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It's all about smiles and cries
24 September 2016
I love westerns and hey, hey, I'm a fan of Aontoine Fuqua, I like Denzel Washington and I don't mind Ethan Hawke one bit; I'm also a fan of the original, which I've seen a bunch of times, but I didn't mind this being remade one bit.

From my intro, I was looking forward to this and went in with high hopes, certainly the trailer looked mighty impressive. I gotta say, I enjoyed it, though it didn't quite reach the heights I was hoping for.

In an age where big screen, big budget westerns are a rarity, I'm not gonna complain. Some of this really impressed me and some of it didn't, but I do have to say that films from fifty years ago + have a tendency to have a good story, cast and performances, but the action and effects just don't or can't reach or have the intensity or grittiness that you can get today; and in that regard this was much more impressive.

It's a pretty unambiguous film, the bad guys in black hats, the villain, an out and out sinister type with no redeeming qualities at all. The seven cast and characters stood out, but we don't learn or know or need to know to much about them, the bad guy is just too bad and has to go.

Some of the big shootout was a little cluttered and not done so well; and just when I was thinking wouldn't it be cool to have the original theme in the closing credits..I wasn't disappointed.

Some nice touches by Mr Fuqua. This wasn't a great film..but it is a cool film. Definitely worth checking out for entertainment value. Probably the most fun I've had at the cinema for a while.
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Bigger, badder and more spectacular..but..
22 June 2016
Just seen this and was looking forward to it. It was big and dumb, but a bit of fun. Check in your brain at the door.

Everything is grander than last time, though it's also sillier and much more absurd; but what else is to be expected? No shortage of cheese, corniness, plot holes and continuity errors, but if you know what you're in for you shouldn't be disappointed.

Gotta say, I wasn't disappointed by any stretch and enjoyed it, but it doesn't improve on the original and is very, very cluttered. 7/10. Worth checking out if you don't take either your movies or yourself too seriously. Enjoy.
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Armadillo (2010)
Raw, relevant....real.
2 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In an age of a declining number of war films and an increasing number of any such movies being agenda driven, the war documentary has or can perhaps fill a void of sorts. One of the strengths of such a work can be the realism that is portrayed, more and more frequently a major focus of recent war films like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, yet no matter how hard a movie with actors tries, what's happening on screen isn't real and can't match the reality of a piece like Armadillo.

In that regard films like 'Restrepo' and 'Armadillo' can be compelling viewing, no actors and generally a 'warts and all' insight into going to war, both these pieces providing ammunition to both pro and anti Afghanistan opinions. I found Armadillo to be fascinating viewing, perhaps principally because it isn't American, doesn't portray Americans and gives one an insight into proceedings well removed from the propaganda of either side of the debate.

So young Danish kids like tattoos, watching porn and talking crap, undoubtedly little removed from kids in most other western or probably most cultures. The freedoms and excesses of western society are illustrated, perhaps merely to further fuel the resolve of those they are fighting against, but it doesn't seek to gloss over anything and the boys all want to bag themselves a 'Talibob' before they go home.

The complications, frustrations and barriers to getting their job done are all highlighted, not knowing who the enemy are, not able to deny areas to the enemy consistently, having the enemy able to keep better tabs on them despite their own technological advantage and having to work with a deeply mistrusting and unreliable and uncooperative populace, many of whom express fear of reprisal for dealing with the soldiers.

In that regard, both the questions of should the west be there and can the mission be completed aren't or aren't able to be answered and the film doesn't appear to really try and tackle those questions, criticised by some 'enlightened' individuals apparently as pro-war and pro-American propaganda merely because it doesn't.

The villager that tells the soldiers that he isn't able to help them because the soldiers and Taliban are fine because they have their guns, yet the villagers are stuck in the middle and he would get his throat cut by the Taliban certainly suggests that the locals do have a problem that perhaps requires or warrants some outside intervention, perhaps akin to a local neighbourhood terrorised by a gang, but it is apparent that there is no easy or imminent solution, though having the gang on the back foot or with a little competition on their hands was not necessarily a bad thing.

The climactic action of the film and the subsequent controversy around such further fails to offer any conclusion; and opinions on such will likely fall somewhere between ideology and reality. Without a doubt it must be a lot safer to cast judgement sitting thousands of miles away from the comfort and safety of an armchair. Certainly I'm inclined to agree with the guys that have to put their head in the enemy trench to see what's what.

All that aside, as mentioned, I found this compelling viewing as an insight into both modern military and the realities of the situation in Afghanistan, seen through the eyes of a nation I doubt anyone would ever describe in this day and age as warmongers. It raises several questions that aren't or can't be answered, leaving plenty to contemplate or debate afterwards for people on both sides of the fence. Excellent documentary and recommended viewing.
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Yes we have no bananas!
3 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Just caught this on opening night having let the kids choose between 'Rise of the POTA' and 'Captain America'. I can't say I was disappointed at all, having gone in with no expectations at all of being blown away, but being something of a fan of the original film series and concept.

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' is a bit of a mixed bag, part hit and part miss. It has a few plot holes and implausibilities, but the story is solid enough and it certainly doesn't mock or insult the original Planet of the Apes film, the premise merely swapping a self-inflicted nuclear holocaust for a man made virus, perhaps an updating of the times.

It's a little lightweight in the violence or scary department, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's clearly made with a wider audience in mind with no sex, no bad language and the rough stuff toned down from what it might have been.

The ape mayhem doesn't really take place until nearer the end of the film and while it's certainly not the reason I'd suggest you go and see this film, because it's pretty much covered off in the trailer, the lead up to it and 'Apeshank Redemption' lead up behind bars, from whipping boy to top dog in the yard was the high point and very well done, if a little formulaic.

The lowlight of the film was definitely the perhaps mandatory 'damned dirty ape' line which unfortunately was nothing less then cringe worthy. I may be being a tad harsh in giving this 6/10, but I'm a tough marker and there's no 6.5 to click on. Definitely worth a look and it gets a pass mark, but it won't leave you in awe.
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Ashanti (1979)
Well, it certainly isn't Lawrence of Arabia but..
21 May 2011 wasn't all that bad. 'Ashanti' has contrivance, plot holes, implausibility and more, not to mention plenty of cliché and stereotyping, while a single sentence can describe the plot; 'White husband pursues across Africa his hot black wife and her abductors who intend to sell her into slavery to wealthy Arabs'. Done. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but actually I found this quite watchable and pretty entertaining.

Certainly it isn't great and I may even be being slightly generous in giving it a seven, but it was pretty light, didn't seem to take itself too seriously and if other viewers don't take it too seriously either then I doubt they'll be disappointed. Sure, this will never make any 'must see' list, but it wasn't a waste of a couple of hours and Michael Caine was far too harsh in his own criticisms of it. He must have had bigger expectations of it being some epic which it didn't live up to.

It's worth a look.
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Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do to your country.
11 July 2010
Sat down to watch this one not really knowing what to expect and am happy to report I was pleasantly surprised. I was very conscious of the possibility of some left leaning, sympathetic film maker still entwined in their rebellious socialist student ideology and out to glamourise the title group as some gathering of 'Bonnie and Clydes' or disaffected heroes fighting the good fight.

A brief rundown for anyone that might not know, the film tells the story of; the rise and fall of the 'Bader-Meinhof Gang' or 'Red Army Faction' in West Germany in the late 60's and 70's, ostensibly as portrayed in the film, a collection of middle class idealistic young people outraged at western 'facism', determined to see the mistakes of the past (Nazism) not repeated and setting out to bring about change by violently forcing and imposing their ideals on the rest of the world in order to bring about 'change' and more fairness to the oppressed.

As an aside I thought they and their behaviour presented collectively in the film as every bit as bad as that of their predecessors of the 30's & 40's whose attitudes and ideas they were so 'determined' not to see flourish again. This film actually struck me as rather neutral in terms of its presentation of the key figures and undoubtedly there will be some who see the B-M G/RAF as out and out villains (as I'm inclined to do) but there'll also be plenty of people who, if not supportive of or rooting for our 'anti-heroes' may be at least sympathetic to their ideals at some level.

I certainly don't know enough to comment on the historical accuracy on show although there are a whole lot of things happening through a rather long film and I got the feeling that the director wanted as little as possible to sweep up off the cutting room floor afterwards and therein lies the strength of the film which goes into plenty of detail.

I found none of the central characters to be particularly likable or endearing and as a result didn't bat an eyelid when they suffered any misfortune or negative consequence of their actions, though I don't know if that was intended by the director or writers. The psychological makeup of the real individuals, their real characters, personalities and motivations aside (and more appropriate for some other forum), I was generally rather impressed with the performances on display, the actors none of whom were previously known to me.

As a story it was pretty well told and as a film I it was very well done. Certainly an excellent film to show to any students of history or politics and sure to invite plenty of subsequent debate and discussion around the protagonists and their respective merits or failings.

Highly recommended.
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.45 (2006)
Not nearly as bad as it's rating.
2 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Grabbed this one out of the bargain bin, with little expectation or idea about it, not having heard of it. I'll start by saying I was pleasantly surprised and even more surprised at the low rating of this film on here. Look, it isn't brilliant, there are some not so good, even bad bits, some corn and plenty of cheesy dialogue not to mention some funny parts, but there are also some very well done, even powerful scenes as well.

The film has three parts, the first being a character study of an urban white trash couple, both of whom I thought were fairly convincing, Jovovich looking the part, while 'Big Al' looking something like a fat, bloated uglier version of Russell Crowe plays a slovenly fat pig, small time crim and bully to perfection and seemed to have plenty of fun doing it.

After some earlier hijinks, the tone of the film changes, moving into a domestic violence expose with a psycho partner and this is where the film excels. The scenes of domestic violence are powerful and comparable to 'Once Were Warriors' in terms of the sensory assault and shock of the violence, intimidation, degradation and dehumanising treatment meted out and the acting of both leads and the dynamics of their relationship is highly believable. The prolonged and sustained assault that features alone makes this worth seeing for the impact on the viewer, but you couldn't call that bit entertaining.

Unfortunately, having taken a turn for the better and setting itself up as something more memorable, it then degenerates nearer the end in trying to be clever, perhaps overdoing the scheming, manipulation and surprises in Jovovich trying to escape the abusive relationship, little of which you couldn't see coming and much of what the film could have done without. In spite of that, I was impressed with it overall, especially not having had high expectations and it's a lot better than a 5.5, the subject matter perhaps putting some people off. It was certainly a worthwhile part for Jovovich contrary to what some people have suggested and she did herself no dis-service accepting this role.

I laughed, cringed and sat speechless through different parts of this film and enjoyed most of it. Oscar material this isn't, but it's worth checking out if you're not too squeamish or prudish. Definitely not one for children though.
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Better than Expected
30 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I picked this one out of the bargain bin and had no great expectations at all, thinking the only good thing about it may be the price. I was pleasantly surprised. This certainly isn't great by any stretch, but it's not that bad. For the military aficionado it might be disappointing and I'd certainly suspect, as a lot of people have mentioned, that the military adviser on this film (if there was one) didn't really have any leverage in terms of being able to bring any credibility to the Iraq scenes.

How they let themselves get set up for the ambush in the first place and both why they pursued the insurgents so far and why they went right through the middle of the cemetery not knowing where the bad guys were amongst the headstones spoke volumes about this aspect of the movie very early in the piece. That's not what the film was about however and I don't think the director was either trying to make an accurate military actioner or make any statement about the rights or wrongs of the conflict in Iraq at all.

What it was about and what it acknowledged was that being at the coal face of such a situation and what is experienced has a profound impact on the person involved, regardless of whether the individual returns physically unscathed or not. In this regard I thought this film did pretty well. I suspect that it was likely pretty accurate in its portrayal of how things are different for veterans when they return, regardless of the particular conflict, how they struggle to relate to people who can never understand their experiences and how those at home struggle to relate to them.

I was previously no fan at all of Jessica Biel as an actress and assumed both her and 50 Cent had been cast purely to get bums on seats. While 50 Cent didn't disappoint in that regard, he was passable, though a bit too stereotyped as an angry black guy with a big mouth. Alba along with Samuel L. Jackson both turned in what I thought were fairly powerful and credible performances. There were some rather powerful and emotional scenes regardless of any cliché and without any first hand knowledge, I found them to be pretty credible as returned war vets struggling to fit in and relate to those around them.

That said, some of the situations seemed a little bit forced and the resolutions for each of the four main characters followed were disappointing, all except 50 Cent's character being shown on the road to redemption and/or recovery. I don't believe for a second that such problems could begin to be ironed out so quickly and the 'happy' endings of the film for me undermined much of what I thought was some credibility established earlier.

I thought it rather apolitical, but a huge number of 'critics' I would suggest possibly dismiss it on the basis of not being far enough to their respective viewpoints, regardless of which side of the fence they're on. This is no masterpiece but I would suggest worth a look for a couple of very good performances, certainly better then it's IMDb rating would suggest.
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One of the most underrated films ever.
19 September 2009
If there's one film I can think of that's unfairly maligned, underestimated, underrated and under appreciated them it is 'The Green Berets'. This is a war film made in the 60's, by John Wayne and accordingly displays those production values and attributes. It's biggest mistake appears merely to have been made about the conflict in Vietnam. Had Wayne instead chosen to make this a WWII film about American special operatives then it would undoubtedly be a highly regarded and classic war film.

With a neat cast and characters, especially Jim Hutton who I'd suggest was perfect for his role, 'The Green Berets' I would also suggest shows pretty accurately, the make up, doctrine and activities of U.S. Special Forces at the time; more experienced professional soldiers with specialised skills and training including in linguistics, medicine and the like, able to live alongside and amongst indigenous peoples and help to win their 'hearts and minds' and providing humanitarian and medical assistance as well as recruiting and training local militias.

This film showcases who those guys are and what they do to an audience many of whom would have (both at that time in the 60's and now) very little idea about that sort of thing. Of course there's an element of propaganda in it but has there ever been a war film made during the actual period of any particular conflict that it portrays that isn't? That continues even now with films like 'Redacted' and the like which appear to be rated by people largely by the films adherence with their own particular philosophies, ideals and views on the particular conflict or issue.

Too many 'critics' perhaps bought up on an overblown diet of subsequent 'guilty' 'nam films might express disbelief that there were actually professional soldiers in this conflict and not just dope smokin', rock n rollin' sh!t talking' & baby killin' conscripts with 'one foot in the grave' that were also at the business end of proceedings in Vietnam. If one can get over themselves and their lust for this movie to display some retrospective guilt, shame and acknowledgement of wrong, this is a pretty good war movie.

I would suggest that the portrayal of the attack on the US compound and the subsequent battle for such exceeds the equivalent scene in Apocalypse Now, although it mightn't be as 'cool' without Jimmy Hendrix blaring through the night and no one knowing "who's in charge here"?

Of course it's not perfect and maybe some of the Green Berets are a little too old, carry their rifles funny and walk far too close together when in the bush, but it's a John Wayne movie (and one of my favourites). Some people do need to get over themselves though. Maybe it was filmed in the U.S, but then a lot of Full Metal Jacket was shot in London. Disregard all the nonsense from people who probably dislike all war films except Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan; unless you require mandatory exploding limbs and arterial spurting, 'The Green Berets' is worth checking out.
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La linea (2009)
Not quite cutting the mustard.
26 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I'd never heard of this film at all but snapped it up when I saw the cast and read the back of the jacket. Suffice to say it didn't quite live up to expectations and once again proved the age old adage of 'don't judge a book (or a DVD) by its cover'. Watchable for the most part, this is a film that adds up at the end to a little bit less than the sum of all its parts. I guessed correctly that the director was pretty new to this game and I must say those behind the scenes did pretty well to secure Liotta, Garcia and Asante for this.

In a nutshell, when the Taliban attempt to form an alliance with a powerful northern Mexican drug cartel, supplying drugs in exchange for being able to use their smuggling network, they attract the attention of US intelligence agencies and the covert ops heat is brought down on them (or so it appears). At the same time there's a power struggle for control of the cartel amongst the heirs apparent to the throne. Little is seen of officialdom and we are instead treated to local operatives/soldiers of fortune and their controllers south of the border.

There is no shortage of violence, tempered by the character of Liotta, a man haunted and tormented by the female victim of a previous hit. Naturally he's seeking some kind of redemption which is nicely and conveniently laid out at the end of the film along with a twist that merely serves to undermine much of any credibility previously established throughout the rest of the film.

The film is short of dialogue and any real character development, instead relying on visuals and the score to create atmosphere, set scenes and keep the story moving along, Some of the editing and camera work seems a bit attention deficit disorder orientated as well, with perhaps a time limit of a couple of seconds placed on any one shot. I didn't find it too much of a problem but I know that it's a major annoyance for some people.

This film was let down badly both with the twist ending and the inclusion of a 'Taliban' plot, both of which were unnecessary and I thought damaging to the credibility of the rest of the film. Not only that, but after an hour and a half or so of portraying Tijuana as a seedy sh!th0le full of thugs, thieves, gangsters and hookers, the director had the audacity to insert a big 'what a wonderful place Tijuana is and what wonderful people live there' message just at the start of the closing credits. I thought this summed up the whole project quite well, not quite doing what the makers thought they were doing.

Worth a look, but not a must see.
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Close; but no cigar.
21 August 2009
What can I say about this, another dirty cop film. I've given this 6 out of 10 but do feel I may be being slightly generous. Ups to the cast and their performances and the film was watchable, though not necessarily memorable; certainly nothing new. I'm normally no fan of Norton and not a big fan of Farrell's at all but thought they both did pretty good jobs in their roles, with the possible exception of Farrell struggling to hold his accent and on occasion nearly breaking into full Irish.

While the story was nothing new, I thought at times during this film that it had the potential to be really good. As I stated before, the performances were pretty good and the interactions between the characters seemed pretty credible. Where it let itself down badly, despite what I presume was some qualified technical advice or knowledge of the profession by the director, was the reliance on contrivance, the abruptness of plot solutions (SPOILER - Let's have that character beaten to death near the end to avoid any plot complications and allow for a tidier ending). Thus a film reliant on character interaction and relationships seems to lose nearly all of this as they get down the business end of the film and descend into a 'one man crusade'.

In relation to the heavy contrivance, the story relies far too heavily on 'gangsters' wearing uniforms and characters who are devoid of intelligence, good judgement and common sense when those should be to the fore. Bad judgement and carelessness abounds in order to keep the story and suspense moving along. (SPOILERS - We get to see the cop smart enough to wait in the car while his partner robs a convenience store because he doesn't want to be involved. When that partner gets into significant problems, what does he do, he runs inside and ends up taking a hostage and holding Police at bay. That was one of a few parts that really stretched it. Also, our honest cop hero Norton's character, implicated in a homicide and with a warrant out for his arrest, confronting his accuser alone at gun point and ordering all the other patrons out of the establishment. The accuser ends up being dead and in handcuffs. Thst sort of crap undermines what what the whole character was about, a supposedly 'smart' guy put on the case because he was so capable and level headed).

All the negatives aside, I thought this was (and is) worth a look, a bit better than 'Street Kings' (also reviewed by me). I was just disappointed because this one could easily have been a really good film with a bit more thought and application to some credible logic to the behaviour of the characters and outcomes.
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Bringing toys to real life.....not.
9 August 2009
I'm no GI Joe guru or fanatic and never had any of the toys but I have to say I was looking forward to this movie without ever expecting it to be anything special. After seeing 'GI Joe' I have to describe it as a little bit disappointing and seemingly pointless (other than perhaps as a money spinner). The film was watchable for the most part but devoid of any real emotion or suspense (and not without trying).

Taking a children's action figure and making a real life film out of it might be a good idea, but still presenting those characters on screen as two dimensional toys devoid of any real depth or character should not have have been (and probably wasn't) the idea. The film contains so much CGI and animation that I watched it wondering why they hadn't just done the whole thing in computer animation, including the characters.

It's yet another example of a film and possibly director who doesn't seem to understand how so much more of something, too much in fact can really add up to less at the finish line. It's full of action, action and more action, but on such a scope and scale as to overdo it. It is concentrated on the fantastical and illogical (including the technology) to the point of absurdity in places and as a result it lacks many of the other things it required to really make the grade.

It's not short of inspiration from a few other movie scenes either and more than once I was reminded of seeing a very similar scene in a different movie. This project had plenty of merit but I must suggest it ended up in the hands of the wrong guy. I will say that my boy loved it and gave it 10/10 so it will undoubtedly appeal to a much younger audience, younger than it's rating I suggest, a kids movie but with plenty of violence. I wouldn't tell anyone to avoid it at all costs, but if you happen to miss it you've not missed a whole lot; a shame really.
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How good is this? Let me tell you
26 July 2009
The Dogs of War is a great, unheralded and very much underrated film and I've seen it more than a few times, one of few films that succeeds as a multi-genre; thriller/suspense/action/drama and war film well balanced without really dominating in any category. It has a simple yet interesting plot with something of a twist to the ending that isn't contrived or relied upon to validate or prop up the rest of the film like some other movies.

The plot revolves around a group of mercenaries recruited, organising, preparing and carrying out the overthrow of an African despot dictator. The real strength of this film is in the attention to detail with regards to the preparation and logistics involved in such a task, the motivations of those involved, back room deals and wheeling and dealing and indeed a great part of the film is devoted to the little things. This is something undoubtedly attributable to the writer of the book Frederick Forysth and in keeping with the earlier film adaptation of another of his works 'Day of the Jackal'.

Rambo this isn't and as stated by no shortage of people it isn't wall to wall action and may move a bit more slowly than many might expect, an acquired taste perhaps and possibly something of a letdown for some given the very title of the film.

Walken isn't outstanding in the film but he is very adequate all the same and the film certainly doesn't hinge on the dramatics.

When I can't decide what I want to watch, this is one of the films I fall back on and one of the reasons I've seen it quite a few times. I've never been disappointed to date, though if you can't sit still for five minutes and want a body count meter spiraling upwards in the corner of the screen it might not be for you.

"Don't forget your passport.....AR$%#*LE"!
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Not as bad as some would have you believe.
26 July 2009
A lot of commentators have criticised this film for not being an accurate portrayal of the situation and/or intricacies of the situation in Northern Ireland. I'm no expert and it goes without saying that this is probably the case; but that's not the point of this film and I don't think the director was really trying to say too much about it.

The film is about the two main characters played by Pitt and Ford, both introduced in black and white and both of whose lifetime ideals and principles are challenged and blurred by their experiences through the film.

We have Pitt, the hardened terrorist whose own father was murdered in front of him when he was a child, who's known nothing but hatred and a distrust of authority through his life and who's suddenly immersed into an alien environment of stability, family and a cop who he sees is both a pretty normal, hardworking and good guy. In this different environment he realises that there's more to life then what he's known and Ford becomes to him something of a father figure.

At the same time, Ford a principled, honest as the day is long cop finds himself having to compromise his own integrity in the name of friendship and loyalty to a colleague as he realises life isn't quite so black and white as he's always lived it and struggles to deal with his own indiscretion.

Consequently as he finds out more about Pitt he struggles to juggle his professional and personal judgement as he finds a degree of sympathy towards Pitt trying to understand his background and the inevitability of his circumstances. Naturally the two come to a head and in this regard the film is pretty good despite any shortcomings with regards to the accuracy of the Northern Ireland situation.

Some of the film certainly appears a little far fetched in places and I'd suspect that it's not so easy to purchase a batch of Stinger missiles from the local small time mobster while the fate of Pitt's sidekick seemed little more than pointless. Sure this might not be award winning stuff, but I don't know why Pitt disowned this film and hope it wasn't done out of political correctness or being overly-sensitive to criticism (I'll settle for death threats).

Enjoyable and entertaining thriller/action film that doesn't over do the action.
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Cribs (2000– )
There's more to Cribs then just cribs.
23 July 2009
Cribs is great. It goes some way to satisfying people's voyeuristic tendencies to want to see how some obscenely wealthy people live and shows off the sort of assets that most people can only dream of.

I love this show, checking out great houses, cars, toys and gimmicks and also gaining an insight into the sort of psyches that some different celebrities have. The arrogant, the humble, the rude and the polite, the tasteful and the tacky.

Some critics seem to dislike this show, perceiving it to rub it in the faces of the 'have nots', but like my favourite muso currently doing time in the big house 'T.I' says perhaps some people need to "stop worrying about what you 'ain't got and start being thankful for what you do got".

It also goes to illustrate that money doesn't buy everything, it certainly doesn't buy class or taste and the fact that some people who apparently 'have it all' really don't. They may have the Bentley and the rest of the cars in the garage but it's not enough, still so desperate to differentiate themselves even further from their peers by having a one off customisation as though it gives them extra validation as a person. Some voids or inadequacies will never be filled or covered over by any amount of money or material wealth. On that level it serves as an interesting insight into the human character, almost akin to a modernised 'Trading Places'.

Unfortunately it's a shame that such a show seems to espouse that being a rap star or a pro athlete is the only way to make it, a point I see recently commented on by President Obama addressing the NAACP. I'd love to see a few other professions represented, though they possibly mightn't have the same appeal to the target audience.

There are plenty of laughs to be had too at all the recently well heeled who have to have the obligatory grand piano in the house but no idea how to play it. Some of those featured are great and some are dicks but it's always interesting.

The best houses and characters featured are always those with some semblance of a personal touch to them and their surroundings. Usually they're also the wittiest and most comfortable in their surroundings too. Too many of the rest appear to be trying way too hard and look fish out of water foolish in some of their surroundings.

Trashy and unimportant cribs may be, but the only show on MTV worth catching for sure.
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The Hitcher (1986)
If you love stupid people doing stupid things..
12 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Have just seen this for the first time after picking up the SE DVD at the right price. After seeing it I can't describe What seems to be something of a cult film as anything other than disappointing and unsatisfying.

Right from the opening we're subjected to the idiocy of the lead picking up a hitch hiker (despite his momma having told him never to do so). Poor choices and bad judgement abound at every opportunity from there on in along with numerous plot holes, time line errors and implausibilities all cast aside to keep the contrived suspense moving along.

I was especially fond of how you can drive and drive for hours without seeing any sign of civilization, yet if forced to abandon the car or proceed on foot, a settlement or other such place is just right around the corner or over the next hill.

I don't mind C. Thomas Howell at all but I was really wanting to see his blood spilled everywhere more and more as the film progressed. He was just so damned annoying and irritating. Not only was he annoyingly irritating and stupid, but so too were the cops right through the film who are portrayed as (literally and figuratively) cowboys.

After seeing part of the looking back doco on the extra features where they boast of it's multi genre appeal and debate if the film should be a horror, thriller or action film and tell us it's a little bit of each; I must admit they were correct. It's decidedly average though in all three stand alone categories and might just be where they went wrong if that's what was intended.

All that aside, Rutger Hauer was good again as a villain and some the shots and production values saved this from being an absolute stinker. I can't help but think Hauer might have made a good Terminator.
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Soccer/Football's 'Top Gun' entertains.
11 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Not a 'great' film by any stretch of the imagination, but not nearly as bad as some of the 'football' experts would tell us in their reviews. I'm certainly no expert on 'the game' but this movie was thoroughly entertaining for anyone that can get over themselves and their knowledge of what the football world might be or is really like.

Sure, anyone in any profession or with any particular interest and knowledge of an area, field or profession can sit and pick holes and inaccuracies in a movie about such, but watching a film isn't necessarily about self-validation. This film achieves what it sets out to do, which is promote the game and the players in flashing neon lights and entertain the masses who might not necessarily be football fanatics.

The 'star' Santiago rejoins his 'wingman' Gavin Harris from the first film in a Top Gun style opportunity to foot it with the best of the best for the #1 club, surrounded by the best players. He seeks to force his way into the starting lineup but has plenty of competition. Naturally there are plenty of hiccups and setbacks along the way, including injuries and relationship problems, but they finally get their act together and both cover themselves in glory at the end.

There are no award winning performances I have to say, but the character 'Gavin Harris' is exactly that, a character, while I can't comment on Rutger Hauer's performance as coach, but he certainly looked the part.

GOAL II has plenty of glitz, glamour, flash cribs/cars, eye candy, sweaty bodies, 'football' action and a pumping soundtrack (all that and not an 'F' word or sex scene in sight). I recommend watching it on the biggest screen you can find with the loudest surround sound possible cranked up.

For me, it certainly does for European Footballers what 'Top Gun' did for Naval Aviators and I wouldn't have minded being either after seeing the films.
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Meteor (2009– )
I bet you can guess the ending
28 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Happened to catch this on TV last night. Screened as a 2 part mini-series and I'll confess I didn't catch part 1, but trust me, it wasn't too hard to pick up on the various story lines half way through.

I'm generally a fan of this sort of end of the world, apocalyptic disaster movie, but I really have no idea why this was made or needed to be made, especially given the overall quality of the finished product, predictable, uninspiring, unimaginative and largely uninteresting. You will likely forget this one soon after seeing it as I'm sure I will.

Full of dumb people doing dumb things, like our hero cop shooting the psycho bad guy (Rooker), then leaving him lying on the ground with his gun still in his hands, not checking he was done for and turning their backs on him. You'd never guess (actually you will, so it's not really a spoiler) that he comes back for round 2.

I was just begging for the heavily damaged hospital to collapse and put paid to all the annoying survivors inside, something I don't wish for too often, yet for some reason I just knew they were all going to be fine.

Sure it had some moments, like when the pretty scientist girl chances upon the old lady's house, but largely unrelated to the main theme of the whole thing. The climactic scene at the end can only be described as a fizzer, lacking in anything impressive effects or drama wise.

I'm sure some techno gurus will be able to pick more inaccuracies and plot holes in this than any other film of this sort of genre and there seemed to be no shortage of implausibilities, especially nearer the business end.

Bad. I'll give it a few stars because some of the cast, the lesser lights at least looked like they were trying, but not really worth it unless there's nothing else on.
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Street Kings (2008)
Been done before..and better.
26 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ahhh...the dirty cop film, good cop/bad cop, the tortured soul, the boozer, the evil head of the organisation, 'cops are the biggest gang of all'. 'Internal Affairs', 'Dark Blue', 'Training Day', etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of this stuff and this was watchable and for the most part enjoyable, but it was also cringe inducing at times, rehashing stuff that has all been done before and improving on none of it.

From the outset, a bit like 'Training Day for Dummies' perhaps, cliché, corn and stereotype are thrust in our faces, nothing is hinted at, implied or left to comprehension or interpretation, it's all just spelled out in black and white. Drinking behind the wheel, the lost wife, the falling out with the old partner, the 'rat', the good cop standing up to the racism, the guys on the same 'team' shoving and pushing each other and spoiling to fight at every opportunity and the obligatory head honchos 'retirement fund'. Did I mention the Internal Affairs guy on the trail?

With lines like - "We're cops, we can do whatever we like, it's all in how you write it up afterwards", this is no classic I'm afraid and there was very little in it that you couldn't see coming.

Still, it does have its moments, but it also doesn't miss any chances to shoot itself in the foot plenty of times along the way either.
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The Shepherd (2008 Video)
Not too bad.
6 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This one brings my collection of Van Damme films up to 25, some good, some stinkers; and although It may be fair to say I'm a fan, I'm no fanatic, haven't watched any of his films for a while and I certainly couldn't tell you what he eats for breakfast in the morning or which high school he attended. Like Forrest Gump might have said about his movies, a JCVD film is like a box of chocolates, you just don't know what you're going to get (though you most likely have have some inkling) and there are more than a few turkey flavoured ones in his box).

With perhaps the lamest title of all his films and a dubious 'Steven Seagal' like premise, not to mention some cringe inducing dialogue, fair share of implausability and plot holes (nice to know they have a full time bomb squad and short notice standby in a little border town of 1800), this could be called something of a coin toss or even something to avoid for the more discerning film fan who can't stand the guy or who feels the urge for more intellectual stimulation.

For those with enough of that in their other pursuits and who just want to kick back and be entertained, you may be pleasantly surprised. On a night I was expecting to fall asleep in front of anything I watched, It kept me interested and awake, something 'The Godfather' didn't do last week.

As an out and out action vehicle, I found this pretty entertaining. It keeps moving along, with several spectacular and hard hitting ass whipping scenes, sufficient gunplay thrown in and a score reminiscent of 'Once Upon a Time in the West'.

As far as his recent films go, I would compare this to 'Wake of Death' in terms of quality and while it didn't quite nail it (like most of his films) for the reasons mentioned previously, it wasn't without some quality moments.

5/10 as a 'movie' & 7/10 for the bits you watch this sort of film for = 6/10 overall, a good pass mark. I recommend it and don't think it would disappoint any action fan who isn't expecting a Van Damme flick to send them into orbit.
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Out of the Blue (I) (2006)
Sets the pulse racing!
20 October 2006
I went to see this having read a couple of books on the subject several years ago, including the one on which the film is based.

Wasn't sure what to expect as there's been a lot of hype & media publicity surrounding this film.

I must say I certainly wasn't disappointed.

This is an excellent film. I haven't seen director Sarkies' other film Scarfies but I was impressed with this. No doubt he's headed for bigger things if this film is any indication.

Take a bow Mr Sarkies, you've already got the NZ Film Awards sewn up.

This is the kind of film you don't see too often, shocking and extremely tense, but without relying on the graphic violence and bloodspatter far too prevalent in mainstream films these days. Add to that this is a true story and there's plenty of attention to detail.

A few other 'bigger' directors could take note from this that the audience aren't all idiots. They can figure out what's happening without squibs going off left, right and centre and spent cartridges ejecting from the chamber in slow motion.

As the cinema sat in silence, I swear I could hear my own heart pounding at times as my blood pressure went through the roof. A great movie going experience not felt too often.

I wasn't sure if If I was watching a reenactment or remastered old news footage as the specialist Police moved in on the town. It looked very authentic.

In spite of his dastardly deeds, one couldn't help but feel a tad of sympathy for the bad guy who is portrayed as a sad, lonely dysfunctional person who's mental health gradually deteriorates. More good work by the director and certainly different from the norm.

It wasn't perfect though, the pacing of the film seemed a bit out of kilter in a few places, while I thought some of the acting in the film was brilliant at times, but not quite so at others.

The up close gun fire as well probably fell a little bit short in the decibel department and could possibly use a touch up.

That aside, on a global scale it's a small budget film so any shortcomings are excused.

I give it an 8 because I'm a very tough marker, with a 10 being nearly impossible.

Given the subject matter, I don't think I could call this entertaining, but it sure is an experience & somewhat unforgettable, enough to make a grown man cry.

In short, see this film!
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Second in Command (2006 Video)
Bites off more than it can chew.
5 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big Van Damme fan so I was excited when I got hold of this one, especially having seen the trailer. Suffice to say I was disappointed.

With something of a return to form in recent films 'Wake of Death' and 'In Hell', my expectations may have been a bit high.

Jean-Claude himself didn't do too much wrong (for Jean-Claude)but some of the other actors (or maybe it was their lines) were atrocious. I thought the director seemed a bit lost at times.

He certainly spread his limited budget a bit too thin and it shows, particularly in the mob/crowd and helicopter scenes. For the angry mob scene, this was one film where they should have used stock footage of a real mob (Romania?) and presented it as a news broadcast a-la 'Crimson Tide'.

I guess there must have been a technical adviser in there somewhere (or maybe not).

This film had more plot holes in it than anything I've seen for a long time. I won't touch on them all.

Why that 'militia' didn't just storm the presidential building right at the start of the film stayed with me throughout. With the number and type of conspirators involved, it would have been too easy to take him down.

Lucky for the bad guys, the president sent all his forces out of town for a few hours (two armoured personnel carriers and a truck I think).

As for the embassy siege, fortunately for the good guys, the bad guys just came like lemmings down machine gun alley, one at a time for good measure.

They even took the time to emphasise during the film that they could only defend one side of the compound. Lucky the bad guys couldn't figure that out.

And with trouble brewing in Moldavia (wasn't that on 'Dynasty'?), the US decided to position its fleet several hours flying time away from the action. I suppose there wouldn't have been a story without that.

All that aside, some parts of the action in the film were quite good (or showing promise and just as I was warming to it, something terribly lame would happen).

The plot was pretty good and could have had potential for a bigger budget more mainstream flick.

Being presented as a serious action/thriller, I just couldn't shake off all the continual plot holes.

A bit of a shame really.

At least it wasn't a Seagal movie.
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Malta Story (1953)
Well worth a look.
22 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Bought this one today as the price was right and I was pleasantly surprised.

As has been stated by many of the other reviews of this film, no great performances in this one. None of the cast stand out and the characters are not particularly memorable.

The real star of this movie is the story, one which certainly deserved to be told. I found it enthralling and certainly very tense in parts, a good Sunday matinée type film which is why I give it a 7/10.

The use of stock footage was fine given the age of the film and for me it didn't detract from the action. I did see the same plane perform the same turn a couple of times though.

Great to see George Cowley..oops I mean Gordon Jackson, so recognisable, in what must have been one of his earlier roles.

Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think this would disappoint anyone who isn't expecting bullet time
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Man on Fire (2004)
Good, solid, enjoyable film ***SPOILERS***
24 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Went and saw this at the theatre last night.

My wife and I made up two of the total of three people in the theatre so it was like a private screening.

While I am probably going to criticise this film more than I praise it, my overall impression of the film was good and I give it 7/10.

I won't go into the plot as it must be common knowledge.

The directing on this film was solid and I have few complaints about that.

Hey! It's a Tony Scott film. Like his other works such as Top Gun, Days of Thunder, True Romance, Crimson Tide, etc, what were the people expecting who are knocking this film so badly.

The film was a bit overlong at nearly two and a half hours. I do think it may have tried a bit to hard to be a very good film and thus Scott left in some bits that should have been cut. It was probably 20 minutes too long.

The film falls somewhere between a drama, thriller and action film without being outstanding in any of those genre.

The story was good and Scott spent time trying to develop the lead characters so the audience would form a bond with them before getting down to the business end.

Without wanting to sound too wishy washy, this was both a strength and weakness of "Man on Fire" depending on what you are looking for in a film.

The acting was ok. Denzel was Denzel, playing a character that could have been transplanted from many of his other films.

The need for him to dispatch or interrogate each villain in a different manner irked me a bit. The method by which Denzel dispatched the guy tied down over the hood of the car was ridiculous and in my opinion damaged the credibility of the film.

Denzel wasn't playing the sort of character to beat about the bush or over-complicate proceedings, so I don't know what was with that rubbish.

The tragic ending to the film was appropriate, yet should have been done differently. It bore striking similarities to Scott's sibling Ridley's "Gladiator". Very unoriginal, even the score seemed plagurised.

I did think the film tapped into our emotions nicely, invoking emotional highs and lows, a couple of genuinely supenseful moments and also great anger and hatred after everything turned to custard.

Who didn't want Denzel to track down the bad guys and exterminate them all?

This hard edge was what made the movie superior to recent kidnap films such as "Ransom" or "Proof of Life" which both had happy endings. "Man on Fire" lost this edge at the end when it developed into a kind of happy ending.

It stretched credibility that such evil guys didn't carry though with their threat, yet never made contact again with another ransom demand.

A "Get Carter" (1971 version) kind of ending would have been a more fitting kind of finish to this movie.

Overall a good film, though it could have been better.
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March or Die (1977)
Unheard of, Underrated, Very Enjoyable.
5 July 2004
I watched this movie today for the first time after stumbling across it on the IMDb a few weeks back.

I'm a big Gene Hackman fan and a war film fan so I didn't think I could go wrong purchasing this sight unseen.

Without detailing the plot too much, it is fair to say that this is standard Legionnaire in North Africa fare and not a lot different from Films like Beau Geste and the Van Damme Legionnaire film (which would seem to be a vastly inferior remake of this film).

The film starts at a slow pace. In some of the early bits the acting is a bit wooden and the film also gives the appearance of being made for TV (it gets much better).

Unfortunately the picture was a little bit grainy and I doubt it is a big enough film for any kind or restoration to ever be done on it.

Through reading the boards for this film it seems that there have been some cuts made to the Region 2 DVD and this may explain why the film seemed a bit slow to develop.

I was particularly impressed with the locations and sets used.

Hackman also started slowly but got better as the movie went along and he really hit his straps later in the film. Terence Hill was very good in a sort of role I haven't seen him in before.

The film takes the time to highlight the stereotypical harsh living conditions endured by the men in the Legion and also the strict discipline imposed on them, many of whom come from ill-disciplined backgrounds.

The injection of a love story into some war films (like Enemy at the Gates or Pearl Harbor) detracts from the overall quality of the film and seems to be done to create a wider audience appeal. In this film that is certainly not the case and the romance between Hill and Catherine Deneuve's characters seems to complement the rest of the film nicely.

There is only one real battle scene which comes towards the end of the film but it was worth the wait. Prior to this there are a couple of other tense scenes involving the Legionnaires and the Arabs.

The final battle can only be described as epic. It was one of the better large scale battle scenes I have seen in a movie (no CGI when this was made).

The film was not without some faults (I may be mistaken but my understanding has always been that while men of many nationalities serve in the Foreign Legion, the officers are all French) but it is certainly underrated.

Much better then some recent Hollywood fare we have been served up such as We Were Soldiers (also reviewed by me) and Windtalkers

I give it 7 out of 10.

Well worth seeing if you like a good war film.
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