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The Rover (2014)
Way better than the synopsis suggests
I was surprised at just how much I liked this film. At first glance it looks like Mad Max. Set in a post apocalyptic near future in Australia, a man pursues a gang, leaving behind him a trail of death. But it is so much more than that. Whilst it certainly does more than nod at Mad Max, the characters are much more complicated. And whilst the motive behind Max's doggedness is clear from the start, the reason why the protagonist in this film is so hell-bent on getting his car back isn't revealed until the final scene. The violence is reminiscent of a Tarantino road movie, but the characters are much deeper and more believable.
Eric is taciturn, answering almost every question with a question of his own. He kills without a moment's hesitation. He is dogged beyond obsession, asking the same question over and over until he gets an answer. And for what? A gang steal his car, and he is prepared to kill anyone and drive for days to get it back. Why? Despite a big clue half way through, we don't realise it's a clue until the final moments of the film.
Robert Pattinson is the co-star in this movie. Cards on the table, I don't like him. I found him creepy beyond belief in Twilight, and Cosmopolis is the worst film I have ever sat through, but in this film he portrays a simple but conflicted man-child with conviction and sympathy. Damn it, I didn't want to like his acting, but in this he is actually good.
A word of warning, don't watch this at 2 am after a bottle of wine. The director isn't afraid to put in sequences of people sitting still, staring into their own angst, or creeping around buildings in silence. It's a film you have to be alert in. It's not a film you can zone out during the quite bits and still understand what's going on when you wake up.
It's that rare thing, a violent sci-fi film that actually makes you think and surprises you with the ending.
Escape Plan (2013)
Nothing new to see here, move along
Stallone agrees to test a high security prison. All hush hush and under the radar, so of course nothing is going to go to plan. Cue bromances, prison riots and sadistic guards.
Think of all the prisoner films with the tough guy unjustly imprisoned. Think of any original take on the genre then throw those those thoughts away.
Formulaic thriller. All the good guys are good, all the bad guys bad, 'twists' well telegraphed and of course there's always time for a bon mot when killing a baddie. Arnie phoning in his performance I'm afraid, and Sly being, well, Sly. Not memorable, not one I'll watch again.
Lady in the Water (2006)
An understated gem
An interesting film with buckets of charm. It focuses on Mr. Heep (Paul Giamatti), a stuttering caretaker of a small condo which has seen better days. He cares for them like the father of a dysfunctional family, killing bugs and fixing lights. When he finds a young girl, frightened and vulnerable, in the swimming pool he takes pity on her. From there he is drawn into a world of myths and fables where the young girl's life is in danger and he must assemble the unlikeliest crew of heroes to help her return to her world.
The characters in the film are for the most part eccentric and distinct, all of them 'good' people, even the irascible newcomer, although unaware of their own talents. The comedy is gentle and I started to identify with many of the characters. The voice-over at the start grated a little, giving the backstory which for me gave away too much of the plot to come, but that aside I was so glad I stumbled on this little gem
Halt and Catch Fire (2014)
This is a drama set against the early years of PCs, but please don't let this put you off. As an IT worker I loved the references to the industry at the time, the little jokes you get if you knew the characters and events, but the technology, whilst not dumbed down, is incidental. What counts is the drama.
The three central characters are each flawed in their own way, incapable of achieving great things on their own, but the series charts their rocky road together as they fight together (and often against each other) to launch a ground-breaking new PC.
It was difficult at first not to make comparisons between the two male leads and Jobs and Wozniac. Joe Macmillan is a salesman driven be his own demons, determined to lead a team into greatness, despite not being technically minded. He is unprincipled and evangelistic, scamming and lying his way, even when there is no need to lie. He manipulates engineer Gordon Clark, coder Cameron Howe and everyone else into following his path. As the series unfolds we catch clues as to why he's driven, and why he exited IBM so abruptly.
Clark is an engineering genius, not sharing the sales vision but in his element solving hardware design problems. However, his marriage and his sanity is shaky, and he dislikes and mistrusts Macmillan's shallow non-technical drive.
Howe is a little bit of a stereotype coder, a rebel, anarchic, able to really only connect with the logical world of code. She is both attracted to and repulsed by Macmillan.
Over the series we see the characters grow, their relationships with each other and with the other's in their lives evolve and change. I started to care about these people, even the ones I didn't like that much.
Enjoyable on its own, if you can get a little insight into the PC world at the time, it will enhance the viewing. If you can lay your hands on The Triumph of the Nerds, do so. Not only is it a fascinating and entertaining documentary, it adds to this series. For example, you never see the Apple advert, but if you know it, when one of the characters remarks the girl looks just like Cameron, you know exactly what he means.
I can't help but think a lot of favours were called in to make this. Robert Downey Jnr was of course brilliant, but he appears in a single scene for 5 minutes, and I had no idea why he'd help the ex husband of his ex wife. Dustin Hoffman doesn't appear after the 1st 15 minutes. Ditto his early love interest, Scarlett Johansson.
No surprises in this road trip, estranged dad spends time with his son movie. And everything ends wonderful in the last reel, for no apparent reason.
But yet again we have a Hollywood film where a gorgeous woman is in love with a fat guy. How many films have there been when the fat girl has a gorgeous guy? (OK, so I'm watching Taxi at the moment. Queen Latiffia excepted).
Even Shallow Hal had Gwynneth Paltrow pretending to be fat.
There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, but overall I was left with the feeling I#d seen it before. Great for food porn, but not foe anything else.
Seemed to go on for 40 days and 40 nights
There are some top-notch actors in this, and their performances were on the whole very good. What let it down was the ridiculous plot and script. It felt more like Lord of the Rings 4 than anything else. Fallen angels (though they didn't seem to be able to decide if they were good or bad) were nothing less than Ents, minus the leaves. Even their voice sounded like Treebeard. The world, pre-flood, appeared to have dragon-dogs, greyhounds covered in scales and other mythical creatures.
Ray Winstone struggled to get any depth from the 2 dimensional leader of the orks - sorry, I mean king of the men, as they burnt trees in order to forge weapons to fight the vegan Noah family.
Russell Crowe did well to portray a man tortured to the point of insanity by his obsession and devotion to The Creator, even if the writers threw in bits of Abraham and Lot into his character. I felt let down, though, when after nearly murdering his grandchildren, driving his son out of the family and abandoning his wife to get drunk in a cave, all he had to do was come back and hold his wife's hand to be immediately forgiven and loved again.
In summary, splendid acting, awful plot and execution.
Er Indoors made me watch City of Bones. First off I am aware that I am not part of the target demographic, being an adult, male and with a partner. I've also not read the books, but a film should stand on its own regardless of whether you've read the book/played the game/eaten the cereal.
The plot revolves around good versus evil, and a young girl trying to decide which of the boys totally in love with her she should go for. One's a vampire, the other a semi-mythical being. Sound familiar? It's Twilight ripping off Star Wars. I love you. Oh, but ew, you're my sister. Luke, Jon, whatever your name is, I am your father. If you defeat me, I shall become more powerful than you can ever imagine. Oh, I'm torn, I love the vampire and I love the, um, angel thingy. Werewolves vs vampires, yeah. Let's fight with sabres. Pause for two minute lead up to kiss.
I swear to God watching that drivel I could feel the acne returning. Not worth watching if you're over fourteen or male.
Please, Hollywood, take note...
... This is how to make a vampire film.
I find it difficult to fault this film. The plot is intelligent and engaging. No one is entirely black or white. The heroes are flawed and complicated, the villains, for the most part, have motivation and even sympathy. I found myself rooting for the murderous, vampiric prostitute as much for the innocent girl trapped into releasing those tired of life.
It's really two films, one set 200 hundred years ago, one in the present time, with many of the same characters and the same location, Hastings, once a fishing village, now a tired seaside resort.
The actors are very good, particularly the leads. As a resident of SE England, I recognised many of the locations. The ending was perhaps a little predictable, but still satisfying.
Don't go see this if you like your vampires to sparkle, but if you liked Let The Right One In and gritty drama, go watch it.
This film is ballet, racked up to the nth degree. It follows the search by a young woman for an aerialist with whom she has fallen in love at first sight. As such, the plot is basic in the extreme, but that's not the point. The point is to wonder at the feats and the showmanship that defies belief.
The film consists of a series of montages as gymnasts perform feats of such power, skill, courage and beautiful grace that I found it literally incredible. At times I found it hard to believe that what they were doing was physically possible. For example, two female trapeze artists swing high above the ground. One dives headlong, and they catch each other with their feet, the one held upside-down by the feet of the other. Amazing enough if they had carefully positioned themselves so, but do do it as one fell had me questioning how that was physically possible.
The set pieces were balletic, even when dancers contorted themselves into eye-watering positions. Each move appeared fluid and effortless, even though beyond the range of any normal person.
I also enjoy the mechanicals, equipment and props that all added to the effect without detracting. A yurt, for example, transforms into a flying machine, the wings acting as naturally as a bird's, but operated by two of the cast, in plain view but somehow invisible at the same time.
The action was very, very clever, but the vision had me wondering what sort of experimental drugs the designers were on. It is a truly surreal experience.
For once, I enjoyed the 3D. It was well done and actually enhanced the experience.
My one criticism is that, although only 91 minutes, it seemed longer. Some of the set pieces tended to drag on. The vertical fight scene, for instance, whilst a very clever idea and well executed, began to drag after a few minutes. I would have preferred some of the scenes to be shorter, with a wider variety of acts and scenes, but that said, it was well worth the money and time to see.
Jack Reacher (2012)
I wanted to shower after this
Released within days of the Sandy Hook massacre, this opens with the apparent random shooting of innocent people by a lone gunman in a car park. At the very best, that's tasteless in the extreme. The 'hero', Jack Reacher, then sets about beating up and killing bad guys. Shooting is too good for one, so he throws aside his automatic rifle and stamps the man to death. The film ends with him executing a crippled, unarmed man. I'm no prude, and like an action film as good as the next man, but the theme of this film played down to the very worst of American culture. It celebrates violent death. At one point Reacher tells the bad guy he's no hero, and I have to agree with him. He's a psychotic killer, although, of course, he only kills bad guys.
This is quite aside from the ridiculous miscasting of Cruise in the role. At one point the detective asks a receptionist if anyone is staying there who could kill a girl with one punch. She singles out Cruise's room. Why? He may be a fine actor, but does he really look like someone who can kill with a single blow? I feel dirty for having sat throw this.
Love Bite (2012)
This is a British Comedy Horror film. I know this, because the poster said it was, but if you are looking for another Sean of the Dead, look elsewhere. I saw it in Birmingham, where there was doubt on the night whether they would show it at all. In the event, about 10 sat through it.
In a rainy, rundown seaside town four teenage boys are desperate for sex, and understandably no local girl or tourist will touch the crude, foul-mouthed boys with a barge pole. Their hunt for sex becomes all the more desperate as a werewolf starts picking off the virgins of either sex each full moon.
Enter sexy and mysterious foreign tourist, who takes a shine to one of the boys, but every full moon rejects him and disappears, only to be welcomed back with open arms when she deigns to show up again.
The 'humour' is mainly based around the boys using sauce bottle as phallic toys and the normally wonderful Timothy Spall creeping around in funny clothes and pulling funny faces. I'd guessed the identity of the werewolf early on, even though they try and build up the suspense and mystery.
It's rated as a fifteen, but I can't see anyone over 13 actually finding this funny. It doesn't bite, it sucks. It could suck lemons through a garden hose. Avoid.
Much funnier than I expected
I don't normally like this sort of film, being a middle-aged, middle-class Englishman, but being stuck in a distant city with an evening to kill, I thought, why not? I found myself pleasantly surprised. On a scale where anything with Will Ferrell being 1 and Big Bang Theory being 10, this easily ranks 9. The humour is universal enough to travel across the Atlantic, and in between the gags there are real questions about what makes a man more than just a big kid, and how much does love over-rule loyalty.
The CGI and the actors' eye-lines are faultless, the use of stuffed toys and graphics not always being obvious. I loved many of the gags, and being of a certain age, I so identified with the Flash Gordon motif running through the film.
And it is such an original idea. What if a teddy bear really did come alive? The contradiction of Ted's childish appearance with a thirty-something jaded, crude personality gave an added punch to the humour, and Ted himself was not just a cartoon, but showed real pathos and feeling, even though he was a womanising dope-head.
I loved it, and may even try to persuade 'Er Indoors to come see it with me a second time when I get home.
Red Lights (2012)
An intelligent mystery
I wasn't sure what to expect from the trailers. Gore and horror aren't my thing, unless it's done well, and so few are these days. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This has less to do with the supernatural and more to do with belief systems in a modern world.
The story focuses upon two scientist professors that fill in the time between classes by investigating and exposing psychic frauds, be they petulant schoolgirls or venal evangelists. So when Murphy presses to investigate a famous mystic, why is Weaver so reluctant to agree? Is De Niro gifted with extraordinary powers, or a clever con artist? The atmosphere becomes more menacing and oppressive as the film progresses, leaving me wondering whether Murphy was becoming paranoid, or whether De Niro really was targeting him. The end, though not exactly the Sixth Sense ending some are proclaiming, was certainly unexpected.
Great acting from the leads, as you would expect. Great dialogue. Not much in the way of action, nor thankfully schlock horror, but the tension mounted throughout the film. A clever and satisfying film.
Pretentious and self indulgent
Let me nail my colours to the mast. I don't like car chase, big explosion, CGI obsessed films. On occasion I even like art house films (last night I watched and enjoyed The Man Who Fell To Earth). But this film was simply two hours of pseudo-intellectual reverie on the meaning of life. I attend the cinema on average twice a week. I cannot recall a film where so many people got up and walked out. Even those that braved it to the end (and I was so close to leaving myself) discussed amongst themselves afterwards why they'd wasted their time.
The dialogue was stilted and unnatural. No fault of the actors, it was the writing. The plot (not that this was ever intended to be a plot-driven film) is subtly drip-fed, hinted at, which i quite liked. There were moments of dark humour, such as when Eric converses with a female employ, all the while wincing and straining as at the other end a doctor gives him a rectal exam. These lifted my score to a three.
That aside, avoid this film. Spend two hours talking to a drugged out philosophy student instead. It will make more sense and be more entertaining.
Rock of Ages (2012)
There's not a lot to say that's good about this movie. I understand it's a spoof, but spoofs should be funny, and I didn't laugh at all in this waste of two hours of my life.
I had problems with the casting. Alec Baldwin is totally miscast as the aging rock and roller owner of a nightclub. Every time he came into shot I was mesmerised by his shoulder-length wig. He seemed to be the sort that would kick back to some gentle jazz or Sinatra rather than heavy metal.
Tom Cruise as a younger Iggy Pop style drunk, drugged, spaced-out sex god just didn't work. He obviously had fun in the role, but sadly I didn't.
Brand's phony Scouse accent added nothing to his part, and the gay revelation between Baldwin and Brand was simply excruciating.
The love interest, two young idealistic rock and rollers made Sandy & Danny from Grease look carbolic. They were too clean. When she became a stripper, it was simply unbelievable.
But the biggest gripe I had was with the music. The fans devil-horned, dressed in leather, and partied like Satan worshippers. The band posters looked like an explosion between def leppard and kiss. So what sort of Rock and Roll songs did they belt out? I want to know what love is. Really? A fine ballad, but the sort of Rock and Roll that would cause churches to protest outside? Please. It made me embarrassed to be part of the generation that first bought those albums.
I Am Number Four (2011)
Another teen yawner
I can't remember having actually walked out of a film before, but an hour into this film and I couldn't stand it any longer, even when the nasty aliens caught up with the good aliens. I appreciate that I am probably not the target audience (not being a 14-year-old girl), but to me it has all been done before. It's Twilight with aliens, with a little bit of the Lightning Thief thrown in. Cardboard characters and whiny teens just don't do it for me, I'm afraid. I presume the female character trailing the hero catches up with him, but she hadn't after an hour and I got bored watching the interminable angst.
Go see it if you're a Twilight fan, otherwise almost anything else is two hours better spent.
The Mechanic (2011)
This could almost be Transporter 4. In the original Charles Bronson was a cold killer with no conscience and few redeeming qualities. He recognised this in his protégé. In the end of that film, the apprentice kills Bronson almost as his qualifying exam.
But Stratham, bless him, must always play the hero. In this sugary remake he is still a ruthless killer, but one with a conscience. He agonises over killing his long-term friend. His targets are all terrible people. He is a goody, even if he has to coat the walls with blood to prove it. He trains up Foster, not because he sees potential, but as guilty reparation for killing his dad.
Foster, rather than killing Stratham to prove he can, kills him out of revenge. But of course, this is Hollywood and the goody can never be killed, so Stratham survives to appear in Transporter 57.
The violence is comic-book graphic, with the copious blood splatter losing its impact very quickly, and multiple car wrecks and machine-gunning going apparently unnoticed in the city centre.
It's OK for a laugh and for the stunts, and of course Stratham is eye-candy for the girls, but it's not a patch on the original.
Miami Vice (2006)
At over 2 hours, it seems much longer. To try and revive the flagging plot there are a couple of gratuitous sex scenes (It is apparently impossible to take a shower without having sex), but they embarrass more than titillate. Miami is so small it appears everyone knows everyone (There's a drug lord we have never heard of? No worries, we know someone who works with him. There is a hostage in a trailer somewhere in Miami? Oh, we bet we know exactly which one). There are plot holes galore, and unresolved plot lines (who was the mole, the premise for the whole film?).
The big bad boss hardly moved, he was so wooden, even his lines were delivered as though he were a ventriloquist. My worry is that, as he was still at large at the end of the film, there will be a Miami Vice II.
I was bored beyond belief. Er Indoors now has to see an arty film with me as penance.
Banlieue 13 (2004)
Fantastic stunts, shame about the plot
This film, from the very outset, is a nonstop action masterpiece. The set pieces are amazing to watch. If you have ever seen any documentaries about the athletes that jump from building to building then you'll know what to expect.
The chase scenes have our heroes sprinting across terrain in seconds that would take me minutes to navigate, even if I had the guts to attempt it, and it is done with such grace and style. The two heroes are amazingly fit in all senses of the word. It's a lads action film that has plenty of eye candy for the girlfriend too.
Sadly, the plot has holes in it big enough to drive an armoured tuck carrying a thermonuclear warhead through. There are comic touches to lighten the mood, but it does not pay to spend any time at all analysing the storyline. That's not the point of this film. The point is top sit there open-mouthed that two superb athletes can pull of such amazing feats without breaking every bone in their body.