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neil-476

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2289 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Resoundingly average, 5 February 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ben Barber (good-hearted but profoundly irritating, mainly because he never shuts up) has become a rookie cop in order to impress his fiancée's brother James, a detective. With the wedding just around the corner, Ben manages to get James to take him to Miami on a "milk-run" assignment in the hope that this will lead to him becoming a detective. Things do not go according to plan.

If you enjoyed the double act between Kevin Hart's garrulous Ben and Ice Cube's surly James in the original movie, chances are you'll like this one, too. It has a decent police story to go along with the wedding subplot, and a good supporting cast. It isn't especially funny (unless you find Hart hilarious, which I don't), but it's amiable enough and fairly good-hearted and – hard as it is to believe – there is virtually no profanity.

Olivia Munn is hot.

My verdict: if it comes up while I'm channel-surfing, I might not surf onwards.

Quite good, up to a point, 5 February 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Three kids who play a competitive sailboarding flag-capturing game end up involved in a moon mission to stop a mad squillionaire businessman from destroying evidence of the 1969 moon landing, and reunite the father and grandfather of one of them.

This Spanish-produced CGI feature is really strange. On one level it works perfectly satisfactorily as a kids' action adventure movie. On another, it puzzles the adult viewer as it blends hyper-realistic scientific detail with things which have you going "Huh?" (not least of which is the way that NASA allows three pre-pubescent kids to wander in and out without any kind of security issues arising).

There is also a credibility mismatch between the NASA mission hardware (conventional rocket, command module, LEM) and the baddie's state-of-the-art sci-fi spaceship and its payload of heavy duty machinery. I doubt that this will trouble the intended audience, though, most of whom will be of an age with the protagonists.

This mismatch also applies on the animation side. The scientific detail is excellent, from NASA hardware to the moon's surface, gravity, and so on. But the human faces, particularly the kids, are all strangely bland, unfinished, and similar (apart from the chubby, scientific genius, incredibly annoying, ginger kid).

I can't say that I thought this was great, but I guess it would be a lot easier to think more of it if I was age 9.

Willow (1988)
Good fantasy, 3 February 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Little feller Willow has to protect a baby from the depredations of witch Bavmorda, with the help of disgraced warrior Madmartigan and some pixies.

From a story by George Lucas, and directed by Ron Howard, this sword and sorcery adventure fantasy introduced the world to 17-year old Warwick Davies. It's great fun, full of action, adventure, humour, magic, dirt, and what were at the time cutting edge special effects. It's interesting to see the first cinematic use of morphing, and the last major use of stop-frame animation (Phil Tippett, who took over the mantle of premiere stop-frame man on Ray Harryhausen's retirement).

Some parts might be a bit worrying for the tinies but, generally speaking, this is a pretty enjoyable ride for the family.

The Alamo (2004)
Nicely detailed, 31 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A small number of Texans defend the Alamo against invading Mexicans, buying time for Sam Houston's army.

This retelling of the Alamo makes efforts to be historically accurate (John Wayne's 1960 version, by contrast, was more interested in the myth). It is dark and dirty, and the three key characters among the defenders - Travis, Bowie and Crocket - are far more conflicted and flawed than their earlier equivalents. And in many ways that is a good thing, because the nobility they display in their doomed defence is all the more striking by virtue of its contrast.

It's also worth saying that the action sequences are well staged, and the performances are all very good. The negative reviews on IMDb aren't wholly deserved.

This is OK, 31 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams have their younger (age 5) son abducted. This is a bad thing, and the family barely hangs together. When he is returned 9 years later he does not remember them. They are faced with the problem of a younger son who does not feel he belongs with these strangers, and an older son who has gone off the rails due to the family stress.

This family drama is interesting, always keeps you involved, and features good performances all round. The problem - if it is a problem - is that this feels very much like a Hallmark Channel Family Problem Of The Week TV Movie: small scale in presentation despite Pfeiffer, Williams and Whoopi Goldberg in the cast. This doesn't really matter, but it makes the film feel as if there is a mismatch between source and destination.

It's worth catching on a lazy afternoon, though.

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Fairly routine stuff, 29 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Cassie enjoys a happy life as a typical high schooler until, wouldn't you just know it, an alien invasion comes along. After a week or two of sitting ominously over the planet scoping stuff out, the aliens ("Others") start with a 1st wave - an electromagnetic pulse taking out all power, followed by earthquakes which wreck stuff and cause floods (I got the impression that Lake Erie emptied itself across Ohio), then bird super-flu, followed by snipers. The 5th wave is awaited, albeit not especially eagerly.

Chloe Moretz plays Cassie, and it's a role she can play with her eyes closed. I won't say that's what she does – that would be unfair: she is called upon to emote, and there are some physical demands – but she has made stronger impressions in the past and she will no doubt make stronger impressions in the future. This is a bit of a weird one. It's a post-apocalypse tale, one of my favourite science fiction sub-genres, and it's quite promising in its early stages, but then the army comes along and it suddenly switches into something rather more gung-ho than was promised at the start.

Also, it doesn't seem to know quite what level to pitch itself at: there is a strong feel of Young Adult franchise a la Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent (especially as there is all sorts of unresolved stuff at the end, demanding a follow-up), which means that it doesn't satisfy as an adult take on the material, but it's quite strong in terms of blood, protagonists killing innocents, and language. I'm not sure it succeeds at the level it's pitched at, because I'm not sure that level actually exists.

Don't expect questions to be answered, either – vehicles work for some, not for others, for a start off. And I certainly needed rather more convincing about Evan than was provided.

I quite enjoyed it, even though it didn't work properly.

Room (2015/I)
Great performances in a powerful film, 29 January 2016
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Joy was kidnapped 7 years ago: since then she has lived in a single room with her 5-year old son (by her kidnapper) Jack. On finally escaping, both mother and son need to connect to a world which has moved on for Joy, and which Jack has never known.

This is a psychological drama on three acts: there is an expository section which shows us the limits of Joy's and Jack's world (and, as it is the only world Jack has ever known, it is perfectly normal to him), then there is the drama and excitement of the escape and, finally, there is a lengthy section in which we see what happens afterwards. This final section was the part I loved because it simply plays with your emotions as you follow the progress of Joy and Jack, and Joy's family, as they meet assorted issues which must be dealt with.

Brie Larson as Joy ("Ma") is wonderful, and young Jacob Tremblay as Jack is simply astonishing. Jack is a complex character and far from easy to play, but you never for a second think you are watching a child acting: Tremblay IS Jack.

This is an excellent film.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Cleverly done, 29 January 2016
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At the start of the banking meltdown in the 2000s, a small number of individuals / traders realise ahead of time that something weird is happening in the markets, and follow various courses of action.

I never thought any movie would approach the thrill of Gungans blockading trade routes, but the intricacies of bonds based on sub-prime mortgages has Phantom Menace beaten hands down! I'm being facetious, of course. The Big Short takes an event of global economic significance, which is built on financial shenanigans of horrendous complexity, and it presents it in a way which audiences can understand. This is absolutely brilliant. It is also frequently very funny – I found myself laughing at the same time as being completely outraged by what was going on.

There is a high level ensemble cast here and all are very good, although my money is on Steve Carell, proving that he is one of his generation's great actors. But the real stars here are the script, direction and editing, so Adam McKay gets the main credit. Who knew that a film about a subject this dry this dry could be so entertaining and full of outrage?

Self/less (2015)
Quite good, could have been better, 27 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Squillionaire property developer Ben Kingsley is dying of cancer. What with money being no object, he buys a remedy which involves his consciousness being transferred into lab-grown Ryan Reynolds by shady scientist Matthew Goode, but it's not long before he discovers that all is not quite what it seems.

This film starts off very promisingly with a strong science fiction premise then, about a third of the way through, it seems satisfied to settle into fitting a routine urban paranoia chase/thriller template. It ends up being OK - the end is pleasing, if predictable - but one is left with the taste of the film it could have been but wasn't, and I think that is a film I would have preferred.

Batman: Year One (2011) (V)
Good adaptation of adult Batman story, 27 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Upright cop James Gordon is transferred to the corrupt Gotham City Police Department at the same time as Bruce Wayne is taking the first steps towards becoming masked crimefighter Batman.

This animated feature adapts the story written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzuccelli: it doesn't follow the artist's style that closely (although there are some images lifted directly from the page), but the story is well adapted.

This is perhaps Gordon's story more than Batman's, well told, but not for kids: not because of violence or bad language, but because much of the story material is simply adult.

This is one of the better DC animated films.


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