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Yu mian xia (1971)
Fun mix of kung fu, swordplay, comedy and drama - highly entertaining
3 March 2018
Only one review here so I'll add my opinion. This is highly entertaining, mainly because of Lily Ho who takes the lead almost throughout. We have a bit of kung fu, a bit of swordplay and Ho isn't brilliant at either, but she's very agile - or so her character keeps telling us. As a cocky brat, raised by a bunch of villains she is quite perfect, she plays the part at all times with endless energy and enthusiasm and her facial expressions are often hilarious. Anyone at all pretentious (including both the hero and the villain) she treats with arrogant disdain, but she gets on just fine with more genuine people, as in the scene with the drunkard and the old priest at the temple, one of the funniest I've seen in this genre - poor bees! The support actors do their job but despite the twin billing, this is a one-woman show.

The standard revenge on parent-killer theme is complicated here (quite a lot) by the baggage left over from the plotting of three manipulative older-generation sisters, it's not always that obvious where the movie is headed and the fast pace keeps up the excitement throughout.

There's more location shooting here than you see in most Shaw Bros martial arts films, the scenery is gorgeous and the cinematography makes the most of that. Martial arts fans may be disappointed by the quality of the action, though there's plenty of it and some of the swordplay isn't too bad. Not one for the purists maybe, but in terms of entertaining fun, the Shaw brand doesn't deliver any better than this.
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Ordinary Shaw Bros wuxia with genuine female hero
26 February 2018
Only one review here so I'll add one more. This is fairly standard wuxia stuff from the Shaws, but I'm generally a fan of their approach so that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a standard revenge theme with a couple of interesting twists, but these rely on ridiculous coincidences and are so clumsily handled, there are no real surprises. The fight choreography and wirework is unambitious routine stuff throughout.

The only unusual thing here is the female avenger lead played by Cheng Pei Pei, who isn't on absolute top form in terms of either acting or fighting, at least compared with her stunning cameo in Crouching Tiger. However she did make me laugh with her deliciously sarcastic responses to the male lead's naïve dumbness. The rest of the acting is OK but this guy is very annoying. While he has a point that exterminating everyone named Yan maybe isn't the most efficient approach to gaining revenge against one particular unknown Yan, he's so sanctimonious and officious the whole time. A bit more attention needed to his own tragically botched revenge, and a lot less time spent obstructing Cheng's attempts to deal with the bad guys. Her crush on this idiot is incomprehensible.

On a positive note, this is reasonably entertaining throughout and the female hero gets to achieve her goals without too much interference (unlike Come Drink With Me, for example) but she needs rescuing a few too many times. As the movie begins, she's already killed 18 of the 20 Yan brothers (big families they had back then!) without a problem so how come the last two are suddenly so difficult? The main bad guy wasn't built up enough as a swordsman prior to the final showdown and I was disappointed that her practice of displaying the severed heads of her victims on any handy building got forgotten about as soon as the movie got going.
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The Homesman (2014)
Beware! This can suck you in but it collapses disastrously.
16 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This whole thing is spoilers really – as other reviews demonstrate, if you get to caring about the Swank character, you will be hugely disappointed, even hurt by this and it's one case where it might be worth knowing what you're getting into. It's written by, produced by, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones and therein lies the problem.

The start doesn't make a whole lot of sense. A bunch of frontier women (only women) simultaneously go mad and have to be taken back east. Meanwhile Hilary Swank is too 'plain' for any man to marry her. Take a look at her photo on the video cover and compare her with the married women of the community to see how ridiculous that is. Then it starts to build some steam. Her strong character ("You're as much of a man as any man around here," says the local preacher) takes charge and volunteers to do a job which none of the men can handle. She rescues Jones' character from being hanged and, despite knowing nothing about him, forces/bribes him to help her on the journey.

So far this has been pretty good, OK bleak and not always believable but, as usual, Swank's performance is quite brilliant, Jones does his usual uninspiring but solid job and the supporting cast do fine. Jones is directing well too early on, pacing things nicely and building an authentic feel. We have plenty to hope for, a character to care about, and a testing journey in prospect. It all goes wrong when the travellers run across a little girl's desolate grave.

Suddenly and for no reason the Swank character is transformed. She's been boss all along but now she's doing what Jones tells her, bursting into tears, then, absurdly, proposing marriage to this unreliable and somewhat decrepit old man and virtually forcing herself on him sexually. The only explanation: she's crazier than the wagon-load of women she's supposed to be looking after. Next, forgetting her passionately-delivered promises to the relatives of those women, she kills herself. This goes beyond shaky and ridiculous to pointless and unbelievable and we realise that this is not Jones' take on a strong woman, but just another self-absorbed and self-centred vehicle for a writer-producer-director-star. In fact it went wrong earlier than that when the Jones character was introduced. From that point on he shows little interest in the plot or the other characters – everything is there only to provided the foils to his lead.

I wasn't interested in Jones' rather dull and stereotyped playing of a dull, stereotyped character, nor in his self-absorption. I didn't watch any more, wished I'd never started watching in the first place and I hope this will help others avoid the same mistake.
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Exploitative mindless nonsense – but well-made and fun.
16 June 2017
This is better than other computer beat-em-up adaptations like Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat. The plot makes more sense and is more interesting than either of those movies, while managing to stay closer to the original games. Essentially this is 'Enter the Dragon' with (lots of) women, though it lacks the dark and dangerous edge of that earlier movie. As ever, Cory Yuen does a good job with the many fight scenes, despite working mostly with non-martial-artists. The production has an expensive feel, and it's surprising that the budget didn't run to more impressive stars.

The main attraction here is the procession of gorgeous super-feisty women, often wearing very little – pure exploitation, but this too is faithful to the original computer games, right down to the beach volleyball. Sadly, while looking good, these are not great actresses. Jaime Pressley is pick of the bunch – while not big enough physically for Tina Armstrong, she brings a personality which fills the screen. Devon Aoki never brings much personality to anything, but this may well be her best performance after DEBS. Holly Valance, sadly, is barely an actress at all and the male support is pretty drab, with Steve Howey as a stereotyped nerd the pick of a bad bunch. Anyone who knows who Kevin Nash is should get a laugh from his performance as Bass. It's disappointing that, after the female leads have been built up well early on, they then spend too much time sidelined, while various dull and characterless men fight one another.

Fans of the games may enjoy this. Anyone who enjoys watching half-dressed women fighting will too. For others it's good mindless fun, but don't go out of your way.
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Lamely but divertingly (Useless but interesting)
16 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The review contains small spoilers but a movie like this has no big surprises anyway. The acting and screenplay are poor throughout and the pointless musical interludes excruciating. The idea, a high-school senior battling a drugs organisation alone because the cops are useless and the school staff corrupt or ineffective, is certainly interesting. But as the film 'progresses', it turns out that's all there is to it.

Little-known Lucinda Dooling in the lead isn't bad at all (though she doesn't have much competition). In a powerful opening scene, she overpowers a minor drug dealer and holds him helpless, while calmly forcing him to eat his own stash. A strong and disturbing representation of a schoolgirl, which promises a lot, especially as the movie is full of sleazy sexist characters, crying out for the same treatment or worse. Sadly it's all downhill from here. Dooling copes OK in her fight scenes, which are reasonably well-staged, but they are poorly thought out: at one point three heavies run away from her, later the same men overpower her easily – just whatever the 'plot' requires; there's a lot of shooting, but no-one ever hits anything; when women fight men, it's all kick-ass karate, when the same women fight other women, it's all ineffective rolling around, mostly in plates of messy food.

The long action finale is particularly poor, with endless running around, shooting and missing, and driving speedboats in circles, all for no reason, and the hero is given no worthwhile opponent at the end. But to be fair to an otherwise somewhat sexploitative movie, she never needs rescuing, and has no male assistance at any point.

If you can find this going cheap, it's worth the price to watch those terrific first five minutes and imagine what might have been. (Or watch it on Youtube – it was there at time of posting this review.)
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: Lots of explosions and shooting, slickly staged, but don't expect anything more.
21 May 2017
This movie has neither plot nor characters – even the car chases and kung fu have to be squeezed in among the endless series of explosions and interminable firing off of whole arsenals of weapons. For once I can be absolutely sure I'm spoiler-free, as there's no story here to spoil.

We have not one but two stereotype rogue agents, played by Liu and Banderas, battling it out with each other and armies of police and bad guys for reasons that never really matter. So why bother to comment on something so amorphously pointless? Well, for one thing it's very well put together. For another, Liu and Banderas are as good as they're allowed to be by the fairly nonexistent script and this is a long way from the worst you'll see. Also Liu's character is rather unusual. She effortlessly deals with all comers, including Banderas, who's soon reduced to wandering about, telling whatever poor sap is next in the firing line: 'She's gonna kill you. Good luck.' Super-tough women are nothing new but, as in Kill Bill, The Long Kiss Goodnight, etc, they're always given some point of vulnerability. Not here. Liu's Sever comes close to being a female James Bond, an unstoppable winner. The sad truth is revealed by a brief exchange of threats with the main villain, a photo, and Banderas' closing line. They actually did mean her to be fallible and vulnerable, but it just got lost along with all the rest of the characterisation.

If you like explosions, shooting, tough women and either of these stars, and have time on your hands, you could do worse than watch this. But don't go out of your way.
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Move along folks – there's nothing to see here
21 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After wasting 90 minutes watching this, I must be mad doing a review, but there are only seven others and one of them gives it a ten rating. Nice that the guy enjoyed it but can he not see that "A Fistful of Dollars", say, is maybe just a little bit better? Or does his amp go up to 11? Oh well, if I save one person from watching this, it will all be worthwhile.

I suggest reading the one critic review, which gives more than you need to know of the minimal excuse for a plot and points out that there's nothing remarkable here, either good or bad. That's indeed the main impression – just nothing. But it's worse than that – I swear no-one involved in making this even cared. The acting is nonexistent – only Django's sister and director Mulargia as a bad guy seem even to be trying. And OMG, the plot! We open with the murder of Django's father. Django shows up and on hearing this dreadful news, shows no emotion – but then he never does, whether because he's too tough for such trivia as feelings or, more likely, he knows he can't act so why bother to try? Revenge for a murdered father – the ultimate plot-driver in this macho world, but our hero gets that revenge 15 minutes in and the rest of the movie is about who gets some bag of money. So superior is our Django that no opponent or combination of opponents pose the least threat and the fight-scenes have no interest at all. In fact he has only one possible weakness – the sister. So what does he do? Of course – leaves her unguarded where all the bad guys know she is and goes to sit in the saloon doing nothing. And what happens next? Well, I wouldn't want to, er, spoil it for you (?!?)

The stuff the bad guys do makes no more sense. None of them go after the money, instead riding around killing one another off for reasons no-one ever bothers to explain. Had Django not showed up at all, it seems the outcome would have been much the same. If only he hadn't – then no-one would have had to watch this nonsense.
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Incredibly annoying and lame
21 May 2017
Why do people want to take the characters from Greek myth and make up different stories for them, particularly stupid and unoriginal ones like this? It's understandable in series like Xena, which run on so long they run out of sensible story ideas, but in a feature film?? Of course movies do change stories around, even with historical subjects, but this plot makes as much sense as having George Washington, trying to rescue Queen Elizabeth I who's been kidnapped by the Emperor Nero. Yes, it's that stupid.

Almost nothing is good here. The casting is ridiculous, from Liam Neeson as a kind of Irish Zeus, who's been living in the USA a bit too long, on down. The acting ranges from bad to appalling, with even the likes of Edgar Ramirez as Ares (a ludicrous god to choose for chief bad guy – someone's been watching too much Xena, where at least they had Kevin Smith who could almost act) being way out-hammed by the ghastly scenery-chewing Rosamund Pike. Oh yes, and why did they take Andromeda on the adventure when she couldn't do anything at all (except over-act)? Of course – to have someone around to rescue – silly me! Even usually reliable folk like Bill Nighy seemed to have given up trying on this one.

The story managed to be both silly and clichéd at the same time and contained nothing remotely of interest. The script was ghastly, mixing fantasy-speak: 'I am he!' with lines like: 'You gotta be kidding me.' The one good (well, not too bad) thing here was the effects. Lava-monsters are pretty easy to do, but winged horse Pegasus was actually quite impressive, though his colour-scheme was odd. This would have been a rock solid one star, as much of a waste of time as you're likely to find, but the effects get it up to two. It's a shame so many film-makers nowadays seem to think effects are all that matters. They must have spent a fortune on them here, surely enough to pay for a decent lead actor and a whole host of writers with better skills and ideas than this. Come to think of it, despite Clash of the Titans, no-one's ever done a really decent version of the original Perseus story, which is about a million times better than this rubbish.
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Sendero (2015)
Stock horror with a slightly different feel. Not great, not awful.
16 February 2017
I'm reviewing this because no-one else has. The IMDb score is currently 3.6 which sounds horrendous – but it's not that bad. The acting is pretty decent and the sparse dialogue, seen as subtitles in my case, is fine. There's a rather dull opening few minutes which doesn't establish much we subsequently need to know or care about, but once the action starts it doesn't let up until the movie ends. Best of all, though this is fairly stock horror fodder, something about it feels slightly different and fresh – maybe just because it's Chilean.

What's not so good? Well it is stock horror and there's no real story. A bunch of people run into some psychos and get brutalised – that's pretty well it. There is some kind of sub-plot going on, but I never really understood it, nor the ending come to that. If you like this type of horror, relying on nasty sadism with people trying to survive and escape, rather than jump-out scares or explicit gore and splatter (the special effects aren't great – it's quite low-budget) then you may find this quite entertaining. The worst thing is that bane of the horror genre – people keep doing stupid things for no reason. Example: some good guys get the drop on some bad guys and make them drop their guns. They then run away without taking the guns, leaving the bad guys to pick them up, kill more people and chase them with them. This kind of thing happens over and over but I guess horror-fans can't be too bothered by it as it's the same in most movies in the genre.
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Expectedly disappointing sequel
19 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The usual good performance from Michelle Yeoh and a decent supporting cast cannot make much out of this rather dull martial arts sequel. The main problem is in the butchered story and so there are lots of spoilers here, all in the last-but-one paragraph.

The acting is reasonable enough, Jason Scott Lee looks good as the bad guy, the simple plot at least makes sense and things move along at a good pace. Cinematography is fine, though it doesn't match the original. The characters are less interesting here though and Donnie Yen, while better than Chow Yun Fat in the fight scenes, has never been much of an actor. The great problem is the storyline. Supposedly based on Wang Dulu's Crane-Iron Pentalogy, actually the script bears little relationship to the novels and has clearly been written to accommodate Yen as a star name (his character dies early on in the book series). There is a kind of symmetry about wuxia fiction which should not be disturbed. A westerner's butchering of a Chinese story is never likely to work in this genre and this particular carve-up feels entirely wrong.

At the end it's stated that Vase avenged her teacher. This is what should have happened but she wasn't allowed to. Wolf fighting Dai was inappropriate. So he had earlier thrown a fight against him – what kind of reason is that for revenge? Vase should also have been the principal in the pursuit of Wei Fang, as she was the one to lose the sword to him, and Wolf could have supported her with this. Meanwhile, Wolf should have been allowed to take his own revenge on Mantis who, in the course of the movie, had killed every one of his friends. Shu Lien, throughout the crescendo and climax, is left with nothing worthwhile to do and the strand about her teaching Vase leads nowhere. Vase should have mastered some skill which allowed her to defeat Dai and make sense of his earlier instruction to allow her to become 'worth killing'. Instead we see Shu using the skill she seems to have failed to teach to Vase. I did however like the switching of weapons in the fight and Dai's final line.

Those who prefer westernised versions of Chinese martial arts to the real thing, may find this entertaining enough to be worth the time, but don't hope for anything nearly as good as CTHD.
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Sicario (2015)
Pathetic irresponsible misogynist slander
20 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Usually I'd start with an assessment of the various aspects, acting (generally fine) screenplay (perfectly serviceable) plot (works in places, nonsense in others) etc., etc., but for one particular reason no-one should worry about any of that, nor watch this film nor encourage in any way the irresponsible idiots who made it.

The theme concerns the extreme violence employed by people running the Mexican drug-cartels and suggests that extreme measures, going beyond not only the law but normal decency, may be required to combat them. I don't have a problem with that, and it is left for the viewer to decide whether measures such as facilitating the murder of innocent children can be justified if it may be the only way to defeat these malicious, brutal, ruthless and amoral enemies. I hope and presume most would think not.

It is conceivable that an experienced FBI agent, drafted in to add a veneer of legitimacy to illegal CIA operations of this kind, could find themselves out of their depth. The problem arises because this agent is a woman, while all the people involved in the operations on the CIA side are men, and because of the way the movie then treats this woman. At the start she is shown as functioning well in a demanding job (specialising in storming hostile locations to rescue hostages). However, after joining the operation, she becomes entirely ineffective: every physical confrontation leaves her defeated and humiliated and every time she takes positive action, usually to try to temper the excesses of the CIA and their hired thugs, it always fails. Having achieved nothing throughout the operation, she fails even in her determination to expose the illegality. In the final scene, the nastiest of the thugs taunts and humiliates her yet again, ("You look like a little girl when you're afraid") as he terrorises her into signing a declaration that all procedures were correctly followed. She is left apparently broken and abject, advised to find a safe small town where she can function, since she isn't tough enough for this real world.

Of course it may be a coincidence that a female character was used for this role and no other in the film. But that's about as likely as the squadron of wild boars doing aerobatics outside my window as I write. This movie has a second message and a far less ambiguous one, none other than the old misogynist lie that women cannot handle various roles, fire-fighters, infantry, whatever, and that when things get tough, they will fail before the men. Any actress who would accept a part which carries such a message should be ashamed of herself, and shame on all concerned for turning out something as despicable as an online misogynist hate-post. If this was done unintentionally, these people are irresponsible and foolish beyond belief, and whether their crime is idiocy or slander, it is equally damaging. Nowadays women work on many extreme front lines in law enforcement, the military, security services and so on. Reinforcing and thereby perpetuating these old misogynist lies can only undermine them and could possibly place them in harm's way.

If you hate women, enjoy seeing them humiliated, or believe their proper place is in the kitchen, then, who knows, you may well love this movie. If you are a reasonable human being who celebrates what women have achieved, then stay very well clear.
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Silly, sexist and annoying
20 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
OK, this isn't entirely awful. Much of the acting is OK, Sam L is typically amusing and quirky and Firth isn't bad as a poor man's John Steed, though the main character's attempt at cocky assurance mixed with chip-on-shoulder inferiority (I think that's what he's trying for) is more irritating than anything. Pacing is fine – it keeps moving right along. The blades are a great idea and Boutara wears them well, though it would've been cooler to cast a real paralympian in the role, and why not as hardly any acting was involved. I've heard worse screenplays, though it could have been a lot funnier. It's better than the latest Bond movies, but then, what isn't? However it's extremely annoying for two reasons.

First it's very silly. Some of those who liked the film suggest it is parody and therefore is entitled and indeed expected to be silly. Depends what you mean by parody though, the definition: "an imitation of something with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect". That could well involve silliness, but this isn't hugely exaggerated compared with the stuff it's supposed to be parodying, and it's never that funny, apart from a couple of Sam L's lines. Both The Avengers (I mean the 60s UK TV show, not Downey Jr & pals, though this also applies to them) and the old Bond movies, extensively referred to here, are funnier than this without being considered either parodies or comedies. Silly on its own is not funny, especially when too many tough-guy movies intended to be taken seriously, involve the same kind of silliness. Example: this cliché that some guy can defeat large numbers of supposedly tough and trained enemies by leaping around in the middle of them in silly ways (see John Wick, The Equaliser and a million others), hinges on one thing only – the supposedly trained enemies cannot manage to shoot him from five yards away. Breathing round a toilet bend in a flooded room is not funny, it's stupid. Breaking glass thick enough to hold the pressure of ten feet of water with an underwater punch is not funny, it's stupid. Austin Powers is parody. Coburn's Flint is parody. Doing silly unfunny things a million other movies have done, or unfunny things so stupid no-one else would ever do them, is not parody, it's copying and idiocy respectively.

Second reason. It's deeply sexist because: they are kings-MEN; the essence of their approach is to be John-Steed-gentleman imitations (no idea why they don't wear bowlers but at least the umbrellas have survived); all existing kingsmen were male; even when a female becomes one she is given a male name.

It probably thinks it isn't sexist because: the most (in fact only) effective bad-guy is female; it allows women to try out to be kingsmen; one of them wins the try-out, beating out our male hero.

But it is really because: even olde-worlde patriarchal sexism has never had a problem with either female villains or demonisation of women in general, going back to Morgan le Fay (to keep up the Arthurian parallel) it's female heroes sexism can't cope with; while Roxy is winning the try-out, she's the only one to be shown whining, 'I can't do this,' and to need helping out by our male hero; though Roxy is the qualified kingsman and our male hero is not, he gets the all-important gentleman's suit, while they didn't bother to make her one; she's subsequently sidelined on a stupid pointless mission, which she completes but still achieves almost nothing; while our male hero is defeating all the bad guys single-handed in the usual silly way, she is falling to earth and floundering around in the snow. Can't they give the only qualified female kingsman even a support role in the mayhem? Of course not. They just want her out of the way so our male hero looks bigger and badder.

More than half a century ago, the UK Avengers was one of the earliest action series to depict female agents (Cathy Gale, Emma Peel) as equal to their male counterparts in every way including the physical. It's rather pathetic that this wholly inferior ripoff has gone back past the 50s to Neanderthal times – and I doubt the reason is even misogyny, more likely ignorant carelessness.

Just very annoying. 3/10 is generous.
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Skyfall (2012)
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
23 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There are spoilers from the start – the point of a negative review like this is to save you wasting your time on something you may not enjoy and in order to explain why the plot doesn't work, I have to say what it is. Here's a thumbnail. Bond has a little mishap, decides to take some time off (for no reason we're ever told) then later sees MI6 under attack and returns, but (for no reason we're ever told) unable to shoot straight or pass any test for suitability as an agent. Of course he's put straight back into the field and helps an international terrorist achieve his goal of killing M. Pretty stupid, right?

Fine, it's only Bond, so am I taking it too seriously? Well, if the plot doesn't matter, what remains of those wonderful Connery films? Bond dallying with gorgeous women? – nope, a couple of women have tiny parts, and JB doesn't lay a finger on either of them. Fun gadgets? – nope, apparently we've got rid of those too. A clever screenplay, based on a brilliantly witty Fleming novel? – nope, since we ran out of novels, we don't seem to bother much about the repartee any more. Great, or at least adequate, acting performances? – nope, Dan Craig used to be able to act (didn't he?) but recently just struts about trying to be Vin Diesel with face perpetually set into a hard-man grimace, Bardem is stupidly OTT at all times, and even the wonderful Dame Judi doesn't seem to care much any more – and with a plot and screenplay like this, who can blame her? All we're left with is a lot of running around, shooting and missing, and explosions. A gazillion cheap B-movies have all of this and plenty of them have better plots, acting and screenplays too.

Just to return to the stupidity – the movie's defining feature. With the bad guy in his sights, stranded on a ladder, why does Bond not shoot him, instead talking about nothing much until the guy dumps a tube-train on his head? Stupid. When the bad guy gives his gun to M, imploring her to kill them both with the same bullet, why doesn't she just shoot him? Stupid. When they escape via a secret passage to the middle of a midnight moor, why do they wave a flashlight around so the bad guy knows where they are? You guessed it – stupid. Why does the bad guy 'want to be captured' so he can escape and launch a terrorist attack, why not just launch the attack? Clichéed and stupid. And the acme of stupidity. A nasty terrorist wants to kill M. Oh dear, whatever shall we do? I know! – let's take her to a remote Scottish country house. Let's make sure no-one but the terrorist (along with his small army of thugs equipped with helicopters, explosives and high-tech weaponry) knows where she is. Let's defend her only with a washed up agent who can't shoot straight, and an old gamekeeper type, the two of them armed with nothing much at all. Then, when she's unsurprisingly killed, let's say well done to Mr B (whose moronic idea all this was) and line him up for further doubtless equally stupid sequels.

How stupid does this stuff have to get before people stop liking it? How much more stupid is it in fact possible to get? I appreciate that people do like movies of this type, especially if money's been spent to make them look glossy, as it has here, but if making some kind of sense is important to you, better avoid this.
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A good movie – doesn't quite manage to be more.
17 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers are all in the last-but-one paragraph.

By Siu-Tung Ching, the director of the wonderful Chinese Ghost Story series, this one falls a long way short of CGS2 (an all-time great) but is well-made and a highly entertaining watch. It fails to be more through being too short to properly deal with the themes it raises, and by following too closely in the footsteps of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, whereas it actually had more to say.

Everything is good, especially the direction which never allows the pace to flag despite the disparate story elements. Donnie Chen is wisely restricted to what he does best – fighting. Kelly Chen is fine in her role, convincingly stern and authoritative when needed, softer when the chance arises. And the support cast, led by the excellently understated Leon Lai, do fine. Cinematography is great, the story largely makes sense (despite oddities like the balloon flight, blown by the wind but ending up where it started) and the script, in translation, was snappy and effective.

Some people didn't like this because it's a mix of action and romance, with some more thoughtful scenes thrown in. It seems some are only satisfied by non-stop fighting, others by non-stop goo. This has no goo as such, just a few gentler scenes that allowed the affection of the two characters to be well-shown without it, scenes which didn't interrupt the main theme of a woman in a man's world, dealing with a challenging and improbable destiny.

Spoilers follow. I liked that everything was sensible and realistic, no magic, running up bamboo stems or flying from roof to roof in this one. An example. On inheriting from her father (a king, not an emperor!) Feier is expected not only to rule, indeed not only to lead troops into battle (as Tamara of Georgia and many other historical female rulers have done). For some reason she must also become a great warrior. In so many martial arts films, a few days' training turns some zero into an invincible fighter. In this one she trains hard and becomes competent, but nothing more. I didn't like so much that themes were not followed through on. Examples. The romantic relationship is conveniently removed in what looks like a rather less sentimental homage to CTHD. And the results of Feier's act of mercy in battle are never shown. She is prepared to use violence when needed, both leading her troops and with her own hand against her personal enemy, but warrior-turned-doctor Lan Quan has taught her to seek other ways of resolving problems and the results of that lesson are never shown. At the end of the film she is thoroughly accepted by her own people, but the relationships with the other warring kingdoms are forgotten about.

If you enjoyed either CTHD or CGS2, do not miss this one. You should enjoy it anyway – as long as you don't only like non-stop fighting or non-stop goo.
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Faithful Russ Meyer homage – must-see for fans and not bad at all.
27 August 2015
Not a lot of reviews of this one and it's a must-see for any Meyer fan as it is almost eerily reminiscent of the master at his best, so I'll add my opinion. Basically this is an Australian "Faster Pussycat" with 50s B-movie monsters thrown in. Despite a tiny budget, it's a lovingly crafted homage, which manages to capture the laid-back, slightly random atmosphere, mannered acting and general lack of morality of the original. The big difference: Meyer's trio of hellcats don't mind who gets hurt or killed along the way; but these three positively enjoy the carnage. The way they transform from sociopath bitches to front-line heroes when the monster attacks is a lovely touch.

There's no sex or nudity, not a huge amount of tension but bags of style and plenty of dismemberment and gore. The four main female actors, especially singer, model and photographer, Nelli Scarlet in the leading role, look perfect in their parts and do a good job on the acting side despite having almost no experience. The guy in the wheelchair is also fine. The rather quirky direction and script, minimal storyline, etc. may seem strange to some, but, while this can't claim to be a great movie, it's a carefully-put-together piece of art. The pace never flags, with fun, violence and action all the way.

Those reviewers who complained about, for example, the laughably awful special effects, haven't understood what is intended here. If you enjoyed "Pussycat", "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" and any of a host of crazy 50s monster-movies, you shouldn't miss this. If you're more into big-name stars, multi-million dollar Hollywood budgets and loads of CGI, better stay away.
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Train (I) (2008)
A must for splatter-fans (spoilers at end only)
9 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There aren't many spoilers here, all in the last couple of paras – everyone knows what's going to happen in a film like this and, because there's a single star, we also know who's going to be around all the way through.

This is a familiar storyline with the on-train setting providing an interesting twist, but you have seen it all before. However, it's better than its IMDb score and better than other movies of this type for one reason, Thora Birch. Birch has long been one of the finest actresses around, who (like Emily Perkins and others) doesn't always get the top parts because other less good actors have more conventional good looks and of course the heroine has to be "beautiful". Unlike many fine actors, Birch doesn't stop trying just because she's in a less-than-brilliant movie, surrounded by less-than-brilliant acting from the rest of the cast. She's just as excellent in this as in 'The Hole' for example.

The rest of the film is slightly better than OK. The dialogue is reasonable, the supporting cast aren't that bad, particularly some of the OTT bad guys, the story makes more sense than in many films of this type (though that doesn't mean it always makes a lot of sense) and the direction, shot-composition, pacing, etc. are all fine. There's a LOT of gore and splatter – it's that kind of film. Some have criticised it for being xenophobic and the reactions of the legitimate train passengers is one of the aspects which isn't believable. But this is not some thoughtful political allegory. Watch it for what it is, a fairly mindless splatter-thriller.

There are a couple of real high-points towards the end. What she does to the bad guy after the climactic fight had me laughing and cheering – just hilarious! And the final 30 seconds are pure genius, for the expression on her face alone. I so wanted to see just 30 seconds more – that's all it would have taken!

Thora Birch is great in this. If her performance doesn't pull you in and make you care, you must be one of those corpses on the hooks and tables. It drags this otherwise ordinary splatter movie up from a 4 to a 6. Worth a watch for anyone who can cope with the splatter. If you positively enjoy that kind of thing, then this is one of the best you'll see and not to be missed.
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Paintball (2009)
Possibly the worst movie I've ever seen.
9 August 2015
I'm reviewing this as a curiosity, possibly the worst I've ever seen. It's not one of those so bad it's good, more so bad that, yawn, who could ever care? So what are the problems? No story – but that's not unusual in a film like this. No characters – can also happen in this kind of softish horror, but there's usually someone, even if badly acted and paper-thin, to latch onto. Not here. Makes no sense – frequently a problem in horror of all kinds and here it's made worse by the fact that there's absolutely nothing to hook you in and pull you along. Unexplained stuff happens all the time - example: why not take the car with keys in it and how did we get from there to railroad tracks? Maybe if I'd cared even a little bit, I'd have paid more attention and just maybe made a bit more sense of it.

So what does happen? People run around a lot, rarely for any sensible reason. They shout a lot, usually all at the same time so you can't tell what any of them are shouting. The women (and only them) scream, gasp and sob a lot – not that unreasonable when nasty stuff starts up, but I suspect plenty of men would do the same in the unlikely event that real life could ever be remotely like this.

This movie is a perfect 1. There's nothing here worth seeing, the kind of thing I never get to see because I walk out/ switch channels/ throw the DVD in the garbage if even the opening 5-10 minutes are this bad. This time I made myself watch, waiting for something interesting to happen. It never did and I wasted 90 minutes of my life. Don't make the same mistake.
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Angel of Death (I) (2009)
Solid action film – better than most
13 June 2015
There are two really good things here. First, the facilitating idea, which is way more interesting than the stock revenge theme (as you get in a million other films from Conan to Colombiana). Contrary to other reviews here, it's entirely possible to get an injury like this and survive. Quite often happens in fact. Not surprisingly it can cause mental problems thereafter, not necessarily these particular mental problems, which I won't go into to avoid unnecessary spoilers, but trust me, there's nothing unbelievable about this aspect.

Second really good thing: Zoe Bell. Yes she's not going to win a best actress Oscar, neither is she a poor actress. What's needed in a film like this is not Meryl Streep, but someone who looks like they can do the fighting/action stuff. Bell looks like she can because she actually can, and she does the acting bits in between just fine. Way more convincing in a part like this than skinny female stars like that other Zoe, Ms Saldana (again in Colombiana) and yes, more convincing than a lot of male actors who get called on to do this stuff.

Other than that, the support acting is only OK, the dialogue is average to uninspired, and the film is very short, but the story's fine and the fights are well-staged. It's all-around competent enough and a lot more convincing and enjoyable than all-action movies (with both male and female leads) with far higher IMDb scores. Well worth a watch if you like this kind of thing.
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Two Hands (1999)
Wonderful! A masterpiece! – the best ever gangster comedy and Heath's finest hour.
13 June 2015
A truly great movie, the best gangster comedy ever, and one of the best gangster movies of any kind. This is Australia's answer to "Pulp Fiction" and "Lock, Stock", less gratuitously violent than either, but funnier, cleverer and just plain better than both. The fact that something so good has been produced with Bryan Brown and a cast of Aussie unknowns, rather than the Buscemis and de Niros available to Tarantino is little short of a miracle. The genius of "Two Hands" lies in combining nasty violence with hilarious humour in a way that's never less than totally believable. Not that many people have seen this movie, but EVERYONE should, so I'm keeping spoilers to a minimum.

There was a time when I used to think of Heath Ledger as a kind of Aussie Keanu Reeves: gorgeous, with bags of charisma and all the acting ability of half a brick. Of course I was utterly wrong and, by the end of his tragically short career, Ledger had gone on to prove himself one of the most exciting young actors around. Had I seen "Two Hands" earlier, I would have known this. As tough, naïve, dumb and inarticulate Jimmy, out to make it big on the mean streets of Sydney's King's Cross, his monosyllabic performance is sheer perfection. (This is the movie for which he most deserved an Oscar-nomination, and he should have won it too.) Mutual chat-up sessions with equally gorgeous Rose Byrne, playing an equally naïve, dumb and inarticulate country girl, are banal as hell, but crackle with tension. Neither of them actually does conversation and how much they both want to be doing something else. Bryan Brown, a limited actor with wonderful comedy timing, uses this superbly as gang-leader Pando. And the two street-kids, crucial all through the story, are both brilliantly played and are given the very best of lines to play with.

This movie contains some of the funniest scenes ever shot, like the astonishing bank robbery – funny because they are so tragic and so real. The opening is pure Tarantino (and as good as the master's best) full of trivial absurdity – this, not the Hollywood glitz, is what real gangland executions must be like. Even the wildest improbabilities are made to seem not just believable, but almost inevitable: the bizarre climax in Pando's lair is perfectly natural, perfectly directed and perfectly played, right down to that almost despairing little shake of the head.

In "Two Hands" a top script, deft direction and a number of career-best performances have come together to make a low-budget production of the very highest quality, and a perfect 10. I'll feel lucky if I see twenty new films this good in my lifetime! It's a shame that writer-director Gregor Jordan hasn't made anything nearly as good since. Had he lived, the excellent Heath Ledger just might have done.
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Battle Royale (2000)
Total waste of a brilliant idea. Read Golding's 'Lord of the Flies' instead.
13 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I looked forward to this movie, praised by some critics and based around a brilliant core idea. In fact it's incoherent nonsense from start to finish. This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS – if you haven't seen it, this is intended to stop you wasting your time.

Japanese psychological horror leads the world, with brilliantly original and superbly realised and acted films like 'Ring' and 'Audition'. The basic idea here – confining a class of high-school kids on an island and forcing them to kill each other till only one remains – is good enough to produce a worthy addition to the genre. But even the idea itself isn't used sensibly. The movie is set in a future Japan where violence is rife and respect for authority has broken down, especially in the young. Why these Battle Royales should help reverse this trend is anyone's guess. Indeed it's hard to see how they can affect anything at all since the classes seem to be chosen at random to take part, the contest isn't, as might be expected, shown on TV, all contestants but one end up dead, and even that one seems to get shipped back in to be killed off in some later battle. In terms of a plot there's not much more than that.

There are about fifty kids on the island, but there's hardly any back-story, and none of the friendships, enmities, rivalries or hero-worship which every school class has and even the shallowest teen-flick delivers to some extent. Apart from boys having crushes on girls and vice versa, there's no real attempt at characterisation as most of the fifty are given brief, usually immediately-pre-death cameos, and it's hard to care about any of them. The only ones who get any screen-time are a stereotype brave hero boy and a stereotype super-feeble girl with a line in homespun philosophy straight out of the Hollywood book of clichés. Most of the (near-constant) violence is taken care of by two irrelevant outsiders, older boys. One of these is a characterless and thoroughly pointless villain, who wanders round ignoring all the bullets and other weapons that hit him and firing, almost continuously, an inexhaustible machine gun. The clever tag-line 'could you kill your best friend' becomes irrelevant because, in fact, this guy kills almost everyone. The other outsider is another stereotyped hero, who, in a major cop-out ending, rescues our innocent couple from the island so that they never need to think about killing anyone, or facing up to the fascinating moral issues involved in this situation.

The kids and B-list Japanese TV-actors involved here are mostly unconvincing, but one or two of the young actors do pretty well in the circumstances: the boy blown away by a frightened girl because he's never had the nerve to tell her he fancies her; the girl athlete threatened with rape, who's soon in hot pursuit of her terrified assailant; the class bitch who decides to go out and win the game and gives it a pretty reasonable shot. Unfortunately these don't include any of the leads. Even the action isn't done that well. The psycho villain approaches every fight in the same silly way, while a group of schoolgirls, who can never have seen a gun before, dive around spectacularly, firing off volleys of shots like trained Navy SEALS drafted into a Tarantino movie.

Plenty of people have enjoyed this film – just look at these reviews and the ridiculously high rating – but why? Is it all the young Japanese women wearing mini-skirted school uniforms? (The fact that only one of them manages to change into more suitable clothing has nothing whatever to do with the plot.) Or is it the endless stream of graphic violence? I guess if coverage of real schoolgirls fighting to the death were screened on TV, there'd be people who'd want to see it. By all means enjoy this if it's what turns you on, but please don't try to pretend it's anything more than mindless exploitation.

Is there nothing good about this film? Actually just one thing. The hypnotic Chiaki Kuriyama, her considerable talents wasted in one of those tiny cameos, nonetheless did the job well enough to get noticed and get herself drafted into a real Tarantino movie, giving us, as mace-wielding Gogo, the highest of high-points in 'Kill Bill'.

William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies', a book based on a similar concept, is one of the great novels in English and has been translated into Japanese and every other major language. The makers of this film should have read it before they wasted this brilliant idea. Please give it a try before (or hopefully instead of) wasting your time on this garbage.
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F (2010)
Unsatisfying and disappointing – don't waste your time
13 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Don't believe those reviews saying this is bad in every way – that's just people annoyed by the useless ending. But even more, don't believe those who tell you this is worth watching or a good example of British horror. It starts with dramatic promise: the main character isn't sympathetic, but we can see his problems. It's very low budget, but reasonably acted and put together and the opening may well suck you in. But as things develop, the plot makes less and less sense. Why do people not call for help or leave the building when they have the chance? Why do the police behave so unrealistically at almost every turn? OK, this is horror, and, for those who liked this film anyway, horror is about horror, not having a script that makes sense. Certainly poor plotting is a feature of the genre and movies like Alien, which are perfectly thought through, are quite rare.

The huge problem here is the ending. Lots of questions are raised along the way. Will the teacher be able to come to terms with the requirements of his job? – seems unlikely as he seems to care nothing for either the kids or his subject. (His lessons are delivered in a low monotone with back turned to the class.) Will he keep some kind of worthwhile relationship with his daughter – seems unlikely as he hits her, picks on her and he's such a loser. Will he get back together with his estranged wife? – seems unlikely as he's such a ditto. We may or may not care about any of this – his revolting treatment of a pupil in the opening scene is enough to put anyone off him for good. But if we have any interest in the film at all, we will want to know who these mysterious hooded intruders are. The title (F refers to the failing grade, the lowest a kid can receive in the UK) wants to suggest they are pupils or former pupils, let down by the educational system. But this just isn't possible because they operate with the effectiveness and athleticism of highly-trained ninjas. Twice, a single one of them is enough to take out a police officer who has seen them coming. I couldn't think of any convincing explanation, and was looking forward to finding out which unconvincing one would be offered… When the film just ended. Without answering anything at all.

I'm not one who wants every little loose end tied up. In fact in some ways, the film could have ended a couple of minutes sooner, as the teacher struggles with the impossible choice between helping his wife or daughter. But some explanation has to be offered for the attack, which is 90% of the whole film. To create an impossible situation and then just stop, is far too easy and utterly pathetic. Don't waste your time on this. If you do enjoy the opening, you'll just end up frustrated and annoyed. Try something like Wilderness, with similar low budget and delinquent youth theme, which really delivers in the UK horror genre.
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Decent film and very relevant today – wrecked by an incompetent, boring last third.
11 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the reviews here are by Indians or people of Indian descent and, since the film was made for an Indian audience, maybe you should look to them for a more informed opinion. There aren't many reviews though, so here's one European perspective. The review is full of spoilers throughout.

It's a film of two halves. The first, actually well over half the running time, is fine – the story of a father obsessed with having a male heir, a continuing problem in many parts of the world, and the difficulties that arise when he insists his fourth daughter is a boy. Others have commented more knowledgeably on this aspect. The script (in my case via subtitles) is well-written, it doesn't exactly rush along but I didn't feel it was too slow, the settings are atmospheric and the direction competent. I did have a problem with some of the acting though.

It's not just an India-UK thing. I've watched a few Indian films recently with women in traditionally male roles, such as 'Mary Kom' and 'Mardaani' both of which have excellent performances from their female leads. People seem to love Irfan Khan who plays the father here, but I found his acting so restrained as to be almost metronomic – OK it's hard to express subtle emotion from behind a bushy beard and turban, but he hardly seems to try. However, Tillotama Shome, as the daughter-dressed-as-son, makes him look positively animated, sleepwalking through scene after scene with no facial expression whatever. Are we supposed to conclude that dressing a girl as a boy turns her into a zombie? Their two wives on the other hand, were both excellent.

Then we get to the second part. Daughter/son kills father, starts to act a bit (she's really good at this point!) and things get even more interesting. Will she continue in disguise in order to have something like a normal life with her wife? Will she, as the wife urges and with her promised support, finally find herself as a woman? Or will it all fall apart for them? But the film-maker seems to have no interest in these fascinating characters. Instead of answering these questions, he resurrects the less-than-fascinating father as a ghost, weird things happen with no explanation, and all those interesting characters are soon gone: one wife dies in a fire, the other commits suicide and daughter/son just disappears. None of it makes the least sense and no other reviewer has even guessed at what the director is trying and failing to do here. What he succeeds brilliantly at is wrecking what to this point has been a very decent and worthwhile movie. A typical ludicrous and off-putting scene: Traditionalist vigilantes are gathering to punish the 'unnatural' woman-dressed-as-man. Ghost-father shows up, removes his shirt and says: 'I'm the son – do I look like a woman?' Maybe not, but what he does look like is a man in his 50's, definitely not a teenage boy. However, the vigilantes are all completely satisfied and just melt away into the underbrush. This is the point where you switch channels if it's on TV, or chuck the DVD in the garbage. I forced myself to watch on to the end, but there was nothing more to see, folks.
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All a biopic shouldn't be – and pretty horrible besides.
23 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Ka'iulani did exist – at least they got that right. She was an interesting minor historical figure, beautiful, charming, smart, brave and determined. They got that right too, but not much else. Some of the main facts were correct. She was the last heir to the throne of Hawai'i, educated in England and did visit President Cleveland. Her family's monarchy was suppressed and her country annexed by the USA. But history isn't so clear about her motivations – to nobly serve her people, as in the movie, or to retain/regain her family's enjoyment of hereditary power and adulation.

The real Ka'iulani was something of a heroic failure. Her charisma and shuttle-diplomacy may have delayed some of the inevitable, but not by much and she achieved almost nothing in the end. She had long suffered from ill-health (ignored in the movie) and died in her early 20s. A true biopic of her life would be fascinating but rather sad and depressing. This manufactured twaddle was nothing much at all.

Kilcher is a fine actress, as shown in New World (where she had rather better support) and she does her best here in a feebly written part. The support is horrible, Pepper hamming it up as the villain and Evans as a shoehorned-in love-interest bland and tedious enough to stretch credibility as any kind of interest for a woman like this. The script is trite and ghastly, apart from authentic quotes – Princess K herself had better script-writers! Production values, costumes and settings do pull this up a little way by the bootstraps but not very far.

The worst thing here is the manufactured story, not only false but lacking any originality. The romantic strand is trite, ridiculous and way too time-consuming – as though there was nothing more interesting to say about this woman. Ludicrous cameos – nasty people from her schooldays being welcomed and helped by this saintly figure. And a true Hollywood-style happy ending. Meanwhile the true hero of the vain battle to preserve Hawai'i from the USA, Queen Liliʻuokalani, is diminished to an insignificant bit-player. This movie may have been well-intentioned but it's worse than just a waste of time. To turn the history of these real and genuinely fascinating women into this clichéed garbage is criminal.
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Chou (1972)
Lots of well-staged kung fu – not a whole lot else.
9 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers are all in the last paragraph.

There's no real story, the acting isn't great (and not helped by rubbish dubbing as I didn't have a subtitle option). Most of the fighting takes place in the same teahouse-setting and, while the combatants, particularly Chia Ling (aka Judy Lee) are more than competent, it's rather monotonous – in one instance fifteen solid minutes of killing people with fists, feet and knives, interrupted only by occasionally running up and down stairs. The bad guys have the usual super-tough fighter, who could have been used in a one-on-one with Ling to add variety, but he just gets wiped out in general mayhem like all the faceless extras.

My experience of this wasn't helped by having a really useless DVD (by Vengeance Video). I mentioned having no subtitle option. I also got the feeling (unless it was really badly shot) that the picture had been cropped. In closeup, the tops of people's heads were usually out of shot and in some cases half their heads were missing off the side of the screen. In the fight scenes this sometimes made it impossible to see what was happening. Also dim and blurry in places and the colour was awful.

I guess kf purists should like this – some of the reviewers here loved it. There's no silly wirework and no clever ideas getting in the way – basically just a strong, fast, precise and highly skilled woman beating up lots and lots and lots of guys in a fairly convincing way. Apparently it's a classic, so worth a watch for any kf fan who hasn't seen it. If you're not one, stay away, especially from this poorly presented DVD.

Spoilers follow, not like there's really a plot to spoil. OK, kf movies are about kf not acting or story lines but this story was a bit too nonexistent for me. Ling shows up in town, surprise, surprise, to avenge her brother. At first she acts all anti-hero, Man-with-no-name, wandering about ignoring various mayhem going on around her and making no effort to help various innocents getting victimised. When a gang of bullies force her into action, she destroys them off-screen in about five seconds. After placing a ridiculously conservative order at the coffin-shop (she really should be on commission from the coffin-maker) she heads off after the hordes of bad guys and never really lets up until every one of them is dead. There is another guy early on doing some innocent-victim-helping as well as some obscure stuff involving a casino. He happens across Ling's first mega-bustup with a few hundred bad guys, tries to help, is basically told to keep out of her way, then gets himself injured so she has to break off killing people to rescue him. As soon as she leaves him alone (to talk to some unknown guy for no apparent reason) the bad guys catch up and kill him, leaving the way clear for a climactic battle which seems to take up half the film. There's your plot. Oh, yes, I forgot the western guy with a gun. Funny how after Ling kills him (about five seconds after she first notices him, like everyone else) no-one else is capable of picking up the gun and pulling the trigger.
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More same old same old but very unbalanced.
18 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are spoilers here – I've tried to keep them towards the end.

Well it's Mulder and Scully. Anderson and Duchovny act as well as they ever do, others around them, particularly the dependable Billy Connolly, are excellent. The film is competently made and directed, and the only thing wrong is the plot – unfortunately very, very wrong.

The X-factor here isn't that interesting or original. M&S are implausibly called back to help the FBI only because a psychic (Connolly) is advising on in the case. Despite a rapidly mounting body count, missing victims who may still be alive, etc., M&S are far more concerned about the psychic's authenticity – nothing new there then. But even this concern is swamped by their deep obsession with their own personal and interpersonal angst. Nothing new there either, but it soon becomes a tedious irritation. You want to tell them: get over yourselves, there are people dying here! The criminal activity side of the plot is confusing and gets more so. There's some kind of illegal organ trade going on, but the medical procedures depicted are far less credible than any psychic ability. At one stage, after reading up on stem-cell research, Scully appears to claim a victim is still alive after her severed head has been recovered. Oh, well, maybe we're not supposed to care about this stuff either with all that exciting angst going on.

Three FBI agents have significant roles in the movie. One is abducted at the start of the film by an unarmed assailant and subsequently murdered. Another, gun in hand, comes face to face with an unarmed assailant during a chase and is killed. Surprising? It would be, except that both these agents are women – predictably the third, a tough-looking man, has no problems of this kind. It's far too often the way with movie versions of female cops, soldiers, etc. Women who, in real life, would be well-trained, tough and resourceful, are only in the movie to be victims.

No reason to bother with this if you're not a big fan. No reason if you are – most of the TV episodes were better, and it's more irritating than entertaining.
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