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Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek (the reboot) is one of the best 'summer blockbusters' i've seen in years. While most of these 'event' movies seem to disappoint, Star Trek is actually better than you can imagine! This is a really clever and well done reboot of the original series which should please Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike. Some nit-picking purists might moan about certain aspects but this is better than anyone could have hoped.
Starting with a blistering pre-credits sequence that is both exciting and moving, you just know your in for a treat! And the rest of the film is just as good, for director JJ Abrams has given us a fresh new take on the Trek universe. He has upped the action quota (and much of it is quite brutal) and the film moves at such a breakneck speed as to be a thrilling ride. Special effects are top notch, and there are some stunning shots that will have you itching to see the film again.
Thankfully the most important aspect, the cast, are just superb. Nice performances that hark back to the original characters but don't imitate them. Quinto is just uncanny as Spock and Chris Pine is just dynamite as the young arrogant but self assured Kirk. Some of their scenes with each other are just riveting. Also worthy of note is Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty, although Pegg does get less screen time than the rest.
There are a few flaws in the film, one involving a massive coincidence thats hard to swallow, a silly alien that chases Kirk and an alien assistant for Scotty we could have done without. But these don't detract from what is a hugely entertaining and enjoyable entry into the Star Trek universe.
This viewer is already looking forward to seeing it again and hopefully we'll see some sequels. But if your planning to see it, then make sure you see it on the big screen for maximum effect!
Death Proof (2007)
Great fun, but way to long!
I'm sure Death Proof is much better seen with its partner, 'Planet Terror' in Grindhouse. But alas, here in England we have to see them separately, at least until the Grindhouse double bill DVD comes out! Death Proof is still great fun though, and fans of the low budget 'grindhouse' genre are going to be in seventh heaven. The scratches, jumps and dirt on the print have all been lovingly added to add to the effect. You could argue that this is nothing more than cinematic masturbation, and casual cinema goers will be totally bemused by it all. But then Tarantino has never tried to satisfy the masses. The film itself has some great moments in it, and contains one of Tarantino's most shocking sequences yet, that will leave you stunned. There's also a kick ass car chase that looks incredibly dangerous with a neat twist in the outcome. Even Tarantino die-hards will find some of the dialogue tedious though, the chats between the females is incredibly dull and you'll find yourself examining your watch during these scenes, that go on way to long and add to the films already overlong running time. This is Kurt Russells film though, its a great performance and the film comes alive whenever he's on screen. So on its own, not a classic, but although it is way to long, its still well worth a look, especially if your a fan of the low budget exploitation genre. Great soundtrack as well!
Miami Vice (2006)
Cop thriller for adults
While this is called 'Miami Vice' and has the same names as the characters from the TV show, thats where the similarities end. This is a no nonsense undercover cop thriller. There are no 'buddy cops', wisecracks, car chases, or O.T.T action, so the casual movie goer is going to be a little bemused by what they are seeing. But fans of Michael Mann's work will be in seventh heaven, because this has all the director's trademarks.
There's some stunning camera-work (A lot of it digital), and some beautifully rendered sequences in this and some explosive action (But don't go expecting 'Lethal weapon' style action.) The trailer park stand off with the white supremacists was my favourite scene and an abject lesson in how to put suspense on screen.
Performances are all very good, right down to the smaller parts and the plot demands attention. I found the films running time flew by. Its so refreshing to see a cop thriller for adults, with no silliness and one that doesn't insult the audiences intelligence.
Best film so far this year.
more mainstream but still very much a Cronenberg film
Cronengergs first film that was accessible to a mass audience,and more science fiction than horror.Not to take anything away from Scanners,this is an excellent film,and still very much a Cronenberg one.Featuring another failed medical marvel,this time Ephemerol,a drug for pregnant women that has a side-effect that causes their babies to be born as scanners.The film also features other Cronenberg traits,like shady organizations,weird reclusive characters,and some startlingly nasty make up effects,the best being the infamous exploding head sequence,that has never been equalled.The film is well paced and moves fast,with a clever intelligent script.The only let down is the lead performance from Stephen Lack.Aptly named since he lacks any acting ability whatsoever!Thankfully the other performances are top notch.Patrick Macgoohan is reliably good,as is Michael Ironside who gives a riveting and intense performance,as Revok.Howard Shore provides a superb electronic score to a film that added to Cronenbergs already impressive output.
To Die For (1995)
Black comedy at its finest
This is black comedy at its finest,a wonderfully incisive film.I've seen it many times and it gets better with every viewing.This is one of Gus Van Sants best films,right up there with Drugstore Cowboy.This was the film that proved Nicole Kidman was a force to be reckoned with.Its a brutally good part,and she doesn't waste it.Giving a genuinely unhinged performance,as well as a jaw droppingly sexy one.The performances are all excellent though,Dillon plays the poor dumb schmuck who doesen't know what he's let himself in for with ease.Joaquin Phoenix is great as probably the dimmest character in movie history!Best of all is Illeana Douglas as Dillons wonderfully cynical sister."What did i first think of her?-Four letters beginning with 'c',you know......cold!" This is beautifully put together using mock docu footage,flashbacks,and straight filmaking.Clever,intelligent,and razor sharp,films like this are all to rare.Look out for director David Cronenberg,in a wickedly good cameo!
Gloriously over the top
Gloriously over the top middle ages saga from Verhoeven,who certainly makes sure the film lives up to its title!This is an exraordinarily bloody film,and apart from the gore we get dead babies,brain damaged nuns,plague infected flesh,raping,pillaging,and some terrible table manners.This is hugely enjoyable stuff,with some terrific black humour.Verhoeven also stages some excellent action sequences.The opening battle to take back the city is good,as is the amazing contraption to scale the castle that gets destroyed,and the final battle inside the castle is gripping.Rutger Hauer is reliably excellent in this,not so much a loveable rogue as a steely eyed psycho.Even better is Jennifer Jason Leigh as the kidnapped princess,who turns out to be a cunning,scheming,bitch.Witness the scene where she turns the tables on Hauer,who is attempting to rape her.There's good support also from Susan Tyrrell as a revolting whore,and Ronald Lacey as a demented priest who seems to have stepped straight out of the film 'The Devils'.This is miles better than all the other sword and sorcery films that were around at the time,because Verhoeven pulls no punches,and instills the film with a savage wit.Great music as well from 'Conan' composer,Bazil Poleduris.This film deserves a sequel!
What an absolutely godawful cod-sporran-swinging monstrosity this film is.Mel Gibson shows himself to be the pompous,self righteous,English hating berk i always suspected he was.Anyone who proclaims this to be,"The best film ever made!" Is obviously a movie simpleton.Braveheart is racist,homophobic,and the biggest load of old twaddle i've ever had the misfortune to sit through."FREEDOM!" Oh shut up you big jessie!
The Swimmer (1968)
a sad,thought provoking journey
I first saw The Swimmer when i was about 12 years old and although i didn't quite understand the film,i was definitely affected by it.I certainly never forgot it.When i saw it years later it still held the same power,and although it is slightly dated,the film is a thought provoking and sad journey into a broken man's delusional mind.I love the film's episodic nature and the way it doesn't conform to the usual filmaking rules.With each pool Merrill visits, the more information we get about his past,and what seems to have gone wrong in his life,leading to one of the most devastating and heartbreaking endings in film history.Excellent performances,especially from Burt Lancaster who is riveting throughout.The reviewer who called this the worst film he'd ever seen has obviously never seen any of Michael Winner's work!
Red Dragon (2002)
As a huge fan of Michael Manns Manhunter,i was sceptical to say the least when i heard there was going to be another adaptation of the magnificent Thomas Harris novel,Red Dragon.On seeing the film my scepticism turned to admiration,because this is a very impressive film.While this is nowhere near as stylish as Manhunter,it's straightforward,no nonsense direction works well for Tom Tally's extremely faithful screenplay.The cast are faultless.Ed Norton is perfect as the angst-ridden Will Graham.Hopkins obviously relished playing Lecter again,and gives the character an interesting slant by making him a much angrier and bitter character.Emily Watson is surely up for a best supporting actress nomination next time the oscars roll by,her scenes with Norton near the end are beautifully played,and quite touching.But the real revelation is Ralph Fiennes as Dollarhyde.He is quite simply magnificent,in a difficult part.Pulling off the character exactly as he is written in the novel.This is a wonderful companion to The Silence Of The Lambs,and i'd tentatively say that Red Dragon is the better film.It's inevitable comparisons will be made between this film and Manhunter,but why bother?Fans of the novel now have two excellent adaptations to enjoy!
The Devils (1971)
Ken Russell's finest hour
Similar to The Wicker Man in it's depiction of the hypocrisy of religion,this is probably Russell's finest hour.Very disturbing,and at times very hard to watch,it's nevertheless a very powerful film.Russell assaults the senses with some startling sequences,the demented nuns running riot engaging in all sorts of un-holy activity,the vicious torture scenes that although mostly left to the imagination,are very gruelling to sit through,and the final unflinching burning scenes.Oliver Reed is superb in this,in what is quite an heroic role,for whatever Grandier is forced to go through,he never once compromises his beliefs or takes the easy way out.*SPOILER*By the end although he is burned to death,he is the victor.Also excellent in the film is Vanessa Redgrave,as the deformed and twisted Sister Jeanne,and Michael Coulthard as the hippyish Father Barre.The film also looks fantastic,mainly due to the incredible set design by Derek Jarman.Creating a cold sterile enviroment for all the mayhem that occurs throughout the film.Required viewing for Catholics!