Reviews

115 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Phenomenon (1996)
6/10
Shot in the dark
26 November 2009
Well I approached this movie with trepidation thinking this was going to be some pseudo babble about higher powers and higher beings. Instead I was pleasantly surprised without being blown away. Basically this is the story of George Malley (Travaolta) a small town mechanic who though an unexplainable phenomenon becomes able to function of a higher level, gaining the ability to process information like no other human being. This plays out affecting all his relationships and drawing attention from the wider world. There is lots to like here and Travolta is earnest enough, and maybe this is just me but I really struggle to accept him as a small town mechanic he is just not every day enough for me to carry of these sort of roles. But on the plus point he is supported by the ever wonderful Robert Duvall and Forrest Whittaker and his best friends. This has a good message at its core without being spectacular at anything. Would I watch it again. On a rainy day yes and preferably with my wife.
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Ghost Town (I) (2008)
7/10
Charming subtle comedy
26 November 2009
This is a lovely subtle movie which is held together well by Ricky Gervais in what is his first lead role. Gervais is always going to play versions of himself, but here he reigns it in more than normal and gives a performance of depth as Doctor Pincus a lonely dentist who has problems forming relationships. Pincus then has a near death experience which leaves him able to see ghosts. Pincus is asked by the ghosts to perform acts that will enable them to be released to the after life. Pincus is reluctant to do so until he meets the ghost of Frank the dead husband of Gwen who lives in his apartment block. What we end up with is typically Gervais is three characters seeking redemption through different means. Frank through forgiveness, Gwen through the need to move on and Pincus through human contact. This is all handled well with much more subtlety than your average Hollywood rom-com which for me works so much better. Highly recommended.
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Batman (1989)
8/10
Dark yet comic
25 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Right better start by admitting I am a massive fan of both Batman and Tim Burton. With that out of the way it will come as no surprise that I really like this movie. I also think that this movie has stood the test of time well. So much of this movie suits Burton especially it's Gothic setting making for a marvellously dark and moody setting with just a touch of comic book. It was brave of Burton to do away with the typical comic book back story and tale of origin that normally hangs like a mile stone around he neck of most super hero franchise initial instalments. Instead we get a much better slow release of Bruce Wayne's back story. Michael Keaton is great as Wayne / Batman though inevitably he completely upstaged by Jack Nicholson's tour de force performance as the Joker. Yes this performance had now been superseded by the awesome performance of the late Heath Ledger. This Joker really is a different beast. Nicholson dominates every scene he is in almost getting the hero treatment from Burton. As shown in the scene where Batman battles the Joker from his air craft. Missing with numerous shots whilst I just takes the Joker one shot to take Batman's air craft down. My only gripes with the movie ar Burton's weakness at shooting action sequences (they feel to much like choreographed clown sequences). Also Kim Bassinger dos not really work for me as Vicky Vale. But then weight that against the rest of the great movie which especially works in the symmetry of Jack / the Joker creating the Batman and the Batman in turn creating the Joker. This added to the legend Prince submitting th soundtrack makes this a classic to be enjoyed time and time again.
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The Haunting (1999)
3/10
Little in the way of frights or empathy
25 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a movie that does not start well and gets worse the longer it goes on (and it does go on). The basic premise of Liam Neeson's character Doctor Marrow conducting a study into fear by inviting people to a so called "haunted house" under the misinformation of it being a study into people who suffer from insomnia is interesting enough. This could of lead to some good psychological scares. However when the house itself does turn out to be haunted we really do gets by numbers horror where I found it incredibly difficult to find any empathy for any of the characters and also struggled to maintain interest in the film. Even the normally likable Owen Wilson was poor here. Certainly one to avoid abd not one for re-watching.
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5/10
Just about okay
3 September 2009
This is pretty sub standard Indiana Jones style family capers with a bit more of the supernatural thrown in. This is the third movie in the series and quite frankly I am surprised they have made it this far. Everything here is done by numbers and I for one find it hard to accept Noah Wyle as an action hero. Still maybe children will find it more entertaining than I did but for me a great family movie has to work for the adults as well. So if you want to amuse the children for a few hours then maybe this will fill the time, but I for one will not be watching it again and I will not go out of my way to seek the other movies.
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Jaws 2 (1978)
5/10
The bite's back
3 September 2009
So where to begin? This is not a bad movie but it is a movie that suffers from being the sequel to a superb movie that still stands the test of time. Well let's start with the positive. Roy Schneider is as usual superb and so is Lorraine Grey as his wife. But unfortunately they alone can not carry the movie. The new cast are a bunch of interchangeable teens that are so stereotypical they could be from any teen horror flick. Then there is the shark. For one he look so less realistic than in the original which I think maybe be down to less being more in the amount of the shark we get to see compared to the first movie. Also he seems to have to much personality and intelligence rather than just being a stone cold killer. Giving him battle scars and the intelligence to know how to destroy vehicles just does not work for me. Still there is some suspense and a satisfactory conclusion, it just does not cut its predecessors mustard.
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Kojak: The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973)
Season 1, Episode 0
8/10
Solid and unexpected quality
3 September 2009
I came across this movie whilst channel surfing and boy was I pleasantly surprised. I was expecting an episode of the TV series but instead got a gritty 70'd classic. This a low down story of Police and the systems corruption which is still relevant today. Telly Savalas is superb as Kojack the only decent cop in New York who is prepared to see the set up that is taking place. A slow reveal with excellent supporting cast makes this a recommendation for everyone. This is truly an undiscovered gem that if it was a cinema movie would still be lauded today. This is a movie that really needs wider exposure. Now how to I go about getting the to show it at the BFI?
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Wanted (2008)
7/10
Wanted dead and alive
10 March 2009
Right first things first this is an extremely enjoyable action movie, but for it to work for you must suspend your sense of disbelief. With this done there is much to be enjoyed here. The premise of an agent order of assassin weavers is lets face it pretty ropey, and I am not sure how true it is to the comic source material (which I will probably dig out at some point), and Morgan Freeman is really playing it by numbers here. But we have some amazing and original action sequences that really do move the movie on at a frenetic pace. Yes we can see the massive influence of 'The Matrix' and 'Fight Club' and lets just hope if there are sequels they do not go the way of the shoddy follow ups to the Matrix. I like the fact that some of the characters are played by different actors than your normal action movie types, though to be honest I am not sure about McAvoy's American accent, though he handles everything else well. Still much better than your average action movie and worth repeat viewings if you are a fan of the genre.
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Saw (2004)
8/10
Quality thrills
10 March 2009
Let me start by saying I for some reason had never really had any inclination to see this movie, for some reason it did not appeal to me. Well anyway I found myself watching the movie on a holiday I have just returned from and let me say I was pleasantly surprised (and pleasant it a word I would imagine you will not find associated with this movie very often). Where this movie works is in its simple premise. Cheaply made with a small set but this actually aides the suspense built up as the main characters slowly interact with one another revealing more about themselves. This is interspersed with reveals to Jigsaw the orchestrator of the two protagonist's fates. The movie moves along at a good pace introducing us to Jigsaws previous crimes as well as the police officers on his trail with a increasing sense pf dread and the payoff is worth it (as much as these things can be) with a very satisfactory ending. Yes there are some horrific moments but nowhere near as many as I expected and I believe the movie is better for this. A must for horror fans, and others with a strong constitution.
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8/10
Heavenly direction
22 February 2009
I had wanted to see this film for years and had attempted to watch a late night TV showing before but fell asleep. Well finally I have seen the movie and boy what a good film it is. This the true story of two girls in 1950's New Zealand who become inseparable friends who become transfixed with one another leading to a series of shocking events that they feel they are pre-destined to commit. The two teenagers are played fantastically by the then unknown Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynsky. With the now expected excellent direction from the future superstar Peter Jackson. Here you can actually feel Jackson playing and experimenting with some of the styles he later used to such great effect in the LOTR trilogy. The supporting cast are very good and we are drawn into a real mixture of emotions that is the wrong directors hands could have been an absolute disaster. But we go through the full range of emotions from shock to sympathy to repulsion leady up to the truly shocking ending. Stunning stuff that I will certainly view many times.
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8/10
Thought provoking stuff
22 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a documentary I came across by chance on the UK TV channel More4 and I have to say I found it extremely interesting and thought provoking. I will also be seeking out the book that was the source material for this documentary. Basically this is Professor Jared Diamond theory on why certain parts of the earth's societies prospered and others did not. The argument he presents was new to me and argued about how the fortune of the right crops and the right animals that where able to domesticated is certainly a compelling one. As for the documentary itself it is well shot and well narrated with not to much of the re-created scenes that spoil many a modern documentary. Diamond also helps by not being to condescending which is a fault of a lot of intellectuals when trying to get a message to the masses. People have claimed his theory is Marxist but I do not buy this and see it more socio geologist. It was also refreshing to hear an theory on the evolution of society not based around religion. Highly recommended viewing.
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4/10
Fun but not as much as I had hoped
22 February 2009
This is not a great movie and is a few notches down from a lot of Ben Stiller and Farrelly brothers movies, and it is a shame because there is the premise of a great comedy in here somewhere. The basic story of a guy (Stiller) meets a girl has a whirlwind romance that ends up in a wedding only to find out on honeymoon that his new wife is not the person he thought she was. Thrown in to the mix is him ending up meeting another woman on honeymoon. Now this works okay for the most and the movie gets better as it progress' but I was reaching for the remote a lot early in th e movie checking how much viewing time was remaining. Also the Farrelly's are much crasser here than normal and this does not always work. Especially in the case of Stiller's coarse father. So stick with the movie for the laughs come towards the end. But this for me is a one time viewing movie.
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7/10
Jackie cracks the west
8 February 2009
Well here we go once again with the undisputed king of action comedy. The one and only Jackie Chan. While this is nowhere near Chan's best movie we can be grateful for the fact that this is the film that finally gave Chan his much deserved break in the USA. This is the story on Chan's character Keung who comes to the Bronx for his uncle's wedding and ends up caught up in a series of events that involve biker gangs, and diamond robbers. But really none of this matters this is just an excuse for Jackie to show of his amazing action skills (in the fight scenes which he also choreographed), and this he does to his usual amazing standards. There seems to be more edits in the fight scenes that is normal for Jackie but I suspect this might be down to one of two things. One making the film more palatable for a western audience. Or two that Jackie broke his ankle in the filming of this movie. Still tell me the last time you saw a western movie star leap from a roof on to the fire escape of the next building!!! Truly amazing stuff. On the down side the western characters and acting are very wooden but hey just enjoy Chan and hopefully then go seek out his Hong Kong movies.
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Kronk's New Groove (2005 Video)
4/10
Groove is in the ass
8 February 2009
What we have here the standard Disney direct to DVD sequel, where I would expect cots are cut in all areas resulting in an okay animated movie that falls well short of the original. That is not to say that this is a terrible movie it is just that it is a very mediocre movie full of the preachy messages intended to show children the virtues of friendship and being nice to one another and unless done subtly (which it is not here) can quickly become grating for adults. The film has a very thin plot line with Kronk trying to win the approval of his father, and ending up finding the true meaning of wealth and success. This has it's comedy moments but is really nor enough to carry a full length film.
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K-9: P.I. (2002 Video)
4/10
Ruff really ruff
2 February 2009
This is a pretty run of the mill family move that I am sure most children will enjoy but with really no that much to please any adults viewing the movie. The premise of the film is that Belushi's cop character takes his retirement but gets drawn into a case which results in him becoming a private investigator. The movie's plot is so obvious most of the kids will surely pick the ending before it happens. But additionally to that there seem to be story arcs and sub plots that are forgotten about as the movie progresses. This coupled with a sub plot where the titular K-9 gets pimped out by Belushi. One to be avoided I am afraid.
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7/10
The shoot from which great things grew
25 January 2009
This is a fascinating animated movie which rightly is known at the birth of the modern Disney animated movie (soon to be revived again thanks to John Lassiter). From a story point of view this is now thoroughly familiar fare with the main character and couple of comedy support characters having to overcome adversity before finding solace in the arms of the other main character. What is fascinating here is seeing the shaping of the modern Disney movie from some of the song themes that are re-used more successfully in later Disney movies to the beginning to experiment with 3D animation that was used to great effect in the next Disney movie 'Beauty and the Beast' . The film is itself I feel could be slightly better paces and for a Disney movie this is unusual as they are normally so tightly paced. But this is still good and great for children.
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7/10
Good but not great
24 January 2009
There is a lot to recommend about this film that is essentially the story of the duel between a Russian and German sniper set against the backdrop of the Battle for Stalingrad in the Second World War. This is a well made movie that benefits from European direction and seems less bombastic than American made Second World War efforts and is all the better for it. There are good performances her as well especially by Rachel Weisz as the female lead Tania and Bob Hoskins is a fantastic supporting role as Kruschev. Joseph Fiennes is also very good as Danilov. My major problem with the movie is Jude Law. I just do not get the appeal of this actor. He seems to deliver the same performances in every movie I have seen him in, and for me this only worked in AI. This resulted in me not being able to invest in the lead character and I felt it also led to Ed Harris completely dominating there duel from an acting perspective (does he ever deliver a bad performance). This is a shame because the rest of the movie is excellent. Though I am not sure how much weight can be given to the historical accuracy (not that much from what I red on IMDb). In the end I enjoyed this film but Law puts me off wanting to watch this movie again unless there really was nothing else to watch.
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8/10
Souther Discomfort
20 January 2009
When I first saw this film in my early teens it freaked me out, with it's foreboding sense of doom, and over the years I have enjoyed the movie a few more times. Now as an adult who has seen many many films and understand more about the making of them I still find myself drawn to this movie. What is basically a state guard training mission gone wrong is wrought for every bit of emotion in a dank dark gloomy setting thats creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. As thing go from bad to worse on the mission when the ridiculously under trained guard go about their mission in the Bayou and encounter the indidous people there is only one real outcome. What is essentially an ensemble piece with the guard and one hillbilly is played out well with all the characters given a chance to flourish and here Powers Booth and Keith Carradine are particularly impressive. With a nod of the head to 'Delivernce' and 'Apocalypse Now' This is a great little thriller.
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Home Alone (1990)
8/10
Christmas Classic
4 January 2009
Having just watched this for the first time in ages and at the cinema for the first time since its release I am reminded of what a fun film this is. It works very well as a feel good Christmas movie and as a live action update of a loony tunes cartoon. My feeling s about this film have not really changed at all in the eighteen years since its release. It is a small idea with a huge pay off. When Kevin (a never bettered Macualay Culkin) is left home alone over Christmas when his family leave for a trip to Paris and accidentally forget him, he is left to fend for himself as a pair of burglars tries to invade his home. For a child actor Culkin does a remarkable job practically carrying the movie on his own, appearing in pretty much every scene. The burglars are fended of in a string of comedy sequences that a very funny and aided no end by Joe Pesci playing the leader of the pair Harry. There is a convenient sub plot where Kevin finds friendship from the unlikely source of the neighbourhood old man all the kids are scared of. All in all this is a movie to be enjoyed at all times and that is guaranteed to make one feel better.
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Scrooged (1988)
8/10
A Re-discovered Christmas Gem
4 January 2009
Having just caught this at the cinema on a special Christmas screening and for me the first time since its original release I have to say I was more than pleased and that the film is so much better than I remember it. What we have here was a modern (in the 1980's) telling of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' with Bill Murray playing Frank Cross the modern version of Ebenezer Scrooge. Here Frank Cross is a TV executive who now when you look back on it probably comes across even worse than he was played at thee time being the complete reflection of those money grabbing times. He is crass uncaring and completely self obsessed. Of course we then get the modern telling of a Christmas carol well Cross is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past present and future with some very amusing pay offs. A lot of the jokes obviously went straight over my head as a teenager I found very funny now and Murray is on superb form here matching his Ghost Busters performance. Even though this has the corny ending you know it has to have you can not help but enjoy the ending which is added by a track from the sublime Al Green. This will now be a staple of my Christmas viewing.
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8/10
Yippee Kay Again
4 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
So here we go again. This is the second time I have watched this movie in the last year and it holds up well. I do like this film and as an action movie it has aged remarkably well. We all know the premise its McLean again getting caught up in the mother of all days. This time we get the addition of Samuel L Jackson as Zeus making it more of a joint effort and a buddy movie. Lets be upfront this is nowhere near as good as the original, but still miles ahead of Die Harder. In Jeremy Irons portrayal of Simon Gruber (brother of Hans) we have a much better adversary than die harder, my only gripe is that there is not enough physical interaction between Gruber and McLean. I also think the film suffers from not being contained in a restricted area, therefore losing the originals sense of claustrophobia. But to the pluses Willis, Jackson and Iron's really deliver by numbers yet excellent performances that lift the movies performances above that of the standard action movie. We have some great if a little over the top set pieces and the payoff we all expect yet want. An action move to be enjoyed over and over again.
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3/10
Perfect Disaster
16 December 2008
I watched this movie some time ago and by my own admission I was not the soberest I have ever been. In that state I really did not enjoy the movie, so when I saw it was showing on TV the other night I thought I would give it another chance. Well my state of sobriety had not affected my judgement and I still really did not enjoy the movie. This the story of the crew of the fishing ship the 'Andréa Gail' who become trapped in the titular 'Perfect Storm' is apparently based around real life events. Which for those of you familiar with story know to be complete hogwash. We have a stellar cast here led by George Clooney as Captain Billy Tyne, and supported in the character roles by Mark Walberg, John C Reilly and William Fitchner. The problem here is they all give over the top actors trying to be everyman performances. It is hard to be taken in by any of the performances. This is also not helped by the hammy directing from Wolfgand Peterson (cab he really have given us the stupendously good 'Das Boat?) The film also suffers from a terrible score from James Horner that attempts to drag you to places of emotional places the film does not warrant. I for one will never experience this movie again.
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8/10
Bleak but Excellent.
9 December 2008
This is a remarkable film. The sort of animated move that would never be made in the west. An animated film that deals with adult themes and achieves it with excellence. This is the story of a brother and sister orphaned by the second world war in Japan, who end up having to fend for themselves. Everything here is achieved with excellence. I watched the subtitled version (which I always feel is best) and was really taken aback by the great little film. This film deals with the harsh realities of a civilization under siege and also with Japanese culture superbly and the director here must tack a huge amount of credit. There are scenes of great emotion as the film works it's way to a hugely emotive ending. Superb. One to be viewed again and again.
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5/10
Running from Nazis and Dust
8 December 2008
This is by no means a great movie, but not a terrible movie either. This really is an update of a frontier movie with some good ol' American spirit thrown in. This is basically the story of an Austrian doctor and his daughter who come to America seeking refugee from the Nazi's. Then end up in a small town who have farmed the land to death and who themselves are seeking new land to make their lives. John Wayne does his normal thing as the so called leader of the townsfolk dealing with conflict along the way, and also the inevitable love interest of the doctor's daughter. Plodding and really so much inferior to the similar 'Grapes of Wrath'. Not one for me to be watching again.
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5/10
Great themes do not always equate to great films.
6 December 2008
Films with noble themes such as this one sometimes find themselves shielded from criticism. However if you look at this film just as another movie what we have here is actually not that great a movie dealing with huge themes. The story of August Hill who finds redemption in the noble sacrifice of his way off life to aid the escape of an escaped slave is noble but I do not feel Jason Patrick lends the lead character enough weight to portray the guilt he is supposed to be carrying. Again Thandie Newton as the slave girl Analeese is okay, but the character is very two dimensional. There is little to no support story or characters and in the end this feels like a bog standard television movie that is only lifted out of the doldrums by a decent conclusion. I for one will not be watching this again.
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