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33 reviews in total 
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Riddick (2013)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Haven't we seen this movie before?, 29 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a huge fan of the Chronicles of Riddick series.

Pitch Black was a dark horse that came out of nowhere, and even though it borrowed elements from the Alien franchise, it sparkled with an originality and uniqueness that made it a memorable little film.

Then along came the sequel, the Chronicles of Riddick, which has to be one of the best sequels, after The Empire Strikes Back, for taking a franchise to a whole other level rather than simply repeating the same formula from the original hit.

I had been waiting for the third film with baited breath for years, and really couldn't wait to see how this trilogy was going to be developed, or ended.

What I got was a paint-by-numbers rehash of the first film, but without any of the things that made the original so great.

There are literally entire segments and concepts that are stolen from the first film, from the chained up Riddick, to the alien monsters, to the tough blonde female.

What was so frustrating about this film was the fact that they had been handed a golden opportunity to develop an amazing story following on from the ending of the second movie, yet it is all just thrown out within in the opening act of this film with a cheap plot device that doesn't even really make a lot of sense when you stop and think about it.

From there Riddick just follows the formula of Pitch Black, except this time the execution is nowhere near as competent.

When the monsters do arrive the tension hasn't been properly built, and then the final stanza is rushed - the end result being a movie with a forgone and drama-less conclusion.

To make matters worse we have a cheesy ending that literally looks like it was tacked on as a quick and easy wrap up to the film.

As a fan of this franchise I have to say that Riddick was the worst of the three films, and it has squandered what easily could have been a sci-fi trilogy as unique and memorable as the original Star Wars one was.

The Colony (2013/I)
13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
A poorly executed imitation of a Danny Boyle film, 23 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I first saw the trailer for this film I had high hopes. Some pretty solid journeymen actors, a great premise, and enough of a budget to execute the thing properly.

However, the actual film simply failed to deliver as promised by the trailer.

It's hard to pin down exactly what the problem with The Colony is, but if I had to point to a couple of things I would say; lack of originality, and a confused plot development that feels far too rushed by the time the final credits roll.

Basically this is a non-viral version of 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle (with a spot of Sunshine mixed in for good measure) - identical score, similar story points, same sort of antagonists, and an ultra-violent final clash that bears striking similarities to the final act of 28 Days Later.

It's really the final act of this film where the plot development starts to implode in on itself - basically things are set up relatively well, but then the film rushes to a conclusion, and leaves you feeling like what you've just seen shouldn't have actually unfolded the way that it did.

I was especially perplexed by the final confrontation where not only has our main antagonist developed a terminator-like strength and invincibility (previously his band of merry men were being killed with single gunshots, and single blows from axes, etc), but now our protagonist has also become equally superhuman in his fighting ability.

Then, in a film that has previously featured very little in the way of on-screen blood and gore, suddenly features a prolonged and graphic head bashing, followed by an almost comic decapitation at the mouth.

All in all this one was a dissatisfying movie experience.

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
A rather pointless gorefest that fails to live up to Refn's previous effort, 20 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really liked Nicolas Winding Refn's previous offering of Drive. It had a coherent narrative, characters we could care about, and it used the stylistic cinematography with intelligent precision.

Only God Forgives, however, didn't really do anything of these things.

Not only was the stylistic cinematography so totally overused, but this film reeked of imitation, rather than originality.

I would describe it as a collection of concepts stolen from Kubrick, Tarantino and Nicolas Winding Refn's previous movie Drive.

The violence is totally gratuitous and toxic to the structure of the film. In Drive, there are one or two moments of gratuity, but they are brief and can be excused by the story that has been crafted around them. In this film the violence is constant, and it actually overwhelms any attempt at storytelling.

The stylistic cinematography shots are so totally overused that the film becomes a collection of shots all grouped together, rather than a story told on film - at times it literally feels like a film-school audition reel rather than an actual movie.

The only characters in this movie that the audience could ever possibly care about are either killed within the first ten minutes, or have very minor parts in the movie.

There are one or two scenes/moments I really liked about this film (which is why it has 3 stars), but at the end of the day there just aren't enough of them strung together in any coherent way to produce a movie that I would want to watch again, or that has much in the way of redeeming features.

If you want to see Nicolas Winding Refn at his best, then skip this one and see Drive instead.

Dark Power (2013)
25 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
A thriller so bad it's a comedy, 20 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My suspicions about this movie were initially aroused when the opening credits listed two different directors, and within 15 minutes my skepticism had proved to be right on the money.

The acting is terrible, the filmmaking and script is comedically clichéd and bad, the continuity errors are so blatant you'd have to wonder whether they were inserted on purpose.

Think I'm being unfair? Just consider the following: A terribly acted security guard character is ham-fistedly inserted into the plot, and the actor plays the role as if he's in a comedy, before finally being killed about 5 minutes later (at which point all of the ridiculous and badly acted build up with the security guard character becomes totally redundant to the film - he literally didn't even need to feature in this film.) The mayor and the security guard are murdered by an assassin who is standing an holding his rifle at his shoulder, but not longer after the assassination, during the crime scene examination we are told that the assassin was resting his rifle on a stairway banister (and the mark that supposedly tips the police expert off to the shooter's position is literally a non-descript random scratch on a wooden stair railing).

Right before the mayor is shot the power goes out, and we are told by the mayor that the power has gone out because of the storm - then immediately after killing the mayor, the assassin walks out into a perfectly clear night, where the power is obviously still on for the entire city (this imaginary storm is then mentioned again in the script about 5 mins later).

A character tells us that the cell phone reception in city hall is almost non-existent due to the thickness of the walls just minutes after another character makes a cell phone call from inside city hall to alert authorities to the assassination of the mayor.

The news of the mayor's assassination is announced by a newsreader who looks like a 16 year old retail sales assistant (on a TV that was literally volume-less just seconds before she comes on), in a tone that wold make her an ideal candidate for George Romero's next zombie flick - and she literally says the following: "This just in, Mayor Stan Wood has been shot, in an apparent assassination attempt at city hall. Preliminary reports indicate that the wounds were fatal." (obviously if the wounds were fatal then this wasn't an apparent assassination ATTEMPT.

I could go on, and on, and on, but all of this takes place in literally the first 20 minutes of this woeful b-grade film, so I'll spare you the rest.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
How do you mess up what should have been a paint-by-numbers success?, 7 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In theory this film should be far better than what it actually is. It has a great premise, is shot beautifully, and it features some truly excellent acting, but despite all this the finished work just isn't that good a film.

The entire first act (the wedding) is completely redundant and serves no meaningful purpose to the plot - in fact, it doesn't even make any sense when you stop and think about the fact that the bride and groom literally go from infatuated lovers to divorcée's within a matter of hours.

And the supposed 'impending doom' of the approaching planet that we are promised in the synopsis doesn't even really make an appearance until the final 15 - 20 minutes of the movie.

In the end this film is little more than a fictional snap shot of what would happen if a bunch of over financed, self-obsessed white people were to come face-to-face with an apocalyptic event - and even then it's so one-dimensional that it just doesn't work.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of art house cinema fans just couldn't bring themselves to accept that they'd been sold a bill of goods on this movie, so instead they just ordered another latte to quell their nagging doubts, and pretended that this was A-grade cinema.

9 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
The WORST Roland Emmerich film ever made, 6 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unlike many of my friends, I am not a hater of Roland Emmerich films, in fact I have several of his films in my collection and they are some of my favorites. Emmerich has a knack for making big scale movies that conjures up the good old days of cinematic escapism.

The problem is that White House Down is just NOT up to Emmerich's usual summer blockbuster standards, in fact, it is utter garbage, and quite possibly one of the worst exercises in screen writing that I've seen from a big budget movie. Ever.

It's failings range from clichéd characters, to ridiculously unbelievable plot devices, to the blatant use of tired old caricatures and motivations (all ripped off from other, better movies), to some of the most absolutely ridiculous dialogue you will ever hear uttered by A-list actors.

And the more the movie progresses, the more all of these things begin to pile up on one another until the movie implodes in on itself in an absolute clichéd mess of woeful storytelling and terrible film making.

Look, every sensible movie-goer knows that you need to enter a film of this sort with a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief, however this movie is so ridiculously bad that it plays out like the biggest-budget B movie ever made.

A far more rewarding and well crafted version of this exact same storyline is offered by the movie 'Olympus has Fallen'.

The two things that I am surprised by are; how this film could have come from the same filmmaker who only just recently delivered the movie Anonymous, and why so many quality actors agreed to participate in this mindless schlock.

I guess the pen really is mightier than the sword (in-joke for those who have seen the film), especially when that pen is writing large pay checks for actors willing to sell their soul for a few extra bucks.

The Call (2013/II)
A good thriller... BUT..., 21 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, so this movie is a solid little by-the-numbers type thriller, that is well paced, with a solid plot (no unnecessary mucking around, pointless sidetracks, etc - it just stays focused on the story at hand and keeping the plot moving).

It's pretty well acted, although there are a couple of moments (literally only one or two) where Halle Berry's acting gets a little bit clichéd and thin, but for the most part it works well.

In some ways it felt a little bit like a made-for-TV movie, or a 90 minute episode of CSI, but this actually works in its favor because the pace doesn't let up, and the moments where you need to suspend your disbelief are so well set up that you're willing to overlook the obvious flaws.

However, all of the good work was pretty much undone for me in the last couple of minutes where the film completely, unnecessarily and totally inconsistently shifts from being a 'race against the clock' type thriller to a revenge movie.

This final shift is not only totally not in keeping with the rest of the film (i.e. the other 90 minutes of it), but it is also totally inconsistent with the character arcs and development of both female protagonists.

It sharply pulls you right out of the movie and leaves you annoyed at the totally clichéd tripe you are served up in the final moments of the film.

It's a shame, because it really was a solid and very watchable thriller up until that point.

The Divide (2011)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Vile, poorly crafted torture porn, 16 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film had an excellent premise, and some truly interesting elements (the men in white suits, Mickey's back story, etc.)

Unfortunately none of these are actually expounded upon in any meaningful way, and instead we get almost 2 hours of below par film making and gratuitous torture porn that serves nothing other than the gratification of the director's personal tastes.

Nothing really makes senses in this movie, apart from the character of Mickey - largely because the other characters are woefully underdeveloped.

Eva is meant to be our main protagonist, yet we are told nothing of any real substance about her, and as a result, we're not even sure if she's had any sort of character arc by the end of the film - same goes for the two male antagonists.

Then there's the timeline - a guy who gets a severe dose of radiation poisoning but seems to take weeks and weeks to die (the other option is that this all took place over only a few days, which makes the transition from desperate survivors trapped in a basement to stark raving psychopaths even more ridiculous).

While there's no doubting these actors and the director can do 'bat sh*t crazy' really well, the initial scenes in the basement are bafflingly average and completely unrealistic. Apart from the little girl and her mother, and Eva's husband, no one seems particularly freaked out about the reality of their situation, instead they're all acting as if it's a passing hurricane, or a mild earthquake that has forced them into the basement for shelter - as opposed to the nuclear holocaust they've all just witnessed.

And apart from Marilyn and Mickey the motivations of these characters just don't make any sense - which is probably due to the improvisational nature of a lot of the shooting; not all improv is coherent, as this movie shows (just think about the scene where Sam goes crazy very early on, it seems clearly to be an improvised moment rather than something consistent with his character up until that point, or even afterwards).

Finally, we are treated to a final act which is largely vile torture porn clearly designed to shock and titillate the audience (one gets the sense that he was trying to out-Hostel Eli Roth in places) - at least in the movie Blindness there was a coherent narrative and an attempt at social commentary underpinning their sexual scenes, but in The Divide, it's simply gratuitous ugliness for the sake of gratuitous ugliness.

One other thing of note for me - large chunks of this film feel borrowed from other films and filmmakers. There are some real blatant Danny Boyle moments, complete with John Murphy styled musical scoring etc, and the ending to this movie feels like an alternate version of Frank Darabont's climax to The Mist.

I regret watching this film - it had all the elements in place to be something truly original and well crafted, but instead it just never comes together, and solid story-telling and film making is substituted for a gratuitous 'shock and awe' assault on the senses.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A truly great filmic metaphor, 17 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think a lot of people have missed the real heart of this movie - the fact that it's one long metaphor for counter-culturalism.

It's a well written, well shot, well acted film, but it's real strength is the powerful representation of metaphor.

Despite the rather odd (in my opinion) debate about the ending, I think it's pretty clear that the storm is real at the end of the film, and that's exactly what makes this film a perfect metaphor.

What you are watching here is a modern day retelling of Noah's Ark, the classic commitment to truth even in the face of overwhelming social pressure to reject that truth.

At the end of the film I was very much reminded of the famous George Orwell quote: 'in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act'.

Forget about storms just for a second and consider other issues, such as the struggle for civil rights in the USA last century - the proponents of civil rights became equally consumed by their commitment to this issue, and they were also relegated to the fringes by those in the majority.

This film isn't about storms and mental illness, it's about being a dissenting voice in a culture headed in the wrong direction - and it pulls it off with amazing technical proficiency and skill.

7 out of 69 people found the following review useful:
A well crafted suspense thriller, 12 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm really not sure what all the haters of this movie are going on about.

It is a well crafted suspense thriller that hits many of the right notes - it even manages to do what many big budget movies fail to do, save the monster reveal until the very end of the film (which is one of the golden rules of a monster movie).

The acting is pretty good (the girlfriend who appears briefly at the beginning of the film is probably the weakest actor in the entire film, but the rest turn in acceptable performances) - there are even moments where it feels almost like an authentic documentary.

The setting for the film was a smart choice and it is used excellently (I've seen similar films which clearly appear to be different angles of the same small environment, or others where the editing of the film leaves you struggling to make sense of an coherent geography as the journey progresses).

The music and soundscape was great (although the Foley work on the neck snapping effect was a bit average).

A great premise that is well executed on a budget.

If you're looking for a gorefest, or another mindless torture porn movie, then you aren't going to get this film, but if you like suspense films with good atmosphere then you'll probably enjoy this one.

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