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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, 24 December 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Middle Earth films, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, finally come to an end, the first of the prequels to The Lord of the Rings films was good, the second was just as good, I didn't know what to expect from this final instalment, directed by Peter Jackson. Basically the film picks up where it left off, the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has escaped the Lonely Mountain and starts to attack and destroy Laketown, with Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit (Martin Freeman) and the dwarfs devastatingly looking from above, but it is Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) who, after breaking out his prison cell, kills the dragon with the black arrow, and the beast falling to its death kills the fleeing Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry). Survivors of Laketown praise Bard and choose him as a new leader, the dwarfs reunite in the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo, Balin (Ken Stott) and the others see Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is afflicted with Smaug's "dragon sickness" searching for the Arkenstone, Bilbo stole it but knows he must keep it hidden, meanwhile Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) had Kili (Being Human's Aidan Turner) confess his love for her, she goes with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) to investigate Mount Gundabad. Meanwhile Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) rescues the wounded and caged Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) from Dol Guldur and the Ringwraiths, including the appearance of Sauron, with the help of Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving), while Bard and the Laketown survivors shelter in Deale, with supplies and aid brought by an elf army, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace). Gandalf arrives at Dale, and Bilbo hands over the Arkenstone to Thranduil and Bard, who have formed an alliance, the allied armies gather at Erebor ready to battle against the oncoming Orc army, once his sanity is regained Thorin joins other dwarfs in the fight also, battle eventually begins between the evil beasts and the adjoining human and elf armies, there is a point when Bilbo has to use the Ring of power to become invisible and warn the others of the danger coming. During the battle the Eagles come to bring reinforcements, Kili is killed and Tauriel realises she may have had similar feelings like he had for her, antagonists are defeated, Bolg (John Tui) is killed by Legolas who leaves to meet a ranger named Strider he has been told about, and Azog (Manu Bennett) is killed by Thorin who is mortally wounded during their fight and makes peace with Bilbo before dying. In the end Bilbo bids farewell to the remaining dwarfs and journeys home to the Shire with Gandalf, the wizard warns him that he knows that he has the ring and cautions that he will be watching him, Bilbo finds that his possessions are being auctioned, everyone assumed he was dead being gone a long time, he clarifies his identity and returns home, sixty years later Old Bilbo (Sir Ian Holm) is reflecting on the past journey as he starts to write his book, There and Back Again, he gets a knock on the door and is happy to be visited by Gandalf. Also starring Sylvester McCoy as Radagast, Billy Connolly as Dain, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Mark Hadlow as Dori, Jed Brophy as Nori, Adam Brown as Ori, John Callen as Oin, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, William Kircher as Bifur and Stephen Hunter as Bombur. I agree that Freeman is more a supporting character in this one, McKellen is still majestic as the wise wizard, Armitage is good, Lily and Bloom play characters not featured in the original book and invented for the film but they make their parts justified, and the other supporting stars do well also. To be honest, these films for me are like the Star Wars prequels all over again, the three Hobbit films can't compete with the outstanding original Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but director Jackson does still do a good job, the action is paced well, the fight sequences, especially on a collapsing bridge and a frozen waterfall, are great, and the special effects for the big battles sequences and many creatures are fantastic, a most worthwhile fantasy adventure. Good!

Paddington (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Paddington, 17 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I was a child I watched the classic 1975 cartoon, on many occasions the first episode "Please Look After This Bear", other animated versions followed, and a couple of funny Marmite adverts, but finally it was the Harry Potter producer David Heyman that brought the cuddly character to the big screen, based on the books by Michael Bond. Basically in darkest Peru explorer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) discovered a family of semi-intelligent bears, who can speak English, and have an appetite for marmalade, he tells them they are always welcome to Britain should they wish to visit. The bears, Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) live in harmony with their young nephew (Skyfall's Ben Whishaw), but one day an earthquake strikes their home, Pastuzo disappears, leaving nothing but his red hat, so Aunt Lucy encourages her nephew to leave in a lifeboat and find solace in London while she moves into the retirement home for old bears. The young bear reaches London and ends up in Paddington railway station, all he has is his suitcase and a marmalade sandwich under his hat, he is unable to find a home, until he is met by the Brown family, he is greeted by wife and mother Mrs. Mary Brown (Blue Jasmine's Sally Hawkins), she notices the label around his neck, saying "Please Look After This Bear. Thank You", taken to tea by Mr. Henry Brown (Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville) the young bear tells his name, which is a roar, so he is given a new English name, Paddington. Encouraged by the his wife and children, son Jonathan (The Impossible's Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris), Mr. Brown reluctantly allows Paddington to stay at the home, that they share with Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), but he is adamant it will be for one night, Paddington should then try to find a permanent home, and in no time at all things begin to happen, with the Peruvian bear causing a series of accidents. Later he explains that he believes though he could find a home with the help of the explorer who found his family, and the next day, seeing antique expert Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent), he and Mrs. Brown find out his hat is an artefact. Meanwhile sadistic museum owner and taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) stuffs and displays animals for her collection, her guard (Fonejacker's Kayvan Novak) tells how he noticed marmalade stains on a cargo ship, she knows instantly this is the species of bear she is has been searching for years, finding him she wants to hunt Paddington down, he meanwhile with the help of Mr. Brown searches British archives to find entries of the explorations in darkest Peru, they confirm the name M. Clyde and use the phone book to locate all addresses under that name. While Paddington stays in the house alone, Millicent, who is scheming with the Brown's neighbour Mr. Curry (Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi), sneaks in and tries to capture the bear, he inadvertently drives her away, but she does set fire to the house, the Brown family do not believe his story of what happened and believe it is time for him to move out and find a new home as soon as possible. Feeling unwanted Paddington leaves and tries to find Montgomery Clyde himself, after many fails he finally finds the explorer's home, Clyde is revealed to have died years ago, it is revealed Millicent is his daughter, she was bitter towards her father for not capturing the specimen of bears he claimed to have found, he was scorned by the Natural History Museum. Millicent manages to tranquilise Paddington, Mr. Curry betrays her when he realises she plans to have the bear stuffed, he informs the Brown family and they rush to save their friend, locked in the museum they manage to save him, and Millicent is defeated by his marmalade sandwich and a huge flock of hungry pigeons, in the end Paddington is adopted, Millicent is punished for her crimes doing community service in an animal shelter, and Paddington writes to his Aunt Lucy about his happiness at finding a home at last. Also starring Peep Show's Matt King as Andre the Thief, Matt Lucas as Taxi Driver, Geoffrey Palmer as Head of Geographer's Guild, Sightseers' Alice Lowe as Geographer's Receptionist, Sightseers' Steve Oram as Paddington Security Guard, Miranda's Dominic Coleman as Policeman, The Thick of It's Will Smith as Modern geographer, This Is England's George Newton as Angel and a cameo from Paddington creator Michael Bond as Man at Paddington Station. Colin Firth was originally cast as the eponymous bear, but he quit, claiming he could not perfect the voice, Whishaw is the perfect voice for the young sometimes troublesome but adorable furry friend everybody would want, Bonneville and Hawkins are likable as the Brown family parents, Kidman is amusing as the woman hellbent on stuffing the innocent bear. There was a fair amount in the news about this film being released in cinemas with a PG certificate, because of its innuendo and mild threat, 101 Dalmatians has similar themes and is accepted as a U (LOL), anyway, you ignore this, because it has great special effects to create the believable CGI character in the red hat and blue raincoat, and the slapstick and thrills work well for both children and adults, it is a very British and enjoyable family comedy adventure. Very good!

The Driver, 11 December 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In recent years I have become more up for trying new dramas, I always give the first episode a chance, and if I like it I'm very likely to continue the majority if not the entire series, and that was the case with this one from the BBC. Basically in Manchester Vince McKee (David Morrissey) is having financial troubles, and working as a taxi driver does not make him enough money, so he and "friend" Colin Vine (Harry Potter's Ian Hart) talk to a man who calls himself The Horse (Colm Meaney) about working for him. The Horse offers Vince a job working as his driver, he gives him a new car and a phone, he tells him that whenever he calls he is needed as the driver to transport whatever it is he is told, person or object, with no questions asked, and he will be paid thousands for doing so. At first Vince finds this job rewarding, he just gets on with the driving and makes the most of the money he is making, including reconnecting with his estranged wife Rosalind (Severance's Claudie Blakley), but soon consequences come from it when he really acknowledges the crime side to what he is doing, and people get hurt as a result. The biggest problem Vince has is not keeping this secret from his family, but he cannot get out of it without risking the bigger consequences to himself and others, he is tempted at one point to tell the police, but things just get more complicated. Also starring Darren Morfitt as Mickey, Andrew Tiernan as Darren, Shaun Dingwall as Detective Ryder, Andrew Knott as Detective O'Connor, Sacha Parkinson as Katie McKee, Lewis Rainer as Tim McKee, Chris Coghill as Woodsy, Lee Ross as Kev Mitchell, Harish Patel as Amjad and Nathan McMullen as Joseph Paslowski. Morrissey is a good choice for the vulnerable but desperate leading character, Hart gets his moments as the other man doing the job with him, and Meaney is great as the gangster who doesn't let him out, you could argue that the makers must have got some of their ideas from the Jason Statham - Transporter films, but it was interesting to watch, it had its fair share of small thrills, and it is written well, overall it is a watchable crime drama. Very good!

Hiroshima Mon Amour, 11 December 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I obviously would never have heard of, and probably not watched, this French film without reading about it, I hoped it was going to be a recommended film to agree with, directed by Alain Resnais (Night and Fog, Last Year in Marienbad). Basically the film is a 36 hour long period and conversation between French actress Elle (BAFTA nominated Emmanuelle Riva), referred to a She, and Japanese architect Lui (Eiji Okada), referred to as He. They have a brief relationship and are now separating, talking about failed relationships they compare them to the bombing of Hiroshima, and perspectives and incidents from inside and outside the attack are seen in documentary footage. It is an interesting structure of repetitive dialogue, mostly narration over small flashbacks of her life, her youth and punishment for a forbidden love affair with a German soldier (Bernard Fresson), and of course the documentary footage of the August 6 1945 Second World War Hiroshima atomic bombing, the main themes of this film are memory and oblivion. Also starring Stella Dallas as Mother and Pierre Barbaud as Father. The film is rated well by critics, but to be honest I don't know if I can completely agree, I found the film a bit too talkative at times, the intimacy stuff is good, and the harrowing footage of the bombing effects, victim injuries and the devastation, is most effective, so for that I found something interesting in it, overall it's an alright drama, in my opinion. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, and it won the BAFTA for the UN Award, and it was nominated for Best Film from any Source. Worth watching!

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Interstellar, 11 December 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw the poster for this film long before its release, and it was billed to be one of the big blockbuster films of the year, the success of space movie Gravity probably helped the hype as well, directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia, The Dark Knight, Inception). Basically in the near future the Earth is facing the extinction of the human race due to drought, famine and extreme climate change. Widowed former science engineer and NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) runs a farm with his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow) and lives with teenage son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and ten year old daughter Murphy "Murph" (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn's Mackenzie Foy), she believes her room is haunted, the "ghost" she and Cooper discover is communicating through gravitational waves, leaving binary coordinates in the dust. These coordinates direct Cooper to a secret NASA installation led by Professor John Brand (Sir Michael Caine), he there may be hope for the human race to survive; a wormhole, created by alien intelligence, has been discovered in the further reaches of the solar system, leading to another galaxy, surrounding the black hole Gargantua three potentially habitable worlds have been identified, named Miller, Edmunds, and Mann after scientists who surveyed. Cooper is recruited to pilot the spacecraft Endurance to recover the data from the previous astronaut missions and explore these three planets, if one of the planets can sustain life then humanity will follow in space stations, but this means he will be away from home for many years, but he knows that this mission is important, Murph is devastated by his departure, Cooper parts with her on bad terms. On Endurance, Cooper is joined by Brand's biologist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), scientists Romilly (Cloud Atlas's David Gyasi) and Doyle (American Beauty's Wes Bentley), and robots TARS (voiced by The Grinch's Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart), the scientists go into hibernation while the craft travels towards the black hole, once close they awake and try to withstand the turbulent effects. The first planet they head to is Miller, but it being so close to Gargantua means it experiences severe gravitational time dilation: every hour on the surface is seven years on Earth, they descend but find it inhospitable, being covered by a shallow ocean that experiences enormous tidal waves, Amelia tries to recover the data, but Doyle is killed and departure is delayed, returning to the shuttle Cooper and Amelia find in fact 23 years has passed. Back on Earth, adult Murph (Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain) is now a NASA scientist assisting Brand with his equation to enable NASA to launch the massive space station, near death Brand admits he already solved the problem and determined it is an impossible project, he covered this up and put faith in "Plan B": using fertilised embryos to start humanity anew, however Murph says the equation could work with additional data from a black hole's singularity. The Endurance only has enough fuel to visit one more planet before the return to Earth, after a tense vote they decide Mann is best as is still transmitting, however landing they find it is icy and inhospitable, they do however find Dr. Mann (Matt Damon) in hibernation, awoken he tells everything he knows about the mission, he knew "Plan B" was the true goal, he faked data to be rescued. In a moment of madness Mann breaks Cooper's spacesuit visor and leaves him to die, he flees to Endurance on a shuttle, and Romilly is killed by a bomb Mann planted, Amelia rescues Cooper and they get to Endurance, just as Mann docks improperly and causes the airlock to explode, serious damage is caused, but Cooper gets Endurance under control using the shuttle. Nearly out of fuel Cooper and Amelia plan to slingshot Endurance around Gargantua on a course towards Edmunds, Cooper sacrifices himself with TARS to collect data on the singularity, detaching into the black hole and propelling Amelia by dropping the ship's mass, Cooper and TARS enter an extra-dimensional "tesseract", where time appears as a spatial dimension and portals show glimpses of Murph's childhood bedroom at various times. Cooper realises the alien beings may be human from the future who have constructed this space for him to communicate with Murph and save humanity, the coordinates from previously were in fact from Cooper himself, finding adult Murph in the "tesseract" he uses gravitational waves to encode TARS's data on the singularity into Murph's watch, this allows her to solve Brand's equation and begin the process of evacuating Earth, and with that the "tesseract" is closed and Cooper ejected from Gargantua back into the Solar System near Saturn. Time dilation from the entire mission means that humans have evolved to become an advanced space faring race, Cooper is found by a space police vehicle before his oxygen level drops, he wakes on-board "Cooper's Station", he explores the alternative world, and he reunites with elderly Murph (The Exorcist's Ellen Burstyn) who led the exodus of humanity, she advises Cooper and TARS to search for Amelia, who has begun preparation on the planet Edmunds. Also starring Casey Affleck as adult Tom Cooper, Spider-Man 3's Topher Grace as Getty, The Last King of Scotland's David Oyelowo as School Principal and William Devane as Williams. McConaughey holds it together well as the forthright pilot into space, Hathaway is good being informative, Chastain does well as the angry but important daughter, Damon is a welcome surprise, and Caine gets his moments as the wild old man. The majority of the film has similar scale and vision to 2001: A Space Odyssey, utilising fantastic special effects for spectacular visuals and extra-terrestrial worlds, I can see elements of Silent Running as well, it does get soppy towards the end with a concept like Contact (coincidentally also starring McConaughey), but overall it is a majestic space film with plenty to offer, including heart, a worthwhile science-fiction adventure. Very good!

The Nation's Favourite Queen Song, 30 November 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have all three of the Greatest Hits albums of the British rock band, I love so many of their songs, but I had always wanted to see the story behind it all, having watched the documentary programmes celebrating the best songs of ABBA, Bee Gees and Elvis Presley, Christmas songs, and the greatest number one singles from the last sixty years, I was looking forward to the results of this countdown documentary programme. Queen, consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar) and all writers of the songs as well, they were during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, and still are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Highlights in their careers were nine number one albums, six number one singles (including being featured), creating songs for the films Flash Gordon and Highlander, performing at the Live Aid concert, We Will Rock You the West End musical by Ben Elton, and much more, Freddie Mercury tragically died in 1991 of AIDS, and John Deacon retired in 1997, but the legend of the band and its lead singer lives on, and this show counted down the best songs they have given us, as voted for by the public. The songs listed are: "I Want It All" (1989), "It's a Hard Life" (1984), "One Vision" (1985), "You're My Best Friend" (1976), "Seven Seas of Rhye" (1974), "The Show Must Go On" (1991), "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980), "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (1979), "A Kind Magic" (1986), "Who Wants to Live Forever" (1986), "Somebody to Love" (1976), "These Are the Days of Our Lives" (1991), "Radio Ga Ga" (1984), "Under Pressure" - featuring David Bowie (1981), "Killer Queen" (1974), "We Are the Champions" (1977), "I Want to Break Free" (1984), "Don't Stop Me Now" (1979) (also covered by McFly), "We Will Rock You" (1977), and deserved number one "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975 & 1991) (also voted The Nation's Favourite Number 1 Single). Other songs mentioned in the programme were: "Flash" (1980), "Bicycle Race" (1978), "The Miracle" (1989), "Innuendo" (1991), "The Great Pretender" (1987) and "Somebody to Love" - featuring George Michael (1992). Songs not mentioned that I love were: "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Play the Game", "Hammer to Fall", "Heaven for Everyone", "The Invisible Man", "I'm Going Slightly Mad" and "Thank God It's Christmas". Narrated by Matt Lucas, with contributions from David Arnold, Melanie 'Mel C' Chisholm, Spike Edney, McFly's Tom Fletcher, Peter 'Phoebe' Freestone, Bruce Gowers, Jo Gurnett, Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, Peter 'Ratty' Hince, Bob Harris, Noddy Holder, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, Reinhold Mack, David Mallet, Fred Mandel, Brian May, Al Murray, Trevor Nelson, Katy Perry, Arlene Phillips, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Roger Taylor and Johnnie Walker (I really hoped major Queen fan comedian and actor Rhys Thomas would contribute). Very good!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Imitation Game, 30 November 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw posters for this film, and then I heard about what it was about, having never watched Sherlock before, and only seeing its leading star in War Horse, I was looking forward to seeing the leading actor in a full length film, playing another genius. Based on the true story, set during the darkest days of World War II, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), educated at Cambridge University, is called into the office of Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) in Bletchley Park regarding an important job position, he is a groundbreaking thinker, and he knows that British Intelligence are trying to break the impossible Enigma Code, being used by the Nazis to transmit their secret messages. With the authorised provisions and resources from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Turing works alongside a motley group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, but also an advertisement goes in the newspaper to find another genius, those who can solve a crossword puzzle in under ten minutes are invited to a meeting to test their problem solving skills, and following a test they find Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). As well as seeing Turing and his team racing against time to break the "unbreakable" Enigma code, with the hand built computer machine working through the millions of possible combinations, the film also sees the other key points in Turing's life, including young teenager Alan (Alex Lawther) educated at boarding school and gaining his interest in problem solving and cryptanalysis (translating and deciphering secret codes and ciphers), and forwarding to the 1950s when Turing is arrested, with Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear) investigating his crime of gross indecency. While the unending problem solving goes on Turing struggles with his own personal identity, he had particular feelings for boys when he was younger, he does love and gets engaged to Joan, but he is in fact homosexual, the only one who knows is Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), Turing does eventually tell Joan, but she does not want it to ruin whatever is between them. Finally Turing has a breakthrough with the Nazi messages, from some deciphering he and his team see that the Germans always mention "weather" and "Hitler", so they search all messages for these words, and they break the code, but they do not want to make the Germans suspicious or aware of their breakthrough, so they only mildly change the strategies that the British and ally forces have already planned. Following the end of the war, all evidence of the Enigma code work is destroyed, including the records of the people who worked on it, but in the years to come the authorities did discover that Turing was gay, which was at the time illegal, it is not seen in the film, but Turning was convicted for gross indecency, punished with chemical castration, and following this he killed himself with cyanide poisoning, the Queen however posthumously pardoned his crime in 2013/14. Also starring Allen Leech as John Cairncross, Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton, Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies, Tuppence Middleton as Helen, Steven Waddington as Superintendent Smith and Tom Goodman-Hill as Sergeant Staehl. Cumberbatch is outstanding as the charming, amusingly over thinking and credible genius, you really believe him as the brilliant, unfairly treated and now to be remembered war hero, there is also fantastic support from Knightley as his confidante and fiancée, Kinnear as the detective who investigates his sexuality, and Dance as his firm superior. I agree with critics that this film could have taken a few more risks, there is not enough about how serious a crime homosexuality was at the time, and the horrendous punishment he received, but the script is very well written, all action included makes for a convincing portrayal of the story, and you are gripped watching the team, the cogs of the machine turn and how important solving the impossible was for the success of winning the war, a fantastic wartime thriller based on a true story. Very good!

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The Maze Runner, 30 November 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw the title of this film in the cinema schedules, then I read the descriptions, it sounded like something that might be interesting, but I was perhaps sceptical as well, but it had positive reviews, so I chanced it. Basically a teenage boy (Dylan O'Brien) wakes up in an upwards travelling elevator, the doors open and he is greeted by unfamiliar boys in a grassy clearing called "the Glade", surrounded by tall stone walls, the boy has no memory of anything about himself, the community leader Alby (Kidulthood's Aml Ameen) says this is normal, he will remember his name. Second in command Newt (Love Actually's Thomas Brodie-Sangster) shows the boy is shown around the Glade, the boy also meets and makes friends with Chuck (Blake Cooper), he is warned never to go beyond the opening of the walls; there is a large maze. That night, while the community party to welcome the new arrival, Newt explains that every month a new arrival and supplies in boxes labelled "WCKD" (WICKED - World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department) come up in the elevator, the Maze is the only way out, but the walls constantly change in a repeating sequence of sections, the only ones allowed in are the most able boys, called Runners, they search for a way out during the day, returning at night when the opening closes, no-one has survived a night behind the walls at night, because of unseen creatures called Grievers. During a fight in the night the boy recalls his name: Thomas, the next day he is collecting wood, when he is attacked by runner Ben (Chris Sheffield), he was stung by a Griever, the boys "banish" him, leaving him in the maze at night to die, Alby and runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee) retrace Ben's steps in the maze, but Alby is stung by a Griever and goes unconscious, he is dragged by Minho and the opening is about to close, seeing this Thomas runs in and tries to help, all three of them are trapped. However all three survive the night in the maze, with Thomas killing a Griever, a deadly slug-like monster with metal legs, the other boys are astonished by their return, Gally (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter) is upset that they may all be in jeopardy following Thomas's actions, but Newt overrules him and makes Thomas a Runner, he and Minho enter the maze in the day, removing a beeping mechanical device from the corpse of the Griever, it is numbered to correspond with one of the eight sections of the maze. The first ever girl (Skins' Kaya Scodelario) arrives in the elevator, she recognises Thomas, a note indicates that she is the final person that will be sent, she remembers her name: Teresa, she also carries two syringes filled with a mysterious substance, the Gladers use one on Alby, he recovers from his sting and regains memories. Thomas and Minho venture into the maze, to the numbered section that the Griever came from, using its device they discover an escape route, they are forced to retreat when recognised as intruders they are chased away by the collapsing walls, but they make it out and tell the others. That night, a horde of Grievers come out from the opening of the walls and attack the Gladers, Alby is killed among some others, but the majority of the community survive the attack, with Thomas being stung and curing himself with the other syringe, in doing so he regains memory that he and Teresa were part of the organisation that created the maze, it is all a test. Gally blames them for everything they have gone through and tries to kill them, but he is stopped, he and a small number of others refuse to leave, while most of the others follow Thomas to the found escape route, they end up in a scientific laboratory, with dead bodies of scientists everywhere, a recorded video from a woman, Dr. Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), shows her explaining that increased solar activity and a pandemic has devastated the planet, the youths in the Glade were all part of an experiment to research their resistance to the pandemic, in the video the lab is being attacked and it ends with the woman shooting herself in the head. Gally appears, having been stung he is delirious and seeks revenge on Thomas, he fires a gun, Minho stabs Gally with a spear, and Chuck is killed by the gunshot, then masked men rush in to take the group away to safety, Gally dies while watching, in a helicopter above the maze was located in a vast desert, but the scientists are not dead, Ava Paige states that the experiment was a success, and the survivors will now enter Phase Two. Also starring Dexter Darden as Frypan and Joe Adler as Zart. O'Brien does well in his leading star-making role as the brave newcomer, Brodie-Sangster is great as the wise second leader of the tribe, Poulter is splendid as the constantly negative group member, Scodelario gets her moments as the solo female, and Clarkson is terrific as the head of the scientists. I can see the comparison and combination of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, there was just enough feeling of claustrophobia, conspiracy and politics come into play as well, and of course the mystery element keeps you going throughout, the special effects to create the monsters and explosive moments are great, this is the first in the moody teen series, the next is definitely something to look forward to, this is a surprisingly entertaining science-fiction dystopian action thriller. Very good!

Chronicle (2012)
Chronicle, 25 November 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I heard a little about this film after it had finished its run in the cinemas, I knew it involved either superheroes or people gaining superpowers, and then I heard about how the film is structured, kind of like Cloverfield, so I was hoping critics mostly positive reviews would prove correct. Basically in Seattle, shy, lonely and outcast teenager Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) has no friends, is bullied at high school student and lives with abusive alcoholic Richard (Michael Kelly) and terminally ill mother Karen (Bo Petersen), and wanting to express his creative side he buys himself an high quality HD video camera to chronicle his everyday life. Andrew's cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) takes him to a party with schoolmate Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), while there they overhear a loud noise and go to investigate it, they find a large hole in the ground of a field, exploring the underground they find an alien source, and following a blackout they find the next day or two that they have acquired superpowers, including telekinesis, flight and superhuman strength, Andrew captures many of their abilities experiments on camera. Slowly their integrity is tested as they find disagreements with each other and become irresponsible, particularly Andrew who becomes the most powerful of the trio, but unlike them he also becomes easily tempered and dangerous, Steve is killed when struck by lightning while flying in the sky and trying to console him in a moment of frustration. Andrew's mother's incurable cancer worsens and she needs a medicine that he cannot afford, so he uses his powers to steal mother, but he is too late and she dies, and that is when he really snaps and goes into a mad rage of destruction, and Matt, vowing to use his powers for good, is the only one who can stop him, they have a turbulent fight, and in the end Matt has no choice but to kill Andrew, and he flies away in the end with Andrew's camera, leaving it behind in Tibet after one final recording. Also starring Ashley Hinshaw as Casey Letter, Anna Wood as Monica, Joe Vaz as Michael Ernesto and Rudi Malcolm as Wayne. You can argue that this is nothing original, characters gaining superpowers, some turning nasty and the others going against them as the force for good, but the "found footage" element from characters' perspectives adds a little twist and makes it a bit more interesting to watch, and of course the special effects and action sequences are impressive and make it flow nicely, overall a watchable science-fiction drama. Very good!

Shaft (1971)
Shaft, 25 November 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Many years before this original version I had seen the John Singleton/Samuel L. Jackson remake version, I knew about the name of the leading actor, the iconic theme song, and it was featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, so I was looking forward to it. Basically John Shaft (Golden Globe nominated Richard Roundtree) is an African American private detective, he seeks out the gangsters in the Harlem neighbourhood, the New York City borough of Manhattan, and on assignment he gets into a fight with a couple of them in an office, it ends with him throwing one out of the window, the other reveals that uptown gang leader Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) wants to meet him. After a meeting at the police station, where he lies to Lieutenant Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi) and his superior about the fight, Shaft is allowed to return to the streets for 48 hours, he arranges to meet with Bumpy, the gang leader reveals that his daughter has been kidnapped, he wants to hire the detective to safely return his daughter, but this will not be easy with the escalation of the race war, i.e. blacks against whites, Shaft being a target himself, and of course Bumpy cannot be trusted. Shaft assumed Ben Buford (Christopher St. John) was a target, and not himself, together they find where the daughter Marcy Jonas (Sherri Brewer) is being held and confirm that she is alive, they end up in a gunfight and Shaft takes a bullet in the shoulder, but he recovers and tells Bumpy that his daughter is fine and that backup will be needed to get her out of the hotel she is in safely. The plan becomes like a military operation, Ben's men all dress as hotel staff to avoid arousing suspicion, to create a distraction an explosive is thrown into the room and the disguised men deal with the Mafia members, in the end Marcy is successfully rescued and taken out of the hotel where the arranged transport is waiting, as the others get away Shaft calls Vic in a phone booth, then simply walks away. Also starring Gwenn Mitchell as Ellie Moore, Lawrence Pressman as Sergeant Tom Hannon, Victor Arnold as Charlie, Rex Robbins as Rollie, Camille Yarbrough as Dina Greene, Margaret Warncke as Linda and Joseph Leon as Byron Leibowitz. Newcomer and ex-male model Roundtree as the black stud private eye who works his way through both gang activity and women is well cast, this works well for promoting equality for black people during a turbulent time for them, as a police and gangland story, and an interesting enough kidnap rescue plot, and of course the theme song (number 38 on 100 Years, 100 Songs) and original music by Isaac Hayes, who I know better as Chef from South Park, is fantastically funky, a watchable Blaxploitation crime thriller. It won the Oscar for Best Song for "Theme from Shaft" by Isaac Hayes (also nominated the Golden Globe), and it was nominated for Best Music for Isaac Hayes, it was nominated the BAFTA for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Good!


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