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Inside Out (2015)
A great film for adults (and some kids, I guess)
Normally, when I take my ten-year-old daughter to the cinema to see a 'children's' movie, I normally just sit there praying for it to end as it's just a load of colourful sentimental nonsense designed to fill an hour and a half's time. My daughter, and most of those who are around her age, all sit there laughing and enjoying the film. I just want to go home. This is because naturally children's movies are aimed at children (no surprise there then!) and, as an adult I have to accept that and just go along with it. That was until I saw 'Inside Out.' Here the film seems to be written the other way round. Yes, I loved it. I had a great time during the screening. And, although there were plenty of colourful characters for my daughter to watch, I didn't really think that she (or 90% of the under elevens in the audience) really appreciated it.
We're shown that, right from birth, we have little characters in our heads controlling different areas of our personality a happy little character for 'joy,' a depressed little character for 'sadness' and so on. These quirky little creatures control and dictate our actions and therefore life throughout our lives. The little characters we meet here reside inside a little girl called Riley's head. And, when she moves house and her life gets turned upside down, the little people inside her mind go on an adventure throughout her body in particular various aspects of her mind.
And this is where things get a little complicated. Well... not for me, but then I'm an adult. However, some in fact quite a lot of the gags start to fall flat on the children's ears when the characters on screen walk into the 'subconscious' and you're treated to the 'horrors' which reside buried deep in all our minds. And this is how it went on. More and more of the story seemed to be designed for those with a least a better understanding of the way our minds work that your average 'Pixar-watching' child.
I've read other reviews and I see that a lot of kids did actually enjoy this film. However, I just wonder on what level they did? My daughter loved it, but the characters were pretty and 'good' was easily distinguishable from 'bad.' Personally, I loved Inside Out and would happily watch it again. I thought it was clever and different. I also couldn't help but think I was watching some sort of Christopher Nolan film like 'Inception.' Adults will love it. Kids should love it. Just be prepared to explain some metaphysical aspects of a Disney film during the drive home from the cinema!
Split Second (1992)
An underrated B-movie
I'm going to say now that I enjoyed 'Split Second.' Partly because, as I alluded to in the title, it's an underrated B-movie, but also because I saw it as a child and I am looking at it with a deep sense of nostalgia. It's probably not as good as I say it is! Back in 1992 pretty much all B-movies/monster-munching fun was set in America, so the sight of London flooded in 2008 (hey it was a long time in the future when I first saw this!) was quite a novelty, let alone a beastie who runs around ripping people's hearts out and leaving them for the police, or at least one particular police officer Rutger Hauer. He got attacked by the killer a while back and, even since then, has been experiencing visions and is psychically-connected to it.
Now, the monster is in London and Rutger while totally hooked on coffee, chocolate and pretty much anything else that's bad for you (except alcohol he quit that!) teams up with squeaky-clean copper called 'Dick Durkin' (*snigger*). Therefore you kind of have a 'buddy cop' movie with the end of the world at stake.
You may notice my slight titter of laughter at the character name 'Dick Durkin.' I don't feel too immature for that reaction, as the film is kind of tongue-in-cheek and knows that it's hardly on a par with Shakespeare. It's a B-movie. Therefore, don't expect much in the way of a budget. And, when I say 'budget' I basically mean the monster itself. You don't really see it all the way through, so if that bothers you this might not be your cup of tea (or coffee in Rutger's case). Plus the other downside is the script itself. It really does let the whole thing down. The atmosphere is great dark and foreboding and the characters are fun, making the film good. It's only some of the lines which sound as if they've been written by a work experience kid that let the whole thing down. That and the lack of visual sight of the monster, obviously.
If you've see Split Second before then you'll probably be happy to give it another go. If you haven't and you're into B-movies, then make sure you're in a forgiving mood and don't expect too much in the way of special effects and you mind just find it an undiscovered little gem.
Fun, for the kids (mainly)
Shrek and Toy Story, or rather the two 'holy grails' of children's films. This is largely because they can be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. They are both packed with jokes and gags which can be appreciated on two levels some of which the adults will roll their eyes at, others that will go completely over the little ones' heads and have them asking Mummy and Daddy why they're laughing.
Sadly, 'Home' isn't one of these films. Yes, it's meant for children and if my ten year old daughter was writing this review she'd probably give it top marks. And that would be a fair grade from a child, i.e. its primary audience. However, kids seldom write film reviews online. I do. And I had to sit through this.
To be fair... I've been forced to watch worse children's movies in my time as a parent. This one is about a race of aliens who one day decide that Earth will be their new home. Naturally the existing earthlings who just so happen to inhabit the planet aren't taken into a consideration. All us pink flesh-bags are scooped up and dumped in Australia while the little purple spacemen merrily move into our apartment blocks and offices. All humans but one.
A little girl (and her cat) called 'Tip' (believe it or not) is the only human left behind. She exists kind of like 'Newt' from 'Aliens,' forced to scavenged and steal when the aliens' backs are turned. That's until she meets 'Oh' (again, I didn't name him). He's an alien who is generally a misfit and at odds with his species. They form a friendship and yadder, yadder, yadder adventure, bonding, if you've seen a kids' movie you know how it goes. And there's a moral at the end and stuff like that.
This is all pretty run-of-the-mill stuff and I could live with that. If it wasn't for Oh himself. To me and I stress, I am only an adult I found him really annoying. It was almost like the film-makers wanted to give Jar-Jar Binks his own movie (*shudders* at the thought). Seriously, this alien is very irritating. He's always doing the wrong thing and I can see why his own species want to get rid of him. I was half tempted to jump into the TV screen and laser the little guy to death myself.
But, as I kept having to remind me, it's a KIDS' movie. And I'm not the intended audience. So, if you have a little one who you want to keep entertained for an hour and a half, stick 'em in front of this DVD and they'll be happy. You can probably get away with popping out and sticking the kettle on. You won't miss much and, by this stage, you've probably seen enough kids' movies to work out that everyone lives happily ever after. But, unlike Toy Story and Shrek, I doubt even the kids will be that keen on repeat viewings of 'Home.' Find a friend or relative with the DVD and borrow it for a couple of weeks while the children are on holiday. Then, if they really love it, buy it. Don't waste your money straight away.
Season of the Witch (2011)
So bad it's (almost) good
'Season of the Witch' put simply Lord of the Rings, it is not. It is a (modern) Nicholas Cage film. And, as any die-hard fan (and I'm including myself in that bracket) will know, his modern films don't really rate as highly as those he made in his heyday.
Nicholas Cage plays... well, Nicholas Cage in a suit of armour. His natural charm and screen presence do their best to shine through as this time out he and Ron Perlman are knights returning from hacking a few dozen hordes of computer-generated barbarians to death in the Crusades. However, life in yesteryear was never destined to run smoothly and the Black Death only goes and kicks off, leaving thousands dead in whichever 'England-like' land this film is supposed to be set in.
Now, you may be forgiven for thinking that a plague of epic proportions has nothing to do with a couple of battle-hardened knights. That's until the king tells them that they're charged with the task of escorting a witch across the land to be burned. Apparently, it's all her fault or something and she totally needs to be roasted in order to save the universe. Or something.
Anyway, so begins the quest the not-at-all-like-Lord-of-the-Rings quest. Nic, Ron and a few meaningless codpiece-wearing extras all trudge wearily across one grassy hill after the next, all the while defending against one computer-generated threat after the next. Um, and that's about it. It's hardly 'epic' it's pretty much by the numbers. In the scale of things it's not that bad, but then it's not that good either. You can dip in and out of this film at your leisure and you won't really miss a thing.
'Season of the Witch' is one of those films which has only one fault: its total and utter 'averageness.' You'll have seen it all before and, despite Nic and Ron doing their very best to raise it above being just another B-movie, they really can't do it with this script, plot or (not so) special effects.
If you really love Nic or Ron that much, you may get something out of it. Otherwise, don't really bother. And don't get me started on Nic's haircut.
Guest House Paradiso (1999)
It just didn't work (for me)
'Guest House Paradiso,' or, as was added later on the video box, 'The Bottom Movie.' I've been a fan of 'Bottom' (and before that 'The Young Ones') ever since it first crawled onto our televisions screens. So, like many, I was happy that the hideous Richie and Eddie had made it onto the big screen. I remember back in 1999 when it came out that it only received a Luke-warm reception, but I saw it anyway. My reaction it just left me a bit cold.
It's not a 'Bottom' movie. The characters, although basically identical to the Richie and Eddie that we know and love, have different surnames. It would be a bit simplistic to say that the movie failed on account of that one minor point, but, for some reason, I can't really think of anything else.
Guest House Paradiso was not a commercial or critical success at the Box Office. I decided to watch it again because I enjoyed re-watching the series recently. I was surprised when I saw online how well-received it actually was. However, even from a second viewing over fifteen years later, I still didn't 'get it.' And I don't know why. Guest House Paradiso has everything that bottom has: the characters, the gross-out humour, the slap-stick violence and the overall feel of Bottom. Yet it still didn't do it for me. Perhaps I enjoyed seeing Bottom in 'smaller doses.' The half hour runtime of an average TV episode seemed just right. Maybe I found that stretching the concept out for an hour and a half was too much? Yes, there are funny bits and I did smile. It's stupidly dumb, but it never tries to be anything else. Despite my love for the Young Ones and Bottom, I have yet to warm to this big screen version. But, if you're thinking of watching it, based on what I've seen I am now in the minority. It seems that Guest House Paradiso has found its market at last and time has been more forgiving than the critics at the time and me now. I'll always have a special fondness for the antics of Richie and Eddie, just not here. Sorry, boys.
The Voices (2014)
It's raining (murderous) cats and dogs
Ryan Reynolds often thought of as one of those actors who gets by on his looks over his acting ability. Not true. He's actually pretty good (and I've been saying that since I saw him in 'The Nines.' Here, he plays 'Jerry' a lovable factory worker who everyone gets on with. Unfortunately for the afore-mentioned 'everybody' he's also completely insane. His primary flaw (besides his traumatic childhood which you'll learn more about if you watch the film) is that he's lonely and, because of this, he's started lying to his psychiatrist about taking his medication. And, without his pills, he's started hearing voices.
Throughout the film you'll see the world through Jerry's eyes where more than just the TV talks, namely his cat and dog both of which give him dubious advice to put it mildly. And, without medication, it's not long before Jerry's actions start becoming more and more dark to the point of murderous.
It would be quiet easy to despise Jerry for his actions, but, as you'll see, he really is as much of a victim as those who die at his hands. It's not so much a case as you'll be rooting for a killer as you'll be hoping he finds some sort of happiness (or professional help that actually HELPS him!) in his depressed life.
Plus it's funny. Okay, so grisly and horrific murder is never really a laughing matter, but the fact that all the violence is technically orchestrated by an evil talking cat and dog does go some way to lighten the mood. If there is a definition of a 'black comedy' then this is definitely it! You don't have to like horror or drama, just dark humour. That's the key to enjoying this film. It's as tragic as it's funny and there are many occasions where you won't know whether to laugh or cry. It'll never be mainstream as it's too dark for big screen success. I advise watching it and then enjoying the fact that you'll probably be the only person among your circle of friends who's seen it. Spread the word it's good (gory) fun.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
A new kind of spy movie
If you said that 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' was like a 'Bond film' then you'd only be partly right. Yes, it's a 'spy movie,' yes you have a 'super villain' trying to basically take over the world and, yes, you have a 'gentleman spy' ready and waiting to stop him. Yet, for all its 'Bond-like' traits, I just can't really liken Kingsman to a Bond movie. It's not better or worse, just a different beast altogether.
It's different because unlike Bond it doesn't just concentrate on one area of the spy genre. Our gentleman spy in question is played expertly by Colin Firth and, if the film-makers had chosen to do so, they could have easily concentrated on his efforts to stop our (lisping!) super villain, Samuel L Jackson, from getting away with his dastardly plans. However, like I say, that's only part of the story. Mr Firth, Colin Firth, decides to take on a protégé in the form of a young lad from the rough end of London and train him up in the ways of the Force (in Star Wars terms, anyway). So, not only do we have a spy movie, but with a large helping of teenage coming-of-age thrown in there (oh, and the obligatory teenage romance to satisfy the 'Twilight generation'). Now, if you're already picking up on my distain for twinkling vampires and schoolgirls who don't seem able to smile or close their mouths, then you're probably right. I'm not a fan of teenage love stories and Kingsman could quite easily have fallen down here in my estimation. However, luckily, it's not the case and the 'teenage element' is actually done pretty well and hopefully won't alienate too many of the older generation (like me, for example).
I won't go into too many details about the plot. If you've seen one Bond film (or any other spy movie worth its name) then you'll know. The plot isn't important, only that you know that it's done very well. And, I should mention a special nod to the 'action scenes.' I'm not entirely sure how they're done, but they're damn awesome and stylishly put together.
If you like the slightly tongue-in-cheekness of old 'pre-Daniel Craig' Bond then you should enjoy Kingsman. It has decent performances, stylish action, over-the-top baddies (seriously... a woman with giant razor blades for legs has to be straight out of the Dr No era!) and even a touch of humanity and uplifting character development. A surprise package.
Last Knights (2015)
'Last Knights' is a story about... well, I kind of had to work out the premise as I went along. It's safe to say that it's set in a 'fictional' world of make believe. It's based on an old Japanese Tale and then imported to a sort of Western culture, only during medieval times, hence the use of 'knights' over 'samurais.' If you've seen the marketing then you can't fail to miss Morgan Freeman's face on the front cover. He's basically sharing top-billing with Clive Owen, only he's not really in it for the film's full duration, leaving any die-hard fans possibly feeling a little short-changed. The story focuses on Clive Owen, as the leader of a band of knights and their attempts to right the wrongs done to them and their people.
And that's about it. I sat through the whole film, watch Mr Owen and co generally chopping up all those who opposed to them and was left pretty neutral. There's not much wrong with the film, i.e. Freeman and Owen both turn in reasonable performances, but then there's nothing I can really say that's particularly positive about it either. Yup, there's action. The sets are decent and reminiscent of the time period. And it's a tale about good triumphing over evil.
The problem is that I've seen all that before. There's just nothing here that's original enough to really elevate it. I'm now struggling to find anything left to write. It's that mediocre. Not bad. Not good. You could check your emails or make a cup of tea at any time during the story and wouldn't miss a thing. Rent or watch for free before you buy.
Cat Run (2011)
The bad guys are more interesting than the good guys
I've just finished watching 'Cat Run' and I figured I better get my thoughts down before I totally forget what I wanted to say. I'll begin by mentioning that I'm quite happy to watch 'bad' films. By that I mean 'so-bad-they're-good' films. I wasn't expecting much from a film called 'Cat Run.' I read the blurb working girl witnesses murder, needs protection, baddies give chase. Yeah, that'll do me for an hour and a half of my time.
I started watching it. My first thought was, 'Is this film dubbed?' The voices didn't seem to match up with the actors' mouths and I wondered whether I was watching a foreign film (it is set mainly in continental Europe) dubbed into English. But I wasn't. I overlooked the odd lip-syncing and continued. Sure enough, a high class escort witness a multiple murder and comes away with a hard disk containing data the baddies are after. Cue the chase.
The escort runs hither and thither, generally looking pretty attractive and little else. Then we meet our other heroes. A pair of young men who set up a detective agency help to find her. I have to say they didn't appeal to me. The main character I found 'wet' and uninteresting and his friend might as well have been called 'cliched best friend #298.' I have to say by this time I was tuning out checking my emails on my phone and stuff. It was all pretty dull. I may even have turned it off there and then had it not been for one thing...
Helen Bingham. If you don't know her (and I must confess that I don't), she's a British actress who must be around middle age (think Helen Mirren, only about twenty years ago). Anyway, she's hired as an assassin (yes, a middle age woman with cut-glass English accent is a bad-ass assassin go with it) to bring in the escort and anyone who aids and abets her. In short Helen Bingham rocks. She totally steals every scene and makes the film watchable. The heroes pale in comparison compared to her. She was so good that I had a horrible feeling that she was only going to be in it for a few scenes and I'd end up watching the rest of the film in the hope that she returns. I'm glad to say she's in it the whole way through. And the film is all the better for it.
I won't go into too much detail about what follows, only that if you feel like watching a sort of B-movie version of a Guy Ritchie/spy thriller chase movie (yes, it crosses genres quite broadly there's even a lot of black comedy thrown in there for good measure), then this one is worth it simply for Helen Bingham's performance.
Space Station 76 (2014)
Have you seen the trailer for this?
I happened to catch the trailer for 'Space Station 76' and couldn't believe that no one had already thought of this type of film already. I grew up in the seventies and eighties and was well into the sci-fi of the day, i.e. with wooden sets, cheesy robots and unfashionable hairstyles. Therefore, when I saw that a film was dedicated to sending up this genre, only in the modern age, I couldn't believe my luck. This film was truly made for me. It looked hilarious.
I was wrong. The trailer was hilarious. The film was not. Not because the jokes fell flat or didn't work when they were stretched out into a full-length feature film, but because the film just wasn't really a comedy, as it was presented in the one and half minutes trailer.
Yes, the sets are indeed well-designed (i.e. old fashioned seventies incarnations of what the future may look like) and there are a few moments that produce a wry smile from you. However, the film is actually more of a dark drama and dare I say it quite depressing.
Leaving the kitsch period feel aside, the film is about a space station billions of light years away from Earth. Some of the inhabitants of the station have lived there all their life, others much of their adult life. Either way, they're only one step away from going stir crazy. Therefore, you have many depressed and broken people, all desperately seeking some form of justification for their existences.
And there's the problem. I rented this film thinking it was a comedy that based its jokes on the clichés of yesteryear's science fiction and I got quite a dark drama about the misery of human existence at its loneliest.
Therefore, I sort of didn't enjoy it. But that's not to say that it was a bad thing; I just wanted something different. Just know what you're getting before you sit down to watch it. There are moments of humour, but much of it is very dark and there are places where you won't know whether you should be laughing or crying at the characters' plights. Just make sure that you're in the mood for something a little tragic that's dressed up as a silly seventies sci-fi show.