Reviews written by registered user

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141 reviews in total 
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13 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Yeehaw-some, 29 July 2011

Somewhere out West. Man (Craig) wakes up in the desert, bleeding. Weird metal manacle on his wrist. Doesn't know who he is. Doesn't know how he got there. Kills some passing lowlifes. Rides to the nearest town: Absolution.

Ordinary kinda place. Usual kinda folks: kindly preacher (Clancy Brown), fretful barkeep-cum-doctor (Sam Rockwell), dog-tired sheriff (Keith Carradine), purty mystery lady Ella (Olivia Wilde), young troublemaker (Paul Dano).

Turns out the latter boy's untouchable, bein' son of local bigwig Dolarhyde (Ford) an' all. Figures he can push the stranger around. Figures wrong. Turns out it's Jake Lonergan - a bigger villain than old man Dolarhyde.

So just another day in Absolution. Til nightfall that is, when a bunch of machines swoop down from the sky, blow the town to smithereens and make off with half the people usin' some kinda fancy lassoes.

Aliens. Doggone.

Only thing that'll stop 'em is Jake's fancy wrist cannon. So if they want their folks back, everybody's gonna have to put their differences aside and posse up to track them unidentified flying varmints down.

Along the way, Jake gradually gets his memory back. Runs into his old gang too. And some Apaches.

Also finds out what mysterious Ella's all about and what the ETs want (same thing as everyone else, truth be told).

It's all based on one o' them graphic novels. But with a tale as outlandish as this, it proves a wise move to play it straight. Mostly.

Course, there's a gutful of guffaws to be had, but it all pans out like 3:10 to The Alamo. With more alien splatting.

Director Favreau has great fun with his flashbacks and dandy effects and such. Even throws in a few sly nods to the genre, yessiree.

But what he needs is a manly, clenched jaw or two to carry it off. And what he gets in Craig and Ford. That's what they do.

The set-up's terrific. Pacing's a mite skew-whiff though. The search and rescue bit kinda drags. Favreau needs to put his spurs in more often. Bringing the sheriff's grandkid along don't speed things along none either. Coulda made more use of the dog too.

It ain't free o' clichés. But then what western is? Want a mash-up that does what it says it's gonna do? Saddle up.

Outlander (2008)
8 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
A derivative adventure of epic mediocrity, 20 April 2009

It's Aliens meet The Vikings! Beowulf meets Predator! Er... Final Fantasy meets The 13th Warrior? How about Braveheart goes Jabberwocky? Whichever way you cut it, the concept is far more interesting than the end product; a derivative adventure of epic mediocrity boasting three-star effects, two-star execution and a one-star script.

In a riot of straight-faced silliness, it pitches erstwhile Jesus Jim Caviezel as another saviour - this time as a chap from another planet who falls to Earth in 709AD to unite two warring Norse tribes against a bloodthirsty alien beastie.

On one side we have John Hurt at his craggiest as wise King Rothgar (not bearing any similarity to King Hrothgar of Beowulf at all, oh no); on the other we have Ron Perlman's bad-tempered, beardy baldie Gunnar. In between we have Sophia Myles as Rothgar's spunky daughter and Jack Huston as her would-be suitor, the impetuous Wulfric.

Huston descends from a legendary Hollywood clan but his talent doesn't go much beyond flaring his nostrils and playing second fiddle to steely-eyed Caviezel - he resembles Russell Brand after discovering he's been chatting up a tougher, much better-looking bloke's girlfriend.

There's plenty of mead-swilling, hearty cheering and gratuitous gore, most memorably when Myles finds herself in the creature's lair atop a mountain of half-eaten villagers.

But it's no better than the sort of schedule filler you can see any night on the SciFi Channel. It could have been a cult classic but anything saddled with a plot this unimaginative rightfully belongs in an XBox, not a multiplex.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Never mind the Boll-ocks, 29 August 2008

Aw come on people, there's a lot worse than this out there. So it makes Krull look like Lord of the Rings, features Ray Liotta's most embarrassing performance (Liberace in a leather trenchcoat) and looks like it's been edited by a 5-year-old with ADHD, but there are at least two decent special effects amongst all the rubber masks and polystyrene boulders.

As my first Uwe Boll experience, I was disappointed by its near-competence. Sure, we're not dealing with a prodigious talent here, but Boll must be doing something right to assemble such a recognisable cast. Who else would think to produce an Arthurian pantomime with Hellboy, The Transporter, the Bandit, Gimli the dwarf, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Hallam Foe's mum, one of the GoodFellas and a Terminator? A triumph of enthusiasm over ability, it has all the traditional fantasy ingredients: reluctant yet vengeful hero, damsel in distress, evil sorceror, good sorceror, world-weary king, cowardly duke, orc-like hordes, and even throws in a boomerang and a few babes in the wood for good measure.

Unfortunately, it's all dungeons without dragons and lords without rings. In the event, Boll overcooks and overcuts the whole caboodle to make it seem more exciting than it really is. But you have to admire him for playing it so straight.

One question: is Statham's character called Farmer because of what he does or because his brow looks like a ploughed field?

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good, unclean, unsavoury fun, 12 October 2007

Another year, another dazzlingly animated, flawlessly directed and engagingly characterful palate-tickler from the masterchefs at Pixar.

And yet… however cute, cuddly and hand-washingly obsessive you make them, rats are rats. So while you're delighting in Remy's antics, remember that he came straight from the sewer. Rats – kitchens – wrong. What next? The adventures of Eddie the friendly E. coli bacterium who just wants to be a heart surgeon?

Issues of taste aside, where The Incredibles and Toy Stories were laugh-out-loud funny, Ratatouille is constantly – but never more than - amusing. And though they're all French, why do certain characters have American accents while others don't (most noticeably Linguini, who comes across like David Schwimmer's Ross Gellar with ginger hair)?

Ah rats, I should probably just shut up and heed the words of Peter O'Toole's marvellous, cadaverous Anton Ego. He nails the role of the critic perfectly.

The Hoax (2006)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Take in the period detail on the runaway scam, 1 August 2007

It was an audacious and almost heroic plan, but did Clifford Irving really believe that he'd get away with hoodwinking New York's most powerful publishers, let alone the rest of the world? On the basis of this portrayal, one suspects that he did.

Topped with a Shredded Wheat dye-job, Richard Gere's Irving is a manipulative attention-seeker who – unbelievably - got as far as seeing his fake autobiography of Howard Hughes roll off the presses before his ruse was rumbled.

Back in 1971, the media was as crazy for Hughes as he was crazy. In modern comparisons, he was as famously off the wall as Michael Jackson and richer than Roman Abramovich.

Assuming that Hughes would be either too busy, withdrawn or insane to care about their little venture, Irving and his writer/researcher pal Dick Suskind (Molina) bluffed and blustered their way to a mega-bucks deal with both publisher McGraw-Hill and the mighty Time-Life institution.

Also in on the fraud was Irving's wife Edith (Harden, with Streepish accent straight Out Of Africa). But she was yet another victim of his uncontrollable deception – he was having an affair with socialite Nina Van Pallandt (Julie Delpy).

(Interestingly, Van Pallandt was a sometime actress who appeared opposite Gere in American Gigolo.) Then the get-rich-quick scheme turned really serious. Suskind was nervy at the best of times, but Irving became downright paranoid after they uncovered shady business dealings between Hughes and President Nixon.

Indeed, Irving's account could have been entitled 'Nixon: My Part In His Downfall'. But while Vietnam and Watergate loom large, Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation concentrates on character and atmosphere.

Gere is not the most interesting actor around, but he is convincing. This serves him well here as Irving's ambition and iron will begin to crumble under the strength of his own delusions.

Able support comes from the typically reliable Stanley Tucci (as snarly publisher Shelton Fisher) and Hope Davis (as Irving's fictional editor), but the acting honours go to Molina as the essentially decent but morally pliable Suskind. And they need look no further when it comes to casting The Gordon Brown Story.

Like George Clooney's similarly themed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, this is an involving piece of retro-Americana that doesn't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

14 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Some new additions but Web 3.0's no upgrade, 28 April 2007

Sam Raimi's Web version 3.0 proves that – like the increasingly shoddy sequels to Batman - when it comes to comic book villains, less is more. Really, does anyone remember anything that Two-Face and Poison Ivy actually did? After building his rollicking action empire with tight, one-on-one contests between our friendly neighbourhood hero and his nemeses, Raimi falls into the trap of taking Spider-Man 3 a villain too far. It has nothing to do with the CG qualities of either Sandman or Venom (they're as well-rendered as you'd expect from the next instalment of an $800million franchise). It's simply that the film introduces so many problems for Peter Parker to deal with, it doesn't fully focus on any.

On the verge of proposing to Mary Jane, Peter is so caught up in his own hype that he has become a self-absorbed prat. Outwardly, they're fine, but he is so busy enjoying the adulation and attention - hey, police chief's daughter Gwen Stacy, how YOU doin'? - that he's oblivious to any problems MJ might have.

And anyway, there's also some unfinished business with Harry 'Goblin Jr' Osborne, cocky photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) is after his job at the Bugle, and convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) is now a much bigger problem than when he first escaped after having his DNA replaced with sand. The guy's a walking building site.

Then a black goo from outer space which feeds on human aggression (drug metaphor ahoy!) transforms Peter into a swaggering, greasy-fringed idiot - like a member of The Killers who's seen Saturday Night Fever too many times.

But his turn to the dark side is reflected in the spider-suit's cool new look… which is later adopted by Brock when the terrible treacle turns him into Venom. Let's get ready for a tag-team rumble… Needless to say, it all looks fantastic. But, for all its impressive, whiplash-inducing set-pieces, jokey interludes, cute cameos (including Bruce Campbell as a Pythonesque maitre d') and general vertiginous pizazz, the plot regularly loses momentum.

How many messages on commitment, redemption and doing the right thing does one film need? What's with the ridiculous climactic commentary from that TV reporter with the bad English accent and her geriatric, googly-eyed anchorman? Would Bryce Dallas Howard like to give me a call the next time she has this little to do in a movie? Like Spidey himself, Raimi appears to have gotten carried away by the success of his previous exploits. Webby 3.0 certainly gives you plenty of whiz-bang for your buck, but it doesn't get that spider sense tingling.

15 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
The emperor's new clothes, 2 February 2007

Brilliantly summed up by Film Threat as "ennui with a pedigree", this is thespi-centric melodrama of the most overwrought, self-regarding and unconvincing kind.

As the antisocial, delusional old maid Barbara and silly Sheba, the object of her obsession, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are undeniably magnificent. Bill Nighy also deserves praise for his sensible take on the thankless role of Sheba's husband.

However, one's a misanthropic basket case with a blackmailing heart; one's a weak-willed not-so-clever intellectual who wants it all and is astonished when she can't have it, and the third is a man who ditched one wife for a younger woman and is flabbergasted when she gives him a taste of his own medicine. Who are we rooting for here? They all deserve everything they get. And is giving Sheba and husband a Down's syndrome child supposed to engender sympathy? Smacks of cold, hard manipulation to me.

As for the 'scandal'… female teacher bonks 15-year-old pupil: stop the press. Distasteful and reproachable but not uncommon, the story would barely interest the local press beyond its breaking week, let alone prompt the national paparazzi to camp on the offender's doorstep for almost a month. That the disgraced Sheba would move into Barbara's home in the first place is highly unlikely anyway.

If - as many critics would have it - Patrick Marber's adaptation of Zoe Heller's acerbic bestseller is a screen writing "masterclass", the future of cinema looks bleak. Necessary character development is jettisoned in favour of ridiculous contrivances to create a multiplex-friendly psychothriller which both stereotypes Brits and insults the American audience for whom it is so clearly intended. Even the ending hints at a sequel.

Amplifying the histrionics is a score from Philip Glass that makes Wagner sound positively inert. Even the act of washing dishes is treated like the coming of legions of Valkyries.

Actually, it's the perfect accompaniment to such an overblown and overpraised film.

The sole monty, 20 January 2007

From the people who gave us Calendar Girls comes another Brit-com that gently amuses while getting across its message of acceptance and personal pride without upsetting any apple carts.

The story pivots on Chiwetel Ejiofor's Golden Globe-nominated turn as Lola, a London-based drag queen who finds herself designing niche-market footwear for struggling shoe factory owner Charlie (Joel Edgerton) in conservative Northampton.

While Lola wins over the sceptical workforce - chiefly a pig-headed arm-wrestler played by Shaun of the Dead sidekick Nick Frost - Charlie must choose between his materialistic fiancée (Jemima Rooper) and Sarah-Jane Potts' loyal, button-cute factory girl. Who knows what the climax will bring when it reaches that Milan catwalk? Sweet-natured, warmly shot and cosily predictable, Kinky Boots is the perfect fit for a Friday night with a pizza, a bottle of vino and your best gal (or guy).

Apocalypto (2006)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Eat your heart out, Rambo, 7 January 2007

Everyone's favourite booze-soaked anti-Semite is back with a cracking combination of First Blood, Braveheart and National Geographic. Like him or not, there's no denying that Mel Gibson knows how to put a movie together.

First he fought until he was blue in the face as William Wallace, the Scottish hero who stuck it to the evil English in Braveheart. Then he had the son of God suffering for all our sins at the hands of Jews and Romans alike in Passion Of The Christ. Dusting off the tried-and-trusted template once again, Gibbo now throws another underdog into a world of massacred family members, violent persecution and strange tongues.

Looking like international soccer ace Ronaldinho, jungle tribesman Jaguar Paw shows similarly singular skills to squirrel away his pregnant wife and child before eluding sacrifice and dodging his sadistic Mayan captors.

It's a spectacularly grisly adventure through which Paw must survive relentless torrents of blood, mud, dust and rain with nothing more than instinct and determination.

Thought has gone into this. Gibson takes pains to give clear personalities to what could have been disposable cyphers and allows audiences the odd breather from the savage grandeur with pleasing smaller moments.

The fear and confusion of the captives is effectively conveyed in marvellously staged crowd scenes, POV shots of Paw's flight cleverly mirror the earlier hunting of a tapir, and there is a beautiful overhead shot of the chase through a cornfield.

Having created a world where actions speak louder than words, it would be nice to see Mel taking a leaf out of his own book.

Lemming (2005)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
One for the Lynch mob, 7 January 2007

For Lucas and Gainsbourg's happily-weds Alain and Benedicte, the discovery of a rodent stuck down the sink is nothing like as peculiar as the dinner they host for Lucas' boss (Dussollier) and his bitchy, glacial wife Alice (Rampling).

The evening's aftermath is a slow-burning chain of events leading to the detonation of a marriage: seduction, suicide, possession, desperation.

A quietly unsettling exercise in Gallic detachment (albeit from a German director), Lemming frustrates and intrigues in roughly equal measure. It's like a lengthy extract from the David Lynch handbook.

As explained in the film, lemmings are not suicidal, they simply drown from exhaustion. At a over two hours, it's a metaphor which accurately describes the viewing experience.

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