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A light-hearted 'Trek'
For those of us who followed the Star Trek (film) saga from the beginning, it's hard to believe that 'The Voyage Home' is really a follow-up to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The second outing was dark, brooding and brutal, whereas The Voyage Home is light, fluffy and even political.
The crew of the Enterprise (minus their ship - see III for what happened to that!) are on their way back to Earth when they find an alien probe is on the brink of destroying their planet in the search of whales it made contact with thousands of years ago. The only option - to Kirk anyway - is to travel back in time to present day, pick up a couple of humpbacks and then bring them back to the future to tell this annoying probe where to go.
Yes, you could also call Star Trek IV 'Save the Whales.' However, the film is more than just a piece of animal rights propaganda. It never feels like it's stuffing its message down your throat (Avatar, see how it's done!) and it such an enjoyable ride that you really forget about the subtext.
It's probably the most widely-watched Star Trek film to date. People are sometimes turned off the franchise due to its 'geeky' reputation. However, you don't need to know that much about the characters to appreciate it, nor do you have to sit through hours of space battles as ninety per cent of the film is set in present day Earth. It's the most 'family-friendly' of the Trek movie and, whether you're a fan of the franchise in general or not, I would say that most people should be able to sit down and enjoy the ride.
Hardly highbrow, but enjoyable enough
'Silly, silly, silly.' So said 'Graham Chapman' in Monty Python. And that's about the best summing up I can give 'Lucy.' It's completely daft and hardly intellectually stimulating, but what the hell sometimes you don't want films that make you think. You just want mindless entertaining fun. And Lucy does the job.
Scarlett Johansson plays the titular 'Lucy' an average sort of girl who ends up accidentally being given a powerful new drug which allows her to use powers no human has ever had before. And, like I say, it's a fun film to watch. It's not perfect though. It starts off a bit 'arty.' There are clips of various 'unrelated' events (like a cheetah catching its prey) interspersed with the main narrative. But these sort of get dropped about half way through the film, leaving you to wonder why they were included to begin with.
While Lucy is busy killing those responsible for her new powers, we also have Morgan Freeman the scientist who just so happens to be an expert on 'expanded brainpower.' His story sort of runs in parallel with hers, although he's basically there to explain what's going on (in the final scene he almost completely 'narrates' the action it's quite funny!). He tells us that the average human uses about 10% of his/her brain. Lucy is on her way to use all 100%.
Expect killing. Expect kind of cool action scenes with Lucy using her superpowers to destroy all those who wronged her. There's a bit of science thrown in there, courtesy of Morgan Freeman to add a few concepts that might make you think. But it's not a long film. It's pretty condensed and everything flows from A-B quite nicely.
Basically, the film is about how humans only need about 10% of their brains to function. And you certainly won't need any more than that to understand and appreciate Lucy. Grab the munchies, allocate about 8% of your brain to the film and just enjoy.
The Score (2001)
Just watch the second half
The Score is about a hardened thief (DeNiro) who gets cajoled into doing 'one last job' by an up-and-coming criminal (Norton). That's about that. The plot isn't anything to sing about, but we watch it anyway because of the impressive casting (not to mention Marlon Brando as a mob boss).
I found much of the first half pretty dull. It's all 'scene setting' and I was getting pretty bored. However, it all picks up the pace when they finally get round to pulling off the heist. The second half of the film is much better than the first. I know many people will say that the film needed the first half in order to build up character and get to know them, but, personally, I found that you could probably start watching the film about an hour in and still get everything out of it.
The second half of the film makes it all worth watching. There's plenty of hiccups along the way of the heist and it definitely isn't all plain-sailing.
If you enjoy the whole film - fair enough, but if (like me) you were tempted to turn it off, my advice is: don't - it definitely gets better!
As Above, So Below (2014)
Seen it all before
Two words: 'Found' and 'Footage.' That's basically all you need to know. If you're in any way into your 'modern horror' films, you'll already know that 'found footage' movies are basically entirely filmed from the perspective of the cameraman (using some loose pretext of 'needing' to film absolutely everything that everyone does). If you didn't already know that then you're probably quite lucky.
The reason Hollywood seems to be so obsessed with way of filming horror is because it's cheap. If you're constantly running away from a monster (for example) then the camera shakes and you don't need that much in the way of special effects.
'As Above, So Below' is just another in a long line of found footage movies. Yes, it's got slightly more of a budget than your average B-movie and the acting is okay. Basically, some girl and her cameraman decide to look for treasure in the tunnels under Paris. They get some bland tour guides to show them the way and then end up lost down there. Naturally, there are things down there which are going to chase them and generally mess with their minds. So, expect every horror (and found footage) cliché going. Ever since 'The Blair Witch Project' it's been common for the protagonist to talk directly into camera at close distance. As Above, So Below does this. Just like it does all the chasing through the darkness with shaky camera-work. The first half is basically getting to know the characters. Not that there's much to know about them. They're just the cannon fodder for when the film gets going. The chases come in the second act, but, if you've seen any other found footage film, you'll know what's coming.
You won't care about the characters. You probably won't care much about their plight. There are a couple of moments when you'll jump and there's a bit of gore near the end, but there's nothing here to really write home about. It's not a bad film, but there's just so little new here that it doesn't make it worth watching. If you've never seen a 'found footage' film before, you may think it's original and get something out of it. But, for us hardened horror buffs, move along...
If Goodfellas was comedy...
Swingers is about five guys who are dealing with single life in various different ways, all sharing experiences as they go from one L.A. bar to the next.
That's about it. We follow their lives. A lot of people have criticised the film for having no plot. And they're right, it doesn't really. But does it matter? Only if you're really only interested in films with tight and deep plots. If you like your comedy a little on the adult side (and perhaps this film will appeal to guys over girls), plus are happy to follow these people and simply go along with the ride, you should get something out of this.
It's kind of like a gangster film, but without the violence and crime. You have many long 'talkie' scenes, set around various bar tables in dingy clubs, while the protagonists sit back and discuss film trivia. This hardly drives the narrative forward, but, if you're into character pieces (and film trivia!) you should find it amusing.
6 Plots (2012)
6 plots (and yet very little plot)
Australia does its best to mimic the slasher/Saw genre with this mishmash of different horror ideas.
Six of the most obnoxious teenagers in the country get abducted and locked in boxes. Sadly, their friend (who is named after a type of cheese, I believe) has to rescue them. By this point I was kind of hoping she'd just go home to bed and the film would end there and then.
Somewhere among the film is the spark of something quite good, but never really utilised to its full potential. The film exploits modern technology, i.e. Bluetooth, iphones, web-streaming, wifi and then generally shows how they can be perverted into tools for the gross satisfaction of others.
It's all not a bad idea, it's just most people won't really care about the 'victims,' plus it requires quite a few leaps of faith to believe that the police force of Australia consists of more than one rough-and-ready officer, plus his overweight call centre operator and deputy (who throws up at the first sign of anything vaguely creepy).
It's a nice try, but ultimately a missed opportunity. It leaves you thinking that all teenagers who get their kicks out of breaking into other peoples houses and filming their parties to show off to their peers deserve to be locked in boxes and burnt to death.
Not bad, but not quite there
'Dagon' is one of those films where I watch and yet still can't really make up my mind about. I didn't hate it. It has its good points, yet overall there didn't really seem like there was enough story to flesh it out (even to its quite average ninety minute runtime).
It's about an American couple whose boat gets shipwrecked off a remote Spanish island. When they get to shore they find the locals are hardly the hospitable types. It kind of reminded me of 'The Wicker Man,' i.e. outsiders who are up against the whole of a town.
My main problem with the film was that very little happens. Once the couple arrive on the island, they're quickly separated and we're left with just the man. Pretty much the whole of the middle part of the film is him being chased from one dark and creepy location to the next. He's all on his own and doesn't really have anyone to interact with, therefore we don't really get to know him that well and know that he's going to make it out of each area, simply because the film would end if he didn't. He does meet one local, but the old man talks with such a strong accent I actually had to put the subtitles on to understand him! Seriously, if you were watching Dagon on DVD, you could skip a few chapters in the middle and you wouldn't miss anything 'story-wise,' just a few creepy scenes here and there. The atmosphere is one of the plus points. The story is nicely creepy and the monsters are well done. It's just a pity not much happens for the majority of the movie.
The last act is a bit more dramatic and they've saved some of the best gore for last, but it's too little too late to turn what could have elevated an okay film to a really classic one. Bottom line, it's okay, but because there's so little story, I probably wouldn't watch it again because I can remember everything about it.
The most underrated of the Star Trek franchise
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was Paramount Studio's attempt at cashing in on the Star Wars craze that was sweeping through the late seventies. However, instead of getting a fast-paced action romp, they got something more in tune with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Therefore, the first big screen Star Trek outing was always left in Star Wars' shadow. This, of course, was slightly rectified by the sequel (and darker and more action-orientated) The Wrath of Khan, but that's another story.
It's easy to see why Star Trek: The Motion Picture never set the box office alight, it's slow, very talky-talky, with lingering shots of things that you don't really know what they are and absolutely no action. However, that said, it's actually quite good (but only if you're in the mood).
If you're looking for something fast-paced then you should probably ignore most of the Star Trek saga and skip straight to the 2009 reboot. Whereas if you are a fan of slow-burning (and dare I say it?) 'intellectual' science fiction then you might get something out of this.
Avatar it is not. Interesting it is. Although, it should probably have an 'Eighteen Certificate' slapped on it - not because the content is particularly 'adult' in nature, but simply because there's no way anyone under eighteen would ever appreciate it and have the patience to sit through it.
May the old crew live long and prosper.
A little bit messy, but original and worth it
First of all let me say that I am not a fan of Daniel Radcliffe. I was never into the Harry Potter films and, although he did well enough in 'Woman in Black' I didn't like the film much. Plus I saw him on a UK chat show a few years ago and found him generally obnoxious. However, I do basically watch any old horror movie, so, even though he was in it, I thought I'd give it a go. And amazingly I'm glad I did! It's actually a little longer than your average ninety minute horror yarn and it tells the tale of 'Ig' (or rather Daniel Radcliffe sporting quite a convincing American accent) a young man whose girlfriend is murdered, leaving him the prime suspect in a small town. Although there's no hard evidence to link him to the crime, the general consensus is that he's guilty. As if that wasn't bad enough for the young ex-wizard, he develops horns on his head that only certain people can see. And these horns turn out to be more than just cosmetic enhancements they start bestowing strange powers upon him.
Like I said, 'Horns' is a little longer than the normal horror film. This means that it's padded out with flashbacks from Ig's childhood, showing what went on before (and, after you've watched the whole film, you'll probably spot the clues as to what's happened). The bouncing back and forth in time does sometimes feel a little disjointed and you may just want to find out what's happening next, rather than see what's already gone. But all the performances are good, making sure they're all a quirky bunch and the bits where the horns lead Ig astray are darkly funny.
The best part of 'Horns' is that it's actually quite original. I haven't really seen a film like it before. So, even though it was a little messy (might have benefited from about 10-15 minutes being cut) I found it was actually worth it just for the novelty value. Don't expect all the questions to be answered. The film relies on a certain amount of 'religious knowledge' to fill in some of the blanks. You don't have to believe in any religion to appreciate this film, but you have to accept that if you're going to enjoy it then you're going to have to be okay with religion for storytelling purposes.
I'm still not a fan of Radcliffe, but I did enjoy his performance and would continue to watch him again in the right vehicle (like this one).
Proof that a great film doesn't need a large budget
When you think of all the millions of dollars invested into epic Hollywood blockbusters, then they turn out to be complete turkeys, you'll be heartened to know that there are still brilliant films being made on a fraction of the budget.
If Lord of the Rings was basically an advert for New Zealand's magnificent landscape, then Sightseers does the same job for the north of England. It's about your 'average' couple as they take their first holiday together, i.e. a romantic caravaning tour of the countryside. However, things soon start taking a turn for the worse and the dead bodies soon start piling up.
I won't go into too much detail about the plot. Some films are better that you know as little as possible about them. All you really need to know about Sightseers is that it comprises of the blackest of comedy around. The humour and tone is very dark indeed. If you think you can laugh at some characters with real human frailties, as they come to terms with each other and how they see life, then you should enjoy this.
It really is a true gem. Sadly Sightseers will never attain the dizzy heights of Hollywood's output, but it really deserves its place as a great British film.