Reviews

7 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Descent (2005)
7/10
Good film and better than the bog standard Hollywood fare we're used to
7 November 2005
Superior British horror movie sets tense claustrophia with old fashion suspense and comes out on top.

There have been a lot of less than impressive horror movies in recent years, particularly out of Hollywood. Cabin Fever is a prime example of such a sub-standard flick and there are many more. One distinct advantage British horror has is a true grittiness to it, a kind of 'realness' which makes the characters a lot easier to identify with.

In The Descent we follow the fortunes of an all female cave exploration team who are going on an adventure in a mountain range. The purpose of this expedition is to bring them all together after the hideous events of the previous year which are revealed at the beginning of the movie.

It's not a particularly big name cast with perhaps Saskia Mulder as Rebecca who also appears in the BBC's Book Club the best known actress on display. Certainly the most recognisable. However, the strength of this movie isn't in its star acumen, but rather in its story telling and direction.

The Descent is claustrophia in abundance; tight cave systems barely give room to breath, and the overwhelming darkness compounds it ten fold. In this movie, light is at a premium.

As for the horror side of it, well let's just touch on the fact that there are rather unfriendly cave dwellers (Who it must be admitted look successfully hideous) who intend to make life difficult for our heroines. They also sound vile - a testament to the sound engineers and overall design of these characters.

Gore levels are impressive without being over the top, and what would a horror movie be without its gore? On that note although this could easily be classified as horror, I would also class it under suspense and claustrophobic dark thriller.

The direction is uniformly effective, but the insatiable darkness and occasional fast action do tend to make certain parts a bit confusing. It's a small price to pay for what is overall a very useful technique in terms of film making - although it should be added that it's quite unique as deployed here.

Overall, this is a good film and worth your attention. It's certainly one of the better horror films I've seen for sure. The ending clinched it for me for sure.

Recommended.
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Superb in places, downright laughable in others
27 May 2002
I think the general consensus of The Phantom Menace was that it was a fairly enjoyable load of rubbish. Light-hearted nonsense which had a slight comic-book approach. The idea of Attack of the Clones was that it was a touch darker, a bit more brooding. Well, after finally having seen this my verdict was that while the basic story was generally strong, and the special effects absolutely brilliant in places, there were a number of glaring weaknesses which moderately crippled it. The strengths were that it felt far more like Star Wars than the previous effort - the scenery was breathtaking and it encompassed the 'familiar yet alien world' that Star Wars has always used.

The characters were an intriguing bunch: Obi Wan Kenobi, as played by Ewan McGregor, was a far more authoritive presence than in TPM (The Phantom Menace). He commanded a little more respect. McGregor doesn't quite have the air of Alec Guiness, but he's done a lot better here than we might have expected. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) has grown up, obviously, and comes across as an arrogant upstart whose self-belief outways him. There are plenty of subtle hints of his impending joining of the Dark Side. He's generically acted, but not badly. Senator Padmé Amidala is far less wooden than she was in TPM, in fact I thought Portman's performance in TPM was positively poor. But she elicits far more empathy and warmth here, and does admirably better. Generally the story is fairly gripping, if perhaps suffering from the same flaws that TPM did, only not so badly. Again, the plot really isn't that great and the viewer find themselves simply going on a ride in the Star Wars world. In many ways, while this is a better movie that TPM, it's structured similarly.

The element that brings it down badly is the unintended humour. There is a love story in here, and it is cringe-worthily badly done. Quite honestly I wonder if indeed the humour wasn't intended, because I found it rather hilarious in places. In fact one part had me almost in tears - I'll say 'waterwall' and you'll agree.

Plus our old chum Joda gets into a light-sabre battle with an enemy, and it is a combination of the coolest thing you ever saw, and the funniest.

Overall, well worth going to see, but I can't help but feel Lucas will never make any of these prequels as well as he did the subsequent 3 back in the 70s and 80s.
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Ring (1999)
Quite simply terrifying
6 May 2002
The problem with modern horror is that instead of genuinely scaring the viewer, Hollywood seems to have decided that fog and gore is enough. Well this effort from Japan (Which was made in 1998 btw) shows how utterly magnificent and scary a movie can be with the most minimalist budget. It's based on the idea of a disturbing video, which seems to be having strange effects on those who view it. Indeed, 4 of those who watch it die a week later. Coincidence?

To be honest, I really don't want to give any more plot away as this is the sort of story, like Sixth Sense, that frankly one should see knowing as little about as possible.

It is genuinely chilling throughout, and uses suggestion and psychological manipulation to achieve the terror. A known trick with moviemakers and games makers (To a lesser extent) is that it is not what the viewer sees that terrifies them, it's what they can't see. It's what they imagine and believe is happening which can so effectively scare them.

And this movie does that outstandingly well.

A word of warning; just when you think it's over and the chills have stopped, think again. The ending is the epitome of fear, and if you're not tempted to cover your eyes you're a braver man than I.
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A modern masterpiece, simple yet supreme.
2 May 2002
There are some very special movies out there. There are those which are highly thought-provoking and leave you questioning things. There are those which are a mindless blast and great fun to boot. And then there are those which are simply sublime. They might keep it simple, but they execute in such a way that they drag you in deep and have you caring about the characters. The Shawshank Redemption is one such film. This is a absolutely outstanding story which is as simple as it is eloquent.

It's about a man wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and sentenced to life at Shawshank. There he slowly finds friends and the drama of their lives is the focus of the story. He promises many times that he *will* break out within 20 years, and no one, of course, believes him. It's this hope which drives the whole movie. Men in prison have nothing but hope. Take that away and they have nothing. And that's what Andy (The main character) wants to avoid.

The ending to this is simply breathtaking in its simplicity, but incredibly heartwarming and will have you punching the air in delight.

Nominated for 4 oscars, this won none of them. Utter travesty.

A magnificent story.
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One of the finest movies ever - a masterpiece.
2 May 2002
I'm not one for watching black & white movies. In face, I specifically turn off when one is on. So when I saw the tail-end of It's A Wonderful Life I quite liked it and thought I'd give it the chance when it came on at Christmas a year later. By the end I could only say it was one of the finest feel-good movies ever, and one of the finest movies ever - period. It's a simple tail of a man called George who's reached his wits end with life and feels everything is going wrong. The story is told in flashback from the point of view of an angel, Clarence, who's been sent by God to make George realise certain things, and gives him the chance to see things from a different perspective. The story is extremely well-told, and the ending will have you cheering. It's heartwarming and was recently rated as one of the top 10 movies ever made. As rated by the whole of society and not just older people this shows the broad appeal. Your life is not complete if you haven't seen this.

I challenge you not to have the tears welling up at the end.
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Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tremendous fun with more than a hint of gore...
20 April 2002
Could this have been played more tongue-in-cheek? It's taken me a long time to get around to finally viewing this, and it was well worth the wait. Starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, Sleepy Hollow is about a town haunted by a headless horseman who is on a rampage, killing, by decapitation, various members of the village's community. Ultimately, it's not particularly deep, and serves as little more than a gothically gorey whodunnit, but it's the panache it's carried out with which excels this above the norm. Depp plays it for laughs wherever he gets the opportunity, positively thriving on the b-movie concept and hamming it up where possible. He really is outstanding in this. Ricci plays a more serious role, and while she performs more than adequately, she still looks very young. She's supposed to be in a role befitting a young woman, where she appears to be a teenager. But suspending your disbelief helps in these cases. The movie is thoroughly entertaining, at times very funny, and occasionally gorey, but never off-puttingly so.

Great stuff.
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Not bad, and fairly well made but lacking something(s).
13 April 2002
Put simply it's a pretty weak subject which doesn't *really* merit this movie. But if you ignore that fact and switch your intelligence off you may quite enjoy it. The subject is based on apparent truth focusing on the 'mothman' myth, which, of course, we've all heard of (!) However, I kinda forgot it was fact and started enjoying it as fiction like an X-Files episode, albeit made with a bit more Hollywood zest. I thought Gere was reasonable as Klein but he definitely lacks charisma. On a side note, it was an interesting movie choice for him. Very far away from his usual genre. As for the actual story, the way it is told it is clearly intended to have a psychological edge in a way the X-Files totally lacks. And in places it works quite well. But sometimes it seems contrived, and although there are a lot of things that are never explained (This is truth after all) it doesn't take away from the fact this is frustrating in a movie. There are also certain fundamental flaws in certain aspects, one of which had me staring in disbelief... Overall, I would wait to see this on rental as it doesn't really feel like good value for money, but *did* (In my opinion) do its job of entertaining.

Just don't expect too much.
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