Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Force Awakens (2015)

In all honesty, The Force Awakens is probably a better film than A New Hope, I just can’t bring myself to admit it.  Hitting all the same notes as A New Hope, what it has is style, humour and entertainment in spades.  What is doesn’t have is George Lucas dicking about with it, sticking in pointless GG creatures going “Bwaaak” or redundant Hutts, or Rodians that can’t shoot a smuggler from across a bar table!

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Centurion (2010)

Beautifully shot in the Highlands and featuring a solid cast including Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham and David Morrissey; this story of the abortive attempt of the Roman Empire to conquer Scotland promises so much but ultimately falls a few denarii short of an aqueduct.

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Friday, 20 November 2015

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Following a group of scientists as they discover and then try to understand a terrible disease may not sound terribly exciting; but in taking its lead from Bullitt (1968), The Andromeda Strain is far more concerned with the process the researchers go through, and as such is very compelling.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Iron Man 2 (2010)

These were my thoughts when I first saw Iron Man 2:

While watching the beginning of the second film, actually I might say up to about 45 min or something, I thought it was a bit flat. I thought that this could be because for a lot of these hero-style films, the first film is usually more interesting as the main character discovers their super-powers. Mmmm. I was about to back up that statement with examples, but could only come up with Spider-man really. X-2 better than X-men, Superman 2, Hellboy II!
Anyway, I thought the first 45 min were a bit aimless, until Sam L Jackson showed up and told Tony to stop arse-ing about. At that point the film developed some plot and became a whole lot more enjoyable, though I was confused with why they replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle as Rhodey. Jon Favreau has done a great job with these two films, including a massive cameo for himself (actually I think it goes beyond a cameo).
Though it is undoubtedly the weakest Iron Man film, seeing it again over four years later with far more MCU movie experience under my utility belt, I found more to interest me. Perhaps, initially I had been a little bit dismissive of it.

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Oliver Stone gives us a film that is completely over the top in style, but completely brilliant.  He barely gives us time to get used to one style or angle before he’s on to the next one.  Now black and white, now colour, this angle, that angle; filmed through a camcorder; animation and a whole section done as a naff 70s sitcom (complete with canned laughter) about child abuse and wife-beating.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Kill List (2011)

Director Ben Wheatley’s first feature-length film is all about the perils of being unemployed and bored. Couple that to a dysfunctional family and add a bit of the old ultra-violence and we have Kill List.

A good little film, well acted and creatively made, with a sucker punch of an ending (though not as bad as The Mist). I was just a bit thrown by lots of setup but no payoff. There are so many little drip-fed hints suggesting that everything is going to come together and be explained. Spoiler: there is no payoff; nothing is explained!

Otherwise, right up until the point when I realised that I wasn’t getting any closure (credits rolling) I really enjoyed Kill List. Well acted, moments of cinematic beauty and bursts of brutal violence. But, you know, that's just, like, my opinion man.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Everest (2015)

Directed by Icelander Baltasar Kormákur, Everest is the account of the 1996 disaster on the world’s highest mountain.  Based on Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” the film is a faithful interpretation, thankfully never straying into either Cliffhanger or Vertical Limit territory.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

So, I haven’t seen movies 2 and 3 of the franchise, but I figured I probably wasn’t missing huge plot points given the nature of the films. I could always say that I just want to see all the Paul W. S. Anderson iterations.

Afterlife starts off with lots of Paul Anderson’s visual flair, which I happen to quite like (Three Musketeers notwithstanding). It’s all quite silly, but looks quite cool. The problem is this only lasts for about five minutes, the film soon degenerates into a derivative action zombie thriller with some fancy tech.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Raid (2011)

It would almost seem an obvious thing to say the The Raid heavily influenced Dredd (which I saw at the cinema upon release in 2012; only just seen The Raid), but it seems that principal photography started on Dredd before The Raid was released, so similarities are pure chance, presumably.  You just can’t help the comparison though, even the Dredd music is reminiscent of The Raid.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

La Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

I think it’s hard to review La voyage dans la lune in the same way I do other films because of its age and uniqueness.  Certainly the film is an incredible achievement for 1902, with some impressive sets and some simple yet ingenious effects created by Georges Méliès.  Most striking is the image of the moon and the elegant way the camera slowly zooms in to reveal the face, just before the space rocket crashes in to one eye providing an iconic image of early cinema.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Sanctum (2011)

I don't think that you would ever catch me caving, at least not beyond having a peek into one you happen upon on a walk.  Not least because being cold and wet isn't my idea of fun, couple that to squeezing through tight underwater spaces and you may have discovered one of the thing I would least like to do in life.  Having said all that, I quite enjoyed Sanctum.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Along Came Polly (2004)

Philip Seymour Hoffman is an actor who has only made it big in one movie, and is trying to rekindle his former greatness starting with a community production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Unfortunately this rags to riches tale (perfectly judged by PSH - he steals every scene he is in) is spoiled by some run-of-the-mill rom com story involving Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

Congo (1995)

Two years after the amazing success of Jurassic Park (1993), another of Michael Crichton's novels gets the movie treatment. I don’t know who is to blame, distributors and producers looking to jump on the Jurassic-Crichton bandwagon, scriptwriter John Patrick Shanley, or director Frank Marshall. Probably all of them had a hand in this boring, excruciating and generally bad film.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Witchfinder General (1968)

With themes of isolation, helplessness and anarchy, this seemingly silly revenge movie is none-the-less fun and at times unexpectedly stylish.  Vincent Price is the eponymous protagonist and as such is a great dead-pan witch hunter who genuinely believes he is “doing God’s work”.  He never once loses his cool (until he gets an axe buried in him) which adds to the detached way he views human life, apart from his own.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


Watched this short film as part of the NFTS-run MOOC.

I really loved all the details: close-ups of various twirly bits on the flying machine; Gideon's head-torch, and the music-box on the side of his head playing "You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine...".  This of course links with the Father calling his son Sunshine, in addition to the point of the film to fly and find the sun; very nice touch - reminds me of the "I am the one and only" alarm clock in Moon (2009).

I also liked the way that they spoke in a slightly odd way "I have news that will please you". It all added to the feeling of an established universe and put me in mind of Firefly.  Very creative use of light and sound, combined with lovely music which swelled at the moment when you realise that the father knew all along that the flying machine would never take the weight of both of them; plucking all the right heart-strings.

Really enjoyed it, and I think I have to go and watch it again. But, you know, that's just, like, my opinion man.

Skyborn from Jamie Stone on Vimeo.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Klaatu, barada, nikto

Far from the CGI-heavy, plot-light 2008 version, this 1951 Sci Fi classic is a character-driven critique of cold war paranoia and burgeoning environmentalism.  Unfortunately due to its age it also slightly suffers from the shoot first ask questions later mentality that plagues movies of this era; though certainly not a deal-breaker in such a fine film.

Following Klaatu (Michael Rennie) as he learns about the human race, our insecurities, our aggression and our reckless treatment of our planet is really a window into 50s American society.  It’s quite striking how on the one hand the inhabitants of the B & B in which Klaatu stays accept him unquestioningly and let him look after the young lad, but at the same time everyone is mistrustful of strangers who might be a “Red”.  To be fair, the film doesn’t shy away from these issues; the Secretary of State admits to Klaatu that the “world is full of tensions and suspicions”; and indeed like all good Sci-Fi, the movie highlights our politics and society.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Kingsman (2014)

How did I not know that this was a Matthew Vaughn film?  If I'd have known, I might have made a sooner effort to see this.  As it happens I managed to find the smallest screen at the Odeon in Leicester Square that happened to still be showing it.  And by God I'm glad I found it.  I enjoyed the hell out of this.

Following in the great tradition of Matthew Vaughn films, Kingsman is different to any of his previous films, at least in terms of genre.  Perhaps there should be a new Matthew Vaughn genre, a Vaughnre if you will!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Tomorrowland: A world Beyond (2015)

From the director of Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles comes a film which celebrates the fact that the future will depend on dreamers, inventors, artists; generally creative types.  And I think that this should be applauded.  However, for a film about the future and its endless possibilities, Tomorrowland shows a distinct lack of imagination.  OK, so the future looks kinda cool, at least for the dozen people that seem to live there, but the execution of the film was just boring.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Ipcress File (1965)

The Ipcress File has all the hallmarks of a great cold-war iron-curtain espionage thriller, except that it's set in London.  Michael Caine is Harry Palmer, a counter espionage agent who is investigating the disappearance of some of the country's top scientists.  The whole film has a tremendous ambience due to a terrific score by John Barry, sets by Ken Adam and a great washed-out look.  Michael Caine is effortlessly brilliant; not the same cheeky character as The Italian Job but never-the-less someone who knows when to go against protocol to get results.  Gordon Jackson is good as Palmer's partner as are both Nigel Green and Guy Doleman, Palmer's two superiors.

There are plenty of twists, though not so many to make the plot impregnable; my only issue was that when we found out what the Ipcress File was and what it involved, I didn't feel that it was explained WHY the perpetrators were doing what they were doing.  For me that left the end of the film rather flat.  Otherwise I was completely engrossed, and completely in love with John Barry's music. but, well, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion man.

I don't think making coffee has ever been so captivating.

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