7 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Stacked (2005–2006)
Surprisingly good star vehicle for surprisingly good star
2 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
OK, I just started watching this show on Paramount Comedy in the UK and it's surprisingly good. Obviously billed as a vehicle for Pamela Anderson but the real attraction here is Christopher "Doc" Lloyd, a man who's style of hilariously hammy overacting means he's only capable of playing mental patients, cartoon characters and mad scientists. Given that, it was only a matter of time before he ended up in that most wildly overacted of things, the American sitcom. Naturally, Lloyd is most entertaining as a slightly sulky former scientist who practically lives in the book store of the title (a title who's cheap pun does not promise much from the standard of humour on show). However, what really surprises is that Pammie is a shockingly adept comic performer. I mean, she's no great actress and she'll never be the most hilarious comedian, but she has a certain charm and willing to poke fun at herself and her image that makes her performance in this show both likable and enjoyable. Fans of the busty star and her ilk will be pleased by guest appearances by the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra, however their performances mostly just go to show how actually good Pamela is in comparison. Overall, this is a standard, slightly clichéd sitcom with much big, gurning acting and a rather excessive laughter track. Still, while not actually being enormously funny, it does manage to hold the interest, and not just because of the compelling strangeness of Pammie's breasts. If you just chance to come upon it, you'll probably find yourself losing yourself in half an hour of the charming if lightweight adventures of this bookstore.
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Enduring Love (2004)
I fell asleep for about ten minutes and didn't seem to have missed anything
7 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who has studied for an English A-level in the last six or seven years will probably be familiar with Ian McEwan's critically acclaimed yet mind numbingly tedious novel that thinks it's smarter than a conventional thriller so takes out all the exciting bits and puts in some tedious musings on science. It's one of those novels that you think might work better on film, a medium noted for upping the trashiness of any book. That it was directed by someone as populist as Roger Mitchell, responsible for the light, trashy fun of Notting Hill, made me hope that the movie might bring out what lies beneath McEwan's pretentiousness, essentially a classic simple stalker plot. However, in a desperate bid for credibility, this film eschews even the more obvious thriller scenes from McEwan's plot (someone being gunned down in a restaurant, the hero buying a gun from some drug dealers) in favour of playing up Joe, the central character's, boring and odious scientific analysis of everything and his feeling that love is just a biological urge to make us reproduce. It's impossible to empathise with, let alone like on any level, this man, you don't care if his life gets torn apart and it's obvious from the start that his relationship with self absorbed sculptor Claire is doomed (so much so that their sort of reconciliation at the end is particularly unconvincing). The other major problem, aside from unlikeable characters, is the slowness of the plot. Jed, the stalker, does very little but engage Joe in some faintly creepy conversations until right near the end suddenly, and inexplicably (and in a complete departure from the novel), Joe goes to his house, sees a clichéd wall of pictures of him and Claire, goes a bit mental and then Jed has Claire at knife-point. Having sat through the boredom of the rest of the movie this is at least shocking, but for all the wrong reasons. Future James Bond Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton are cold and emotion free as the central couple and Rhys Ifans as God-obsessed Welshman Jed is more annoying than scary. Some credit at least to Mitchell, who at least makes his movie look a little bit like an intelligent thriller with some beautiful shots of the countryside and the recurring images that remind Joe of the tragic balloon based opening. Unfortunately the film's decent look and soundtrack are unable to compensate for weak acting and an even weaker storyline.
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King Kong (2005)
One remake that's well worth seeing
19 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This review contains spoilers, but then who doesn't already know the plot?

A lot of people have asked, why remake King Kong when the original is such a classic? But this isn't some kind of sacred text, movies should be about entertainment and spectacle, Cooper and Schoedsack understood that and their movie is one of the best examples of pure entertainment in history. Peter Jackson understands it too, and you're unlikely to find a better slice of undiluted fun in our cinemas in recent years (and that includes Jackson's revered Lord of the Rings films). The three hour running time breezes by and the classic set pieces (Kong fights T-rexes, Kong swats bi-planes atop the Empire State) are all intact and stunningly realised. Jackson's past in horror comedy means he knows exactly when to lighten the mood and when to up the tension, building slowly across the first hour with the suspenseful voyage to and discovery of the island, through Ann's capture by the natives, to the final reveal of the mighty ape himself. While remaining undoubtedly very silly and implausible, the film is totally involving and any audience member who doesn't find themselves wanting to cheer as Kong tears a T-rex's jaws open or knocks a plane from the sky has no soul. Special mention must also go to a fabulous, Kong free, sequence in which the crew are attacked by all manner of giant insects, if anyone thought the Shelob's lair sequence in Return of the King was good, this will blow you away. The three human leads give strong performances in roles that Jackson and his co-writers have fleshed out well from the original. Jack Black invests scumbag Carl Denham with some charm and sympathy, whilst still remaining a scumbag. Adrien Brody's playwright version of Jack Driscoll makes an interesting action lead (where else are you going to see the Oscar winning actor punch out a dinosaur?). While Naomi Watts is absolutely adorable as Ann Darrow (you really can see what Kong sees in her), amusing the great ape with her Chaplin-esquire vaudeville performances. Really though, the star of the movie is, and always will be, Kong himself, and here Jackson and his team excel themselves. Brought to life by a superb performance from Andy Serkis and digitally created by Jackson's people at Weta, Kong is a real, living, breathing character. The other special effects are undoubtedly excellent (really showing up the faintly shoddy moments in this month's Narnia), but it's Kong that really stands out. Both strong and gentle, noble and violent, Kong's complex emotions are brought across brilliantly, not to mention he looks, moves and sounds like a real gorilla. He fights, he roars, he beats his chest, but the real triumph is in his moments of tenderness. The chemistry between Watts' Ann and her tall, dark leading man is far superior to that between most human stars and scenes such as Kong in New York ice skating with Ann in his hand are just the right mix of sweet and funny. Don't worry though, he might be a gentlemanly ape, but that doesn't prevent a great destructive rampage through the city streets. Like all tragic romances, it's doomed from the start, but that's what makes Kong's final moments so affecting. It's impossible to really compare Jackson's version to the 30s original. Both are great and cutting edge in their own time but more importantly have an enduring sense of fun to them. Jackson's version deserves to be remembered in years to come with the same affection as the original has earned (if nothing else it wipes the memory of the disastrous 70s version). I urge you to see this film and, if you haven't seen the original, hopefully this version will lead you to seek it out.
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Where's the music?
14 November 2005
Don't let the Smiths referencing title fool you, this film has nothing of musical interest whatsoever. As the deliberately obtuse plot meanders slowly and pointlessly towards its unsatisfactory conclusion, we are left having to endure the company of a group of characters so mind-numbingly underdeveloped that we really couldn't care less if they were murdered by dwarfs. The sparse script, which presumably feels its lack of dialogue will create an unsettling rather than tedious atmosphere, is played out woodenly by a group of familiar names and vaguely familiar faces including Ray Winstone, Andy Serkis and Sean Pertwee, all giving performances they've probably forgotten they even did, although there is an inexplicable cameo from John Peel (playing, it would seem, some kind of low rent John Peel), getting about one line but hanging around in the background a lot. The central character, the band's keyboard player, writes dire piano ballads (at one point he plays a Barry Manilow song to impress a girl. This is supposed to show how dedicated he is to her that he's willing to stoop to music that awful to impress, but what it really does is shine a light on his own influences). His band, understandably, want to play something more upbeat, although their indie rock version of the song is no classic. Keyboard man spends much of the film sulking and pouting about how his band don't want to play any of his rubbish songs and that their material is "too commercial". Are we supposed to like this pretentious, pompous idiot? In the end, however, any movie about music will live and die by its music, and here "Five Seconds to Spare" makes the bold and novel decision to virtually dispense with it entirely. Whoever wrote the score had the easiest job in the world because this movie is virtually soundtrack free, never a good thing normally but in a music film it completely ruins your opinions of the filmmakers' tastes. There aren't even much more references to great music outside of the title. I don't know if they couldn't afford to pay for these songs but they obviously didn't spend the money on a decent script.
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Breezy, cheesy fun, just don't expect a moody Sarah Michelle Gellar
14 May 2005
It's difficult to understand how this movie, seemingly designed to be as trashily disposable as possible, spawned one of the most successful and influential TV shows of recent years. Naturally, writer Joss Whedon had to totally change his original creation to create the much larger cast of characters and ever more labyrinthine mythology of his much darker TV series and there is little similarity between that and this moderately entertaining early 90s cheesefest, more a cross between Clueless and the Lost Boys. Kristy Swanson is amiable as popular airheaded cheerleader Buffy, obsessed with some disastrous Saved By the Bell fashions, light years away from Sarah Michelle Gellar's troubled teenager with "issues". Donald Sutherland, as her watcher, exhibits a similar wry, detached sense of humour as Anthony Head but is often so detached he appears to be acting in a completely different movie and initially appears to just be pervy old man creepy ("You must come with me to the graveyard"). There are no real signs of even early versions of Buffy's quirkier sidekicks Willow and Xander (although apparently Seth Green was in the movie but was cut from it), instead her friends here are interchangeable airheads, check out double Oscar winner Hilary Swank in an early role in excessive make-up and permed hair. The villain is a camp and easily defeated Rutger Hauer who offers no real threat but flounces around in a ruff or, occasionally, a dressing gown and appears, at one point, to decide to have a snack on a monkey for no particular reason, while the love interest goes to perpetual teenager Luke Perry's rather pointless "bad boy" (although when he does any "bad boy" stuff in this film is hard to see, he doesn't even dress that scruffily). While Whedon developed on some ideas, some simply fell by the wayside, there's a notable lack in the TV show of Buffy's ability to sense vampires through supernatural cramps ("My secret weapon is PMS"). While undoubtedly the lack of interesting, developed supporting characters, in many ways what made the TV show watchable, is definitely a flaw with Buffy the movie, its very disposable silliness is in fact much of the attraction here. While aspects of the TV show became impenetrable to casual viewers like me, demanding constant attention across hours of series, this movie is fast paced almost to a fault and is light hearted fun enough to sustain you through it, even occasionally giving some of the witty dialogue the TV series was famous for. Certainly worth watching if you've got time to spare, just don't expect a masterpiece, or the TV series.
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Revelation (2001)
Anyone who thinks this movie is original really doesn't see a lot of movies, or TV, or read books
13 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie resurrects the spectacularly silly, and rather entertaining, conspiracy theories of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail which have propped up conspiracy thrillers that think they're more intelligent than they really are for years, culminating in the inexplicable popularity of the Da Vinci Code. This film has all the requisite elements of such a thriller, Templar Knights and other shady secret orders featuring none other than Sir Isaac Newton, Merovingians, the blood line of Christ. While such theories are undoubtedly of an amusing entertainment value in themselves, they are not enough to sustain a film as badly acted and directed as Dan Brown's book is written, and the idea put forward by other comments here that this film is somehow novel and original is obviously ludicrous. The film's only real idea of its own is the notion that you could clone Christ from the DNA of the nails on the cross (possibly something even less likely to happen than cloning dinosaurs from mosquitoes trapped in amber) which at least creates a little food for thought to sustain you through the non-ending where the film, some might say fortunately, just stops. A couple of interesting images of horror such as skinned and crucified bodies or flaming corpses are enough to occasionally shock you out of your boredom and make you think of the director's potential to make a nasty little horror movie rather than this overblown nonsense. Definitely a movie worth seeing if you enjoy ridiculous conspiracy theories or the ironic pleasure of a badly acted and written spectacle, otherwise steer well clear of it.
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Relic Hunter (1999–2002)
What's wrong with ripping off something as good as Indiana Jones?
26 July 2004
Yes, Relic Hunter is just an inferior Indiana Jones rip-off, but let's face it, there are very few truly original TV shows out there and if you're going to rip something off it might as well be the best. The show's formula may become a little repetitive after a while but it is good light entertainment, something that it's easy to dip in and out of, only seeing the occasional episode, which makes it superior to all those American TV series for which you need to invest hours of effort for very little return. Tia Carrere delivers a generally strong performance as Sydney and it is always good to see intelligent, in control, ass-kicking women on TV. Plus Relic Hunter has the jewel in it's crown of the bumbling stereotype that is Nigel. For anyone who finds ridiculous American stereotypes of the way English people are, Nigel is a must, he's hilarious, only sometimes intentionally, and the actor playing him is kind of cute.
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