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18 reviews in total 
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"Your suffering will be legendary ... even in Hell", 28 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sheesh, what a twisted ride. If you're coming to Hellbound looking for logic, character development, quality acting and subtlety, you're in the wrong place. But if you fancy spending 99 minutes trapped inside a nightmare, then buckle up and prepare yourself for a succession of the most gruesome, disorientating and downright disturbing images you'll have seen for a long while.

Make no mistake, this film is very, very frightening. Not in a kind of "killer in the woods" way, but in the sort of psychedelic manner that happens in ... well ... your worst nightmares. I'll say it again: this film has the logic of a nightmare. Things happen for no reason, it never seems to end, you're constantly unsure whether the two leading girls are back safely in the real world, and the entire proceedings are underscored with images of outrageous brutality.

That's a hell (harhar) of a gamble to take with a movie, but it pays off magnificently. Just switch off reason and allow yourself to be sucked into this film's world, and trust me you will feel very, very nervous when you switch the lights back on. It's such a shame that the following Hellraiser sequels were such disasters in comparison to the first two instalments, but after Hellbound I really don't see where else they could have taken these ideas.

Dredd (2012)
6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Overly stylised, nasty violence with lashings of misogyny and adolescent machismo. Highly recommended., 7 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Faithful to the original comics, Dredd is a violent, sleazy, pulpy adolescent fantasy packed to the gills with gore, drugs, dirt, swearing, misogyny, machismo and dystopian proto-fascist overtones.

What a relief! I was so worried that I'd have to sit through another hopeless attempt to humanise the character, Stallone-style; still more worried that the filmmakers would attempt to emulate the satire of the comics' 80s incarnations, and in doing so take the source material waaaaay too seriously.

Instead I got a permanently-helmeted Dredd administering graphically-violent judgment on the perps, based in a single apartment block (a wise decision taken presumably in order not to overstretch the budget) with a satisfyingly gritty atmosphere, spiced up with a few shots of Mega-City One to give the audience a taste of the general world Dredd inhabits.

I'm fed up with superhero movies that masquerade as serious social commentary - anyone looking for social commentary from a movie should stop deluding themselves and pick up a book. I wanted violent escapism, just the same as when I read the comics as a teenager, and I got it.


1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"We're not going to make it, are we? - People, I mean.", 29 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are a lot of very entertaining movies out there, and everyone likes that feeling you get when the credits roll at the end of a good flick. But no matter how many times I see it, "Terminator 2" is one of the very few films that leaves me feeling something quite unusual - a sense of absolute awe.

I mean, the scale of this movie! You have trucks chasing bikes, helicopters chasing trucks, shootouts, huge explosions; a liquid metal man, a nuclear holocaust, a laser battle in the future; ruminations on the nature and future of humanity; sacrifice, redemption, hope. It's just huge.

The pacing is terrific: after an absolutely breakneck first hour, the audience is given time to breathe while the characters reflect on their situation in deeply ruminative scenes in the Mojave desert, before a surprising, action-packed and ultimately moving finale. The lighting and colour grading add to the impact - the many night scenes in Los Angeles are given a slick blue sheen, offering a contrast between the threatening urban environment and the warm colours of the desert. The editing is fast enough to be appropriately exciting while never becoming frenetic or confusing.

The music and sound design are impeccable. The T-1000's leitmotif really heightens the creepiness of the character. The gentle acoustic guitar in the desert sequence is both beautiful and ominous, and the Main Title theme is simply one of the greatest pieces of music I've ever heard. Sound design is such an overlooked discipline: I'm certain the average moviegoer has no idea that every footstep, every engine rumble and almost every word of dialogue is replaced during post-production. Here it's perfect, and filled with nice artistic touches such as the extra reverb on Sarah's scream when she first sees Arnie.

Even people who don't like this film have to agree that the effects are spectacular, and I've still never seen such convincing use of CGI. I recently found out why: in many cases, CGI was used to provide a smooth transition between real-life animatronic models of the T-1000 in various states of decimation, provided by the workshop of effects genius Stan Winston. The ethos was that if it could be done "in camera", it should - a creed I wish more film-makers followed. It just looks so much better and so much more convincing.

It's surprising to find an action film so affecting. The nuclear holocaust, which inspired a reaction along the lines of "awesome" when I first saw it at thirteen, is a scene that as an adult and father I now find truly bloodcurdling and terrifying. Sarah's assassination attempt on Dyson, and John's efforts to stop her, always make a deep impression ("Haven't you figured out why you can't just go around killing people?" Quite so) and I'm not ashamed to say that I've shed a few tears watching Dyson stare into the barrel of Sarah's gun.

Everything leads up to the final payoff. I get chills just thinking of the final monologue, delivered over footage of a highway at night, before the credits roll over that epic Main Title theme. It's just an astonishing piece of work, a true masterpiece, hands-down my favourite action film and in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made. Two thumbs up for T2!

Akira (1988)
10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Hmmmmmmm, 14 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember seeing this in my teens and being distinctly underwhelmed. But Akira is a film whose stature has grown with time so I thought it would be worth another look in my thirties. It's taken me five days to get to the final third as I keep falling asleep.

Many reviewers have commented on the beautiful animation that to me looks utterly average. Many have also mentioned the character development, which presumably impresses people who've never read a book. Still others praise the apocalyptic nature of Akira, which is never believable for an instant. Some decry the film for its gore content, which would at least have kept me awake.

I guess I just don't get this kind of film. Seems to me like fodder for culture-starved teens and emotionally immature adults.


1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Homer's Odyssey vs. Kubrick's Odyssey, 8 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Words can't do this film justice so I will skip the hyperbole about its brilliance. Reading the reviews on IMDb I've been drawn to a number of illuminating details, and would like to share something that I've noticed but not yet read in a peer review: the nomenclature of the film itself and one of its characters.

If '2001: A Space Odyssey' is in part a nod to Homer's Odyssey then the name of Dave Bowman becomes interesting. At the end of Homer's epic poem Odysseus returns to Ithaca in disguise, and proves his worth to his unwitting wife Penelope by besting her suitors in an archery contest. Literally, he is the "bow-man".

That's not all. Earlier on in the tale Odysseus blinds the cyclops Polyphemus, causing the monster to shout, "No man is killing me" - "No man" being the false name that Odysseus initially gave him. Odysseus's most celebrated quality among his people was his "metis", or "cunning intelligence" - a quality that Dr. Bowman (or "No man") proves in his victorious battle with the cyclops HAL.

An interesting link.

I'd also like to respond to a couple of commentators here who see this section of the movie as a mere tangent to the storyline. I disagree; I think this section ties neatly with the Dawn Of Man episode, in that the central character progresses to the next stage of its evolution through the act of killing - not for pleasure or gain, but for survival. Like the groups of apes, like Polyphemus and Odysseus, HAL and Dave are locked in a battle for life itself, surrounded by a vast arid wasteland, and only two outcomes are possible: evolution or oblivion.

This ambivalent attitude to violence, which borders on tacit approval, is an interesting quality of the film.

I'd like to say one final thing. The appearance of the "Star Child" is the single most phenomenal thing I have ever seen on film, and it's a testament to Kubrick's brilliance that he produced an ending that so defied the expectations of everyone (even his co-writer!) that each viewer has been forced to think about what this ending, this movie, and this subjective existence means to them.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Wow, who actually likes this film?, 4 November 2010

Ah yes, UNBREAKABLE - the only film that has made me leave the cinema. After about 45 minutes I went to the loos where I sat smoking cigarettes until the whole turgid, ponderous bunfight had ended and I could rejoin my friends.

Fast forward ten years, and here I am passing time during the frequent boring episodes of my office job on IMDb User Reviews, looking up films I hate but everyone else seemed to love, clicking the "Hated It" button and chortling in agreement at the vitriol poured on these so-called "classics". (AMERICAN BEAUTY is particularly amusing in this regard.) But I must admit to being gobsmacked by selecting UNBREAKABLE and being greeted with an IMDb score of 7.7 - really? Who on earth actually likes this film? It's the most boring movie I've ever (almost) seen. I'd rather watch an Andy Warhol movie, at least something sometimes happens in those.

Ringu (1998)
Slow-burner with a modern twist on a traditional horror storyline, 1 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I finally got around to seeing this movie last night (Halloween!) and found it enjoyable, but a little disappointing after all that I had heard about it. However I woke up this morning thinking about the plot and feeling genuinely uneasy about the open cupboard door in my bedroom so it definitely did its job to some extent.

After checking in here and reading so many reviewers' comparison of this film to 'Videodrome' I'd also like to point out its similarities to a classic old b/w horror called 'Night Of The Demon' (1957). That film features a paper inscribed with runes which will a short time later lead to the horrible death of anyone who finds it in their possession.

Similar, then, to the videotape conceit of 'Ringu'; however, the protagonist in 'Night Of The Demon' is highly sceptical of the supernatural and the film follows his gradual conversion as he realises the true horror of the fate that approaches him. Personally I found this idea more interesting and more realistic than the bland acceptance of the supernatural exhibited by the characters in 'Ringu'.

So if you enjoyed 'Ringu', check out 'Night Of The Demon', a creaky horror classic! (But steer clear of the US edit re-titled 'Curse Of The Demon', which removed much of the vital exposition.)

0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Empty-headed action movie, 20 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm a big fan of Bond but for some reason never sat through this one all the way until yesterday - it just seemed too much like an empty-headed action movie, and whenever it came on TV I ended up turning it off with a headache.

After watching it yesterday I have to say, what the hell is going on?! Pierce Brosnan was actually better here as Bond than in Goldeneye - he got a haircut, thank God - but the script he was given was just pathetic. Unlike others here I have no gripe with the villain or his scheme, but I definitely do have a problem with Bond mowing people down with machine guns the whole time.

This is JAMES BOND, the English super-spy, not bloody Rambo! People get upset with Dalton's psychotic Bond in 'Licence To Kill', but at least he only kills the principal bad guys. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' must have the highest body count of all the Bond films; oddly Bond's behaviour reminded me of Max Zorin's in 'A View To A Kill' who machineguns his henchmen after flooding his underground lair - a scene Roger Moore publicly objected to.

Another major quibble is that the action itself was confusing and filled with "deus ex machina" twists that are neither explained nor anticipated. How dis the chain-in-the-copter-rotor thing work? What was with the explode-the-detonator thing at the end? What was the thing inside Bond's watch that smashed the little jar and how did that set off the grenade? Where did Bond get it from - does he carry jam jars around just in case? Ironically this is probably Brosnan's best performance as Bond, but it is wasted in this asinine, confusing action movie that just doesn't feel like a Bond film at all. And can someone please explain the title?

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Bond vs. Necros, 4 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just want to add one more voice to the chorus of praise that has been rightfully bestowed on this movie. In particular I'd like to draw attention to Bond's showdown with Necros, the ice-cool blonde killer with the exploding milk bottles and deadly headphones wire.

Along with the brutal and claustrophobic fistfight with Red Grant in 'From Russia With Love', this is my favourite Bond hand-to-hand combat scene, and one of the best scenes in the entire franchise. I just can't see how our hero could be in a worse situation: hanging out of the back of a plane at two thousand feet, fighting for his life while holding on to a net filled with bags of opium, the guy ropes fraying and a bomb counting down somewhere inside. God knows my job has its bad days but nothing like this! It's thrilling stuff, and Timothy Dalton carries the scene beautifully. He really looks like he's in pain when Necros is throttling him with the netting, and when he finally gets the upper hand he shows no mercy. In fact he absolutely relishes the kill, cutting his bootlaces bit by bit as the helpless Necros begs for mercy. After all, this is the guy that's been killing off Bond's colleagues; sending him freefalling to the ground far below, Bond looks down with a sense of grim satisfaction. Justice has been done. It's masterful.

I can see why many people prefer the more light-hearted Bond films and I have time for all of his incarnations; however for me Dalton's efforts are among my very favourites and I wish he'd had the chance to do a couple more. He's very intense and pretty brutal - especially in the follow-up 'Licence To Kill' - but still stylish and cool, in a way they've perhaps lost with Daniel Craig, much as I like him. In particular Dalton wears his clothes very well, looking equally comfortable in Afghan dress or a tux. The man has style.

Along with 'From Russia With Love' and 'Licence To Kill', this is my favourite James Bond film.

Fight Club (1999)
5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Missed opportunity, 21 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been reading the reviews on this film with interest during a lazy working afternoon, and feel compelled to add the conclusion I have drawn from them. Like many others I loved this movie when I first saw it (at the age of 21) but nine years down the line have grown tired of it, especially its philosophising which skim-reading just a handful of books reveals to be crass and unoriginal. I have been especially irritated and even worried by the people on here who hold this film up as some sort of manifesto for living; some even purport that the violence is realistic, a statement which anyone who has been in a real fight will find laughable.

"Fight Club" is certainly a very entertaining film, and I admire its controversial standpoint; however the thing that dooms it to being the province of immature young men is its ending. Now I've no grumble with the plot holes because after all it is a work of fiction, and its incoherence is part of its appeal. The problem lies in the fact that Tyler Durden is never really defeated. Sure, the Narrator "kills" Tyler by shooting himself, but he never repudiates him; even at the end he is this tongue-tied intellectual weakling. He could have destroyed Tyler's very ideology in a few well-chosen sentences about how his "space monkeys" have swapped one kind of mindless conformism for another, infinitely more dangerous one - and thus given both mature audiences and frustrated teenage boys a much more even-handed and intelligent discourse on the limits of freedom.

Unfortunately this doesn't happen, and all we are left with is a well-acted, beautifully-shot movie that says absolutely nothing meaningful precisely because it is so one-sided that it becomes a piece of propaganda, and therefore worthless. An aside: another film I loved as a teenager and saw again recently was Fincher's "Seven". Same problem here too: seen through more mature eyes it just comes across as an empty and vulgar piece of pseudo-intellectualism by someone who doesn't really understand the concepts he is attempting to discuss because he hasn't read enough about them. I really hope I don't come across sounding superior because I'm not that widely-read either; however I am bright enough to recognise my limitations in this regard, and to understand the value of a balanced discourse versus a simple screed.

Try Dante's unreachable "Divine Comedy" and Isiah Berlin's excellent essay "Two Concepts Of Liberty". These are the kind of pieces of work that you should be inviting to shape your perceptions of life, not some self-consciously proselytising Hollywood movie.

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