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The Descent (2005)
There are some great British films but would this be one of them?
I watched this with my girlfriend Kelly not knowing what to expect. We knew it was a horror, but it was also a British film. There are some great British films but would this be one of them? The film is about a group of women who get together to explore a set of remote caves. During the expedition they encounter strange creatures and end up having to fight for their lives. Staring Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring & Nora-Jane No one. All are great in the roles of the six friends, however Natalie Mendoza stands out for me as Juno. There are undertones of something more with her character and her performance is eerie and mysterious. This film is one of the best modern horror films I have seen. While many modern horror films fall under the category of torture porn like Saw and Hostile, this film doesn't rely on gore and gross out moments to shock you. It manages it in traditional ways using subtle camera effects, building tension and good acting. The director is a genius in his ability to scare you. He builds the tension to a point where you feel you will burst. There are no cheesy moments just good old fashioned scares. And what scares they are. There are moments that truly scare and surprise you. This is one of the best horror movies and a very well made film. The intro is just long enough to give you a good background to the friends and then all hell breaks loose! If you like classic horror movies check this one out. Keep the lights on and if you are watching with your girlfriend, watch out for your hands. Kelly was so scared I thought she would break mine when she squeezed it really hard when she jumped!
9 out of 10
Road House (1989)
So what kind of film do you get when you have great one liners, bar fights, guns, knives, egos, strippers, blues music, a polar bear and a monster truck? You get one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films of the late 80's, Road House. The film follows James Dalton (Patrick Swayze) a cooler (bouncer) and the best in the business, as he takes employment with Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) the owner of the Double Deuce in Jasper, Missouri. The bar is the roughest in town and he needs Dalton to clean it up. However corrupt business man and crime boss Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) stands in his way. After the classic "chick flick" Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze was Hollywood gold. Women loved him and men wanted to be him. The film was full of romance. Then along came Road House, a complete opposite to Dirty Dancing, a little romance and loads of action. The film has a great cast including Patrick Swayze, Kevin Tighe, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Marshall R. Teague, Red West, Kathleen Wilhoite, John William Young, John Doe, Kurt James Stefka, Keith David & Terry Funk. The cast works well together and it is full of great performances. Naturally Patrick Swayze at the height of his career stands miles apart from the rest of the cast as Dalton. A character that can hurt you with his words just as much as his fists. Tragically, 20 years later Swayze had his life cut short by cancer. His death is still a major loss to the entertainment industry, but his legacy will live on in the great performances and memorable characters he played. The film also a features a great performance by the late great blues guitarist Jeff Healey as Cody. It's the music in the film that goes a long way to achieving the right feel for the film. Everything works well from the characters, the music to the setting. Set in a rural area the scenery is breath-taking and it is used to great effect. But it's the fight choreography that stands out from many other films. Great bar fights are pretty much a thing of the past, but here they are full of action and humour just like the classic westerns. The one on one fights are brutal, mainly for the realism they portray. The script is awesome and full of classic lines mainly from Dalton and although many are cheesy, when he says it, it feels right. The director surprisingly hasn't made many films but the ones I have seen of his I really like and I know I am in the minority. See my review of Gladiator (1992) for more by this director. This is truly a great film, although very underrated. It is also one of my personal all-time favourites. There are a couple of versions of this so ensure that you see the USA or UK version released after 2002 as these are the uncut editions. So grab a few beers and a few friends, but this on a big screen and turn the sound way up for a really great movie experience.
10 out of 10
How good can a film be when it is based on a country song by C.W. McCall?
A trio of truck drivers get stopped by unscrupulous Sheriff Lyle Wallace (Ernest Borgnine). After they stop for food the Sheriff turns up and a fight ensues, the truckers make a run for it and head for Mexico pursued by the police and with more and more truckers joining them along the way, the convoy attracts national attention. The film stars Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young, Madge Sinclair, Franklyn Ajaye, Brian Davies, Seymour Cassel & Bill Coontz. But Ernest Borgnine truly steals the film in every scene he is in. playing a sheriff in a similar way that Jackie Gleason stole the show in the Smokey and the Bandit films as Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Two classic law enforcement officers who take their jobs a little too far. The film was based on the lyrics to Convoy by C.W. McCall, however after the film was made he changed some of the lyrics to directly reference the film. Fortunately the song is catchy as it plays over most of the film. Surprisingly, the film is very good. Especially when you consider that the plot is just a lot of trucks driving along a road! There is great action, great one liners and one of the best bar fights to hit the screen. It does turn in to a bit of a propaganda film with the truckers using the convoy to vent their frustrations about their working conditions, but over all this it a solid and entertaining film. It does look a little dated now, but this doesn't detract from the entertainment value. This is a fun film and definitely worth your time to watch it.
The Avengers (2012)
First of all I will not be referring to this film by the crap UK name of Avengers Assembled. The film is The Avengers and that all it needs to be called.
This is biggest and most anticipated film from the last few years. It is a sequel to the Marvel films Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America (2011) and The Incredible Hulk (2008). But is it possible to make one film starring them all? Would it work with all of them in lead roles? The film brings together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) & The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). They join forces against Thor's Brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who has unleashed an alien race upon the Earth so he can conquer it.
As many of you will know by now, I am a huge action movie and comic adaption fan, so this film exactly what I was looking for. I kept away from many reviews and possible spoilers. However I had to see the trailers. After seeing them and being blown away I got a little worried for the film. Many trailers use so much of the action and plot that they show most of the good parts of the film. I really hoped that this wouldn't happen with this one. I wanted this film to be good.
After the first 5 minutes I was worried. The film started out well but there was a really really bad camera cut/edit. For a film fan it stood out and slapped me in the face. I started to worry that it was a sign of things to come. However my fears were soon dispelled as the film sucked me in with outstanding direction, visuals and 3D effects like I have never seen before. The way the film was prepared starting out with Iron Man in 2008 and then tying in all the following films together are a big lead up to this one. A huge gamble but it really paid off. The outstanding cast work so well together. With all these larger than life characters already having their own individual stories told, all what was left was to bring them together. But first they start out against each other. Their individual egos explode as they battle each other with explosive devastation. Soon they all share a common goal and start to band together. Then the film really lets to. Up until this point it was amazing. When they finally start working together that's when an amazing movie exceeds all expectations and takes the superhero genre to a level never before seen. This is also the point then the 3D effects take on a whole new level. Prior to this they were used for depth and clarity of the film very well, but now it bring you in to the film and doesn't let go. The greatest effect is an alien ship appearing from over your head. It actually startled me as it appeared above my head before it was on the screen. Never before outside of a theme park has a 3D film managed this.
Fortunately it didn't just meet my expectations, it exceeded them more than I ever thought possible. I really can't find the right words to convey how good this film really is. It has moments where you laugh so hard you cry, amazingly the best of these involve The Hulk! There are moments where you find yourself holding your breath at the sheer scope of what you are seeing. The action raises the bar for the genre to maybe unattainable heights. This film is so very good.
I usually rate films on a scale of 1-10 but 10 feels inadequate for this. So for this one I am using 1-100. This film scores a 99. Only losing out on 100 due to the single bad edit at the start of the film. Joss Whedon has managed the impossible with this film and pulled of a film no one expected to be so good. For this reason and for the first time my stand out performance is the director Joss Whedon, for creating a perfect superhero movie.
You have to see this on the biggest screen you can find and in 3D
The Hunger Games (2012)
Let the games begin!
This was an interesting film, the marketing was excellent and I wanted to see it even though I knew almost nothing about it. I knew it was based upon a novel but I hadn't read it. Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead of Katniss Everdeen and in my review of X-Men: First Class, I put her as the stand out performance of the film. I could see that she had something special, but would she be up to the task of carrying the whole film? Would my prediction about her be right?
The film is about a girl Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who volunteers to fight in the Hunger Games taking the place of her younger sister. Competitors in the games are forced to fight to the death until only one is left standing.
There have been many films about people hunting people from Hard Target (1993) with Jean-Claude Van Damme to Surviving the Game (1994) staring Ice-T. The one that is most similar in style is the Japanese classic Battle Royale (2000). It also has youths forced to fight to the death, but where that film was purely designed for adults to shock and horrify you, Hunger Games is based on a book for teenagers and so is the film.
This was a very good film and for the most part it was beautifully shot. The actors in this are perfectly cast which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Paula Malcomson, Amandla Stenberg & Elizabeth Banks. Once again Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding, this time as the lead. Her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen is captivating. She has a great skill in drawing the audience in and making a connection with them. As with her performance in X-Men: First Class, her skill in portraying emotions comes over amazingly.
The film is a great visual treat, with a good story. However as good as the film is, the film makers failed in the transition from book to screen.
Minor Spoilers The book is set from the perspective of Katniss who is telling the story. However this is not the case with the film. It is just a story. The film really loses a lot from changing the format. With the book you get a lot of the history of the Hunger Games and you understand what they are all about. With the film this is missed out and barely covered in a small written intro. All the film needed to do was to have Katniss telling the story at least up until the point where her sister is chosen. Her giving a background narrative over the start of the film would have made a perfect introduction. The way it was done left me as a viewer without the necessary information I felt was needed to create an emotional connection to the characters and the story. Fortunately for me I started to read the book the night before the viewing as I had read that the film was a little vague during the opening scenes. This gave me the background that unfortunately the viewers of the film wouldn't necessarily have.
Minor Spoilers end The intentionally shaky camera shots get a bit too much at times and the lack of blood and carnage is a little too unbelievable and while overall this is a good film, it could have been a great film. If you have already read the book you should enjoy the film more than if you haven't.
8 out of 10 if you haven't read the book 9 out of 10 if you have read the book.
True Romance (1993)
I know people that hate this film, but I know far more that love it.
The film was written by Quentin Tarantino, and it really shows with the sharp dialogue and crazy plot. The film centres around Clarence (Christian Slater) who meets and marries Alabama (Patricia Arquette). After Clarence goes to get Alabama's belongings, through a series of mishaps, he ends up with suitcase of coke and they decide to sell it. This leads to a wild adventure involving drug dealers, police and movie executives.
The casting in this film is amazing with Hollywood greats turning up and each one adds something special to the film. But by far the best performance is by Brad Pitt as the roommate of Clarence's friend Dick. He is on screen for a total of about 5 minutes but steals every scene he is in. However every one of the characters in the film brings something special. The performances by Hollywood greats, including Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken and Gary Oldman all come so close to being over the top, but the incredible script and brilliant directing manage to hold back just enough to stop it going too far.
This film is a true masterpiece where everything just falls in to place. The film is not for the faint of heart though. There are very graphic scenes of violence. One particular scene involving a woman getting severely beaten. The perpetrator definitely gets his comeuppance though. While the violence is very graphic, as with most of Tarantino's films, it is very bloody but also portrayed in a realistic manor. This adds to the shock and also to bring you closer to the victims.
I cannot praise this film enough. It is one of the greats that has been overlooked by many including Hollywood. Almost all of the performances are worthy of Oscar nomination, as with the script. But this film was overlooked by all the major awards.
If you are a fan of Tarantino films, or films with a good cast and great story give this film a try. I know people that hate this film, but I know far more that love it.
The Outsiders (1983)
A very hard hitting and moving story
A very hard hitting and moving story about rival gangs and the effect it has on the lives of the people in and around the gangs. The story follows two of the younger greasers after one of them accidentally kills a rival gang member in self defence. They leave town and believe they will have to remain on the run forever.
With a cast to die for, The Outsiders is an incredible, hard hitting film. Portrayed in a believable and moving way, the cast includes Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell and Rob Lowe. But Ralph Macchio stands out in this film as Johnny Cade.
The direction of Francis Ford Coppola along with stunning performances from the cast bring this film to life. You feel for the characters as they take you on an emotional roller-coaster. You laugh along with them and share in the anguish and feel the pain they all go through just to survive. It is hard not to watch the film now without comparing other films the cast have made since this film. But for many of the cast, it is up there with the finest performances of their career.
The film is an adaption of a classic novel by S.E. Hinton who was just 16 when the novel was first published in 1967. It was also her first novel. The book has become part of school English curriculum
Real Steel (2011)
This is a good film, not a great film but very good.
This film is the reason I decided to do my own movie reviews. After hearing a review for this film from BBC Radio 1's movie reviewer, I decided to start my own review page. She reviewed this film seeing nothing more than the robots. She totally missed out on the whole plot of the movie, and then her comment "the climax takes a long time to come and it happens right at the end" made me want to climb into the radio and tape her mouth shut. I know where I expect the climax of a film to be, and I know it is nowhere but at the end of the film. Yes this film has big giant robots in it, but the plot is way more than that, it is a story about redemption and doing the right thing no matter how hard the journey. I got that much from just seeing the trailer, she saw the whole thing and missed the whole point.
OK rant over.
This is a good film, not a great film but very good. Hugh Jackman is good in this but to be fair he is good in most things. He gets to show off a bigger range of his acting skills than he has in the X-Men films. He plays Charlie Kenton, a former boxer now heavily in debt due to pushing his fighting robots too hard and expecting more than they can give, like fighting a 300lb bull! This also stars Evangeline Lilly in I believe her first role since the series Lost ended. She is also very good in this. However, the star of the film is Dakota Goya as Max Kenton. He shines as the child thrown together with the father he doesn't know. He enters the world of robot fighting with his father and manages to rescue a robot from a scrap pile. He then convinces his father to enter the robot in the fights. You really get to experience the wonder of the Robots through him. The other star is the robot he rescues, Atom. Although not sentient, the director manages to bring him to life with good camera angles and subtle sounds. You really start to feel for the robot and you manage to forget the fights aren't real. The other very clever part of the film is the setting. It is set in the near future, but the only really futuristic thing is the robots. There are no fancy cars or clothes and this enables you to connect with the film easier.
The climax of the film (at the end!), is a big showdown with the undefeated champion. Instead of just two robots bashing each other, you get Atom, the underdog, controlled by Max, and helped by his father. You see and feel each blow the robot takes and through the acting skills of Dakota Goya, you forget it's a machine and you can't help but cheer him on.
This could have been an average film, but the fine performances by the cast and the skill of the director in bringing Atom to life with just the use of camera shots and clever subtle sounds turns this film in to a joy to watch as you take the journey with father, son and giant robot.
The Thing (2011)
This is a prequel to probably one of the best horror films ever made
This is a prequel to probably one of the best horror films ever made, a true classic and a very good addition to the story. It tells what happened in the events leading up to the original film. The last shot of this film links to the first shot of the original.
At first I was worried about this film for two reasons. First, as the film was set on a Norwegian camp how much reading would I have to do whilst trying to follow the story? Second, the original film is amazing a true classic of the horror genre. Would this film do justice to the story and would the use of modern effects change the feel of the story? My fears were soon put to rest. Fortunately it appears that the universal language for scientists working in the Antarctic is English! There are a few subtitles throughout the film but not that many. Now a big thank you to the producers of this film. It is clear that they are true fans of the original and this is evident in the title. They couldn't come up with a title better than "The Thing". They could have gone with The Thing: Begins but nothing sounded as good. This film was made by fans of the original and they have ensured that it links into every reference made in the original to the Norwegian base, even down to an axe in the wall seen in the first film, showing how it got there in this one. The cast is made up of very good actors, none of them are particularly well known to everyone. I recognised a few faces, but this is good as you have no idea who will survive as there no major stars.
Story wise, if you have seen the original you know what to expect but the film makers know this and throw a few curve-balls in. The famous "blood test" of the original almost happens here but cleverly it gets change for something else also unexpected. The creatures origins are left alone and rightly so as there is no way of knowing them. It is just a creature trying to survive by killing everyone in its way. Do we really need to know more than that? The effects are also very good, but this is what you would expect from modern effects. Where the original films effects were ground breaking, the ones here are what you can see in most Hollywood creature films. The difference here is the attention to making the creature effects look like the original. Again the makers of the film have done a great job in making the two films fit together both story wise and visually. I wish all sequels/prequels would have enough respect for the audience like this one has.
My nemesis(a film critic on UK radio) struck again with this film. They rated this film a "good strong 3 stars" asked why not 4 stars they stated that Happy Feet Two was released at the same time and this was a 4 star film and they enjoyed it more. What???! How can you compare a horror with a cartoon? Shouldn't you rate them as individual films in different genres?
The Thing (1982)
A true classic.
This is probably one of the best horror films ever made. A true classic.
The film is filled with great moments and incredible effects. Undoubtedly some of the best pre CGI effects ever filmed. The tension the film creates is perfect. The characters are believable and acted well. The story line starts off confusing as a helicopter with a passenger is seen shooting at a dog as it runs away. The dog runs into the camp and is rescued by a group of American scientists. The scientists head over to a nearby Norwegian research station where they discover that it has been abandoned and there are signs of death and destruction throughout. From there the story quickly progresses to one of terror as the scientists are killed off by a mysterious creature that can imitate them.
For those of a squeamish nature beware, the mutations in this film are expertly done giving a real feel of authenticity. It is a very bloody film with many violent deaths. But this is a horror film after all and you really get your money's worth here. It doesn't go too over the top like many creature films do. The direction of John Carpenter draws us in and along with it the terror felt by the characters.
In 2011, a prequel to this film was released showing what happened to the Norwegian team.