Reviews & Rants, Films for You?
- House of Flying Daggers
[30/dec/2004] Score 6/10
Another one from the flying China circus. Fantastic dance (sorry, fight) sequences vie with a dramatic characters set against a powerful background of Chinese history as forces fight for control of the country and people’s souls in the middle kingdom of myth and majesty.
So why the slightly lower score? While I know a lot of people will say that this was far better than Hero earlier in the year, and they may be right, after the first dance sequence there was a feeling that the CGI effects were on remote control. It looked like a case of how imaginative could you use the effects and at least once in the film I did suddenly wonder if they’d overdone it. Good effects are good if blended perfectly into the story, but if they overdo it then you have nothing but the effect without the story. While the echo dance scene was utterly brilliant, the bamboo forest chase looked too, erm, well you know, not right.
- National Treasure
[28/dec/2004] Score: 6/10
Egad! Those dastardly Britishers are out to steal our National Treasure!
Yes, welcome to Hollywood’s favourite baddies as they embark on a treasure hunt, chasing “Our Fearless Lone American Hero” across the map of American Revolutionary History. From the Dawn of Time (War of Independence from the British) to modern times, with a few side trips through Hollywood’s interpretations of ancient history, the Templar Knights and The Masons, we learn the American Is The Centre of Civilization and ALL THINGS GOOD, treasure house of the greatest loot from around the (western) world to be kept safe from the evil British – those dastardly Britishers will never win!
If you enjoy a good romp, treasure maps, damsels in distress and Bold Hero’s outwitting inept officials, baddies with British accents and you loved Indiana Jones then you’ll like this fast-paced adventure that throws you in at the deep end from the very first moment.
Verdict: Gee-Whiz, I’d never have guessed.
- Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events
[18/dec/2004] Score: 10/10
This is the second “grown up” children’s adventure story I’ve seen this year (also see “Five Children and It”) which doesn’t include cutie little fluffy animated creatures (except at the very beginning) and which invoked all the memories and dreams of films and stories from long, long ago. Like all good fairy stories it’s as dark as a forest, as haunted as night and as wonderful as cake and lemonade on a warm summer day. Eat it all up before the bad people come and take it away.
Verdict: A Fortunate Experience.
- Blade: Trinity
[11/dec/2004] Score: 6/10
I remember when watching the first Blade movie and thinking how much some of the scenes and music just merged like a mixture of a pop video and hair shampoo advert. Well the shampoo Vamp. Boy is back and slashing his way through another horde of fanged fiends. And what fiends they are from feeble-minded post-modern “style” vampires who can’t think “Hey, let’s use a sniper to shoot the vamp.boy” through to the “Old Man” himself, Drac, he of the tall, dark and handsome, somewhat more stylishly “foreign” sort, complete with shirt-with-no-buttons. But don’t worry Vamp. Boy has a whole crew of sidekicks-who-can’t-remember-elementary-security to stand and fall by his side in this week’s “Ultimate Battle of Evil versus Well We’re Not THAT Bad”.This is said to be the last in the trilogy.
Verdict: Fangs for the memory.
- After The Sunset
[27/nov/2004] Score: 5/10
It’s a crime caper. There’s a sharp, sophisticated up-market jewel thief and his gorgeous girlfriend, and a down-market cop hotfoot on his heels all the way down to the magic isles in the sun and the biggest caper of all. If you enjoy the fun and frolics of the jet set as they steal from each other, then you’ll enjoy this little taste of the high life.
Verdict: A glossy sparkler.
- The Incredibles
[20/nov/2004] Score: 10/10
It’s incredible. It’s Fantastic and there are Four (and a half) of them! It’s incredibly funny. It’s worth seeing, buying the video and telling all your friends. Take the kiddies, go and watch it after bed time when all the kiddies have had their fun and see how many homages you can spot to other (especially Bond) films. Go and see Edna’s Incredible new movie.
Verdict: Incredible dharling!
- Bad Santa
[13/nov/2004] Score: 8/10
I laughed out loud at the boxing scene in a film that surprised me with its humour of a totally foul Santa robbing the innocent department stores in the “season to be merry (and buy toys)”. But then I’ve always disliked the sugary Hollywood Santa’s, and long planned my own little Christmas Stories (including the Real Christmas Fairy (wanted: leading Hollywood actress to star, must be tall, beautiful, with a twist)), so it’s nice to see other people share my opinion and have added a little salt added to our diet.
If you hate Santa the salesman and his grinning cohorts of toy pushers, then you’ll love “Bad Santa”. NOTE: contains lots of sex, swearing, alcohol and modest violence, just like a real Christmas.
Verdict: Ho, ho, ho!
- The Grudge
[6/nov/2004] Score: 8/10
First time I’ve seen a Japanese import to Hollywood treated without the Hollywood treatment, “The Grudge” follows a similar story path as “The Ring”, a horrifying story of a haunted object, without the blood and gore we’ve come to expect from teen-slasher-horror flicks.
Want a haunting with a soul? Visit the house of “The Grudge”.
Only one proviso, don’t be surprised if someone (me?) one day produces a parody of these Japanese hauntings (I’ll call it “The Smudge” it’s about a……).
- Five Children And It
[31/oct/2004] Score: 6/10
If you ever remember the old style British children’s adventure stories, perfectly illustrated by “The Railway Children”, and if you have ever dreamed of release from the dread of yet another batch of noisy animated wise-cracking animals from America, as perfectly illustrated by, well, all of them, then “Five Children and It” will save your sanity.
A beautiful story in what I’d come to think of as a lost art or real life adventures of children escaping from parental supervision and discovering a world of magic, “Five Children and It” will entertain all ages who’ve not forgotten, in our cynical world, that there is more in our world than fear of our own shadows.
Verdict: It’s good.
- AVP – Aliens V. Predators
[23/oct/2004] Score: 6/10
Another wild video game takes gets a Hollywood makeover as you take assorted pesky sweaty Aliens, mix with a sample of Rastafarian Predators and throw in a “flavouring” of stupid humans with never enough ammunition, and a feast of fireworks ensues in an isolated Pyramid deep under the Antarctic ice (no, I don’t know how it got there either).
This is a multi-layer game for players from every part of the universe. Only one rule – survive until the girl gets you!
Verdict: Bite me! But wouldn’t it be even more interesting if it was Aliens V. Predators V. Ripley (although we would know who wins in the end!).
- Man On Fire
[15/oct/2004] Score: 8/10
The moment the film opened with the same stylistic cutting and imagery we’ve all become used to from the Scott brothers I knew we were in for a meaty story and a real ride along the same road as recently trod in “Black Hawk Down”. Not a glamorous glossy Hollywood production, you can see the grit of reality on every frame. What begins as a human and humane story of one man at the edge of life, soulless and desolate from unnamed past experiences, becomes a remorseless pursuit of those who snatch away his one final hope of salvation.
Verdict: Danger! Explosive! Short Fuse!
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse
[10/oct/2004] Score: 6/10
Wow! Two semi-Lara Crofts for the price of one! Looks at those skimpy costumes, hear the creak of their tight leather, see their enormous.. guns, monsters, zombies, reasonable CGI and all that stuff!
Story? Well, it was a video game to start with, but good fun for a Saturday afternoon.
Verdict: Mmmmm, just love those Racoon City girls!
- Layer Cake
[9/oct/2004] Score: 5/10
Well John, it’s like this now, we’re gonna make this movie, sort of like a gangsta movie, but, get this John, it’s gonna be unique – it’s gonna be abart gangstas from London, na’ wot I mean?
Gosh, look at this a gangster movie, set in London, what ho chaps, that’s original!
Layer Cake is from the same stable as “Lock Stock…”, et al, and has all the wonderfully usual ingredients of gangsters, in London, killing each other, with a few totties (extremely pretty, clever, decorative girlies for our non British readers), thrown in for good measure.
Not forgetting the token “northerners” (from Liverpool, why is it always Liverpool!!??), who have more sense than to mix with the flashy geezers from “darn south”.
And the story has a nice moral in it…
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow!
[2/oct/2004] Score: 10/10
Tally Ho, Chaps! The Sky Captain is here to save us all! This is a film for you if you remember those old 1930s Flash Gordon serials (forever repeated on BBC2) or those 1940s-50s Science Fiction comic books and short stories, where Tomorrow was a place you dreamed of going to live and not a place of dread, where science could make the world a better place unless in the hands of mad scientists. If you long for the age when men really were men and not a bunch of touchy-feelie whining soggy nappies, and where women were feminine and feisty, then go see “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow!”
Other reviewers have complained about the special effects, the script, the fact that is wasn’t “modern”, middle class and cynical. So? Who cares? The story, the stylish imagery, the playing is perfect if you want to recreate hope in heroes and the future. If you think “Tomorrow” is a place of wonder then spare a little time in this time machine. And the punchline is perfect!
Verdict: Brilliant and spellbinding!
[25/sept/2004] Score: 6/10
Welcome to the ballet, the style, the flair, the bold panache that British film-makers couldn’t reproduce if their lives, sorry I mean government grants, depended on it. Here is another trip to the world where truth and mythology dance hand-in-hand with very sharp swords, superb choreography, and that dark sense of deeper natural forces at play. In this case we are in that mythical moment in history when China’s destiny is held by one man and the balance of history is about to be tipped.
Verdict: Not Hollywood, thankfully.
- The Terminal
[20/sept/2004] Score: 6/10
Some critics have said that Spielberg and comedy don’t go hand in hand. Well not if you want a childish, teenage slapstick “comedy” of never-ending belly laughs. But if you want a grown-up comedy, stylish, gentle and with a good sensibility about it then The Terminal is a place you’re sure to want to stop in for a while. Leave the teenagers at home.
Verdict: Grown-up Comedy.
[18/sept/2004] Score: 6/10
I wanted to give this a higher score, but in the end “something” didn’t quite get it there. After all this is a Michael Mann movie and two of my favourite films “Manhunter” and “Heat” are both from the director of cool dislocated urban stories.
So, what was the “something”, partly I think it was the hype surrounding Tom Cruise as the hero of the story, when he plays the baddie so well why deny the fact? Secondly were the contrived plot elements surrounding the coincidents of the taxi driver meeting…. well, go see it for yourself. If these kind of plotted meetings had occurred in my stories I would at least have my Cruise character wander off into the philosophical realms of synchronicity, fate and destiny bringing so many people into such a close association in such a vast city (maybe hinting that we’re all just living in one big village where everyone knows and meets everyone else, the village of the night people?).
If you want powerful action, and enjoy the image of the night as an alien world where you too can be the hero, the knight charging to the rescue, then go and enjoy, you probably won’t find another story this good for the rest of the year.
[11/sept/2004] Score: 6/10
It must be one of those months of expectations gone awry. First Hellboy (see below), now Dodgeball exceeds expectations, and earns an above-average score.
When I went to see it, I had in mind all those tasteless American teen comedies, notably American Pie, gross humour making up for lack of writing and performance, and I was delighted to see that someone had working on a, slightly, more adult script.
Humour abounds in this comedy of weird people fighting for the traditional Hollywood right to “be normal”, i.e., not superficial or plastic, and winning against the odds at a ridiculous game I expect will one day become an Olympic sport (you read it here first!).
this is a feel good summer movie for everyone still wanting the corporate drones to loose (despite what happens in the real world) and for the little people to stand up for slobbery and stupid sports.
Verdict: Gold medal winner.
[4/sept/2004] Score: 8/10
It’s a cop show, well a cop movie, but I guess it could turn into a really seedy cop show if US channels bid for the rights.
When I was first dragged to see Hellboy by a friend I didn’t know who the hell Hellboy was and was prepared to grimace and bear it. Here we go again, I thought, another comic book hero turned into a low rate (2nd rate, 3rd rate?) movie by the tasteless Hollywood machine, and to-date the odds of finding another good character treated as well as Spiderman were looking poor.
I was wrong. Hellboy is a rarity in being a richly detailed and enjoyable romp into comic book land. And here in Hellboy land we have all the dramatic ingredients of a Hollywood-scale cop show, with all the usual ingredients
Meet the evilest evil comic book baddies of all – the nasty Nazis – meet the down at heel, and hellish, rogue cop the man (monster, thing, it???) himself, meet the squeaky clean new boy on the block, straight out of “the academy” (why are they always straight out of the academy anyway?), and meet the cute girlie love interest.
Not forgetting of course, the sympathetic wise old man, and the idiot “Police Chief” who never listens and never learns and a whole book of stock characters straight out of the casting bureau.
So, what held up the good marks for me? Well a good solid central core character, and a thumping good, fast-paced and funny story.
Verdict: “Give ’em Hell Boy!”
- The Chronicles of Riddick
[August 2004] Score: 6/10
Now from what I’ve read and heard a lot of critics have reported disappointment in this movie and scored it lower than me. But what were they expecting, Shakespeare!?
“The Chronicles of Riddick” lives up to the expectation of a banging good science fiction adventure thriller: action, chases, fights, strong girlies and stronger men. Throw in elements of mythology/heroism for the central character, keep Riddick’s dialogue short and his fighting long and you have two hours of fun!
So, what DID I find disappointing about the film to give it a relatively lower score with my own interest in all things futuristic?
Well, better than Star Trek (thank god!!), but still a Hollywood movie, and therein lie the conventions it cannot escape from.
(Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the movie yet.)
After watching the film there was one thing bugging me which took an hour to pin down – essentially “The Chronicles of Riddick” is a Western. You have the townsfolk in trouble from the bandits and the reluctant lone hero rides into town to save the day. You have the two throwaway female characters who could vie for the hero’s affections (think of them as “Kitty” the bar girl and “Missy” the school marm) and the traditional ending for the “wrong sort of girl”; but since when have Hollywood men ever been strong enough to have an equally strong woman stand by their side when Missy is waiting to fawn gratefully all over them?
In this Riddick could have staged a non-western ending and opened a new aspect to the prospect of a future sequel. And I do think there’s plenty of potential for a sequel or two …. “The Legend of Riddick”? It’ll be interesting to see what Hollywood does to trash the enormous potential inherent in the final set-up of this storyline so far.
Of yes, and I also reminded me a little of the ending to the second Conan movie. Vin Diesel as another “Conan”?
Verdict: Could do better, can I have a go at the next one or two?
- Thunderbirds, are go!
[summer 2004] Score: 4/10
Okay, so maybe this was me with high expectations that after years of gestation the Thunderbirds film would be something special. Having been a big T.birds fan all my life and having my own ideas about how they could be translated to film I did hope there would be some imagination put into turning these into a great film series with the potential to run for years to come.
What I forgot was the way it’d be looked at as Children’s entertainment with little appreciation of all the grown up kiddies eager to revisit their favourite team of international lifesavers.
So what really stuck out like a sore thumb?
Well firstly there were the two dysfunctional male leads. Now we all know the Jeff Tracy lost his wife a long time ago and had to raise his boys all alone, but Brains too!!?? These are not, to say the least, good parental role models, what happened, did Brains clone his son, grow him in a vat??
Secondly, and what really, really stuck if only because of the way it illustrates the producer’s utter lack of attention to even the simplest, most obvious of basic details : they ARE NOT “The Thunderbirds”!! The Thunderbirds are the huge flying metal things, NOT the people flying them! The people are called “International Rescue”! This phrase “we are The Thunderbirds!” came up time and time again throughout the story. As for the acting, well at least they haven’t spoiled that important detail, once wooden, always wooden.
And the pop song at the end? Bland, euyck!!
Verdict: Weird, and “Going” nowhere fast.
Up-date (end-August 2004): Reports suggest that to-date the film, for a production cost of £22 million has only taken £11 million at the box office. This would suggest a likely breakeven over the next two to three years on additional sales, but remember, we are talking Box Office receipts, which makes it about three million tickets sold, and optimistically they need to see at least £60+ million gross to seriously breakeven. Not a “blockbuster” then.
- The Bourne Supremacy
[summer 2004] Score: 6/10
Now for comparison, let me say that the first film “The Bourne Identity” scores a full 5/5 for quality, style, and setting a new standard in imaginative spy stories.
On the other hand The Bourne Supremacy let’s me down on two key points (don’t read on if you haven’t seen the movie yet.):-
Firstly the Hollywood misogynistic gimmick of killing off one of the leading characters at the beginning as “motivation”, which struck me as being an unimaginative and lazy act of writing, especially as the character remains in the original books.
Secondly, I completely lost the plot a couple of times in the film when the director’s wildly shaky camerawork sent me dizzy. Is this some attempt to distract us from weak action scenes, or had the director been watching far too many episodes of jerkey-camera US TV shows?
Was there really any need to wobble, jerk, shake and throw the camera around like the cameraman was just coming out of a serious hangover? It didn’t seem necessary in the first film with its striking fight and action scenes, so why was it needed in the second, just for the director to show off his skills?
Verdict: Cruel and cross-eyed.