Sunday, 27 January 2013

Skyfall (2012)
















Ah good old blighty, red letter boxes, bubble n squeak and now Bond seems to be back home for most of this new adventure. So no more glorious locations and outrageous set pieces involving overly tanned women and Lotus Esprits? well kinda.

Bond film number 23, geez! does this franchise really need to carry on? Well yes and no if you ask me, yes he's pretty much one of the UK's best known fictional heroes alongside Sherlock Holmes and practically a tourist attraction. On the other hand these films really are getting somewhat repetitive now come on.

The films poster is rather uninspired also, plus the title seems rather obscure and meaningless (yes I know its the name of Bond's family estate, weird name though innit?).

The one issue I have with this film and the previous Craig adult Bond films is they can't decide what to do with them. On one side the films are showboated as gritty, hard edged, realistic super spy films, yet on the other side they are still quite stupid, cheesy, cliched and camp in places. So which is it guys? we've had classic Bond, camp Bond, serious Bond and smarmy Bond, is Craig suppose to be adult Bond? The other issue is Bond used to be special, this franchise owned the super spy genre and each new film was the mother of all spy films, the new Bond film was like a religious/holy coming we were blessed with.

Unfortunately these days, like most genres, we are spoilt for choice and there are numerous super spy films/franchises that all do the same thing. So this whole deary hype we have to go through for every new Bond now seems pointless as it has all been done before, but now in various other franchises too.

So leaving my moaning aside what about this new effort. Well its actually a reasonable spy/action flick but not really much of a Bond flick. Most Bond flicks tend to have HUGE set pieces, one after another with little in between. Now that is admittedly rather tedious these days so its nice to see that this film does not have that problem. Thing is this film seems to swing right over to the other extreme and have virtually no decent impressive action set pieces in it.

The opening sequence is very good, well thought up, directed, edited, tense, great stunts and surprisingly not overly over blown (although I've never seen a JCB crush cars on a moving train before, that's a new one). After that there isn't really much else that impresses. There are a few good shoot outs, some good fighting and the assassination sequence with silhouettes against a backdrop of neon lights is really nice visually but that's it.

The film does seem more violent with plenty getting gunned down but at the same time it also harks back to classic Bond with plenty of silly humorous moments, which is OK. Although the addition of the old classic Bond car (Aston Martin DB5) wasn't really needed, over doing the homage there. Overall though the film feels very low key action wise, the ending is an incredible anti climax, especially for Bond.

The other strange thing here is the baddie (Bardem) is also incredibly weak and hardly threatening a tall. He has the Max Zorin appearance from 'A View to a Kill' with a nasty blonde hairdo but isn't really very bad a tall, in fact he comes across as quite an OK guy. The most shocking thing he does in the whole film (apart from shoot a sexy female in the head, although he was nice about it) is touch up Bond when he has him tied to chair! That was an eye opening surprise right there, his mannerisms in the following dialog was quite amusing too I must say.

Like most films these days I can't help but notice silly things, I just can't! Bond and M escape from the shootout in London together, next minute they're in the depths of Scotland? the UK ain't that small folks. At the start when 'Bond' gets shot and falls off the train and that rather large drop into the cold river below, don't really think he would have survived that but hey.

When Bond holds on to the elevator that goes up that skyscraper, when it arrives at the top, one minute Bond is underneath the elevator, next minute he's inside the building? oh and he only had the use of one arm! Would Komodo Dragons really attack and eat a human just like that? Also when Bond...ah who cares.

I did like the new casting for Q, the nerdy computer whizz, thought that would be awful but he was quite good actually. Fiennes naturally was good but felt he would make a much better baddie really, could just see it. Finally M despite being a miserable looking cow, you gotta love her really, she has that strict but loving motherly thing about her which many of us can relate to. It was also kinda neat to see M and his office return to their routes at the very end of the film. not sure how Moneypenny is able to still be around, is Moneypenny a code name like Bond? must be.

Overall it is a good action film, a good low key action film, but it doesn't really feel like a Bond film. I understand what they have tried to do toning down the Hollywood aspect but maybe it did need just a bit more kick assery. But like I say there isn't really much you can do with this franchise now, its up against a lot of other very slick spy action films and altogether the genre is now flooded much like the superhero genre. Maybe give it a rest for some years.

I think I used the name Bond there plenty don't you? lets count.

7/10

The Raven (2012)
















Very fictionalised account of Poe's last days up until the point where he was mysteriously found ill and dying on the streets of Baltimore. Apparently the writers included some real accounts of Poe's life into the film but to be honest you would never have guessed.

What you have here is a serial killer horror set at the time of Poe and that's pretty much it. This could be set or made anywhere its that generic and bland, its only the dark rustic mists of old 19th century Maryland that make this remotely interesting to watch.

So someone is killing folk just as Poe has written in his literary works and its up to Sherloc....I mean Edgar to track down the killer before his beloved is murdered. Poe is portrayed by John Cusack and I didn't really think too much to this decision. He does look the part somewhat I admit but Cusack comes across as a bit too humorous at times, he doesn't really fit the bill for this type of dark thriller. He gets better towards the end but for the most part he really doesn't stand out a tall.

Rest of the cast are pretty much your standard affair with all the mutton chop sideburns and beards in place. Gleeson does seem terribly type cast here, any period flick going they stick him in it with facial hair.

Its all very dull with not much happening to keep you in your seat. Slow plodding plot with lots of 'Scooby Doo' type clues and searching intertwined with the odd gory moment. Its hardly nail biting stuff, I didn't really care about any of the characters and the ending is so so....plain!.

Without my own review seeming to generic itself as I'm sure others will have made this same observation but think of this film like the recent 'Sherlock Holmes' films. Less glossy action and much more darkness and blood, an adult version if you will. On the other hand you could think of it as a much weaker version of 'From Hell', bit of a duffer I'm afraid.



4/10

Friday, 25 January 2013

God Bless America (2011)












Are you fed up with life? fed up with the people around you? fed up with the constant mindless dribble that is shown on TV 24/7? the celebrity/sport addicted media or the use of brain sapping technology like 'Twitter' and txt on smart phones etc...?. Then why not break free and go on a killing rampage to release the world of these modern day problems.

Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (yes that lunatic from a few 'Police Academy' movies) and with an unknown cast (to me) that really do shine. The plot is cute but totally unoriginal now I'm afraid, a depressed, ill, suicidal office worker gets fired and mentally snaps. He begins a killing spree with people that really annoy him or don't really deserve what they have, in short he's sick of modern day America. Along the way he picks up and befriends a young school girl who loves what he is doing so joins in and helps him.

So yeah...its basically an update of 'Natural Born Killers' with a hint of 'Bonnie and Clyde' perhaps, no bank robbing though. Its a dark comedy positively brewing over with sadism which is accompanied by a cheerful soundtrack as the happy couple go on the lam executing people they believe to be unworthy. If you think along the lines of 'Office Space' and that angle of comedy but much much darker.

What is truly excellent about this film is the pinpoint accuracy of the story and the way it shows us how utterly god awful modern day TV is. The immense popularity of reality shows like 'Pop Idol' and 'Big Brother' where morons are displayed for public humiliation or so called talent. This is the main focus of the plot, the spark that lights the main characters fuse for action. Other issues such as celebrity obsession, sport obsession, rudeness, lack of respect, general modern day pop culture and the whole self centered approach to today's society is targeted.

It really is a joy to watch as 'Frank' and 'Roxy' gun down a group of youths in the local cinema for talking on their mobile phones and not shutting up throughout the film (oh how many times have you thought about that...don't lie). Extremist religious protesters on a march, a bloke who takes up two car parking spaces, an abrasive politician off TV and of course a spoilt brat from one of those glorious reality TV shows.

The real mission for the pair is the judges on the popular reality show 'Superstarz' (a wonderful mockery of...well I'm sure you know). This is where they are headed, to end the lives of the pretentious, insensitive, rude, obnoxious panel of judges that make money from the 'know nothing, no talent' cultural obsession of our modern age.

Like I say I hadn't heard of either main stars for this film but boy was I impressed!. Joel Murray as 'Frank' is just your every man, a bog standard blue collar office boy, but you really find yourself wanting him to win, get his point across. This character is the champion for all the regular law abiding joe's out there in reality, people who don't try to play the system, people who pay their bills and keep to speed limits.

On the other hand the character of 'Roxy' played by Tara Lynne Barr I think is just there so boys can see a female teen kick ass. Yeah I could be wrong but seeing her gunning down perps (well kinda perps) as she leans out of their yellow Camaro with a grin on her face is...well its kinda hot. I actually think Barr slightly over acts to be honest, she's very good but a bit too over excited to be in the film methinks.

Cutting right down to the bone this film is an unapologetic, blistering, scathing backlash at our society today, or should that be American society today. Its dark as hell as Goldthwait doesn't hide from the brutal truth, statements that will slap you across the face and make you pay attention.

Its not perfect, not suppose to be a serious thriller or anything of course but I was thinking that surely by the midway point there would be masses of police after them. And surely the Camaro they stole would give them away somewhat, it is big, loud, fast and banana yellow. It does make the act of multiple murders look easy as they never seem to have any trouble from any law officials anywhere!.

A fantastic film which I hadn't even heard of until I stumbled across the poster online. The beginning is by far the best and most amusing, the plot gets a touch off base as the couple start knocking people off and the film becomes more 'routine'. But the trigger happy violence against folk you love to hate turns this into some kind of feel good road movie...worryingly.

I mean seriously, you haven't ever thought about waking on stage and blowing away certain well known reality TV judges?. Then perhaps turning to the camera and telling everybody at home what a mindless moron they are...yeah if you watch these reality shows you'd best not watch this film, it might sting.


8/10

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Murder of Crows (1998)




















Despite the fact this film has the appearance of a TV movie its actually a decent little thriller. On the whole the film is quite tame and the plot is rather quaint, it could almost be a mystery for Agatha Christie's 'Hercule Poirot' or 'Miss Marple'.

The plot is about a lawyer (Cuba Gooding) who is disbarred and goes off to live in the Florida Keys to write. He meets an old man whom he becomes friendly with, the old man shows him his novel and promptly dies days later. The novel is a top class murder thriller so Gooding's character decides to sell it as his own book, it goes viral and he becomes rich.

It later becomes apparent that all the murders in this book are based on real unsolved murders, thusly Gooding's character becomes the main suspect. Its up to him to get to the bottom of the whole ordeal.

The film is obviously played out as if you the viewer were reading a book, there is a constant narration through most of the film from Gooding. There is very little violence, no swearing I believe and the odd moment of action...oh and some sex n ass shots. The stalwart Tom Berenger plays the detective hunting Gooding's character down in a nice almost apologetic way, whilst Gooding suits the role of the innocent helpless fresh faced young ex-lawyer perfectly with his goodie goodie looks.

Overall a very solid film which is more of a 'who dunnit?' than thriller, its not tense enough to be called a thriller. The films dark title kinda gives you the wrong impression really, the film is more like a classic mystery from the 40/50's era of the silver screen.

6/10

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Recoil (2012)














Hurrah! Danny Trejo is a baddie again, thing is I'm so used to him playing good guys or anti heroes it doesn't quite suit him anymore. The guy was more intimidating when he was more unknown, now he's a big star and the threat seems to have faded. Oh and he also looks old.

Anyway this Steve Austin vehicle is your standard revenge action flick which merely serves up more ass kicking than you can shake a stick at. The plot is so simple its almost pointless, bunch of bad dudes kill a cops family and wound the cop, for some reason they don't kill the cop but leave him to recover (as they always do). Once recovered the cop goes after them and pretty much kills them all until they are well n truly dead.

Back in the day this would be a JCVD, Sly or Arnie vehicle, unfortunately now these type of films go to lesser action stars like Austin. This large lump of meat simply lurches from one scene to another barely saying a thing. He finds a bad guy, grunts at him, then promptly kills him with a good solid beating.

I loved how corny this was, all the bad guys are in this biker gang and own their own biker bar complete with smokey seedy lighting, pool tables and slutty blondes (nice). They all dress in black attire...black leather waistcoats, black jeans, dark coloured bandanas, black leather jackets, biker boots or black cowboy boots, black t-shirts etc...and most have gruff looking facial hair. So just in case you're unsure, these are the bad guys right here, they dress in black and have Harley's.

The fights aren't even that well choreographed to be honest, its tame stuff with the occasional gunshot wound. Some nice locations and a cool US muscle car just about make this enjoyable to watch, most die hard, oldschool, action film freaks will probably enjoy. Why is the film called 'Recoil'? I don't rightly know but my best bet is...it looks and sounds cooool.

4/10

Monday, 21 January 2013

Django Unchained (2012)

























The new Tarantino flick, I gotta be cruel, there can't be any favours now, straight down the line. So first off I've never really been much of a Tarantino fan, the guy made two decent films many many years ago ('Pulp Fiction' and 'Reservoir Dogs') and has pretty much lived off the reputation he gained ever since.

So what we have here is a 60/70's type retro homage to the classic violent westerns of that time mainly made by Leone. The thing is this film is not a spaghetti western, it may look like one or try to imitate one but its not. The term spaghetti western was coined during the 60's for western films that were made in Italy/Spain with Italians and other Euro folk, for budgetary reasons. This is a mega budget film jam packed with huge squillion dollar earning stars, far from the source material methinks.

Think 'The Man with the Iron Fists' and you're on the right track my friends, this is a western equivalent. This may have worked much better with more of an unknown cast. The huge overpaid names hired tend to detach you from the reality of the setting, you'd think Tarantino would know better.

The plot is the standard revenge one but with a difference, this western is all about African slaves, one particular slave fighting back, fighting the man. Now this is a plus point for the film as its not shying away from real history unlike many old westerns. This is a great concept for a great realistic drama/thriller, unfortunately what we get is yet another typical Tarantino personal fanboy flick which kinda borders on old blaxploitation flicks. You could almost say the film has Superfly stylings, Jamie Foxx's character turns from innocent slave to Shaft in the wild west accompanied by a dreadful soundtrack to boot, there's even rap in this!

Yes the film is violent which is cool but again Tarantino just goes way over board almost making the film a spoof in some places. Now having ridiculously huge exploding bloody squibs is top stuff, exhibit A: 'Robocop' and 'Total Recall'...the 90's version of course, what do you take me for?! geez! But these films were futuristic sci-fi so you could believe the excess blood as possible with futuristic weapons. This film is a period set western so it is totally ludicrous looking, of course its not suppose to be a serious film but these little things matter for your suspension of disbelief.

To be honest I was kinda expecting an old style western much like Eastwood classics such as the 'Dollars' trilogy or 'Josey Wales' or the original 'Django' even! But alas I was disappointed with this film, disappointed to see its just another excuse for Tarantino to use profanity and needless violence for almost three hours!!! wha?!!

Acting is pretty terrible from everybody bar Waltz who really should be in more serious epic roles where his talent would be better shown off. Jackson is perfect for the film as he gets to shout and swear continuously using his two favourite words whilst showing very little other talent, this man is the most over hyped actor in cinematic history. Didn't care about any of the characters a tall, only Waltz gave an interesting turn as the innocent peaceful dentist with a lethal hidden skill. Maybe they should of used Denzel Washington for Django, Foxx is bland and dull.

Not advisable to watch if you're a touchy liberal lefty that's for sure, this film may be a homage of sorts but the 'N' word is said so much you may come out thinking its OK to use it much like any other naughty word. I realise this film has done well but I simply can't understand why, I've seen a whole string of films recently which are far superior to this. For me this had potential to be a really good serious Western ala 'Unforgiven' but instead its just more funky Tarantino retro trash.

5/10

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984)



















So back in 84 if you had seen Lucas and some Ewoks running around the redwood forests in California you could of been mistaken for thinking another Star Wars epic was on the way. No matter how badly we 80's kids prayed that was unfortunately not true, but we did get a semi decent Star Wars based adventure.

Set in between 'Empire' and 'Jedi' this film gives us a little more insight into the forest moon of the gas giant Endor. We see more native creatures, more of the moon and of course more Ewok culture. Now back in the day this film was actually regarded pretty highly, mainly because we had NOTHING else film wise based around Star Wars.

Upon a re watch the film still does hold its own very well. Lucas was in charge for both of these Ewok films and to be honest he did a fair job. The film is completely for kids obviously utilizing little human kids and good old 'Wicket' so you can't moan at the utter campy naffness there is. Acting is dubious and dialog is very basic, but you gotta give credit to Lucas for making a lot of the film in native Ewok tongue and having a narrator tell us the audience what the the hell going on. Almost like 'Dances with Wolves' for Star Wars hehe...I said almost.

So the rather annoying surly 'Mace' and his totally babyish blonde barbie doll little sister head off to rescue their parents from the 'Gorax'. A creature I have found out has been worked into the official Star Wars universe and is cannon, kinda cool. Along the way the team of kiddies and Ewoks run into other species that are of course nasty and generally have to work together to succeed. There are some nice creatures here, basic puppets, animation or stop motion, but its fine, kinda charming much like the old Harryhausen flicks and other old barbarian fantasy films. The film has that warm 80's 'Willow' type atmosphere, a sense of wonder and imagination that is absolutely great for young kids.

The main bad guy in the film is the 'Gorax' which is a man in a suit get up. The makeup is pretty good on this character and his whole look does fit with the 'wookie' species approach for the Endor moon. In general effects aren't overly great these days (of course), the giant spider in the 'Gorax' lair is brilliantly bad and the final fatal moment for the 'Gorax' also looks really hokey, but hey this ain't no mega budget film. Some nice good old fashioned matte painting work evident too.

Yes its childish and corny, yes some locations on Endor's moon looks suspiciously like California, yes the two main human kid characters are completely generic looking with 'Mace' obviously looking like a young 'Luke', but its still fun. Lucas did a good job here in my opinion, the film is perfect for its target audience and fun for everyone else too...if you like Star Wars. Supposedly cannon within the Star Wars universe also which is interesting.

6/10

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)

























'Mace' and 'Cindel' return for the follow up story to their predicament. Cindel's family don't get too far into the film which leaves us with the helpless princess and her best Ewok friend 'Wicket'. This time the duo must save their other Ewok friends and battle against 'Terak', a nasty pirate marauder and his rather band of dumb henchmen. Along the way they are helped by a kind but grumpy old man played by the legendary Wilford Brimley.

The whole plot is virtually the same as before really, some characters are taken prisoner, so its up to a small band of other good guys to save them. Naturally its still a full on kids film so its very comical, silly and a bit camp at times but that's to be expected. Acting again is pretty ropy but Brimley has a good go adding some flavour.

Much the same deal as the first Ewok adventure only this is slightly better methinks. The bad guys are a silly bunch but they certainly look the part and fit into the Star Wars universe perfectly. If you think along the lines of the 'Weequay' race that are seen in 'Return of the Jedi' and then just add the CGI animated Clone Wars series characters lead by 'Hondo' for an idea of lots of them in a gang.

Effects are still sketchy but this is an old film, heavy use of stop motion animation which is really jerky but again it adds to the charm just like the first film. Gotta admit I loved the large dinosaur-like 'Blurrgs', a simple yet effective design which is pure Star Wars ('Willow' pinched the concept I reckon), even more so with the classic stop motion animation.

The whole look of the film is actually quite good and better than the first if you ask me. It still looks a bit cheap and basic but Terak's fortress is nicely done and the forest moon of Endor looks less like California hehe. Costumes and makeup for the 'Sanyassans' are nice too, nothing original but they do the job, Terak the leader looks the best of course, even has white balding hair which actually gives him a good sense of depth and history.

The witch/sorcerer character of 'Charal' seems rather pointless frankly as she does nothing accept turn into a crow, or raven? I dunno. Much more magic and sorcery in this adventure but still a quirky fun deeper look into the world of the Ewoks and their home. Overall a closer feel to the Star Wars universe for me and slightly more exciting but only just. A film aimed at kids which is extremely tame and admittedly the only reason it gets away with it is because its Star Wars.

7/10

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Silver Hawk (HK, 2004)




















So you thought 'The Avengers' was a good comic book flick huh? well move over Iron Man Captain America and Hulk...move over for Silver Hawk!!!

Not too dissimilar from various other Far Eastern fantasy martial arts flicks, this film merely came to my attention due to the casting of Michael Jai White, Luke Goss and the gorgeous Michelle Yeoh. Its your basic comic book character action film but the hero is a heroine (Yeoh) and she isn't exactly a superhero but more like Iron Man, a person with money who fights crime in a nifty suit.


Well I say nifty suit, this suit simply looks like silver spandex with some silver painted goggles on her head and a long silver flapping coat. The thing that is so silly with this is everyone is virtually dressed in silver, all the bad guys and henchmen are in silver armour and everyone uses silver weapons or gadgets.


Surprisingly Jai White is a silent bad guy henchmen in this (looking like a certain character out of Mortal Kombat and with some Biggles head wear for some reason) and unsurprisingly Goss is the main villain. He is dressed in a Matrix style full length silver trench coat (indeed) with prosthetic silver metal forearms and looking like Richard O' Brien's brother. The action is tame but reasonably well choreographed, nothing amazing but it does the job with no strong violence or blood.


All of the film is pure comic book silliness which does look like something made for TV but a lot of Asian movies can look like this. You could almost think of this as a Chinese 'Batman and Robin' complete with fighting bad guys on bungee ropes, rollerblading ice hockey bad guys and Silver Hawk has her own Batbike type vehicle, its just not as camp. Well...that is until you see Goss in his skintight shiny silver vinyl costume towards the end.


5/10

Scrooged (1988)





















Tis the season folks! so here's an oldie, but a goodie for ya...

I can't believe this was made in 88! my god that's a long time ago and I remember when it came out haha!. We all know the plot here I should think, the classic Dickens tale revamped and 'modified' for the modern era...well the 80's.

Straight of the bat this is a classic film based around a classic tale. Like the 'Muppet Christmas Carol' its one of the best versions of Dickens fable around and really gets you in the Xmas spirit. I always loved the title for a start, such a simple idea yet really original in the way its been slightly tweaked.

I never knew that Danny Elfman did the musical score for this either, as I watched this again recently and the film started you hear this typical Elfman score, 'Batman Returns/Beetlejuice' type of thing. You know what I mean...that kind of spooky, gothic, halloween-ish tune accompanied by a young choir to give that crispy old English Xmas atmosphere. These days that typical Elfman score is a bit samey I'll admit but it always works.

The film is so so dated now but you gotta love that 80's look n feel right?. The old 'Gordon Gecko' style high flying business corporate world with its glossy offices, greasy suits and large plastic looking technology hehe. Murray is the perfect cast for this concept, the film was made for him (probably was) as he uses his dead pan, wry, dry stinging humour to really create a sleazy, immoral, disreputable, executive suit wearing Scrooge.

Of course he's not called Scrooge here, the whole film doesn't really mention or use any wording that refers to the old tale (well if you don't count the in-movie plot). This is merely a clever little recreation using the basic story but setting it in the business world. Whats really great is the effects and general visuals still hold up today, they aren't hugely over done effects but simply utilizing makeup and the odd bluescreen. The three main ghosts really add to the film with their performances. 'The Ghost of Christmas Past' (Johansen) easily being the best for me as a dirty, grumpy, pug ugly NY cab driver who shouts abuse at other road users, smokes, probably drinks and generally acts as if he's just sobering up.

'The Ghost of Christmas Present' (Kane) is close behind with her fantastic performance as a sort of bitchy, spoilt, pixie sized fairy with violent tendencies. Despite her delicate appearance in a kind of little girls halloween pink fairy costume complete with tiny wings and lots of sparkly glitter, she acts like a bully. The swing from softly spoken fairy to a swift kick in the balls is quite amusing if childish.

'The Ghost of Christmas Future' is a nice bit of visualisation and simple effects. A large 'man in a suit' approach with some puppet work and a TV screen for a face, to make him seem more modernised I guess. Didn't really see enough of this guy I reckon and he could of been a bit more creepy really, but the sequence where his large hooded face looms up behind 'Frank' across his multiple TV screens is brilliantly done. There he looked good.

The best ghost visually is probably 'Lew Hayward' who is 'Frank's' old boss who comes back to warn him of his pending situation. A great bit of makeup and prosthetic work which really does look real haha loved his snapping arm moment complete with plumes of dry dusty decomposition.

Alongside many other quirky characters there is Glover as 'Brice Cummings' who epitomises the image of an 80's office type and complete arse kissing suck up, love it!. You know he afters 'Frank's' job and that makes him such a good character.

The end to the film does get a bit too vomit inducing for me, never really liked how it all gets so mushy* and almost turns into a 'behind the scenes' piece. 'Frank' breaks the fourth wall in the end and it kinda spoils the film even though its a unique thing to do in a major movie. Up to the very end the film is really enjoyable and chock full of spine tingling atmosphere with great performances, its just a shame the finale goes off track...in my opinion.

'Yule love it!'

8/10

Hirokin: The Last Samurai (2011)


Space samurai on a distant planet says you? yes please says I. The villain played by the dastardly devilish looking Julian Sands?? oh my! this sounds great! Wes Bentley says you? hmm OK not bad, not bad, but I've gone slightly soft now.

Plus points...the film looks pretty sweet, its basic with obvious sets and errr...a handful of bad guys, villagers and good guys used over and over but the location work looks nice. Set on the distant desert planet of Aradius you can see straight away certain similarities to many other sci-fi/fantasy films, need I list them? So everything looks very familiar yet admittedly rather nice with use of sunsets, twilight, dusk, early morning etc...the colours and hues are gorgeous at times.

Apart from that the film is your standard by the numbers chosen one styled plot line. A lone warrior saves a small tribe of people (aliens that look exactly like humans) from a tyrant human played by Sands naturally. All the bad guys look like Imperial guards from 'ROTJ' and Sands looks suspiciously like Sting in 'Dune'.

Its all very cliched and run of the mill stuff, yet the whole point is lost on me, I have no real clue what's in it for the evil Julian Sands to do what he does. Angus Macfadyen is the Yoda-like Master, the all powerful leader, warrior and rebel who must train the eager Hirokin, cue lots of training montages set against facial close ups and with many shadows and silhouettes.

There seems to be a lot more style over substance really, very arty and nice to look at but behind that its pretty crappy stuff really. Doesn't really make much sense, why would a distant planet in the future (or so I assume) utilize the ancient Japanese samurai way of life, war and culture? where do they get their fuel, water and food from? etc...I could go on but I won't.

Shame the people/aliens of this poor village seem to totally outnumber the bad guys (but why would they even stay in this village?, the area offers nothing...leeeeave it!!). Oh and this alien race are called Arids. You see what they have done there? Arids...Arabs? or maybe because the planet they live on is arid?...ah beats the shit outta me.

Its a nice slice of B-movie sci-fi hokum that will please some fans of the genre. Its fun harmless stuff and Bentley does look the part I admit. May I suggest a better choice, if you like sci-fi hokum then I recommend 'Hunter Prey' which is a much better ride.

4/10


Ninja 忍者 (2009)




















Well this action takes you right back to the late 80's early 90's. If you picture 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' but with blood and for an adult audience then you have 'Ninja'. I won't lie to you I found this silly nonsense kinda fun to watch hehe it was full of totally ridiculous set pieces, hordes of blade fodder in the form of a never ending supply of henchmen all wearing identical outfits which is simply hilarious and some really over the top CGI blood spurting. Yes this was an epic slice of hokum.

I gotta admit there was some nice imagery throughout the film with the ninja suits, especially in the dark rainy parts and the dojo sequences at the start. Some cool fights, moves and some nice weaponry to boot...its a film about cool ass ninjas, think about it.
Totally predictable and extremely corny with all the regular goodie and baddie cliches but admittedly Adkins (the goodie ninja guy) has probably the best looking torso I've seen since Jason Scott Lee in 'Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story'!. As a man I must admit I was impressed! and this is one of his early films too, before he became even more buffed for the 'Undisputed' franchise.

I really didn't know they made films like this anymore hehe yet I'm pleased. Really brought memories of my teen years flooding back, the only thing missing from this Shinobi (忍び) epic is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa sneering his ass off, now that would have been the ultimate badassery.

6/10

Hunter Prey (2010)





















If you can find this I highly recommend it as its a great low budget sci-fi flick in the same realms as 'Enemy Mine'. The plot is almost the same as 'Enemy Mine' accept the two races don't make friends and the alien race is introduced as the hero element, where as the human, in a neat little twist, is introduced as the creature (you don't realise he's human at first) on the run and becomes the enemy...almost. Depending how you look at it.

The thing that impresses about this film is the really nice makeup work on the alien masks and the costume. Prop work isn't that original looking (think 'Predator' armour mixed with a Clone Trooper from 'AotC') but it looks good set against the clear blue skies and yellow/orange rocky desert of the planet its all based on. The musical score is also pretty good, almost too good for a small film like this which was another surprise. Cast wise there are no big names but the acting is perfectly fine with some solid stunt work throughout.

You must be a total sci-fi fan to enjoy this on its numerous levels, its not a fast action packed flick and its not filled with cheap looking CGI. Its actually very well made simply because the director has tried to focus the film with good characters and a good story, without the help of lots of money which can corrupt a persons way of thinking. His film was obviously made with lots of love and attention to make it as real as possible and not to rely on CGI. Think a really good episode of Star Trek, only down side is the ending is left open which could lead to a poor sequel, or we may never know what happens if they don't make further movies.

8/10

Lincoln (2012)


















If you want a job doing right get Spielberg, on the other hand if you want to make an epic right get Daniel Day-Lewis. So this pretty much has the outright winning formula and Oscar stamped across its forehead before you've even sat down. A biopic, about some American guy with dubious facial hair, beats me but the Yanks seem to think he's pretty important.

The films kicks off straight away in a battle, a rain soaked battle to the death with hordes of American soldiers literately at each others throats, stumbling around in thick knee high pools of mud. Everywhere we see men being bayonetted to death or trampled into the mud, the men are mostly black, a lead to the core of the story, yeah its taboo history right here, black slavery.

Now I'll admit I was kinda thinking we would see plenty of bloody gritty civil war action in this film, or at least hints of it. The start of the film does give that impression and I was gearing up for a right royal historical blitzkrieg but alas!! the start sequence is all we get and not a drop more. Yes this film is completely and utterly dialog driven as it follows Lincoln from one meeting to another with every figure/group/party of the time.

Now this isn't a bad thing and I wasn't bored a tall amazingly, the film looks so lavish, realistic and atmospheric I found myself merely enjoying the old ambiance of late 18th Century life. Its strangely calming and very pleasant to just sit back and take in all the sights and sounds, you can almost smell certain scenes they look so vivid and luscious.

The cast is impressive, it seems everyone wanted a piece of this practically guaranteed unstoppable Spielberg Oscar machine. Yet I found myself thinking (again) that its the rest of the cast that actually outweigh Day-Lewis. Yes DDL is the man, the king of epics, but his performance here is very quiet, very slow almost sombre, with the odd little sequence where he perks up a bit. Now of course I realize this is obviously deliberate and how Lincoln must have been but for me he is almost swallowed up by his fellow actors and their performances, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, David Strathairn, Sally Field...hell even James Spader is good here.

I do think that DDL has rightly earned his reputation in films like this, but I also feel he seems to be getting automatic hype and praise in this film from that reputation when really its all the other players that really shine. Personally I felt Mr Lewis has been matched and beaten well and truly here, the strength of the cast is too great, kudos of course for all.

There isn't really anything I can say about the film in a negative view. Yes its mostly political dialog but its accurate, real, which is good, but I can understand that many won't enjoy that. The only thing I didn't really like was the way Lincoln's death was included. That may sound odd but showing Lincoln on his deathbed with doctors at his side, from my own artistic point of view, wasn't required. That's all they show, they don't reconstruct the actual assassination but it just seems clunky, strips the film of a solid dramatic ending and kinda takes away the legendary aspect of the man by showing him at the end of his life.

Ironically the ending of the film 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' was done in a much more thoughtful way, it doesn't show anything, just leaves it to history and what we all know. I think 'Lincoln' should have ended when we see the President walking off down a corridor in the White House, watched by his servant, leaving for the Ford's Theater. For Spielberg that's a surprising wasted chance for a nice emotional finale there.

So yes, a reasonable knowledge of American civil war/political history is required here methinks. I won't lie there is tonnes of heavy political dialog running right the way through this beast of a film and it will confuse and disorientate most folk (had me dashing for good old wikipedia on many occasions...and that was even heavier lol!).

I would also say, even though I'm no expert on this period, I'm sure certain elements have been over dramatised for the film. Always the way which I can understand of course but you can sense it clearly in many sequences. One could almost say this isn't really a film for entertainment but a lesson, a lesson that should be shown in all schools much like Spielberg's WWII epic 'Schindler's List'. Thick and slow going but rewarding no doubt.

7/10

Flight (2012)

















A serious drama for Zemeckis this time and you'd think that might sound a bit dodgy, but its not! I must admit to being really quite mistaken about the premise here, I kind thought this was some kind of in-flight disaster flick. I thought the whole film was on-board an airliner, some kind of long haul thriller, so totally wrong there.

As it turns out the film is about a veteran pilot played by Washington who is a secret alcoholic and casual drug user. Unfortunately this 'top gun' pilot of passenger flights has the incredible bad luck of having his latest flight fall apart on him and go down. The main crux of the story being he just happened to be high and nicely drunk at the time. Yeeeah the suits are gonna have a field day with that sunshine, if it ain't safe don't do it and that's gonna equal some major retraining meladdo.

So this kicks off a long emotional rollercoaster as Washington's character must fight to prove the plane was damaged from the get go and his 'issue' had nothing to do with it. An 'act of God'.

Now this might sound rather drab but its actually really intriguing to see how this modern age works with all its health n safety nonsense. I could say its like a witch hunt of sorts really, the bottom line being despite the fact the plane was in bad shape and fell apart due to bad maintenance means nothing because of one fact, the pilot had been drinking. The word scapegoat arises.

This is the main focus of the film and it rings many bells within the real world because this is what its actually like. The plane could of been struck by lighting and gone down, completely an 'act of God' by which no one could avoid. But if the pilot turns out to have a negative drugs n alcohol test...he's screwed!. The airline companies, safety boards/regulators, police...everyone will be on your ass due to that test result, they will want someone to hang for it and that test result will take the centre stage.

This film is very good at showing how frustrating/stressful this scenario can be for someone (if you've worked in public transport of any kind you will relate BIGTIME!), of course the drama is slightly more exaggerated for film purposes. Washington is like Daniel Day-Lewis, you have an epic drama, you hire one of these guys, you really can't go wrong and I don't even need to say anymore on the matter.

Is John Goodman in everything now?! again he pops up here as Washington's drug dealing buddy. I must say I didn't really like this aspect of the story, this character, as it just seemed too Hollywood. Without trying to give much away...the finale where Washington's character is wasted (again) and they need to get him together was ridiculous. Yes of course its artistic license being a film and not real but really? would a lawyer and top union rep really actually assist this guy after all they've done when he goes and gets wasted AGAIN! On top of that they actually pay for him to take cocaine to 'perk him up' as it were, coffee not being strong enough.

Next minute he's out the door shades on ready to take on the courts. This whole sequence ruined the film for me as its completely unrealistic (this is suppose to be a serious film) and it shows Washington's character hasn't learnt a thing, it frustrates you. But I guess it lines up the story for the 'down to earth with a bump' finish for Washington's character.

The whole plot is frustrating really, if you know the transport field especially. The ending stings and you feel the emotion Washington's character must feel. He saved the plane, 96 out of 102 folk on-board, its proven beyond a doubt, faulty mechanics and poor maintenance, his skills were unmatched and he saved the day. But alas! one small test that doesn't really mean anything (in this case) is what everyone hooks onto, oh the agony!!

Definitely a surprise as it starts out rather dull but really gets a hold of you once we are airborne. The whole film doesn't feel like a product of Zemeckis a tall, kudos Sir. The basic premise of watching a character go through hell, the ups and downs, is nothing really new but I latched onto this, I could relate, I could feel his pain and anger. So for me this film really struck home and had me glued to the screen. Whether everyone will be the same I dunno but its well worth the watch despite a pretty uninspiring film title.

7/10

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (US, NZ 2012)
























Well here we go again with another overly long grandiose epic based on some small unknown tale courtesy of a fat Kiwi. The much anticipated prequel trilogy (yes trilogy, don't get me started) to another somewhat well known literacy tale by some bloke called Token?

'Far over the misty mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old'

Yep this gorgeous line pretty much gives you the perfect clue to what to expect in this adventure, many caves and many caverns, dwarf country. From the off we are back in the Shire and on very familiar ground as old friends are soon in the fold and we get another very useful eye catching prologue. The visuals straight away are much like an old pair of shoes, it all just slips back into place, you can see its a Jackson film, only sweeter this time.

Plot? errr its kinda simple, bit like LOTR, Bilbo Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves march off across Middle Earth (yep we're doing that again) to Lonely Mountain, the old home of the dwarves. There they will kick out the nasty dragon Smaug (dragons have personal names? aren't they just creatures?) who took over the mountain dwelling from the dwarves in a really quite violent and unfriendly way. Why? beats the heck outta me, cos the dwarves had tonnes of loot inside the mountain and Smaug wanted it all. Why would a dragon need tonnes of gold and jewels? is he going to buy himself a nice car? in fact why does Gandalf care? on with the review!

On the whole the entire film is pretty much as before with wonderful bold colours and imagination bursting from the screen in some sequences, and with dark shady doom and gloom in others. The detail again is superb with every last item you can see, location work is stunning (tourism on the up again) whilst makeup, sets and props are lavishly rustic and genuine. Weaponry stands out in this film as we see many nice swords displayed which do make you wanna own one yourself. But overall its most definitely a much much crisper, tighter, sharper affair all round, looking much better than the LOTR trilogy as you would expect with time. Really I don't need to talk much about the visuals as its business as usual to be honest...but I will.

The only downside as usual with all these films is certain sequences involving the dreaded CGI monster. Yes skies, sunsets, landscapes, Rivendell, the Lonely Mountain and hordes of orcs all look good in this format, but some things never change. The sequences involving the Warg riding orcs still looked pretty rough and clearly fake just like the last time we saw them. These sequences really do look hokey to me I can't deny, like something outta 'Underworld', the same could be said for the sequences within the Goblin caves and the awful looking Goblin King.

I don't want to moan too much about this film as it was a solid entry but you can't help but find small issues. The whole Goblin caves section was pretty much another Moria sequence really, it felt too much like deja vu. Plus the escape from the caves was really totally over the top with some quite ridiculous action sequences, very much like a videogame at times. Remember the elephant surfing Legolas in ROTK? yikes! Did I mention how bad the Goblin King looked? oh yeah...what the hell was THAT about? like an early concept for Jabba the Hut...really!

Didn't really like the whole tree climbing escape sequence towards the end either, that felt as though they had written themselves into a corner. Unsure how accurate this film is to the books seeing as I've never read 'The Hobbit' but that part really seemed kinda dumb. I'll just pop in that Azog the orc chieftain looks more like a vampire outta 'Underworld' also, yes...I'm using 'Underworld' as a reference again.

To be brutally honest there are other elements that just seemed...pointless? The character of Radagast the Brown wasn't really explored much with no real reason to be there. A minor quibble as I reckon he'll be back with a chance for more explanations. The stone giants sequence seemed a bit irrelevant, unsure if its in the book but it felt like they needed something to fill that gap and add a touch of excitement. Oh and we have eagles saving the day again, boy those eagles are bloody handy to have around huh.

On the plus side apart from the visuals the dwarf company is handled well, cast well and perform well. I liked the variation on the characters even though 'Willow' crept into my mind. Was surprised to find out Graham McTavish was a dwarf seeing as the guy is about 6ft! his character was one of few that was a hardass, the others tended to be a bit dweebish, looked a bit goofy. What is it with the Scottish accents though? why are most dwarves Scottish? am I missing something on dwarf legend here?. Its just amusing that in these fantasy films its always Scottish or cockney accents hehe no problems, just an observation. I liked the dwarf names too, nice, very...dwarfish, but there should of been a mohawk dwarf in the company.

'dwarf scum'...'rebel scumheh.

Gollum is back unfortunately, but hurray! he finally looks realistic apart from his Disney eyes medical problem, man that decision really mucks up his supposedly creepy looks. Some great facial expressions going on this time, really was impressed with the advancement there, but he's still annoying as hell with that fudging voice.

I must admit I feared the worst, I was reading the film is dull and stretched but I didn't feel it. I actually enjoyed this film more than a lot of the original trilogy. I guess it felt more adventurous as I had no clue what happens, never seen anything of it visually despite knowing how it would look after LOTR. Its not quite as dark as LOTR, feels a wee bit more for the kids, hated the fact no dwarfs bite the dust (some must do eventually!!) but the fact technology has progressed is evident and makes most of the film truly memorable. Kinda makes you wanna whip out your Games Workshop miniatures and play, or Dungeons & Dragons, which ever way you role.

Still, the thought does spring to mind how on earth they will stretch it out over two more films. The first was gonna be sufficiently packed but I fear the second may well be reeeeally stretched seeing as the company is close to Lonely Mountain as it is! Lets remember this is only about walking to the dwarves old home and fighting a dragon, some films do that kinda thing in a standard 1hour 30mins. We will see, yesss we will see.

7/10

Frankenweenie (2012)




















I'm not too sure what I think with this remake. On one hand Mr Burton is back on form with some classic Burton visuals and atmosphere yet on the other hand it feels like a rehash of all of his films quashed together. I do find myself thinking the same thing everytime I see a new Burton film.

Now don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE Burton fan and have been since 'Beetlejuice', but I can't deny that Burton has lost his touch recently and his last few films have failed to inspire. The reason for this being his unique quirky imagination has become somewhat stale and over used.

The original short film of 'Frankenweenie' was pretty neat because it was a curious cutesy homage to the classic monster film but wasn't dripping in Burton's typical trademarks. This new remake is gorgeous to look at and is indeed a wet dream for all gothic fans such as myself but as I review this I just can't help but think there is nothing new here.

OK its a remake so of course its not original but everything in this film has been hijacked from all his previous work. The suburban setting for the 'Frankenstein' family is the same typical Californian identikit urban sprawl that we've seen in many of Burton's films like 'Edward Scissorhands'. Some of the creatures in this film are literately ripped from his other films, the cat/bat creature and the werewolf-like rodent creature are both virtually the same creatures used in 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', and whilst watching the film you can see many little ideas dotted throughout from his other films.

The sequence where 'Victor' (Burton loves the names Victor and Vincent doesn't he) tries to bring 'Sparky' back to life has many little nods to previous films. Well I say nods but are they? I get the idea Burton simply can't resist putting these little kooky creations in his films ever since most of them appeared in 'Nightmare'.

The main character of 'Victor' is pretty much the same guy from 'Corpse Bride' with a dash of 'Vincent' and many of the child characters look familiar to Burton's 'Oyster Boy' stories. Now I'm not complaining because this is a lovely film which has a good heart and its fabulous to see Burton championing stop motion claymation in this day and age. You can appreciate the skill and craftsmanship involved creating these films, Burton and his team certainly deserve much credit and kudos for that.

There are some really nice touches throughout the film. The few characters that have a certain resemblance to classic character or actors of the horror genre, the 'Godzilla' homage was nice and this whole movie concept does work much better in this format. The old live action film felt a bit too silly but the whole idea fits the animation world just fine.

Anyway all I'm saying is despite the film being a nice return to 'classic Burton' of the 90's when his style (dare I say kink) was fresh and new. At the same time it is still a large rerun of his dark imagination all over again. I really can't help but wonder how long he can keep regurgitating his own ideas.

A beautiful visual halloween feast with lots of soul that will definitely warm the cockles of your heart. I just think Mr Burton really needs to broaden his horizons a tad as the constant use of certain styles, designs and cast is really getting thin. Other than that it is pleasing to see the digging up of that classic retro Burton of yore, just don't rely on that for your next projects Mr Burton. You can only make so many claymation films like this.

7/10

Seven Psychopaths (2012)





















A British black comedy but you wouldn't really think it, this could almost be another Tarantino cauldron of tales all mixed together. Hell even the films poster has a Guy Ritchie look n feel to it, this could easily of been another cockney crime comedy with the usual suspects cast, in other words more of the same over used cockneys. Instead we have a Pacific coast take that normally wouldn't make me batter an eyelid but the cast is terrific.

The films kicks off with a typical Tarantino-ish in your face sequence (yes I promise not to try and use Tarantino anymore). Its simply two hitmen having a chat about killing folk in a quirky manner, your average day for some hitmen, just your average Tarant...oh shit! Now this isn't really a spoiler as it doesn't effect the film sooooo...some hooded bloke walks up behind these guys and shoots them both in the head at point blank range. Now this is a close up moment and doesn't beat around the bush. BANG! we're off to a cracking start and I'm whimpering from the gore.

Talking of gore, this film has it, a little torture gore, but mainly outfight blowing people away gore with nice bloody squibs. Yet despite this there isn't a huge amount of violence, unlike a certain gore hooked director whose initials are QT. The film actually limits the blood n gore but gives you just enough, just enough to keep you happy but not disgust you (almost).

The plot is fairly straight forward but with some clever tiny twists and surprises, but nothing overly outstanding. Farrell's character is writing a movie screenplay called 'Seven Psychopaths' and is using his friends to help him along the way. His friends being Rockwell and Walken, the latter seems to be playing a parody of himself to a degree, and the criminal/underground world from which we know him in his career.

The story concept Farrell's character is trying to create seems to unfold before him in reality unexpectedly, this leads to much more in depth research on killers than he would have liked. From this we get a nice sub plot about another psycho played by Waits whose character flits in and out of the main story but adds a nice charm if I can say that. The whole film is more or less a parody of your typical Hollywood twisted crime thrillers, almost a homage to Tarantino (argh!), Ritchie or Matthew Vaughn even, whilst slightly mocking them at the same time.

What I like about this film is how each psycho is brought to your attention throughout the film. Its not too hard to work out what's gonna happen as characters reveal themselves and the unpredictable gangster boss played by Harrelson takes pursuit. The story does tend to drift somewhat from the midway point as we near the finale, it does get a bit more cartoony and loses its edge.

The story is somewhat cliched and an average crime thriller but the characters do save the day luckily. The film isn't as funny as it would like to think it is and the violence can seem a touch uncomfortable as it swings back and forth with emotional moments. The more I think about it this film isn't quite as clever as Mr Director would have you believe but it does amuse thanks to a nice cast.

6/10