Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Lone Survivor (2013)
Brutal, realistic, drama-documentary on the reality of war in Afghanistan.
This is a dramatization of a US mission to kill a Taliban activist in 2005, in which the four man team experience the extremes of warfare, and at the end there is a 'lone survivor'. Mixed in with this, is the experience of one of the team in a Pashtun village, where he is inexplicably sheltered from his Taliban pursuers. Can't elaborate any more without giving away some of the plot.
As a war movie, it's pretty accurate-looking, although many moments are distinctly 'Hollywoodized' (particularly one of the death scenes), and the movie makers love of glamorizing explosions is often present.
There is an excess of glib chat between soldiers - there would have been no harm to the accuracy of the movie in toning this down, it didn't tell me anything about the characters or plot. Mark Wahlberg's closing line, obviously something significant, was incomprehensible to me.
There's a lot of padding at the beginning and end of the movie, with shots of service personnel training and other matter, which was repetitive and didn't add to the product as a movie or documentary. Also a lot of slow-motion and intrusive music score, particularly in the earlier part of the movie.
So, a lot of criticism from me, but ... eight out of ten all the same, less one point because of the uneven production issues mentioned above. It's quite good, and leaves one thinking a little. Lone Survivor takes a step further than the much hyped Zero Dark Thirty, by recognizing the role of the people whose home actually is Afghanstan. This is done in a simplistic way, but then this is really a movie about soldiers doing their stuff, and how they cope (or don't) when things go wrong. Grim, but with a thankful message of hope in human nature by the end. Would have loved to have given it eight (although certainly not nine), but it's just a bit to ragged and uneven in places.
Fun(ish), forgettable, Disney fantasy. Won't bore you, but won't change your life!
This is Disney at it's simplest and surest - a plain and fun fantasy about a princess with magical powers, a handsome prince, a couple of goofy characters to provide regular light relief, and a couple of really mean villeins, of course.
Very 'Disney' in it's values - the family is no. 1, good people are beautiful and young, bad people typically ugly, old and have eastern European accents, animals are cute. Actually, the film does break a couple of these rules, but one is very conscious that this is Disneytopia, right down to the emotional manipulation and total lack of depth to any character. Yes, I know it's a kids movie, but all the same ...
Pros: passes the time and gives some smiles, although no big laughs for the adults, or for the children really.
Cons: animation is a little lacking - TV rather than big-screen quality much of the time. Also, there is a LOT of singing, and nothing particularly memorable! (E.g., "Something, something ... let's build a snowman, ... something.") I'd have preferred a bit more goofing around with the fun characters.
Overall: my wife and I saw it on a Sunday evening with a lot of young children in the cinema - not a lot of reaction from them, while it held the attention, would have like to have heard more laughter. Definitely a middling 7/10 from me. Spend an afternoon at the mall for the same (or less) amount of money and have more fun.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Top draw movie, ace performances, a little more Africa back story might have helped.
This is a very good movie. 'Movie' enough that it's enjoyable from a movie-lover's perspective, and realistic enough that you feel you've seen a fair representation of events, as much as any movie can give. Thankfully avoids the gratuitous or bloody violence that afflicts so many modern pictures, while leaving you in no doubt about the potential for extreme violence that the characters have.
Tom Hanks again? Yes, but he tones down much of his characteristic affability, and is very believable as the captain of the cargo ship. (As with George Clooney in The Perfect Storm, Hanks happened to bare a strong likeness to the real captain of the ship, so was pretty much ideal.)
The plot is closely based on a real hijacking of a large cargo ship off the Somali coast in 2009, and the key role of the Captain in manipulating the hard-bitten hijackers and get his ship, his crew and himself to safety ... however, events spiral out of control, thwarting both his and the hijacker's best laid plans, and other forces appear on the scene to raise the stakes even higher. It's hard to say too much without edging into spoiler territory, so if you don't know anything about the actual hijacking, I'd suggest not finding anything out beforehand to get the most from the movie, but even if you do, you won't be disappointed.
The whole cast gives a pretty flawless performance, somewhere between United 93 and Zero Dark Thirty in tone. Barkhad Abdi as the cool, dedicated and desperate pirate leader is mesmerizing, and is a sure Oscar tip. The American crew give such a polished, realistic performance that you can't help placing yourself in the situation, and wondering what you'd be doing or thinking.
The film is well paced, the two hours passing easily, with no spurious padding. It's simply a good movie - not a great one, but good.
I say not 'great', simply because while it entertains, thrills and informs (to an extent), it didn't leaved me 'moved' afterward. I'd have personally liked to have seen more of the hijackers' back stories. I've had a number of good friends from related backgrounds (not Somalia, but Nigeria, rural Zimbabwe and township South Africa), and I think their first reaction would be, 'It's good, nice to see some realism about what some people have to cope with, but we're not all hijackers you know!'.
So, to sum up: top draw movie, ace performances, a little more Africa back story might have helped.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Badly directed, badly acted and unpleasant to watch.
This movie was a mistake ... a mistake by the studio to give Gilliam a free hand and to have Ehren Kruger (whose normal specialties are Transformers sequels and shlock horror), and by the actors for agreeing to take part.
It is dreadfully unwatchable and tasteless. It's like one of Monty Python's medieval sketches, drawn out to what seems like three hours and with zero humour. The actors mumble through their lines with accents more in place in 'Allo 'Allo. What passes for humour includes, (person A:) "I've soiled myself", (person B:) "Oh, I thought that was me", and a cat killed by being kicked into a revolving fan, then Jonathan Pryce licking the bloody remains that have been splattered on he face.
It is an ugly, messy, tasteless piece of work, which I'm sorry I had the misfortune to sit through.
In a word, expensively dull. OK, that was two words. Diesel gets another outing as Riddick, but stripped of pretty much everything that Pitch Black did well and Chronicles did passably.
I've a strong impression that Pitch Black was a good movie by accident, rather than design. Twohy assembled a group of B-list actors and unknowns, but whom gelled well and gave the whole movies a lot of personality. The set and monster design, sub-plots and back stories gave the movie a lot of extra life (note, not directly Twohy's work), the CGI was relatively minimal ... and Diesel didn't actually say that much. Riddick was just one of a number of players. And there was humour. It worked, enjoyably.
Chronicles was an interesting attempt to build on the Riddick character and had some entertaining extended set pieces and concepts, but burned itself out towards the end of the movie. The canvas became very overworked.
So, number three ... largely Diesel grunting and groaning his way through various ugly situations, with unconvincing CGI effects, and discovering ... what? There are no sympathetic characters, no humour and no ending.
Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, and eventually they'll come up with Hamlet. Give David Twohy an infinite number of B-actors, an infinite amount of funding and an infinite amount of time, and I maybe he'll make another entertaining movie, but this isn't it. Just dumping Diesel in the middle of a dull script and hoping the CGI will hold the whole premise up does not make a movie. Must do better.
It's watchable 'til the end, hence two stars, not one. But then so is the tumble dryer.
Star Trek Continues (2013)
Hmmmmm! Actually, rather good ...
That was a surprise! This was actually rather good. Once I got over the strange faces, this was a refreshing rehash of the original premise. A Roddenbery-style sci-fi drama as only Kirk and the crew can convey it.
The screenplay was excellent, up there with the top of some of the original Star Trek series. This 'Series 4, Episode One' took as its base the rediscovery of one of the crew's old adversaries. This can be a lazy way of story-telling, relying on one's memory of the impact of the original episode to give the new story substance. Wrath of Khan was a good fun movie, but at the end of the day the character of Khan was just lifted straight from the original Trek episode and not developed (apologies to all Trekkies whom I have just insulted). However, here, the screenwriters developed the story and character in a much more imaginative way. The moral dilemmas at the core of many original series episodes is really strongly felt in this production. It really does have the look and feel of Star Trek TOS.
The other good side is the CGI and set design. First class for a TV drama. As good as the original.
Okay, now the criticism ... some of the acting is lacking at times. Vic Mignogna as Kirk is astonishing, utterly believable. The actors playing Scottie, McCoy and Uhura are also good. Spock and the flight crew are not quite so credible, even a little cringing at times, but look at the first Star Trek episode of TOS and several of them were pretty wooden. I'm sure these guys can develop.
The lasting impression is of a gifted amateur production and a good story told. I look forward to future episodes, and hope they have not put all their good ideas into this first show. Keep it up, guys, you have a fan.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Good fun with a sound cast
I don't know what people expect from a movie to give it such a mediocre score. This is plain good fun. My wife and I laughed a lot. Somewhere along the lines of the original Lone Ranger, but with a lot more humour, and increasingly outrageous set pieces. Some of the horse stunts later in the movie were quite ridiculous, but by that stage one just didn't worry about it too much.
Depp's Tonto is a thinly veiled Jack Sparrow, just older and grumpier, and a pleasure to watch. The Ranger himself was nicely played, and the horse deserves an Oscar.
Criticisms: (1) Too much over the top action in the opening scenes. I thought, 'oh no' at that point, and was expecting a poorly scripted and dull action flick, thankfully I was wrong, and things improved as things progressed. (2) The ending scene is a bit overworked, maybe. I felt the director should have had more faith his work and let it stand as it was. (3) So many people shot dead! OK, it's a movie, but this soured it a little for me. There's no harm in a good few 'air punches' and shot-in-the-shoulder-and-stooping-with-a-groan type of 'violence'. Why the need in modern movies to have so much casual violence? Lost a point here, otherwise 8/10. I'd have been uncomfortable taking a child to it.
Can't see a sequel, but if there is one the appeal would be to see Depp going through his paces again. Good set pieces, please, less violence, please, please, please.
Time Team with abseiling
This was a really excellent little series, very much in the spirit of Time Team, but instead focusing on hazardous sites which required skills more akin to mountain rescue than archaeological research.
This episode was my favourite, a special prehistoric community living at the edge of the world.
The only slight reservation I have is the hazards were rather over-played at times - it's plainly obvious that although a lot of physical effort is required, there's was no real danger in this age of health-and-safety legislation. All the archaeologists made it to the end of the series!
There was never a second series. What a shame.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Avoid this sadistic 'action thriller'
It could be a reasonably competent action movie, but the periodic sheer brutality, often with a sadistic and nasty edge to it, drags it down severely. This is a great shame, as there are some impressive names in it - Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, and nice to see Rhada Mitchell (came to fame in Pitch Black).
The protagonist is played by Mike Banning, not exactly A-list, and who doesn't come over a very likable. Not Banning's fault, more that of the director with his video nasty style of direction.
The plot falls away towards the end, with increasingly hammy lines and sub plots ... I have to confess I went and did the washing up at this point, having lost all interest.
If you like watching YouTube videos of people being tortured, you may enjoy this, otherwise avoid, avoid, avoid.
Star Trek: The Cage (1986)
Good fun, well acted space drama ... if you don't mind the wooden swords and air punches
Star Trek as it might have been. All the elements are there, except for Shatner. Jeffrey Hunter is clearly a capable actor, but in this 1964 pilot (which only saw light in 1986) he frequently looks like he's trying to remember his lines or pondering which facial expression to use while delivering them. It's so sad that he lost his life just a few years later, as I suspect he'd have been reworked into later episodes, series or even movies.
Susan Oliver is stunning as 'the girl', and a little Googling showed that she was a remarkable individual in real life, overcoming a fear of flying to become a record-settling aviator, amongst other achievements.
As for 'The Cage' as a something to watch, it's enjoyable if you're a Trekkie or sci-fi fan. Not full of the effects, explosions and mandatory action sequences of modern equivalents, but still a quality production - the fight scene is a little quirky, with obviously wooden swords and air punches, but this was a more innocent era when it was not felt necessary to imitate real violence in the way that it is now - the story mattered!
Fun fact from studying IMDb data - Felix Silla (one of the aliens) is one of those actors who pops up, Forrest Gump like, in the background of various trend-setting movies or TV shows, Bonanza, The Addams Family (Cousin It), The Monkees, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars (an Ewok), Spaceballs and Batman Returns amongst them.