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bob the moo

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8168 reviews in total 
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Zari (2014)
A familiar short-film but really engaging in its observational tone, sound, and connection to a cinematic sci-fi pedigree, 29 August 2015

It is hard to describe this film in terms of plot in a way that will make anyone interested in seeing it. Essentially a domestic-help robot starts to expand itself beyond the base task-focused programming. In many ways the general stroke of the film is nothing you haven't seen before, and to be fair, the overall arc of the story is not one that will provide shocks. It also doesn't help that the film is mostly very slow-paced, free of dialogue and action, and runs to about 20 minutes (which is long for a short film). However despite this I have watched the film 3 times now and been held by it each and every time.

For me I think it is the calibre of the film that makes it engaging, holding my attention and encouraging a much more observational type of viewing, where the lack of big moments or action doesn't really matter so much. The calibre is not just the production of this work, but also the work from which it seems to be drawn. For many short films with similar narratives to this, you do get the feeling that the maker has seen Wall-E, and maybe ironically watched Short Circuit 2, but beyond that doesn't have reference points they are working from. In the case of Zari, it feels steeped in cinema in a way so few short films manage. I don't mean that it has in-jokes or references lying around some shots, but more that it captures a sense of a type of sci-fi. In particular the film has that technological coldness of 2001, but it also has shades of Demon Seed, and other works in there too. This means the film has wide shots of the rooms, with simple movements within them, allowing the viewer to feel like we're observing, rather than really directly connected to the situation. It creates a coldness in some ways, but I found this surprisingly engaging and in drawing me in, I was surprised by how affecting the delicate touches were – all the more so for not being manipulative or for pushing sentiment.

The design of Zari is nicely in that vein; it is not child-friendly or filled with visual character (it does look like a mobile dustbin) but this helps the tone of the film and I did really respond to how it manages to deliver an emotive narrative but do so within the context of a very 1970's feeling film. The sound design is a bit part of the tone of the film. On a bed of a steady electrical hum, the focus on functional noises (without a constant soundtrack) creates this same colder landscape which matches the visuals and the direction of the film as a whole. It sounds simple but it comes together in a very satisfying manner. The result is a film that not only feels like it is working from sci-fi reference points, but at the same time is able to be in control of what it is trying to do in and of itself.

It is a very slow paced film, and those looking to grab a short video on their phone as they get the bus home will not find it a great fit, but it is a cinematic experience in the short-form, and I was really taken by how well it delivers in the story-telling, the visual design, aurally, and in the control and consistency of tone.

Sea Devil (2015)
Very good pressure cooker film, but really needed a bit more time, and at least a few more seconds at the end, 29 August 2015

In an arrangement we assume he has done many times before, a fisherman picks up two Cuban immigrants in order to smuggle them into the US. With cash in hand, he continues the game by setting up for a night's fishing to justify the trip to anyone paying attention. However it is during that fishing where another passenger is picked up – seemingly from the bottom of the ocean.

This is a very odd but very nicely constructed film with a certain level of horror to it, but based very much in chills and tension. The film opens well, with a contained scenario which has reggae music (the oft sampled Bam Bam) and cool opening titles, but yet also has a visual tone to it that suggests claustrophobia and tension. This tone is carried well and it worked even when we suddenly find ourselves with an instantly odd scenario of the new passenger. From here the film sort of unfolds the way you expect, but it does it with a subdued tone that never blows its load on big gestures, but rather continues just to creep you out. Indeed it is so good at this that it never really does more until the final few seconds, and then it is done – letting the viewer understand why it put all the credits up front.

It is an odd complaint but I did want more time from it. I thought the film could have easily have stood to gain from a few more minutes of this tension (when it is done so well), and at least a few more seconds of that strong ending – the abruptness of it is part of its strength perhaps, but it could have had this and still given a little more. Hard not to like for what it does well though, it is a contained film and draws a lot from how well it uses this, moving quickly while also feeling like it is a slow build, producing a lot, while really showing us very little.

S11: Planet of the Spiders: Padded but a decent outing that seems to be like a taster menu of Pertwee's Doctor, 29 August 2015

Having previously betrayed UNIT to return the world to a golden age, Mike Yates goes to a meditation centre for peace of mind however, finding more than he bargained for, he brings along Sarah Jane to look into the place. Meanwhile the Doctor investigates ESP with someone gifted in this way. Both parties come together when they find connections to a blue crystal, and the intergalactic ambitions of a load of spiders on the planet Metebelis 3.

This is the last serial featuring Jon Pertwee's Doctor and in some ways it should be commended for its restraint because, as Theo Robertson observes, if this was the modern series then a regeneration would have to feature every creature from the series, at least 2 former companions, and several kitchen sinks. Planet of the Spiders doesn't go all out to be anything particularly different for its finale, but it does actually make an effort in one way – which is to deliver almost a potted summary of Pertwee's tenure. So the plot involves ideas, monsters, human corruption or moral weakness, martial arts, chases, bloody stupid vehicles, UNIT, and as ever – villains who are able to escape because nobody takes their keys when they get out of a vehicle. As a sort of tasters platter it is decent enough, but it has the weakness that all of the aspects do not work and, as is often the case with the 6-parters, it feels padded.

This is evident in some very weak "cliff-hangers" but can also be seen in other ways, such as an episode that is essentially one big long chase; sounds exciting but in reality it is comically silly. Speaking of which, the spiders really don't have the fear factor they should do – and I say this as one not a fan of them but yet totally unphased by events here. It does play out reasonably well, but it is always "okay" rather than really great. Pertwee himself is pretty good, although I didn't think again that Sladen had a great amount to do. Perhaps better is to come from her, but Sarah Jane is considered one of the great companions and being honest she has not made much of an impression on me yet, despite having had the whole season to do so. Good to see the regulars of UNIT back, and the main human villain (Dearth) was good.

All told, this eleventh season had its weaker moments, and generally after the first two serials it was not what it needed to be. This serial has a bit of everything for Pertwee fans before they refresh the production for season twelve. It doesn't all work and it does feel very padded out, but it is an enjoyable last go-around for Pertwee's Doctor, and his final moments of self-realisation and sacrifice are very well handled.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
S1: The Secret Adversary: Gentle broad fun, but lacking tightness and genuine mystery, while feeling a touch too pleased with itself, 29 August 2015

I may pretend I am above Sunday evening light entertainment television, and I do tend to avoid a lot of it, but Agatha Christie's name is usually enough to get my interest. I guess the logic is that the material is coming down to a level of light entertainment, rather than being written up to that bar, so perhaps it will be better, but regardless I did look forward to Partners in Crime.

The first season is two mysteries, three episodes each. The first is The Secret Adversary. In terms of narrative it does have quite a lot of coincidence and convenience in the way the plot plays out, but I was fine to go along with this. Mostly the drama plays out in a broadly quite fun way, with perhaps just enough menace and risk built is so that we care, but never so much that it risks being too challenging on a Sunday night. The same could be said of the mystery; there is just about enough to it to keep the interest, but not so much that you will be picking away at the details trying to work out the solution. Indeed in terms of mystery this serial seems happy not to worry too much about the details and instead keeps it broadly moving on the surface.

This approach works reasonably well, but it does give the story a rather self-satisfied feeling – not quite smugness, but certainly something approaching that. The pacing also feels rather too at ease with having Sunday nights to fill, so it never seems in a rush to do much and again this takes away some element of urgency from the mystery; in terms of narrative there is really no reason this story could not have worked better as a two-hour special as opposed to three one-hour long episodes. The performances are fine, at least they fit the tone of the show, even if there is a certain discomfort in some of them as to how to play things. Walliams in particular never seems to work out if his character is a buffoon, a hero, a sharp mind, or a put-upon husband; and as a result his performance and character changes by the scene. Raines is not great, but seems more at ease with her character and gets a better balance of who she is. In terms of design the show commits to the 1950's setting and it all has the polished look and feel that one expects to come from a Sunday night period piece of light entertainment.

Watched as a piece of fluff, the first story in the season is perfectly fine; it never challenges, it doesn't go deep enough to cause you to ask too many questions, and it moves along with a general broad smile that eases the weekend to a close. Viewed as a Christie mystery though, it really doesn't deliver much in the way of actual intrigue, tension, or thrills – and the whole thing lacks a sharpness that could have benefited it, even if it feels perfectly happy with that situation.

Good mix of comedy and drama, with convincing and honest writing and performances (SPOILERS), 29 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the writer's own life, this film sees Andie struggling to come to terms with discovering herself as gay in high school. Faced with coming out to her parents, she goes to a therapist for support.

This film popped up on a short film blog I use and to be honest the longer running time of almost 30 minutes really put me off; it is rare for a short film to need that much time, considering that most network TV shows would run to 21 or 42 minutes without commercials – so a solid 30 minutes for one story is quite an ask. General though this fills the time pretty well because it gets a nice gentle mix between being honest and comedic. Okay it does still feel like there was scope for it to have been tighter in the post-production, but the pace is well judged as we spend time with each character interacting with Andie and her "news". As a comedy it is never really hilarious, but as a drama it is never overly serious either, so the mix is well handled. In particular I liked the ending; without words it conveys Andie struggle that on one hand she is happy everyone is fine, but then on the other the lack of conflict is annoying for varying reasons (why should it be so easy for them but not here? The family conflict would have helped her prepare for the wider potential conflict etc).

Written and performed by Quinn Marcus based on her own experiences, the film does have a very natural tone to it, and this is what makes it engaging and convincing. In the lead Marcus has good timing and presence, and is well supported by the rest of the cast delivering good performances from the well-meaning Dad, through to the typically self-centred teenage sister. Production values are high throughout, very much making the film look and feel like it deserves to be a much longer affair. Overall it is a nicely comedic and honest film, which has good tone and pace to justify the longer than normal running time for a short film.

Generator (2013)
A bit too subdued in tone, but nicely plays a personal story against a bigger backdrop, 29 August 2015

A Greek man is trying to keep his shop afloat while also supporting his daughter studying for her degree overseas – all against the reality of the country and economy collapsing around him.

When I watched this film I presumed it must have been made very recently as it felt very topical in regard to the current situation in Greece. Seeing that the film was originally finished and released in 2013 was a depressing reminder of how long the Greek people have been suffering because of economic decisions and consequences far beyond them as individuals. The images we are used to seeing is that of people out in the streets protesting or rejecting the proposed impacts on their lives, however this film does a good job of showing us a different side – which is an approach that I think I would take myself. This would be putting my head down and hoping it all works out, since it would be a situation I would feel so powerless in. This is more or less the approach of the lead character here, and it is engaging to see his world get smaller and problems bigger while he lacks a trigger to do something about it. In showing this the film does take a slow pace and easy manner to do it, but the contrast is always there.

The contrast between the real world and his world is made pretty clear by the end (not the most subtle to literally have riots happening in the background to his own personal conflict – but it works). The conclusion is equally depressing as it does lack a sense of hope, however it is that next level of depressing when you consider that it also feels entirely plausible and convincing in the context of the story we are seeing. The performances are controlled and match the tone set by the film as a whole. It is not one that will be generating lots of internet buzz from viewers, but it is nonetheless a slowly engaging piece which links to a bigger, topical issue, while also telling a smaller human story.

A depressingly basic "proof of concept", 29 August 2015

This short film has hundreds of thousands of views on Vimeo at the moment, all in a very short space of time. I do watch a lot of short films, with Vimeo and associated channels being my regular place – so I have seen my fair share of proof-of-concept films. Some of these are amazing technically; others have great ideas even if the need for resources is clear, and some can do both. The Art of Human Salvage seems to be one that doesn't really manage to do either particularly well, with the ideas and the technical side fairly limited. The ambition of the piece is clear in the casting, and the success of the film is showing in the number of viewers already, however for me it is a touch depressing – perhaps because of how many shorts I watch.

If you really look around, you will see how many honestly talented and hard-working people are doing brilliant short film work. For some of them it leads to great successes but it is always sobering to see great work having fewer views than a Championship football club would get on a midweek pre-season friendly. So, no offence to Tillman and his team (who are also hard-working and talented) but to see a film like this doing such great business is a touch depressing. This is not to begrudge other films success, but in this situation Art of Human Salvage is not just impressive. The ideas are poorly formed throughout, and the plot that one could envisage playing out as a tired "man bonding with boy while on run" thing. The design is equally not as impressive as it thinks it is – some of these sci-fi trailers have amazing aesthetics, but in this case not too much. There are some nice touches (the masks) and some bits of easy steam-punk, but generally it doesn't amaze with the design in terms of the extent of it, or the things we do see.

There have been a few average sci-fi trailer shorts picked up recently, so good luck to this one – I bear it no ill-will particularly. It is not much good though, and I am not sure what to think when I see hundreds of thousands of views, and pages and pages of glowing comments gushing over what they saw. Ignore the hype, this is an average affair despite its ambition.

Wonderfully Australian comedy short, 18 August 2015

In the future, time travel is a simple procedure that anyone can do within the rules. For many it is a chance to go back and tell a dead parent how much they loved them, and really say goodbye properly – however for Richard it is a chance to tell his 10-year old self to focus on learning to play the guitar, with the sole goal of the newly created adult self having the upper-hand when it comes to trying to have sex with women. What could go wrong?

In case the title doesn't let you know, the tone of this film is very much the product of the brash and warmly crude sense of humor of Australia. This is a country where etiquette pretty much requires that you smatter your conversation with swearing, and remains one of the few places in the world where you can be called a c**t and have it be a term of affection. This sense of crudity but not cruelty is very much a key aspect of this film, which is a lot of fun in its broad yet sharply timed delivery. The plot is a typical time-travel affair, with the usual mess resulting from attempts to change the past, but it is done with such energy and such compact and well timed comedy that it is hard not to fall for its crass charms.

The dialogue is well delivered and written, with sight gags, and the general confusion all piling up on top of everything else; all this giving the film a density that is consistently pleasing and funny. The plot escalates very nicely and, although you've seen it before, the sense of energy and comic timing stops you worrying. The ending has a couple of punch lines, and kudos to the film for picking a low key but telling one to go out on – the film is better for it.

All in all, a funny and very well made short with plenty of gags, laughs, and energy – all delivered with good performances and timing throughout.

Send (2014)
Familiar cautionary tale but with clever delivery device, 18 August 2015

A teenage boy and girl are separated over the summer break, leaving the girl only communicating via the internet.

A story about the very public nature of the internet, and a cautionary tale to young teens, that trust the other end of that picture message to keep it as private as it was intended – all very familiar perhaps, and done many times in other places. With some topics just being done a lot it is hard to make any specific short stand out, and so credit to Vack for doing something a bit different in his delivery to add that extra level to make his film stand out from the pack. By mixing in a performance element, the film reminds us that all of this is literally playing out on a stage – and in the film we see that as posts and chats are "performed" on the stage in front of a mostly disinterested audience.

It is a risky device in some ways, and I am not sure it entirely works or entirely avoids feeling familiar, but it mostly does the trick. The message is familiar, but this device at least feels a fresh way of showing the public nature of the communication, and it is contrasted well with the reality (the privacy of the bedroom and one-to-one feel of the communication). Garner performs this well, with an innocence which supports the film, while Cannavale (son of Bobby) is typically confident and brash in his performance, as young men so often are when behind a keyboard (source: was once a young man).

It may not totally shake off the fact that the content is familiar, but the fresh delivery device adds to the material, makes the film more engaging, and makes for a stronger film.

S11: The Monster of Peladon: Overly long with too many clumsy attempts at political allegory/commentary, 17 August 2015

Fifty years have passed since the Doctor was last on the planet of Peladon and now, by sheer chance, he finds himself here again. This time though he is taken for being an alien saboteur as he finds himself in the planet's mines, which are being extracted by the Federation for a vital element which should tip the course of the galactic war. The Doctor is glad to find that, while all faces have changed, it transpires that the career of Alpha Centauri has clearly stagnated, since he is still there and is able to vouch for the Doctor. This gives him the chance to investigate the odd going-ons which sees the miners (a cross between a glam rock band and a set of badgers) being attacked by a vision of Aggedor (the royal beast). Believing it to be little more than technical trickery, the Doctor and Sarah Jane investigate but soon find themselves in the middle of the miners taking industrial action, the ruling classes seeking to enforce their power, the Federation representatives seeking to push forward for the sake of the war, and the ongoing Aggedor attacks.

Following the so-so Death to the Daleks, this serial doesn't really pick up the pace much. The narrative seems stretched out to fill 6 episodes, and contains a lot of political allegory or commentary regarding women's lib, the miners' strikes, the class system etc; perhaps some of this would have been the height of daring topicality when it was first screened, but now it seemed dated and not particularly interesting or well done. This leaves us with the main narrative which, to be fair, is essentially the usual fare of the Doctor being in harms' way while trying to resolve a faction-based dispute. In this regard the serial is okay, but the 6 episode stretch does take its toll, and it is never as engaging as it really needed to be. The cast are pretty mixed. Pertwee is decent enough, but Sladen seems dumped with a mix of "rise up sister" material alongside the traditional "legging it" material. She is not "bad", but she doesn't seem totally at home, and there is not a great connection between her and Pertwee. The miners and the royalty are fairly functional in their characters and performances, so it is appreciated when the main villains finally show up later – at least they add a bit to edge for a while.

Overall though, it is a fairly ho-hum serial, which has lots going on, but not enough of it really being particularly interesting. The slower pace and feeling of padding doesn't help, and it is hard to shake the feeling that this could have been a much stronger 4- parter, with a bit less politicking along the way.


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