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neil-476

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A pointless and unnecessary remake which adds nothing, 29 May 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Budget and unemployment issue mean that the Bowen family – Dad Eric, Mom Amy, and kids Kendra, Griffin and Madison – have to downsize to what appeared to me to be a fairly sizeable house, albeit rather marred by the supernatural manifestations. Things go bump in the night, terrifying already timid son Griffin, and centring on Madison, the youngest. After she is kidnapped by her closet and held prisoner in the TV, the family calls in specialist help.

A friend of mine wondered why they only remake successful films – surely unsuccessful films merit remaking more? And here comes a perfect example to illustrate the folly of remaking successful movies. The 1982 Poltergiest, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, was an excellent movie. It didn't need remaking. And now along comes a remake. Had the original version never existed, this would have been a perfectly acceptable horror movie. But the original does exist, and this remake brings little new to the table. The main story beats are the same, some of the manifestations are different, but it is essentially the same movie, and not done as well – despite the best efforts of the cast, it lacks heart.

You might enjoy it if you've never seen the original – heck, you might enjoy it even if you have – but it's all a bit pointless.

And if you're not actually going to do anything worthwhile with the 3D, why bother?

Fun but highly unoriginal, 29 May 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ray goes to pick up daughter Blake to take her back to college from the house where soon-to-be-ex-wife Emma is about to move in with mega-rich Daniel Riddick. Blake would like her parents to get back together but is being sensible about it, Ray has just been presented with divorce papers, but everyone is being very adult and civilised despite feelings running deep and there being family issues in the past which should have been addressed, but which have been deliberately ignored as being too painful. Oh, and a super-mega-monster earthquake hits California, stranding Emma in mortal danger in Los Angeles and Blake in mortal danger in San Francisco, but fortunately Ray pilots a rescue helicopter...

Disaster movies offer the spectacle of disaster married to the soap operatics of the characters caught up in those disasters, and San Andreas does not buck the trend here – the family members played by Dwayne Johnson (Ray), Carla Gugino (Emma) and Alexandra Daddario (Blake) are all likable – certainly likable enough for the audience to be invested in them and want to see them emerge alive and well at the end. And Ioan Gruffudd has just a sniff of the slimeball about him from the start...

And we certainly get value for money in the disaster stakes – the destruction of the Hoover Dam (see Superman), Los Angeles decimated (see 2012), San Francisco pounded to pieces (too many to mention, most recently Godzilla) and flooded by a tsunami (OK, I'll grant you that one). Much of it makes little sense – San Francisco is, I recollect, a bit on the hilly side, and I have doubts that the floodwater would be quite as extensive as it is portrayed here – and there's not an ounce of originality in it from start to finish, but all of it is brilliantly executed.

Alexandra Daddario is extremely gifted in the T-shirt-filling department.

This film is the exact definition of a popcorn movie – sit down with your popcorn, put your brain on hold, and enjoy.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Somewhat muddled, but a star is born, 29 May 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We are introduced to two people trying to make a home movie about impending world disaster: one is George Clooney (playing Frank) and the other is a girl off-camera. Then we see some of Frank as a boy going to the World's Fair as a precocious inventor, meeting po-faced judge Hugh Laurie, and being introduced by young girl Athena to a high-tech future world. Then we switch to the home movie girl, Casey, and her misadventures after she is given a T button which give her interactive visions of a future world. Unfortunately, bad robots are seeking to catch her and, possibly, kill her, until Athena appears and saves her. It turns out the world is in danger, and Casey is possibly the only person who can save it, but she needs the help of Frank who, as an adult, is a bitter hermit because things turned out badly for him.

The trailer for this Brad Bird movie was great, and I enjoyed the film despite being very aware of its flaws: the main ones are that the plot is rather muddled, quite preachy, and somewhat ploddy in places: far more work was needed on the script in order to tighten the story up and make it more accessible.

Hugh Laurie's character is an odd one – villain or not? - which goes some way towards giving the film its uneven tone. George Clooney, after the introductory sequence, then disappears for an hour or so before reappearing in order to play a bad-tempered curmudgeon, and the film is given to Britt Robertson to carry through its first half as feisty Casey. She does perfectly well but, for me, the film belonged to Raffey Cassidy who, at 12 years old, commanded the screen throughout the time she was on it as Athena. This girl is going to go on and do great things on film.

Oh, and the eye candy was well executed.

This film isn't bad, but its ambitions exceeded its ability to achieve them.

12 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Eye-catching but empty, 22 May 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In Apocalypseland, Max Rokatansky finds himself strapped to the front of a vehicle forming part of a convoy crossing the desert in pursuit of a bus which has hijacked the harem of some feudal overlord-type in a mask whose name I didn't catch (in fact, I didn't catch any name apart from Charlize Theron's character, Imperator Furiosa). Max escapes and, after some disagreement, ends up helping the "brides."

I was very excited about the original Mad Max, because I love post-apocalypse fiction. And the first film in the original series actually started by addressing the crumbling of civilisation, showing a bridge between familiarity and the new order. Hindsight shows that what creator/director George Miller really wanted to do was get, as soon as possible, to a place where Max is a lone proponent of traditional values in a world which appears to consist entirely of feral gangs, victims, and sand. Fair enough, but it's not post-Apocalypse, is it? It's an alternate reality. Fury Road is a continuation, not a reboot, in which an entire sub-civilisation has built up in a remarkably short period: Max, a cop before The Fall, is still a young man, but the feral youths here have their own mythology. And how come, in this bleak, arid world, has the petrol not all evaporated? How come people are happy to waste petrol and water, both of which have to be scarce resources? Max's world makes no sense within the context of its own origin: that's why the original series annoyed me, and this addition doesn't change that.

In terms of eye candy, it's certainly spectacular: there are some phenomenal stunts, the effects work is good, and the desert locations are dramatic. But the story – an extended chase for two hours - is no more than a hook to hang the visuals on, the characters are mostly uninteresting and undeveloped (not that it matters, because this film isn't about character at all) and Max is uncharismatic because Tom Hardy doesn't get to give an idea of what sort of person he actually is.

If you like the idea of spending time in the eye-catching interior of a biscuit tin and being violently shaken for a couple hours, then I suspect you're going to really enjoy this. As for me, it tickled my eyes, but I would have liked a bit of food for the brain, too. I have friends who rated it highly: I had hoped I would too, but I'm afraid I have to record overall disappointment. This is an empty, empty film, and I'm not in a hurry to see it again.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
More of the same - which is not a bad thing, 22 May 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film starts with the Bardon Bellas at the top of their game until a wardrobe malfunction in front of the President makes them underdogs once more: their only chance of redemption is the World Acapella Championships, in which they will face uber-foes, the massively efficient Das Sound Machine. But Beca has other things on her mind...

If you saw Pitch Perfect – and you probably did if you're going to see this one – then you won't get many surprises. But you will get a similar amount of enjoyment, because this film doesn't try to do anything other than give you more of what worked the first time. Rebel Wilson's role is expanded, some of the Bellas are almost invisible, and Hailee Steinfeld gets to play the closest thing to an actual character.

And the musical numbers are all good fun, too. Music is a funny thing: it can deliver up moments which grip you by the throat and bring tears to your eyes. The last time I remember that happening was when Bruce Robinson appears on stage at the festival in Still Crazy, and there is a similar moment here, which I absolutely loved.

Incidentally film-makers, please learn about female anatomy: the TV announcers comment about what was visible referred to the internal bit, not the external bit.

A likable fiction, 22 May 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is VE Day, and Britain is celebrating, with much partying in the streets. The two young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret see an opportunity to go out and party with everybody else, a once in a lifetime opportunity, never to be repeated. With the King's permission, and against the better judgement of their mother, out they go with two young army officers as chaperones. And then they lose their escorts... and get separated...

It is true that the two princesses did go out on the night of VE Day, but this film is not so much what happened, but more what could have happened but almost certainly didn't, particularly given that the longer it goes on, the less likely it becomes.

For all that, it is good fun. Think The Hangover, reimagined in 1945 London with two rather naive and unworldly young women, one rather prim and the other up for pretty nearly anything. The period feel is effective (albeit you sometimes have the feeling that, had the camera pulled back another few feet, present day would have intruded rather rudely). The girls playing the fictionalised princesses are both excellent, with Sarah Gadon having a distinct look of the young Princess Elizabeth about her. Bel Powley lets us see the Margaret who grew up to be fond of a drink or two (and other pleasures) but who, at this point, is simply innocent but keen to explore. And there were times when, as a Brit, I found it very moving.

Ultimately, it's a bit of fluff, but it's a very enjoyable one.

Excellent, 17 May 2015
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Their parents divorced when they were babies, Mum Elizabeth raising Annie in London and Dad Nick raising Hallie in California, and neither of the identical twin girls knew the other existed. They meet at summer camp and decide to switch places so that they can both get to know the missing parent they have always yearned for, with a view to reuniting them. Their plan becomes complicated because Nick is planning to marry golddigger Meredith.

Walt Disney's 1998 remake of its earlier version has 11-year old Lindsey Lohan replacing Hayley Mills in the dual roles of Hallie and Annie. The rest of the cast, headed by Dennis Quaid as Nick and Natasha Richardson as Lizzie, are all excellent, but Lohan is superb. She creates two characters who are similar but different, and copes easily with four accents - English, American, English doing American and American doing English. The special effects which place her in the same scene with herself are superb: the split screen of the original version is enhanced with digital effects which are absolutely seamless.

And the film - which doesn't bear close examination in terms of plot, though that really doesn't matter- is huge fun, performed with great good humour, and some emotional heart.

Awful. Really., 16 May 2015
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An evil biker gang falls out with a bunch of devil-worshipping monks. This film really doesn't deserve a more detailed synopsis than that, and it's certainly not getting one from me.

There is a lot of praise for this film on IMDb, so let's consider the good points. The cinematography in this biker/werewolf movie isn't bad (the night scenes, of which there are many, are well lit), there are some decent songs on the soundtrack, and a young lady prances around attractively topless for a couple of minutes. I was 19 in 1971, when this was made, and that last element would have been a major selling point at that moment in history. I still regard it as a plus, but it doesn't count for as much as it once did in a film, if I'm honest.

On the negative side, we have a negligible and very familiar story, a poor script, bad acting, and an interminable (and very boring, notwithstanding the jiggling boobies) black magic ritual.

So, sorry to be a dissenting voice, but this is actually a load of old rubbish, decently filmed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Oh, the deceit!, 15 May 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Adaline Bowman, born in 1908, had an accident when she was 29 which stopped her ageing. And now in 2014, after a lifetime of changing identity regularly in order to avoid the unwelcome curiosity of the authorities, watching her daughter become an old woman, and running away from relationships, she is unexpectedly put in a position where she has to make some hard choices.

First things first – like The Time Traveller's Wife, this is another romance deceitfully pretending to be a science fiction story. It was all lies, folks – the science fiction/fantasy element is merely a feeble maguffin explained away with a bit of mumbo jumbo along the lines of the midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels. And, given that Blake Lively, an actress whose previous work had left me feeling that she was a less than compelling screen presence, was playing Adaline, I was already predisposed towards an uncharitable mindset. Oh well, given the location filming in San Francisco, perhaps I would recognise some locations from the single day I had spent there a couple of years ago.

And I did, which cheered me up. Also, I found things to enjoy in the film. These did not include the structure, which I found muddy and with emphases which seemed out of place, nor the male romantic lead – Michiel Huisman – who didn't strike me as particularly well written or performed, and definitely not the narrative voice-over which was mind-numbingly annoying.

But the ending, though obvious, was pleasing, Ellen Burstyn (as Adaline's daughter) was touching, Harrison Ford gave his best performance for years, and I am delighted to report that Blake Lively was excellent: her performance was understated and subtle, full of gentle nuance reflecting someone who has, of necessity, learnt to keep a careful step back from emotional commitment. I particularly liked her voice, which carried an attractive honeyed tone to it.

I wouldn't say this is a great film, but it was quite a bit better than I anticipated.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Good British spy thriller, 15 May 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When terrorist Quasim escapes from transportation, spymaster Harry Pearce takes responsibility and is fired from MI5. But the escape was all a bit easy, wasn't it? Could it have been an inside job? Harry has to investigate the inside, but he is on the outside.

This spy thriller (with some very well staged action) is a spin-off from the BBC TV Series Spooks, but it is an effective stand-alone piece: no previous knowledge is required. There is a lot of plot, including some pleasing twists and turns, but it isn't too difficult to follow. It is a very good combination of atmosphere, character, event and action, with excellent London location work and thoughtful cinematography, and I enjoyed it a great deal more than I thought I would.

Highly recommended.


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