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Vacation (1983)
Still the best
17 October 2019
'National Lampoon's Vacation' runs for about an hour and a half. And, in my opinion, take any five minute segment from the film and there's possibly more laughs contained within compared to any modern 'comedy' movie from mainstream Hollywood. It's that good. Also - and possibly better still - it's aged perfectly and is as good today as it ever was.

Like many films in the eighties, we're thrown right into the action (compared to today's movies where it seems film-makers want to spend most of the movie 'getting to know' the characters, rather than moving the story forward). We meet married father of two 'Clark Griswold' (Chevy Chase) preparing to drive his family across country from Chicago to California on a pilgrimage to a fictional theme park 'Wally World' (basically Disney World for all intents and purposes). What follows is a road movie where the family get into one scrape after the next.

There's nothing too inspired for the plot. However, it's simply so funny that whatever it lacks in 'story depth' it makes up for great fun and the desire to see this bunch of characters succeed in their - supposedly easy - quest.

All the other characters play their parts (special mention to Randy Quaid and John Candy, who are - naturally - as great as ever), but 'National Lampoon's Vacation' is Chevy Chase's show and he steals every scene there is with his madcap (but strangely lovable) antics. The 'sandwich-dance' scene is still priceless!

For some reason 'National Lampoon's Vacation' never made it from my VHS collection to my DVD collection and I've only just seen it in many years. I couldn't believe how 'timeless' it is. If you're okay with some of the eighties haircuts, everything in the film could be shot today (okay, so the kids play portable tabletop video games rather than with an iphone, but apart from that...). And that's what makes the film so great - it's held up after all those years and still a total comedy gem that everyone who wants a laugh should see.

That's my review, but if you did want a contrary opinion, my mum didn't like the film because she found Chevy Chase 'too annoying.' So I guess it's not for everyone after all.
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Shazam! (2019)
It brings out the kid in you
16 October 2019
Superhero this, superhero that. Someone gets super powers and ends up fighting an evil version of themselves with similar abilities. If you've seen one (recent) superhero movie then you've probably seen them all and it gets to the stage where you start to wonder if there's anything new a film company can bring to the genre. I'm pleased to say that, despite following most superhero cliches, 'Shazam!' has enough going for it to make it definitely worth a watch.

Ignoring the fact that it was originally meant to be part of the (possibly now deceased?) 'DC Shared Universe' (remember 'Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad' and all that?) you don't really need to know much about any other film to 'get' what's going on here. A young boy attains magical powers from a wizard (as you do) and, every time he says the magic word ('Shazam!' just in case you hadn't guessed), he's changed from a weedy fifteen year old high school lad to a spandex-clad muscular hunk.

Now, if you've been following what was supposed to be DC's attempt at a 'shared universe' you'll know that they tried to make themselves different from Marvel by being 'darker' and 'grittier.' Well, 'Shazam!' isn't like that at all. It actually feels a bit like one of those 'family' movies from the eighties, as if it's part of a 'Goonies' shared universe than the 'Man of Steel.'

Having a child as the star can always be a bit hit and miss, however Asher Angel actually pulls it off and is quite believable in the role, even before he transfers leading man duties to Zachary Levi for the 'superhero moments.' We have veteran actor Mark Strong as the baddie who has the previously-mentioned 'similar powers' as Shazam. He's naturally a good actor, therefore he plays the part well. However, just like the light-hearted tone of the film emulates Marvel's output, so does the lack of real development and motivation for the villain.

There's plenty of laughs and a great use of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' (possibly even better than 'Shaun of the Dead' used it), however, for those of us who noticed, the computer-effects are a bit ropy and probably could have been a little more polished. But that's just a minor gripe. Ultimately, I reckon youngsters should enjoy this film and not notice the - slightly in-your-face - message about 'family,' choosing instead to simply go along for the ride. For the adults, there's plenty of mocking of superhero movies and it's quite fun to picture this film in the same world where Batman and Superman have become marketable brands.

It may not be the greatest superhero movie of our time (and certainly not the most original), but it nicely crossed the divide between a film for adults and kids and if you're in the mood for something light and fluffy after the darker 'Infinity War/Endgame' pairing, then you can happily lose yourself in a world of magic and wizards for a couple of hours.
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Joker (I) (2019)
You'll never root for Batman again
14 October 2019
A film about the Joker. What a great idea! Jared Leno must be delighted to be front and centre as arguably one of the most famous and recognisable bad-guys ever in popular culture. Unfortunately, DC's 'shared universe' ran into one or ten problems and has become fractured into... well, no one really knows what. Only that Jared Leno's 'Joker' appears to have been dumped after his woefully small appearance in 'Suicide Squad' and now Joaquin Phoenix puts on the clown make-up for the role.

How 'Joker' fits in with what has been and what is left of DC's original attempt at bringing 'Justice League' together is anyone's guess. If you liked (or hated!) all those previous installments it doesn't really matter. Don't go into this film looking to see how it ties in. There might be a sequel, there might now. It doesn't matter. This film is so good that I almost hope it stays as a 'stand alone' film, just in case the quality deteriorates.

Phoenix plays 'Arthur Fleck' (yup, no more 'Jack Napier' here!), a down-on-his-luck resident of Gotham City who struggles with his mental health issues while just about scraping a living working as a clown and looking after his sickly mother. It's rare that a film - even one that's mainly about a single individual - actually has that character in every scene. With 'Joker' there's rarely a minute where Phoenix isn't on screen... and therefore stealing the scene. Robert DeNiro is also on the cast list and - yes - obviously he's excellent (but he's not in it that much, so don't expect too much screen time for him). It's also interesting that many people also see the similarities of two of DeNiro's other work. If you've seen (and, if not, I recommend you watch) 'Taxi Driver' or 'King of Comedy' then you'll see more than a few nods here and there.

I know that many recent Batman fans will say that there's no other Joker than Heath Ledger and us oldies will always say that Jack Nicholson did it best. I certainly won't argue with anyone who admires either of their performances, but Phoenix shows that, even stepping into their big clown shoes, he can still bring something new to the role.

Yes, it's - technically - a superhero film, but it never really feels like one. There are no lavish computer-generated special effects of heroes/villains with superpowers. There are plenty of points which obviously link in to the whole 'Batman mythos,' but you could almost watch this film as more of a study of mental illness than an 'origin story' for the Joker.

It may not be for everyone. Yes, it is brutal and there are some shockingly-real acts of graphic violence here and there. There's been a lot of speculation in the media about 'Joker's' hidden meaning and the impact creating a film about a villain and promoting them as a 'hero.' Personally, I don't think that anyone (sane) would ever commit any sore of crime because of a movie, even this one. One reviewer said it best when he said that there wasn't a massive spike in violent crime after the cinematic release of 'American Psycho' so why would there be one now with 'Joker?' The character 'Joker' - despite being the focus of the story - is never really shown as some sort of 'role model' for us all to follow. We may understand - some of - his motives, but anyone in their right mind would never truly wish to emulate him.

I don't want to give away anything away about the plot as this is a film you really do need to watch yourself. I'm not one to say who should be in line for an Oscar. I don't know whether Phoenix will win one (probably not), but his performance is definitely worthy of praise.
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Jesse Pinkman: the movie
13 October 2019
Never has a series been so perfectly-crafted as 'Breaking Bad.' It had the perfect beginning, character growth through the middle and dramatic conclusion which wrapped everything up neatly. So why did we need a 'sequel?' Well, we probably don't, but, seeing as it stars all of the original cast (yes, I know some are dead - welcome to the world of flashbacks) and was made by the same writing team, why not revisit Albuquerque for one last time?

I guess out of all the characters in 'Breaking Bad' Aaron Paul's 'Jessie Pinkman' was possibly the one who's fate was the most unclear. 'El Camino' shows us what happened directly after the events in the TV show. As you probably have guessed, I loved 'Breaking Bad.' It's definitely one of my favourite TV programmes of all time. And 'El Camino' honours and expends on everything well.

I could leave it there, but I do wonder what someone would think of it who has never seen the TV show before. Would they actually 'get' everything? Probably, in story terms. As you might expect if you watched the TV show's final episode Jesse goes on the run and this film charts what he does next. There's nothing too 'out there' here. However, if you aren't 'up' on the previous five series, you probably wouldn't get half as much out of the film.

It's just over two hours long and, in my opinion, probably could have done with (at least) being a six part mini series. There's a lot here and it does feel a bit rushed sometimes. Don't get me wrong - I loved 'El Camino,' but possibly its only downside is that I would have preferred to see even more of everything that goes on.

As I mentioned, there's plenty of well known cast members returning due to flashbacks and even more 'fan service.' There was one scene (set in the past) that I felt went on a little too long and probably could have been trimmed for a bit more action than happens in the present, but that's a minor gripe. Aaron Paul proves that he can headline a movie on his own (even if some of his Box Office outings may say otherwise!) and if you enjoyed the TV show you should appreciate this, too.
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Why is this film not more well-known?
13 October 2019
The eighties produced many great comedies, but, for some reason, I never hear 'The Three Fugitives' mentioned, even though it should be well up with the best the decade has to offer. I used to watch this back when I was a kid and loved it. Then, and I don't know why, I never bought it on DVD when the medium took over from VHS. I've only just rediscovered it on an online streaming service and I'm pleased to say that it's not one of those films that was great when you were young, but doesn't age well. It's as perfect today as it ever was.

Maybe it's just me, but do films set back a few decades seem to 'start' quicker? By this I mean that many of today's offerings seem to take ages getting going as they try (often unsuccessfully) to 'flesh out' the main characters. Here, we meet them, we get to know them and we're off on an adventure with them. In this case, we meet 'Lucas' (Nick Nolte) who is a bank robber just finishing a five year sentence for fourteen counts of armed robbery. Despite deciding to 'go straight' his plans are thwarted when he's taken hostage by an inept bank robber (Martin Short). Unfortunately, the officer who arrested Lucas in the first place (James Earl Jones) doesn't believe that this is anything but Lucas up to his old tricks again and vows to hunt the pair down.

The 'third' fugitive comes in the form of Martin Short's onscreen daughter, who's requiring special care due to various medical conditions that he's been unable to pay for, therefore forcing him to turn to a life of crime (think Walter White's movies - kind of).

There's not much I can say about this film apart from it's just about as 'perfect' as any film could be. It's consistently funny all the way through, yet also delivers a level of poignancy when dealing with real life troubles and family relationships. Plus there's genuine character growth that all three of the protagonists go through along their journey.

Everyone plays their roles to perfection and you couldn't really ask for much more from any of the cast. If you're looking for something with both humour and heart then definitely see if you can track this little gem of an oldie down. I can't see anyone being too disappointed. Apparently it's a remake of a French film. I don't know how it compares to the original source material, but this must be one of those rare times when a remake actually lives up to its predecessor.
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Jonah Hex (2010)
The definition of mediocre
30 September 2019
'Jonah Hex' is one of those films where it's hard to find much bad to say about it, but then again there's not that many major plus points about it either. The Marvel Shared Universe was just starting out and, in doing so, setting the trend of 'superhero' movies. I know 'Jonah Hex' is hardly your average hero who wears tights and fights super-villains, but he's sort of in there.

DC bring to the big screen a sort of sci-fi/western mish-mash where the titular character's family gets killed by a bad man (John Malkovich). That's all the 'character development/motivation' the antagonist gets. He's just bad. Therefore, when Hex is left for dead and brought back to the world of the living by Native Americans, he finds he can now talk - literally - to dead bodies when he touches them. And he has to track down and kill Malkovich while he's at it.

It's one of those dark, 'gritty' superhero movies (of which DC tends to do more of) and therefore it contains more killing, bloodshed and adult situations. However, no matter how hard it tries, it never seems to be anything more than average. If you've seen one superhero movie then you can predict everything that's going to happen beat for beat. Hero. Heroine. Villain who develops super-weapon to wipe out innocent civilians. It's all there.

Josh Brolin does his best with what he's given as 'Hex' but is pretty one dimensional and has done better before and definitely after (especially in the comic book world with 'Thanos' etc). Megan Fox is the obligatory 'love interest' and is normally given a hard time over her acting ability. For her haters, 'Jonah Hex' gives them plenty of ammunition to say she's miscast. However, she's hardly given much to work with and is as average as everything else.

The scenes where Hex touches a dead body and it comes - sort of - back to life for him to question are kind of cool, but are few and far between and probably could have been taken out all together and no one would be any the wiser.

It's the sort of film you can have on in the background, nip out to get a cup of tea, or check your phone a few times and you'll still know everything you need to about the story. I didn't hate it. It's quite watchable, but you probably won't remember much about it in a few days.
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The Grudge (2004)
Pretty creepy (if you haven't seen the original - apparently)
27 September 2019
I watched 'The Grudge' in 2004 and was really impressed. Then I learned it was a remake of a Japanese horror film and everyone who'd already watched that couldn't stop talking about how much worse this Hollywood remake was. However, seeing as I've never seen the original (shame on me), I guess I can still enjoy the movie for what it is... a tight little horror story.

Sarah Michelle Gellar does her best to play 'Karen' - a character not quite so skilled in killing the undead when she begins her new job in Japan of taking care of a housebound old lady (Grace Zabriskie, from 'Twin Peaks' who seems destined to play these crazy, tortured souls!). Unfortunately, the house she lives in is haunted by a particularly nasty ghost (and just a plain weird ghostly little boy). Soon, Buffy... I mean Karen, finds she can't go anywhere without hearing an ominous throaty drone which seems to indicate that the ghost is about to make an appearance.

Despite Sarah Michelle Gellar being the obvious star, there are also sub-plots involving other victims of the spook, namely Clea DuVall and Bill Pullman (don't let the opening scene where he kills himself fool you into thinking there isn't more to his story than just a cameo in the first shots). Because of this the movie does jump around a bit from one set of characters to the next. You have to stick with it to piece together how they are all related before the story finally gets picked up (proper) by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who's left to 'finish' the tale in the third act.

I totally enjoyed the spooky atmosphere created and the setting of a Japanese city made a nice change from an American metropolis. There isn't too much blood and gore; instead you get spooky kills where much is left up to the viewers' imaginations. And, although you do see the ghosts pretty well, props to the film-makers who came up with the creepy drone-repeating click noise it makes when it's getting ready for the kill. I haven't watched 'The Grudge' in years, but the one thing I always remember is that noise!

Now, I know a lot of similar style ghost stories came out in the 2000s (mainly after the success of the Hollywood version of 'The Ring') and 'The Grudge does suffer a little from being released after 'The Ring' as to setting the standards for movies. Yes, a few moments you may see coming, but it's certainly a lot better than many of the similar genre movies that came out after it and it's as watchable as ever today (even if the mobile phones are out of date!).
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Pontypool (2008)
Almost a new take on the zombie genre (almost)
25 September 2019
We've seen comedy zombie films, zombie films where the undead run, romantic situations between human and zombie and children's zombie stories (yes, seriously - watch 'Paranorman' - it's actually pretty good fun!). Anyway, you may be wondering if there's anything new anyone can bring to the genre, especially with 'The Walking Dead' on every year. However, at least 'Pontypool' has a crack at trying something at least a little different.

In a small snow-covered Canadian town, a local radio host goes to work one morning to talk about lost cats and traffic reports over the air, only to find that he's soon reporting on something much more troubling. Yes, you guessed it, some sort of zombie apocalypse is going on out there.

'Pontypool' could almost be a stage play, seeing as it's filmed effectively in one single location, i.e. the snowed-in radio studio. I could see it working like that, too. Therefore, the film doesn't really have much of a budget - what with its single location and gore which, although acceptable for the genre, is nothing you haven't really seen before in any previous zombie film.

However, what it lacks in special effects of big action set-pieces, it makes up for with its leading man, Stephen McHattie. He plays DJ 'Grant Mazzy' and I think most of us would find it hard to believe after watching his performance that he wasn't also a disc-jockey in real life. Seriously, he's that good! If ever a man was 'believable' as a character it was him and the film rests heavily on his shoulders. And, fortunately he can clearly carry the 'burden.'

Now, you're probably expecting that the one location will soon be under siege from hordes of the undead with the humans inside doing their best to barricade themselves in. And you'd be right. Nothing new with the genre so far. However, what makes it a little different than most is the fact that the 'zombie virus' - so often transmitted through bite or blood - is now transmitted through words. Yes, honestly! And that one change to the mythology actually makes the film different enough to make it well worth a watch, even if you're getting tired with the usual tropes associated with the genre.
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So flawed (and yet so good)
24 September 2019
Sometimes a film has so much going for it... and yet it bombs dramatically. 'The Langoliers' is that rare sort of opposite where nothing really works on paper - and yet the end result is something that is highly original, very tense and definitely worth watching again.

'The Langoliers' is one of Stephen King's (many) book-to-film adaptations and, as any horror fan knows, these can be a 'hit or miss' affair (well, most are 'misses' to be fair). Now, 'The Langoliers' was never released in the cinema; instead it was a two part TV mini-series (spanning nearly three hours across the two episodes). It tells the story of a flight where most of the passengers mysteriously disappear, leaving only ten left (luckily one of the passengers happens to be an off-duty pilot, so don't worry about the plane simply dropping out of the sky). Now, it's up to the ten survivors to figure out what's happened and how they can get out of what follows.

Like I say, it's a 'made-for-TV' movie... and it shows. If you turned in during the middle your first thought would be how cheap it looks. Secondly, there's hardly any actors you'll recognise. Dean Stockwell from 'Quantum Leap' is about the only face you may be able to recall, but that's about it. Then there's the script... it's not that great. I don't know whether it's the Z-list cast, or the director who's at fault, but a lot of the delivery is pretty lame. But what 'The Langoliers' is really famous for is its special effects. Only they're not that special. They've actually become famous for being pretty awful. Let's just say that this film is no 'Jurassic Park' when it comes to computer-generated effects.

So the film has many low points. And yet I now own it on DVD and have watched it many times, the first being when I accidentally came across it on the TV, only to find myself totally hooked (and I had to wait until the next day to see the concluding part!).

If you like your horror not too grisly and a little on the - deliberately - slow side (and that's 'slow' in a GOOD way!), plus you can forgive its overall cheap feel and TV budget then you should definitely give it a watch. Its sheer premise carries it and you'll be hooked to find out what's happened. And, if there is a 'stand-out' performance then it comes from Bronson Pinchot as the delightfully over-the-top nut-case 'Craig Toomy' - I know the movie is nearly three hours long, but he makes it all just fly by!
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Primal (2010)
Reasonable little horror
23 September 2019
I must have watched 'Primal' about 5-6 years ago. I watched it again and completely forgot every last moment of it. That kind of sums up the film. You'll probably enjoy it if you're into horror/slasher type movies, but it's unlikely you'll remember anything about it in a few years time (and that's generous!). In fact... one of the reasons I'm making sure I review it this time around is so that I can remind myself what it was like next time I decide to watch it.

If you've seen one teen-slasher film then you've pretty much seen them all. Ever since the seventies' 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' was released, the premise of a bunch of teenagers (good-looking, of course!) getting stuck in some out-of-the-way location, only to end up being stalked by anything from rednecks to werewolves.

Here, you're typical bunch of overly-attractive teens happens to be Australian this time rather than American and instead of the mid-west States, they find themselves without cell phone reception in an Australian rain forest while researching some sort of... yeah, I kind of tuned out as to why they were there. It doesn't matter. Their presence basically awakens something pretty nasty and they start getting picked off one by one, just like every other teen-slasher film.

If you like the genre and you're not totally tired with the set-up then you could give this one a go. It's pretty good - for what it is. Of course you won't remember any of the characters' names during and definitely not AFTER the credits have rolled. You'll know them only as 'brown-haired guy, slutty girl' and so on.

There are some pretty cool moments such as a stylish fight scene towards the end and something really gross in the final act. There's quite a lot of gore, but nothing too over the top or anything you haven't seen before. You'll know who's going to die and who's not when you first meet the characters, so there's nothing here you won't see coming. Either way, like I say, if you're not bored of this type of film you could certainly do worse.
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Still outrageously funny
20 September 2019
There are few films as well done as 'There's Something About Mary.' Of course that doesn't mean that it's for everyone, as there are some scenes there that some may find 'offensive,' but, apart from those few who are easily shocked by scenes of 'adult humour,' it should be appreciated by most.

The 'romantic comedy' format of film-making is as old as the hills: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Now, without wishing to 'spoil' the story too much, 'There's Something About Mary' hardly breaks that rule, but it's all about the way it's told.

I've already mentioned the humour. It's NOT for all the family. There are plenty of jokes that could be considered (a) bad taste (b) adult in nature or (c) both. However, don't go thinking that this is going to be some sort of raunchy adult comedy with bawdy characters constantly engaging in slapstick comedy and who you won't care about. Somehow, this film actually gives us some rather touching moments which go a little deeper than your average 'boy meets girl' film.

It's probably something about the cast. Sometimes everything (or I should probably say everyONE) just falls into place. It's hardly an 'ensemble' film, but there are a few different characters to keep track of and therefore some different story arcs to follow. Most of the marketing of the movie was focused on (then!) Box Office goldmine Cameron Diaz and you could be mistaken for thinking that she was practically starring in the film all on her own. However, it's worth mentioning that Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon are both excellent in their roles. They provide some great conflict and male insecurities which contrast Diaz's sweetness.

The other two characters that are worth a mention are Chris Elliot and Lee Evans. Elliot isn't given as much screen time as the rest, but whenever he's in front of camera he's worth every moment. If the film has a weak spot - in my opinion - it's Lee Evans. I don't know why, but I've never been a fan of his manic stand-up and I find his performance about as enjoyable as his 'gags.'

Perhaps the best thing about the film is that - even after over twenty years - it's still as funny as it was when it first came out. It doesn't seem to have aged at all and, whether you're just looking for a 'boy meets girl' film, or something a little more outrageous and adult in nature, this one should tick all the boxes you're looking for. And, if your only knowledge of the film is that off picture of Cameron Diaz with the funny hair-do, then the scene that you'll be waiting for is very much worth the wait.
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The Matador (2005)
James Bond (retired)
11 September 2019
We all know that Pierce Brosnan was the greatest James Bond ever. Okay, maybe not. But he was pretty good for the nineties and definitely made the role his own for the time period. Some may say he exited before his time and due to the critical mauling 'Die Another Day' received due to its invisible car and awful CGI during the 'tsunami-surfing' scene, the franchise was rebooted and Brosnan went on his merry way.

The reason for the brief 'cinema history lesson' was because many look at 2005's 'The Matador' as some sort of weird 'sequel' to Brosnan's stint as 007. Yes, everyone knows the character he now plays isn't really the unflappable superspy, but you can't help but ask the question, 'What if Bond had retired from MI6 and kind of gone off the rails?'

In 'The Matador' we meet Julian Noble (Brosnan), who is a hitman who's having a bit of a 'midlife crisis.' Normally, he travels the globe happily killing (and sleeping with) various people along the way. However, for one reason or another, he seems to have 'lost his mojo' and his profession is becoming harder and harder. Sadly, there isn't a 'retirement' home for contract killers and those who employ him, don't want to cut him much slack. Then, on one such 'job' in Mexico, he meets down on his luck salesman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) and, believe it or not, the two strike up a weird and unlikely friendship.

Anyone who hated 'Die Another Day' will be glad that in a film that sounds like it could have plenty of 'action' will be pleased to hear that there aren't any outlandish computer-generated speedboat chases or another 'Bond-like.' What you have here is more of an 'odd couple/buddy comedy' film which is far more subtle than anything involving a dry Martini.

Neither of the two main characters ever really descends into mellow-drama or stereotypes when acting, giving both of their characters an air of realism and likability. This is more of a black comedy with subtle, character-based humour than a 'laugh out loud' fun-fest. It knows what it is and it's tightly-paced all the way through, plus it's not that long, so it never outstays its welcome.

You certainly don't have to be a 'Bond fan' to enjoy this. All you need is an appreciation for an adult comedy involving a mild helping of murder and adult chit-chat and you'll find you're watching something that is a welcome break away from all the usual Hollywood epics with their huge budgets and action set pieces.

Oh, and if you're wondering why it's called 'The Matador,' there is a brief bull-fighting scene while the characters are in Mexico. However, if you read the end credits carefully, you'll notice the film-makers stress that any scenes of 'animal cruelty' were computer generated and no bulls were harmed during the making of the film. Good on them.
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Semi-Pro (2008)
Actually pretty good fun
7 September 2019
I always find that Will Ferrell's films can be a little hit and miss. He's either funny, or he tries a little too hard to be funny. Luckily, in the case of 'Semi-Pro,' he's the former. The film is clearly his vehicle, so whether it works or not is largely down to him. Here he plays Jackie Moon - the owner, coach and even player of a low league seventies basketball team who are about to get disbanded, unless they can scrape fourth place in the league.

For a start, you don't have to know or like basketball. I know nothing about it, but I enjoyed the film anyway. Yes, Ferrell is a little over the top here and there, but his performance never really borders on 'annoying.' This is largely because, as insufferable as he could be perceived, he's actually got his team's best interests at heart and, despite his minor fame and fortunes, he's quite a flawed and insecure character. Also, 'Semi-Pro' isn't a long film (only an hour and a half) and most of it is packed with gags (all pretty adult in nature) and the majority of those work.

There are minor plotlines, but they're all secondary to Ferrell. Most other characters are only there to tee up Ferrell for him to deliver the punch line. Woody Harrelson is about the second most important character and he has a little more screen time and, whereas Ferrell provides the laughs, Harrelson's character actually has something in the way of 'character development.' But, despite him being the 'heart' of the story, Harrelson is more of a 'functional' part of the tale and 'Semi-Pro' remains Ferrell's baby. David Koechner and Jackie Earle Haley are also on the cast list, but both of them - although always enjoyable in anything they do - are merely there as kind of 'extended cameos.'

Basically, Semi-Pro won't win any awards. It's daft, loud and dumb, but ultimately very watchable if you're in the mood for a film like that. Even though it's probably never going to be considered as good/funny as 'Anchorman' it could be thought that 'Semi-Pro' could be set in the 'same universe' (if we're talking in Marvel Shared Universe terms!).

Sit back, enjoy and just beware of escaped bears!
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Politically incorrect fun
31 August 2019
Some DVDs should come with instructions. In the case of 'Lesbian Vampire Killers' such instructions should probably read: Lower IQ sufficiently then insert disc into player, sit back and enjoy. Yes, there is officially no brainpower required to get something out of this movie.

Two men, played by Mathew Horne and James Corden (no, don't hate it because Corden's in it - this was made before he apparently got on everyone's nerves!), decide to take a random trip to an out-of-the-way little village in England, only to get mixed up in an ancient curse which turns the village's female population into... well, if you've read the title then you can probably guess.

A lot of people pigeonhole this film into the 'horror/comedy' genre. But I'd claim it was more an outright 'comedy.' Yes, there are vampires involved and, yes, they bite people but that's about as 'horrific' as it goes. There's very little in the way of gore and even less moments that will actually scare you (oh, and if you're tempted to watched based on the 'lesbian' aspect - there's only really hot women/vampires kissing - you can probably find more than that online!). However, it's the banter between the two main leads that really makes this film worth a watch.

They've starred together before in the British TV sitcom 'Gavin and Stacey' (which I haven't seen), but I'm told these two new characters are different enough from their previous creations to set them apart. Plus already working together improves the chemistry between them.

Ultimately, 'Lesbian Vampire Killers' is a spoof of the 'vampire genre' and takes great delight in sending up all the cliches that have been around from 'Buffy' through to 'True Blood.' Paul McGann comes into the film about three quarters of the way through and it's always fun seeing a more 'well respected' actor sending himself up as the local priest. The women are just, er, there, so if you're hoping for any groundbreaking female leads then you're probably looking in the wrong place.

'Lesbian Vampire Killers' is just good daft fun. If you have low expectations, plus don't mind foul language and want to see the vampire genre ripped on, then give his a go. Oh, and when I say 'foul' language, I should probably say there's also plenty of 'politically incorrect' language too. So, if you're offended by that, walk on.
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Needs more love
28 August 2019
'Action Jackson' is a classic. Actually, it's probably not. It's pretty terrible in as many ways as it's good. It's almost one of those 'so-bad-it's-good' type films, only it's just about credible enough to be taken - semi - seriously.

After the 'Rocky' film and 'Predator' there was a certain amount of money on Carl Weathers being a bit of an action star in his own right. Therefore, he was given 'Action Jackson' as a vehicle to flex more than just his impressive biceps. 'Action' Jackson is a cop who is a bit of a rebel and does things his own way to get the job done. Now there's a cinema cliche if ever I heard one. So, he's got to get the bad guys while throwing his police badge at his long-suffering police chief in defiance. Again, nothing new.

And yet, for all its flaws, it's actually a highly-watchable little number which can still be enjoyed if you're in the mood for this sort of film. In today's cinematic climate of making all 'action' films uber serious and dark and gritty. It's nice to step back to yesteryear and see a cheesy, dumb, big ol' series of over-the-top explosions and stereotypical characters. This is what you'll get here.

I guess if the film does have flaws (or major ones) then it's that Carl Weathers, despite looking the part, shows he's probably not quite up to headlining a film on his own. However, that may be a little unfair as I've read some interviews with him where he says about how much of the film kept changing in post production and things got a little all over the place. There aren't that many memorable secondary characters to talk about. Obviously you have the 'shouty' police chief and a generic love interest, but for those of you - like me - who have seen many eighties action movies, you may spot a few familiar faces from other similar movies (mainly henchmen).

If you've seen one eighties action movie (especially those in the 'cop' genre) then you'll probably be able to predict what's going to happen here beat for beat. But, that's no bad thing. You're hardly meant to think about this film's deep and meaningful social commentary - just enjoy it for what it is.

You could call it a 'poor man's 'Lethal Weapon'' and that kind of sums it up, so you're going to have to enjoy your eighties action movies and be prepared not to take anything seriously here to get maximum enjoyment out of this. Luckily, I can do that, so I had a great time with this one.
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Maggie (I) (2015)
Arnie flexes his (acting) muscles
26 August 2019
I've probably seen (and enjoyed!) pretty much every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie since 1984's 'The Terminator' (yes, even finding some enjoyment in his pun-filled 'Mr Freeze' performance in 'Batman and Robin' - I'm that much of an Arnie fan). You could say that I have a preconception or two about what I'm going to get when I see his long name over a film's title. And, because of that, I'm writing this review after my SECOND viewing of 2015's 'Maggie.' The reason being, I only got through about a third of the film on its DVD release. Now I've finally accepted what I'm getting I can sit through the whole thing.

I should also mention that I loved zombie movies. Not just because 'The Walking Dead' is so popular (well, maybe not lately, but it was pretty cool in its day!), but all the way back from George A Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' saga. Therefore, I was in cinema heaven when I heard Arnie was going to star in a 'zombie movie.' I could only imagine him kitting himself out with all sorts of 'Commando' style weapons and taking on hordes of flesh-eating ghouls with only his pecs and a witty quip or two for protection. It's fair to say that 'Maggie' is not that kind of zombie film.

If you believe the trivia online, Arnie didn't actually take payment for his role in this film and its budget is the lowest he's been associated with since 'The Terminator.' Here, he plays 'Wade Vogal' a loving father whose daughter (Maggie - surprise, surprise!) has recently been bitten by a zombie and therefore only has a few weeks left to live. Yes, apparently people here can last 'weeks' before turning into the undead - eat your heart out '28 Days Later.' And, as the title suggests, Arnie isn't technically the focus of the story. Abigale Breslin plays the titular character and effectively carries the movie. She's the one who is faced with the knowledge that she won't be here in only a couple of weeks, or at least will not be the same person she is now, i.e. will be crazing the flesh of her family and risking their lives if she stays with them.

So, 'Maggie' is not really your 'Resident Evil' sort of zombie film. Arnie doesn't so much as kill everything that moves with machine guns, but spends his time brooding over the impending doom that he has no way of stopping when it comes to the fate of his daughter. And, if you've ever thought that the big man's acting ability was limited to playing stone cold cyborgs then 'Maggie' goes some way to prove that he can do more than just look menacing in a leather jacket and sunglasses.

So, if - like me - you initially sit down to watch a gung-ho action/horror flick with Arnie mowing down endless legions or walking corpses, then you'll probably do what I did and walk away. However, if you're in the mood for something a lot more subtle and bleak with touching performances then this one might be worth adding to your watchlist. Lately, zombie movies have been done every way possible and, although you can probably find some of the themes touched here in other sources, it's still worth a watch it you're a fan of the genre.
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Sexy Beast (2000)
Kingsley rules
25 August 2019
These days I always think of 'Iron Man 3' when I see 2000's 'Sexy Beast.' I'm not versed in the 'Iron Man' comics, but I understood that 'The Mandarin' was Iron Man's 'nemesis.' Therefore, people got very excited when an actor as well-respected as Sir Ben Kingsley was cast in the role, only for him to be completely 'underused.' Personally, I still thought he was good in Marvel's end to the 'Iron Man' trilogy, but I couldn't help but wonder if Tony Stark had to face 'Don Logan' whether he'd be able to win so easily.

'Sexy Beast' is a gangster film which is about a retired criminal, Gal, (Ray Winstone) who's living the 'high-life' in sunny Spain on the profits of his crimes. However, what he doesn't know is that he's had the 'honour' of being selected for one last job by Don Logan (Kingsley). And, as you'll find out if you watch this film, Logan isn't the kind of guy who takes a 'No' to his 'kind' offer.

The film is one of those that's sort of in 'two halves.' The first is set in Spain and charts Don's attempts to persuade Gal to come back to London to carry out a robbery. The second half... well, you'll just have to find out. However the movie ends, one thing is clear - Kingsley steals every scene. He's awesome. Naturally, his brilliance doesn't mean that he's a 'relatable' character who you'd like to hang out with. In fact, he's more likely to haunt your dreams in a way that only Freddy Kruger could. Kingsley is truly terrifying in the role and 'Sexy Beast' is worth watching purely for his performance alone.

Of course that's not to say that Ray Winstone and the rest of the cast aren't good. It's just that Kingsley is just so perfect in the role that he eclipses everyone around him. It probably helps if you're into British gangster films and you should be warned about the strong language, violence and some sexual content (not as much sex as you may think, despite the - slightly misleading - title!). Get ready for one hell of a tense ride which should be at the top of Sir Ben Kingsley's C.V.
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Chopping Mall (1986)
The clue is in the title
22 August 2019
Think about it: you're considering watching a film called 'Chopping Mall.' Are you seriously expecting a great, original plot with fantastic character development and Oscar-winning special effects? I hope not. If you are then you really shouldn't watch this. This is truly terrible. And I loved it.

It's about a mall (surprise, surprise) where the owners employ robots to guard it at night. These robots look like a cross between a Cylon from 'Battlestar Gallactica' and something out of 'Silent Running.' Anyway, just when they're commissioned, they only get struck by a freak lightning storm, turning them from honourable guardians of the night to psychotic killers (always the way, huh?). I guess it's kind of the reverse of what happened to 'Johnny 5' in 'Short Circuit!'

If this isn't bad enough then a bunch of kids hang back after work to indulge in pre-marital sex. You can probably guess they don't live to regret their kinky, decadent decision. You have every cliché here going - characters who you can tell exactly how and when they'll die - then getting killed in the exact way, kids having sex and then getting killed, kids drinking alcohol - then getting killed, spouting cheesy dialogue and then getting killed. Yes, there's a lot of killing going on here! For the first half an hour the film is pretty dull, not even worthy of a cult classic. However, at about the half hour mark, a woman gets her head blown to bits (classic!) and it all picks up from there. What you have is one daft chase after the next with robots who clearly need shooting lessons and kids who suddenly become Rambos when they raid a gun store.

The kids all look totally 'eighties' with their big hair and bad clothes. Now, if you know your horror movies, you'll be able to tell who's going to make it out of this one alive. And, 'Chopping Mall' offers no surprises there. However, I felt that a couple of the more 'expendable' characters were actually better suited to being the leads (and therefore surviving) than the boring ones that you're supposed to root for.

Anyway, it's stupid. It's awful. It's a terrible film. And, if you know and appreciate that, you may love it as much as I do.
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Congo (1995)
So unappreciated
22 August 2019
I remember watching 'Congo' in the cinema back in 1995 and I loved it! It was only afterwards did I realise how much other people (and when I say 'other people' I generally mean the critics!) absolutely hated it. And, although I obviously don't agree, I can see why - from a certain point of view.

In 1993 'Jurassic Park' was epically adapted from a Michael Crichton novel and... well, the Box Office and impact on films and popular culture spoke for itself. Therefore, when 'Congo' was pitched from another Crichton novel, it was 'sold' to the masses as 'Jurassic Park with gorillas.' Yes, if you saw any of the trailers or marketing material around the time of its release, you'd get the impression the human stars were going to be going up against hordes of savage, mutated gorillas in the jungle. And, although that does happen, it can hardly be described as the 'main' portion of the film. In fact... would it be a 'spoiler' to say that the 'bad gorillas' only come into the story in the final act?

What 'Congo' is about is a bit of a 'mish-mash.' You have a scientist (Dylan Walsh) who's trained a gorilla to use sign language and to 'speak' through the help of a virtual-reality glove, returning her to the film (in the 'Congo' - surprise!), teaming up with an ex CIA operative (Laura Linney) who's looking for her ex fiancé because he disappeared while searching for a new form of diamond for a telecommunications company. Throw in an eccentric Hungarian (Tim Curry) who's looking for a lost city in the jungle and a suave British local guide (Ernie Hudson) and you generally have a lot going on. Is it any wonder that the film-makers simple figured it would be easier just to sell it as 'Jurassic Park with gorillas?'

However, despite having a lot to cover plot-wise, it's actually pretty good. It's not so much about 'man versus mutant gorilla,' rather the group versus everything you'd expect (and more!) to find in that area of the world. You have the local tribes, the harsh elements, corrupt military and hungry, hungry hippos (yes, seriously). First of all, it's an adventure film. The bad gorillas are simply one part of a much bigger film.

It's no dramatic masterpiece. In fact, Laura Linney and Dylan Walsh are two pretty uninspiring leads. The true outstanding performances come from Ernie Hudson and Tim Curry who - probably - should have been the two leads as their bantering and performances is what makes the film (in terms of human leads).

The other notable 'cast members' are the gorillas themselves. Although computer effects did wonders at bringing dinosaurs back a few years earlier, the technology still wasn't there to make furry gorillas look realistic, so animatronics and practical effects were used instead. These were masterminded by Stan Winston and, although they aren't perfect, they are as pretty close to holding up today as any film made in 1995.

If you're expecting a wall-to-wall action film where man must survive against great big, nasty gorillas who are picking them off one by one, then you won't find it here. If, however, you're looking for a good old fashioned action/adventure film that could be watched by all the family on a Saturday afternoon, then this will certainly kill a couple of hours.
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Pulp Fiction (1994)
10/10. Not much else to add
20 August 2019
It may sound odd finally getting round to 'reviewing' 1994's 'Pulp Fiction' as there's really little that can be added to everything that's been said about it over the years. Yes, it's a true masterpiece which has - and will always, I would imagine - stand the test of time. But is it for everyone?

It's Quentin Tarantino's second film as writer/director and, even with all the greats he's turned out since, most people will say that it's probably his best (and I'd agree). However, if there's actually someone out there who hasn't seen it and doesn't even know anything about it, how would you describe its story? I guess you could call it a 'gangster' film with various stories which span different characters which are skillfully (if loosely!) woven together. It's also filmed out of 'chronological' order, meaning that a character may die halfway through, only to return later on in the film simply because the end of the film is technically set before the mid-way point. Confused? Stick with it. It's worth it.

If you check out the main poster associated with 'Pulp Fiction' you'll see the - now iconic - image of Uma Thurman's character to sell it. Even though she is indeed a 'central' character to the plot, you'll notice a whole load of famous names in the small print, including John Travolta, Bruce Willis and - of course - Samuel L Jackson (in what was totally his 'breakout' role). This is definitely an 'ensemble' cast and, due to the multiple story threads, not all these names will be on screen for as long as you might like them to be. However, that doesn't mean that anyone turns in a bad performance.

'Pulp Fiction' has made it's mark on not only the Box Office and takings, but also on popular culture. It's either quoted or lampooned to this day and most people will 'get' any references made to everything from the numerous quotable lines to the crazy outlandish settings the characters find themselves in.

Due to the extreme circumstances involving very 'adult' themes, this film is not for children. And it's all the better for it. This is because it will - hopefully - limit those who just don't 'get' it. For all its greatness, it's not an easy watch. You can't just have it on in the background while you idly check your Instagram account on your phone. You really need to invest your time into your viewing to get the most out of it. Because of that it's not for idle viewers. It's made to be watched properly (and then debated afterwards, no doubt - people still wonder what was in the briefcase to this day!).

If you're not a fan of violence, bad language, drug-usage or films that play with the element of storytelling in order to mix things up a little, then you may find much of 'Pulp Fiction' a little hard to watch. However, even if you're not sure about it, I would advise at least giving it a go, simply because it one of those rare films where audiences and critics actually agreed that it was a 'true' masterpiece. Plus, as I've eluded to, Samuel L Jackson's performance is worth a viewing on its own, let alone with all the other amazing performances as well. They don't make them like this any more. Even Tarantino has never - quite - managed to recapture what he managed here.
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Jackass 3.5 (2011 Video)
Left me a bit cold
19 August 2019
The 'Jackass' franchise is definitely an 'acquired taste.' I dare say many will find the idea of a group of grown men coming up with new and immature ways to humiliate and hurt each other the last thing they want to watch as it's totally infantile. But then there are those of us - for whatever reason - who actually quite like it. Like me.

I've watched all the 'Jackass' movies and enjoyed - in a crude and low-brow way - all of them. Therefore, I was only too happy to rest my brain to the guys' latest offering. And, having seen it, I can say that, although it's nothing that new and most people who have seen one 'Jackass' movie will know what to expect, it does seem to be a grade below the average.

The stunts just didn't seem that over-the-top and interesting. Yes, there were the odd gross-out one here and there which stuck with me, but - ultimately - this is a film of the leftover stunts that didn't make the other films.

You'll get plenty of 'interviews' added to 'pad out' the run-time, but they hardly offer much insight into anything that you may actually be interested in. It's just the cast saying how much things hurt etc.

If you're a mega fan of the franchise then you'll probably enjoy some of what's on show here. However, it's not a vital addition to the collection and you're probably best off waiting for it to come on an online streaming service and watch it for free rather than paying any extra money to see it.
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The Upside (2017)
Uplifting little number
18 August 2019
Apparently, 'The Upside' is a remake of a foreign film and - as is traditional - everyone that's seen the original source material claims that this new version isn't a patch on it. However, seeing as I've never watched this - alleged - 'masterpiece,' I can only comment on this latest incarnation. And I really enjoyed it.

Kevin Hart, best known for his 'larger than life' comedic performances, plays 'Dell Scott,' a (semi) reformed criminal, released from jail and now looking for work. This could lead to all sorts of wacky adventures that Hart would be excellent to show us. However, anyone who's seen his previous work will find this role slightly 'toned down.' And he's all the better for it. That's not to say that he's not funny. Although all his best moments are when he's up against Mr Breaking Bad himself, Bryan Cranston, or Philip Lacasse - Scott's new employer.

As far-fetched as it may sound, Lacasse is a rich man who is wheelchair-bound and unable to move from the neck down. He - for reasons you'll find out - employs Scott as his live-in carer, thus creating one hell of an 'odd couple' setting.

What follows is pure, yet subtle, comic gold. There may not be so many 'laugh out loud' moments, but it's the little looks each character gives each other that make it worth watching. Plus the jokes, although some may be - slightly - 'adult' in nature, are never crude and this film could almost be watched by anyone who's interested in what is effectively a film about two broken people who have to learn from each other how to behave as a fully-rounded emotional human being.

Anyone who's seen Cranston's work will know he's a fine actor and 'The Upside' allows him to continue to flex his acting ability. Hart, best known for just shouting and being over the top, also shines as a more broken, sympathetic and flawed character who we will root for to see him fix his problems with his life. Nicole Kidman doesn't have quite as much screen time as the two men, but she's actually quite good, too. She also has a bit of a 'character arc' which is nice to watch, as she also grows.

'The Upside' is also - apparently - based on 'real' events. Again, I haven't looked into how much we see here is actually 'real,' but I don't care. It's simply a nice, heart-warming story with messages about life and learning from people who - on first impressions - are completely different to us and someone we may not choose to associate with. If it does have a flaw I would say that it's a little longer than it needed to be. I thought it was going to end about a quarter of an hour before it did. Then, when it did end, it kind of ended quite abruptly. However, that's a minor gripe. There's plenty here to enjoy if you fancy a break from superhero movies.
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There could be a good film in there somewhere
17 August 2019
It's safe to say that opinion was divided when 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' was the released. The critics seemed to absolutely hate it and the public didn't think it was that good, too. Okay, so opinion wasn't that divided after all. Anyway, from the amount of hated this film received before it was kicked out of cinemas and branded a 'flop' you'd think that all you'd see online were 1 star reviews. However, now that I see what the public seems to think about it, I can actually stand by my opening statement about it leaving audiences divided.

Sure, it's got it's fair share of 1 star reviews, but it also has more 5 star reviews than you'd expect based on how it was originally received. About fifteen years ago, Hollywood decided to 'reinvent' King Arthur in a more 'gritty' fashion and made a film starring Clive Owen. And, despite 'Legend of the Sword' also trying to reinvent King Arthur in a gritty and realistic fashion, Guy Ritchie's interpretation adds fanciful direction, superhero-like fight scenes and giant elephants. In fact... probably the biggest elephants every created by digital effects for the silver screen.

When director, Guy Ritchie, was promoting the film, he described it as 'Lord of the Rings' meets 'Snatch.' Yeah, I can't really sum in up any better. Only that does probably sell it a little more than it's worth. Yes, there are plenty of epic battles and computer effects which remind you of the 'Lord of the Rings' films and, yes, the dialogue seems like it was additional scenes left on the cutting room floor after 'Snatch' had been edited. The main problem is that 'King Arthur' feels like it should have been about three hours long and then cut down to only two hours. For all the good bits it contains, it feels like it's a whistle-stop tour of the actual story.

Charlie Hunnam is the titular King Arthur and he plays the hero pretty well as he tries to reclaim his birthright from his evil uncle (Jude Law) and his army of Kylo Wren impersonators. He doesn't have too much to do other than look 'buff,' but he's a watchable enough hero. Jude Law is good when he's in it, but - again - he's not in it enough for us to really get to know and his only job appears to just be evil. And, while we're on the subject of casting, who gave David Beckham a cameo? Sorry, but no matter how well he can bend balls, he really can't act!

I hear the film went through some major reshoots before release. I'm guessing that these were the parts of the film that really do feel 'thrown together.' And, not only do they feel out of place, any special effects used seem to be done on the cheap. There are some pretty good effects here and there, but they're not constant enough to feel like they belong in such a big budget production. Plus the sets look a little too 'modern' for the time period. No, I'm not saying they look like they belong in today's world, but I'm sure the time period King Arthur was supposed to be set in didn't look like the world which is depicted (what we see looks more like only a couple of hundred years ago, rather than about 5-800 years ago). It all feels more like Robin Hood's era than King Arthur's.

If you're a fan of Guy Ritchie's directing and dialogue then you'll get plenty for your money. However, the film is so weirdly slung together that it's all just turned into a bit of a rushed mess. There's a scene in the middle of the film that actually feels like a trailer for the film itself. I've never seen anything like that before. It's very jarring.
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Dunkirk (2017)
Great style, less substance
12 August 2019
'Dunkirk' is a great film. And it's not. I really enjoyed a lot of it. And yet I can't see me ever watching it again. It's a two-hour account of one of the most famous 'retreats' in modern warfare (or, if I'm being cynical... a longer version of the opening credits to 'Dad's Army' - boom, boom!) where British and French troops were forced to fall back across the English channel after a failed attempt to recapture occupied France from German forces.

It's a 'Christopher Nolan film' and he is undoubtedly an amazing writer/director, meaning so much care and attention has been put into every last scene. He chooses a majority of 'practical effects' over computer-generated ones and it really does add to the 'realism' of it all. The overall look and feel of the film really is up there with 'Saving Private Ryan' in terms of how closely it resembles the actual events it portrays.

There were so many moments of real horror when thousands of young men are - literally - 'sitting ducks' for German forces to simply pick off at their leisure. You really do get a sense of how terrible it must have been for the soldiers when faced with such inevitable death.

So, if everything is so atmospheric, why do I feel a little let down by it all. Like I said, it's around two hours long and made up of three different stories, all relating to the conflict. One is about how the war was fought in the air (mainly through the eyes of Tom Hardy's Spitfire pilot), the second is about the boats crossing the English channel to rescue the stricken troops and the final is about Kenneth Branagh's General who is trying to get his men off the beach and onto some sort of safe transport back home.

Nothing wrong with having multiple stories, but - when it comes to characters - it seems like this film is trying to be more of a documentary/recreation, rather than a story with a cast of characters we can relate to. I know there have been other 'historical' films ('Titanic' and 'Pearl Harbour') that have tried to inject a (love!) story into the proceedings and got critisised for that. 'Dunkirk' is the exact opposite of those and you'd think it would be all the better for it. However, there just didn't seem to be any real 'star' of the film to really get behind.

Yes, One Direction singer Harry Styles is in it and actually does pretty well at acting. You could argue that Tom Hardy is the star, but seeing as he spends the film - technically - on his own in a one-man Spitfire, he doesn't get much in the way of other characters to play off. It's also worth noting that there are never any German characters to see. Here, they're just a 'faceless enemy' who we never see, other than the destruction their artillery causes.

If you're looking for a film that really captures the atmosphere of a very horrific battle in World War II then this ticks every box. However, if you're looking for a dramatic cast of characters it does fall a little short. Overall, it's memorable scenes will stay with me for a long time, so I certainly don't feel like I've wasted my times watching it.
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The Box (I) (2009)
Clearly divisive
7 August 2019
I guess it's fair to say that a lot of people absolutely hated this film. I didn't. But then I'm a huge fan of writer/director Richard Kelly who oversaw this production. The general consensus is that his first film 'Donnie Darko' was a masterpiece, however his second offering 'Southland Tales' was also generally run-down by critics and audiences alike (yes, I loved that one, too). To date, 'The Box' is Kelly's third and final film that he wrote and directed (although I hear he's currently working on something new). Perhaps if you know his other work you'll appreciate 'The Box' more? Then again... perhaps not.

It's a dark science-fiction story about a young married couple who are currently experiencing financial difficulties in the seventies, played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden. Their suburban life gets more than a little turned on its head when a mysterious man (Frank Langella) with only half a face (CGI required) turns up at their door and offers them a - you guessed it - box. If they press the only button on the unit then they'll get a million dollars, but someone, somewhere who they don't know... will die!

Apparently, it's based on a short story (which I haven't read, but am reliably informed that it's a masterpiece!) which is effectively a 'morality play' about whether they'd let a stranger die in order to become rich. Most people seem to like everything up until this point where Kelly's influence takes over. For me, I see this film as part of (the now seemingly mandatory) 'shared universe' that Kelly had already created with 'Donnie Darko' and 'Southland Tales' as I felt their were plenty of thematic nods to his earlier works. I guess if you hadn't seen them (or just didn't like them!) you won't really 'get' the references, i.e. I'll bet you didn't know that 'water' is an element most associated with time travel. Unless you've seen the extended edition of 'Donnie Darko' you probably wouldn't get that.

I won't go into too much detail about what happens and why, but - in my opinion - everything got tied up pretty well and all questions were answered. Now, judging by other reviews, I'm in the minority there. Either I understood everything completely, or I just didn't pick up on the (supposedly numerous) plot threads that other people felt were glossed over or left answered.

But, for what it's worth, I loved this film and often watch it when I'm in the mood for something a lot darker than the average science fiction. Don't expect too much in the way of light-heartedness or lols here. It's all pretty bleak. The performances are excellent and especially Cameron Diaz who shows she can handle dramatic roles as well as just being the 'kookie blonde.' Frank Langella is also excellent with or without the CGI semi-face missing) and the seventies atmosphere is a pleasant change from most similar films and adds to the gloomy and bleak atmosphere. However, I have to accept that just as many people hated it as loved it, so choose wisely if you want to invest your time into a movie that has as many one-stars as it does five-stars.
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