Reviews written by registered user
|17 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed "The Mummy", written and directed by Stephen Sommers,
immensely. It was funny, witty, ludicrous and action-packed. The
sequel, the appropriately titled "The Mummy Returns" was even more
ludicrous and action-filled, although the wit had abated somewhat. But
I still enjoyed it. And the third effort...? The ingredients are there
- a mummy (of sorts) an ancient curse, ancient love, bad guys, good
guys, exotic locations and general all-round silliness. But this film
isn't nearly the accomplishment the first film was, nor does it have
the sheer brazen showiness of the second. If anything, it's a rather
rushed, haphazard mess of a film. The film whizzes along at break-neck
speed, so busy trying to cram in spectacle it rushes through the script
and allows a great deal in terms of plot and character to fall by the
Which is a pity, because the concept is a promising one. The film commences in Ancient China, detailing how the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) conquered nearly all of Asia. He was a master sorcerer too, but realising that death will rob him of all his power, he sends his trusted General, Ming, to find a witch who is rumoured to know the secret to eternal life. Ming finds the witch, named Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and it's clearly a case of love at first sight. Unfortunately, when the Emperor sees her, he decides he wants her for himself, ordering that no other man should ever touch her (sound familiar?) Ming and Zi Juan go to find the secret of eternal life, and succeed, but their love overcomes all other scruples. They return, and Zi Juan makes the Emperor immortal ... only for the Emperor to have Ming brutally killed for disobeying his orders about Zi Juan. She in return curses him and his army, and they turn into the Terracotta warriors, standing motionless for eternity.
A few thousand years later, in 1946, Alex O'Connell is grown-up, and unbeknownst to his parents is away from college and leading an excavation in China, hoping to find the Terracotta Army. Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) is actually running a successful nightclub in Shanghai (called Imhotep's, no less). Rick (Brendan Fraser, the only other actor from the original film) and Evie O'Connell (Maria Bello) have settled down in England, and are slowly dying of boredom whilst their son has all the adventures (and is apparently too busy ever to visit) But a request for help from the Foreign Office sees them heading off to China, and you know it's only a matter of time before the inevitable happens ...
I can't fault the acting, to be honest. Fraser does what he does best - fighting, wisecracking and kissing with aplomb. Maria Bello isn't nearly as wide-eyed and ditsy as Rachael Weiz was in the role, but she's likable enough and totally convincing in the action scenes. Michelle Yeoh is good as usual, Jet Li makes a convincing baddie, Luke Ford is far less annoying than the kid in "The Mummy Returns" and John Hannah is totally charming as usual - my only regret is we didn't see more of him. The main fault lies in a hurried pace and slightly weak script - the romantic sub-plot between Alex and a warrior named Lin feels tacked on and quite a few characters seem superfluous.
But happily, this film has all the madcap charm of its' forebears, and, weak script aside, is actually lots of fun. This isn't quite enough to redeem its flaws, but hey, I've seen worse. If you're ready to be entertained without being overstretched mentally, then take a chance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The supreme pinnacle of the fitness industry is GloboGym, owned and
operated by large-haired, small-brained fitness fascist White Goodman
(Ben Stiller). Next door is the pitiful competition: Average Joe's, a
run-down, homely gym run by amiable slacker Peter La Fleur (Vince
Vaughn) who is always ready with a little advice and encouragement for
his misfit gym members and who is quite prepared to let people pay
their fees a little late.
Unfortunately, Peter's lack of business acumen means that his gym is in foreclosure, and unless he comes up with £50,000 dollars in one month his gym will be bought by White Goodman and bulldozed to make way for a new car park. Determined to save Joe's, Peter and his friends enter a dodgeball tournament where first prize just so happens to be £50,000 dollars, and find themselves an efficient (but completely nutty) coach in the shape of former dodgeball champion Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn). But White discovers their intentions and the fun really starts when he puts together his own team of champion dodge-ballers to thwart Joe's ...
I remember this movie being something of a sleeper hit, and can see why: there's something for everyone in terms of humour, from straightforward slapstick (usually with a wrench) to classic verbal sparring. Vaughn is the calm centre to the film, wisely playing it straight amongst his oddball team (Steve the Pirate is my particular favourite) Rip Torn is suitably OTT, but scenery-mastication honours must go to Stiller, easily delivering his funniest performance since Mystery Men. The plot is straightforward and you can see the end a mile off, but a number of fun cameos and a continual stream of jokes keep the laughs coming. Just plain fun.
The premise of Sesame Street is simplicity itself: on a street in a big
city, various grown-ups, children, monsters, animals and other strange
creatures live together, work together, solve problems together and
have fun together. The fact that it's still going strong after nearly
40 years must tell you something about its quality and the love
audiences feel for it.
The Sesame Street I knew was the one of the late 80's/ early 90's - well before the meteoric popularity of Elmo and before Sesame Street got expanded around the corner, where the leads were of course Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Telly Monster, the Count ... all of them household names and I'm barely scratching the surface. And then there's the grown-ups, who always manage to teach and guide without ever being condescending or demeaning to their young audience.
My main point? It doesn't get better than this. Thank you for Sesame Street, Jim Henson and company, you've made the world a little bit better each day. Now, one more thing - who DOESN'T know the theme tune?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Romantic comedies are, by definition, very predictable affairs, so it's
always good to come across one that tries to add something new or shake
things up a bit. This one tries a love spanning one hundred years,
thanks to time travel (hey, far weirder things have happened in
movieland). Leopold, dashingly handsome 19th century Duke (Hugh
Jackman) is (unwillingly) contemplating marriage. 21st century career
woman Kate (Meg Ryan) is climbing the corporate ladder at an
advertising company, whilst her love life is somewhat less successful.
But time gets twisted when Kate's ex-boyfriend Stuart (Liev Schrieber)
finds a portal into the 19th century - and after an ill-advised visit
there, winds up bringing home an unexpected guest; Leopold, of course.
Hijinks ensue as the gentlemanly and courageous Leopold navigates his way through 21st century New York, befriending Kate's brother Charlie (Breckin Meyer) and beginning a romance with Kate. And of course all ends happily in the end. I'll start with the good stuff: Jackman is absolutely charming, playing it straight as the fish-miles-inland-never-mind-out-of-water and succeeding admirably. You can't help but love him and believe in him. Breckin Meyer does nicely in a supporting role. Schrieber is essentially a plot device to move the story forward, but gets a few comic and touching moments that a less talented actor might have let fall by the wayside.
And what about our other romantic lead? >Sigh< I've never been a fan of Meg Ryan, but I'll try and be fair as possible. But to be honest, I didn't warm at all to her character. I get that Kate is a driven career woman, but what a high price she pays for it. "You're like a man" her boss says approvingly (huh?) but she isn't - she simply comes across as a bitchy, bad-tempered and cold woman (guess I'm losing the fairness battle) and to be honest, doesn't stand a chance in the popularity battle with Jackman's Leopold. And then she tosses her career away for a happy ending with her Duke, marriage and setting up a 19th century home. I do wish a career woman would be allowed to keep her job AND her guy just for once, rather than heading off to become the "little woman".
Okay, rant over. It's great escapism, and worth seeing for Jackman alone, but I doubt it will linger long in the memory.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't recall the last time I saw Harrison Ford on the big screen.
Well, actually I can - it was in "What Lies Beneath". Not a bad horror
film as it goes, but surely far below the stratospheric heights he
scaled in the late 70's/early 80's. But since then - eight years ago -
I can't recall seeing him in anything. And that's mystifying when you
recollect he was once one of the biggest movie stars (and possibly the
coolest man on Earth) in Hollywood a while back. He ceased being a star
and became a jobbing actor in various passable roles that didn't give
us so much as a glimpse of the charming rogue who could take on armies
Well, Ford fans rejoice: Harrison the star has returned. There's a long build-up to the first shot of his face, but it's worth it. There's a glint in his eye, a smirk on his face and the fedora is a perfect fit. His Indiana Jones is back, and he's as smart and adventurous as ever. The film wastes no time throwing our hero into the thick of the action, and he does it with aplomb. Forget the naysayers who say he's past it - Indy doesn't look 65, and he sure as hell doesn't move like he's 65. Am I gushing too much about this? It's just so fantastic to see one of the greatest cinematic heroes ever return and basically rule the world with a crack of his whip.
The film opens in full-blown action style, with Indy and old war friend "Mac" (Ray Winstone) being kidnapped by a bunch of Russian spies, including the devilish Colonel Spalko (Cate Blanchett) who apparently has psychic talents (which happily don't work on Indy). The Russians force Indy to locate a certain artifact for them in a military warehouse (not THAT artifact, although we do catch a glimpse of it) until Indy effects an amazing escape (just wait for a certain scene involving a fridge ...) However, when we leave the Russians behind, it becomes clear that despite the fact Indy still wears the fedora and still kicks bad-guy ass all over the place, things have drastically altered since we saw him ride off into the sunset in "Crusade". Henry Jones Sr and Marcus Brody have both shuffled off their mortal coils, and the traitorous actions of Mac means that both Indy's job and that of his dean and friend Charles Stanforth (a sadly underused Jim Broadbent) fall victim to the anti-communist witch hunters of the FBI. He's just about ready to pack it all in and head for Europe when he gets sidetracked by a motorcycle-riding, knife-wielding, smart-alec young man named Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf). Both Mutt's mother and his dear friend Professor Oxley have been kidnapped in Peru whilst searching for a mythical crystal skull, and the only clues Mutt has to go on are a letter and some strange symbols. So he's done what his mother advised him to and sought out Indy for help ...
And from that moment the action just refuses to stop. They're chased by baddies, shot at, engage in fistfights, sword-fights, car chases, drive off cliffs, go over waterfalls, get stuck in dry sand traps, get menaced by insects and there's even a fun Tarzan-inspired swing through the treetops. Towards the end you'll probably be drained and wishing there was a moment to pause and reflect on the adventure. Even the romantic sub-plot (featuring the best heroine the franchise has produced, Marion Ravenwood) hurtles along with wisecracks and arguments left, right and centre. But that's what this film is about - it's Ford and Spielberg doing what they do best, and doing it better than anyone else ever could.
Ford as aforementioned is fantastic. Blanchett is the best baddie the Bond franchise never had, Karen Allen as Marion is strong, clever, and immensely enjoyable and Winstone vacillates between good and sneaky very convincingly, although the script leaves him looking rather two-dimensional. Even LeBeouf's character comes out looking good: he's a very likable presence on screen, just as smart and capable as Indy, but wisely the filmmakers have made no attempt to turn him into the next Indiana Jones (although they flirt with the idea at the end of the film). Mutt follows Indy and backs him up, but no one could ever take Indy's place and so the film doesn't try to force him to. I think it's safe to assume that Mutt takes up the fedora and has adventures out in movieland, but if Spielberg has any affection at all for Indy, as I'm sure he does, we're not going to see them.
It's no "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which is perhaps the most perfect adventure film ever made (although there's a moment involving Indy's fear of snakes that comes pretty damn close to that standard in my humble opinion) but it's fun, thrilling, funny, imaginative - and it's an Indiana Jones film. Okay, I wish they'd found a different resolution at the end (inter-dimensional beings? No, not quite working for me - an old Peruvian god, akin to Temple of Doom would have been better) But it's an Indiana Jones film. Not a film that just so happens to feature a character called Indiana Jones who vaguely resembles the hero of the 80's, but one featuring THE Indiana Jones and an adventure worthy of him. Eat your imitation hearts out, "National Treasure" and "Sahara", Indy rules and forever will.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Diary of the Dead", when stripped down to its basic concept, is your
standard zombie movie. An eclectic group of people - film students in
this case, shooting a very low budget horror film - realising that the
dead are no rising for no apparent reason, band together and attempt to
make their way across country to discover what has become of their
friends and families, whilst trying to avoid getting eaten - with
varying degrees of success. So far, so standard. What distinguishes
Romero's latest effort is the manner in which it is shot and directed.
In the manner of "Cloverfield", the film is shot on a number of
different cameras, and is shown entirely from the viewpoint of the main
characters - we see what they see, and know only what they know. We
never find out the reason for the rising dead, and the few snippets of
information we do garner come from an increasingly unreliable internet,
inundated with hysterical videos of zombie attacks and government
cover-ups. Besides which, the film students have more pressing concerns
- like who is going to be the next victim.
It's an interesting concept, and thankfully the more professional camera work (edited by the cameraman's girlfriend, who also provides a running commentary) means that the motion-sickness of "Cloverfield" remains at bay. Romero also makes a stab at social commentary, critiquing the massive volume of information available on the net - how do we separate lies from truth? The horror film the students are shooting at the beginning of the movie, in which an unconvincing mummy pursues a corseted girl, even becomes reality by the end of the film in a blackly hilarious sequence in which Romero sends up every classic zombie film convention in the book.
Unfortunately however, the film simply isn't as effective as "Cloverfield" or even the likes of "Twenty-Eight Weeks Later". The film students just aren't strong enough characters to engage their audience, and sympathy for their plight doesn't materialise. The only standout character is Scott Wentworth's sophisticated, alcoholic Professor Maxwell: he may be a caricature, but he stands out by virtue of his difference. He's totally unsurprised by all the gory happenings and tags along with the students simply because he has nowhere else and no one else to go to (and he proves to be very handy with a bow and arrow ...) The students meanwhile, are reluctant stars of what becomes a documentary of their experiences. They don't want to be on camera, and they don't see why Jason, the cameraman, persists in filming. Nor does Jason - when asked why he's posted what he's shot on the internet, all he can do at first is exclaim at the number of hits his footage has received, before mumbling something about helping others discover the truth. The film is about mankind becoming isolated despite the barrage of information we live our lives in - lies are isolating us from the truth, seems to be the message of the film. Unfortunately the camera also has the effect of isolating us from the characters. They are on screen, but they have nothing to say, and spend most of their time criticising Jason for recording what goes on. It almost feels like the film despises its own (and the audience's) fascination with the visceral and the frightening, and can only show it to us after thoroughly rubbishing itself for existing.
This self-loathing, whilst it might be relevant in modern society, does not make for an absorbing film. It's actually fairly diverting compared to some of the terrible horror films that have lurched across cinema screens recently ("Blood and Chocolate" anyone?) and the actors do their best, but I don't think this film will be added to the ranks of the classics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The true story (or so it's claimed!) of prominent naturalist Gerald
Durrell's stay on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930's, together
with his family, is informative, dramatic, interesting - and oh yes,
downright hilarious at times. Gerry is the youngest member of his
eccentric family, and at the time the story starts already a keen
nature enthusiast. So it's a dream come true when his very English
family emigrate to the beautiful Greek island, which is teeming with
bird and animal life for him to investigate. But there's small chance
of being his being left to pursue his vocation in peace - also present
are his intelligent but highly temperamental brother Larry, the other
writer of the family, his romantic if scatty sister Margo, practical
Leslie, who is also a keen marksman and rifleman and only slightly less
volatile than Larry, and his long-suffering and endlessly patient
Mother, who attempts to keep her wilful and unruly offspring within the
bounds of reason and sanity. She doesn't always manage this.
Also present are various friends, servants, tutors (oh, horror!) and the people of Corfu, not to mention Gerry's ever growing menagerie of animals and birds. Mix all this together and some truly crazy situations arise - but the Durrell family always manages to muddle through somehow, thanks mainly to Mother, their Greek friend Spiro (played wonderfully by Brian Blessed) and Gerry's mentor, Dr. Theodore Stephanides, a naturalist and philosopher with a weakness for terrible puns. So they all manage to get through Gerry's scorpion escaping at the breakfast table, Margo and Mother's disastrous date at the cinema, Larry setting his room on fire, Leslie finding snakes in the bath, Gerry's tortoise meeting an unfortunate end, Leslie's burglar alarm prompting a near riot, Larry's room being torn asunder by magpies, musical pigeons, hysterical dogs, and Spiro's determination to make sure Gerry gets educated.
Right from the start, it's apparent that Gerald's story is from another, less anxious and certainly less PC time. Gerry Durrell, the youngest member of his eccentric, thoroughly English family, goes walking, climbing trees, swimming and actually hangs out with a convicted murderer at one point, all with no more supervision than that afforded by his faithful dog Roger. But you just know nothing truly bad can happen on Corfu - drenched in sunshine, surrounded by sparkling blue sea, it seems another world altogether. Production on this film is superb - the cinematography is wonderful, the scripts are good, as is the acting. Particular mention must go to Brian Blessed as the fierce and booming but golden-hearted Spiro, and Anthony Calf as Larry, who must have been very uncomfortable to live with but is fantastically funny to watch. Make sure you pay a visit!
I quite literally grew up with "The Sooty Show" - I started watching as
a toddler and continued watching right up until my early teens. In an
age when children's TV seems to have become all sanitised and
scientific, it was great to remember the little yellow teddy bear and
all the mischief, mayhem and magic!
It's a simple show, comprised of several hand puppets and the human host (Matthew Corbett, when I watched). Yellow teddy bear Sooty (who never actually speaks!), his adorable if dim-witted pal Sweep, a little grey dog who only ever squeaks, sensible panda Soo, and in later years Sooty's Little Cousin Scampi, together with their long suffering guardian Matthew, all live together. And trouble is never very far away - especially since Sooty has a magic wand and a mischievous streak!
The stories are simple, but everything in Sooty's world, from gardening to delivering the post to inventing, is an adventure. And usually a very funny one at that! Matthew tries to keep order amongst chaos, but usually doesn't manage it - in one episode I remember Sooty's magic going awry and Matthew turning into a lion, a monkey, a penguin and a monster all in quick succession. But everything always comes all right in the end with the magical refrain "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy!" Bang in the video, and get ready for a true children's classic!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Okay, let's get things straight here: 1) this is a film based on a
cartoon, which in turn was based on a range of toys. 2) It's being
directed by Michael Bay. If a thoughtful, well-written movie with much
character development, suspense, and understated but gripping action
sequences are what you want, save your money and go and see "The Bourne
Right, now that's out of the way, let's focus on Transformers - it's by no means an award winner (except possibly for the CGI - more on this later). It's not going to join the ranks of the classics. But it is quite simply the most genuinely FUN film to hit screens this summer. It's plain, simple, crazy enjoyment.
After the mild disappointments of Spider-man 3, Shrek 3, the near ship-wreck of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and the much improved but still rather lacklustre Fantastic Four 2, things were looking a bit dire on the blockbuster front in this summer's cinema, with only Bruce Willis managing to come up triumphant in Die Hard 4.0. That was, until this film came out. I never thought a Michael Bay film would prove the best surprise of the season, but hey, I've been wrong before.
As I mentioned earlier, Transformers is quite simply the most fun I've had in a cinema this summer so far. The plot's non-existent (it's tied to the hero's explorer great-grandfather who found a giant robot in the Artic and got the co-ordinates to a special weapon printed on his ... oh, never mind. Goodie robots fight baddie robots, humans get in the way. Finis.) The script veers between quite sharp and bombastic clunkiness. The acting (particularly among the older actors) is supremely hammy for the most part, though there are some exceptions. Quite a few secondary characters simply fall by the wayside as the film progresses. And it's terribly hokey in places (the heroic solider Captain Lennox has a baby daughter he's dying to hold for the first time - ought to be sweet but in fact prompts much eye-rolling).
So why is it so much fun? First and foremost, Shia LeBeouf, in a stroke of casting genius. He really is like a young Tom Hanks on screen - smart, effortlessly likable, and filled with boundless energy. In his hands, the character of Sam Witwicky, which could easily have descended into corniness or geek-turned-macho stereotype, becomes the lynchpin of the film. Then there's Sam's character - our hero is a plucky nerd who has an aptitude for talking himself out of a tight spot. He's a not quite ordinary young man who gets thrust into the most outrageous of situations and somehow manages to deal with it.
Then there are the Transformers. Words very nearly fail me - they are spectacular. The CGI is faultless - they look 100% real. You believe in them completely. And it's with them that Bay comes into his own. His forte is action, and this film has it in spadefuls. The on screen battles and action are just fabulous. End of.
The film's third main asset is a rich vein of humour and a little knowingness (it even manages to get in a few sly digs about Dubya's government). Sam Witwicky is the main proponent of this (LeBeouf proving a natural at comic timing) but it runs throughout the film. My only criticism is that it is perhaps a bit overdone at times.
Mix these together and the film somehow works. I'm not terribly sure how - apart from in the case of Sam Witwicky character development is minimal, although there's a nice little aside about the heroine Mikaela's criminal record. Plus despite the obvious fact she's there to add sex appeal, she does get down and dirty (ahem) in the fight scenes, going on the run with Sam and aiding good robot Bumblebee in the final battle. The only other character to fair nearly as well is Captain Lennox, played with aplomb by Josh Duhamel, who is basically there to kick the crap out of the bad robots and to look super-sexy doing it. He succeeds admirably, but manages to add a little more depth as he does it.
But in the end the film comes back to Sam Witwicky and his precious first car, which happens to turn into an alien robot. This is what we're most interested in - not what's happening in the Pentagon, or cracking codes, or government secrets. If anything, the film needed more of Sam and Bumblebee. What there was of these two was great, with Bumblebee functioning as Sam's protector and taking big risks to do it, and Sam becoming friends with and remaining loyal to his robot/car/new best friend. This plot strand could have been so much more - it's every little and not-so-little boy's dream. And probably that of a fair few girls as well. That something ordinary turns out to be extraordinary. And I'm not just talking about the car here.
So Michael Bay, if you're reading this, congratulations, you somehow made a great film with room to spare. And for the sequel that is sure to be in the works, forget the government, forget the military, just give us the robots and their humans. They're not only fun, they might just tug a heartstring or two.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recall watching this when it was first aired (on ITV, I think) and
recently re-watched some of it when round at a friend's - and found it
very thought-provoking. Read on ...
Whilst we can always rely on the good old BBC to produce a great costume drama whilst blindfolded and handcuffed, I've always thought ITV's efforts to be hit-and-miss affairs. So which is The Forsythe Saga? Predictably, both.
Visually, there's no problem - it's a gorgeous production, the script is nicely paced, and a generous amount of time is allocated to each of the main characters so we can watch the most interesting developments without getting bored or losing sight of the big picture. This is truly a family saga, spanning several generations and their friends and enemies, their acts and consequences. It's also a cracking story - I've never read the original novel, so can't vouch for it's accuracy, but the script is very well done.
But I'm afraid the largest stumbling-block comes in the form of casting. This, ostensibly, ought to be Irene Forsythe's story - pressured into a loveless marriage by a guardian who ought to be taking care of her, the victim of a cold, and often brutal man who violently rapes her, she dares to risk it all for a chance at true love with a young businessman. Tragedy and eventual bittersweet joy result. The majority of our sympathy ought to be with Irene.
But unfortunately it doesn't work out like this. Gina McKee looks beautiful, but whether through the script she was given or a decision to play Irene as a sad, reserved woman, she comes across as unfeeling, unresponsive, and totally indifferent to those around her. Indeed, it's hard to see why one man would become obsessed with her, let alone three or four. It was difficult to relate to her, with the only moments I genuinely felt bad for her being Soames's violent attack and when she is told of Bossiney's death. Ioan Gruffudd by the way, does his not inconsiderable best, but his character is really just a means to an end - a common-or-garden bold young man who loves the central female character and prompts her escape.
I spent the majority of the viewing time, meanwhile, cursing Damian Lewis - he is simply superb. He takes the vile Soames - a bully, a cruel, violent rapist, a jealous and possessive husband - and at times threatens to win sympathy totally from Irene. His repressed passions and darkness glimmer beneath his surface, and his spurned adoration of Irene prompts genuine pity. Damn you Lewis, we're not supposed to like Soames! But he is by far the most complex character of the series, and Lewis emerges as a star-in-waiting.
Every other actor and actress does themselves credit, but Rupert Graves deserves a mention as a an excellent contrast to the cruel Soames. But it's the above love triangle that drives the story. Make up your own mind where your sympathies lie, but definitely worth a viewing.
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