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Four US soldiers search of gold in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, 17 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 a cease fire has been declared but as rumours of looted gold start to circulate a US soldier finds a map hidden on an Iraqi prisoner. It isn't long before four soldiers are heading into Iraq to liberate the gold for themselves. Once there they also find Shiite Iraqis who have followed American advice to rise up against the Saddam Hussein government and have now been abandoned to their fate at the hands of the Iraqi forces. They get their hands on the gold but there problems are only just beginning; one of them is captured and if they want to rescue him they will have to work with the rebels then help them get to safety in Iran.

When I first watched this I suspected it would be a remake of 'Kelly's Heroes'; thankfully, apart from the plan to get rich acquiring gold during a conflict, it is very different. There are lots of funny moments early on; some, such as the cow that explodes after stepping in a cluster bomblet, may be a bit dark for some people's taste. The laughs serve to make the more serious moments all the more shocking; when an Iraqi woman is shot in the head you know the tone of the film is taking a drastic change. There are disturbing scenes of torture where strangely it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the torturer as he relates what happened to his wife and child during a US bombing. The cast do a solid job; George Clooney is on good form as Archie Gates, the group's leader and is ably supported by Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze as the other four protagonists. The rest of the cast are pretty good too. The action scenes are exciting but manage to capture some of the horror of war without being too horrific… it certainly doesn't have the gung-ho feeling of many such films; war is not glorified. Overall I'd say that, while this certainly won't be for everybody, I'd recommend those who enjoy a war film and like their humour fairly dark.

Blitz (2011)
Jason Statham hunts a cop-killer in London, 16 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

DS Tom Brant is a tough south London cop is a reputation for getting rougher than is strictly necessary; as we are introduced to him he is dealing with a trio of young thugs with a Hurling stick. Soon he, and just about every other police officer. Is looking for a man who shot a police woman in cold blood. It isn't long before a policeman is also killed and it is apparent that somebody is targeting the police. The killer, who refers to himself as 'Blitz' contacts a reporter and makes it apparent that he intends to keep on killing police officers. Acting DI Porter Nash is put in charge of the case and working with Brant they close in on the man Brant is convinced is guilty; unfortunately the evidence required to hold their suspect isn't strong enough. In a secondary plot thread PC Elizabeth Falls, who works under Brant, it trying to help a youth who is in trouble as well as deal with a drug habit she picked up while working undercover.

This is a solid enough police thriller that fans of Jason Statham will probably enjoy; not surprisingly he plays tough cop Brant… anybody who has seen any of his films will know what to expect; he may not have the greatest range but what he does he does well. Paddy Considine does a good job as Nash; a gay cop who avoids any clichés. Aidan Gillen is suitably menacing as the killer but not as impressive as he is in 'Game of Thrones'… although to be fair that would be difficult. Zawe Ashton is good as PC Falls as is David Morrissey as reporter Harold Dunlop. People wanting full on action may be a bit disappointed but there is still some action as well as some fairly brutal violence. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of Jason Statham; it isn't his best film but it is still a decent way to pass an hour and a half.

The Heat (2013/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A fun buddy movie with two female law enforcement officers, 16 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sarah Ashburn is a by-the-book FBI agent who is keen for promotion; unfortunately her colleagues find her arrogant. Shannon Mullins is a foul mouthed Boston cop who is happy to beat a confession of a suspect and scares her colleagues even more than the criminals. They make unlikely partners but when Ashburn is sent to Boston it identify and arrest drug lord 'Mr. Larkin' they are forced to work together. At first they don't get along but inevitably they end up a fine team as they move closer to Larkin; go through various dangers and learn more about each other.

There are lots of buddy movies featuring mismatched male cops but I think this first distaff take on the genre I've seen. The story is fairly typical of the genre but there is still a bit of a twist concerning Larkin's identity. Sometimes this type of film is mostly action with a few comedy moments and other times the comedy is the main selling point… this is definitely in the latter camp. Melissa McCarthy provides most of the laughs as Mullin, although some viewers will be put off by the character's constant foul language. Sandra Bullock also does a fine job as Ashburn even though that means playing the straight-guy most of the time. The two develop a fine chemistry as the film progresses. There is a decent amount of action and one particularly wince inducing moment when Ashburn gets stabbed in the leg. Overall I'd recommend this to anybody wanting a good laugh so long as they aren't easily offended.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Morse deals with two opposing aspects of '60s Britain, 15 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode sees Morse instructed to protect moral guardian Joy Pettybon who has received death threats as her 'Clean up Britain' campaign arrives in Oxford. Inevitably Morse soon has an actual killing to deal with; this one involving a builder who was strangled; coincidentally he was last seen hanging out with the rock group 'Wildwood' which Mrs Pettybon had vocally objected to. Working on both cases he accompanies Mrs Pettybon to a TV debate in Birmingham where she is confronted by a member of the audience as well as taking part in a debate with members of Wildwood. After the debate Rev Golightly, who helped Mrs Pettybon, dies after eating a chocolate meant for her while Morse has a drink with Mrs. Pettybon's daughter Bettina in her room… something that incurs the wrath of her mother and has him thrown off the case. Of course he still has the other case to deal with and it won't surprise many viewers that ultimately it looks as though the deaths are linked.

I rather liked how this episode involved two very different elements of late sixties Britain; on the one hand the drug taking culture among certain rock groups and those around them and on the other hand those who protesting against the permissive society… anybody who remembers Mary Whitehouse and her campaign will instantly recognise Mrs Pettybon as a virtual clone; Sylvestra Le Touzel does a fine job in the role. There are plenty of potential suspects with a variety of motives, some of them not immediately obvious so the viewer is likely to be kept guessing till the end. The potential romance between Morse and Bettina was well handled as was the finale where Morse consumes a spiked drink. Overall this was a solid episode; not as dark as the previous episode; more like classic 'Inspector Morse'.

True Grit (2010)
A remake that is every bit as good as the original, 15 January 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After her father is murdered fourteen year old Mattie Ross is determined to bring Tom Chaney, his killer, to justice; to this end she hires US Marshal Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn drinks and has a reputation for shooting the people he is meant to be arresting but Mattie believes he has 'true grit' and is the man for the job. A Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf is also looking for Chaney in regards to a murder in Texas; a murder with a larger reward… Mattie however is determined that Chaney will hang for the death of her father not for what he did in Texas. She insists on accompanying Cogburn, something he initially objects to but as they travel deeper into Indian Territory, where Chaney is riding with a group of outlaws. Before catching up with Chaney they come across other members of the gang and reunited with LaBoeuf.

All too often when a classic film is remade the new film is a disappointment; thankfully that is not the case here. The Coen brothers' take on the story is every bit as good as the original. Young Hailee Steinfeld does a brilliant job as Mattie Ross; making the viewer believe that she has the force of will to do what she does and persuade others to go along with her demands. Jeff Bridges is on fine form as the grizzly Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damen is solid enough as LaBoeuf although his role is noticeably smaller than Stienfeld and Bridges. The early part of the film provides some action but is mostly concerned with introducing our protagonists. Later on there is more action including shootouts, a nasty encounter with a rattlesnake and the inevitable confrontation with Chaney and the rest of the gang. Overall I'd certainly recommend this film to fans of the genre; I'm sure people who enjoyed the original will enjoy this too.

Momentum (2015/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Solid action if a bit confused at times, 15 January 2017
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This South African action film opens in Cape Town where a gang of thieves are robbing a bank; this isn't a smash and grab raid but a highly professional job targeting a specific box in the vault. It doesn't go according to plan though when one of the thieves fall out another member; the dispute leaves him dead and other thief, Alexis Farraday, with her face exposed to witnesses. It soon becomes apparent that is the least of her worries; as well as the diamonds in the box they also took a flash drive which contains damning evidence against a US senator who has some highly unpleasant people, led by Mr. Washington, on the scene to get it back for him. Washington kills Kevin Fuller, one of robbers, while trying to extract information for him, not knowing that Alexis is in the room. She manages to get away and we get a cat and mouse chase as first they chase after her then, after Washington learns the location of the Fuller's wife and child, Alexis then rushes to protect them. As the film progresses there are several confrontations between Alexis and Washington and his people and ultimately she learns the secret people are more than willing to kill for.

There are plenty of action thrillers that are much better than this but there are also plenty that are worse. On the positive side the action is pretty good, there is plenty of tension from start to finish and the scenes that are meant to make the viewer wince really do. Olga Kurylenko does a fine job in the lead role and James Purefoy is suitably unpleasant as Mr Washington. Morgan Freeman's brief appearance as 'The Senator' is good but his role is fairly small. On the downside some things are far-fetched even for the action genre; characters manage to get to locations at just the right/wrong time so they keep meeting and at one point Alexis uses a bomb and there is no explanation where it came from. The finale is a little disappointing too as it felt more like a teaser for another film rather than proper ending. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of the genre if it on TV or in the DVD bargain bin but it is hardly a must see.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A dark and gripping episode, 15 January 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the events of the previous episode Watson and Holmes have stopped seeing each other; Watson is having conversations with his late wife and seeing a psychiatrist while Holmes has developed a dangerous drug problem. One would think that this was the worst time for Holmes to get his most challenging case but perhaps that is just what he needs. A woman comes to see him saying that she believes her father has killed somebody but she isn't sure as she thinks he drugged her to make her forget his confession. She doesn't know who he killed but knows that he said a single word that terrified her. Sherlock surmises that the single terrifying word must be 'anybody'; if that is true her father is potentially a serial killer. It will be difficult to prove though as there is no evidence and her father is a much loved, if somewhat creepy, TV personality who is famed for his charity work. If Holmes is to survive this investigation Watson will have to start working with him again.

After the death of a major character one might have thought the creators would move swiftly to lighten the tone with a more frivolous case while our two protagonists recover; instead we get one of the most disturbing cases to date. Toby Jones does a fantastic job as Culverton Smith, the potential killer, giving a performance that makes one's skin crawl whenever he is on screen as he subtly bullies those around him. There are plenty of nods to notorious celebrity rapist Jimmy Saville which only add to the characters creepiness. Benedict Cumberbatch was on top form as Holmes; he made it very easy to believe that the character was in a very dangerous place; and not just because he was dealing with a killer. Martin Freeman's Watson was also impressive in a more subtle way; there was a tenderness as he continues to converse with his late wife… thankfully it was made clear that she wasn't really there and that he knows this deep down; we aren't going into the realms of the supernatural. As the episode approaches its conclusion there is a real sense of danger for Holmes and a surprising cliff-hanger ending for Watson. It isn't all dark thankfully; some levity is provided by Una Stubbs' Mrs Hudson who at one point is chased by the police while driving an Aston Martin. Overall I found this to be a top notch episode that left me keen to see what happens next.

Family reunions, 14 January 2017
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As this episode opens Jon Snow is planning to leave Castle Black but before he does there is a surprise arrival; Sansa, along with Brienne of Tarth and Pod, comes through the gates and after a reunion with her brother tells him that he must prepare to lead an army to retake Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton; he initially less than keen but when, later in the episode, he receives a letter from Ramsay stating that he now has Rickon and demands Sansa's return he agrees that he must march south on Winterfell with a Wildling army. Back in King's Landing Queen Margaery talks to High Sparrow before being allowed to see her brother again. Elsewhere in the capital Cersei persuades Olenna Tyrell that her forces should move to King's Landing to free her children and destroy High Sparrow and his acolytes. A third family reunion takes place in Pike; here Theon is reunited with his sister and promises to serve her. Across the Narrow Sea Tyrion makes a deal with the slavers and Jorah and Daario sneak into Vaes Dothrak hoping to free Daenerys; she has a far more radical plan though.

This was a top notch episode; it opened brilliantly; I was sure Sansa's travel north would be dragged out for quite a while longer but no. Her speech to her half-brother showed just how much this character has developed over the series; Sophie Turner was really good in the role. It continues well with plenty of hints at battles to come; Jon's to retake Winterfell; another to bring down the High Sparrow and possibly Yara Greyjoy struggle to become the ruler of the Iron Islands. We also get the welcome return of Lord Petyr Baelish for the first time this season; as manipulative and ambiguous as ever. All of this serves as a mere appetiser to the episodes fiery conclusion where Daenerys confronts the assembles Khals and destroys them in her own inimitable style; possibly this season's best moment so far… certainly its most spectacular. On a more downbeat note the episode sees the death of a secondary character who has been around since the first season… at least she got to die in an impressive scene as she tried, unsuccessfully, to kill Ramsey Bolton. Overall I think this was this season's best episode to date.

Witness (1985)
A Philadelphia cop must live among the Amish to protect a young witness, 14 January 2017
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While Rachel and her young son Sam, who are Amish, are travelling from their home in rural Pennsylvania to Baltimore they have to change trains in Philadelphia. Sam has to go to the toilet and while there witnesses a murder. It later emerges that the dead man was a policeman and while in the police station looking through photographs to identify the killer Sam spots him… not in a mugshot but a photograph of a policeman. Detective John Book realises this is a dangerous situation so takes the matter to his boss. Soon after he is ambushed and wounded by one of the killers; he knows that he, Sam and his mother are in real danger so he takes them out of the city and back to their home in Lancaster County.

Shortly after dropping them off he collapses due to his wound; he is treated by the Amish and as he recovers he must help in the local community and dress like one of them. While his former colleagues are trying to find where he has gone he continues to live among the Amish and grows close to Rachel; a closeness that could threaten her position in society that sees her as getting too close to an outsider and his inappropriate ways. Eventually he will have to face the corrupt cops to save both himself and those he has recently grown close to.

On the face of it this could have been really corny but instead we get a really good story. It is hard to pin it down to a genre; at first it appears to be a crime drama but really that is just an excuse to force city cop John Book to live among the Amish; a society totally alien to what he is used to. Then there is the romance between Book and Rachel; in some ways this reminded me of 'Brief Encounter'; while neither character is married here there would still be problems if they got involved because of the rules of her society… something Book grows to understand and respect. The cast does a really good job; especially Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis as Book and Rachel. There is a small amount of violence and swearing as well as some brief nudity but for the most part things are things are fairly gentle. It may be over thirty years old but it has hardly dated as the majority of the film is set amongst the Amish and I don't imagine their society has changed as much as the rest of America has. Overall I'd certainly recommend this excellent film.

Stunningly beautiful and gently paced, 13 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This Japanese film tells the story of Ginko; he is a 'Mushishi' or 'bug-hunter'… these aren't normal bugs but supernatural creatures that can affect the population. As Ginko travels he cures people who have been affected. One day he learns that Tamyu; a woman who records historic details of the bugs has been affected. He heads to help her, travelling with another man who is hoping to catch a rainbow; somethings others mock him for but Ginko understands that what he is after isn't an ordinary rainbow.

Intertwined with this story is the story of a Yoki, a young boy who is looked after by a mushishi named Nui after the death of his mother. Nui cautions Yoki to stay away from a pond where strange one-eyed fish live. She tells him that her study of the bugs in the pond caused her to lose an eye and her hair turn white. It later emerges that what this story is very much linked to Genko's story.

The first thing that must be said about this film is that it looks absolutely stunning with magnificent rural Japanese scenery and seamless CGI special effects that look great. The story is told at a gentle pace, some might say it is slow, but that didn't bother me. I liked how the two stories are told and ultimately shown to be linked. At times the story does get a bit confusing but not overly so and the ending is more open than some viewers would like. Director Katsuhiro Otomo did a fine job capturing the story and his cast are equally good at bringing the characters to life. Overall I certainly enjoyed this, I can't comment on how it compares to the anime as I've not watched that.

These comments are based on watching the film in Japanese with English subtitles.


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