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630 reviews in total 
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Soul surfer meets 127 hours, 26 December 2016

A true shark movie that threatens to be better than the rest, and whilst to some degree it out performs most of its peers, it just can't overcome the CGI scourge that ultimately spoils its authenticity. Blake is lively though not expansive enough in her acting range to carry a thriller on her own. The behemoth that pursues her looks good in close ups and stock footage, but yet again just when you've suspended disbelief and in the grip of fear, the juxtaposition in the animation effects lets you off the hook and back to the safety of your seat.

A superior shark movie imo (e.g. 12 Days of Terror, The Reef, Dark Tide) doesn't lose your trust the way The Shallows relaxes its grip when it's antagonist fails to seamlessly synchronise with the environment. Unfortunately as a result, the attack scenes mostly miss the mark and don't appear natural (when does one shark attack and devour multiple people in quick succession?), though the suspense is certainly present in the pacing and timing.

The idea of the rogue shark stalking prey in the isolated cove is explained (or perhaps contrived) and so the survival match at least has a plot basis on which to unfold. From this survivalist perspective, the film works and keeps you engaged as Lively employs her limited resources to countenance the great white terror whose scale is by the way, not unrealistic (though still of school bus proportions) . Overall, pleasant scenery, decent sound & visual effects (notwithstanding the CGI) but it doesn't rise beyond B-grade to beckon a second viewing.

You'll be bloody right, 23 December 2016

Delightfully light-hearted look into Sydney pre-Vietnam attitudes, still brimming with confidence straddling 50's conservatism and the beginning of the counter culture movement that emerged in the latter part of the decade. It was a very good time to be a ten pound Pom, or indeed any number of European immigrants who accepted the invitation, as Walter Chiari's character (Giovanni 'Nino' Carlotta) experiences, though not without comic incident as he tries to right his cousin's business debts. As other reviewers have remarked, a sort of humorous propaganda promo for Australian immigration.

The beer flows like rivers of amber nectar in a Gold Top commercial, the formal bars and building site where Nino comes to learn the Aussie vernacular; Ed Devereaux (pre- "Skippy"), John Meillon (who almost steals the show), Chips Rafferty, Anne Haddy was there much younger obviously than her later soapy salad days. Obviously the movie needs to exaggerate reality to create humour and I reckon you'd need to be *bloody* churlish to be offended, it's pretty harmless (self-deprecating in fact) when viewed in context.

A wonderful time capsule and source of nostalgia from Rank, perhaps a little bittersweet too when you consider how much of that beloved character we've since abandoned.... worth watching, should bring a smile to your face.

Rogue One (2016)
2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Expanded Universe becomes official spin off, 15 December 2016

The Star Wars canon has been revived (following earlier tangents for the Ewoks), with miscreant Felicity Jones recruited by the rebellion to help locate the Death Star's famous weakness which is the spine to the climax of the original episode A New Hope (ANH). In the Star Wars lineage, Rogue One occurs between Revenge of the Sith and ANH.

Reckon Flick Jones is going to be crowned most feisty/sexy Star Wars female character in the galaxy once this goes viral, such are her cherub-like facial features tempered by the grit and attitude of a space cowboy. She's no princess, but a package of galactic goodness all the same. Aussie Ben Mendelsohn is also inspired casting, a menacing Director Krennic whose tactical positioning in the Empire hierarchy adds another layer to a character that could easily have just become another cliché. The remaining cast has depth and there's a couple of surprises in supporting roles which might evoke some fond memories of the original trilogy, though I'm not too sure the CGI character was such a good idea, despite perhaps being well intentioned.

Overall I was pleased with this retrospective; it wasn't as derivative as TFA, Flick Jones really stands-out from the new breed acting crowd, and was a good balance of homage and originality. Whether the franchise has enough original material to crank these out in annual procession til 2020 is seriously debatable, but Rogue One is a pretty decent benchmark on which to start a new generation of spin-offs.

Sunday (2014/V)
Love and imminent parenthood across the ditch, 6 November 2016

Unorthodox romance tells the story of an estranged couple, who briefly reconnect following an overseas fling that results in pregnancy, with the door left open for a more enduring reconciliation after a weekend spent rediscovering their mutual affection. The two leads really carry the entire story which is surprisingly effective despite having really very little actual plot. It's somewhat unconventional in that the story begins several months post an intense holiday romance, with the characters now at their lowest ebb in the relationship, re-building trust and forging bonds as prospective parents sober following their torrid affair.

NZ location work showcases the multi-textured city of Christchurch, it's picturesque beaches, parks and gardens contrasting the demolition of modern ruins, a reminder of the earthquake devastation inflicted only a few short years ago. There's an occasional misfire in the situations (i.e. the dial-a-rap song and Gondala strip both seem a little unnatural even allowing for their context) but otherwise, the story seems very sincere.

Probably could've developed a couple more characters and scenarios to pad out the 70 minute run time (e.g. perhaps some more meat in the flashbacks which are relayed like silent memories), but overall if you can appreciate a well acted independent movie in which character is gradually revealed at a deliberate pace, then this sensitive, atypical romance should keep you engaged.

Box set please, 4 November 2016

Kommando Leopard is chapter 2 in the Dawson-Collins jungle war trilogy, and whilst baring no real relation to the others, is essentially the same film with a few plot variations. This instalment finds the intrepid mercenaries being pursued by contract killer Klaus Kinski whilst holed up in a Church hospital run by mysterious priest Manfred Lehmann.

Quality scale miniature sets are used in abundance but generally to good effect, whilst the personnel is also much the same as the predecessor with Lehmann, Kinski and Collins re- joining Thomas Danneberg and veteran Alan Collins (aka Luciano Pigozzi) whilst American ex-pat Mike Monty and British ex-pat John Steiner join the franchise for their first appearances. Kinski does arrogant bad-ar$e better than anyone and this is a masterclass of his less-is-more approach though it's debatable whether his bored exterior is acting or genuine contempt.

As with the others there's a fair amount of pathos on display, mourning those lost and lamenting the sacrifices and collateral damage made in the name of cheque-book war - all of which is unnecessary and pure guff. But if you like it when stuff explodes, catches fire or just enjoy massive machine gun recoil and spent cartridges flying in all directions whilst the hero nonchalantly mows down his incompetent opponents, then Kommando Leopard will be very adequate - though brainless- escapism.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Flirting with cult status, 4 November 2016

Average Euro-styled jungle action flick is the third of the trio that was borne of the Anthony Dawson- Lewis Collins mid-80's partnership, Der Kommander is essentially the same as its predecessors with a few plot tweaks.

Good use of miniatures again, lots (emphasis) of things blowing up, people of SE Asian appearance dressed in military fatigues being catapulted in the air doing somersaults, that sort of a spectacle which you either tolerate or fall asleep watching.

Collins is again wasted in a one dimensional role as the suave kick-ar$e mercenary with the eternal 5 o'clock shadow, whilst the supporting cast though lacking a principal female lead, does have some surprising depth with Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasance, Brett Halsey, Paul Muller, Romano Puppo, Bobby Rhodes, Mike Monty and John Steiner (as well as series regulars Manfred Lehmann & Thomas Danneberg). That's an impressive cast assembled for a very average jungle war pic, even by Euro-trash standards; had Klaus Kinski returned for this final instalment, the acting chops would've been in the cult movie stratosphere. Van Cleef sadly does not look well and so it's perhaps regrettably no surprise that he died shortly after this film's theatrical release.

If you've seen Codename Wildgeese or Kommando Leopard, then you've essentially seen Der Kommander (sans Klaus Kinski of course). Lots of old and borrowed, but nothing new. Would be nice to have these three movies as a box set for an evening of cheesy goodness, especially now that most of the cast have left the mortal coil, all much too soon.

Ocean, wind & fire, 21 October 2016

Whether it's loosely based on Steven Callahan's harrowing 76-day journey or otherwise, this one-man survivalist movie is possibly the very best of its breed. Robert Redford plays the ageing yachtsman with pragmatism, stamina and an undertone of bitterness as he contends with a seemingly endless array of catastrophes that lead to eventually becoming stranded at sea.

Virtually no dialogue or soundtrack, just the howls of the ocean and creaking of ropes and wood, this is a masterclass of the less is more concept. Always engaging, at times suspenseful, it's without peer of its ilk, the closest you'd come to this standard is the always riveting "I Shouldn't Be Alive" docu-dramas which are consistently high calibre.

Unlikely to engage all audiences, it should appeal to the fans of shipwreck adventures, something akin to Robinson Crusoe on the water. The plot slowly constricts its hapless victim, gradually wearing down his mind, body and resources with every cruel blow. It's like death is destined and he's forced to endure it slowly compounding with each setback. A real man vs nature ordeal perfectly cast and great viewing. This is the best thing Redford has done in thirty years.

Fear city, 15 October 2016

Uptight ultra conservative (Connors) decides to get even with the world after it fails him, using his bomb making skills to put the city in the grip of fear. Only tired-looking detective Vince Edwards and suspected rapist Neville Brand can stop his murderous reign of terror in this reasonably taut time filler.

It's unusual to have dual plots/villains and the presence of Brand in such an understated yet critical characterisation cannot be diminished. His scenes are amongst the best and most gripping as he leverages a chance encounter with the mad bomber to his advantage (and much to Edward's chagrin).

Solid cast includes Hank Brandt, Royce Applegate and Jeff Burton in minor roles, whilst Ilona Wilson has a quirky cameo as Brand's defensive wife. Good momentum, special effects and committed acting elevate this minor movie to something more substantial - and check out the graphic ending for a shocking conclusion!

Grand Prix (1966)
Going the distance, 15 October 2016

Epic soap opera combines the elements of tragedy, courage and competition to document the trials and tribulations of the elite motor racing fraternity. James Garner stars as the subdued track star, his rivalry with former team mate Brian Bedford not only confined to the cockpit with Jessica Walter's sultry influence pitting the pair against one another following an acrimonious split. Yves Montand and Antonio Sabato provide solid, watchable supporting performances as Garner & Bedford's nearest rivals, the ageing Montand beginning to question his place in the sport, whilst the brash, youthful Sabato seeks to shine in its luminosity.

Diverse cast and some compelling race sequences just manage to go the distance (3 hrs) as our heroes make sacrifices for the obligations of their sport, becoming increasingly disdainful of its commercialisation at the expense of their safety in what has become a familiar rhetoric for these types of movies since.

You won't need to be a fan of formula one to enjoy Grand Prix, though it's epic duration and moments of melodrama and romantic interludes sometimes stifle momentum. Though dated, Grand Prix is colourful, picturesque and tells a rather straightforward if bittersweet tale of professional racing that is long overdue for a decent remake.

Beneath (2013/I)
Friday the 13th in a row boat, 15 October 2016

The oversized antagonist of this run of the mill creature feature isn't a bad specimen and definitely looks like something out of the River Monsters alumni, not too far beyond realistic proportions. But that's about all I can praise in this otherwise irritating labour as six high school seniors try to stay afloat a sinking row boat as they're stalked by the voracious lake monster whilst tensions amongst the group threaten their survival.

Most of the characters are clichés (the nerd, the jock, the outsider) and some are plainly irritating, not to mention uneven as the plot meanders from one fatality to the next. It doesn't take long for this lemon to lose its zest, the brittle relationships deteriorating into ridiculous scenarios that accelerate the attrition rate beyond I'm sure even the appetite of the assailant. Aside from the abysmal acting and puerile dialogue, the key weakness in the plot is the fact that the riverbank is clearly visible in almost every shot, yet despite their obvious proximity to shore, these directionless debutantes never seem to get any closer to it. Had they been depicted further from land in a vast lake, the situation would've been more believable.

Unlike the typical monster movie, there's a rather morbid conclusion to this aimless outing, though it doesn't necessarily redeem the previous 80-minutes which even by B-movie standards is pretty mediocre.

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