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Bad Trips Abroad (2013)
Not sure what to make of this. Are all these Canadian travellers stupid, or is this just a work of fiction? I struggle to believe there are so many people who are naive enough and / or stupid enough to get themselves into such ridiculous situations.
The vast majority of the subjects are young and clearly from fairly wealthy families, so maybe they do just suffer from naivety due to sheltered upbringings. As entertainment it actually works quite well, but it's impossible to take these people seriously or feel any sympathy for them, with the exception of a very few whose problems were not entirely of their own making.
I guess there's an element of satisfaction derived from feeling superior to people whose downfall is entirely of their own making, but as a serious piece of documentary film-making this just doesn't even come close.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Entertaining but unoriginal.
Reading some of the reviews, I was preparing to watch with the lights on and my favourite teddy bear for comfort. I need not have worried - this film is not particularly scary. There are maybe two or three instances where I became semi-startled, but nothing those with a weak heart need fear.
Truth is, I had the plot sussed after about 20 minutes. Anybody who watches a lot of "horror" movies will recognize the themes. It's not a bad film by any means, but this genre has been covered every which way and there is nothing original or exciting here. For the most part it's a little creepy at best, with very few stand-out moments.
For the most part it's a well-crafted film with nice cinematography and special effects. Some of Brian Cox's acting is, surprisingly, quite poor - this is definitely not his genre. His attempts at portraying pain come across as mild indigestion or wind. I think he's better when he's the scarer, not the scareee.
Nice looking film let down by a weak script and familiar plot.
The Legend of Alice Flagg (2016)
It can't possibly get any worse.
Unquestionably the worst movie I have ever seen. I wish I could give zero stars, or minus stars, to differentiate this from all the other really bad movies I've rated one star. This one is in a league of its own. How anybody can rate this above one star is baffling - presumably those people worked on this film.
I have no idea what the plot is because after the initial jaw-drop of bewilderment I was fairly catatonic throughout. The wooden acting and lack of direction are bad not only by professional standards, but compared to every school play I've ever seen. If I hadn't been so tired and if there was an obvious alternative handy, I would not have bothered watching this all the way through. I suffered, but at least I can help save others from having their minds literally numbed.
One has to ask, who makes this rubbish and why? What idiot then decided to distribute it to an innocent and unwary public? This makes a mockery of the entire film industry and is insulting the intelligence of every human being on the planet.
Truly, truly, truly awful. This is not just the bottom of the barrel but the bottom of the slime underneath the barrel. You have been warned.
I wasn't expecting too much from this, basically because it's marketed as a teen movie and although they're usually entertaining, they don't often leave a lasting impression. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The young cast give mature and thoughtful performances, and there are meaningful interactions with adult characters, providing a more realistic view of life than your average high school "dramedy". The writing is subtle and the dialogue pleasingly minimal so that the acting and directing tell the story.
So often you see situations in movies that make you wonder what kind of medication the writers are on. No suspension of belief is required here - it may not be your everyday small town goings-on but the script writers haven't gone OTT in their efforts to entertain us.
I must also mention the hauntingly beautiful songs by Jason Quever. The add the final polish to what is a well-crafted piece of film art. Obviously a lot of care went into making this movie and it's a shame that some viewers might overlook it because of it's "teen" listing.
Edge of Winter (2016)
As bad as it gets
Joel Kinnaman is a decent enough actor, so I don't blame him for this shambles. I do blame the writer and director, and as they are one and the same then that man is wholly responsible for one of the very worst films I have ever seen.
It's immature, idiotic, senseless, meaningless drivel. Clearly written by somebody not of this world. The characters are so lightweight and ill-formed that they cannot be human, nor can they be the product of a human.
One and a half hours of my life has been stolen from me, time I can never get back. I'm just left wondering who finances these pathetic projects and why? Maybe it looked good on paper - it looked promising to me when I read the blurb - but even good ideas need careful crafting and there is no craft on display here.
Infuriating and pointless.
Skip to season 2
Like many I stumbled upon this by chance (it's broadcast on a minor BBC channel here) and it was literally a case of not being able to find something I wanted to watch, so "oh well, I'll give this a go".
So I went straight in at series 3 and laughed out loud more than is usual for me. In particular, Taylor Lautner plays this (for him, very strange and low-key) role to perfection. He really should do more comedy.
Fortunately all episodes from No. 1 are still available on iPlayer so I went from having watched part of series 3, to series 1. Then I became disappointed, because I just don't find Andy Samberg, or his character Cuckoo, very funny.
Jump to series 2 and things pick up again. Esther Smith's Rachel is a more pleasing character than Tamla Kari's was, and the whole cast now seem to start gelling.
Overall very funny, very well made, and remarkable that so many great comedy actors have come together to create this. It will surely develop cult status if for no other reason than Taylor Lautner demonstrates a lovable, hammy, tongue-in-cheek side to his acting.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Fast and furious
As a fan of the first Mad Max, at first I thought this was going to be too sterile, relying heavily on CGI. But the effects and editing are so good, you barely notice that they are created on a computer.
The action is relentless and the cinematography quite superb, set against some stunning scenery. It's not Shakespeare but it is a classy piece of film making.
It's hard to compare Tom Hardy with a 1980s Mel Gibson and if I have any complaint to make, it's that he tries a little too hard to be Max and ends up being more like Bronson. But Theron is excellent, in a Sigourney Weaver action figure sort of way.
This is true enough to the original to be enjoyable, and it's one of the fastest-paced action thriller rides you'll ever see. The action just keeps on coming, it's relentless and very exciting.
The original Mad Max was quirky and this continues in that trend. Take it for what it is and you just can't fault it.
American Sniper (2014)
There is nothing to like about this film. The characters are flimsy, ambiguous and not very likable. The plot is garbage. If real soldiers act the way they do in this film, it's a wonder they don't all end up dead. Disorganised, undisciplined, no clue what they're doing.
Really, I don't know what the point of this film is. A biopic? Really? I find that hard to believe. This guy is so deeply flawed he cannot possibly be the best at anything. Or if he is the best, then the rest must be seriously bad.
Worst of all, ratings suggest that some people actually think this is a good film, a good story. As war films go, this is one of the worst I've seen.
Kill the Messenger (2014)
Some stories are bigger than the movie, and this is one of them. It would have to be a God-awful film for me to rate it less than a 10. As it happens, it's a very good film with a solid performance from Renner.
It is pretty much a one-man show. That's not to say the supporting cast aren't significant, because there are good performances from Patrick, Liotta and Garcia to name but a few. But their moments on screen are very brief, so in the end it all comes down to whether Renner can carry the movie, and I think he does - just.
His style is laid-back and that probably suits the role of Webb, who comes across as humble, quiet yet determined and forceful. It's a shame that the name of Gary Webb is not more widely known, but it's good to see the powerful medium of film being put to good use like this.
Nothing new here, just rehashing plots that are centuries old. That might work if the characters are interesting - or even likable. In this case the main characters and actors are fairly unlikable, and everybody just seems to be going through the motions.
Those on the periphery promise a little more entertainment but they're very much bit-part players. In the main, what we get is just dull, uninspired, uninteresting, unoriginal, mediocre quality writing and acting.
Please take my advice and don't waste precious moments of your life on mindless drivel like this.
This movie just doesn't deserve the low ratings it has here.
I found this to be intelligent, witty and well made. I like the cast, I think the characters are believable, the writing and direction are slick. It's also genuinely scary at times and the production values are pretty high for something that was clearly never intended to break any box-office records.
If it has an issue, it's that it isn't clear what genre it wants to play in. For me that's not a problem, but obviously less intelligent viewers can't handle the ambiguity. Movies, like any art form, do not have to sit nicely in one category or another. Enjoy it for what it is - a professionally-made piece of cinematic entertainment.
So yes, at times it appears to be a spoof, or tongue-in-cheek, or comedic. Then it switches between horror and sci-fi. Who cares? I enjoyed it and I think the tendency to over-analyse is completely missing the point, and risks killing-off good work before it even has a chance to reach its audience.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
A somewhat tame, by Gervais' standards, swipe at all things religious, let down only by a weak masking plot that I guess was necessary in order not to offend the US audience. Nevertheless the parody is damning if a little naive, and the shameless and satirical product placement is amusing.
Gervais is at least playing to his strengths here and not trying to act - we all know he can't - and there are some great cameos from the likes of Hoffman and Norton. Good too to see Barry from Eastenders getting a role. However I'm puzzled by the casting of Garner who lacks charm and dare I say femininity. She makes a good superhero but not a good love interest, especially not for short fat men with snub noses.
Could have been harder hitting but credit for effort.
Bumblefuck, USA (2011)
Pointless and Pretentious
I really don't know what this film is supposed to be about, but whatever it is, it doesn't work. We have a weird Dutch girl about whom we know nothing, blagging her way round some American town and using people for her own gratification with no regard for anybody's feelings except her own. The film is punctuated with pointless interviews, the meaning of which is a mystery because they just show people talking about 'feelings' and other vague stuff too boring to mention.
Frankly the Alexa character is one of the most shallow and obnoxious I've seen. She is greedy and selfish and blatantly using people, yet (the actor has a writing credit, surprise surprise) she is portrayed through flattering camera and lighting work as some sort of heavenly body. It's all too twisted and pretentious, and it's impossible to sympathize with the character for any misfortune that befalls her.
This may appeal to immature arty types who spend too much time thinking and not enough doing, but it has no place in mainstream cinema.
33 Postcards (2011)
Australia certainly has a knack for producing depressing films, and this is one of their finest efforts. If I want to be depressed I'll turn on the news. I don't see any reason to bring more sadness into the world.
Initially the story looks promising and indeed could have become moving and uplifting. However, much like the unfortunate characters portrayed, it plunges into an inescapable spiral of gloom and misfortune.
Pearce is certainly on top form here, but his character is so pathetic and easily manipulated that it is difficult not to despise those around him - basically everyone else in the movie.
Technically good films don't work unless there is an inspirational or entertaining story to tell. This one perhaps was intended to be uplifting but misses the mark by a mile. Poor effort indeed.
Laid to Rest (2009)
And the award for worst acting goes to ...
Bobbi Sue Luther couldn't act her way out of a paper bag, as witnessed here in what must be one of the worst performances of all time. Add to that fact her character here is a truly horrible person who deserves to be cut up into little pieces, and we have a movie that should never have been unleashed on the unsuspecting public. Just how do these films get made? Who on earth thought that Luther was a good choice? I despair.
So we have some psychopath killing girls and he wants this one, who had escaped and sought shelter with the unfortunate Tucker and Cindy. He holds a knife to Cindy's throat and indicates he wants the girl. If I was Tucker I'd have handed her over without question and the movie could have ended with the satisfactory slashing of the horrible cow. But no, Tucker decides his wife is less important to him than this weird girl he just met. Honestly, who comes up with this drivel?
From then on everyone the despicable girl comes into contact with dies a horrible death. What is wrong with these people? Do the sensible thing and hand over the worthless criminal whore to the man with the big knife. How many good innocent people must die just so this scumbag can live? Well, just about everyone. Utterly stupid and irritating.
American Flyer (2010)
Well clearly the other reviewers saw something in this film that I did not. I was bored after 20 minutes, catatonic after 70. If the story had started at that point and concentrated on Bondo's attempts to make his fortune in the US then we might have had a pretty decent film. Alas the build-up to his flight is tedious and unrealistic.
The faults lie not with the actors but with the script. The characters are superficial and the bent cop in particular is quite ridiculous. Here is a drug dealing murderer portrayed in a light-hearted, almost farcical way. The guy who shot Bondo's father and is trying to kill him, comes across as a sort of pantomime villain. It just doesn't work.
The film is nicely shot and looks pretty but I'm sure Tijuana has many problems that are simply glossed over here. People do not risk their lives crossing borders because they are dreamers, they do it because they are desperate.
This could have been a good movie but poor vision on the part of the writer and director have stripped it of any meaningful value. Watch it if you can't sleep.
10,000 BC (2008)
Take it for what it is
There are some silly comments here - criticising it for having the tribe speak English for example. Well what language would you like them to speak? I don't think many actors can speak caveman or whatever it was back then, and if they could then what audience today would understand it? Stupid.
Of course, as has been pointed out many times, it is historically, geographically and culturally inaccurate to the point of being amusing. But I don't think the makers set out to produce an educational film about stone age life. It sets out (IMO) to be a fairy tale, fantasy story aimed mainly at kids. Who cares if steel didn't arrive until 8000 years after this is set? Who cares that none of the tribe look as if they are related, and all have access to high-tech grooming devices and listen to Bob Marley records. If that bothers you, then don't watch this film.
For what it is, it works well enough. There are some epic sets and scenes that elevate it above the level of most kids' movies. Acting is not particularly strong here, with Ms Belle being noticeably lacking in those skills (a view based on at least 6 movies I've watched her in) although she does look nice, from some angles at least.
So it's a bit of fun for the young at heart with a few moral (almost Biblical) lessons thrown in for good measure. Accept it as that and you can't go wrong.
Alice Upside Down (2007)
Mainly for kids
This is a little too lightweight to be of interest to most adults, but for what it is, it's done pretty well. Sure there are serious topics here, but they are not explored in any great depth or with any signs of real pain and suffering, so would be quite suitable for a younger audience, or for all the family to share in.
Stoner is very cute here but she does look and act her real age (14) when she is supposed to be playing an 11 year old. That's a big age gap at that time of life, and for me her performance just doesn't work at that level, but that's not really to the detriment of the film as a whole. She is not the most talented actress by a long chalk, but she has a certain charm on screen that many young stars lack, and it is easily sufficient to carry a light movie like this.
Grabeel is good and there is ample support from all the kids. Perry is Perry. Marshall is probably the best of the bunch, experience obviously telling. All in all the performances are competent and the characters sufficiently well rounded to make them interesting, even if the plot itself is a little weak.
Few flaws here then, but don't expect to be wowed. One for a rainy day in with the kids.
127 Hours (2010)
I've seen this twice and the second time was just to confirm my initial thoughts. I thought maybe I missed something, seeing as it scores so highly here. Truth is, it just irritates me how somebody so stupid and reckless can be portrayed as some sort of hero. Boyle's freaky insights to Ralston's decaying mind only make matters worse. Had it been an out-and-out adventure film it might have worked better.
I'm sure Ralston is not alone in being reckless - most adrenaline junkies are to some extent, which is why so many of them get killed or injured. However, anybody venturing alone into the wilderness needs a bit of common sense, which Ralston clearly lacks. He takes one small bottle of water and little else of use on a trip into a hot, dry, remote area, a journey which only he knows about. That is not reckless, it is just plain stupid.
Within minutes of setting off on his bike he has an accident which could have left him seriously injured. Can't ride a bike, don't go careering across rough terrain. Then there is the drop into the pool, which I believe is not actually based on fact, but again illustrates how stupid he and the others were - one or more of them could easily have died.
Somehow surviving all this, he then clambers down a shear rock face over loose boulders and debris, so it is not surprising it turns out bad. Frankly from then on it goes from bad to worse, a long drawn-out affair detailing the rather dull and senseless thoughts of a guy who clearly is a sandwich short of a picnic. I'd have been happy for him to get his head trapped by the boulder and have the film end there. Talk about drawing it out ... yawn.
So really I fail to see what the point of this movie is. In parts it is nicely filmed and that saves it from scoring 1. There is no tension, no excitement, and surprisingly no real signs of a guy struggling to cling on to life, which I imagine is what one would be doing were one stupid enough to be trapped like this.
Anybody reading anything more into this must be sadly lacking in real life experience. It's pretentious twaddle.
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Stiller has made some funny movies but his brain must have gone walkabout for this one. This is pure drivel - and frankly horrible at times. There are a lot of unnecessary and tasteless sex scenes that would look out of place in one of those cheap teen romps, let alone in a movie about supposedly fairly mature people.
The characters are one-dimensional and mostly unpleasant people who cannot possibly captivate any audience with half a brain. The stereotypes are from another age - getting white people to dress up and put on a funny accent to play Mexicans is not something you expect to see in the 21st century.
Having had the misfortune to waste my money on the DVD, the 'special features' endorse my opinion that this film was made by a bunch of immature, ignorant half-wits. Just don't waste your time on it.
5 Days of War (2011)
Is it or isn't it?
This film appears to have attracted a lot of negative publicity, mainly from pro-Russia and pro-US parties. I have no idea how accurate it is, but given what I know of how powerful countries operate I have no reason to doubt that much of this is based on fact. Wars that don't benefit western economies rarely attract support or even attention, and it is interesting that this one also coincided with the Beijing Olympics - pure coincidence? I think not. What better way to cover up atrocities than carry them out when the world is looking the other way.
As a piece of film making it is faultless, however, and deserves a much higher average score. If you like films such as The Bang Bang Club and The Hunting Party then this should be right up your street. The plot and characters are good, well acted and directed, with plenty of action. If I have a gripe it's down to the lack of subtitles when people are speaking Russian or Georgian - why do film makers do this? If the characters have something to say and it's important to the story, then tell us what they're saying!
So it's a good film and if it's in any way true then a lot of powerful people ought to be ashamed. At the very least it's a film that makes you want to find out more about the atrocities happening in the world today.
Ticket Out (2012)
This is slightly better than the average score suggests. The only thing that really lets it down is the ending - the audience is left hanging and I hate that. Why bother to tell a story and then deprive us of a satisfactory ending? This really seems to be a problem with film makers, they just seem incapable of rounding things off properly.
Other than that I have no real complaints. It has a slight TV Movie feel to it but the leads are very good, and the kids perfectly adequate. The story is interesting if not fully explored, and it moves along at a decent pace. There are a couple of silly moments slotted in for dramatic effect, but they don't overshadow the plot.
Anyway the moral of this story is if you have to go on the run, don't take kids with you. And of course the law is an ass, but then we all knew that.
Worth a viewing if you're not too critical.
American Psycho (2000)
Utter rubbish. Confusing and dreary. Bale's performance is so OTT I couldn't figure out if he is trying to be funny, or just ridicule the story. I had no idea what was going on, or who any of the characters were.
Mostly the movie is boring and nothing happens, and when something does happen it seems to be thrown in willy-nilly to change the pace. It's disjointed and muddled and for the most part mind-numbingly dull.
Frankly I'm shocked at how bad it is, considering the number of established performers. If ever there was a movie that shows the difference in mentality between actors and normal people, this is it. They're taking the p and I feel sorry for anybody who gets taken in by this scam of a movie.
Wild Child (2008)
I like Emma Roberts and she does her best here, hence two stars and not one. However her character is hardly what I'd call 'wild' - arrogant, immature, snobbish perhaps but not wild, not by the standards of most teenagers I know.
Kimberley Nixon is one of the best young actors around (just watch Fresh Meat) but even she looks a little perplexed by the dreadful script and amateurish directing.
Being English I am often dismayed at Hollywood's stereotyping of 'quaint' English characters and locations. This film is particularly bad in that respect and might as well have been shot on Mars with little green aliens. All the more disgraceful then that it is written and directed by two English people.
The characters are one-dimensional and there is an overall immaturity about the production that means it could only really appeal to a very immature audience. Perhaps kids will like it, but adults really ought to avoid this drivel. Life is too short.
Four Stories of St. Julian (2010)
I suppose you don't get much for $100,000 in the movie business, but I'm sure I could do better than this. The writing is very weak, the acting abysmal - bordering on funny - and there is no tension or mystery to keep you hooked.
If you're going to shoot an entire movie in an elevator then you need a lot more than is on offer here. One has to wonder why they bothered making it, or indeed how anybody was persuaded to finance it.
There are hundreds of thousands of films and most have something more to offer. Unless you happen to be related to one of the 'sctors' (I use the term loosely) I really wouldn't waste your time on this one.