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Theo Robertson

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The Gambler (2014/III)
An Average Hand, 22 April 2015

Based upon a short novel by Fyodor Dosoyevsky this is a remake of an earlier film from 1974 of the same name . I haven't seen the original but does contain an absolutely gripping tagline of "For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000" . If that tagline doesn't hook you in then may be you just don't like movies . On top of that I see the 1974 version has an average user rating of 7.2 , The 1970s was a highpoint of American cinema where morally dubious flawed people behind the camera were making movies revolving around dubious flawed fictional characters . This remake barely made a ripple at the box office when it was released at the end of last year and has a fairly low rating and after seeing it then it's not too easy to see why

Rupert Wyatt is an adequate director but nothing I've seen from it suggests he's anything more than that . The screenplay is written by William Monahan and this should get a few alarm bells ringing . Much of his work is composed of merely adapting from a vastly superior source and any embellishment he adds to the story is inferior compared to the original work . He also fails to disguise the source . You watch a film with Monahan appearing in the credits and there's some good bits in it ? Well give the credit to the original source material . You watch a film with Monahan appearing in the credits and there's bad bits in it ? Well you all know who to blame . Monahan could defend myself by saying he's not Akiva Goldman and he would be correct but I could equally defend myself by saying no matter what evil deeds I do I'm not on a par with Hitler . A strawman argument . Since this film sources a film that is based on a story by Dosoyevsky there's lots of existentialism spoken about . If you like this praise be to a 19th Century Russian writer . The protagonist finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place due to his own self destructive actions ? Hey that's sounds like many American films from the1970s . To be fair the cast do their best with the material on offer and rise above the film's flaws but THE GAMBLER doesn't deal the audience a winning hand which is a pity

A Guilty Pleasure Rather Than Worst War Film Ever, 22 April 2015

I just visited a military forum earlier today the Army Rumour Service website , the self styled unofficial website of the modern day British . One interesting thread amongst the many informative and interesting threads on the forum is "Worst War Film Ever " (WWFE) . One chap on the thread read my review of HOOLIGANS AT WAR and said while it was a pile of "£^&%£ it wasn't as bad as "The one about the tunnel rats in Vietnam" . The same poster brought up the topic again on the WWFE saying it was the worst film he'd ever seen . Totally intrigued I demanded to know the title of this atrocity . " The Tunnel Rats from 2008 directed by Uwe Boll" came the reply . I had to do a bit of searching , but not too much searching in order to find it

With a title like 1968 TUNNEL RATS you're probably expecting a Vietnam war film featuring the role of the eponymous tunnel rats in that conflict . I know I was . Since the Viet Cong built a vast number of tunnels throughout the South of the country . American soldiers employed specials who'd have the dangerous and thankless task of actually going down , both as a recce mission and destroying the tunnels . PLATOON briefly touched upon this subject as did at least one episode of TOUR OF DUTY but only briefly . As someone who watched a lot of Vietnam war films to the point where it became overkill it might be interesting to watch a different aspect from a war which has etched itself upon the human psyche

No such luck because 1968 TUNNEL RATS is exploitation with a capital E . It does have a look and feel of one of those things that was appearing in the 1980s usually with Chuck Norris where the hero goes back to the 'Nam , usually to rescue abandoned MIAs while killing lots and lots of commies . It's hardly cerebral anti-war statement and is closer to mindless war porn fun and as much as I hate myself for saying this it is actually fun on an exploitation level . Much of the fun comes about watching Boll try and disguise his non existent budget by staging an epic battle scene on a Forward Operating Base . Having no budget means the FOB is a couple of tents and a sandbag bunker . When the VC attack it's painfully obvious there's only about three VC soldiers attacking a base of four Americans . He shoots the small outside set from different angles and every time there's a cut to a gun battle the shot is in medium close up never failing to disguise the fact that there's never more than three or four extras being used . Nice try Uwe but you're fooling no one but thanks for giving us a brainless film that is more entertaining than it possibly deserves to be

Shatteringly Bad Dialogue, 22 April 2015

I was a bit apprehensive when THE SHATTERING started . Not being a fan of found footage the opening sequence suggests it's going to be a new twist on that sub-genre by having instead of video footage we're getting silent super 8 mm lost footage . This doesn't happen and if someone is thinking of making a 90 minute feature film with 8 mm celluloid with no sound please don't because there's absolutely no market for it . Thankfully THE SHATTERING which has an impressive DVD cover isn't lost footage horror but that said it's not a very good horror movie and probably deserves its straight to DVD status

One massive flaw becomes apparent right away where four characters are driving in a car and one of the characters mentions she's receiving chemo-therapy and they're off to meet a mystical healer. One of the character replies along the lines of "Oh so that's why we're driving along this very dark road late at night" which quickly draws your attention to a lack of internal logic to the scene . If a bunch of people are going to be driving up a lonely dark road late at night wouldn't they ask before they get in the car why they're going on a long journey ? In other words it's a scene of clunky , clumsy exposition . The rest of the film continues in the same way . It's fairly obvious the characters are stuck in the middle of nowhere but the screenplay feels the need to emphasise this by stating "We've driven for miles and haven't seen anyone" as if the audience are unaware of this . Every time someone opens their mouth what comes out is plot mechanics and sounds very unnatural . As the story continues it becomes a group of young people are trapped by something in the dark and if you've seen the DVD cover you'll know what's stalking them . If you haven't then don't worry because one of the characters will explain the plot as it goes along

Streets (2011/I)
The Performances Carry The Film, 22 April 2015

I'm not a fan of ghetto films . It seems wrong to profit from the misery of crime ridden , socio-economic deprived urban hell that many people have to endure by making a film on the topic . Let's be cynical if not honest and say these type of films are about the makers putting themselves in the shop window , getting money and acclaim about a serious subject and marketing the film for people who don't live in the ghetto . On top of that the formula is always the same of bright young kid having to choose between joining the nihilistic pack or following their dreams and the film is always peppered with variations of the F and N words . STREETS didn't hold much promise and as the opening credits started I logged on to this page to see the young cast held very low experienced resumes so I was expecting amateur hour . As the film continued I did actually find myself pleasantly surprised and despite being nowhere near Oscar was not nearly as bad as I was expecting

Now let's continue in an honest vein and say STREETS never breaks out of its formulaic bondage . It contains all the plot devices who claim to be characters . The aims and motives of these plot devices are the same as you'd see in any ghetto movie but what is does it does comparatively well . Much of this is simply down to the aforementioned young cast who bring the ring of truth to their roles , especially Nafessa Williams as the middle class Nicole Williams who manages to bring a likability to her role . I'm taking most the cast are from the mean streets of Philadelphia ? Being unknown this helps and I never thought for a moment I was watching a bunch of actors playing roles . Director Jamal Hill obviously has a very small budget to play with and STREETS does have a student film look about but if nothing else he does get the best out of his cast . He does over do things where track is involved by having mood muzak play over scenes as in "this is a sad scene so lets play sad music and this is a scene of menace lets play some menacing music and this ... " which is a pity because it takes away from the realist approach the director might have originally been looking for

The Gunman (2015)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Despite The Cast It's An Aimless Thriller That Misses The Target, 22 April 2015

A modern Euro-thriller where it wears its heart on its sleeve and THE GUNMAN sets out its stall right from the very start where British ITN news reports expose the deteriorating situation in The Democratic Republic Of Congo . Wow a mere movie that thrills its audience while bringing to attention very real life human tragedy to the masses . Oh hold didn't Sylvester Stallone do something similar with the last RAMBO movie ? Also Steven Seagal constantly battered both the bad guys and the audience over the head with new age thinking and environmental issues when he was a movie star back in the day . Sometimes a thriller featuring real life geo-politics can be a success such as BLOOD DIAMOND from a few years ago . THE GUNMAN wasn't , a fact reflected in poor box office and critical review

On paper this has all the makings of a classic . A couple of Oscar winning actors alongside a few other well known names in a fast moving commercial thriller featuring a host of locations but it's very easy to see why the film flopped . Sean Penn plays Terrier a former security contractor and hit-man working in the Congo who assistants a government minister and this catches up with him a few years down the line as a corporate company seeks to liquidate him . Within a very short period of time I was at a loss as to what was going on as Terrier jumps from one location to another to meet one character or another who usually tell him "Okay mate see ( Another character) at (Another location) and they'll tell you to meet another character at another location , but be careful because there's people out to get you" . Lots of things happen when Terrier gets there , usually the same thing involving guns and people getting killed and the audience have probably become completely bored by the halfway point as one set-piece crashes in to another

THE GUNMAN is an example of if you have a good cast this won't mean a single thing unless you've given them material to work with via a screenplay . You can certainly understand why everyone signed up to it with a promise of "Okay guys you're getting to work in exotic locations and this film is really about social issues featuring unelected greedy multi-national companies plundering the planet" but this quickly becomes forgotten as it descends in to confused , generic action thriller without the thrills it promises . Truth be told it deserves the almost universal bad feedback

Gravity (2013)
In Space No One Can Hear You Gasp Wow !, 22 April 2015

I had an excuse for missing GRAVITY when it came out . I wasn't all that keen on Mexican director's Alfonso Cuaron's CHILDREN OF MEN and I wasn't overly impressed with the rather threadbare premise of GRAVITY . Every time I discussed it with someone who'd seen it the conversation went something like this:

"There doesn't seem to much to it . Sandra Bullock gets trapped in space. Is that all there is to it?"

"Well yes Theo but what it does it does very well and the three D is absolutely fantastic. There's a scene where..." then I'd get details of how the magic of cinema comes to life to an IMAX large screen

Fair enough but I'm someone who's interested in a strong story and having a film revolve around visual set pieces not too dissimilar to CHILDREN OF MEN wasn't enough to tempt me to buy a cinema ticket for GRAVITY . Somewhat typically after seeing it on my laptop I am now kicking myself that I didn't watch it on a massive screen with 3D glasses on an IMAX screen

When I was about twelve years old I read Nigel Kneale's novelization of his own 1979 QUATERMASS serial and early in the story there's a space disaster where a space station breaks up . Kneale compares it to a shipwreck where the lucky ones are killed instantly because those inside the space station are not protected in the airless vacuum of space and die quickly . Not so fortunate are those space walking outside in their spacesuits and will probably survive many hours or even a couple of days until their oxygen runs out . It is a terrifying , lonely death , almost like being buried alive except being buried alive is a claustrophobic death where as drifting in space is an agoraphobic horror . Cauron nails this horror of a space death very well . What's worse: suffocating in a tiny space capsule or suffocating inside a spacesuit in the vastness of space ? Go on choose one and like every other person who has seen the film we're propelled in the shoes of Ryan Stone where if she doesn't survive the mission she will die a terrible lonely death

As I said the story is rather thin and concentrates on visuals and this is in no way to be taken as a criticism . Cauron uses cinematography and editing so breath taking I could barely believe my eyes . One sequence relatively early in to the film sees the camera pan in to the face of Stone , but it does stop there because the camera then pans in to the helmet of Stone the camera is actually inside the space helmet . The editing is so seamless I was gasping "How'd they manage to do that shot ?" . The film continues in this manner where one stunning and thrilling sequence gives way to another . In a recent review of RUSH , another film released in 2013 I asked myself why Ron Howard's movie didn't pick any up Oscar nominations but to be honest no film would stand a chance with the technical merits of GRAVITY which is absolutely perfect on a visual level , a fact reflected by its sweeping of the boards at the 2014 Oscars though it lost out to 12 YEARS A SLAVE . It must be said however that 2013 was an exceptional year for film making


Very few films are perfection and GRAVITY is not an exception to the rule . There are a few elements of manipulation going on such as Stone being a mother therefore the audience are supposed to feel for her even more but this isn't necessary and I was totally caught up in her ordeal without the need for any backstory or violins playing over the score . There's a plot turn about two thirds of the way through that I instantly knew was a hallucination . I also have the feeling the laws of astro-physics were constantly being bended if not broken and the ending wraps everything up a bit too conveniently to be entirely credible. When this is said and done however it doesn't really matter because the flaws are very minor and the ordeals and setbacks Stone finds herself in are a testimony of humanity's courage and spirit of adventure while GRAVITY itself is a testimony to the modern wonders of cinema .

A Good Film But You Do Feel It's Embellished A Bit Too Much, 22 April 2015

A NATO special forces mission in Afghanistan sees a four man team capture a senior Taliban commander and they manage to extricate him without firing a shot

A rather boring premise for a book which is why you'll never see it used . People don't like hearing about success in this context hence we get the horror stories of things going wrong in war . It appeals to both sides of the divide where war porn addicts can immerse themselves in gore and courage and jingoism while grief whores can gnash their teeth and tell themselves nothing in human nature is worse than war - not even eternal defeat and tyranny by a victorious enemy . This film LONE SURVIVOR based upon the true life account of a firefight in Afghanistan written by Marcus Luttrell might actually appeal to both sides but at the same time you can say it's guilty of having its cake and eating it . A four man Navy SEALS team goes in to hostile Taliban territory to keep tabs on a local warlord . As I said no one wants to hear about a mission that goes right so within a short period something goes wrong and things from bad to worse and even worser and we're not even halfway through the film yet

LS shows that war is hell but overdoes things and has embellishment . It's not enough for someone to be knocked off their feet by a grenade blast - they must be blown off the top of a hill , and bounce off rocks , bounce off some more rocks and bounce off even more rocks then their fall is broken - by rocks. It does seem difficult to swallow what some human bodies can endure where physics is concerned but I wasn't there nor am I a USN SEALS member either . But even so the film often hits wrong notes like a lengthy scene where the team discuss the possible execution a trio of goat herders in order to make a clean get away to their rendezvous point . Again I wasn't there but why would a special forces team consider what is effectively murder in order to keep their cover ? If the bodies are found then that would invite counter-murder with extreme and painful prior torture from the Taliban if captured . Likewise it's almost as if the unit have been able to predict that they'd be unable to contact base once they arrived at the rendezvous point . I don't want to accuse anyone of lying especially when I'm sat here on a safe sofa out of a war zone but little things like the things seen here don't really ring true . But as I said I wasn't there

Where LS deserves some credit is not portraying all Pashtuns as violent savages . Several years ago I had a brief online chat with a former security contractor who spent several years in Afghanistan . I asked about the Russian film 9TH COMPANY and if it was true of the Pashtun tradition of "Haram" seen in that film where if you're a guest of a Pashtun you're not allowed to be harmed . The former contractor whose name was Nick informed me that only was true but if you're a guest of a Pashtun village then the hosts have also a duty to Allah to defend you with their lives ! Despite all the understandable bad news coming of Afghanistan for decades Nick also told me if he hadn't met his wife he'd still be there if only because of Pashtun uber-hospitality .This is recreated in detail were the titular lone survivor crawls in to a local village though again the film overplays its hand a bit after this by having another action sequence And maybe this sums up LONE SURVIVOR perfectly . It's another film on the war is hell theme but the trouble with war porn is unlike sexual porn it ends up becoming ironically and unintentionally erotic . It's a good film from a technical point of view but you're left with the feeling it's more of a patriotic flag waver rather than being genuinely anti-war

Not For Everyone, 22 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With Corman McCarthy you know you're not going to get light , frothy family friendly fare . NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN saw film producers queue up to buy film rights for his novels and to be fair THE ROAD is one of the most memorable post apocalyptic American cinema has produced in a very long time , as long as you get past the unrelenting nihilistic mood . With CHILD OF GOD the same in your face attempt to shock the audience is present and at four minutes in the audience are treated to a graphic scene of a character doing a poo ! That gives you an idea of how the film continues and if you don't like CHILD OF GOD by this stage turn off and find90 minutes to do something else


Despite the cast being headed by the prolific James Franco who also directs Franco only appears in cameo . Instead the story is centered around Lester Ballard played by Scott Haze , an outsider of society whose unsocial behaviour eventually mutates in anti-social serial murder . It is a good performance and one wonders if Franco might have had one eye of the Oscars of getting Haze an Oscar nomination . It's certainly worthy of a nom and reading the trivia section we learn Haze takes method acting to new heights by preparing for the role by sleeping in the open and living in a cave . Perhaps by trying too hard the voters of these prestigious awards decided to ignore Haze for this very reason ?

More likely however is that when you're playing a character it's essential that the audience emphasise with your aims . Now I don't mean the audience have to agree or sympathise with these aims but must understand them at the most basic fundamental level . Here we see Ballard embark on a killing spree . Fair enough , show me someone who doesn't harbour abstract murderous fantasies and I will show you a hypocritical liar but killing people because of motives of necrophilia is something entirely different . There might be reasons why having sex with a dead body is preferable to a live one but none springs to mind . I have also never watched a film thinking to myself "Hmmm not a bad film but we could have benefited from a few scenes of necrophilia inserted in to it" ; Like pooing necrophilia isn't a spectator sport . The fact that Franco shoots the film with hand-held cameras giving everything a cinema verite feel adds to the alienating feel

CHILD OF GOD is an example of a film being well made and acted but also lives up to the phrase "It's not a film for everyone" .meaning it has little commercial appeal and isn't popcorn entertainment for the masses . Bleak and depressing it's one of these films I'm unsure I should have watched in the first place and I'm rather sure I have no compulsion to watch it again . You have been warned

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Lies , Lies And More Lies, 22 April 2015

There's a saying that when it comes to history that "All that is true is not new and all that is new is not true" and this is certainly correct. I recently read John Mosier's The Myth Of The Great War and this sums up the saying . Revisonary history where facts are ignored and subjectively made by using different and highly biased stats in order to come to an incorrect conclusion . Did you know the Germans won the battle of the Marne in 1914 and the battle of Verdun in 1916 ? Not something I'd read before Mosier brought it to the public attention and a view that contradicts nearly ever other historian's analysis of The Great War . It also begs the question if the Germans were so successful why didn't they win the war ? That's because according to Mosier it was the American army's introduction to the war that won it for the allies . Certainly this was a factor in the attrition involving the conflict where Britain , France and Germany were dead on their feet but it should also be remembered that in the 100 days the British army killed and captured more Germans than the French , Belgian and American armies combined . A fact ignored by Mosier who also ignores the fact that the British navel blockade had effectively starved Germany in to submission and if it wasn't for the 1918 armistice Germany would have collapsed sometime in 1919 . Of course it's possibly wrong to single out Mosier for subjective bias disguised as fact but The Myth Of The Great War is a classic example of what I'm talking about and ADOLPH Hitler THE GREATEST STORY NEVER TOLD by Dennis Wise intrigued me judging by the comments here . As someone who can't find out enough about military history would this documentary tell me something I didn't know ?

The early part does the age old technique of documentary storytelling by having a combination of archive footage , reconstruction and voice over . We learn the early life of Hitler who was born in an Austrian town , was a choir boy at the local Catholic chapel that had a Swastika in its stained glass window which Hitler later adopted as his party's symbol . He wanted to be an artist and when war broke out in 1914 he enlisted in the German army where he was a popular soldier with his comrades , had a fairly distinguished military career and heard of the armistice when he was recovering in a hospital bed while suffering from gas poisoning . Leaving the army he found Germany tearing itself apart with factions of the left and right . Forming the right wing National Socialist German Workers Party Hitler enters constitutional democratic politics , becomes part of a coalition government in 1933 and abolishes democracy . In his favour as the 1930s progress he achieves full employment and eradicates hyper-inflation while the rest of the Western world is still suffering from The Great Depression . The Nazis even introduce environmentalist programes and warn about the dangers of smoking tobacco

So far so good but it didn't tell this viewer a single thing he hadn't already known . After 45 minutes of this the documentary takes a sharp twist in tone and becomes what many people on this page recognise this as - propaganda of the worst sort . The communists and democracies were all in cahoots with one another and it was all down to the Jews . Every cheap trick is used to paint the Nazis as being nowhere as bad as history has painted them . The German military had Jewish soldiers in it . Yes but even here there's spin put upon it . The Jewish blood line is maternal so someone called "Goldberg" possibly wouldn't qualify as Jewish under Rabbinic tradition . Neither might they be viewed as Jewish under the Nazi regime . Erhard Milch , Eric Von Mannstien and Reinhard Heydrich were of vague Jewish descent . Indeed it might have been that the Nazi hierarchy had people such as Eichmann and Hitler himself of having a long distant Jewish bloodline . It doesn't alter the fact that the Nazis were genocidal racists who hated non Aryan races in general and the Jewish race in particular and millions were murdered for "Not being European enough"

Perhaps the worst aspect is the what-a-aboutery and moral equivalence on show here . Every low blow in the book is used to paint the Nazis as not doing any thing much worse than anyone else might have been doing . Stalin invaded neighbouring countries and murdered millions . Stalin reduced the population of the Soviet Union to cannibalism . This is entirely true but as anyone who has the most basic knowledge of the Second World War will tell you off the top of their head that during the Nazi siege of Leningrad 1.5 million brave defenders died with many of them starving to death . Pot . Kettle . Black . Likewise the American racism against the native population of the 19th Century and the "Jim Crow" laws are brought . Well Mr Wise if you want to make a documentary chronicling American racism please don't let us stop you but don't make a documentary justifying or excusing genocide as this one tries and fails to do

Bedlam (2015)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
In Many Ways A Disgraceful Film, 22 April 2015

This Australian film wastes no time in showing us what it's trying to achieve . A man is being held down and unseen people are trying to pull his teeth out with pliers and the opening title hasn't even been shown yet ! If this shocks you then turn off because the fun and games haven't even started yet and one wonders if Chew Barker has had a competition with someone to see if you can make the most disturbing and depressing film in the history of cinema ? If so he's definitely in contention for the top prize

!!!!! SPOILERS !!!!!!

A young man called George suffering from schizophrenia is committed to a mental asylum and what happens is supposedly based on true events according to an opening capitation but I was having a problem believing just how true this might be along with Barker being on the side of the mentally ill . It must be an absolute living hell suffering from psychosis and Barker does use expressionistic and deeply disturbing imagery early in the film to show George's illness . However more often than not Barker paints mentally ill characters with broad strokes that play up to every single hysterical stereotype of "psychos" . That said the lunatics in the asylum are great company compared to the ones running it . The male nurses are sadistic brutes and wear a crypto-fascist type of uniform more fitting to neo-Nazi street fighters who when they're not physically abusing the male patients are raping the female ones and if this mental asylum resembles Auschwitz that's probably because the psychiatrist running the place is indeed a former Nazi death camp commander

It's at this point you feel something might be overstated if this is based upon true events . I remember seeing a documentary in the late 1970s about the British psychiatric at Rampton where the staff constantly over stepped the mark but nothing like what we get with BEDLAM . If Barker is trying to bring institutional abuse in Australian psychiatric hospitals he's gone the wrong way about it . As someone tells George " It's going to be a tough sell to find anyone to believe you" and never was a truer word spoken . BEDLAM has very little truth in how it's presented . It also contains spoof adverts for psychoactive drugs such as "Brotak" , "Moxiton" and "Thorameal" but I took the time to google these so called medications while watching the film and found that they didn't exist and the film ends on a very weak meta-fictional twist that " It's just a film darling" which you could probably see coming and renders BEDLAM as pointless exploitation

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