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The Island (2005)
A very poorly executed idea with problems throughout the movie, and a very poor DVD offering
5 February 2006
The Island, supplied by LOVEFiLM DVD Rental, was nominated on The Movie Blog Readers Awards 2005 in the category of Worst Execution of the Best Plot, and for good reason too. The film may sound like a superb concept, but the realisation is pitifully poor and this DVD does nothing to help it along, neither do the ample talents of Ewan McGregor or Scarlett Johansson.

Movie: The film starts of really strongly, and promises much from its well crafted plot. The style is slightly removed from Michael Bay's typical blockbuster as we are treated to slower progression of characters and the questioning of McGregor as Lincoln Six-Echo against his reality.

Then, typically, things turn into a big Bay action fest with formulaic plot changes that you can see a mile off. Let me say that I have nothing against those movies because I actually really like The Rock and Armageddon, they're great fun. Yet when you have such a great futuristic plot filled with excellent possibilities, turning it into standard action fare seems quite a sad and easy path to take.

You see half way through the movie it turns into set pieces which are badly thought through and harshly edited. For instance, take the highway scene where Echo pushes train wheels off the back of a flatbed truck. Those would be train wheels for the magnetic trains that run without wheels that we saw a few times at the beginning of the movie or the fast car used in a high speed chase later in the movie is racing along one second and then the immediate scene after which is tracking the car shows the door wide open, raised in the air, as these doors do. What just happened there? Then there's the jet bike sequence, and we seen these bikes for well on half their screen time before you can actually see that there's a second person on the bike, mounted at the rear.

Typically the close cropped camera work, far too fast cuts, and harsh editing make these action sequences difficult to follow. Sure it's not as bad as some of the Bourne sequences, but this is tough to follow in places.

There's similar issues all the way through that make you think there have either been some serious continuity errors, someone hasn't been thinking of the universe in which the movie is set and checking all the story changes, there's been some harsh editing, or indeed all of the above.

There are some saving graces though, and I'm not talking McGregor's American accent, although the moment when he confronts his real self and he has a Scottish accent which he mimics is very amusing. No, Johannson fares very well here, as does Djimon Hounsou, let's just say they do the best with what they have. I mean how can you deal with lines such as "I like it with your tongue" in the middle of a romantic kissing scene? I get that they haven't kissed before, but it sounds corny as hell and comic.

Picture: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: The picture was sharp, although the colours were slightly drained and the contrast harsh throughout.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1: A good audio track, some great LFE during the action sequences, but a DTS on such an action film could have been better, that and some subtlety!

Extras: TV Making of Featurette, DVD-ROM Extras: I actually just thought that there was a single featurette on here which was extremely poor, so after a quick look I sent it back. However I'm now led to believe that there is a full audio commentary from Michael Bay hidden away on the PC DVD-Rom section.

Well I never saw it and it's not because I didn't try. I put the DVD into my PC and it attempted a straight install of its own player. Since I already have my own free player I cancelled it and attempted to access anything new on the disc - nothing was visible. Nowhere did I see the mention of the audio commentary now being enabled, perhaps I missed it, but if you're going to offer it only on the PC side don't force an install of your own software and make the features plainly visible.

Overall: A very poor movie with a botched up DVD offering. Hidden audio commentary, forcing install of it's own DVD software, is just not on. Poorly put together and a not very enjoyable movie at all.
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Sky Blue (2003)
Visually and audibly stunning, but thin on characterisation and carrying a few childish traits
4 February 2006
Movie: The story is strong and filled with interesting characters, yet despite the breadth and depth of the story the characters are kept light and you don't really feel as though you do anything more than scratch the surface of them, which is a real shame as they they seem as though they could be given so much more life and reality with some more backstory.

There were a couple of moments that didn't do the film much justice, one was that some of the character voices had the usual anime style of being just a tad over acted, and the others, which are all too typical in anime and manga, cute animals and unusually annoying children. It feels as if the film is pulling between two genres when these sort of styles are brought in. On one hand they are trying to create an adult themed cartoon, and on the other you have voices and characters straight out of Pokemon.

This bothers me, because if they had managed to focus on a pure adult animation then this movie would have increased in estimation, but although these failings are not bad enough to really harm the film they do affect it. Still, with all this there's something that just takes your mind away from it all the time, the visuals, they are stunning.

The backgrounds to just about all of the scenes look fantastic, and some of the sequences were stunningly created and looking really beautiful to the eye. Careful consideration has been taken about where to place the viewer, and how to recreate the actual movement of a camera through the scenes. Nowhere is this more apparent than the opening scenes with the bike racing through the outside world, it's a wonderful piece of animation.

Picture: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic: Very sharp and clear picture, the colours tended to be duller due to the nature of the story, but when colours arrived they were strong. During the fog scene there was very little evidence of the grading effect you see in lower quality encoded DVDs and digital signals, it was very smooth and you had to really look to see this effect. Overall an excellent picture reproduction.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS: The DTS audio was utterly brilliant being delicate, crisp and clear. During any action sequences the audio was loud and bold and very spacious, travelling around the speakers with the action. The full effects of DTS were used with audio coming from all around you, which was helped by the thoughtful positioning of the camera in regards the action and therefore where the sound and movement would be coming from. There was a good use of silence too which heightened the actual sound effects when they arrived. The soundtrack was wonderfully chosen and matched the movie superbly, with the final scenes elevated by the chosen operatic piece which was quite stirring.

Extras: None.

Overall: Although there are a few more annoying aspects of anime creeping in here with some not so strong voice acting and childish animation, overall the movie is good. What really makes it is the fabulous animation combined with the excellently visualised camera movement. It truly is a feast for the eyes, and when the DTS audio is layered above it you're sucked into the world so easily. Yet for all those good points the story is left quite light and brushed over, especially with the lead characters who are hinted at being deeper than they really are. There was so much to explore here and yet it's been ignored. Definitely worth a viewing if you are a fan of such movies, otherwise you might find this visual feast a tad less satisfying.
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Munich (2005)
Harrowing and brutal with superb performances and amazing realism, it's a harsh but excellent movie.
1 February 2006
Controversy around Munich has been apparent from its announcement, and the unusual move by Spielberg to not talk about it or pamper to the Press has raised expectation and the very controversy he has sought to avoid. Then we began to hear that some critics didn't like it, and that the movie was biased towards or against one viewpoint. As usual I approached this movie with an open mind, and my Scottish viewpoint.

The first thing to say is that this movie firmly belongs on the Schindler's List side of Spielbergs work and nowhere near the E.T. side. I'm sure you have guessed by now that it is a serious political drama, but by this I mean it is hard, harrowing and at times quite a brutal movie. The journey will bring you downwards, not upwards to a nice fluffy conclusion, and not even leave you with much hope. Its showing in the clear light of day how messed up, manipulative, blinded and cold human beings can be. Be warned, it's a tough movie and not an easy afternoon viewing.

One of the amazing things that Spielberg manages to attain in many of his movies is the level of authenticity. Nowhere is this more apparent in this movie with the style of filming, costume and the writing. Blending real footage with reconstructions which look as genuine as actual news footage, keeping costumes as in the period but without resorting to 70's cheese, using actual camera equipment and styles that represent those used at the time, all combine to give a harsh but very real look and feel to the movie.

That is one of the big positives of the film. It's extremely realistic and with that comes the tough and often brutal representations of events from history and the book the movie is based on. Nothing is sugar coated here for Hollywood audiences, and no better places is this shown than with the scenes of murder. From explosions to shootings, they are all portrayed openly and as they would be in real life. Fraught with tension, understated, and meeting death face on. If you are looking for an easy ride in this film, or some shock entertainment, then you are sorely mistaken.

I felt that this was quite surprising for Spielberg, even though he has tackled tough subjects in the past, this seems to push the representation of the darker side of reality even more. At times viewing the movie becomes almost uncomfortable to watch, but you're drawn to it like watching a reality show, or news footage.

Despite the subject matter there are still a few moments of traditional Spielberg creeping in. There's nothing that harms the movie, but they do illicit a groan and hurt the odd scene for me. One such moment is the where the Isreali and Palestinian argue over a radio station, and what brings them together is the compromise over American music.

This probably meant nothing when filming it, and the track was chosen because it was universally know and recognisable, and I really do hate looking for connections in other peoples work when there need not be. Yet it does certainly feel as if there is something being made of this moment, but it's twee and seemingly contrived. Thankfully, there are few moments like this, and you are returned to reality with a bang.

I have to say that I feel no bias in this film at all. Spielberg shows that all sides have their level of bloody mindedness and futility from Isreali to Palestinian, even the CIA and the KGB are shown as lost in their own types of hatred, self deception and self fulfilling agendas.

The acting is of the highest quality from all of the leads. Bana redeems his pitiful Hulk performance, and Craig shows us what a fine actor he is although definitely not a master of accents - this performance bodes well for Bond. Hinds provides another excellent performance which at times is quite chilling.

All these actors give top notch performances being strong, striking and intense. Craig, to some degree, but mainly Bana give the most emotionally charged and altogether confused performances which seem very human and with identifiable pain. Bana's slow change during the latter stages of the movie is particularly worth mentioning.

Hinds though, shouldn't be crowded out by these other actors. He brings perhaps the most grounded and real performance, and the moment of recognition of this actor when he first appeared on screen was a joy. I've seen him before and was struck by his performance, and this hits home again in Munich. His connection with Avner seems heartfelt, and his through the movie I was captivated by his character.

The movie does a great job of highlighting the futility of the ongoing and escalating acts of revenge, and how these slowly eat away at those involved, destroying who they once were. I say that thinking of all sides involved through the movie and not looking to either Isreali or Palestinian alone.

My understanding of the final events of the actual hostage taking in Munich does lay some blame on the handling of the attack on the terrorists. Yet there is no hint of this anywhere, and if I were to point any finger at this movie suggesting it was showing something or some group in an improper or inaccurate light it would be that very operation. It does not appear in the movie and indeed it portrays them as innocent victims.

However, this would have surely detracted from the belief of blame in the movie, and after all as Spielberg says, this is not a documentary it's a movie based on real events.

As I've said, this movie is tough, harsh and very realistic, resulting in a sometimes brutal portrayal of events. It's not easy watching by any means, but it is a very excellent and moving film.
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Walk the Line (2005)
Wonderful performances, writing and stylish filming make an excellent movie.
31 January 2006
Going into Walk the Line it's fair to say I knew nothing about Johnny Cash other than the Ring of Fire song and one of my more eccentric school friends who was into his music while most other kids were reading Smash Hits and watching Top of the Pops! So I wasn't sure what to expect and how the movie would affect me, and like most of the prospective audience I was attracted by awards hype, reviews and the always strong Joaquin Phoenix.

I was also lucky enough to see the screening in the Gold Class of the cinema when no other Press has turned up until fifteen minutes into the movie. So the extended introduction of Walk the Line reverberating through the underseat base and the wonderfully filmed opening sequence projected onto the huge screen really hit me with force. The opening is both visually and audibly superb. Building tension, setting the tone perfectly for the movie, and defining the circular nature of the storyline.

That's one of the excellent things about this movie, the story. It's superbly written and brought to the screen. A cliffhanging moment of tension created from the outset using visuals of Fulsom Prison, the Walk the Line introduction and no real words. I have to say this is one of the best movie opening sequences I've seen in a long time. Powerful and attention grabbing from the first second.

The entire movie is beautifully filmed and visualised, recreating the era with ease and taking you to those moments even if you haven't lived through them or were even born. It's full of well framed shots often with a slow moving tracking move, giving it a very natural and authentic feel. None of the filming or set-ups are anything more than is required and never pulls you out of the movie.

Then there's the music, music I was just not aware of, which makes its affect on me even more astounding. I'm now singing Cash songs in my head, the day after the movie and I'm awaiting arrival of some of his records. I now may well be a Cash fan, and that's through both the music of Cash and the performance and singing of Pheonix.

It's something that should never be a great consideration for acting talent though. If he or Reese Witherspoon had mimed their way through this movie would their acting performances be any less? I doubt so. However they do sing all the songs and authentic or not they are excellent and convincing performances. Hence the soundtrack release with their own recordings.

Singing aside their performances as actors are amazing and the chemistry between them is as real as anything I've seen or experienced.

Pheonix gives a stunning performance of intensity and burning passion. He's a totally tormented character and to be quite frank, thoroughly unlikable in the movie, yet you are drawn to his performance and find a connection through his suffering, redemption and through the relationship with June Carter played by Witherspoon.

She also gives an emotionally charged performance, one which is worthy of her accolades and awards. Yet I can't understand why Pheonix has not been as recognised. In my eyes his performance is the winner in this film, but she successfully casts off any of her previous light roles and proves she is a real actress of weight and stature.

Robert Patrick is also well cast and gives a powerful performance as the father of Cash. He starts as a drunk but then gives through to a hard and unyielding man. It's a similar performance to his Terminator role, although much more human! Seriously though, he does pull off the role well and set against Pheonix you feel the tension hurtling off screen.

There are some very notable scenes between the three of them. When Pheonix as Cash discusses his dead brother with Carter it's a strong and emotionally poignant moment. A scene in direct contrast to this is the Thanksgiving stand off against his Father which explains so much about the character of Cash and indeed of his abuse of himself. In fact this movie does help to show you how someone can come to abuse themselves through such things as drugs and alcohol. His journey through this common and often misunderstood path is clearly shown and explained through clever and intelligent writing, direction and performances.

Overall it's a strong and emotional movie filled with excellent characterisations and performances. The story is very well written and transferred of screen. However it's not entirely without issue.

The sequences of touring felt slightly longer than necessary and although the on stage performances were great with some excellent songs, I did feel that similar ground was being covered in the later stages.

Still, through these scenes the relationship between him, his family, wife and Witherspoon continue to be built upon and it does leave with a good understanding of them all.

The ending does seem to fill you with some level of twee-ness but there is absolutely no arguing with it - it's factually based and I've heard that this couples love for each other was that strong a bond.

Without a doubt I'd recommend this movie even if you aren't a Cash fan or have no idea what his music is like. For the first time in a long time I actually want to go and see a movie a second time. Well worth watching.
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A strong revisitation of the classic, although quirkier and slightly updated.
29 January 2006
The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder in the lead is somewhat of a classic for many people, and much like with The Planet of the Apes, I just didn't think it should be remade, or indeed could be.

Yet in this version the story is very close to the original and only deviates in some places.There's the same degree of oddness as well as good fun but also there's an added adult level to play to which is rather quite effective.

The whole movie proves to be very close to the original except for the ending which takes the story in a new and altogether well fitting direction.

Johnny Depp is surprisingly good as Wonka. I have to say that when I first saw and heard him in character I made a mental comparison to Wilder and rejected him immediately. Yet during the film he managed to pull the character off really well portraying stupidity alongside a calculating, almost malevolent quality. He certainly has captured a completely quirky and non-grown up persona.

Freddie Highmore is also very good, not being too sickly sweet but capturing that childhood innocence very well. The other children stand strong alongside him, but none truly shine.

One of the notable things about the movie is the addition of a new family and Golden Ticket winner, the TV family. To modernise the movie the child is a mind of information and has assembled it all through watching TV and also playing videogames. It's slightly twee in the concept, but it works well.

Although there are these tweaks and updates to the story, it's not harmed the movie any and still retains a lot of the feel of the original. You feel the emotion when Charlie shares his Birthday chocolate bar with his family or when he finally finds the Golden Ticket, or even when Wonka meets his Father against and we understand some of his quirks.

Tim Burton has done a good job and given us a very entertaining family film and pulled another excellent performance from Depp. A very good revisitation of the story, surely set to be the replacement on the Christmas TV list.
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Walking Tall (2004)
Surprisingly good movie with a strong performance from the Rock, the new action hero and actor.
29 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I'm a huge Arnie fan. I love the action flick and my hero of action is Arnie with Willis coming a close second. So when I heard that Welcome to the Jungle represented Arnie handing the mantle to some WWF wrestler I was extremely disappointed, how could anyone entertain me as Arnie had?

Well I never did see Jungle, but I have just watched Walking Tall and met this Rock fella, and you know what? I'm impressed. If this is the guy to carry on what Arnie did, I'm with him all the way.

Movie: In this movie Rock can act, and act well. He's big and really grabs a hold of the action hero role, but on top of that he's personable, engaging and very believable. He has a great screen presence, his lines aren't delivered flat, there's not any overacting and he's very real in the role.

What's more surprising is that Johnny Knocksville isn't that bad either. I've heard many negative things about this guys acting, but in this movie he doesn't do too badly. Sure, he does look a little awkward in some scenes but overall he's very competent.

Neal McDonough who I last saw in the TV show called Boomtown is, if it wasn't for Rocks surprising performance, the star of the film. Essentially playing his character from Boomtown but without any of the good characters aspects, he's mean and ruthless here, a part he plays superbly well.

The story does have an older more western or fifties feel to it, and this stands it in good stead making it feel less like a modern action movie and more of a character based story. Something it carries off really well and helped by the large performances of the actors involved. It also does a good job of building tension and developing the story at a good pace.

There's a good filming style in the movie, simple and realistic, helping the feel of the movie along leaps and bounds. That seems to come through on everything from the camera work to the dialogue and from the fight scenes to the sometimes excellent editing - most memorable as the Rock drives through town after his second Casino visit. The fight scenes benefit most from this style, giving a wide view of very realistic hand to hand fighting which often turns out to be quite brutal. The characters pick up anything to fight with and there's no stylish moves here. They are tough, vicious and the characters get seriously hurt.

Picture: Widescreen 2.35:1 - Anamorphic In keeping with the realistic tone of the film the picture is filled with natural colours and lighting, nothing is over saturated and it's clear and sharp throughout.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 - The audio is good and particularly strong during some of the fight sequences. It also features a soundtrack which matches the setting and tone of the film well.

Extras: Audio commentary from director Kevin Bray, director of photography Glen MacPherson and editor Robert Ivision, Audio commentary with star Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Alternative ending, Outtakes, 'Stunts' featurette introduced by The Rock, Photo gallery, Theatrical trailer

The deleted scenes and outtakes are interesting but not that entertaining or overly informative, apart from the Rock's accidental breast grab. The same applies to the alternative ending which is a little bit funny, but nothing revealing about the editing decisions.

The audio commentaries are the strong part of this DVD offering, with one from the Director, Director of Photography and Editor, and the other from the man himself, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Although the filmmakers commentary is informative, the commentary from the Rock is as much of a surprise as the movie itself. It's both amusing and insightful for the movie making process as well as the person himself. Surprisingly humble, self depreciating and open, the commentary lets you get to know the Rock as well as a ton of facts about the movie and the actors. This guy can talk!

Overall: I saw the first comment about this movie on IMDb and it slates it, calling it a mindless action movie. Quite frankly that's rubbish. This movie has a lot more to it that most action flicks and has a fair chunk of characterisation over them too. It's quite a morale tale, as well as one based on a true life story, and apparently it's quite true to the real story. However it does have its fair share of action, but something that stands out for the movie is the realism in which it is portrayed and shot. There are still some traditional action scenes, but for the most part it keeps it grounded and tells a good tale that does give you a warm feeling. Entertainment with a good message, I like it.

Also, for your consideration, is the performance of the Rock. Not only does he prove himself to be a great action hero, but he also surprises you in his acting ability. I was wholly taken in by him and really latched onto his performance. Don't forget we also have the delights of McDonough as his adversary.

It's well shot, well acted, and a good entertaining story with more meat than you would expect. Don't write this off as a simple action movie, look deeper, give it a chance, and check out the audio commentary by the Rock.
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An excellent adaptation with superb effects. Very entertaining.
29 January 2006
When going to see this movie there were two things that were with me as baggage walking through that darkened doorway, thankfully I managed to leave both right there allowing me to enjoy the movie. One was the animated film I saw when I was a child, and the other was the hype and associated comparisons to Lord of the Rings both by Author association and Hollywoods new found love of the trilogy.

Neither affected the viewing of the movie and I was drawn into the film from the opening scenes. I can quite honestly say that even if I had been affected by those pieces of baggage, or indeed carried some of the religious argument into the cinema, I would still have been pulled into the movie just the same.

The story grabs you from the opening scenes of the Blitz and the performances of the children pull you right in. Immediately you understand the group dynamics and personalities of the children. That's one of the amazing strengths of this movie that carries from beginning to end, the storytelling.

Despite the huge effects and locations the real power is the story itself, pulling the classic book down into a manageable movie and yet keeping the moralistic tale filled with believable and identifiable characters. The movie does this amazingly well.

The acting is superb too, which helps the audience succumb to the tale. In particular the children are the shining stars of the film, with Georgie Henley as Lucy shining the brightest. There's a fine line between a young child star overacting and pulling off a strong performance of a childs' naivety, and she walks that fine line perfectly.

Skandar Keynes as Edmund is another character who is very ably acted, he portrays the petulant child well. Through this performance you can actually understand how he comes to his betrayal and you empathise with the range of emotions as he realises what he has done and how his young family have been affected.

Liam Neeson as Aslan was an interesting choice. Originally I had heard that this was to be voiced by Brian Blessed and that due to, allegedly, changes in his voice from dieting he was swapped for Neesom. Now this choice seemed poor for me, the voice of Blessed is strong and commanding and I didn't feel that Neesom carried the gravitas that could carry the role. How wrong I was. Neesoms voice was perfect for the part of Aslan, projecting warmth and strength wonderfully well.

The acting across the board is really good with Tilda Swinton proving to be a very strong and foreboding White Witch. Other roles, such as James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus and voices like that of Ray Winstone as Mr Beaver, are very well acted and totally immersive.

The effects are stunning in this movie, although there are a few moments where the green screen effect is apparent. What makes the larger creature effects so good is that they are combining CGI with costume and make up, combining reality with make believe. The only slight stumbling block of these effects is during the full scale battle scenes when CGI takes over totally and some of the more natural textures and movements are lost. However its not a huge setback and your eye is only distracted by it if you are watching very carefully, while you're absorbed by the movie you're likely not to notice.

The battle scenes are choreographed very well be they live action or CGI. Flowing and fantastically detailed, the larger battle scenes do not end up as a mess of creatures and body parts. I was reminded of the battle scenes from The Last Samurai which were almost graceful in the way they played out.

There are obvious comparisons with Lord of the Rings during the battle scenes, the sheer scale and epic feel of them as well as the multitude of mythical creatures, but that's where it ends. Sure there are many connections and similarities, but these are two altogether different tales and hugely different movies.

Something else I noticed on this movie - and usually when this aspect of a film is so noticeable it's a bad thing - was the music. Music should compliment the story, said the composer of The Crimson Rivers soundtrack, it should not try to overtake and retell the story. Likewise it should not disappear into the audio track and not have some form of impact.

The music for this movie hits these statements firmly on the head. It matches the movie perfectly and every scene it touches, it helps to build emotions and heighten tension, and bring the audience back down when the pace slows.

I have to say I was surprised at the ending. The temptation to create it in an overly romanticised manner or dwell upon the successions to the throne is avoided and instead we are treated as adults and the conclusion moves on more to setup the second movie. Oh, and a spot of advice, stay to watch the credits.

This movie belongs alongside The Lord of the Rings and holds great hope for the remainder of the trilogy.
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Bus 174 (2002)
Dramatic, insightful and excellently crafted. One of the best documentaries I've seen.
27 January 2006
When I rented this movie I had no real idea what to expect. I had no prior knowledge of the event or of the documentary itself, and all that I was going on was another viewers review on my DVD rental queue, the rating itself, and the tagline - that the bus was hijacked and broadcast live on television.

It's also hard hitting. The team behind this documentary have done an amazing job to bring the story and the messages to the front of the film, and it's amazing just how well they do it.

Movie: The documentary hit me probably harder than any other documentary has in my life. One of the most interesting and compelling things about this is the way its structured as a movie. It builds tension and sets clear sides of good and bad guys. Then it begins to look at the characters involved and as the events occur in the actual footage they trigger investigations into characters and their past.

It's here where the film is most effective, using the real life footage from the News Stations to underpin the story, holding it together from opening to closing shot. The footage is also used as an indicator of when to jump to outside footage, be that from interviews of those involved from experts, friends and family. It's superbly pulled together.

This movie is charged with more emotion and suspense than many thrillers, and that can count against it too. You have to keep remembering that this is reality, not a movie, because it is so well delivered and paced that it can begin to feel as such.

To begin with your sympathies lie wholly with the hostages as the whole situation appears to be like any other hijack, but this alliance soon changes as the filmmakers begin to reveal the truth behind the hijacker and the situation.

Slowly, as you learn more about the hijacker you are also shown more about the Police, Street Kids, Prisons, and the mess the Country has found itself in. It's not only eye opening, it's emotionally strong and provides for a none too easy journey. A journey that should be taken and known.

It is perhaps the ending which is the most harrowing and shocking, although attention needs to be firmly kept on the equally shocking moments that brought us there. The slaughter of the Street Children by the Police, the overcrowded jails which make Guantanamo seem like a holiday camp, the Police corruption and finally the poor and destroyed life of Sandro do Nascimento, the Street Kid and hijacker.

The filmmakers have done an excellent job both in the editing and the initial structuring of the documentary. They've expertly pulled the audience to the drama of the situation and used that to highlight the real issues of their country in one of the most effective, thought provoking and intelligent documentaries I have ever seen.

Picture: Widescreen 16:9 The picture range sin quality as you would expect with the varying news sources used for footage. The quality ranges from traffic cameras to hand-held digital used in the exploration of Nascimento's past, of the Street Children and the interviews with those involved. So although the quality can be poor at times, it all adds to the realism and the actual footage feel of the film.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 As with the picture the audio varies in quality, but when it comes to the interviews it is clear, nothing more is needed here than the offered digital stereo.

Extras: The Making Of Bus 174 (30 minutes), Additional interviews (40 minutes), Assistant director Alexandre Lima's Social Frontiers photography exhibition, Interview with director Jose Padilha, Trailers

The Director gives a very insightful discussion on the movie, the process of making it, and ultimately life in Brazil for the less fortunate - the Street Kids who are so neglected and abused by society. You really do get a sense of pride in his Country and at the same time a sense of shame at what it is becoming. The discussion and insight into the movie and the process behind finding out about Nascimento and the Street Kids is quite in-depth, giving a good understanding of what is involved in making such a strong and unbiased documentary.

The additional interviews are even more eye opening and informative, not to say emotional. It's surprising just how informative they are and even without editing them down to the normal bite-sized interview snippets. Everything you'd want to know about the subjects in the movie are covered in these four interviews and from differing viewpoints, with Politics, Brazilian life and living on the streets at the forefront.

Overall This documentary ranks high in the top five I have seen to date. It's informative and insightful, providing the World with a view of Brazilian life we've never seen before and never been given the chance to understand.

It's a hard hitting and emotional film which presents to us the common and media portrayed view of what Nascimento is, slowly and carefully revealing his past to show the pain, hardship and mistreatment he and other Street Kids have received.

Dramatic and insightful, this film is one that should not be missed. It doesn't just show us about the Brazilian Street Kids either, it tells us more about the oppressed people of the World and how they can come to turn against the forces that created them. We need to understand them and to help them before they become like Nascimento.
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Hulk (2003)
Very poor film. Badly written, badly acted, underused and out of place actors, and some crazy scenes.
4 January 2006
I'd heard bad things about this movie, but still I wanted to see it. I thought so highly of Jennifer Connelly in The House of Sand and Fog and was interested to see how she fared alongside a much talked about Eric Bana whom I'd seen in Chopper before. Plus it's Hulk by Ang Lee, that was enough to grab my interest.

What a mistake. It's a bad, bad movie. Poor Connelly merely walks around looking bemused and misused with a terribly flat, two dimensional performance while Bana is dull, fixed and very out of place, it was as though he didn't even try acting. Well done to Sam Elliott and Josh Lucas for giving it a good go, but they just can't pull away from the very poor performances of the others. Even Nick Nolte is way over the top here, and it's a comic movie, that's saying something! Performances aside, which really constitutes most of the mess, we have some ridiculous scenes for the Hulk itself. Attacked by a giant killer poodle, leaping miles in a single bound, and managing to reenter Earth's atmosphere and crash into the water without much more than a splash and a shake of the head? Okay it's Hulk and it's comic, but come on now, this is a farce.

Most of the scenes with the Hulk himself are dark, and the killer for most of the fight scenes is that it's too dark and you can't see what's going on. This is really evident when we see him fighting the killer dogs, then again with the final fight against the main creature of the movie.

The whole contrived storyline with this creature is bizarre, the fact that it takes on the shapes of things it touches and absorbs but yet only when it suits the story. When it starts changing into rocks and water showing it can't seemingly control itself is bizarre when not two minutes ago it was wearing clothes, walking around and sitting on a seat without ill affect. The whole idea of it turning into water is daft anyway, surely the Hulk would just stand there and just get wet? Again, not that you can see what's going on during these scenes.

It deserves a mark for two reasons though. One is the editing and post production work that makes a lot of the scene transitions and framing feel like a comic book, I actually quite liked that as it wasn't totally hiding from the source genre, it was embracing it and making it part of its own. The second is the work earlier on in the movie to build characters and try and focus on the inner angst of Banner, this was a good way to go but unfortunately the writing and the acting is just so two dimensional and weak that it just seems to be wasting yours and the movies time.
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Toy Story 2 (1999)
Good fun, characters return with an interesting twist, perhaps even better than the original.
4 January 2006
I couldn't actually believe that I hadn't seen Toy Story 2 when it popped up on Television at Xmas, it seemed so long ago and since I enjoyed Toy Story so much there was no reason not to have seen the follow up. Yet I hadn't, for some strange reason it had dropped off my list of what to watch, so I sat down with a glass of something nice and red and returned to the world of toys.

There's nothing too different about this movie from the first apart from the storyline itself, the characters and their voices are all the same, and they've recaptured them perfectly for this movie. Probably the only negative point of the similarity is the animation, CGI has moved on since Toy Story and it shows a little here, however what is good is that the animation of Toy Story has a unique quality to it and even if you were to see a few seconds without any recognisable characters you would know it was a Toy Story movie. So although the animation appears slightly dated (especially seeing it years after release) it does help to pull you into that world again.

Cleverly though the writers have looked at the world of toys and looked for other challenges that they would face if they really were alive, and they've come up with some superb ideas. They've created situations and scenes that are extremely imaginative and yet so obvious (if you were a toy), and what they've pulled out of these are some great performances for the characters and actors, and some genuinely funny moments. Often with a sequel you are treated to an inferior story and less laughs (with a comedy anyway, with other genres you often get more laughs!) but what they've done here is to raise the bar over the original Toy Story, and frankly it was something I just couldn't believe they could do.

The characters are genuinely lovable and understandable, it's all too easy to get attached to them and be pulled into their world. Before long you find yourself caring for them and you'll be feeling their highs and lows, and even a small lump in the throat at times.

There were a few nods to other movies in here, again I won't spoil it by listing them, but they added to the adult factor of the film, something which Pixar has really managed to comprehend. They manage time and time again to make a movie which appeals to both children and adults together without any clash of the two. It will certainly be interesting to see where the Disney only sequel will go.

Overall it's a very satisfying movie giving you everything you want from a good family movie, whether you be a kid or an adult, or even somewhere in between, it's a great fun movie with some good laughs, and definitely on a par if not better than the original.
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Match Point (2005)
Almost all great natural performances, wonderfully written and unnoticeably directed.
4 January 2006
I liked it from the opening moment, I really liked the titles before the movie, it was sort of a sign that this is different from the other movies you're watching, this harks back. The short introduction after this starts off the film nicely, and ties in much later on. It gives a little overview of what the film is about and how luck plays through our lives more than anything. Simply filmed and simply written, and yet it has a great impact both then, and retrospectively.

That was it, I started to like the movie already, and then Rhys-Meyers (Wilton) began talking and I felt my face screw up involuntarily. His acting voice was stilted and seemed very nervous, it just didn't sit right at all and gave quite an unnatural performance through the first half of the movie where emotions are checked and played low. It had more effect than just an annoyance though and for much of that first half I was continually pulled out of the movie because of the performance, yet there were performances that grabbed me by the throat and pulled me right in.

Johansson (Rice) doesn't start off that strong, she gives a plain but good performance, it's really in the latter half of the film that her character turns around and becomes impassioned, giving some depth to her performance. She is undoubtedly a great actress.

Mortimer, Goode, Cox and Wilton provide the entire Hewett family which Wilton slowly becomes a part of, and they all provide such real and utterly believable performances.

Something I noticed about the entire cast, apart from Rhys-Meyers, is their natural performance and well delivered lines. For these performances just seemed so realistic that you are drawn into them and into the heart of this family without any difficulty. It's even in subtle lines and gestures made throughout the movie as the family members and friends interact with each other, the dialogue is natural and flowing with characters often talking over each other as in real life. Throughout the movie there's perhaps only one line and one scene where the feeling was dropped for me, other than Rhys-Meyers first half performance of course.

Yet when the movie progresses and the mood changes, Rhys-Meyers starts to come to life and the stilted and awkward delivery fades in favour of a confused, bored and childish man. A man filled with more emotion and passion than previously seen, and it's here where we really begin to see the driving force of the movie and where I felt myself becoming more and more impatient and anxious as to how events would turn. In fact I wouldn't be stretching to say that I felt a growing dread, particularly when the family were together.

Wilton happens into the Hewett family and becomes a part of it, entering into a rich life in all aspects of the word. He is very privileged and becomes very accustomed to it. However something is either missing from his relationship with his wife, or he's merely wanting what he doesn't have, whichever is the real reason he becomes a passionate affair which spirals out of control.

It's during this affair where I felt the writing, direction and the performances pull together superbly and gave me these particular feelings. If I was to be in an affair I can imagine that it would be exactly like this (to a point in the story obviously) and you can imagine the conversations, phonecalls, confrontations, lies and hard choices being almost exactly as they are on screen. I totally believed in what I was watching at this point. When the family met together with Winton carrying on the deceit, often swapping the role of husband with lover and moving directly to a scene of a clandestine meeting, those feelings of impatience, anxiousness and dread built within me.

Somehow I engaged with his character, despite the earlier negative feelings to the performance, and felt as trapped and panicked as he did. Then when the family were together I realised I had fallen into the bond of the family, and with the fantastic performance of Mortimer as his wife, making me feel nervous and concerned about what would happen to them and how they could be hurt if the affair was made public.

There are some other very good smaller roles here from British actors that you wouldn't have expected either. Some of these were surprising to see, and all gave very good performances, albeit briefly.

The ending is very interesting, and takes a very strange turn. Luckily there's not much notice of this and gives you a nice surprise, at which point the movie does take a different turn. It's through this ending that the opening introduction returns bringing back the notion of luck and how it might, or might not, turn against you.

A couple of scenes here nudged my belief in the character of Wilton slightly through Rhys-Meyers performance and lines, however it wasn't enough to damage the end of the movie which is decidedly different and quite bold in it's final moments.

Throughout the movie, at key points, Allen utilises arias as score and also scene transitions, and in the second half these moments really come into their own when you do start to feel you are watching an operatic tragedy. It's here where I do feel that this style came through more as a storytelling device than a background score.

Overall I would recommend this movie, despite a feeling of the first half being too long and of the negative aspects Rhys-Meyers performance, it's an engrossing and interesting movie, one which does manage to engage and affect you right till the closing scene. Performances in the film are very strong, and had me dragged right into the movie into the minds of the characters, all except Rhys-Meyers who I found struggled with his performance.
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The Jacket (2005)
A half hearted effort on a truly inspiring plot, combined with some lacklustre performances.
29 December 2005
The Jacket sparked some interest for me when it came out because of the unusual plot and the knowledge that it had filmed in Bangour Village Hospital in Scotland. IMDb describes the plot as A military veteran goes on a journey into the future, where he can foresee his death and is left with questions that could save his life and those he loves.

Sounds really interesting doesn't it? It certainly did to me, and it suggested that the plot could be complex, involved and very consuming...yet it kind of failed to deliver for me.

Adrien Brody was quite good in the film, and his performance was at times very strong emotionally. Some of those scenes where he was about to be locked in the morgue drawer were quite intense, but then during other scenes he just seemed to be there and working through his lines. Now that could have been because he was supposed to be withdrawn, but that's not how it came across at all.

Keira Knightley did a similar job, she was good and not as emotionally charged as Brody, but there didn't seem to be anything for her to really get into. Jennifer Jason Leigh seemed awkward and out of place, a very stilted performance from her.

Someone who did stand out, and give me a big surprise at the same time, was Daniel Craig, the new Bond. He really did seem out of it and quite on the edge, he showed off some of his acting which I hope to see in the new Bond movie.

Now, to the story. It had a lot of potential and built itself up well, knowing that the character was going to die on a certain date and that he was racing against time to discover what was going to happen and how to prevent it, yet that journey became quite drawn out, sidetracked and was ultimately pushed to the side. This was, for me, the hook of the movie, the big question mark that would provide the quest and the thriller elements to the movie, but it was lost. As the character tried to find the answers he was sidetracked by meaningless scenes, or his questioning just stopped when he could have and would have pressed harder to find out what someone know about his death rather than saying thank you and leaving.

Some of these sidetracked story lines were good and made some sense, and one even goes on to be the ultimate message of the movie, yet he never really does seem concerned with saving himself when someone really in that situation would be. It just never quite rang true for me.

In the end the possibilities of a more complex and insightful ending are wrapped up for simplicities sake and to make the ending seem much warmer and caring. Yet it could have been so much more, something much more thoughtful.
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Fun action\adventure. Rushed initially and confusing, but great effects and style. Very poor DVD offering now superseded.
28 December 2005
There were many bad reviews of this movie when it came out, but I was still attracted to its styling, the cast, and the feeling of being an old serial movie full of gung-ho much like the Flash Gordon series. So it remained on my list for a long time and just recently arrived.

I can't say I was disappointed for all that I expected of it, although I was disappointed by the lacklustre DVD offering, but it let itself down in just rushing too much through the story.

Movie: The effects and style were great through this movie, using Second World War feel to it and yet cramming in gadgets throughout which were far from out of place, they just seemed to fit perfectly. Once you accepted the period, then the arrival of the robots, everything else was acceptable and you were along for the ride.

The style of the filming was very cool too, although the effect was soon lost as you were pulled into the film. On one level that's great because you're concentrating on the movie, but on the other hand you wonder if the money and effort spent on that washed out effect could have been spent elsewhere on the movie.

Not that the effects needed it. There wasn't anything that looked poor in this movie, and that was partly down to the style itself which I'm sure managed to hide a few things, but also down to the entire comic serial feel to it, where almost anything would be acceptable. I mean giant robots, planes that doubled as submarines, and flying aircraft carriers? Preposterous, but they fit right in and the effects never intrude into your viewing experience. Some of these ideas were really good, and visualised very well.

The story did seem rushed, and initially very confusing. Whether this is down to poor editing or not I'm unsure, but it did have that feel of a harshly cut film. It did get better as the story moved on though, and during the travels to Asia the movie had settled into a good pace.

There were definitely shades of Indy in this movie, but in a completely different setting and light. It was fun and over the top, and quite entertaining. Yet Gwyneth Paltrow seemed to be very out of place and awkward and just didn't fit well in her part. Angelina Jolie was a different matter, her short cameo was superb fun and she looked like she was enjoying it just as much. Jude Law was good, but nothing special. It took a little getting used to him in this kind of role and initially he didn't sit well for me, but the story took over and he grew into it.

At the end there were less thrills and surprises than the journey there, in fact I seemed to have guessed them all before they actually arrived. So the enjoyment did trail towards the end.

A big mention has to go out to the use of archive footage and effects to get the superb Sir Laurence Olivier on screen as the baddie. That was superbly done, a great surprise, and perfect casting.

Picture: Presented: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic The style of the visuals was really good and something new and unique, but it made it hard to see if the picture was sharp. There was a good balance of black in the movie though, with darkness really looking dark and not some lightened grey.

Audio: Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 I was surprised to be only presented with a DD5.1 track, I would have expected a DTS for an audio and effects rich film such as this, however there was none. Yet it did manage to give me some excellent sound, well dispersed around the room and myself, and some strong effects when needed.

Extras None.

Overall: A very poor offering and pulling the pathetic marketing trick of releasing one version with next to nothing and waiting until sales die down enough to release a fuller version. The Collectors edition, as they call it, offers two audio commentaries, a gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes, etc. That's not Collectors, that should be the standard. This practice hits low marks for me.

Onto the movie side of the offering and we're looking at a fun romp, a slightly confused and rushed storyline initially with a rather weak performance from the female lead, but still fun. With great ideas and effects you're sure to see something quite different from the usual action\adventure romps you've seen. Yet not enough to make up for the pathetic marketing ploy of the DVD offering and the negative aspects of the film.
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Some flaws, but a great movie with some superb performances
16 December 2005
Obviously if you are a fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or particularly Hero then you would be very keen to see this movie, after all it was touted as the next in the line of these movies with great stunts, wire work, fantastic foreign actors and the gorgeous storytelling through these historical based Chinese epics.

So how did it fare against these two previously very strong movies, and was it as gorgeous on screen as it should have been from all accounts?

Movie: I had a bit of difficulty getting into the movie to begin with, and I'm not sure if it was the slower paced beginning, or I just wasn't in the mood, but it did take me a little while to get to the point of forgetting about the world around me and getting focused on the film, and that usually isn't too difficult for me. Once I did though, I started to enjoy it and really appreciate the opening scenes.

The opening sequence where Mei dances and then performs the routine with the drums is superb, and beautifully choreographed, and from here I was drawn into her relationship with Jin and his with Leo.

It's this triangle of relationships and uncertainty which is at the center of the film and provides for some excellent drama and surprises along the way, and it's certainly these three actors who prove themselves time and time again throughout the movie with such heartfelt performances. Perfectly natural and believable from both Takeshi Kaneshiro and Ziyi Zhang with an extremely strong and emotionally charged Andy Lau. If at any time you wondered if Asian actors can be better than Hollywood you only have to watch this movie and understand these characters.

The fight scenes are excellent and really do raise the level from the previous movies, but in doing so don't go over the top with wire work and fantasy fighting, this seems to be dropped down a little from the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and brought towards a more realistic level. Yet with every scene they just keep upping the ante. That said, there are still some wonderful visual stunts that are hard to understand how they are executed and just excite the eyes.

However there's a big let down in this movie when I watched it the first time, and that was the ending. Although filled with surprises and revelations, it seemed overly cheesy and contrived, with some incredible groan moments mixed firmly with some astonishing moments. These final sequences are quite a roller coaster ride for the audience. The first time viewing this was a huge disappointment.

Now, this is where the other however pops up. Having watched the movie a second time for the Audio Commentary, I was surprised at how much more came through the movie, and it was something that was reinforced by the Directors comments, Yimou Zhang. The understanding of the characters themselves, as well as some of the subtle turns of the Director and Writers intentions, come through and do give you another level to the movie. There's more depth to the characters and suddenly you see so much more on Lau's performance, as well as a bit more identification on the subtexts within scenes and characters emotions, I really did appreciate this.

Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Now here's where I was both disappointed and pleased the most. The picture at times is superbly sharp with some vibrant colours, particularly during the final snow sequences and also in the Bamboo forest. Yet many of the normal forest scenes seem to be filmed with a very poor white balance, in the middle of a scene the overpowering white of the sky washes out the picture and undoes all the good cinematography. Again, it's a very up and down experience.

Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS: The DTS track is a superb example of a really precise and spatially aware soundtrack. Throughout the movie you'll find the sound consuming you, weaving around the room from speaker to speaker. It starts during the opening echo game scene and continues until the very last dagger has flown during the Bamboo fighting scene, which really is a great example of how an audio track should exploit a home cinema system.Precise and delicate.

Extras Presented: Audio Commentary from Director Yimou Zhang and Actress Ziyi Zhang: I don't think I remember the last time I heard such a natural and enjoyable audio commentary, the chemistry between the Director and Actress is very much that of two friends who respect each other, and through the analysis of the movie and behind the scenes discussions there's joking and laughter. Not only is it insightful but funny and enjoyable, and in very few commentaries I've seen, it provides an extra depth to the movie.

Overall: Although there are issues with the white balance on the DVD during the forest scenes, and a modicum of cheese during the final scenes, the relationships between the three characters and the excellent action sequences are what make this movie so special. Actually it's the strength of these characters and the actors portraying them that win out through the poorer parts of the movie, and watching it a second time your view of the film does change from the first viewing.

The acting is superb, and at times beautifully restrained, and the three characters provide a myriad of emotion throughout the film. The cinematography does win through in some key scenes, and the revelations make for a superb plot. Overall, despite it's faults, I think it is an excellent film.
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A great sci-fi \ action epic, but the Riddick character is poor compared to Pitch Black.
9 December 2005
I loved Pitch Black (PB), it took many of the great features of the Alien series and combined them with a hard, edgy character. much like Ripley in Alien:Resurrection. It also pulled open the confines of the corridors and space ships into an entire planet, populated with insurmountable odds stacked against the useless humans.

Those features endeared me to the movie and made me love the character of Riddick. So it's somewhat disappointing to see The Chronicles of Riddick and discover that the edge has gone.

Movie The big disappointment for me is that it loses what PB was all about, and it's difficult to understand why it does this, but I think it's down to the scale of the movie. Whereas PB was small, confined by the darkness, and a few people against a multitude of the same creatures, this movie is all about the galaxy struggling against a huge race of all sorts of creatures converted to one cause. It's all a bit too big and unfocused.

Another aspect that seems to lose something in the sequel move is of the character Riddick, in this movie he just doesn't seem so threatening and so dangerous. In PB he was an unstoppable killing machine who had virtually no morality at all, yet here, he's portrayed much more as a normal guy with a heart who can fight more than the average guy. Here it really does lose the essence of the original.

That said, he does seem to be able to easily kill these guys, and that's another thing, they just look like guys in suits. This is nothing compared to the predatory killers of PB. So again not only is Riddick's cold blooded unstoppable killer status lowered, but so is the ferociousness of the enemy, where they instead rely on huge spaceships and overwhelming force.

Saying that, the scenes of the ships and conquering force appearing are visually superb, and that carries through all the effects of the movie, they are believable and highly engaging, totally immersing you in the universe. They don't stand out either, so that when you cut to a small set scene in the city streets, you aren't suddenly wrenched from one style to another. They are very well done, and combined with some of the action sequences, they make for some stunning scenes.

Yet the action sequences are also a point of contention with me, for the trend of zooming the camera into the action and performing multiple fast cuts, is getting out of hand in Hollywood and it's destroying movies with fight scenes. This is one reason why movies such as Ong Bak are working so well nowadays. It's especially prevalent in this movie, and despite the added attraction of Vin Diesel having learnt some of the moves in the art of double knife fighting (it has some specific name which I can't actually remember), yet for all that we see nothing in these fight sequences, and I really mean nothing.

The one plot aspect that really did make me wonder why was the addition of a mini-Riddick in the guise of the recast role of Jack. It seemed a poor plot device that she had grown to be just like him and that he had sacrificed his entire life to protect her. This is a huge change from his original character who would have left any of them to die in PB, had it not been for an affinity with the pilot Fry and a feeling of obligation.

However much this character has changed, Diesel is excellent as Riddick and it is a character I would like to see again, although much more in the PB style of the character. This film definitely needed more focus on that character.

Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic The picture is superb, there's no real difference to tell between the CGI aspects and the real scenes with the mood being matched well between both. The cinematography of both is excellent, although heavily let down in the fight scenes, the opening attack on the planet is quite stunning.

Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 I would have loved for a DTS track on this movie, whatever version, however the 5.1 is bold and competent. Plenty of LFE mix and base kicking in with good use of the spatial aspects of 5.1. It was very good and loud audio track.

Overall The movie is a great sci-fi \ action epic, and it's very enjoyable entertainment presented in a visually stunning style. You truly appreciate the size and scope of this movie, and it does make you want to see more of Riddick. However it doesn't stay true to the original characterisation for me, and I felt this was a poor aspect of the movie, it really did lose what Riddick was all about.

The DVD is a good package, although you really have to like the movie to sit through many of these extras. The inclusion of the game demo is a great cross marketing ploy, but also gives the viewer some extra lifetime on their purchase.
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A contrived, hand holding movie that demeans the audience placed in a very strong DVD offering.
8 December 2005
I never really thought much of this movie from the moment I saw the opening ten minutes that the Studio posted on the Internet, the conclusions of the main character to work through the puzzles were completely wild and speculative, grasping at straws the audience had even conceived, and it just made the writing seem extremely dumb.

When I saw the whole movie I wasn't far wrong, the person I watched it with actually fell asleep during the movie. So why the score you might ask, well that's down to the DVD itself. It's a superbly interactive DVD that can keep you amused for sometime, encouraging you to work through all the additional materials to figure out the clues contained within.

As for the movie...well...

Movie The opening speaks for itself. Once past the short sequence to set the scene for who the main character is and what they are searching for, you're propelled into the middle of the frozen wastes where the team finds a ship buried over two hundred years ago in snow and ice within inches of the surface of the current snowfall. Plus, the identification clue happens to be on the very part of the boat that is sticking so close to the surface, just where the character digs. Already you know this is going to be one dumb movie.

It goes on with the ease in which the character deciphers clues and his ludicrous recitement of how they are worked out. Just like reciting a script rather than fathoming out a problem, he speeds through it and the audience is left wondering what just happened and how.

Every solved problem from here is over explained and the audience hand held through the finding. The series of events is so over explained that there's no real feeling of involvement in the discoveries, apart from the attempt to reveal the map on the back of the declaration. This leaves the audience just to watch the events pass by them one by one.

What this then means is that there's no big surprise when we come to the revealing of the treasure room, or the twist just prior. There's no sense of urgency and discovery, this is nothing like an Indy treasure hunt, this is like following a satellite photo treasure map using GPS trackers. You just head there via various points and there you go.

There's a big action sequence in the middle of the film, and this is (as is always the case in Hollywood nowadays) comprised of close-ups and fast cuts, making it hard to follow.

Overall the movie is thoroughly disappointing, and the reworked ending very poor.

Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic The picture is good throughout, and copes well with some very realistic lighting conditions, particularly with torches as the source light.

Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 The audio is really good on this movie. It's big with some good LFE mix. A good use of the directional sound offered with 5.1, as the sound moves around you a fair bit and then really pounds you at crucial moments, filling the room.

Extras Presented: Deleted Scenes, Various Making of Featurettes, Opening Scene Animatic, Alternate Ending, Additional information on Treasure Hunters, the Knights Templar and a Trivia Viewing of the movie. The extras are within multiple hidden areas, watching the content from one will give you the codes for the other, it takes a little while to get through, but at least this gives you the feeling of being involved if the movie didn't. Deleted Scenes - These are okay, nothing special and just two in all. Featurettes - As standard, mostly the made for TV promotions you see. Animatic Opening - This is quite interesting, seeing the computer rendered version of the opening sequence used early on in the production as a placeholder for when the final effects were completed. Alternate Ending - What's interesting is that this ending is much stronger and less Hollywood than the one actually used, and they should have used this one. However maybe that would have not held with the outlook of the rest of the film. Treasure Hunters, Knights Templar - Both these extras are very informative and educational, and are well worth a watch. These two extras are two of the best items on the DVD. Trivia Viewing - This allows you to watch the whole movie again but this time with little popups telling you some interesting and educational facts about what is actually going on in the film. Some are wildly off topic, but they are very interesting and made me watch the movie again.

Overall This movie is pretty poor. It's nice to look at, and some of the scenes are good, but overall it's hand holding and treating the audience as idiots. I'm sure it's wholesome young family fun, but definitely not for those who like something a bit more engaging in their movie experience.

What does make this package though is the DVD offering and the way it is put together. Decoding sections of the DVD in order to find the hidden content really does make you want to delve in and solve it, and therefore go through the content. For the most part it's average, but two of the featurettes and the Trivia viewing are educational, informative and actually really quite interesting. It's here that the DVD makes up some serious ground for me.
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Transporter 2 (2005)
Strong Statham performance and excellent fight scenes, but a comically over the top series of stunts drag this movie down.
6 December 2005
The Transporter had a great idea for a movie and a superb character to build upon. A man who transported any type of goods for anyone, no questions asked, followed his own set of strict rules, and could seriously kick ass if anything got in his way. The premise was superb, and the movie The Transporter was a seriously good fun action movie that had some over the top and insane stunts you could hardly believe but were superbly entertaining. Then there was Jason Statham who looked great, sounded fantastic, and did a damn fine performance in the role. It was what it was, a great fun action movie.

I wanted to like this film for a number of reasons, firstly that I really do like Statham and think he's so playing beneath himself, secondly I really did enjoy the first movie, and thirdly because I have exchanged emails with one of the actresses in the movie and wanted to say good things about it. I can say that the actress in question, AnnaLynne, was not only stunningly good looking, but her brief appearance was good and funny. The rest of the movie however, struggled.

Since I'm talking cast here, let me address the other strong point of this movie, Mr Statham. He's awesome, and that just cannot be said enough. He looks great on screen, acts very well, and carries this role off to perfection. He also looks like a great stunt guy, doing many of his own martial arts moves and fights, this adds a hell of a lot to a movie when the actor gets involved and puts some muscle behind the role. I really do like him as an actor, and I hope his career is not being syphoned off into a drain with such movies as Revolver, The Pink Panther (remake) (I find it hard to forgive an Englishman for appearing in this remake) and Dungeon Siege.

There are also strong performances from Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta and François Berléand. It's Berléand that also reprises his role from the first movie and provides the action hero with his comic sidekick, interestingly the two never meet until the end of the movie, but his role provides much laughter and essential points of plot development.

The opening scenes show us the Transporter back to his glory of the former film, following his rules, transporting his goods, and mixes light relief with action well. There are some excellent fight scenes when Martin is pitched against the odds with multiple baddies and multiple props, the scene with the firehose is just excellent to watch, but then things go downhill.

Even during some excellent fight scenes there are just reams of fast cuts and closeups that leave you wondering what just happened, I have to say it's not as bad as some (mainly because Statham has trained and can do these stunts so that the camera can pull out) but it's still bad.

Then there are some stunts, particularly with the car, that are so stupidly executed people laughed out loud in the cinema, and not in that funny-haha way, but in that oh lord, that's so bad it's laughable way. I would say all in all there are about five six...okay, seven moments like this throughout the movie, and they are so bad their affect is outwith the scene they are in and actually ruins the movie. Seriously, the final stunt is the daftest. It's wrong, ludicrous, preposterous, and resulted in audible groans of disapproval from the cinema.

One of the problems is that the reality aspect has been totally avoided here, sure you can crank it up a bit, but this has been ramped even past the realms of comic action, and with that they've resorted to CGI and effects and in an action movie that's not so good. As I've always said you need to show the action, pull the camera back, stop cutting and close-ups, and show the audience what's really happening, whether it be car stunts or people fighting.

Even my mate Pablo was laughing at how poor some of these scenes are and he loves dumb movies! He pointed out that the car spin in the Bond movie, Live and Let Die had a more believable car spin jump...and he's right, and the reason was it was real. That and it was actually possible! Saying that there are some really good stunts, particularly in the driving scenes, and seeing Martin in the Ferrari is just a boys moment for sure. Or the scenes in the Dentist office, or just of Martin fighting with people, these are good action scenes. The movie does has tons of style, but is just lacking in content. It is actually a boys movie, cool cars, cool dude, over the top stunts, cool guns, and superb looking ladies.

I just think think if they had cranked down the insanity level on the stunts, pulled them slightly more to reality, relied less on the Hollywood style of filming fight sequences, they could have had a much better action movie. Let me say it again, they have an excellent premise here in the guise of the Transporter himself, how can they ruin it so easily?
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Night Watch (2004)
Epic story, huge effects, surprisingly good acting and intelligent script. Some flaws, but excellent Russian cinema.
6 December 2005
There's been a lot of talk of this series from Russia, much saying that it's the country's epic to match Matrix and that kind of thing. Well those comments really did fall on their face for me, I mean Matrix is nothing to be compared against. What did interest me was the fact that this was the first big movie out of Russia that I'd heard of since...well since Bronenosets Potyomkin, and really that came about through history not through release.

The first thing you notice about this movie is that the production is high quality, it looks like a Hollywood movie and has plenty of editing effects to make the opening scenes look really good. The opening, in quite an amusing and twisted manner, reminds me of a pivotal scene in The Matrix. However here it takes a dark turn, and I think this is where the movie excels. There are comic and supernatural moments, but it never strays from the overall bleakness of the tale, a dark undercurrent and almost accepting fatality to the whole movie.

There are three areas I really feared for this movie, one is in the effects. I assumed that these would either be poorly executed or created simply and with sleight of camera, I was incredibly wrong. The effects are bold and challenge even the Matrix. There's no real gimmick here, the stunts and effects are all part of the story, although one scene with the school bus does showcase what the Russian film effects can do, but there's no real "bullet time" to speak of.

Actually I'm going to stop for a moment and apologise for making these Matrix comparisons and stop right now. The real reason for this is the fact that this is what the Matrix should have been, you can see it all the way through. There's no huge explanations of what the characters are doing and why, there's no sequence to the movie of explanation, fight, explanation, effects, fight, and so on. The explanations are minimal and if they are there then they are part of the story and part of the scene. They are often provided visually and you often find yourself referencing back to a moment earlier in the movie for validation, or you would find yourself questioning something only for it to be answered later on. In other words, it's designed for more intelligent moviegoers than many of the spoon fed Hollywood scripts we see.

This is the next point, I thought the story would either go in the direction of Asian horror or towards a more Dog Soldiers type of horror. Neither is true. The story is very grounded and doesn't tend to leap into over the top scenes of supernatural beasts. It really does try to keep the story on the level of people, however "super" they may be, and it does this superbly well. The story builds from one man and slowly pans out to the end of the world type plot, a huge and epic tale, all done with great pacing and style. I was really surprised at how good the writing was.

The final point where I thought this movie would fall down is the acting. Having never really seen many Russian movies or actors, I thought the bar couldn't be too high. I was wrong again. The actors are very natural and seem to be quite seasoned, the lead Konstantin Khabensky is very underplayed. The character is underwhelmed and the performance is stilted and restrained for the most part, overall he's very engaging on screen. This kind of natural acting is throughout the movie, there was never any of the major roles that weren't well played.

The ending of the movie is big, although there's a huge anti-climax and you find yourself wondering what is going on with the story. The climax is fast and well written, much like the pace of the latter half of the movie and in keeping with the writing style of the whole thing. It's well placed to end this episode and being the next.

There are some holes in the story though, and the section with the cursed woman does confuse and seems somewhat shortened. There are also some disjointed scenes which are a little confusing, decisions that seem a little too easily made, and the rocket powered bus was just a little too twee for me.

One other thing I have to mention about this (apart from the amusing Buffy appearance) are the subtitles. I know that not everyone can cope with subtitles to foreign films, although for the life of me I don't understand why, but here there is something really clever done to the subtitles. They are treated as part of the movie, as part of the visuals, and have effects and a style all of their own but connected with the scenes they are in. Sure, you'll see the standard subtitles, but they'll be framed with the picture, or coloured and have effects to match the scene and mood, the vampire calling ones being the best.

Go see this movie in the cinema, it's big and very epic, and is only the beginning. - The second and third movies are in production as we write\read - The effects are superb, and it's just brimming with style. This is the great Russian trilogy, and it's another Hollywood wake up call.
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Too fast paced, some poor moments, but darker and scarier than the others to date.
5 December 2005
Straight up though I have to say, I wasn't as impressed at this movie as I was by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for me that movie is still the best of the Harry Potter series, but now not by much. For this movie is a very close second.

It is, as everyone seems to agree, much darker than the other movies and I really do like this aspect. It's a well written story, and seems to lead things well to the next instalment. The tension and suspense are built well throughout, towards a strong and fitting climax. Some have said that the ending is confusing if you haven't read the books, I do disagree although you'll obviously have had to have seen the movies.

The effects are superb, and the best of the series to date. You just have to watch the Dragons in action to understand what I mean, they are stunning creations and totally believable too. As are the effects in the underwater sequence, a sequence that is well edited and provides one of the most powerful and scariest moments of the film. This is surely where its rating comes from. Yet it's a perfect scene to provide the more adult issues facing Potter and his friends, and shows that his life is becoming more serious and more involved with events outside of his school world.

However, there are issues I have with this movie and some with the whole series itself. For instance, Potter is a wizard and he's in a wizard school, and yet you hardly ever see him casting spells and he openly says that his strong point is flying. I don't get this, and I realise there are differences in the books, but I'm talking about the movies, and in these he appears as a bottom of the class wizard. Indeed this is the first time I remember him casting successful spells. Then, with all that, he goes on to fight one of the most powerful creatures in the universe, or so we're led to believe. For me that's quite a leap in the story.

This last battle also comes to a very contrived ending which seems far too convenient, appearing as it does out of absolute nowhere. It's a "get out clause" that appears just in time and is explained later on. For me this reeks of the characters being written into a corner and a quick backdoor being created for them. I really didn't like this moment.

The entire movie seems harshly and overly edited, there was barely time to keep up as we leapt from pivotal scene to pivotal scene with rarely a breather for character development or backstory. You could tell this has been seriously cut down. Scenes seemed to begin late and end early, with characters just appearing ready to go. For me this didn't have the affect of keeping up the pace but actually harming it and racing on too fast with the story.

The acting is interesting among the younger cast in this movie, Daniel Radcliffe seems to have an awkwardness about him, and perhaps that's him playing the character, but it's apparent in most scenes where emotions are called for.

Emma Watson will have to mature some and learn to tone down her acting, for she was guilty of overacting at times. Yet I can see her becoming a big star in the future. She has the looks and you can see great performances in her.

Surprisingly it was Rupert Grint that provided the best performance from the young cast for me. He just seemed so natural in every scene, and so believable.

Overall I was impressed by the effects and the darkness of the story, yet the editing and the too pacey story meant that I didn't have time to follow the pace of the movie rather I had to race to keep up. I suspect this may take another viewing to appreciate it, or perhaps even a fuller DVD version, but for me this falls in as the second best Potter movie to date.
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Flightplan (2005)
Strong thriller with an emotive script, great performance from Foster although Hollywood wins out.
4 December 2005
The reviews for Flightplan in the States were harsh. Did the critics have it all wrong?

I surprised to find that the lead in is quite subtle and wonderfully filmed with suggestions, subtle references and cuts back and forth in time. It was really good and had me interested within a few seconds. It's when they actually get onto the plane and the flight begins that you start wondering how in the hell you're going to be entertained for the next hour or so, what can possibly go on that is going to keep you that interested and excited? The first search of the plane takes up a bit of time, and during this time your questions go out the window (so to speak) as you are drawn into the mystery and the tension builds. This is something that the movie manages to do very well and noticeably beats others in the so called thriller genre. From the moment that the child is missing you are put on edge, and all around the main character others are glancing oddly, making the odd gesture or pause in their speech, there are all these small things that help to raise your suspicions and nerves, and at no point does the movie let go before it's due to.

That really impressed me, for so many movies of late that I've seen try and build this tension and either go over the top with the misdirection or don't do enough of it. In this movie they seem to have the formula spot on.

Then when we reach the pivotal point of the movie we're treated to some more strong film making. Although it's not a huge shock moment, there is a fair amount of realisation and it happens in a few moments during a few small and inconspicuous actions. Yet it's enough for the whole movie to turn on its head, just as it has you believing one thing it turns you the other way.

One of the aspects they exploit well is that all the characters are given possible evil twitches, it might be that the pilot is played by Sean Bean and not your clean cut guy with some ambiguity, or the nervous stewardess that keeps glancing around. The fact is that all the characters all look dodgy in some way, so you just don't know.

There is one very poor moment at the start of the movie, and it's one of these Hollywood moments that screams at the audience "Hey, look at this...this will be important later on. We'll just linger on this scene for another few moments just to make sure you have it...yeah, few more moments just in case you're completely thick...few more..." Oh please, it's obvious in the first few seconds of the scene that we've caught the moment, but the camera lingers on and Jodie Foster stares at the camera as though she's just seen her career fall apart. It's a truly awful moment.

Strangely that contrasts against some really well visualised moments, for instance near the beginning the subtlety of the camera panning down the apartment to the front door, passing over the broken face of the statue outside the building. It's an odd moment that you only really understand later on, but is left in the mind lingering. Something is not quite right there, and it's not done with a big Hollywood sign.

Foster is superb, even despite the "look at this moment". During the early moments of the flight her performance slowly builds up and the character actually becomes quite grating, before long you feel as though you are sharing the angst and resentment of the rest of the passengers, and that was something that I really enjoyed feeling. You also get to see some seriously strong raw emotions, something I'm always amazed that Foster does so well. I always imagine that portraying such strong emotions on screen doesn't do yourself any good, yet she can turn it on and off so well and so believably.

Hollywood is not far from this movie though, and the ending is filmed in a hugely over sentimental style, almost sickly so, and it does grate against the rest of the film. There are two moments that made some of us groan, the smoke and the waking'll know what I mean if you've seen it, very poor and unimaginative.

What I was amazed about was the portrayal of the Arabs in the movie. Interesting that it almost seems to take one moral stance and then does something amazingly embarrassing at the end. The holding of a mirror up to the audience of perceptions of Arabs is very interesting, and I felt it to a degree myself, yet later when we're treated to what should be another humbling moment and a moment of accepting, we see one of the most cringe-worthy and humiliating scenes I've ever witnessed outside of an embarrassing comedy. It wasn't only myself that caught it, there were others too.

As one of the Arabs extends a hand of friendship, they are belittled by the main character who says nothing, and the offer of handing her bag to her becomes more like the duty of a servant than a human being. The moment just falls flat on its face and I'm not one for reading political contexts into things, but we both felt that the scene reeks of the Arab being subservient to the American, it did stick out like a sore thumb and made us look aghast.

Apart from the bad points though, it was a solid thriller that really did surprise as to what it could do with such a seemingly limited and transparent plot. Foster provides us with another superb performance, and Bean delivers another strong supporting role and slightly off his usual type as well. With some good twists and strong emotive writing it's well worth a watch.
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Great stunts and sequences, with a story more as a vehicle to get to the action.
26 November 2005
Ong Bak is a very basic storyline pieced together to be able to showcase the amazing talents of Tony Jaa, and talents he has in vast quantities. Jaa is a stunning martial artist, he seems to be able to control every muscle of his body and perform some amazing stunts, as well as some of the most thrilling fight scenes I've witnessed in a very long time.

The stunts and choreography are what makes the movie, and the rest is a fair attempt at a story around it, and to be fair it's not bad it's just that the stunts and fight scenes are so good to watch that you are absorbed in waiting for the next choreographed sequence rather than the next moment of the plot.

From the amazing tree sequence at the opening you're hooked, and you can hardly fathom the work involved in choreographing the entire sequence, much less how these stuntmen (you have to presume they are stuntmen) survive the flips and falls. This carries through the brutally realistic fighting scenes in the underground fighting den, to the final buddha battle which brings together all the elements of the fighting you've seen previously and adds them into one big sequence between characters of equal skills.

The sequences, and Jaa, are superb, and the rest of the story is by the wayside.
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A very good movie with some great performances and castings. Strong and disconcerting plot that builds slowly to an unnerving climax.
24 November 2005
Instantly you see the divide between the world the parents inhabit and that of the teenagers. The adults live in the over sanitised, prescription based world, blinkered to only their problems, whereas the teenagers seem to be living in the harsh real world, striving for some of that medicinal assistance to lift themselves rather than to sanitise their surroundings. At times it seems the teenagers are the adults, while they run around carefree and behave like children.

A couple of things you notice straight into the movie are Jamie Bell and the art of casting against expected type. On the casting issue it's a surprise to see Glenn Close playing a sweet wholesome mother, and Carrie-Anne Moss playing a sultry temptress, a woman who is attracted to the strength of others. These two casting choices hit me as quite a surprise, against expected type, and superbly chosen. As for Bell, he's superbly believable and draws you into the movie with an amazing performance.

Rory Culkin is another great showing, often the performances of the actors who play baddies are overlooked, after all it's easy to play a baddie isn't it? Yet that's just not true, especially with this character. He's malevolent, controlling, but there's a streak of uncertainty and self doubt through the character, and he pulls this off perfectly.

Not all the younger actors are so great though, Lou Taylor Pucci really does play the same character from Thumbsucker, it's a very similar role. His performance in the final scenes was much better, and very disconcerting. Actually it would have been much better, and in keeping with the against type casting in this movie, to cast him against his previous role.

Camilla Belle was another strong performance and you can clearly see what she is going to become. She certainly has the potential to be a great Hollywood actress, her eyes, the underlying passion, all the features are there that will make her a Hollywood sex symbol.

The layering of the two sides of life in the Chumscrubber world is very well created. As they intertwine they pass each other with confusion, misunderstanding and resentment, but just keep on going almost unnoticed. The adults coming dangerously close to the events of the teenagers' lives, almost grasping the actuality of what is happening, and either missing the point or choosing to avoid it totally.

The perfect example of this is seeing the Mayor and his wife carry on towards their wedding day plans avoiding the fact that their son appears to be missing, and that that life in general seems to be falling apart around them. It's the ignorance of the adults caught in their self obsessed lives that's more amusing than anything, and although overplayed for the movie, it's not all that far from reality.

Comedy is sparse and quite dark and when they come they are uneasy moments. When you laugh and are then suddenly hit by the seriousness, it's funny, but am I laughing at the wrong bits? It's a strange feeling, and does add to the unease throughout, a feeling that fits well with this movie and slowly builds to the incredibly uneasy climax.

Glenn Close and Jamie Bell are excellent. Close's character begins to crack from the start, the first signs that the spectacularly insular lives of the adults is about to crumble. She plays this really well, and moves through a range of emotions with apparent ease. This is especially obvious when a scene near the end of the movie brings Close and Bell together. Close naturally smiles with tears streaming down her face, one of the saddest things to see from a human being, while Bell struggles with his emotions and delivers a heartfelt speech. I really felt for these characters at this point, and it was easy to connect with them and understand their pain.

The climax of the teenager plot line is very strong, you're right there in the awkwardness of the situation, feeling for them as circumstance and manipulation build around them to force events. I shan't give anything away, suffice to say you can feel the tension and pressure as it grows, and you're very aware of how events suddenly drop out of their hands having just gone too far to control.

However, the very end of the movie is quite contrived and annoying, and it does seem to grate for such a good movie. Yet there's not enough here to hurt the movie, not enough to make me wish I hadn't watched or to make you feel short changed or cheated. No, it's a bit poor, but it's not the true climax of the movie.

There's one other thing I didn't like, the Chumscrubber itself is based on a computer game character that some of the teenagers play through the movie, usually in the background. It's also the character that provides us with a prologue and epilogue and some voice overs on the way. Yet I couldn't make any connection, or understand any relevance for this character to be here, sure it's used in a few scenes, but just as background noise. There seemed to be no other connection than that of adding a computer game connection to the teenagers' lives. It wasn't needed, I found myself confused and distracted by it, and I really think the movie would have been better without it.

What this movie is good for, are some great castings, and the excellent performances by the actors playing the teenagers. I was very surprised at just how strong Jamie Bell really is, and my feelings for Glenn Close (as an actress) were just reinforced from watching the last season of The Shield.

This has a great plot, some great actors and performances, and is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that does have some things to say about adults and teenagers. It's not really rocket science, don't analyse them, listen to them.
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John Q (2002)
Formulaic, overly sentimental and over engineered. A vehicle to deliver a sermon on the US medical system.
22 November 2005
I remember hearing about this at the time it was made, and there was some praise for it tackling the topic of poorer people not receiving medical treatment and the dominance of Medical Insurance in the US. There were also two seemingly good factors about it, the first being Denzel Washinton and Nick Cassavetes. Yet it's taken until now to actually see the movie, and quite frankly, I wish I'd never wasted my time...that's an hour and a half I just won't get back.

The plot is extremely transparent, and from the moment John Q. enters the hospital it becomes a standard and very formulaic hostage movie, complete with copy and pasted characters and situations.

The Police Chief overriding the Negotiator and going in anyway, the Negotiator connecting with the Hostage Taker, and the Hostages connecting with've seen it so many times before.

One thing is different though, the moralistic change in James Wood's character of the Doctor. One second he's a money hungry surgeon, and then he just totally caves in and delivers a speech about the injustice of the situation. Oh, give me a break.

The movie is over engineered and overly sentimental. The only good moment was seeing Washinton break up while he talked with his kid. The rest was very poor.

This is a vehicle to tell us all what's wrong with the US medical system by picking stereotypes and a formulaic story to try and capture you into the movie in order to deliver the sermon. If the movie had been better and the sermon a little less sweet, then perhaps it would be better heard.
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Excellent production design and strong leads from Bacon and Firth. Good, well balanced story.
20 November 2005
There were three reasons why I wanted to see Where the Truth Lies, before I saw the trailer or heard anything more about it than the casting. Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and the final one, Bacon and Firth together.

Bacon is a superb actor, one that entirely smothers you in his role. Firth has been typecast for a long time, and only until I had seen Trauma did I realise what he was really capable of, so I was hoping for more. Then the unique pairing of these two characters, and the setting against type, was all too much. I had to see the movie.

Luckily I was invited to a press screening for it at the fantastic, but troubled, Cameo cinema.The first thing that hits you about this movie is the richness and the detail, the Production Design is flawless and builds the two time periods in which the film inhabits perfectly. It's interesting that in many movies that look to past events there's quite often something that catches your eye and makes you giggle about the period, particularly for the seventies, and yet there was nothing in this movie that did that at all. I wasn't distracted and laughing at sideburns, flairs, collars, anything.

I think this is down to the excellent work on the Production Design. Everything seems perfectly authentic and in its place, nothing seems over the top or over imagined. It's so real that it immerses you in the period your watching and there's no doubt where the characters are or what they are doing. I can't praise this aspect of the movie enough.

Bacon and Firth are utterly superb in the movie. They are exceptionally strong in their roles and give very rich, detailed and at times extremely subtle performances. Both actors are really playing against type, Bacon is a lover of women and wouldn't raise a hand to anyone, whereas Firth is a very violent man, verging on drug abuse.

It's interesting that Firth comes forward as the stronger actor for me, I would have been convinced that it would have been Bacon before the movie. Seeing Firth in this role of a violent man on the edge of something terrifying is powerful stuff and at times quite moving.

Alison Lohman provides another strong performance, but is slightly obscured by the two male leads. That's not a slight on her acting here, it's very good, but the two male leads just carry such weight throughout the story that there's not much chance for her to shine. Although there are a few moments where she does come forward, and one of them is during her exceptionally strong sex scene.

There's nothing hidden in this movie, that's clear from the plot itself, it's uncovering the truth behind the story that has remained covered up for so long, and with that many things are laid bare. Lohman's drug induced sex scene is extremely well filmed, and quite erotic in the true meaning of the word, and also quite beautiful. There's a clear love for portraying everything beautifully and accurately in front of the camera, not just the sets themselves.

The movie, for the most part, is a series of recollections and interviews, and within are some intense scenes of a sexual, violent and emotional nature. Within the context of the movie none of these seem overly extreme or out of place, but natural and shown with the same care as the design of the sets themselves.

There are some cheesy moments though, the symbolising of a dead child by the tree in the mothers garden, describing her as she holds the fruit in her hands. This seems out of place more than the other scenes mentioned above, but it doesn't really harm the enjoyment of the movie.

What is interesting is how little the actual who dunnit part of the movie really was. Throughout the movie I could feel tension rising, and at key scenes you may be taken to a mini-crescendo, but there was a slow continual rise towards the climax and revelation. It was quite early on that my mind made a snap and guessed the outcome, and usually I would find myself cursing this and my enjoyment of the movie would falter, but not in this case.

The revelation, although is key, very strong, and there is an element of surprise, they're not as important to the movie as the actual journey. It's the learning and understanding of the characters involved that becomes key. Understanding their relationships and finding out what truth lies beneath them, not the story itself. It's these aspects of the movie that slowly capture you and pull you into the story, and it's these elements that are fascinating to watch.

I'd highly recommend this movie for its richness and attention to detail alone, but it's true fascination is in the acting combination of Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth who are extremely good on screen. The story is very well written, and you find yourself discovering aspects of the plot as the reporter does, and that's a sign of a good script. What also makes this a great movie is the balance, it's not weighted to the far end and the climax, it's the entire story that bears the weight of the audience interest. Yet it still delivers a very satisfying ending.
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Superbly funny movie, Kilmer is excellent and Downey a close second. Very well written.
19 November 2005
While I was watching this movie I recognised a scene and a still photo that I had actually found on the Internet months and months ago, in fact it's so long I might even consider that it was close to a year. That's a long time I've known about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a long time that I've been looking forward to both Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer being on screen together.

Both are excellent actors, one has had many poorly chosen roles, and the other has had some poorly chosen habits. With this movie I was hoping to see both had dropped their poor choices of the past and moved on to something which promised much, much more.

The first thing you're going to notice about this movie is confusion. The first half is fast paced with characters talking over each other and a style all of its own that just adds to the uncertainty of what the hell is going on, add these together and this confusion is one of the most attractive and fantastic qualities about the movie.

It adds something new, not only to separate it from all the other movies out there, but also to separate it from your previous viewing. I can actually imagine watching this movie again and enjoying it just as much, if not more, than I did the other night as I caught it in the superb location of Edinburgh's threatened Cameo Cinema, Screen One.

Lockhart's (Downey's) voice-over is quite unusual, it's not often you hear a narration of a movie nowadays, and it's much less that you hear one like this. In fact if I'm not mistaken the only other place where I've heard a narration play with the audience is in some more slapstick and in your face comedies...I may be wrong, and someone can correct me, but I've never seen this anywhere else.

His voice over not only narrates the movie, but also pulls you around it. It'll stop the movie, leap about in time, and treat you as though you're sitting next to the narrator while you're watching. This is absorbing. It's not only funny at times, but it adds to that confusion of not knowing what's going to happen next or where you're going to be taken. You realise very soon that the movie doesn't have to follow the standard format, and that whenever the narrator speaks you could be in for another whip cut to somewhere, or somewhen, else.

When you think about that idea of narration you might be forgiven for thinking that it could really turn you off the movie, and you'd be right. I really do hate being taken out of a movie, that is to say, when I'm watching it I am hopefully absorbed in the world presented to me. Having to query something I'm seeing on screen, for example, will quickly snap me out of a movie and it'll have to work hard again to get me back in.

What's interesting about this narration is that it's effectively doing that all the time. You'll be in the flow of the story and a scene, and you're whipped out of it by the narrator and thrown back in somewhere else. However I found I didn't get pulled right out of the movie, just out of the level of the story and back to the narrator. I realised afterwards I was absorbed by the narrators story, and it was like I was viewing a movie within a movie! There's some excellent casting in here. Downey is superb, there's no question of that. Michelle Monaghan is lovely and is equally as good, and the casting of Corbin Bernsen is just inspired - I want a comeback from him right now! Yet there's one actor that outshines them all, helped along by his character and the superb writing, but for me this vindicates everything I've said about Kilmer to date, he's an amazing actor.

Kilmer not only gets some of the best lines in the movie, but he gets the best character and some of the best scenes. The torture scene is hilarious, and the scene interrogating the orderly is fantastically written and performed.

That's a point I've touched on a few times now, but it really needs proper credit. The writing is fantastic. The dialogue is real, quick and often over other dialogue. That makes it hard to catch sometimes, but gives the whole movie a very believable quality, and that just helps to pull you straight in.

It also has a great way with moving from comedy to seriousness very easily, and you're not left with a movie fixed firmly in one genre and visiting another for a light moment. This manages to mix the two perfectly. One minute we're amazed at the feelings being portrayed (under the bed and being discovered) and the next we're having a good old laugh at the screen (the hungry dog scene). They are blended together superbly well.

I found it very difficult to second guess the plot, and although some of the parts were quite obvious, others were totally out of the blue and surprised me. Something the movie does very well is let you discover things with the character (something I noticed of another movie I saw recently Where the Truth Lies.

Here too, the surprises were not the point of the movie, the characters interactions and the situations they were getting into where what mattered. This made the movie for me, it's all about the characters.

With excellent casting, especially with Kilmer, and a superbly written script, this movie is excellent and well worth going to see in the cinema. With a unique plot device of the "interactive" voice over and a written style we've just not seen in a long time, I can't help but say this movie is superb and recommend it without question.
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