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20 reviews in total 
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A good adaptation, but could do with some better pacing, 23 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So, here we are: the beginning of the end for the Harry Potter film series - and there are both good and bad things to say about this first part of the last story. The film's main flaw is that it drags a bit in certain parts (like the portion in the Ministry of Magic, and a few individual scenes besides that) and makes you wish the characters would get on with whatever they're doing: some more editing definitely wouldn't have gone amiss. Meanwhile, some other parts, like Dumbledore's background and Grindelwald, are covered minimally, which may be confusing for someone who hasn't read the book.

On the other hand, there are other scenes which are adapted brilliantly; examples include the hilarious scene with seven Harrys, the animated depiction of the Tale of the Three Brothers, and Ron taking on the locket Horcrux. As with the previous films, there are also some good bits where the filmmakers make up something of their own rather than adapting directly from the book, such as the very effective opening of the film, and a nice little dance scene between Harry and Hermione. There's a generally dark atmosphere, and a sense of unease and unfamiliarity that comes with the main characters no longer being in the familiar setting of Hogwarts, which is all to the good for this story. And just about every actor in the cast does their absolute best: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are perhaps better than they have been in any of the previous films.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 isn't the best of all the Potter films, but it has some great moments, and does its job by setting the scene for what promises to be an epic climax.

2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Very, very flawed, and yet not a total disaster, 14 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What are the problems with Transformers 2? Really, it's difficult to sum them up, because it is flawed in so many different ways. In-between the action scenes that most of us are watching the movie for, we get a lot of stuff that isn't much fun. Sometimes these scenes are dull and meaningless (at one point, the characters have a long, whispered conversation about something-or-other right when a Decepticon is approaching them, ruining the pacing of the scene). And sometimes they are just stupid: apparently Michael Bay believes that those who enjoy watching giant robots smash things up will also enjoy watching a middle-aged woman get high, or dogs humping each other, or listening to dialogue like "I am directly below the enemy scrotum." Being someone who did watch this movie in order to see giant robots smash things up, I can testify that this is not necessarily the case.

There are definitely problems with the characters: most of them aren't terrible, but there are some particular ones (the infamous Autobot twins, and Sam's new college room-mate) which are incredibly annoying and serve no useful purpose at all, and yet get more than their fair share of screen-time. And while it's nice to have some new Autobots and Decepticons, most of them get very little to do and are pretty much wasted.

I also didn't like the climactic action scene: it goes on for too long, there are times when you can't tell what's happening, and a lot of screen time that could be spent showing us Transformers is instead spent showing us exactly how the human military are contributing to the whole thing.

And yet, there are some positives about this movie. Most of the action, like the opening scene in Shanghai, and the scene where Optimus Prime takes on three Decepticons at once, is definitely worth watching. The story itself is reasonably interesting if not executed very well; and any scene featuring the Transformers rather than the human characters is good enough to hold your attention.

In this reviewer's opinion at least, Transformers 2 is not the worst movie of 2009 (it would take something really horrific to beat Bride Wars) or even the worst action movie of 2009 (it's more entertaining than Terminator Salvation) - but it certainly can't be called a good movie.

Commando (1985)
One of the best action movies ever, 8 September 2010

Commando is not a deep or thought-provoking film, and very few would call it one of the greatest movies of all time. Yet it doesn't feel right to give it anything other than a 10-star rating: it is a solid, incredibly entertaining film and I can't think of anything I would change about it.

Perhaps the secret is simplicity: John Matrix's daughter is kidnapped by some guys who want him to assassinate a president for them, but unlike in other action movies involving blackmail, he doesn't even consider doing what they want and just starts following a trail of henchmen to find where his daughter is being held. That's all there is to it. And with such a simple concept, there's not much that can go wrong with it. The whole thing is compact and consistent, with brilliantly executed fight scenes, shootouts and more all the way through. Sure, there are nonsensical things like Matrix jumping out of a plane as it takes off, or using a bulldozer to break into a shop, but somehow their silliness doesn't matter: they just add to the entertainment value.

John Matrix, as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is close to perfection as action heroes go: he's an uncompromising bad-ass with insane killing skills and too many brilliant one-liners to list here - Arnold is in his element in this film. The main villain, Bennett (Vernon Wells), is beautifully over-the-top. Some viewers might not like Matrix's sidekick, Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong), but I found her funny without being annoying, and she even gets to be surprisingly helpful.

Commando is just a pure and simple action movie, without trying to be anything else, and on that level, it delivers absolutely superbly.

Dark, fascinating and pretty much brilliant, 5 September 2010

James Cameron's first full stint as a director, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's first time in his most famous role, is still definitely a worthwhile watch, though not without its flaws. Thanks to its cinematography and particularly good soundtrack, this movie has a great atmosphere, dark and frightening and not for the faint-hearted. The action scenes are good for the 1980s at least, but some of the special effects for the Terminator look a bit dated these days: for example, in one scene, the use of an obvious animatronic head that doesn't even really look like Arnold.

While it's occasionally slow, the story is well-written and generally gripping, backed up well by the actors: Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton are excellent as the human heroes, but of course it's Arnold who steals the show as the Terminator, bringing real menace to it simply by his presence and expressions, since he doesn't have much dialogue in this film.

The Terminator is definitely a film to check out - and if you enjoy it, make sure you find time for the sequel too.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Easily the worst Terminator film, if you can even call it that, 4 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are two main problems with Terminator Salvation. First, it's boring. Aside from a Terminator-against-Terminator fight that takes place towards the end, the action is very uninspired, and little of what goes on outside the action scenes is terribly interesting. Say what you will about Terminator 3, but at least that film was reasonably entertaining.

Second, it doesn't fit in well with the Terminator franchise. It's drab and sterile compared to the other films, and though it can be argued that a post-apocalyptic film is supposed to be like that, even the brief clips of the future from the previous films had an atmosphere to them, which is lacking here. And some things don't make sense when you consider the franchise's history, either: for example, in the first film, Kyle Reese said that most records were lost in the war - so in this film, why does Skynet have a whole database of old news reports, and how does it know that Reese is John Connor's father anyway? Thus, when we hear Connor say "I'll be back" and then play 'You Could Be Mine' on the radio, it doesn't feel like a respectful homage - it just seems awkward and out of place.

As an action film, Terminator Salvation fails - and as a Terminator film, it really fails.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
As strong as adamantium? Not exactly, 18 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film sets out to explore Wolverine's mysterious past...and doesn't do a terribly good job of it. The story is nothing to get excited about: the first act (Wolverine working with Stryker, and then his time with Kayla Silverfox) has potential, but once he gets his adamantium skeleton, he does little more than meet some other mutants and have the occasional fight before the climax - this doesn't make for a substantial and revealing origin story.

There's very little depth to the film: you'd think that living for over a century and never growing older would have some impact on Wolverine and Sabretooth (whose portrayal is completely inconsistent with how he was in the first X-Men film) and the people they form relationships with, but this is never explored. Nor do we get much detail on the history between these two characters after all we see them go through in the opening credits. And the relationship between mutants and the rest of society - an integral part of the other three films - is barely covered at all here.

Aside from these issues, the dialogue is often silly ("You know what happens to men who go looking for blood? They find it.") and some aspects don't make much sense: for example, Stryker comments that Agent Zero never stood a chance against Wolverine because normal bullets won't hurt him - so why bother sending Agent Zero against him in the first place? The film also features a large number of mutant characters who didn't make it into the other films, and they're fairly interesting to see: unfortunately, we never get to see very much because there's just so many of them crammed in. Easily the most wasted character is Ryan Reynolds as Wade "Deadpool" Wilson: in his introductory scenes, he has some of the best lines in the film and looks to be a great character - then he disappears for a long time, and when he comes back, his mouth has been sewn shut. Great.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is still a fairly entertaining film with decent action scenes, but with very little depth and a great number of flaws, it's pretty much the definition of brainless entertainment.

Inception (2010)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Why can't we have more movies like this these days?, 16 July 2010

These days, it feels like the majority of movies coming out are sequels or adaptations (which aren't necessarily bad, but all too often they're just made to make money and too little effort is put into them), or otherwise just unoriginal and lazy. But Inception is different. Inception is something entirely new. And Inception is awesome.

Basically, it's about a team of people who specialise in entering people's dreams and extracting information from their minds; except now they're being called upon to place an idea in someone's mind, which is much harder...and that's all I'm going to give away if you haven't seen the movie, it's too good to spoil. Just about everything here makes for a top-notch movie-going experience. The film flows perfectly and is never boring. The story completely sucks you in: it's fascinating, intense and perfectly written and executed (no easy feat considering the nature of the story, moving from one "world" to another, which adds to the film's unique feel). When special visual effects are called for (e.g. the initial dream construction scenes, and the zero-g fight scenes), they are just breathtaking. There's no weak links in the cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard giving particularly good performances.

The closest thing to a flaw Inception has is that it is a little complicated, mainly in the first act's explanations of how the dream construction works. But when you get to the second and third acts, that doesn't really matter: you only need to know the basics to follow what's going on, and that's easy enough.

Inception is easily the best movie of 2010 so far: director Christopher Nolan has provided a great example of how movies should be made, and it would be nice if more people were to follow his example.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The dinosaurs are cool, but not much else, 12 July 2010

Land Of The Lost is the typical dumb comedy that you'd expect from any movie starring Will Ferrell. For example, there's one scene where Ferrell's character is talking about how they can disguise their scent by bathing themselves in dinosaur urine. It goes on way too long, while I'm just sitting there thinking, "I get it! He pours urine on himself! It's hilarious! Now get on with the movie already!" If that's not your kind of comedy, you're unlikely to enjoy this film.

The cinematography is good and the dinosaurs look pretty great, but that doesn't make up for the script. Will Ferrell and Anna Friel are pretty much the same as they are in everything else they've been in (as in, he's incredibly annoying, and she's lovely and charming and deserves to be in a much better movie than this); there's not much to say about Danny McBride as he doesn't get as much to do.

This is simply a brainless movie with very little effort put into it, and it's not really worth your time.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Far from being the best of 2009, regardless of what the MTV Movie Awards might say, 26 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first Twilight film, I didn't think was all that bad: in some ways, I actually liked it better than the book. The film adaptation of New Moon, on the other hand, doesn't really work, on multiple levels.

The story itself doesn't flow very well: there are some scenes and dialogue fitted in quite awkwardly, so it feels fragmented. Unlike in the first film, there are occasions where the music really doesn't click with the scene (e.g. when the werewolves are chasing Victoria). And the special effects used with the werewolves are pretty poor compared to other films these days.

The characters are a mixed bag: for example, the werewolf pack are a breath of fresh air compared to the Cullens – they're more proactive and fun, and are pretty enthusiastic about their special powers. On the other end of the scale, while Bella Swan wasn't exactly an all-time-great heroine in the first film, here she's barely tolerable. She becomes ridiculously depressed after Edward leaves her (to the point of screaming in her sleep as though she's being tortured), her interactions with Jacob are unstable to the point that you feel she's leading him on, and when Alice Cullen reappears on the scene, Bella's desperation that she not immediately leave again seems pathetic and needy.

Aside from the werewolves, Bella's school friends, and the always brilliant Michael Sheen as the leader of the Volturi, the acting in this film is bland, bland, bland. Robert Pattinson barely seems to be trying anymore as Edward: he fails to convey much emotion in any of his scenes. Kristen Stewart is just as dull and flat as she was last time. And while Taylor Lautner has some good moments as Jacob, he's not terribly impressive either.

All in all, New Moon is a generally bland film, and unless you're a real fan of the books, I wouldn't recommend it.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Below-par summer action flick, 27 May 2010

Having never played the game, I went into Prince Of Persia to view it not as a video game adaptation, but as a simply entertaining action-adventure movie. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as much fun as I expected from a movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

The script is silly at times, the dialogue is often unrealistic, the pacing is occasionally a bit too rushed; perhaps worst of all, none of the characters are terribly interesting, with the exception of Alfred Molina's comic relief Sheik. The action scenes are quite fun, with an appropriately video-gamish feel to them, but even they suffer from too-fast editing that makes it difficult to keep up.

Prince Of Persia isn't a terrible film, it certainly has its moments, but there's just too many flaws to really recommend it.

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