Reviews written by registered user

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242 reviews in total 
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The Shepherd (2008) (V)
Quite Good Genre Offering, 6 July 2017

I caught this by chance, and am not a particular fan of formulaic violent Police stories. But… It was quite good. JVD plays the taciturn out of town cop with a rabbit, brought in to supplement the numbers of the Texan border guards. Andree Bernard is hotter than the Texan midday sun as a barmaid, and the rogue Special Forces team turned drug runners are convincing adversaries.

A classic, formula, bar brawl where a mouthy local picks on the wrong man is well handled, as is a quickfire shootout with some alleyway muggers. A set piece confrontation between the drug runners bus, disguised as a Church outing, is absurd. The choice of weaponry absurd. But if you like explosions, sirens, cars becoming wrecked, machine guns and the like, it does just fine.

JVD's treacherous partner Billy is well played by Gary McDonald. JVD's taunt that Bily's adulterous wife was fond of giving other men oral sex, and Billy should remember that the next time he kissed her was memorable, as was the result.

Border security, illegal immigration, drug running and local politics all appear in the mix just the right side of credibility, even if the finale inevitably tests that credibility to its limits.

At ninety five minutes, it does not outstay its welcome.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Fine British War Film, 17 March 2016

I first saw this in the 1960's and revisited it some fifty years later.

Of course it is of its time. It combines a story based on fact that is compelling and courageous, with a modest budget. The special effects are clunky, the costuming erratic, and armoury dubious, but it doesn't really matter. The story is well told, and dramatic. Submarine movies are at their best underwater where the claustrophobic drama is intense, and at their worst when that leaves them with nowhere to go. Here, fortunately the climax is on the surface, and incidental gems like a passing German patrol vessel playing music loudly also take place topside.

The portrayal of toffs in charge and salt of the earth ranks grate a little now, but John Mills is a sound, reflective toff.

Modern adrenaline junkies will not be impressed, but the simple heroism and determination portrayed is as impressive now as it was then.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A decent effort- but the franchise is moribund, 2 November 2015

The fourth in the "Jurassic" series, this film has divided opinion. It is easy to understand why.

As an addition to the series it is derivative, clichéd, lazy and half baked. As a stand- alone action film it is rather good.

The problem with the series is that the original brought together great writing with Michael Crichton, a great idea, ground breaking special effects, and Spielberg. That is a potent combination.

Four down the line, there is no Michael Crichton, no original idea, great special effects and no Spielberg. The wonder has gone.

Which if you are checking out the series for the first time, is fine. Bryce Dallas Howard is hot, Chris Pratt is handsome, and there are lots of dinosaur moments eating each others, and humans. Yet once you have seen the dinosaurs doing their thing, and the genetically modified super dinosaur doing his/her thing, the tension drops, and on an island, there are only so many people you can eat. The jeopardy isn't really there. A risible sub plot of a team developing raptors for military purposes is, risible. The breathy claim that they could have worked wonders in Tora Bora is just stupid.

The original was a great film, this is just good entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that.

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Boring and disappointing, 14 October 2015

I have watched all the Mad Max films from the start. The first was low budget, but compelling, with a young Mel Gibson at his best. The second and third took the idea to another level with a big budget, and a softer crossover into the Sci-fi/Western mainstream. A reboot seemed like a good idea with no need for Mel Gibson to reprise his earlier eponymous role. But what seemed like a good idea, with George Miller directing turns out to be a bad idea. The budget is massive. The landscapes are panoramic, the retro-futuristic war wagons a delight. The plot and script is a disaster.

I wanted to enjoy it. The second twoinstalments were apocalyptic fantasies, but laced with a sense of humour, and charm. This is charmless. Fury Road's opening scene is a chaotic tour de force featuring the capture, then escape of Mad Max. Only as the opening draws to an end do the doubts start, his ability to defy the hoards becomes a little preposterous. Still we have the first road chase to entertain us. But as it unfolds the truth dawns- that is all there is. One long chase.

Instead of the myriad possibilities that a dystopian future offers, we are instead funnelled into the confines of the car chase, a poor man's Fast and Furious.

Tom Hardy is fine as Mad Max, co- star Charlize Theron is de-glammed as rebel Imperator Furiosa. Glamour is provided , bizarrely, by a small cohort of white robed vestal concubines. However as the chase unfolds, repetition creeps in, and disaster strikes an action film, I became bored. There is only so much you can do with a car chase, and those possibilities do not cover a 120 minute running time. Shooting airborne BMX'ers is a good joke, but after a while isn't.

All this is a shame. Some of the detail is good. Oxygen masks with wolfs' teeth, a battle party led by a rock guitarist shooting flame from his axe, the spectacular sets, shot in Nabibia. But it isn't enough. The established vision is reheated with no new direction, and the interminable running time just leaves you asking "why?" I can't really comment on the acting as there is none, the characters just perform the storyboard. Such a waste of money and resource. The idea of Mad Max remains a good one- but a new director is needed to realise its potential.

A budget of half and a running time of ninety minutes would have concentrated minds. Instead of allowing ours to wander.

Furious 7 (2015)
0 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Big Budget Brouhaha, 10 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you want girls, guns, fast cars and lots of explosions this will not disappoint. A mixture of James Bond, Expendables, Mission Impossible, Bourne and the A Team on crack cocaine, the story races along, looking good, with the volume cranked up to ten. In the credits the stunt crew easily outnumber the actors.

The set pieces are outstanding. A motorised parachute drop and car escape from skyscraper to skyscraper stand out. More routine sequences with a coach on the edge of a cliff, and a helicopter and drone attack in a city's streets are no less effective. The script is corny, the cod philosophy risible, the jeopardy unconvincing – but who cares? You have girls, guns, fast cars and lots of explosions.

Jason Statham is solid as the baddie, Vin Diesel is of course cool as **** the hero. Kurt Russell acquits his role well as the mysterious Government Mr Fixit. Djimon Hounsou glowers in an underwritten role, Paul Walker is as reliable as ever and will be missed following his untimely death in a road traffic accident. Director James "Saw" Wan is relentless in his storytelling. Nathalie Emmanuel smolders and shimmies as the hacker.

Although the seventh in the series, the drone strikes , hacking, and omniscient surveillance maintains the films contemporaneity and stays abreast of the day, the appeal of a fast car is of course timeless. Fans will be delighted, the curious will have more than enough to engage them,this is no thriller, just an action ride, but an excellent one.

Ex Machina (2014)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Thoughtful and meticulously constructed, 21 August 2015

What a delight to see a thoughtful, meticulously constructed sci-fi film that does not rely on special effects and explosions for its success.

Set amidst a visceral wilderness, the cerebral Nathan (Oscar Isaac), CEO of a high the company, has built a remote laboratory to explore AI. Employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the opportunity to test it. What unfolds is an exploration of what makes us human.

Some may find the pace slow, others will relish that writer and director Alex Garland uses every shot and every second to communicate and build his message.

Nathan's persona is in counterpoint to his position, his technological brilliance harnessed to an obsession with sex, bodies, and hedonism. The cinematography is lush, the vast brooding open wilderness in brutal juxtaposition with the claustrophobic, sealed laboratory where the action takes place.

The dialogue is sharp, the plotting always one step in front of the obvious. But Garland does not pitch this as a didactic tale on the perils of AI, it is not a seminar, more like a friend inviting you round for a beer and asking "what if?"

True Grit (2010)
A good story, well told., 18 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw the original when it first came out. I enjoyed the story, warmed to John Wayne's performance as Rooster Cogburn, and hated Kim Darby's portrayal of Mattie. Normally, I am wary of remakes, but with the Coen brothers and Spielberg behind it ,the omens were good. The former are excellent at dialogue and storytelling, the latter expert in production.

The plot is simple, a mouthy fourteen year old girl sets out to avenge her father's death by bringing his killer to justice with the help of a drunken, gnarled Marshall, and succeeds. The success of the film depends upon the interplay between Mattie and Rooster. Hailee Steinfield and Jeff Bridges deliver in spades.

Steinfield's portrayal of Mattie is far more satisfying than Darby's was in the original. Darby was boyish to a fault, Steinfield is feminine, brattish, but smart. Bridge's Cogburn is closer to John Wayne's, but his amorality and ruthlessness are cranked up. Matt Damon is satisfying as rival Marshall Lebeouf, Matt Damon animalistic as quarry Tom Chaney. Both parts feel a little underwritten as Cogburn and Mattie steal the screen time which at 110 minutes could probably have been ten minutes longer, the original was almost twenty minutes longer.

But the story is told with pace, the landscape cinematography is lush, the townscapes authentic. The dialogue is as sharp and witty as you would expect from the Coen brothers, my only gripe being Bridge's diction which sometimes rendered his lines incomprehensible. When violence erupts it is bloody and graphic lifting the classification to a 15 from the original's U, but it is never gratuitous, and serves as a dramatic counterpoint between the verbal duelling of Mattie and Cogburn.

A good story, well told.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Affectionate, faithful, modern Western, 17 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the DVD extras, director James Mangold speaks warmly of the Western genre, its historic appeal and its contemporary relevance. I am not sure whether this production will win any new converts, but it will satisfy those, like myself, who are fond of both the genre, and the greats of the genre which have gone before.

A remake, the plot is simple, and in the telling does not stand up to close scrutiny. Yet when the good guy is small time rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and the bad- ass bad guy Ben Wade is Russell Crowe that does not really matter. Shot on location, not on sound stage, the story has an epic sweep to it, the scenery and cinematography is magnificent. With the benefit of a big budget, the action sequences are impressive, and offer the sophistication of modern special effects.

Women are in short supply. They are either in the kitchen (Gretchen Mol), or in the bad guy's bed (Vinessa Shaw). Peter Fonda is wonderful in the supporting role of robbery victim, Ben Foster is a wide-eyed menace as baddie lieutenant.

At two hours, the story probably runs fifteen minutes too long, but the actors and scenery more than compensate for any lulls. Recommended to all aficionados of Westerns.

Ironclad (2011)
A Decent Medieval Gore Fest, 1 July 2015

As a medieval gore-fest this film has some merit. The story itself loosely hangs around a historical context of King John, Magna Carta and the siege of Rochester. Although of dubious historical accuracy, when you tell a story from several hundred years ago, it would be foolish to carp too much on accuracy which tends to be pretty subjective in the circumstances.

The cast is quite strong , featuring the likes of Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, and Brian Cox. Characterisation is basic, but the story is driven by numerous action sequences which are convincing and compelling. At two hours, the story probably over runs by about 30 minutes, but just when interest is starting to fade up pops another battle.

What defines this production is its blood and gore. The commanders of Islamic State will have been furiously taking notes as tongues, feet and hands are severed and a dismembered body is catapulted towards the enemy. The rebels against King John are unconvincingly small in number straining credibility but making the storytelling a little easier.

If you like bloody historical drama, illuminated by a fiendishly evil and erratic King John, you will enjoy this movie.

Fury (2014)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Ruined by a Preposterous Ending., 30 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ruined by a Preposterous Ending.

There are not that many films about Allied tank crews, and the idea has potential with the cramped confines of a tank doubling for those of a submarine, and submarine films, with their claustrophobic intensity have a rich history. Director David Ayer has a distinguished action track record behind him, and was behind the commercially successful, but historically risible, U 571.

It tells the story, warts and all, of an American tank crew in the final push into Germany. Authentic to a fault, Brad Pitt is suitably muscular as the tank commander, Shia Lebeouf shades the acting honours though as the reluctant rookie.

Ayer handles the story, and the action sequences well. The gruesome reality of war is well told. But he loses the plot as the story rolls to its climax. Modern audiences are beyond the good guys surviving and triumphing over overwhelming odds, yet at the end, Ayer cannot resist the "against the odds" shoot out, and the SS are caricatured as evil, but inept, fighters.

Without the preposterous ending, "Fury" would be a creditable 7/10, with it, it slips to a lazy 5/10.

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