with blackly-comic moments and twists in the life-transforming experience and terror of an art thief as his life and world crumbles around him. You have to pay close attention or see it a couple of times to get the full flow of the story, the twists and turns, or buy it on DVD as soon as you can for your Scandie Movie collection.
Verdict: Hunt it out quickly before Hollywood rips it off.
- The Cold Light Of Day
[7/april/2012] Score: 3/10
Loud noisy, incompetent American youth (or what passes for one here) in a thriller involving the CIA, traitors and mysterious “terrorists” as a young man fights for the survival of his family. So all the boxes are ticked, complete with a Hitckcok-style Maguffin, and yet it all adds up to nothing as the “hero” first sulks, then whines, then stumbles through the story to a kind of half-baked conclusion.
Verdict: Leaves me cold.
- Mirror Mirror
[6/april/2012] Score: 7/10
One of two “Snow White” inspired films out this year, and appears at first to be more a kind of Grimm- by-Disney-Meets-Hollywood revisionism at it slowly unfolds a “traditional” movie fairy tale with the obligatory modern twist of bold girlie saving the day (we don’t do strong heroic men in this century?). Keeps to a nicely Gothic ending as the Wicked Witch gets her punishment, sanitized for the live audience. It’s a bumpy ride along the way but the conclusion should keep everyone happy in the ending.
Verdict: Fair reflection of a fairy tale.
- Wrath Of The Titans
[31/3/2012] Score: 5/10
A very noisy trip through the trashing of Greek mythology as another bunch of gods and monsters are slaughtered in the on going fall of the gods amidst a tragic use of near-endless battles, mild 3D effects and little else. Although it leaves plenty of threads to unravel another story to-come (Kiddies of the Titans?) this still looks like just another excuse to deafen you with noisy effects and nonsensical storylines, at least if you knew anything about the original mythology.
Verdict: Sinks like the Titanic?
- The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!
[31/march/2012] Score: 7/10
You can’t trust a good scientist when they have Destiny and Scientific Glory in their grasp, even an inept Pirate and his trusty “crew who like plundering” can’t stand up against the evil machinations of a scientist and a wicked “queen who hates pirates!”. Fortunately our Pirate Captain has a few tricks up his sleeves, and his handsome beard, to wrestle back his reputation in the hope of winning “Pirate Of The year”!
It sweeps across oceans of comedy and japes, around humorous capes and seas of sniggers to keep all the kiddies giggling, but a few will go over their heads like a wave in a storm of laughter. All round good fun.
- The Hunger Games
[24/march/2012] Score: 8/10
A Battle Royale is held in an American future that’s dominated by a dictatorship and entertained on TV by a bloody deathmatch involving child sacrifices for everyone’s “education”.
Just like the much earlier Japanese film “Battle Royale” this unleashes the murderous blood and lust of teenagers for pop entertainment, but somehow lacks it’s vibrancy, a certain amount of remoteness, a distance from the brutal violence of teenagers is prominent here in what is part of a much larger story, with a trilogy of books to draw on. A withdrawn character struggling quietly through the horror is conveyed well, but doesn’t give the audience a sense of anger and injustice, but then that too is appropriate for a story about a girl being observed at every moment in this Big Brother society.
Verdict: A Battle Royale.
- We Bought A Zoo
[18/march/2012] Score: 5/10
A light, thoughtful, sad and hopeful story, based on true story, of man buying and reviving a small run-down zoo. I suspect a lot more depth and detail was missing in what appears a small town farm-turned zoo, that is claimed at the end of the film to be one of the most innovative an influential in the world.
Verdict: A menagerie of people and good feelings all round.
[17/march/2012] Score: 6/10
A reasonable simple crime drama spoilt by the by-the-numbers telling. There is a “traditional” Hollywood scene which every character in the world should know not to do nowadays – screaming down the phone at the gangsters “I’m gonna get you, as soon as I reach home in a few days” giving the gangsters, as is traditional, plenty of time to threaten/kidnap/murder your wife and children. Obviously this character didn’t watch a lot of movies.
Verdict: Kills a little time.
- The Raven
[11/march/2012] Score: 5/10
The drug-soaked melancholic death of a famous 19th century author is used for the drug-soaked delusions of 21st century Hollywood producers in the creation of a non-literary work of moderate talent that might one day rise to the heights of a “Razzie” award for attempting to slur the reputation and life of an artist.
Here is an attempt to create the idea that Edgar Allan Poe spent the last few days of his life in a frantic attempt to solve the mystery of a serial killer loose on the streets of the city.
Verdict: Darkness, shadows, in concert with death, always hold your breath, from the stench.
- Bel Ami
[11/march/2012] Score: 8/10
A poor ex-soldier arrives in Paris to chance is luck amid the frantic rush of revolution and sex with the ladies of influential gentlemen while continually verging on the precipice of disaster. From intrigue and sex he learns how to handle himself and those around him as he finally becomes just like all those sordid people around him.
Yes, this is a French story.
Forget the playing of Robert Pattinson as “Bel Ami” this is a story about women of passion and liberation, of betrayal and intrigue behind the scenes of power, enjoy their performances.
Verdict: Elegant ascendence.
- John Carter
[10/march/2012] Score: 8/10
The first attempt to realize the visions of the John Carter fantasy stories does a good job of creating a dramatic adventure with the intrigue of a man struggling to find his way in an alien and often, in fact always, dangerous world. If you’ve missed the scope and visual splendour of Star Wars then will be an ample substitute.
Unfortunately it is likely to confuse everyone, critics, who lacks the imagination or understanding of the genre and it does seem to race through a few key points, like how much time did he spend racing around Barsoom and how much time passed back on earth?
Leaves the door wide open to the prospect of sequels.
Verdict: There is life on mars.
- This Means War
[4/march/2012] Score: 6/10
It’s a fairly standard light romantic comedy / spy / “buddy” movie that’s predictable enough to be a safe couple of hours, or less, of fun, but redeems itself with a few good laughs, but I hope you really don’t think the safety of the world can be left in the hands of such incompetent buffoons.
Verdict: Buddy good fun.
- Hunky Dory
[3/march/2012] Score: 8/10
A British version of “Glee” set in that magical year of 1976, when all was hot and innocent and everyone just struggled through their ordinary local lives without all the troubles of the big nasty world outside, the environment and economic chaos to come. The only problem with this film is that it’s likely to be so underrated it will vanish from memory in a very short time, which is a pity because after a slow build up it comes to a nice climax.
Special awards should go to the costume and prop departments for a thorough recreation of that long-gone time.
Verdict: Everything is hunky dory.
[3/march/2012] Score: 5/10
There is something wrong about this hippy / idiot story of a couple escaping the rat race to try living in a commune and finding their true selves. Apart from the contrived situation the humour is over-played as a slapstick sentimental comedy rather than a satire or gentle comedy drama.
Verdict: Wander of and get a real life.
- Project X
[2/march/2012] Score: 5/10
Promoted as a new “Hangover” style movie, this advocates that loud, foul-mouthed and stupid American suburban teenagers with far too much of their parents’ money should be applauded for wrecking their communities while the rest of us have to struggle in our lives to achieve anywhere near what these pampered, spoilt brats have been given.
- Safe House
[26/february/2012] Score: 6/10
In the archives of the CIA there must be a special book written with a long list of movies that are blatantly NOT about the true activities of the CIA, but which keep the audiences of TRUE DEMOCRACY distracted and entertained. Here’s another nonsensical addition to that roll of dishonour. Once again it’s all about that Great American Tradition of Evil Conspiracy and double-dealing traitors deep in the Heart Of All That Is Good About America, add one hardened, gritty but twisted old man as a guide to the truth, and a naive-but-plucky young hero and all the ingredients are set for a race, chase, fight and flight through Some Foreign Place to uncover The Truth, whatever that is.
Verdict: Safely silly.
[25/february/2012] Score: 6/10
Could this be an Oscar contender for next year? The intense focus on the drama of the leading characters subsumes other qualities in the story. There is no dramatic key storyline, just a period in the life of a man’s world crumbling apart under the pressures to adjust, or not, to change. For that it’s a powerful play, but if you want a simple and simplistic entertainment you’ll have to search elsewhere.
Verdict: Ramped-up drama.
- One for The Money
[24/february/2012] Score: 7/10
A nice, predictable romantic comedy/crime caper that babbles (in RomComs everyone babbles a lot) along nicely as the protagonists vie for power and success in life. Nothing really overly serious and nothing too daft for words. Just like life, but not.
Verdict: good investment of your weekend money.
- Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
[19/february/2012] Score: 4/10
If the first Ghost Rider film was a Hollywood-style comic book, then this is a low budget European graphic art novel. The colourful style of the first is replaced with a far more stylised and darker imagery while lacking the fire of the first, which attempts something more distinct, but lacks flow in the story that sometimes leaves it wanting for more clarity (like “what IS he doing now!?” or “why is the Ghost Rider just standing there posing like some poncy actor, has he forgotten his lines!!??”). Maybe they spent too much of the budget on the 3D special effects and not enough on competent writing?.
If Ghost Rider continues to a trilogy, or more, then this is the one that will be rated “worst than the first” in everyone’s future reviews.
As for the story, it sets too little up at the front end and delivers a less at the back end.
Verdict: Ghost of a story.
- The Woman In Black
[16/february/2012] Score: 8/20
According to all the reviews as advertised by the distributors this is a terrifying story. They must have seen a different film.
This is a well-written, well-produced traditional Victorian Gothic ghost story. A haunted house meets a haunted man in the dark, dank wilds of “somewhere up North” (probably Yorkshire). The villagers are one pitchfork short of an angry mob and “there’s something bad up at the Big House”. The traditional Victorian obsession with death, dark shadows, wild country and unkept rotten old Houses reeks with the smell of a peat bog on a chill night in deep winter wrapped in fog and those things which float just on the edge of your vision.
- The Muppets
[10/february/2012] Score: 7/10
This will appeal to most children, but from an adult point of view with a long memory of The Muppets it looks at times like it’s trying too hard to tell everyone about the Muppets and glossing over all the characters, which will make it difficult for children to understand who these weird characters are. Musical numbers that joke about everything sound fun, but again lack a serious edge that all good comedy should have and the sincerity that all great songs need, fun at time they too pale with an aching pain of trying too hard.
Needs another tall Muppet tail to make up for this one.
Verdict: The show must go on.
[7/february/2012] Score: 10/10
The bourgeois of America fight it out over the kind of trivia that the rest of us laugh about. Take four of them and lock them in a cycle of polite psychological destruction and the deconstruction of their neat world order. All because of a young boy and a stick.
Verdict: Art magnifique!
- Young Adult
[7/february/2012] Score: 4/10
A kind of teen coming-of-age story that the lead character misses out on by twenty years as she heads back to her home town to discover herself.
Somewhere in here is a brisk black comedy screaming to get out, but the slow pace, the cool abstraction of the leading character struggling to be expressed and the lack of that special comedic biting satire we might have expected is missing. Too cold and distant there isn’t enough humour to make it a comedy nor enough character intensity to make it a good drama.
Verdict: Not young enough, or not adult enough.
[4/february/2012] Score: 10/10
Using the video diary style like so many recent SF teen thrillers this displays a new level of skill and sophistication in its production through the device of telekinetic teenagers who can not only manipulate their lives, but the viewpoint of the audience. It’s this which adds the thrills and drama to what would normally be an angst-ridden teenage coming-of-age horror story, and that’s why it deserves a high score for entertainment with skill.
Verdict: Add it to your diary.
- Man On A Ledge
[4/february/2012] Score: 8/10
With numerous of the standard innocent-man-fighting-for-justice themes and some typical implausible nonsense about penetrating “impenetrable security” (why is it always so impenetrable then easy to wriggle through the ducts, and why is it always ducts!?) this still punches above its weight, and what appears to be a simple crime story turns into a brisk thriller with added sexiness and humour. Yes, we all know how it ought to end, but there good twists and tricks along the way.
Verdict: It’s a nice little sparkler.
- The Descendants
[29/january/2012] Score: 10/10
For simple, gripping human drama, without all the shouting and running around nonsense seen in many “dramas” this shows you how to craft (not manufacture) a beautiful piece of art and humanity that will live with you for years to come. It will never satisfy the adrenalin junkie but for the rest of us who need an occasional break from all the screaming it holds on to the end and deserves your love.
Verdict: Descend on it.
- The Grey
[28/january/2012] Score: 2/10
No wolves were harmed, or even involved, in the making of this movie.
No intelligent script-writers were involved in the making of this movie.
No common sense was involved in the making of this movie.
I expect the Wolf Protection League to be suing the makers as soon as they’ve stopped laughing over this.
I’m only giving it a score of two, for those who want to enjoy the nonsense for a light evening before getting down to something serious. Thirty-five minutes after walking out of this half-way through (so un-gripping I didn’t bother waiting for the climatic joke ending) I conceived of a more plausible, thrilling answer to it and if I ever raise the funds will put it into production for your entertainment.
Verdict: Grey & Dull, just like the weather in this joke.
- The Artist
[28/january/2012] Score: 10/10
Someone, somewhere in Hollywoodland must be cursing themselves at turning this idea down, but then most people would have done the same with such an extraordinary proposition of making a black and white silent film to celebrate the golden age of Hollywood’s first era just before and during the rise of the “talkies”; and yet the performances, the integrity of not yielding to temptation of making it a gimmick, leaving it all to the artists, the photography and the music to take you back to those magical early days.
Verdict: Silence is golden.
- The Sitter
[24/january/2012] Score: 6/10
There is a special sub-genre of American comedy, the “Night On The Town Adventure” as a gang of teenagers or some other worthy character has an adventure from the deathly dull suburbs deep into the heart of the vibrant, dangerous city.
Here’s another one, “the Babysitter has a coming-of-age adventure”, with a few more adult sex flavours thrown in for the grown-up audience. All the key ingredients are there, the ability to make stupid errors, the ability to “get on and get down” with the criminal underworld who wouldn’t scare your granny and the spoilt wild children who learn more in one night than they have in years with their parents.
Verdict: Sit in on it.
[21/january/2012] Score: 7/10
A cool, calculating, studied and slightly more realistic approach to an American “spy” movie (Americans get to shoot a lot more than non-American spy movies – “Tinker Tailor”, et al) as one girl betrayed (this is an American story, all spies get betrayed in them) sets out to uncover the truth (this is an American story, they’re obsessed with uncovering the “Truth”) and avenge herself against those who betrayed her.
Verdict: Hey ho, a babe Bourne is born?
- J Edgar
[21/january/2012] Score: 6/10
A careful dramatic telling of, some of, the life story of the little egomaniac and hero of American law enforcement J Edgar Hoover, his secret manipulation of people in power through abuse of his own, and a study of some of the background to all his motives and behaviour throughout his life. Finding a careful balance amongst all the different threads for such a life leaves many gaps, but the story amounts to a good sketch of a subject.
- Underworld: Awakening
[20/january/2012] Score: 7/10
I do love how vampire Selene is able to get so many guns, ammunition and grenades inside her skintight rubber uniform(?) without showing any visible sign, who are her tailors? This is a silly fun episode in the Underworld chronology, and it has to be thought of as an episode because you can tell from the shortness of the film and the complexity of the story that the producers are planning at least another sequel. Whether they’ll be able to ignore various gigantic plotholes is another matter, like how come a vampire is able to become a cop, what did he do, take night school and only work night shifts? Another question is whether the writers will be able to get around the one single and most direct way for Selene to communicate with Michael and get together in the first five minutes of the next episode (hint: through little girl’s eyes)?
For something like the Underworld films the key is the pace, as the entire sequence is effectively taking place in days of subjective time, barring the 12 year leap between this and the last one, so getting around the plotholes is just a case of upping the speed. I eagerly anticipate that the sequel could effectively be a real-time movie – 90 minutes of plotline in a 90 minute film.
Verdict: Hot mama!
- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
[18/january/2012] Score: 8/10
The key distinction between this, the English, version and the earlier Swedish adaption is the budget that oozes out through every scene. It begins over-the-top like a Bond movie, has a few of those Bond-like thrills and fills in the gaps and details in the story if you saw the Swedish (extended) version but never read the book, hope to see the other two in due course to learn what else we all missed.
Footnote: interesting to hear in the film that Lisbeth appears to have stolen over “two billion euros” from Wennerstrom (listen to the TV news report in the background) whereas the novel says she stole about $260 million, converting only about 10% to cash and storing the rest away in a safe deposit box. You’ve really got to keep track of all this.
Verdict: Complementary production.
- The Darkest Hour
[14/january, 2012] Score: 5/10
There is a fundamental Rule about the end of the world – never, absolutely never, ever, really, ever, allow any hysterical Americans in your home, your town, your city, your country, especially when they’re being chased by aliens, zombies or vampires. They will lead the monsters to your doorstep, then, with the enthusiastic zeal of all idiot scripts, leave the door open, because they’re too dumb to know how a door works (all Americans think doors open and close magically), and wander around talking about “issues” they had with their parents and can’t say “sorry” now they’re all dead, before your entire home, town, etc., are destroyed, only for the Americans, except one who is cleverer and tries to fight the monsters off, manage an escape with as shrug of their sweet little shoulders and a casual “sorry guy” as they leave you to your terrible death and lurch on to the next home, town, etc.
This is a perfect lesson to all who fear they too will one day face “Americans at the end of the world” (TM).
Verdict: Pay attention to this silly fun.