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1495 reviews in total 
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Meaningless Moniker, 5 September 2015

I remember Split Second being a rather popular rental title in the early 90s and everyone seemed to have seen it but me. Even the reviews I read at the time were generally favorable despite the dubious plot synopsis. Now, all this time later when I had all but completely forgotten that the movie even exists, I gave it a go. It's not good.

Set in a future 2008 London this is not a city permanently haloed by TV choppers circling the HSBC building capturing footage to illustrate the recent banking crisis to half-witted viewers. No, this is a gloomier alternate London that has no financial district and has been flooded by global warming and torrential rain. Rats thrive in the shadows, decay and despair have stained every backdrop, and a serial killer is stalking the streets. Tough cop Harley Stone (Rutger Hauer, slumming it as usual) has a vendetta with said killer after the death of his partner but uses a new-found psychic connection to his advantage. His new, goofball partner immerses himself in occult research and tries to deliver expository dialogue on the nature of the killer but it's all a load of codswallop.

Split Second tries to present itself as a low-budget hybrid of Blade Runner and Predator 2 but instead is more like Friday the 13th crossed with Alien. The final "reveal" of the killer is very disappointing and makes no sense whatsoever. Not only does it look like it was made out of bin liners and paste but its physicality does not fit with anything that it has done throughout the movie. And why is it wearing a helmet? Even the tagline makes no sense. "He's seen the future and now he has to kill it." Say what???

The filmmakers have no clue what this thing is supposed to be. Extra terrestrial? Mutant? Demon? Devil? All of the above and none of the above? It's never defined, it doesn't add up. They chuck a smearing of hokum into the exposition hoping that some of it will work but it simply doesn't. Fast and Furious creator Gary Scott Thompson is the man behind the script but it's obvious that London was not the original location (perhaps New York as it is liable to flooding in the future) and has merely but cut- and-pasted despite localisation issues (UK cops are not armed with guns).

The movie has some satisfyingly rough edges, particularly in the overlit and grainy cinematography that will remind of other British horror films of the same vintage such as Hellraiser or Paperhouse. Kim Cattrall shows us her pleasing breasts a few times, and the cheap synth score (by no one you've ever heard of) fits the grimy atmosphere. There are a couple of nice aerial shots of a London long gone but that's it for establishing the location.

Since the climax was helmed by a completely different director I can't shake the notion that there was some behind-the-scenes trouble. The ending is so disappointing and rushed but I was still sort of glad that it was over. Split Second squanders the potential of the setting and theme and is never all it could be.

School Hard, 28 August 2015

I remember seeing TV spots for Toy Soldiers in October 1991. I had recently seen The Goonies and I was surprised at how much Sean Astin had matured since then. It made me wonder how I would look once I stopped being a child. I didn't actually see the film until now (the 15 certificate meant I could not see it at the cinema and I just never got around to renting it later) but I seem to associate it first with that particular memory.

I was expecting it to be an action comedy, something along the lines of Home Alone meets Die Hard. How wrong I was. Toy Soldiers is surprisingly grim and serious. Directed and co-written by Beverly Hills Cop creator Daniel Petrie Jnr the film features a lot of well shot and staged action. The opening scene in particular has a memorable freefall stunt and there are innumerable blood squibs aplenty (a dying art in an age of awful CGI blood effects).

Billy Tepper and his gang of misfit Rejects draw the ire of Dean Parker at their prestigious boarding school, but he refuses to expel any of them as he sees their potential and wants to make real men of them. One of the kids is taken away by the FBI for protection when a terrorist group attempts to put pressure on his dad. Said terrorists promptly take over the school and are dismayed that their target has vanished. Instead they make do with the crop of students that they have and begin making demands. Billy and his gang do not take well to this plot and plan to strike back using whatever limited resources they have at their disposal.

It's here that Toy Soldiers sort of disappoints me. Instead of taking place in a concise time-frame it drags on for a few days and nights and features low-octane plotting for the most part. It would have been much more exciting if the gang were efficient and ready for action instead of fighting back with trickery and subterfuge. I guess it does ultimately work and hang together but the suspense could have been ramped up significantly further.

There is a great supporting cast featuring Louis Gossett Jnr, Denholm Elliot, Jerry Orbach, R. Lee Ermey, and the terrific Andrew Divoff who doesn't get as much recognition for his many bad guy performances. The movie also features a lot scenes with the boys hanging around in their Y-fronts. I am not sure to whom the director was trying to appeal with this but it feels very unnecessary.

There's not much surprise in the fact that it's fallen out of popularity and become a cult movie. Toy Soldiers had a high concept but is too low-key for it's own good. Certainly a good movie to discover but not as good as it should have been.

Vacation (2015/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ignore the hate, it's hilarious, 28 August 2015

When John Hughes wrote Vacation (based on his own experiences as a child, as was Christmas Vacation) he created an iconic character in Clark Griswold and a signature role for Chevy Chase. Clark was the everyman middle-class father who just wants to have fun time with his family. His naïve optimism never wavered in the face of adversity. The series however did, after a strong first out things took a dip with the less-inspired European Vacation, then soared again with Christmas Vacation, then nose-dived with the diluted Vegas Vacation. The less said about Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure the better. Also, the "National Lampoon" branding is gone since the name is pretty much mud by this point.

Now, 18 years after their last big screen outing, the Griswolds are back. Sort of. Rusty is all grown up with a family of his own. His bored wife and warring sons are sick of the same old family getaways so he plans to recreate his famous trip to Walleyworld. Sadly for Rusty, he has inherited the Griswold disaster gene. As a child he was the perfect foil for his dad, the straight-man, the REAL adult in the household, but now he is a walking calamity zone.

Their pilgrimage to visit Marty Moose is a non-stop laugh riot. I was surprised at how savage the critics and audiences reacted to the new Vacation. I went in fully expecting to hate it to the core. But I've never laughed so hard at a movie in a long time. Chevy might be reduced to a bit-part but Ed Helms really does soar as Rusty and Christina Applegate is way funnier here than she was in those overrated Anchorman movies and Chris Hemsworth also proves he's apt at comedy as Audrey's overbearing husband. Many have criticized the low-brow humor and in a way they are correct as the clever darkness of Hughes/Ramis is missing, however the jokes as so numerous you'll still be grinning for ear-to-ear for the entire running time. It's one of those movies that will keep you laughing long afterwards. I have to admit that the marketing of this film was pretty pathetic though. What happened to the Boris Vallejo art of the original and the first sequel? Even Christmas Vacation has recognizable poster art (again copied by Vegas). The poster art for this movie is so generic and unimaginative. They really dropped the ball there and completely failed to separate the film from any other generic comedy in that regard.

Give the movie a chance. In a summer featuring dismal failures like Fantastic Four and Pixels there's no real justifiable reason why Vacation is being rated so low. It's funny, it's a good time. I place it in the middle of the five films in the series, ranking it above Europe and Vegas, and it really does get the series back on course.

Accept it for what it is and you'll find yourself having fun, 20 August 2015

Since the Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993 video games have been met with fiercely negative reviews from critics who savage almost every single one of them based purely on their origins. I understand now that we live in an age where video games are movies in their own right, if not even more poetic and innovative than most movies themselves, but in 1994 they were not considered to have any literary or theatrical merit, and even to this day (with a second attempt at a Hit-man movie only just being released as I type this review) they still cannot seem crack the code on how to make a coherent and worthy adaptation.

Double Dragon is not the exception, it's the rule. The classic arcade game featured two dudes, Billy and Jimmy Lee, who walk to the right in an apocalyptic cityscape and beat-up thugs who have kidnapped their (apparently shared) girlfriend Marian. She obviously enjoys double (CENSORED). This could not and was not going to make a good movie.

With a writing team consisting of Paul Dini and Peter Gould any additions or expansions on this thin premise was welcome and the resulting movie is a live-action cartoon with way too many ideas for its budget or its director's abilities.

Double Dragon is an ex-treme-ly 90s flick. Martial arts movies for the kids became a big thing (or at least attempted to) in the early 90s after the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Drivel like Surf Ninjas and 3 Ninjas never managed to capture the edge that made the 1990 TMNT so good. Double Dragon almost gets there, but chooses goofy humor instead of darkness and pathos.

The year is 2007. Instead of suffering a dismal summer of an awful Die Hard sequel and a Simpsons movie with no laughs in it the people of New Angeles long for clean air and safety in the streets. The old city has been destroyed by an earthquake (another popular 90s trope) and gang roam at night while smog smothers during the day.

Scott Wolf and Mark Dacascos play "twin" brothers Jimmy and Billy. They look nothing like each other. Tom Cruise could play Scott Wolf's twin easily, but the budget couldn't stretch to Cruise. They are also supposed to be 17-years-old despite being 25 and 29 at the time of filming. They are orphans looked after by Satori (Julia Nickson) who holds one half of a sacred amulet (yes, it's one of THOSE kind of plots) which can grant super powers to anyone with both halves.

A clean air industrialist (Robert Patrick) wants the amulet so he can take control of New Angeles, despite running a pretty tight monopoly already. And so the streets are raging as a final fight with a vendetta is unleashed upon the thugs of New Angeles. An overweight and blond Alyssa Milano plays a more dynamic version of Marian, wearing short shorts that barely cover her vagina. Robert Patrick manages to avoid embarrassment by being surprisingly game about the whole thing too.

By all rights the movie is terrible, but there's an infectious vibe to the eccentric production design and cinematography, and some of the matte paintings and establishing shots are quite impressive. James Yukich (his name creates an appropriate onomatopoeia) has no real vision of his own and lets the chaos take whatever shape it naturally wants to be. You either go along with the low-brow cheese that it is or you'll hate it. Personally I was never once bored by it nor did I really dislike it. The crudity of its assembly (half of the dialogue is ADR) and the tacky synth score helped turn it into a surreal, almost auteur experience. But why on Earth Yukich figured that "Altogether Now" by Scouse band The Farm made for a fitting end credits song is beyond me. It doesn't match the film at all!

Since the day of its release and the resulting internet notoriety over the years I have always been curious about the big screen bomb of Double Dragon, but honestly it's not that bad.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Emotion Impossible, 11 August 2015

Five movies in and the M:I franchise still cannot come up with an original plot. All of them are about rogue agents, as well as several Bond movies, and all of those dreary Bourne efforts. Rogue Nation is no exception here.

When the IMF is amalgamated into the regular CIA this leaves Ethan Hunt a wanted man without a country or any clue how to catch the latest bad guy. He meets his British sort-of counterpart when double-crossed in London and spends the rest of the movie catching up with her.

The female in question is Rebecca Ferguson who spends the entire movie doing "duck face" as it is apparently the only expression her face is capable of. You'll lose count of how many times she jumps up on people in order to subdue them. She and Cruise have ZERO chemistry as they work with and against each other while the plot doubles back on itself one too many times.

The main bad guy is an irritating bore, also incapable of any expression. He might as well be played by that creepy old man who lives down the road from you. It was genuinely uncomfortable whenever he was on screen. Not only that but the movie feels the need to have a secondary bad guy who looks virtually identical to him. Really bad casting there!

As with the other movies in the series the plot is just GARBAGE and you'll quickly lose track of it and just enjoy the action scenes for the mindless spectacle. The atmosphere is quite good however.

Five movies and five different directors and this franchise still cannot establish itself with a decent standalone plot. Ving Rhames and Tom Cruise have been the only consistent players from the start despite there being several marketable cast members to bring back and make the continuity between movies stronger (Maggie Q, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Fishburne, Thandie Newton). It feels like they have the formula backwards, the plot is always the same while the majority of the cast is always different.

I didn't mind M:I 5, but for me this franchise needs to take bigger and bolder steps and stop being about former/current agents gone bad. They also need to ditch Rebecca Ferguson who had less charisma than Jai Courtney on sedatives.

Maggie (2015/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This is not Resident Evil, 28 July 2015

I feel that a lot of people are judging Maggie too harshly as perhaps they were expecting a movie where Arnold goes around killing zombies and throwing around one-liners. Anyone who thought that this might be a Resident Evil/Predator combo will be disappointed. Maggie is actually a dark and quiet character study about disease and death, and is a pro-euthanasia statement.

When she's bitten by a zombie during a "necro-ambulist virus" outbreak Maggie is taken home to her gloomy Midwest farm as is cared for by her protective dad (Arnold, doing some of the best acting of his career) as her health gradually degrades. No matter what happens, he stays by her side. And that, kiddies, it the movie. It doesn't sound like much but if there is one thing that Maggie has to spare it is ATMOSPHERE. There is not one shot in this movie that doesn't exert gloom or abandon while simultaneously reflecting the warmth of a loving father/daughter relationship.

Abigail Breslin is phenomenal in the lead role and I will eat my hat if she is not nominated for an Oscar come awards season. You will not come out of this movie in a cheerful mood, but don't let that put you off. Perhaps summer is not the right season for it (the movie is a PERFECT October release) though it is a nice counterbalance to the most recent Terminator debacle.

Maybe there's too many sunset shots, maybe it's a bit too slow- paced, but there's no denying the effect that Maggie will have on you.

007 Legends (2012) (VG)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The name is Bond, Ja...oh who even cares???, 25 June 2015

I think nailing my hands to my knees would be more enjoyable than this cheap, cash-grab shovelware. The Bond franchise has polarizing results when it comes to video games, but even dull fare such as James Bond 007: The Duel seems quaintly favorable compared to what I had to endure during my brief flirtation with 007 Legends. Much like GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (still a better game than this) plot elements are taken from several Bond movies combined into one. Here we treated to Goldfinger, OHMSS, Moonraker, Licence to Kill, Die Another Day, and Skyfall. I couldn't even make it past OHMSS, no matter how much I like the movie or want to be a part of it in a video game world.

Presented as a first person shooter the game unashamedly rip-offs more successful games in the genre, most notably Deus Ex: Human Revolution and will make you long to be playing them instead. The whole shebang is lazy, uninspiring, generic-as-hell, conveyor belt stuff. And what is up with those load times? I've had Commodore 64 tapes load faster than this. It's utterly disgraceful that a game can take that long to load in this era. I don't even understand why this is so since the sound and graphics are very far from the state- of-art. I'm not kidding, this thing looks like it came from 2002, not 2012.

I bought this game because I wanted to play Licence to Kill as a video game, but it's so poor I couldn't make it that far. Besides, LTK is Dalton, not Craig. It would be like casting Val Kilmer in The Dark Knight. Craig himself sounds completely bored and is apparently phoning it in during toilet breaks. The only thing we're missing is the sound of a big brown splash as he catatonically huffs through his dialogue.

This is a new low for the franchise when it comes to video games. Check out Everything or Nothing, Nightfire, or even Agent Under Fire instead. They are all over a decade old by this point but they're still better games than this one.

007: Legends is low-rent throwaway trash that is not worth your time and money.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This "game" barely happens, 18 April 2015

If you want a PS3 game that gives away silver and gold trophies like they were free and rewards you with a platinum after 40 minutes of gameplay then look no further. If you genuinely want a summer-themed sports collection then please keep looking.

Hunting brand Cabella have cornered the cheap and cheerful niche of the video game market and Adventure Camp is no exception. A bunch of generic kids turn up at a summer camp, you pick one, you play though a very brief tournament. And when I say brief I mean bree-ee-eef. I'll go through the events featured on the roster:

Rock, Paper, Scissors - POINTLESS!!! Biking - Could be lots of fun, it's 60 seconds long. Kayaking - Could be lots of's 60 seconds long. Wave Riding - Could be lots of fun, it's 60 seconds long (are we noticing a pattern yet). Skeet Shooting - Requires a bit of skill, controls are good, lacks satisfaction though. Archery - Decent, but the controls are bit stiff. Fishing - Boring. Controls are very sluggish. Hogwhacked - KILL ME NOW!!!

Honestly kiddies, this feels like shovelware from the first wave of Nintendo Wii games. It's a 2006 concept with 1996 graphics. I promise you it will spend no longer than 60 minutes in your machine.

If you love hearing the sound of trophies pop then it's worth a quick play. If you want a more satisfying and wholesome summer sports experience give it a miss.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A pleasant distraction, 8 April 2015

At half the length this TV special manages to be better than the Bizarro movie. Opening in Gotham City we find Batman tackling the Penguin and the Joker in a jewel heist when Supes shows up and offers him a part in the new Justice League. Batman refuses and somehow Supes is teleported away by a mysterious entity. While investigating with the rest of the League they too disappear one at a time until Batman confronts the real villain.

The locations and models featured are fun, but I do believe that Batman has always worked better as a loner and doesn't gel with the rest of the shared DC universe due to the inconsistent tones.

Composer Tim Kelly could have made this felt a bit more cohesive by using the familiar themes but once again he just gives us a cartoon score.

Definitely worth watching, if unremarkable.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Significantly inferior, 8 April 2015

I was pleasantly surprised with the previous Lego DC movie but this one ditches the clever narrative and framing and gives us a very watered-down and simple story.

Bizarro (Superman's cloned opposite) tries to do good around Metropolis but ends up only causing mayhem and embarrassment. Supes then takes him to Bizarro World (get used to that annoying word because they use it as a noun for many things) where he can do no harm.

In the meantime the Justice League go about their daily crime fighting business uninterrupted. For contrived, and forgettable reasons, the League go back to Bizarro World to fight Darkseid who is threatening to destroy (or at least reconfigure) the galaxy with his opposite ray (or whatever it was) - turning the round moon of Earth into a cube, for example.

Bizarro clones his own opposite Justice League and you'll have a hard time remembering who is who because of their virtually identical names, which I am not going to repeat here because I simply cannot be bothered making the effort.

It's very poorly written and deeply uninspired. The first movie had its crazy moments it also had smart humor, while this sequel many just goes for stupidity. It's quick and it's easy and it's also insulting to kids who are capable of consuming a better story.

The movie is also void of any real atmosphere. The Gotham City of the first movie was on par with The Lego Movie in terms of detail and scope. Here we have a virtually depopulated Metropolis and an empty, barren wasteland planet. It's so boring to look at. You'll get no ideas or inspiration for building any sets from this, although Deathstroke's vehicle is pretty cool for all of the five seconds it is on screen.

Composer Tim Kelly also ditches the familiar Batman and Superman themes, instead opting to give us an extremely generic cartoon score.

This movie is pure filler, and ends with a cliffhanger for a 3rd which I hope will be a return to form.

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