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Sweet and charming with darker overtones.
Think "Monster" but much more lighthearted and charming. I watched this movie with neither preconception nor hype; in fact I almost overlooked it. From the opening scenes I even imagined it may be a comedy and it does indeed contain many amusing moments that naturally emerge from the story and bring a smile to the face. Darker moments sober the viewer throughout but the narrative fails to linger long enough to bring the mood down, and despite the trials and tribulations, the overall feeling of the movie, like Jolene herself, is quite upbeat. It's hard to find much fault with "Jolene"; it is what it is. Unfortunately, what it's not is an hour longer. I could have easily sat through more in the hope of a more conclusive ending or just to see where the road might take her next. However, Jolene's erratic journey through life is ongoing and the lack of a Hollywood finale serves this movie well. If you're bored of blockbuster bombardment then "Jolene" could well provide a refreshing antidote.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Die Hard 4: Dieing a Death
I was seriously looking forward to this fourth instalment of the Die Hard movies as the previous three had always lived up to, and in many cases exceeded my expectations. How could this long awaited sequel ever fail to impress? Well, in the first instance I didn't believe the threat. The main bad guy was no Hans Gruber and, unlike Rickman and Irons, he in no way managed to portray the menacing, twisted, psychopath required to perpetrate such an evil deed. Secondly, I didn't believe the action. Despite his ageing physique, John McClane has gone from "hard as nails" tough guy to indestructible superhero. However, in the context of this film he would need to as most of his adversaries seem pretty indestructible too. Ninja moves might make you an excellent opponent in hand to hand combat but I'm not sure they would protect you from being driven through several brick and glass walls on the bonnet of a car. Yes, by the nature of the genre, the stunts are inevitably far fetched but on this occasion they take suspension of disbelief to the doorstep of children's fantasy fiction.
This is a movie on par with Terminator 3. Definitely watchable, with a half decent story and plenty of over the top action that would justify a weekend rental. Unfortunately, it is paled by its predecessors.
Ring Girls (2005)
Girl Fighting With A Real Kick...
This is one of those films I stumbled upon, rather than deliberately setting out to watch. Being a life long martial artist myself, I have for many years been disappointed by the lack of real passion in female combat sports. However, Ring Girls was one of those rarities whereby the level of skill and aggression displayed by the participants is clearly evident. The "docufilm" follows five American girls through their preparation to fight in Thailand against opponents who have grown up with the discipline of Muay Thai. The odds don't look good but it's obvious from the start that these girls aren't just playing around.
The film itself was a little contrived, and dare I say "cheesey", at times with Karate Kid moments that made me cringe a little. Fighting leaves on a tree was one particular scene that springs to mind along some of the narration and Master Toddy's motivational talks. However, none of the "cast" being actors, it was obvious that some scenes had been set up to complete the telling of the story.
Actors, NO... Fighters, YES... And the fighting and preparation was the main point of the film. We're not looking at awards for acting ability - this is after all a documentary - but rather the total dedication and commitment of the girls featured. In regards to this, the utmost respect is due. The intensity of the training sessions and fight sequences was greatly enhanced by the editing techniques and although none of the fights are shown in full, the camera work and integrated "matrix style" slow motion contact shots will have you right in amongst the action, feeling every punch, kick and elbow. For this alone I must commend the film makers. Simple, yet very effective.
All in all, well worth a look. It's one of the few occasions I've taken female fighters seriously and with good reason. This is the real deal, with girls at the top of their game.
On a personal note: If Gina Carano would like to come round some time and beat the living daylights out of me then I'd be more than happy to take the punishment. Surely, it's not right to be both stunningly gorgeous and as hard as nails... but I'm glad she is.
Dead of Night (1945)
Clever imaginative classic horror
"They just don't make them like they used to", is one of those clichéd sayings spouted by older folk and ignorantly dismissed by the young. However, "Dead of Night" is a shining example of where these words may be applied without fear of being misplaced.
From my youth, I remember several episodic horror films, made up from short stories and cleverly linked together but this was by far the best. Although I can't remember the age at which I first saw it I can definitely remember being really quite terrified at times. There's no grotesque blood spilling, or horrific undead monsters, CGI special effects or anything that todays horror filmmakers seem to have on their "must include" list. In fact, it's the charm of the film that gives the horror aspect such a contrast to work against.
Think of it as the spookiest episodes of The Twilight Zone merged into one terrific movie and you won't be far off.
Swept Away (2002)
Really not as bad as many make out...
Swept Away has a very European feel: not just because it's set in the Mediterranean or because it stars Adriano Giannini or because it's directed by British film maker Guy Richie or even because it contains the occasional subtitle. Rather, it's down to the laid back story telling method and the lazy plot progression. It is clear to see why the film flopped in the US. A lack of intricate narrative and Hollywood ending was bound to leave many disappointed at the cinema. But does this say more about the expectation of the American audience than the quality of the film? Granted, it was no Oscar winner but the performances were more than competent all round and indeed, I enjoyed watching Madonna in this role.
I have given this film a fair 5 out of 10. And believe me there are only a small handful of movies to which I would award a 10 so I can't be accused of overrating. I feel those that gave it a mere 1 out of 10 were being a little overzealous to say the least. Either that or they have been lucky enough to miss viewing some of the real tripe I've seen over the last 30 years or so.
The Choke (2006)
I'd rather choke to death than watch this again...
At the time of writing this review it would seem that over 50% of IMDb voters had given this film a rating of either a 10 or a 1. I can only surmise then that those giving it a 10 were either cast or crew members.
They say that given enough monkeys and enough time and enough typewriters, those monkeys, just by random proddings at the keyboard, would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. However, I seriously doubt that given the same number of monkeys and time, you could find a single one to give this movie a rating of 10.
I patiently watched the first half, foolishly assuming that the film would, on some level, develop either the plot or the characters, or maybe make some kind of social comment or provoke barely intellectual thought. Failing that, I was quite prepared to accept action, suspense, comedy, horror or even gratuitous sex as a way of holding my attention. Ultimately, I was disappointed and consequently, much of the second half was viewed at double speed as I searched in vain for some small snippet of cinematic redemption. Sadly, there was none.
If "The Choke", was put up against an episode of Scooby Doo then I'm afraid the cartoon would win hands down in terms of mystery, intrigue and unpredictability. And speaking of cartoon characters, the acting abilities of the various cast members varied between acceptable (at best) and embarrassingly poor with Brooke Bailey's portrayal of the freaky, death obsessed pseudo goth, London, being so bad I almost felt sorry for her.
I would have liked to have finished on a positive note but even the soundtrack, a second rate feast of contemporary punk rock, failed even to entertain, let alone serve to enhance a very poor flick.