Reviews written by registered user

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105 reviews in total 
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A heavily under-rated Ridley Scott film., 15 January 2017

After the high profile, but at the time commercial unsuccessful Bladerunner, Ridley Scott's meteoric rise into Hollywood juddered to a halt. Nevertheless Scott decided to head in a different direction with this small scale, archetypal and relationship oriented drama about how a committed but inexperienced working-class detective (Tom Berenger), under pressure to protect a charming and beautiful New York socialite (Mimi Rogers) as part of witness protection team plays out in circumstances of growing pressure and danger.

Berenger's character is working in shifts with two much more experienced detectives (well played in smaller parts by Tony DiBenedetto and James E Moriarty) and watching him develop a repressed human affection for Mimi Rogers character, who plays her character as vulnerable but also charming and assertive is involving and enjoyable. One event then tips this friendship over into a full blown affair, and the rest of the film deals head on with the consequences of this decision in the context of Venza's growing determination and finally desperation not to be identified as the murderer. Alongside this is how the relationship between Berenger's character and his family, well played by the relatively new to Hollywood Lorraine Bracco as his wife and child actor turned businessman Harley Cross as his son changes as the affair becomes public. This change is well realised, though the film's ending does feel a little too convenient, even if it is emotionally satisfying. However the progression of the story works well as Mimi Rogers portrayal of her character means the viewer ends up being sympathetic to the tragic circumstances unfolding of two individuals caring for the welfare of each other being placed in an ever more intense situation.

While hardly a success at the box office, (around $10 million in US takings against at $10-$15 million budget) as a film is was Scott's most human and relationship driven film at this point in his career. He coaxed solid performances from the cast, and despite a focus on characters he still produced a visually impressive film, making New York look fabulous. Technical credits are solid all round with a particular nod to Steven Poster's excellent photography.

Overall a fascinating and involving film.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the great science fiction films, 1 January 2017

This film is a fascinating and involving experience if the viewer has the patience to experience the film properly. It has, despite its age, a tremendous visceral impact, especially if you can see it on a big screen in the dark. The final cut of this film is definitely the best version of this Ridley Scott classic.

The plot mainly focuses on ideas and how the key characters in the film deal with the situation they find themselves in. The actors playing the genetically engineered human replicants all give original, fresh, unusual yet convincing performances in their roles, led by the strong and committed central performance of Rutger Hauer is Rory Batty. The journey these replicants are on plays alongside a separate journey of another Replicant Rachel (well played by Sean Young) as a company owned experimental model that, by using human memory implants, is convinced she is a human until forced to question her existence by an interrogation by human detective Deckard. Deckard is played in a surprisingly low key and introspective performance by Harrison Ford. How the Deckard character interacts with Rachel, while he attempts to track down the group of replicants led by Hauer's character (their presence on earth is illegal) is very steadily paced, but interestingly and effectively executed as a dramatic police procedural story, including immersing you the viewer in a brilliantly realised environment of a highly polluted 2019 Los Angeles.

While moving through the films plot, the focus is on the gradual climax of the procedural story within the context of looking how these intelligent, super-strong, but emotionally child like engineered humans go on their journey to confront their human creator (brilliantly played by Joe Turkel as a billionaire recluse) about the truth of the nature of their existence. Juxtaposed against this is Deckard's disillusioned and largely emotionless human gradually having his humanity re-awakened by the development of an increasingly romantic relationship with Rachel, as well and questioning himself as to whether there is in fact a difference between humans and replicants. These plots are embedded is an amazing visual experience, largely down to Scott's amazing vision and execution (despite some well publicised problems during shooting), but brilliantly supported in its realisation by cinematographer Jordan Crowenweth, visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull and his Entertainment Effects Group Company, editor Terry Rawlings, production designer Laurence Paul and the truly amazing score of Vangelis. The final cut rightly restores an appropriate ending fitting to the noir overtones of the film, the original cut released in 1982 suffered from an out of place narration and ending that was not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film.

It was surprising that ET beat this film to the visual effects Oscar, as in my opinion the work on this film was far more impactful and impressive. Overall an outstanding film experience that has stood the test of time remarkably well. It will be interesting to see what director Denis Villenuve, who in my view is an excellent choice does with the long-awaited sequel Bladerunner 2049.

An outstanding achievement.

Rogue One (2016)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Up there with the best of the Skywalker saga films -much better than the Force Awakens, 19 December 2016

This is my first thoughts review - and will add to this when I have though about it more. It is definitely up there with the best of the Star Wars films and significantly better than the Force Awakens - puts the 'war' into Star Wars!

Gritty, political, tragic and engrossing with some great action and great performances. The film really succeeds in creating a pervading sense of oppression and and all the Imperial characters are seriously nasty, including a certain Sith Lord and a certain regional governor who takes over control on the famous "its no moon... its a space station" during the story!

10/10 Go and see it!

Alien (1979)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
An exercise in cool, calculating visceral horror, 1 September 2015

Ridley Scott's first mainstream Hollywood film is still fresh and powerful 30+ years after it was first released. The story of a commercial spaceship crew diverted to explore a distant planet as a result of the detection of mysterious signal getting themselves an extremely unwanted visitor and the subsequent horror than ensues makes this a landmark science fiction horror film. A fairly straightforward plot is helped by Scott creating a truly superb visually arresting atmosphere, thanks to great work by production designer Michael Seymour and cinematographer Derek Van Lint. It starts of epic, then transitions to the mundane, before building a growing sense of uneasiness leading to claustrophobic suspense and dread that just keeps building and building until, in the final act it turns into a nerve-wracking horror- thriller as key characters fight for survival.

While Ridley Scott deserves great credit in pulling this all together so well, kudos has also to go to the whole cast for creating a wonderfully naturalistic approach to their roles, and being able to define their characters so uniquely and clearly, even if they are archetypes – Yaphet Kotto as the engineer with a chip on his shoulder regarding the preferential pay that the officers get, who nevertheless when the chips are down does demonstrate heroic qualities; Harry Dean Stanton as the fellow engineer who may have some form of brain damage, possibly brought on by historic substance abuse but knows the mechanics of the ship inside-out; Veronica Cartwright as the ships navigator, who acts as the link to the audience as a professionalism is gradually striped away as she is consumed by fear; Ian Holm as Ash, the enigmatic and quiet science officer who has only just jointed the crew at the start of this journey; John Hurt as the curious, fearless and gung-ho second in command, Tom Skerritt as the level headed, approachable but experienced Captain, and of course Sigourney Weaver (for whom this was her first film in a significant role) as what seems to be the young, less experienced but confident and assertive career-driven up and comer Ripley. The growing tensions between the characters, particularly the way that all the character butt heads with Weaver's character works well in the development of the story, and despite relative inexperience Weaver is terrific in the role, and helped create an iconic character in science fiction that would lead to three sequels.

Kudos also has to go to the technical crew for creating a terrific atmosphere for the actors to work in – this was helped by Scott deciding to film the movie in chronological order of the story rather than a more typical logistical shooting order. The decision to hire the dark surreal artist HR Giger certainly brought a fresh new look to science fiction, but Michael Seymour's production design is truly brilliant and the way that the Alien is presented on screen is still pretty much the best – keeping its appearances limited and quick – nerves are so shredded by the end of the movie that seeing the monster in more extended full body shots where it is more obvious that it's a man in suit doesn't pull you out of the picture. Credit has also got to go to the brilliant Oscar winning visual effects team – as well as the aforementioned HR Giger, it also included in-camera effects from both Nick Alder and Brian Johnson, and excellent miniature photography from Dennis Ayling. Alder had cut his teeth as a director of effects photography on the Gerry Anderson TV show 'Space 1999'. After Alien, he has worked as an on-set special effects expert on an array of films including Empire Strikes Back, Conan the Barbarian(1982 version), Legend, Jewel of the Nile, Leon, Braveheart, Lost in Space, Behind Enemy Lines, Blade 2, Underworld, Hellboy, Shanghai Knights, Ghost Rider, and would win a BAFTA for best visual effects for the Luc Besson film The 5th Element. Johnson's early credits including work as a special effects assistant on 2001, before also cutting his teeth on Space 1999 as a 2nd unit director overseeing the visual effects. After Alien he would work on a variety of films including Never-ending Story, Dragonslayer, Slipstream, Dragonheart as well as winning another Oscar for best visual effects for Empire Strikes Back and a BAFTA for his work on Aliens. Carlo Rimbaldi was already an Oscar winning special effects veteran of over 20 films prior to working on Alien, and had just prior to this film completed work on both King Kong (for which he had won his prior Oscar) and Close Encounters. He would go on to win a third academy award for his work on E.T, and would go onto work on Conan the Destroyer and Dune. Denis Ayling followed this film as a cinematographer in British Television. Giger's did occasionally work on other films (creature designer on Alien 3, visual designer on Species) but his legacy is that the basic Alien look and design influence has survived through 3 Alien sequels, two Alien v Predator crossover movies, potentially two Alien prequels, a batch of (very bad) Species sequels.

Another noticeable contributor to the film's mood was the music – which should have been credited to Ridley Scott and Editor Terry Rawlings. Jerry Goldsmith's original score was extensively edited, cues moved around and classic music from other compositions fitted into the scores, but nevertheless somehow the music works very well.

All of this helped make Alien a truly outstanding movie. The atmosphere created is so visceral that the film always leaves you with an impact after when the film is over

Overall a landmark science-fiction classic.

U-571 (2000)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Forget the history, as an old fashioned fictional drama, it's very good indeed, 15 August 2015

While this film stirred some controversy regarding its portrayal of history, particular in the media in the UK, this needs to be totally ignored and there was a complete lack of understanding that this was a work of FICTION. Some of the hysteria around the release was to be frank, totally irrelevant and the focus needed to be on whether the film was any good or not as a story.

So, as a old fashioned adventure film, it's very good indeed. The film's plot is simple and straightforward, helped a lot by portraying both the American and German sailors in a rounded and grounded way. Performances are solid all round, with Matthew McConnaughey in good form as the lead, with excellent support from both Jack Noseworthy, Jake Weber and Harvey Keitel in supporting roles. The script by Director Mostow, Sam Montgomery and writer/director David Ayer is lean allows that action to zip along at breakneck speed, supported greatly by excellent and authentic directing on the part of Mostow and excellent photography by Oliver Wood. Wayne Wahrman's outstanding editing, convincing production design with Richard Marvin's thunderously rousing score helps create a thrilling and exciting experience full of tension. Kudos also need to go the to the visual effects crew, who make excellent use of life size submarines and truly excellent sets, to highly effective underwater miniature photography.

However this film's biggest technical credit is the excellent atmosphere created by the excellent sound work, with Jon Johnson winning an Academy Award for his sound editing. His work contributes massively to creating a genuinely real and claustrophobic atmosphere aboard the submarines that feature in the story, and helps put the viewer in the action. He had already worked on a number of high profile films prior to winning the Oscar, including Star Trek Generations, Independence Day, Breakdown (Mostow's previous film as director), and Payback. Subsequent to U571 he would go on to work on other high profile pictures such as A Knight's Tale, The Rookie, Amazing Grace, Captain American, Saving Mr Banks, The Blind Side and Surrogates – yet another collaboration with Jonathan Mostow.

If there are any quibbles, the way the core crew get out of an initial rendezvous with an enemy destroyer does stretch credibility. The fact that a supply submarine would still have space to carry torpedoes also comes as a bit of a surprise, as does the use of a spotter plane that looks suspiciously like a short range Messchermitt (which you would never find out in the middle of the Atlantic – or a German destroyer for that matter – Germany only tended to send it large battleships into this region). However the fun and enjoyment of the film will grab you to will tend to overlook any flaws.

So in summary if you just accept and experience it as a work of fiction, you will have a great time

The Game (1997)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An intelligent, gripping drama, filmed with crisp efficiency, 15 August 2015

A very solid, thoughtful and stylish outing from made with great precision that is becoming a hallmark of David Fincher. His interest in 'films that scar' continues, and while this film doesn't top quite the heights of the remarkable Se7en, it is still a very worthy achievement, thanks to a trenchant yet subtle performance from Michael Douglas. The script is solid, but it is really the effective partnership between Douglas and Fincher, as well as great supporting acting turns from Sean Penn, James Rebhorn and Debra Kara Unger, which really helps ground this slow burning but always engrossing psychological thriller. You have to pay attention, but as the plot twists and turns it does work its way to a satisfying if surprisingly climax (especially for a director of Fincher's background) you'll enjoy the way that Douglas's Nicholas Van Orton character is stripped of his layers of reserve and control as the character is cleverly placed in one crisis after another.

Technical credits are as usual very polished – production design and Haris Savidies's photography stand out, but its Howard Shore's minimalist score that really enhances the mood of the film brilliantly. While the score has some of the dark overtones of Se7en, it is not as dark as that movie but still works very well to make the viewer fell unsettled – in particular the use of a sole piano is extremely effective in certain scenes. To cap it all it is slickly edited and comes together with a crisp efficiency. Overall another film that firmly cements David Fincher's reputation as an extremely talented and uncompromising film-maker.

Breakdown (1997/I)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Excellent, unsettling and suspenseful B movie thriller, 9 July 2015

This is the film that showcases director Jonathan Mostow's talent. Unfortunately, since this film his work has never come as close to this film in terms of overall quality.

The plot is fairly straightforward but is well executed and focuses on the Jeff Taylor character, brilliantly played as an everyman by Kurt Russell. He conveys there characters descent into desperation and terror very well – to a point where forces that start manipulating his character cause something in him to snap and his character finds an untapped source of courage – being driven by an unstoppable urge to find a loved one. Russell charts this character journey well, yet the fear never leaves his character – he just evolves to handle it within the extraordinary situation he finds himself in. Other performances are solid, particularly the late J.T Walsh as the main protagonist and Rex Linn as an empathic sheriff.

Director Jonathon Mostow has an effective and sophisticated take on the filmmaking. He develops the story gradually, allow the suspense and pace to continually build up throughout the film. Technical credits are solid, including editing and Douglas Milsome's excellent photography. The growing tension and dread builds up brilliantly throughout the film, leading to an excellent action oriented climax and a coda that is reminiscent of early 70's US movie-making.

Overall simple but a brilliantly executed movie.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pacy and fun adventure that plays respectful homage to Verne's classics and Indiana Jones, 5 April 2015

This is a fast paced and very enjoyable fun adventure for the family. Some of the humour, mood and atmosphere is aimed as much at older children and even adults (albeit very subtle) and there are some scenes of suspense that are, for this sort of film, quite exciting. This is a surprise and relief bearing in mind the large number of credited writers normally being a sign of potential story problems.

The film's story is entertaining and zips along at a terrific pace, albeit this prerogative is to keep the very young viewers interested. Credit has to be to co-directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise for this. There is definitely clear homages made to Verne's classics of '10000 Leagues under the Sea' and 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'. Also the exciting action set pieces have a 'Indiana Jones' vibe to them. However this does not impact on the interesting and sometime more complex that they at first seem characters. The characters are given individual, quirky, and amusing traits to help you remember them at that works well as they all have the smaller or larger roles in the overall story.

All the performers give good value, though for me most plaudits go to Michael J Fox, James Garner and Claudia Christian for bring that little bit extra to their roles. The project is also helped by suitable rousing and exciting score by James Newton Howard.

In summary a fast paced, rousing and entertaining adventure.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Lighted hearted spy thriller/comedy spoilt by truncated ending, 4 April 2015

Nicholas Meyer's end of cold war spy comedy/thriller is a light hearted affair that after a fun start runs out of steam at the end. However, for a film that was supposedly subject to significant studio input during the production, it emerges as a competently directed fun ride that is let down but an abrupt and sudden ending. From the looks of the end credits, filming that took place in Anguilla might explain that there was a different ending that for whatever reason was unfortunately cut from the final film.

In fact one of the films problems looks like some scenes were cut short – the film has all the hallmarks of potentially being a longer and more interesting film and does look like the running time was cut down too much.

That being said, Gene Hackman is yet again in commanding form and dominates the picture in an enjoyable way, exuding plenty of gruff charm. Baryshnikov's character complements Hackman's quite well and Kurtwood Smith and Terry O'Quinn are fun characters. However, some of the performances of other supporting cast members are very uneven and broad. For example Oleg Rudnik, who plays a Russian chief spy, comes across as very wooden rather than the excellent performance seen of him in 2010.

The films make use of real locations, and the climax on the Eiffel Tower is fun, albeit the best work are sequences on the Berlin Metro, which are well done and exciting. Credit has to go to veteran British production designer Ken Adam's work, and there is also a solid contribution from veteran photography Gerry Fisher. However their work, and the strong performances, cannot help the film get over its truncated climax, and the film's ending leaves the viewer very frustrated that the film wasn't tied up much better. Overall an enjoyable romp spoilt by a poor ending.

"Houdini" (2014)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Interesting, entertaining but ultimately superficial biographical miniseries, 2 April 2015

This miniseries event has quite a bit to recommend it. Production design and the look of the production was very slick and well made, most notably Karl Walter Lindenlaub's impressive photography. Acting performances were pretty solid all round, with Brody producing a solidly charismatic lead. However, while the pacing is brisk, the show is an odd mix of period drama with MTV style editing and a heavy metal/rock electronic soundtrack. This is unusual mix and doesn't quite work. Also in an effort to squeeze and extensive narrative in, deeper and more interesting aspects of Houdini's psyche are somewhat glossed over giving the whole project a lightweight feel.

Entertaining but a bit lightweight.

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