Reviews written by registered user

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35 reviews in total 
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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Funny, sad, touching, and life-affirming... but mostly funny!, 29 May 2016

Only a truly gifted filmmaker like Taika Waititi could make a story about loss and acceptance so damned funny. It's a coming-of-age story about troubled foster kid Ricky, bounced from home to home because of his persistently bad behaviour, who finally ends up with a family of last resort: childless middle-aged farmers Bella and Hector, who live alone in their remote mountaintop property.

Against all odds, Ricky begins to find acceptance and contentment in this setting, but an unexpected tragedy followed by a series of accidents results in Ricky and his reluctant "uncle" Hector being on the run in the wilderness.

Despite the grim subject matter, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish, interspersed with deftly-handled moments of sincere, touching pathos. Despite a bit of swearing and some brief talk of fairly adult topics, this is truly a family film, with something to keep everyone from kids to grandparents engrossed and entertained.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A big flying turkey - SPOILERS, 4 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oh dear.

Takashi Shimizu has proved he's a capable director with the iconic Ju-On films, and the inferior but still entertaining American remakes.

I honestly can't explain how 7500 manages to be so irredeemably terrible.

It has a good cast, though nobody puts in anywhere near their best performance, probably due to the utterly idiotic script. The interpersonal stuff is actually decent: the couple stuck on holiday together after breaking up due to repeated miscarriages have some real pathos to them, and the two featured flight attendants have interesting personal lives that invite you to care about them.

On a technical level, the film gets almost nothing right. We seem to have two flight attendants looking after an entire 747 full of passengers, a paramedic who gives up CPR after about thirty seconds, and a pilot who decides not to turn back and make an emergency landing but instead to proceed with the remainder of an eight hour flight after a passenger dies after only an hour in the air. The whole film is packed with this kind of idiocy. Oh, and low pressure? It makes plastic bottles POP, not SQUASH, you IDIOTS.

All the technical errors in the world could be forgiven, though, if 7500 simply worked as a horror film. This is its greatest failure. The scares are either out of nowhere cheap shocks or built-up moments of supposed terror that provoke a sigh and an eye-roll instead of a scream.

Then there's that ending. Oh god, the ending...

Okay, from here on there be SPOILERS...





Still reading? Okay, the SPOILERS begin now...

On what planet is that "they were dead all along" twist still even remotely original or appropriate? Memo for you, Hollywood: Carnival of Souls was made FIFTY YEARS AGO. This is not a shocking revelation any more. STOP USING IT.

The only way to make this ending work is to do something new and clever and daring with it, like Shyamalan did with Sixth Sense. Rewatch Sixth Sense and you will see that it is littered with clues, and even knowing the twist there is a wealth of cool details to discover.

7500, in contrast, has nothing. There are literally no clues to the twist ending. It literally comes out of nowhere. Even the attempts to insert some logic into the random string of deaths makes no sense.

We're told the shinigami will come for prematurely dead souls after they have let go of whatever is holding them on earth. Appropriately, then, two different characters are seen giving up something important to them, and then dying soon after. If this was carried through the film, giving it some structure and sense, then it would have been a much better movie.

But no - most of the characters die for no apparent reason.

Oh, and the revelation of the big "they've been dead all along" ending is also delivered without any thought or sense. For most of the film they can't see all their own corpses, then suddenly they can. Why? I have no idea. It's like a large chunk of story was edited out.

What a bad, bad film, and a terrible waste of a group of actors I have seen do much better work, made by a director whose best work is in the rear view mirror and shrinking fast.

Solid horror thriller, don't understand the negative reviews, 23 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How odd that this film got mediocre critical reviews and has such a low rating on IMDb.

It has some flaws, most notably an overly-talky script and a generally over-lit look to all of the night scenes, and early scenes don't make a lot of sense (seriously, why would he tell his brother NOTHING?).

Flaws aside, though, it has a bunch of cool original ideas, some startlingly creepy scenes, and quite a few visuals unlike anything we've seen before. It also has the benefit of an excellent cast, most notably Fassbender in a far more lowbrow role than I would ever have expected him to agree to. (Come on, who would have thought he'd say yes to being a blood-drinking Nazi zombie?) It's hardly a timeless masterpiece, but it's entertaining and really quite nasty in parts, and is packed with startlingly original visuals. I really enjoyed it.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A skeleton of interesting ideas destroyed by shoddy execution, 23 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oh dear. I had been told this was an amazingly disturbing film, genuinely horrific, a must-see for fans of the genre. There was so much hype that I just had to see it.

Oh dear.

There is a kernel of a good idea here: a serial killer so meticulous that he changes his MO periodically to throw investigators off his scent. The sub-story of "murder by bureaucracy" is also a creepy concept, worthy of a whole film in its own right - a cop framed by a serial killer to take the fall for his murders, and revealed to be innocent only days after his execution? That's a great idea, but it's wasted in this film.

Sadly, these interesting ideas are destroyed utterly by a laughably bad script, idiotic attempts at police procedure, and universally appalling acting. Not a single performance in this entire film is convincing. Every single person who appears on screen or is heard in voice-over sounds like exactly what they are: bad actors reading a bad script.

For those seeking a dumb, trashy thrill, it doesn't even satisfy on that level: a handful of reasonably effective scenes of psychological horror are padded out by interminable periods of hilariously bad actors trying and failing to sound like cops and FBI agents.

This is a bad mockumentary, a bad horror film, and a bad thriller. It fails on almost every level. Don't waste your time with it.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Good science, awful presentation, 21 April 2015

Scientific issues aside, Walking With Dinosaurs was an immense success because it drew viewers into the lives of prehistoric creatures. They were living, breathing creatures, and audiences couldn't help but care about their fates.

Planet Dinosaur has two things going for it: solid science, and a great actor doing voice-over. In all other ways, it is greatly inferior to a series made a decade and a half before.

It is ugly, which for a big, expensive "spectacle" show is unforgivable. Every visual aspect is terrible: WWD's lush real-world locations have been replaced with flat, bland CGI backgrounds that would look disappointing in a video game; the dinosaur models are beautiful, but they are stiffly animated which makes them feel completely devoid of life; and the entire finished product is just terribly rendered. This is abysmal CGI, and the BBC bragging about how it only cost one third of WWD's budget is not a selling point; it's an explanation for why it's so damned ugly.

It would have been so easy for the BBC to hire Impossible Pictures and the whole WWD crew and make a sequel series that kept the heart and soul of what made WWD great while polishing up its more problematic aspects. Instead we get Planet Dinosaur, a series so ugly to look at it makes it seem like it was made BEFORE Walking With Dinosaurs, not more than a decade after.

I was so thrilled that the BBC had made another dinosaur series, but the finished result is deeply disappointing. I am one seriously unhappy dinosaur nerd.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Citizen Kane it ain't, but pure entertainment none the less!, 13 February 2010

I finally found a widescreen DVD version of this recently and re-watched it. It's still one of the best examples I have seen of pure, unpretentious cheesy entertainment. It's not great art, by any means, but it's fun.

I did some reading online and found that, on its release, Deep Rising was universally trashed by the critics, and Roger Ebert lists it as one of the worst films ever made. Seriously? Did we all watch the same movie? Sure, it's big and dumb and loud and flashy and completely unbelievable, but lots of films are all of those things but still manage to find an audience and a modicum of critical recognition. Sommers's later films have managed to succeed despite being, in my opinion, inferior films (especially the truly awful Mummy Returns and Van Helsing).

It has so much going for it. The core cast are just fantastic - Williams is charismatic and tough, Janssen is gorgeous but smart, O'Connor has some of the funniest and most quotable lines, Studi has a great air of danger about him - and most of the support players are decent, if not outstanding. The script isn't deep or complex, but it's very tightly written and full of great one-liners and exchanges.

The effects hold up fairly well, apart from a few crappy ragdolls and some dodgy composites. The basic monster design it really quite cool, especially the creepy way in which the closed tentacles move.

The level of vitriol directed at this movie just baffles me. Honestly, why all the hate from the mainstream critics? Deep Rising is a big dumb action movie, but I think it's about as good as that genre gets.

8 out of 10 from me.

8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
An amazing emotional meat-grinder of a film..., 28 October 2009


It's been twelve hours since the closing credits rolled and I am still processing my experience of Dead Man's Shoes.

"Experience" is certainly the right word; this film puts the viewer through a wide range of emotions, and by the end I felt exhausted, stunned, and numbed. That sounds bad, but as strange as it may sound, I mean those things in a good way.

Dead Man's Shoes is genuinely funny, thanks to flawless deadpan delivery of brilliantly-written naturalistic dialogue. The whole film has a documentary feel about it (one minor flaw, I felt, was the overuse of shaky hand-held camera-work) but it is, at times, beautiful to look at, with lingering shots and slow edits giving it a strangely dreamlike quality. The beautiful musical score, consisting mainly of lo-fi acoustic rock and folk, enhances that sense of melancholy isolation.

The entire cast deliver wonderful, believable performances, grounded firmly in reality. Considine, playing the vengeful returned soldier, is alternately pitiful and terrifying, with veins of pitch black humour running throughout. Kebbell, as his developmentally-delayed little brother, delivers what is simply one of the best portrayals of an intellectually disabled character ever filmed. His performance is subtle and utterly convincing.

Dead Man's Shoes is not without flaws, but they are relatively minor. The overly-wobbly camera has already been mentioned, but its biggest problem is probably its unsatisfying final act. Compared to the film that precedes it, the finale feels underdeveloped and flat. Still, it delivers a gut-punch of an ending that left me feeling slightly winded.

This is an amazing film. It is very dark and violent in parts, but its subject matter - family, justice, loyalty, and revenge - are universal. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

District 9 (2009)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
An astonishing achievement from a new director, 25 August 2009

District 9 is one of the most original, emotional, and just plain amazing science fiction movies released in many years.

Its young director has managed something truly extraordinary, weaving together a multi-layered fable in which inhuman treatment of alien refugees in South Africa is a direct analogy to the gone-but-not-forgotten apartheid regime, but also discusses far more wide-reaching issues of racism, political expediency, corporate inhumanity, and the evil that human beings perpetrate upon one another.

Probably the film's most amazing achievement is how effortlessly it makes us despise the humans in the film and barrack for the aliens. Even the film's human protagonist vacillates between reluctant hero and desperate coward, allowing his fear and selfishness to guide his actions at several important points in the story.

This is a remarkable film, made on a relatively small budget, and exhibiting an extraordinary degree of sure-footedness for a first feature. In can be violent at times, but never gratuitously so - everything that happens is in aid of the story.

District 9 is an instant cult classic, and I hope it achieves the kind of box office it so richly deserves.

Doom (2005)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Why so much hatred for a reasonably competent film?, 24 May 2009

I wasn't expecting much when I popped Doom into my DVD player. I got it for free in a cheap boxed set with a couple of other movies I actually wanted to own, and out of curiosity I threw it on the other night and gave it a go.

As a film that tops many "worst of the year" and "worst video game movie" lists, and often compared to the celluloid excretions of hack's hack Uwe Boll, I was expecting something very bad indeed.

Half an hour in, I was wondering when it was going to get bad. An hour in, I was wondering if all the bad stuff was in the finale. Then the final credits rolled, and I was left wondering if I had seen the same movie as everyone else.

I am not going to heap glowing praise on Doom, by any means, but it really isn't that bad. In most ways it is perfectly competent, if not outstanding. The script is no better or worse than most action films, and the cast, while admittedly B-list or lower, are fairly good for the most part, especially Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike (though as a Kiwi and a Brit, their fake American accents grate a little). The Rock brings modest but surprising depth and complexity to a shallow role, initially the action hero role, but gradually becoming more sinister. A few of the bit players are poorly written and performed, but most of the cast do a fairly good job.

Physically, the film is also competent - nice-looking sets, cool weaponry, decent costuming. The monsters are mostly from the man-in-a-rubber-suit school of makeup, but they are wisely left in dim light and shot in quick cuts that don't reveal too much. The special effects, important in a science-fiction film, are used sparingly and are quite good overall, including one well-done all-CGI monster.

Of course, it has some big flaws. Many of the cast fall into the standard horror movie trap of being too stupid to be allowed to live - walking off alone, putting down their weapons, that kind of thing. The script also just doesn't have a great idea of where it's going or what it's doing - the whole thing is a bit fuzzy and lacks a clear narrative focus.

The film's biggest problem, and the source of its most intense criticism, is that it almost completely ignores the established story from the Doom video games upon which it is loosely based. The source of the monstrous invasion is completely different - a bio-engineered virus instead of a portal to hell. I agree that this makes Doom a poor adaptation, but it doesn't make it a bad movie on its own terms.

Much derision was also piled upon the first-person-shooter sequence, and some critics claimed that most of the movie looked like a computer game. Well, those critics are idiots - the first-person section is less than five minutes long and occurs at the film's climax. Not only that, but it's even justified by context.

Look, Doom isn't great cinema. It isn't even GOOD cinema. It's reasonable, though, and is leagues ahead of Uwe Boll's unwatchable tripe. I am baffled as to why it was almost universally hated.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
50% homage, 50% parody, 100% fun, 2 November 2008

Honestly, browsing through some of the comments on here, some people need to get a sense of humour. Shoot 'Em Up is not a film to be taken seriously - if you take it seriously, you will hate it.

I bought it on a whim in "buy two, get a third DVD free" deal, and I would have felt happy paying a lot more for it.

Shoot 'Em Up pokes fun at the modern action film even while it is paying loving homage to it. Every scene drips with self-deprecating winks at the camera, and no action film trope is left unused. Paul Giamatti's villainous Hertz even points out around halfway through how ridiculous it is, saying, "Either we really suck, or this guy is really good." One scene even shows a literal queue of disposable badguys shuffling up the stairs in single file, waiting to be picked off.

It is clear that the makers of this film love the action films of John Woo, the Wachowskis, John McTiernan, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriguez, even though they are aware of the absurdities of the genre.

I laughed and cringed all the way through Shoot 'Em Up. If you're a fan of action films and have a sense of humour, give it a go. If you feel you need to take every film seriously, stay far away - Shoot 'Em Up doesn't even take itself seriously, let alone expect anyone else to.

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