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War of the Worlds (2005)
Not for a while have I seen such a brilliant film. Not only are the visuals perfect the acting is this time top notch. A Spielberg/Cruise pairing is usually a good indication that the film is going to be really good. Minority Report was also fantastic.
The premise of the story is that Alien beings have for many years been plotting the total extermination of the human race and one day it happens. It starts off with a simple lightning storm, and what follows is some of the most intense action scenes that I've seen in a 12A/PG-13 rated film. This really is not a film for children though, some of the sequences are quite frankly going to be scary, but for a more mature audience it is a stunning film. The casting is spot on. Tom cruise plays Ray Ferrier, our main hero of the picture and father to Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning). Fanning inparticular is exceptionally good in this, she is one of the best child actors around at the moment. But Cruise and Chatwin also deliver a fine performance as a slightly estranged father and son. A surprise addition to the cast was Tim Robbins who played a not quite all there man trying to come to terms with what is happening around him. As for the visuals they are brilliant. The combination of CG and live action is seamless and the look of the alien vehicles (tripods) are creepy and otherworldly, I was most impressed by them. The fact that the movie only starting shooting 7 months ago does not show in the slightest, the effects are up to standard and beyond
In summary it is a fantastic film, definitely worth a view, but I wouldn't recommend taking your kids with you if they are under 10.
Jonathan Creek (1997)
A brilliant detective series
I have to say that I really enjoy this series, but I did prefer Caroline Quentin to Julia Sawalha. Quentin could just deliver a better comedy performance and was less stilted. Not to criticise Sawalha's performance though, she was still a brilliant sidekick for Jonathan.
The basic premise of the series is that magicians assistant Jonathan Creek and in the first 3 series writer Maddy Magellan are invited to solve seemingly impossible murders and crimes. Jonathan uses his skills of logic to determine exactly what happened, and it is usually the most complex set of incidents. What makes the series so good is the comedy moments. Quentin and Davies are the perfect coupling. My favourite episode would have to be "Ghost's Forge". It is brilliantly written, and has a twist where Maddy gets her own back on Jonathan and leaves him with a mystery to solve. The shocking twist at the end though where the mystery is solved was a great case of misdirection. Personally I think it could survive another couple of specials and a series, but much more and the stories will start to dry up and it would lose it's edge. It would be great if a series was made for this year then Caroline Quentin could return for a one-off Christmas special and then put an end to the series, it would be able to go out on a high that way.
Overall I would say this is a fantastic series, but a warning to the writers, you can have too much of a good thing!!
In a word "Genius"
The year is 1999 and Phillip J Fry is delivering pizza to a crank call. After discovering this he leans back and celebrates the Millennium with a small party of his own and when the clock strikes down he falls back into a cryogenic freezing tube and emerges into a changed world 1000 years later. A world inhabited by one eyed aliens and alcoholic robots with a passion for sleaze, and thus begins his adventures in the year 3000. The series has it all, it is far more cleverly written than later seasons of The Simpsons and has far more likable characters to boot. I'm sure like most people my favourite character is Bender, he is just so sleazy and crass and has the best lines in the series. But I'm not knocking any of the other characters, they are all funny in their own way. Zoidberg, Amy, Leela, Fry, Hermes and Prof Farnsworth are all delightful along with the many other characters that inhabited this crazy world. There really were some genius moments throughout the series and to pick on one wouldn't do the other episodes any justice. Searcing through the quotes section throws up so many classic moments and brilliant one-liners such as "Here's to us poor schmoes, working for the man. Even if he is a hot, sexy female man". What makes this better than The Simpsons is it ended on a high and when the time was right and it ended just the right way. Four series was enough and had anymore been commissioned it would have been in danger of going the way of The Simpsons and becoming stale and a parody of itself.
But thankfully it was fresh and funny from start to finish and was always a joy to watch even if it was short-lived.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Can't get much better than this
This is a masterful film. Superbly acted, wonderfully directed and expertly rolled together in an all action romp with a sword. From the opening scene I knew I was going to love this film. Uma Thurman gives a totally believable performance as the bride so mercilessly tortured by Bill and his D.I.V.A.S
The basic premise is that the Bride on her wedding day was brutally attacked by the gang she left when she wanted to get married and have a baby. Because the attack was so violent the bride remains in a coma for 4 years. When she wakes up, she discovers her baby gone and goes on a brutal killing spree against the people responsible for the attack. In this film, Vernita Green a respectable housewife now and O-Ren Ishii, head of the Japanese mafia. The Venita Green fight is short and violent, but none the less satisfying. It introduces us to the situation and leads happily on to the main part of the film, which actually takes place before the brides attack on Vernita Green. It is the tracking down of O-Ren Ishii. Her backstory is cleverly told through Japanese style animation.
The whole style of the direction of the latter half of the film is wonderful. The homages to various styles of kung-fu films from the 60's and 70's is a fascinating take on the story and brings a refreshing view to what could have become a very stale and boring story of revenge. the reason why it works so well is that it is taken to a whole new level of clever moments that thrill the audience and kept me captivated for best part of 2 hours. With a film this good, time goes out the window. Yes it is insanely violent in places, but hey this is Tarantino and to have held him back to a PG certificate wouldn't have done the film justice. I couldn't help but give this 10/10 because I loved it, plain and true
Ally McBeal (1997)
Was a great show that lost it's way
How can Ally McBeal be easily described? Well it actually can't because it works on a huge variety of levels. The characters are likable and funny, the dialogue is interesting and quirky and the stories vary from downright silly to incredibly moving.
I guess I'm mostly referring to the first four seasons of the series rather than the travesty that was the final one. The first four seasons were fantastic to watch and I really enjoyed every episode. Yes there were one or two duds scattered here and there, but that is only to be expected with that many episodes. But there could be some really moving moments. When Ally has to inform the office that Billy has died the acting by Calista Flockhart was superb because the whole situation was totally underplayed which made the announcement almost real and that much more moving. The final scene of the season one episode "Boy to the World" was heart wrenching That said the sheer comedy moments were also wonderfully played out. Ally getting stuck in a toilet, her fear of murderers, her trial for statutory rape are all a joy to watch.
But how could it all go so wrong after so much right? I won't say I watched the entire 5th season, it was just to painful to see such a decline. We were missing Renee, Ling, Georgia, Billy and Larry, it just couldn't be the same. And after that ridiculous daughter storyline happened, the series was doomed. It's a huge shame it had to end the way it did because of Robert Downey Jr's forced exit from the show. The character of Larry Paul breathed new life into the series and the hasty rewrites at the end of the 4th season are all to evident, yet even these are much better than anything much that passed for the 5th season.
But I can't condemn a series for one flawed final season when it brought me so much joy with the 4 previous ones. All in all I loved Ally McBeal for what it was, and I shall continue to watch my first 4 season DVD's for long time yet
The Grudge (2004)
I actually enjoyed it
Yes the plot is thin enough to pass your hand through, but it's still a great film. It's quite scary in a few places I suppose watching it at 2 in the morning didn't help the situation. However even if I hadn't watched it then it still would've scared me. The way that the suspense is built up is chilling, especially with that strange little boy Toshio. When Susan is going home and is travelling up to her apartment in the lift and Toshio is there on every floor, I had my fists up to my face cringing, it really freaked me out. But not as much as the next section did, again involving Susan and the main ghost Kayako. Sad as it may seem I actually had to look under my bed covers when I got home. I know the acting wasn't perfect and in an odd way I was half expecting a vampire to leap out at Karen, but I still got sucked into the whole story of why Kayako was haunting the house in the first place. It had me jumping all over the place a few times and that noise gave me the chills I decided to give it 8/10 because on the whole it is a good film with an interesting premise to a story. It's well directed & still manages to do a better job than other Japanese to American remakes of recent years.
The Simpsons (1989)
What to say?!
In its heyday The Simpsons was a joy to watch. The characters were likable and the stories were humorous and well written. I always looked forward to the next installment of this piece of cartoon genius. Notice how I'm using the past tense, this is because watching a more recent episode is nothing short of pure torture. The characters have become obnoxious and the same story of Homer getting some wacky new job is trotted out seemingly again and again. I won't pretend that I have seen all the episodes much past season 10 simply because I haven't. I prefer to keep my memories of a good show intact and not taint them with the wreck of a cartoon The Simpsons has become. I think it would be cruel to make my eyes watch anything from the 16th season whenever that may float across to merry old England. I can appreciate that after so long the stories are bound to dry up, but it's at that point that most sensible people would decide to stop flogging the poor dead horse and actually bury it. Years ago celebrities who appeared in the show actually played a character rather than just themselves. These people are actors, for goodness sake let them act!!! A series cannot go on forever and after 15 years I believe that The Simpsons should end next year. If the rumours of the 3 movies that the main actors are contracted to do actually happen then I seriously can't see them being any better that what we have to put up with at the moment.
So I send out a plea to all the writers & overpaid actors on The Simpsons, tell Fox where they can put the show and help track down any episodes past season 10 and destroy them so that they may never be heard of or spoken of again.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)
Buffy = Brilliant
Commenting on a single episode is nigh on impossible because there were a huge number of fantastic ones spanning all 7 seasons. There are of course one's that stand out more than others for either being moving or brilliantly written and directed. The most moving episodes in my opinion are the season 5 episodes "The Body" and "The Gift". In "The Body" we see the death of Buffy and Dawn's mother Joyce after a battle against brain cancer. To actually have a character die of natural causes rather than by monster or spell is a dramatic twist because it shows that even Buffy can't save everyone. Interestingly there is no music in the episode which increases how utterly sad the situation is. When Buffy tells dawn what has happened all we hear is Dawn's anguished crying rather than Buffy actually telling her what has happened. "The Body" is a superb episode which is written and Directed by Joss Whedon. Whedon also wrote and directed "The Gift", the final episode of season 5. In this, the entire 5th season plot involving Dawn comes to a head and the final scene between Dawn and Buffy nearly had me in tears especially with the music composed by Christophe Beck. The way in which we only hear what Buffy actually says to Dawn after she has leaped into the vortex is a wonderful bit of writing.
Other episodes also stick in my mind such as "Hush" (season 4) where a vast majority of the episode involves none of the characters being able to talk. Again this is written and directed by Joss Whedon. The final 4 episodes of season 6 (Seeing Red, Villains, Two to Go & Grave) focus on the aftermath of Tara's death and Willow's revenge against the people responsible. Seeing Willow cope with the death of Tara by turning to dark magic and being consumed by rage was very emotional.
Some episodes that deserve an honourable mention because they are some of the most best written or most moving are "Once More With Feeling" , "Passion", "The Wish", "Tabula Rasa", "Conversations with Dead People" and of course the final episode "Chosen"
It would take forever to go through all my favourite episodes so I will end it here by just saying that Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a fantastic series which I doubt very much will be equalled by anything else.
Xena: Warrior Princess (1995)
Daft but absolutely fantastic
Having recently managed to find the DVD's cheap I decided to invest in them remembering how much I used to like the series. Because I hadn't seen any of the seasons for at least 2 years I wasn't expecting to be as impressed as I once was. How wrong could I be. The memories came flooding back, the fabulous Xena, sidekick Gabrielle, Joxer, Ares and of course the utterly nuts yet totally fantastic Callisto. Yes the series was corny but therein lies it's appeal, it doesn't take itself to seriously. However when there were moments of tragedy and struggle, Xena could still pull it off successfully. Some of the best scenes are the more moving ones. Where Xena finds her son Solen dead and when Gabrielle kills Hope for the first time in the episode "Maternal Instincts" and when Gabrielle takes her own life to save the world from Hope after she was resurrected in "Sacrifice pt2". These scenes managed to take us away from the silliness of the usual episodes, but still keep us in the Xena universe and remind us that Xena is after all, human.
To comment on a single episode wouldn't do the series justice, because all of them are good in their own way. Some are silly, some are serious, and some are brilliantly written. Some of my favourites include "Maternal Instincts", "The Bitter Suite" and "Sacrifice pt 1 & 2". But of course any episode with Callisto in is always a plus point in my book. She appears several times over the years and always brings a bit of an edge to the proceedings, especially when she is on the rampage.
The acting may not be exactly A list Hollywood standard, but who cares? not me! Lucy lawless has played so many different personalities in Xena that you certainly have to give her some credit. Personally I'm pleased the series ended when it did because had they tried to drag another season out it would have become stale and would have ruined what had already been. Nothing can really compare to Xena because nothing like that had ever been done before and nothing has been done since. It will be one of the most memorable things in the 90's simply for being what it was, fun, silly and daft but absolutely fantastic. Good thing about Xena is you don't have to think really hard to follow it all. You just have to sit back and revel in 90's joy
Just plain daft
How to describe Catwoman? Well I think my one line summary is fairly to the point. There was nothing horrifically bad about the film, it just wasn't any good. The storyline to begin with was slightly nicked from Batman Returns where a mousy woman finds out her bosses secret, is killed, brought back to life by moggies, wears leather. I guess the whole back story of catwomen covered that one up a bit, but still they could have come up with something a little better. It would be unfair to compare Halle Berry to Michelle Pfeiffer because the characters are actually different in the way they react to the fact that they have these new powers. Selina was more hell bent on eliminating her killer and went quite nuts because of it. Patience seemed more determined to just bring down the empire of Hedare. Her revenge just didn't seem as believable.
The action sequences where real people were involved were fairly OK but the computer generated ones were distracting because it was so easy to tell when they actually occurred. I'm beginning to get slightly annoyed with film makers constant reliance on computers to have action sequences. I know in some cases it would be physically impossible to have any stunt person perform what is required, but they should limit the amount of times that impossible stunts need to be performed. Trouble is in catwoman when Halle Berry was performing her own stunts she was slow and jerky. The final fight at the end was a fine example of this. It almost seemed like they were just fighting in a set patten, following the rehearsals slowly and methodically. Now on to the acting ability of the lead characters. Halle Berry can be quite good when she knows the film is going to be successful, there was nothing wrong with her performances in both X-men films and Die Another Day, but she just seemed so wooden in Catwoman. But if it was possible Sharon Stone actually lived up to her name and had about as many facial expressions as a granite statue. Maybe that was part of the character who was wearing so much of that face cream that she couldn't actually move her face, we will never know. Benjamin Bratt seemed almost non-existent in this, just really going along with everything and not really having much to do with anything at all.
In summary, this film had so much potential to be a great action comedy that didn't have to take itself seriously like the Charlie's Angels films have managed to succeed in doing. But with a thin plot and terrible acting it was never going to be. Basically this is just a film centred on Halle Berry and the fact that she is hot property. She had better watch it though, she has done a couple of turkeys since winning that Oscar and with 6 films lined up between now and next year we could become so saturated with her that we will eventually tire.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Not quite sure what to think
This is a very difficult film to comment on. Visually it is stunning. The pain and suffering of Jesus is graphically displayed throughout the film and the imagery will certainly have you wincing a few times during the whipping and eventual cruxifiction scene. However it won't be in the sort of grossed out way then a laugh afterwards to convince yourself that it isn't real. This isn't the sort of film where you can just laugh off the gory bit.
Whether or not you believe it in a religious way or not, it is very disconcerting to think that a man called Jesus could have existed and that he was treated so mercilessly. Personally I don't think that Mel Gibson has gone out to just impress the audience, that's why it is difficult to say whether it is good or bad. It just tells a story, yet in a very thought provoking way. However if the hype of the gore and religion is taken away, the film really isn't that good. The pacing is slow and the repetitive use of the same kind of shot can be annoying. As a film in it's own right it is nothing special.
The fact that there isn't a word of English spoken in the entire film is not actually a weird thing. I wasn't put off by the Aramaic and could easily follow the story. The performances were very believable and I was very moved by Maia Morgenstern as Mary. Rosalinda Celentano was also very disturbing as Satan. The visual of Satan as an almost inhuman yet still human being was very unsettling, she really suited the part. I've given it 3 because I can't call it good or bad, it's really something that has to been seen for anyone to make a sound judgement on it. Be warned though, it really does deserve it's 18 certificate, it can be quite gory it places and doesn't hold back on the suffering that Jesus goes through
Finding Nemo (2003)
Quite why I haven't commented on this before is beyond me, but still, here I am
Put simply, Finding Nemo is a brilliant film with funny and endearing characters that are a joy to watch. Pixar have again pushed the boundaries of computer animation to bring us a realistic yet still cartoonish film that will appeal to anyone from 3 to 103. I'm sure most people's favourite bit was the whale speak by Dory, which had me in stitches. However other little incidents in the film really made me laugh so much. When the little baby fish falls off the sponge bed is so typical of how children react when they hurt themselves. The animators and writers at Pixar really know how to capture the way people react to situations. All the little facial expressions throughout the film are beautifully animated.
The water effects must have been tremendously difficult to achieve, but they are fantastic. The lighting changes that were required really help set the mood of a scene, even when Marlin and Dory were inside the whale. The story although basic was successfully pulled off with no dip in any of the action. The story kept going when it shifted between Marlin's desperate attempt to locate his son, and Nemo's dispair of being alone with no one to look after him except the new collection of strange friends in the dentist fish tank.
Overall I give it 10/10 because it was great. I can't wait for The Incredibles next year, I'm sure it will be just as good.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
I'm sorry, but what the hell was this?
Thank god the series ends with this. This really was a bad film, I've only been generous enough to have given it 2 because the action sequences were fairly good to watch. The special effects were also as impressive as ever, but the religious symbolism and palaverous dialogue were both pointless and unnecessary. I liked the first film, and quite why I actually chose to see this after the flop that was the second film is beyond me. I guess idol curiosity as to how it would all end got the better of me, and boy was I disappointed when I found out. I won't give away the ending, but I'm sure most of you will figure out what will happen because it is unbelievably cliched.
All in all I beg the Wachowski brothers not to prevail upon any more matrix Sequels and make something good instead.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
At least Aaliyah was good
It's a shame that the talented Aaliyah died just after principal photography was complete, because had she lived she could have put this mess behind her. Not criticising Aaliyah at all, she was good as Akasha and she made me give this movie 3 rather than 1. The rest of the film is terrible, Stuart Townsend is a really bad choice for Lestat.
Tom Cruise made the character his own in Interview with the Vampire and Townsend completely changes the way the character was. Lestat was a cold blooded killer and was still happily killing at the end of the last film. Are we supposed to believe that because of rock music he somehow reconnected to his human side. Some of the music was just about ok to listen to, but it's not life changing. If the names weren't the same you really couldn't connect Queen of the Damned to Interview with the Vampire at all
I haven't read the source material, but I do believe that in the book Lestat becomes a rock star. In my opinion that was a rubbish idea to begin with. Maybe the film makers should have just got permission to use the characters names then make up their own story instead.
Magical from start to finish
What else can I say but brilliant. True to it's word Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone kept close to the book. Chris Columbus and the rest of the crew clearly listened to JK Rowling when they were making this. Obviously changes had to be made to the story or we could have ended up with a film of more than 3 hours. Nearly every scene was what I pictured it would be. The special effects were fantastic and the game of Quidditch was very spectacular. All the characters fitted effortlessly into the film and every actor was suited to the part they played. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were perfect as are three heroes, but every other actor involved helped to bring the book to life, however brief their appearance.
If you haven't read the books then I recommend you do so before or after seeing the film. However the film does speak for itself and people who haven't read this book won't be lost. I won't give away the ending to anyone who doesn't know what happens.
Adults and kids alike will enjoy this, I did and I'm not under 12. Overall a wonderfully entertaining film which made me laugh in places and had me leaving the cinema feeling satisfied.
8/10 Role on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Others (2001)
What a brilliant film. I was impressed from beginning to end.
All the characters built up the suspense brilliantly, with their constant shifts from hateable to likeable or vice versa. I didn't think any of the characters were out of place. All of them fitted into the plot perfectly.
Nicole Kidman is a very under rated actress. Her performance as Grace was wonderful and she bought out the whole atmosphere of the film.
I don't just want to praise Nicole though, the child actors gave a solid performance that was believable and spine chilling. Every other actor involved was very convincing and Eric Sykes was an unexpected bonus to the cast list.
The film itself is well written and beautifully directed by Alejandro Amenabar. The story is interesting and the 1945 setting is an interesting choice. It will make you jump a few times, but along with the rest of the audience you'll nervously laugh it off.
A fact I noticed was that there was barely any special effects. Frankly the film would have been ruined if special effects had been put in.
I respect a film that relies mostly on acting ability and plot to build up atmosphere and horror rather than having someone hack a limb off someone else just to frighten you.
Possible spoilers below
I won't give away to much of the ending (because I hate people who do) apart from to say it is unexpected and leaves you guessing right up until the final 5 minutes.
End of spoilers
Finally just to say If you're hesitating about going to see it go and see it anyway you'll probably love it.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Just Horrid (I don't mean in a good way)
What a Terrible, Terrible, Terrible, Terrible film. A pointless waste of celluloid. I have seen some bad films in my time but this just about took the p**s. I had listened to all the hype that surrounded the film and fell into the trap of paying £5 to go into the cinema and be bored senseless for however long I had to suffer (I lost interest after about half and hour) This film in no way is scary, a few sticks and piece of marshmallow is not pants wettingingly horrible. I sat through the whole film expecting a scary bit. I even tried to "let the fear wash over me" what a laugh. This isn't even so bad it's good.
Blair witch makes a joke of good horror films that have been made without having to use expensive special effects. The only people who deserve a prize for this are the marketing people who had us believe that this is the best film ever.
The characters were horrible and seemed to say the F word in every sentence. After they got into the woods I wanted them all killed by the witch. I hated everything about them, nothing endeared them to me, not even when a 20 foot snotty nose reared up in front of me.
Now to the last 10 minutes, after one of them was dead ( who knows, who cares)The remaining two found a house and after a lot of shouting find a person standing in the basement then the camera falls over.
Never in my life have I seen a cinema full of such puzzled and disappointed faces.
End of spoilers
Don't even bother wasting money on renting this you will only heart broken.
If I could I wouldn't even give this 1/10
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Not like the good old days
Although Atlantis is reasonably good, it lacks the certain Disney magic of just a few years ago. Some of the characters are a little 2 dimensional and unlikeable, but only because they are given few chances to develop. Although there are supposed to be 13 main characters only 2 are really focused on (Milo and Princess Kida)
The companies animation skills improve with each film and this is no exception to the rule. Some of the computer animation is very impressive and make the action sequences that much better. However nice animation doesn't make up for a dull script and lifeless characters.
Now is it me or are Disney trying to come up with more Gruesome ways for the baddies to die. Usually it involves falling off a building into the cloud never to be seen again. Recently I have seen plummeting into flame, being hung (if accidentally) and in this case being frozen and then chopped into a thousand pieces by spinning blades.
Lets hope the next "Classic" recaptures some of the flair and originality of early and mid-nineties Disney films