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Død snø (2009)
Hagar the Horrible meets the Not So Evil Dead
Dumb Norwegian medical students decide to spend a few days in chalet on snow-ridden mountain, with no mobile phone signal and an outdoor toilet. For no apparent reason, Nazi zombies appear but fortunately, they're pretty crap and mostly get knocked down by a couple of good punches. Furthermore, unlike American zombies, these Undead SS soldiers don't bite or eat people's flesh. They're party trick is to surround you and then pull you apart with a couple of tugs. Maybe US kids are made of sterner stuff than their Norwegian counterparts.
Granted there are a couple of funny scenes (including a very witty ending), but not enough to salvage what is essentially a very low-budget boring film.
For those who find Hagar the Horrible exciting or who have never seen a zombie film before, go ahead and rent this, you'll enjoy it. However, fans of the zombie genre will find the special effects poor and the zombies very lame.
SGU Stargate Universe (2009)
Bunch of people on a spaceship arguing a lot
Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis were excellent shows, with great music, interesting plots, exciting action scenes and characters you could really like.
Stargate Universe is just the opposite. It's more like a reality TV show than a sci fi drama, focussing on the reactions of boring characters to various boring events (e.g. feeling cold, losing a parent, finding out your boyfriend's cheating on you when you've been cheating on him anyway). Each episode consists of about 5 minutes of plot and 45 minutes of people having sex, having a shower, having an argument or dancing at a disco.
It's about a bunch of people with no redeeming qualities who argue a lot and just happen to be lost on a spaceship.
Give it a miss.
Odysseus & the Isle of Mists (2008)
Enjoyable Sunday afternoon movie for mythology buffs
I stumbled upon this fantasy film by accident and didn't really expect much from it, even though it stars the Mummy legend, Arnold Vosloo, who made an excellent Darkman 2. I was pleasantly surprised.
The premise, about Greek hero Odysseus encountering vampires on a lost island, sounds absurd. The special effects budget was clearly small and there are some scenes when you have to imagine what the heroes are fighting since the camera doesn't show it. However, the whole thing is saved by two factors. Firstly, the writers knew what they were doing. They were obviously familiar with Homer's classic epic, with the protagonist's strengths and weaknesses, and with how people talked and behaved in those mythological times. This helps makes the whole thing plausible. They also didn't waste time on unnecessary plot detours. Further, the story is actually well-crafted and every scene is actually relevant.
Secondly, the cast perform very well. Vosloo, as ever, is charismatic, and delivers his dialogue excellently. Randal Edwards makes a believable Homer and JR Bourne is a courageous Perimedes. All this without any irritating side kicks or distracting contemporary styles of speech.
If you're expecting a modern-day horror film, you'll be disappointed. But if you watch this with some cynicism, if you're familiar with Homer's Odyssey and enjoy a different slant on the vampire myth, this is a perfect Saturday afternoon movie, which may leave you with some interesting thoughts.
Snakehead Terror (2004)
Rather funny looking fish turn up in a small American town, where the local population are literally dying to be eaten in the silliest of ways. Examples are the dude who crawls towards a hissing monster with a camera and gets eaten, the twit who, noticing a monster sitting next to him in his car, tells it that he's dropped his spectacles before getting eaten, and the particularly stupid duo who manage to crash their boats into each other before getting eaten.
The monsters, realising that they're winning too easily, try to help the humans by moving incredibly slowly and hissing a lot to advertise their presence, but this doesn't stop the locals from getting devoured.
Bruce (Babylon 5) Boxleitner presides over this piece of hokum, as a Chief (Jaws) Brodie-style Sheriff, befriending an implausibly young and attractive female scientist, while his daughter takes a group of annoying teenagers out towards the lake at night, looking for particularly hilarious ways to get eaten.
At least this film explains one thing, why aliens and other dangerous monsters prefer small town America. The locals there make particularly fast food!
Mean Girls (2004)
Neither French Nor Clueless
This is about a new girl at an American high school who joins a group of popular (and mean) girls to get secret revenge for the way they treat others. It is not just for teenagers and nor is it just for females.
I rate it as *much* better than Clueless (which *is*, IMO, a teenagers' film) and slightly better than the funny Slap Her She's French.
It is fast-paced, witty, well-edited and well-acted (yes, both the kids and the adults are good - watch out for the scenes with the headmaster and the teacher, like the one at the beginning!) The characterisations are far better than in most films of this type (people, including the mean girls, aren't stereotypes). There are also extras on the DVD that are worth watching.
The only niggle I have (and it isn't a big one) is the slightly corny (but presumably inevitable) speech near the end.
Laws of Attraction (2004)
007 meets (and shags) Sex in the City
OK, the heading was to grab your attention. Sarah Jessica Parker and her sex-mad cronies aren't (thankfully!) in this, but Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore are.
Every now and then, they make a lightweight comedy romance with English actor Hugh Grant, and someone like Jennifer Lopez or Sandra Bullock, and it falls apart because Grant can't act. Well, this one boldly casts Irish-born Bond actor Brosnan with stage-actress Moore.
It's not a "wet hanky" romance (as some reviewers were evidently expecting) but a tale of one-upmanship between two rival lawyers in Manhattan, both immediately likable characters, with romance, spy cameras and Irish dancing thrown in. Thank God there are no nasal Manhattan accents, people talking really fast about how much money they've made, women discussing sex in coffee houses, people whistling for taxis, scenes of the Statue of Liberty or Frank Sinatra music.
All in all, well worth renting.
A Knight's Tale (2001)
A boy's film for all the family
The title (based on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, who is one of the main characters) relates to William, a humble English squire who dons his dead lord's armour to compete in French jousting competitions, aided by his two squire friends, herald Chaucer and Scottish fletcher-ette (!).
Some suspension of belief is called for in the confusion about what a bunch of English (and Scottish!) people are doing in France when the countries should have been at war or at least on poor terms, the meaning of 'knights', the crowd scenes, which are more reminiscent of a football match (well, Sir William bears more than a passing resemblance to David Beckham) and the rock music score.
(The opening scene with the crowd thumping away to Queen's "We Will Rock You", is particularly good.)
Nevertheless, this fast-moving adventure has everything it takes for 2 hours 10 minutes of enjoyment. The hero is dashing, the heroine is sumptuously beautiful (well, she is half-French!), the sidekicks are loyal and amusing, and the villain contemptuous, eerie and vile. The scenes with Sir William's father were also touching.
There is a tiny bit of minor swearing and some male nudity (back only, so nothing to worry about, mum). Also, the violence is not gory, as one might expect from a film about combat as a sport.
Hornblower: The Even Chance (1998)
Best of British
Like all the Hornblower series, this is British television at its best.
The story line moves swiftly, the dialogue and acting are superb, and (for the American audience) there are explosions, battles and special effects. Robert Lindsay (Captain Pellew - best remembered for his role in "Citizen Smith" in the 70s) and Ioan Gruffudd (more recently Sir Lancelot in King Arthur) are a treat to watch.
Having recently watched Russell Crowe in Master and Commander, I'd say the Hornblower series has the edge.
What are you doing still reading this - go rent it on DVD now!
Though this thriller (about a teenage girl who develops a dangerous crush on her father when her mom dies) has the feel of a cable movie, with few characters and most of the scenes shot in a couple of locations, it was well-acted and had a plot that kept my interest. The characters develop quite effectively and you're never quite sure whodunnit and why, until the end. Worth renting.
Out for a Kill (2003)
Older but still looking good
Archaeology Professor Steve uncovers a nest of Chinese villains, who, for no apparent reason, decide to eliminate him. Not having seen any of his films, they make two crucial mistakes. Firstly, instead of sending younger, fitter henchmen to do their dirty work, they go after him themselves. Secondly, they take him on one at a time. Armed only with his incense sticks, a seemingly endless supply of airline tickets and an uncanny ability to pinpoint exact baddy locations from nothing more than a city name, Steve mows through these older, fatter management-type baddies with all the difficulty of a knife cutting through warm butter. Don't get me wrong. Seagal fans (of which my wife and I are 2) will enjoy this martial arts romp. There is no graphic sex or unnecessary violence (except for the painfully spouted dialogue, much of which appears to come from Sun Tzu's `Art of War'). As Steve didn't say: "The wise man who expects little won't be disappointed."