Thursday, May 26, 2011

Exciting Update

Anybody who is, or has enjoyed this blog may be excited to know I now present a movie and DVD podcast with my friends at

See you there.

See the full post by clicking here...

Monday, December 21, 2009



I'm not in the business of giving bonus marks out of ten for technological prowess and pushing the digital envelope, because frankly it's not something that interests me very much. Many people are intensely fascinated by the minutiae of film making, the blow by blows, the bit transfer rates and mo cap suits that make up the so called heart of Avatar.

But lets address this issue, which Fox's News International buddies are pushing as its USP for reasons that will, I hope, become apparent.

For this movie all new frontiers of digital film making have been discovered and conquered, real emotional performances elicited from the digital puppets and in "the volume" we actually have a controllable environment that can be made to be anything, achieve virtually limitless variety and feed that back to the actors immediately so the whole performance is rewarding for them in a way that digital performance can never be.

So let me be clear - on a purely technical level, James Cameron's Avatar is a colossal, barn storming, eye wateringly complete and total triumph.

Here's the thing -

Why is the whole marketing campaign for Avatar based around its technical creativity and its 3D?

Simple. On absolutely every other level, it is a horrific, bloated, trite, patronising, vacuous, heartless failure.

Avatar, and none of the vested interest journos will say this, is rubbish.

And not in a subtle, hard to spot way. Oh no.

Every character is so underdeveloped they spout dialogue like characters from the bad age of early of narrative console gaming while being crowbarred into supplying the back story in such obvious terms they practically start each sentence with "This is the plot, OK?..."

Case in point: a scientist, played by Sigourney Weaver, who has been intimately involved in events suddenly gets reminded of "why we're all here" in pretty much those terms by Giovanni Ribisi's phoned in cliché of a project manager (he even plays GOLF in the office while laughing at the savages who are standing in the way of progress).

It's as if the scriptwriter of woeful US TV dud Flash Forward, which often flashes back to things that happened THAT EPISODE in case you're confused, has been roped in to write a script in an afternoon and was then asked to make things clearer. Avatar doesn't have any flashbacks, but it repeats itself and its childish message constantly.

I've seen some of the worst dialogue ever written (Plan 9 From Outer Space, for instance) but Avatar consistently surprises with just how far it pushes the boundaries of predictability, awkwardness and cliché. It also boasts one of the poorest voice over performances since Harrison Ford's legendary "If I do this badly they won't use it" VO for the studio raped version of Blade Runner.

Sam Worthington's marine Jake Sully doesn't sound in awe or like a man changed.


Perhaps he'd seen Avatar.

It's obviously going for an epic coming of age and self discovery film like, say, Lord Of The Rings or Dances With Wolves and to an extent you do get the sense that there is a huge story to be told about this world - but this, crucially, is not it.

If you are going to make a vastly long film it is necessary in my rulebook (which I must write, incidentally) that at some point, any point, the audience identify or perhaps even sympathise with anyone.


Instead virtually everyone is stupid, self obsessed and dull. The only slight bit of fun comes from the frankly crazy Marine chief - who is played with the dial set to "Extra Ham" throughout. But at least you connect with him on the level of humour.

Let's put the entire book on bad characterisation aside though, since you want to know about this amazing world they created, yeah?

Playing Devil's advocate for a mo, with a big brainless blockbuster the experience that's important, not the plot and characters?

Firstly, when did "brainless" and "preachy" become bedfellows?

Oh yeah... it's a FOX production.

And whoah boy is Avatar preachy.

Guess what, humanity? You're all scum. Real scum. These aliens know what's what. They're in touch with their planet and you're not. You absolute filth.

Great, meaningful, original stuff. Yeah. Sarcasm doesn't really come over on the web.

So lets look at this perfect world, that James Cameron described as "like nothing you've ever seen" (I may be paraphrasing, don't have a team of researchers)

It's Native Americans living in the jungle.

That's it.

There's nothing even remotely original or unexpected. These guys have two arms, two legs, ride horses and coexist with a lot of critters in the jungle (cats, rhinos etc) due to a very real physical link with every other thing on the planet. Oh, the horses have extra limbs and everything seems to have gills, but there's an Earth equivalent of everything except that link.

Actually, the link is the one thing that captured my imagination a bit, but it isn't remotely explored to the degree it deserves since we have to get to the next whooshy explody bit to justify the expense of 3D.

Actually, for a film set on a distant unfamiliar inhospitable planet I found the whole thing slightly racist. In an Earth sense, I mean. Diversity seems to be something the corporation in question doesn't really do. The few ethnic minority actors are an Asian scientist (how original) and Michelle Rodriguez playing that ballsy Michelle Rodriguez character you write in your movie because you want to meet Michelle Rodriguez. Pretty much all of Hollywood's non-white acting talent is in the motion capture suits playing natives.

How progressive. How patronising. How pathetic.

The alien race are 10 feet tall, incidentally, though the filmmakers, in a rare outbreak of budget logic, do their best to limit direct interaction between humans and them since I guess the Mo Cap environment would have trouble letting them do so.

Know what I'd do? Tell the story of this planet and not have any humans there at all. Think of all the options that gives you! This is not just a failure, it has come at the expense of god knows how many great potential films - you could, for example, make Paranormal Activity roughly 50,000 times for the cost of one dud like Avatar. I know which represents the better artistic return on investment for me.

Of course I'm all too aware of the simple economic models of film making and how they will ALWAYS trump artistic considerations. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

So - Avatar is not just bad, it's OBVIOUSLY bad. So obvious for the first time I am seeing the wheels of Hollywood marketing machine turning.

It seems owning not only the film, but many of the news outlets that are telling people whether it is good as well, will be the paradigm for a long time. Expect many more soulless gilded turkeys in the future folks.

I'd rather see The Phantom Menace again, frankly.

If that isn't intensely depressing, I don't know what is.


There. I just saved you nearly three hours of your life. And many of you will be seeing your computer screen in 3D. Maybe someone will give me a 5 Star review for this.
See the full post by clicking here...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: Paranormal Activity


Quick Plot: A man buys a camera to film the events that have been disturbing his wife's sleep just as the events start to escalate.

That's all I'm prepared to write at this point plot wise, since I don't want people being annoyed I spoiled any surprises for them.

I saw it on my own in an almost empty cinema, knowing next to nothing about it. I recommend you do the same.

Don't read any further if you want to keep your experience pure.

How I wish a movie like Paranormal Activity had existed when I was 14 or 15 and trying to get girls interested in a spot of cuddling.

Back then I don't really remember any truly scary or creepy films with a 15 certificate all that stuff ended up with an 18 rating because, frankly, it were a different world then, chick. The kids of today will have girls jumping at them during this. So long as they're not expecting gore...

In this age of lazy gore filled, 18 rated torture fests I hadn't really expected something like Paranormal Activity to be successful unless it could keep its word of mouth large and its reviews good. I'm happy to be part of the group of reviewers who liked it.

I gather it cost next to nothing to make. A mere $15,000 if reports are to be believed. And has made over $100 Mill. Proof that there is a market out there for films that are just plain good.

Compared to the return on investment (artistic or monetary) of an expensive film like, say, Twilight, or even more acutely, an incredibly expensive film like 2012, the importance of that fact cannot, in my view be overstated.

Suffice to say it achieves a lot with very little and while not destined to set the world on fire, it gets the job done fantastically well. I'll probably write about its strengths and weaknesses in a couple of weeks once my mates have all seen it.

Will you like it as much as I did? It's tough to say.

Your enjoyment will almost certainly be proportional to how much you can get into the spirit of the thing and accept its premise. After the end there was a genuine moment of camaraderie between the six or seven people who were in the cinema at 14:40 on a Thursday to see it - we'd shared an almost interactive experience since you have to bring a lot to this film with you to fill in the scares and I was glad I'd seen it alone (like I did The Blair Witch Project, Ringu etc).

It's a very cool movie, and I was very impressed.


P.S. I have one very minor spoiler.... so don't read below unless you're prepared to know something!!! DON'T!!!

The very last moment (by which I mean the last second, not the last sequence) is a bit shit and not needed, but it's not a dealbreaker.

See the full post by clicking here...

Review: 2012


There's a lot of flash bang in Roland Emmerich's latest "look at the USA being destroyed" movie, but it simply doesn't deliver enough of that to be a truly memorable spectacle, nor enough heart to be truly involving.

All this movie's problems are summed up in the choice of last line.

If you recall your Deep Impact, that film ends with a dignified yet rousing speech from Morgan Freeman's President character and we go away thinking mankind is battered but unbowed by the events of that film. 2012 by way of contrast ends on the note "Well, billions of people are dead, but at least a little girl has stopped wetting the bed!"

What a wonderful message of hope.

Spoilers start below.

You know, it's a sad day when the best performance in a film is from Woody Harrelson playing a batshit crazy pseudo-religious conspiracy theorist disk jockey. John Cusack is walking through the movie playing the Tom Cruise role from War Of The Worlds - I think Spielberg's central broken family from his version WOTW has been copied almost verbatim here, by the way. The boy & girl kids, the boy disliking his father more than the girl does. The quest to prove himself to his ex. All that.

The kids are OK, Amanda Peet plays that Amanda Peet role and no awards will be on the shelf for acting, come the season.

But you don't call Emmerich in when you want Oscars for acting!

Nah - his bag is blowing stuff up, and having obviously done Wind and Water in his last apocalypse (the Dennis Quaid / Jake Gyllenhall starring The Day After Tomorrow), he moves on to Earth and Fire in 2012, thus completing his "Elements Cycle". I just made that up. He didn't think it through that much. Especially since there's a whole bunch of Tsunamis here as well...

Right, quick plot. In 2009 a nice scientist called Adrian finds out that the world's core is heating up and will essentially melt the earth from below, meaning the thin crust will just move about freely, with catastrophic results for the people and buildings on top of it, who had really banked on the ground staying in one place.

Now - two things I like about the central concept:
  1. It's no-one's fault.
  2. There's absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Usually one of those factors is fudged (as in lame ass turkey The Core) so props to Mr E for keeping to his concept and following through.

The downside is, where the destruction of the human world as we know it is something you'd think was a large scale event we see it mainly through the eyes of one or two characters, one of whom simply potters about a bit before going off to safety and the other becomes an action hero immediately, jumping about and becoming an expert underwater swimmer at will.

While the former of these two is peppered through the movie to hammer home the political decisions and morality issues that, for example, deciding which 400,000 people will be rescued from certain death bring up (answer - if they're rich, they're in) the other storyline is more linear and is basically a chase movie where the thing chasing you is in fact Armageddon.

I've got nothing against the fact that a film like this simplifies and dumbs down a lot of things. It doesn't try and solve the moral dilemma (in fact Oliver Platt's character points out that the rescue wouldn't happen without the ticket money from the rich) or maintain a reality outside what is necessary to get the heroes to where they need to be.

Actually, it often makes outrageous manoeuvres to keep the heroes alive, moving an entire continent just enough at one point.

A couple more examples will illustrate that this movie has a real tendency to "do something cool" where it's not really necessary, which discards any sense of gritty realism from view.
  • It's not enough that the White House is destroyed by a tsunami. It has to have the aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy land right on it.
  • Similarly, if a bit of debris needs to hit the rescue ship at just the wrong moment - why bloody not make that bit of debris Air Force One?
  • I counted about 6 times that vehicles clearly incapable of jumping (like stretch limos and Camper Vans) got some mad air because at just the right moment the ground shifted to form a perfect ramp.
I could go on, but I'd be listing 50 things or more. You get the idea.

So realism isn't part of the deal.

I did like some things in the film - the destruction is well shown, if a little callous since in one shot at least 500,000 people are dying but we're only made to care at all about three of them.

"Wow look at all those people falling out of buildings! Isn't it terrible that this little girl has to see that?"

Effects like the whole of Las Vegas collapsing are fairly exciting and silly - probably hitting a good balance between the sort of visceral smashing of landmarks we adults enjoy and the fairly bloodless nature needed to avoid traumatising your kids.

The most annoying thing though is the treatment of poor old Gordon - the estranged wife's new fella. Not only does he miraculously become an ace pilot instantly despite claiming to only have two hours in the cockpit or something (he manages to fly a giant multi engine jet between two collapsing buildings for God's sake!) but as soon as the plot wants Cusack and Peet to get back together (hardly a spoiler since it's telegraphed pretty much straight away) he's chucked to a ghastly death and is immediately forgotten. Poor sod.

So, should you go out of your way to see this?

Check the rating guys. No.

It's better than The Day After Tomorrow, but that ain't saying an awful lot. That being said, it's not one to avoid like the plague either. If your date or family member is dragging you to see it, you won't need therapy afterwards.

Unless you like Gordon, that is.

I welcome your comments below - and please spread the word to your friends. Wall Shadows is back baby!


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A note on re-organisation

Hi folks and welcome back to Wall Shadows!

It's been too long, believe me.

Just a quick note to say over on the right hand side of your screen I've alphabetised every single film I have ever rated (even if I've not reviewed them).

Those that have accompanying reviews can be reached by clicking the links provided. There are lots so please let me know if you have any particular favourites.

I am taking suggestions and volunteers to teach me how to improve the site, but I rely on your word of mouth to get people reading and enjoying it - so if you like a review feel free to retweet it or whatever you want. Just don't try to pass it off as your own.

Thanks for your patience to those who have been waiting - and welcome to any new readers who may have stumbled into my blog. Nice to have you here.

See the full post by clicking here...

Review: Twilight


First things first, welcome back to good old Wall Shadows! It's been a long time and a lot's been happening with me, but for all that boring personal stuff, you can head over to sister site Wall Scratchings and read any of that you want. I appreciate that my writing style may be shot to pieces and this may be a total random set of disconnected paragraphs but bear with me and I'm sure I'll be reviewing coherently in no time.

Now then, Twilight. Obviously being a 28 year old male I'm hardly in this film's target audience. Clearly the large quantity of pubescent teenage girls (and their unfortunate boyfriends) who have already made it a franchise don't give a flying monkey's right buttcheek what I think.

But I only ever write reviews as I see em, and Twilight is an ideal place to start since it is so mind numbingly, hilariously dull and awful that it's a veritable feast for the fingers of a cantankerous, war weary movie soldier like myself.

Spoilers abound below, people!

So - vampire movies have been around for almost as long as movies themselves. From the legendary Shreck or melodramatic Lugosi Draculas to the piss poor Richard Roxburgh, the weird little vampire has seen countless iterations, many quite good, like Scars Of Dracula; some weird, like Shadow of the Vampire and some retarded, like the laughable John Carpenter's Vampires.

We know, from these, the rules of vampires. Well, those that haven't been rewritten (how many times has Dracula been resurrected now?)
  • They're so sexy women collapse in front of them with their... ahem... necks... out for all to see.
  • They can't go out in daylight. It's fatal.
  • You can kill em with a stake to the heart.
  • They're not fond of crosses or garlic. A cross made of garlic, while stinky, would be a good defence.
  • They drink blood. Oh yes.
  • They tend not to die. Unless some do gooding chump with a spiky bit of wood gets involved.
Twilight is too cool to do what it's told. It's not going to be told what to do by the vampire rules. The rules aren't its real dad anyway. IT HATES YOU, IT HATES YOU.

You see, some brainless loser decided that Vampires needed a makeover.

Sorry, I was being a really annoying, whiny teenager there. Get used to that if you're planning to watch this.

So, if you really think Vampires are cool, but a little too sexy and violent for you, you've got to do something about the rules that predate these books. And Miss Meyer has done so with aplomb.

If Twilight was a proper vampire movie, this would be the plot.

Bella Swann, a teenage girl, moves to a small town to live with her estranged father. A few days later she is dead and her father vows to discover her killer - whoever, or whatever, it may be...

See? Sounds good eh? Unfortunately, here's the plot for Twilight;

Bella Swann, a teenage girl, is such a wonderful person and loves her mother so much she's prepared to go live with her estranged dad so her mum can go off round the country with her new boyfriend. Immediately accepted at school into the in-crowd because she's from somewhere else (?) she meets Edward Cullen, who is a violently angry, strange looking, pale skinned, moody freak who never goes out in direct sunlight and lives with a "family" in a secluded house no-one goes to. Edward is inexplicably attracted to Bella since she's so wonderful and she catches him stalking her. But since he's dreamy she gets involved in his life anyway and for fifteen minutes at the end there's a bit with bad vampires... zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

There is so much wrong here. The outsider from a different state is IMMEDIATELY POPULAR? Did the author even go to school at any point? Seriously, I changed schools a couple of times and it takes at least three days to stop them pouring urine on your head, let alone sitting with you at lunch and pointing out the hotties.

And Edward himself is a real let down, as is his family. Perpetually filmed in slow motion, young Robert Pattinson seems to be following the Richard Gere Method - "look at the floor, then - without moving your head - look at the other person.... in slow motion!".

Everything scary about vampires has been expunged. The only thing left is that they're all really attractive, I guess. Since they're all heavily made up and the girls have curled their hair I guess we'll follow the movie shorthand and go with "Sexy". Oh, and they do drink blood. Just.

And they're nice vampires, you know. They only kill animals.

Sadly, they're also almost totally pathetic.

They WHINE.. they bitch and moan and are so mind meltingly insufferable you're almost wishing for Christopher Lee to show up and overact a bit to liven things up. Turns out the biggest danger in a Vampire's house here is walking into a screen door.

Oh, and these guys can go outside in the daytime, so long as it's misty or foggy or rainy or anything else that looks good in slow motion. The reason why they can't? I'm glad you asked. Let me explain....

Centuries ago, a small invisible goblin called Daubney, discovered the secret of mixing glue with shiny things to make... you've guessed it... glitter glue. The gods rewarded him with the power to stop time, which he gratefully accepted. But he was deceived by the gods, who in fact only made him able to stop time when a vampire was in direct sunlight - and forced him to paint the glitter glue messily all over their pasty faces and hairless torsos. It is a life of sad torment for the Goblin, who is now remembered only in the verb he coined: "To Daub".

So when the vampires go out in the direct sun they glitter a bit rubbishly. That's it.



I found that so upsetting I invented a story about a fricking Goblin to stop me having to type it for a while.

The only even vague semblance of an actual plot outside the obvious "oh he's so dreamy" antics (which have no structure - they simply love each other immediately) is introduced and dealt with in about a total of 15 minutes of screen time at the end, much of which is spent changing the dynamic from "oh I love you, but I don't want to use you" to "I love you and I will protect you and not use you"

Oh wow, how modern. How "new". How mind crushingly boring.

And in the end, that is Twilight's greatest crime. Forget the fact it's not scary. In fact, don't.
It is the opposite of scary. It is just plain boring. I just can't get past that.

Add to this the sad fact that the effects are laughable, despite Daubney's best efforts. The vampires can run fast. Fine, that's a pretty cool power - but not when their leg movements are totally unconnected from the way they're moving - it's almost as if they're on a track and running on the spot, Wile E Coyote style! Rubbish.

And add to THIS that the whole production value seems to be firmly planted in "TV pilot" territory and we have a real stinker on our hands. It wasn't even funny for long.

Dire, drab, pitifully acted and fatally boring. Please, let me take from this experience the knowledge that my suffering has spared just one other person. One sad, lonely person who might think "sod it, it can't be all that bad - I'll just watch it to check".

Please don't.

Comments are welcome and encouraged below. Thanks for reading.


See the full post by clicking here...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Movie Review: Eagle Eye


Let me do the Novelisation of this film for you now.

Whine... moan.. whine...


Run! Run! Run!


(isn't that the field with pylons in it from Se7en?)





With that out of the way, I'll just say that this movie has a lot of bang and flash, and is an amusing movie of the sort that twenty years ago would star Bruce Willis, but has a couple of ridiculous ideas, a villain with all the credibility of a cheese toastie and an oddly quaint paranoid world view.

It made me giggle and was fun, in the same way anything with massive bangs and whooshes is, but there is nothing even approaching depth. Probably qualifies for a look if you're not paying much for it.


See the full post by clicking here...

Movie Review: Franklyn


Welcome back!

This movie is predictable, pseudo-psychological sort of fare.

It is set in two places, one is the sprawling, sickly, sci fi metropolis of "Meanwhile City" and the other is familiar London.

In Meanwhile city, a masked vigilante who is the sole non-religious person in the world, tries to save the life of a girl who has been kidnapped by a mysterious organisation and its leader, known only as "The Individual".

Back in the prosaic world, a man's wedding is cancelled and he begins to see glimpses of his childhood sweetheart around the place, while Bernard Hill's divorced father is informed that his son is finally allowed a home visit after a long time away.

And while this is going on we also meet Eva Green's selfish, damaged artist whose latest art project is a series of suicide attempts (after calling the ambulance first, of course) either as a punishment for herself or to punish her mother, or both.

As the film goes on... well... actually about five minutes later, you begin to realise that things really are as simple to explain as they appear - the way to reconcile the two worlds becomes apparent within the first half an hour, and once that's out of the way, the question becomes what the film is trying to say.

And unfortunately this question is never really answered. It's a fable of a sort about the risks of self destruction and self deception and their consequences for your life, even that life you haven't experienced yet. But beyond that rather simple thought, it doesn't really justify its pretensions - the world invented for Meanwhile City is probably interesting enough to have justified a story on its own without the anchoring in reality, and the vigilante is reather too obviously based on Rorschach from Watchmen.

All in all it was an enjoyable enough way to spend a surprisingly reasonable amount of time (90 minutes) but it misses a few key opportunities to expand upon an interesting mythology of its own in the real world (Sally and the hospital janitor for instance) that may have given it a bit more meatiness.

But I enjoyed it.

It's good to be back - see you very soon!


See the full post by clicking here...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick Movie Review: Garden State


Imagine a pubescent teenager reads a psychology textbook, gets a word processor and has a rich dad. This is the sort of film that would plummet out of his scarcely formed brain cells.

It's a sort of pseudo-intellectual misery porno with Zach Braff playing the oh so tortured ex TV star reduced to working in a restaurant (oh the horror of employment!) and with daddy issues to boot, heading home for a few days to attend his mother's funeral.

While there he bumps into his old school chums, meets a girl and "gets a new shot at life". It really is as yawn inducing as that sounds.

All his friends are hateful, his father is traumatised, he gets attracted to a compulsive liar who is played by Natalie Portman. NATALIE PORTMAN! Seriously, is there any role she has ever done that someone else couldn't be an immeasurably better in? This one is almost written for Maggie Gyllenhall, though she may well have turned it down.

This is a perfect storm for me - horridly trite and wilfully earnest, it skirts the boundary between dull and hateful very well, only sliding over into genuinely hateful on the occasions where Braff's attempts to elicit my sympathy for his character are undermined by his miserably predictable depressive behaviour.

I like Braff for the most part, he's a goofy, likable screen presence in Scrubs on TV, but here he's just a black hole of self important dullness.

Suffice to say, I was not keen on this film.

See the full post by clicking here...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Quick Movie Review: Night At The Museum


I thought since the sequel to this film is number one at the box office right now I'd take a punt at the original since it was on.

Kids films are a little tough on writers and directors; you want thenm to be exciting and occasionally sad in an unthreatening way but you also need to put some slapstick and laughs in too. Far too often the balance is fluffed totally and you either get an over-earnest preachy turn off or even worse a shallow, pies in faces waste of time.

Past masters at this balance are the nice folks at Pixar, but Night at The Museum has enough of everything to remain inoffensively entertaining and a decent message for young kids too - that history can be wonderful, and they'd better get the hell down to their local museum before the nice divorcee loses his job!

Seriously, why are so many families divorced in films now? It used to be just in Spielberg films that every family is broken up and miserable.

Anyway, I'd put this one slightly higher in my estimation than Jumanji since it manages to be as fun as it is action based - Jumanji had a few too many creepy "hunter hunting people" bits for my taste.

I wouldn't say it's going to get any oscars though. Or did it?

See the full post by clicking here...

Quick Review: 12 Rounds


Have you seen Die Hard With A Vengeance? You've seen 12 Rounds.

The main thing of interest is whether John Cena, wrestler turned actor "du jour" has any future at all in the acting game; I would say a qualified yes - as an action hero he is far to 80s/90s for the modern world, next to normal sized modern heroes like uber-torturer Jack Bauer and nicey-nicey Jason Bourne, a hulking Arnie type action man blowing stuff up with impunity, all the while looking as earnest as a cow during a bowel movement, is dated and simultaneously quite endearing.

His niche may well be as a sort of lower rent Arnie - tough guys and superheros maybe, but ordinary cop? Not likely. Perhpas I'm being generous and a burgeoning career in motion capture awaits the guy. He's a likable screen presence, but you'll be in no danger of thinking he's the new Bruce Willis.

As for the rest of the cast, the only notable member is Aiden Gillen - who turns in a wonderfully cheque cashing performance as the villain.

As obvious retreads go, it is inoffensive but pointless, and appeals sometimes to the very lowest IQs - notably in the final fight between the leads where Cena's wife explains the action beats as we go ("He's got a gun!" comes two seconds AFTER Gillen fires at Cena).

The evil plan is so tortuous that it makes absolutely no sense - and some of the solutions don't either (e.g. assuming cutting the power to a tram will stop it dead when it is heading downhill).

So it's not a terrible film, but its existence won't send even the merest ripple across the still pond of American Film-Making.

See the full post by clicking here...

Movie Review: Drag Me To Hell


A lot of horror films these days are very self conscious and precious, relying on some gimmick or sick over the top murders, torture and gore to pull in the world's jaded genre lovers. Failing that, they ink into a pathetically adolescent mire of nihilistic hopelessness.

Of course, horror films have always contained a certain level of comedy too - one of our most common defences against fear is laughter, and commonly we respond to the terrible with a nervous chuckle or laugh. We also love to be scared anyway - what other species would willingly put its life at risk on a bit of metal shooting around at 90mph through loops and bends and sheer drops? It's exciting, and excitment is one of the benefits conscious life gives us.

Despite these facts, broad obvious comedy and horror don't really work together; that is to say, comedy with jokes is terrible. Comedy arising from genuinely horrible events is how the most successful genre movies succeed - particularly in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, where none of the humour is played anything other than straight, and we enjoy a huge laugh at the expense of the hapless and put upon anti-hero that is Bruce Campbell's legendary "Ash" as things go from bad to worse. And then get worser. And then get worserer.

Raimi is back to doing the same trick in Drag Me To Hell, only Bruce Campbell's geek turned psycho has been replaced with Alison Lohmann's cute as a button Loans manager. In fact the major disappointemnt here is that Campbell is not present at all, even in a miniscule form like Ted Raimi's "blink and you'll miss the back of his shoulder" cameo.

What makes this film better than 99% of the current trendy torture-porn or lazy remake set is that it is utterly focussed, relentless and true to its admittedly hokey subject. No character ever breaks the fourth wall and starts expounding on how ridiculous everything is from a post modern oh so clever standpoint. Noone is killed purely for pointless shock value, and what shocks there are, are highly crafted and timed to perfection, relying on an icky "ewwww" factor more than a gory "vomit" factor. This means that the certifcate can be a market maximising 15, without cutting back on the actual effectiveness of the movie.

And sure, some of the figures are clichéd and obvious - the domineering mother, the evil gypsy, the so nice it's embarrassing boyfriend, but what the film is actually about is entertainment. There's no beat or manouevre made that isn't purely to build up to the next part of the ride; never before has Raimi's Ghost House production studio actually lived up to its name.

Another factor in your involvement here is how UNFAIR the whole situation is - Lohmann's Christine Brown hasn't really done anything wrong at all; as someone who has worked in collections I can assert that the fault for non payment of Mrs Ganush's mortgage lies, in the end with Mrs Ganush (or the jackass that gave her a sub-prime mortgage) so the whole way through you are rooting for Christine to right this wrong.

It is exciting, unpretentious, memorable and funny.

Plus there's a talking goat. Awesome.

Highly recommended for fans of the genre and especially fans of Sam Raimi's early work. It's not as good as Evil Dead or its sequel (both would get a 9/10 from me) but it is the best horror movie I have seen in years.

(The Orphanage, while an incredible achievement, doesn't count, since anyone who describes that as horror missed the point entirely)


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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A day of movies

I don't get out much, me.

What with being hopelessly poor and unemployed (not for lack of trying) I don't get to the cinema as much as I'd like - the cost in London is at least £8 per movie, and seeing as how I can't afford the £16.50 a month for an unlimited pass - I'm on cereal at lunch time as it is - it is a rare thing indeed when I get to see so many films as I did this Sunday.

Major props need to go to my buddies Dave & Dave (genuinely), who helped me out with the prices of the tickets so I could see three new movies in an afternoon, which is near enough to my idea of heaven.

Appropriate then, that the one that was any good was Drag Me To Hell - Sam Raimi's morality tale about greed and consequences.

And the importance of taking your mother off speakerphone.

The others, Tormented and 12 Rounds were not so good, the former being lame and uninteresting, the latter being a remake of Die Hard With A Vengeance (sans any acknowledgement, natch.) with a wrestler in the lead role and, predictably, less charisma.

Reviews of the movies will be up in a bit - but I was really pleased to get back to the cinema . I love the whole experience; from ignorant queue jumpers who ask to see the "Beyoncé movie" (I believe it's called, Obsession) to shaking your head at the frankly balls out rip off that is £3.15 for a watered down cup of SodaStream.

So, forget that two of the three movies were lame - the company was good, the seats were good, and the whole experience brings a warm feeling to my heart.

So reignited was my passion for films that when I got home I watched two more - the kids film Night At The Museum (a nice way to spend Sunday evening) and later on, I introduced Mrs Algo to the joy and wonder that is Bride Of Frankenstein.

The downside - really weird dreams combining elements of all five films. A reanimated dinosaur with Frankenstein shouting "Rexy's Alive" who then kills a bunch of irritating schoolkids before kidnapping John Cena's wife and getting cursed by the freakiest lady ever.

(John Stewart impression) -

"Hello... Hollywood? I've got this great idea for a film...

What's it called? I'll tell you what it's called....

Drag the 12 Brides Of Frankenstein to the Tormented Museum of Hell.

Yes I'll Hold........."

The upside?

The name "Darren Mullet" will now be a signal for all rubbish slasher movie villains. And lazy shorthand is what got this country where it is today.

Here endeth the lesson.


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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie Review: Tormented


Goodness me... what have we come to, when this thing gets to the cinema, rather than straight to video as it deserves.

A group of bullies are followed after a schoolchild takes his own life, receiving nasty text messages from, and threatening glimpses of the deceased (a rather embarrassingly monickered "Darren Mullet"). One by one those responsible for his maltreatment are picked off in extremely predictable style, as old as the very first of this genre (Black Christmas, we believe).

In fact, so odd is this film that only about forty five minutes in does it become clear the makers intended this to be a comedy. In no other genre would portentous shots of a grossly obese young man who frequently puffs on his asthma inhaler despite being dead, first seen in full when he "bombs" onto a girl in the swimming pool.

The film is far from scary - in fact, its predictability is its greatest weakness - as is a sketchy approach to motiviations and characters.

Every character is an archetype, almost comically stereotyped - presumably to induce the least possible effort from the films viewers - and this leads to some hilarious moments; not least the fact that none of the schoolchildren appear to have parents at all, no explanation whatsoever given for their absences.

The ending too is outrageously simplistic and stupid, requiring a leap of logic of gargantuan proportions on the part of the police force - though since every single adult in the film is so moronic and hateful we are barely surprised.

This falls squarely into the "don't bother" camp - so don't.

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Quick Movie Review: 24:REDEMPTION


This extended TV episode (I can't call it a movie) follows everyone's favourite War criminal, Jack Bauer, as he attempts to save the lives of some nice kids from the presumably fictional African state of Sangara, as the revolution (or coup, depending on to whom you speak) in that country gathers pace.
Robert Carlyle provides ample support and much needed adult company for Keifer Sutherland, who has disappointingly put a stop to the 24 drinking game (drink every time he says "damn it" or tortures someone) with a new post-Abu Ghraib sensibility. It's a perfectly decent little story, but acts as little more than an interlude between series, and far more excitement is found in the 15 minutes worth of season 7 included on this disc as bonus material.
24 is always the better for its long build ups. In this shorter form events appear and disappear with frequency - and the sections set in Washington hold little interest outside anticipation for the next season.

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Quick Movie Review: The Black Cat


Supposedly a major event, this first and possibly only collaboration as equals between Karloff and Lugosi is in fact a stylish, yet vacuous tale. While Karloff's central performance is striking, there is little of the depth or interest that he garnered as the Monster. Lugosi is campy and ridiculous, and the supporting characters are the worst sort of "dahling" clichés. The saving grace is very much the set design and cinematography, which cloaks the paltry plot in a creepy and noirish atmosphere. As a curiosity it is worth seeing, but it is far from classic status.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Review: War Of The Worlds (2005)


In all honesty, when this remake was first announced, I really thought it would be much more of a train wreck than it actually is.

Granted, silliness wins over horror and Cruise is never anything less than punchable, but during this film there is genuine excitement at times.

Spoilers follow.

The initial reveal of the alien craft is well done (if a little too reminiscent of Independence Day) and the decision to bury the tripods benefits from never being explained; presumably the aliens awaited the rise of a species they could harvest for the weed's benefit, but there is no point on the family's journey where they would know this so we're not either.

There's also a, by now clichéd use of Morgan Freeman as the narrator at the start and end - laughing all the way to the bank since there's no reason it couldn't just use anyone - even Burton's voice from Jeff Wayne's musical version must be cheaper than an A-List Hollywood actor!

Spielberg always has a screwed up family if he can, and he's to be applauded here for following through with his premise and making Cruise's character an utterly atrocious father, selfish, dim, petty and impatient.

However, the film shortcuts on a couple of vital points.

First his son is clearly killed in a gigantic explosion and resurrected in time for an emotional ending without any explanation (not even a flashback of him hiding in a hole or something?) which reduces credibility from that thread of the tale.

Second, while this globe spanning conflict goes on, destroying cities, killing thousands, Cruise's wife and her parents just sit about at her mum and dads - apparently unmolested and with no structural damage caused to the building at all.

It's as if they all just sat about and had a cup of tea while waiting for the kids to arrive.

SO with these things undermining the film at the end, it's hard to be satisfied with the good things, like the panicky attempt to catch the ferry or the manic presence of Tim Robbins as a delusional ex cop (and his eventual fate is incredibly brave storytelling), leaving you remembering the films faults rather than its strengths. It's not a patch on the original - but that could be the motto of this blog, couldn't it?

'til next time, folks.


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Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada


Now, a little explanation as to what a straight man like myself was doing watching this through choice - it goes something like this.

I was on set recently with a young lady who, to my incredulity described this film as "(Her) Favourite Film" and further explained that it was more than just your typical run of the mill romantic comedy meets cheap knock off of Wall St.

Ah... let me explain that Wall St reference. In Wall Street a guy compromises his ideals in the hunt for success. After a while he realises the error of his ways and decides to be "true to himself".

Sadly, The Devil Wears Prada is a cheap knock off of the Wall St formula. Only without half its balls.

Take this as an example of how toothless this film is - supposedly the world of fashion is shallow, crass and cut throat. Our heroine (Perfectly fine performance by Anne Hathaway) is dragged into it and actually has one of those dream makeover sequences where she becomes a gorgeous fashionista. Rather than depict this as an, if you like, indoctrination, it's actually shown as life affirming and lovely.

This is later followed by some casual cheating on her boyfriend, being used as a slave for a bit, but in the end it's all been a wonderful experience and helps out her future as a serious journalist.

Gah! It's infuriating.

Supposedly the makers had trouble getting real fashion folk to take part in this film because it offended some high ups in the magazine trade - I really don't see how unless they're supremely thin skinned simpletons who... oh.

Thanks, woman on set - you wasted some of my life.

If I ever see her again, I'm telling her she HAS to see The Strangers. I'll do it, I'm THAT angry!

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Movie Review: Rashomon


Hello again faithful reader, today lets look at why Kurosawa's Rashomon got a worse mark than Seven Samurai.

Of course, it's a subject scary enough to scare any reviewer into a fortnight's procrastination - after all, there's no questioning that Rashomon is an extremely accomplished piece of work - sort of a prototype for all fractured narratives yet to come.

It tells the tale of a trial, held in the immediate past, of a bandit (played by the ever watchable Mifune) in which none of the witness testimonies agree and of two participants' disillusionment with the nature of truth and the honesty of humanity as a result.

I'll discuss my views below, but beware of spoilers, hence why I break here - follow the link for the full review.

My main problem here is that the stories are so incompatible that no reconciliation or indeed "eureka" moment is possible. It's not quite the parallel I need, but remember how wonderful it was in Usual Suspects when all the unanswered questions suddenly revealed themselves? How you realised where and when you ahd been tricked - only to watch again immediately and see that, yes, you were taken in but the evidence was there.#

The similar revelation dragged out of the witnesss at the end of this film has no such effect. No such answers are given. We know no more about events than we did - merely that the story the last witness told is a lie. We don't know who killed the samurai, or the true reaction of the wife.

In fact, we know precisely nothing about anything. Since none of the stories are compatible, they are useless to construct your own opinion, even a prejudiced one; surely the aim of the piece.

Not too much of a problem from the point of view of this film on its own, but I would have preffered something approaching an opinion in my head of what really happened.

This left me a little unsatisfied as a result.

Probably the greater problem is the lack of a single likable character in the whole tale. No matter what version of the tale is told, the woman is hateful, either manipulative and spiteful (understandably annoyed - I would be) or just plain strange.

The Bandit, played by Toshiro Mifune is irritating, arrogant and detestably garrolous (again, understandable since he's a rapist). I love Mifune, but here he's actually annoying, especially since his performance is frequently punctuated by a particularly false sounding pantomime laugh.

Even the samurai and the witnesses are self absorbed, selfish and cold.

These factors do not reduce the film's accomplishments in style and atmosphere, particularly in the medium's section where she conjures up the spirit of the samurai husband to testify (surely that would never stand up in court?) and manages to be utterly terrifying as well as sad and moving in parts.

SO the film is a success, but a qualified one, since unlike the later film its story failed to connect with me on a deep level. It was still quite a ride, though.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Movie Review: Hound Of The Baskervilles (Hammer Version)


Ah, the wonderful Hammer studios, equally at home botching any form of film or any story.

I love my B-Movies, and in Hammer's Dracula series of movies I have occasionally escaped the pressures of watching stuff that's suposed to be good, and in some cases been pleasantly surprised by their quality (as in the excellent Scars Of Dracula) or horrified by their crazy decisions (The Kung Fu meets Dracula meet Van Helsing brainmelt of Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires).

But Hammer made lots of other stuff, seemingly without any desire to stick to the plots or characters depending on who they cast. Their first Dracula veers away from the original book almost immediately and this version of Sherlock Holmes' most famous case takes similar liberties with the material.

That's not always going to be a bad thing, but for anyone knowing this story so well, the decision to change Henry Baskerville (a man from the states) to Christopher Lee, whose Henry lives in Johannesburg presumably so that Lee doesn't have to do an accent, smacks of "hell, we've got to cast Chris in this!"

Of course, it also requires the audience to believe in Christopher Lee as a romantic lead - a task at which he fails utterly probably due to the half century of typecasting he has suffered as much as his inherently stiff acting style.

The worse crime is the alteration of Stapleton from the odd but friendly butterfly collector of the original text into a surly poacher and his "wife" into his daughter, presumably to titillate the audience with someone young enough to recall the young ladies from the horror movies.

This changes the whole relationship of the characters to Stapleton and his daughter and unlike in the original story suspicion immediately falls on the rude angry poacher and his smoking hot daughter since they're acting so strangely.

Cushing's Holmes is a bit more interesting, best described as "chippy", impatient and grumpy with all the obfuscation on the part of the inhabitants of the hall and its surrounds. But his period spent away from the action is explained in sudden bursts of speech after he reappears ("ah yes, Seldon said...") which does not really solve the central problem of this story, which is that it is not particularly celluloid friendly when your hero sods off for the middle third and then has to explain everything that happened while he was away.

Rather than do this in flashback they rely on the worse approach of having Holmes explain how he knew about things after it no longer matters, taking the audience's participation out of the equation since they are not party to enough information to judge who is guilty (except the fact the culprit is depicted as scum from the first time you meet them).

Well, this is one the weaker versions of one of the weaker Holmes tales, and can be avoided without any major effects.


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Review: Flight Of The Phoenix (2004)


I must admit, I've not seen the original movie on which this is based, but I can't help wondering if it was really this slight.

The crew of a failed Oil Rig are picked up in a plane to be demobbed; they include a suspiciously well balanced cross section of humanity. A bolshy woman (Miranda Otto) a hispanic guy, african americans, a middle eastern guy and even an Englishman (Hugh Laurie doing his best stuffed shirt impression).

In fact, the only general grouping not represented fully are those from the "far east", a strange fact since they're in the Mongolian part of the Gobi desert and later just inside the Chinese border. Weird.

Oh, and the two leads are Dennis Quaid doing his best Kevin Costner impression as well as Giovanni Ribisi transcending the pedestrian material as he always does.

It's tough to describe a film that has the ending described in its title, and its story being so simple to be described as "they build a plane".

In fact, since the plot is so slight, the makers insist on creating false tension, be it through making folk behave entirely irrationally and walking off into the desert alone, or by introducing a troupe of nomads, who wait until the most ridiculous moment to charge the heroes and hence provide little more than a moment of confusion at that crucial stage.

Now, supposedly the story then becomes about the interactions between the characters, but these are reduced to little more than forced sections of camaraderie (complete with terrorist fist bumps galore) and people arguing about what to do, when their position is so desperate as to force the only possible option, one that incidentally almost no crash victims get.

So it was a reasonably amusing way to spend some time - not clever, not exciting and with more than a little half hearted manipulation (ooh someone we don't give a crap about just died) and some extremely irritating editing.

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Quick Movie Review: The Day The World Ended



Clea Duvall is about the only terrible thing missing from this diabolically scripted, acted and directed waste of time.

I think it may well be from the same stable as the truly atrocious How To Make A Monster, as it is a remake of an old B-Movie.

My concerns about the point of remaking B-Movies has not changed; I don't think there is one. Certainly not if they lack imagination, ideas and decent casts as this one does.

It concerns the events following the arrival of a big city psychologist in a small town (sigh) where she discovers a young boy who has a certain dark past and believes his father is an alien who imbued him with psychic powers.

That's really as good as it gets.

The psychologist is played by Natassya Kinski, acting in the style of a woman who has all her lines written on the co-stars' foreheads, constantly wearing a peering expression of confusion akin to a dog whose food has been taken away mid meal. She is barely supported at all by Randy Quaid, Stephen Toblowsky (for whom quality control is a myth) and that guy who played the mayor in season two of Buffy - all of whom bear the expressions and give the performances of those who are purely cheque fetching.

Fair enough, but for goodness sakes don't waste your time on this one. I mean it.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quick Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code


So, when a film elicits little response other than "ho hum" you know there's something wrong.

The Dan Brown book on which this is based is a reasonably entertaining conspiracy story in which multiple characters talk on and on about the central idea - the alternative identity of the holy grail, a theory previously posited by the writers of "The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail".

Thing is, I don't know what's in this movie for anyone.

Fans of the book will be disappointed because of the lack of depth and the pace at which things are quickly passed over.

People who haven't read the book will be bored because the story, as in the book, consists mostly of people sitting about having a chat, and the occasional bursts of action are punctuated frequently with crammed in dialogue - notably in their flight from Teabing's mansion when they continue their conversation even while being chased - running for their lives.


The book must be cheaper than the DvD, so get that if you're interested (and aren't one of the millions of folks who already read it) - don't waste your time on this one.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek


It is traditional that every review of this film starts with the writer's history with Star Trek, so here's mine.

I've always been a Trek fan, though nowhere near the obsessive level - many of the original episodes are exercises in kitsch - saying more about the sixties than they do about the future, and the later series, while technically superior were always slightly more political than exciting and verged on camp excess at the best of times.

Still, as a fun way to spend an hour as a child I loved it - starting with The Next Generation, which I watched in its entirety, and the later spin off Deep Space Nine which upped the politics at the expense of space battles. And there were always the original episodes repeated occasionally.

So you could say I know my subject to some extent, having a casual fan's experience, and after the hideous examples made by the most recent movies under the old "canon" (like Star Trek: Insurrection)the idea of a reboot (a very popular move since Batman Begins) came as a pleasant surprise.

Oh and for the true die hard fans, my favourite Star Trek Movie is VI: The Undiscovered Country, in case you're wanting to know. And it still is.

Maybe, for those not poisoned by the Trek bug, I should explain the word "canon" here, because we'll be talking about it later. It's simply the word used to cover the "official" timeline of events through all the shows and movies, adhered to reasonably well and protected by legions of fans who will scream at any new material violating the precious central throughlines (preventing, say, Kirk being a twin or something).

Sometimes in movie franchises (I'm looking at you, George Lucas) this can get a little confused and is subject to what is known as "retrospective continuity"; like Han Solo shooting first, or all the different versions of Bruce Wayne's family getting killed. These are done retrospectively to serve the new, updated, purposes of the filmmakers.

When done badly it really grates with folk - my personal favourite gripe is with Lucas' rejigging of Return Of The Jedi, so the Anakin we see is Hayden Christiansen rather than the old guy originally seen. The problem with that being that Hayden Christiansen is the same age he was in Episode III, raising more questions than we supposedly answered.

Anyhow, suffice to say that any Trek movie that alters the "canon" would be viewed very badly in the eyes of the series' fans. In fact, the fan effect could poison all the other pre-existing franchises if done really badly (those Trekkies/Trekkers can bite!)

Now, onto the order of the day - the new movie. It is directed by one J.J. Abrams, the world ruling creator of LOST, a series that is now onto its umptweenth mind bending season and the producer/brains behind Cloverfield - the neo monster movie from a coupla years back.

It concerns the early years at Starfleet for James T. Kirk, Spock and all the rest as they fly their very first mission aboard the new flagship Enterprise.

So the first thing that hits you when you see such a thing announced is the casting - Zachary Quinto as Spock is perfect, hitting the right note of barely concealed emotion while equally having a cocky, aloof bearing caused by his perceived superiority over the more emotional species.

Uhura is less so, being a little two dimensional despite the obvious burden of being the only meaningful female character present. Suffering, no doubt, from the fallout of the strange blind spot Trek has when it comes to the equality of gender. I will paraphrase my good friend Dave here, since he puts it well - while the federation is supposed to stand for equality amongst all race, creeds and species, it still forces its female officers to wear minidresses (especially the nurses uniforms!) and reduces them to little more than set dressing for Kirk to gawk at.

Ah yes, Kirk. Now, The Shat (that's William Shatner) is not an acting giant. In fact, his range is roughly the same of a water pistol filled with golden syrup, but he has something you cannot buy - that's charisma. My jury is very much out on his replacement, Chris Pine, who is reminiscent of nothing so much as the frat boy who thinks drinking is the pinnacle of civilisation - even after he's cleaned up a bit.

In fact, while Scotty's presence is a godsend and while he is played by one of my favourite comedy actors (the great Simon Pegg) the really great bit of castingis that of McCoy, for whom Karl Urban - Eomer in Lord Of The Rings and a massive Trek fan - really gets to show off an impression.

But the film isn't, and shouldn't be all about recreating the original series in mind numbing detail. What this film is about, is totally restarting everything from scratch - and it does so in a more impressive and final way than you could ever imagine, unless like me you take great pleasure in imagining the plots that could most upset the true obsessives. And this one is a fine example of that!

Now, that's a little unfair perhaps, since noone is trying to upset anyone here, but the destruction of a certain, shall we say crucial, planet is such a bold move it had to be applauded and drives home the very important message;

We are starting with a blank slate.

With this in mind, from the very first moment of the movie it is clear that history is being rewritten, and in such a way that the new canon fits the old one fine. This timeline can coexist with the pre-existing ones without either taking damage.

An audacious and successful move!

OK, so far so good, but is the experience any fun? Well, yes, frankly. In the past few weeks, those funny chaps at the Onion released THIS little gem on their site. It's a funny fake news story, but the central theme holds true - this film is "fun (and) watchable".

The CGI is excellently done and battles are exhilarating and played out in believable fashion. It helps that The Enterprise herself is a gorgeous design concept, still managing to look modern despite the passing of time since its design. What they are up against is very unfavourable odds, given where (and when) their opposition originated and I liked the way they had to avoid confrontation as much as possible.

Technobabble, always a curse of the series, has been reduced to a minimum except that required for the occasional joke or major plot development - Star Trek has always been the industry leader in Deus Ex Machina plot devices and this is no different.

In-jokes i am less comfortable with since they are in the "pandering to fans" bracket, but I had a chuckle at the arrival of a "redshirt" and his inevitable fate - I smiled at "I'm a doctor, not a physicist" and "I'm giving all she's got Captain" with the rest of 'em.

I just found myself wishing, screaming, for a single female character. Uhura being just an object (come on, there's extended scenes of her undressing, for god's sake!) in this one and being crowbarred into a bizarre out of nowhere relationship which for the sake of obsessive Trek fan and occasionally disturbing twitterer "Mrs Picard" I will describe in these terms: U/S WTF OMG!!!

Other than her we've just got the Spock's mum, played by Winona Ryder - perfectly servicable character but hardly the sort of "strong female" we really require here. Plus her aging appearsto have been done wth a CGI algorithym that constantly shifts about, causing wrinkles and lines to both appear and disappear as her face moves - a most distracting state of affairs.

Oh, and I must mention Captain Pike - played here by Bruce Greenwood. He is the original captain of The Enterprise and a cult figure amonst Trek fans (he was really in just one episode - the unaired pilot or the later one using footage from it) so it was great to see him here and with such a fine actor in place to play him.

I think this film is going to do what it set out to. The series will be rebooted successfully (and a sequel is already in pre-production) and they have probably won many new fans who have never seen any Star Trek or given it a moments thought before.

That being said, I don't think people who have tried Trek out and disliked it will be converted - while it adds several new ideas and tears up many old ones it is still Star Trek, and as such will still leave many cold. Fair play, not every movie is for everyone.

For me, I really enjoyed it - though it suffers undoubtedly from "first in a series" syndrome, and the Kirk driving a car as a kid bit was appallingly trite. Other problems include the usual plot shortcuts in all Sci-Fi (chiefly why did they drop Kirk off at exactly the most useful planet) and some very much "trying too hard" moralising from the bad guy, who incidentally could be any villain from any film ever, so dull is he.

Still, I think it's worth seeing, and has enough spectacle and backstory for the new, while scratching the itches of many old fans, me included.

Worth seeing then, is all.

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Movie Review: Appaloosa


This is a not at all revisionist western directed by its star, Ed Harris (of all people).

It follows the tale of two peace marshals played by Harris and the ever enjoyable Viggo Mortensen who are hired by a small town (the titular Appaloosa) to overcome the local rent-a-baddie who has been causing no end of trouble in a sort of predictable outlaw fashion, mainly disrespecting the law etc.

Our villain is played by Jeremy Irons, who from his accent appears to be from everywhere. We are intrduced to him as he shoots dead a marshal and his men in cold blood.

In fact, all of Appaloosa is populated by people of no fixed accent - notably the ever present town elders, including a notably mercurial vocal styling from Timothy Spall. It's the most jarring part of the movie, as all these noted and finer actors wrestle with their casting and in the case of the town elders, appear to be from a totally different film, a broad comedy perhaps, in which the gritty scenes are punctuated by pratfalls and song and dance numbers.

Appaloosa is not that film - it's a very much sub Unforgiven effort, where no cliche is left unturned - the outlaws holding someone hostage, the woman who breaks a hero's heart, the unspoken vaguely homoerotic relationship between male leads as well as a couple of gunfights.

There's plenty to enjoy, though, since with familiarity comes a certain warm sense of appreciation for the few moments we genuinely transcend the tired clichés of the genre - a gunfight that is over so quick one of theparticipants is himself surprised; at least one relationship that's genuinely affectionate and satisfyingly little depressing soul searching from the, for the most part, very quiet and almost monosyllabic leads.

While Harris looks like he's played this character many times before and doubtless has, he brings an easy charm and almost feline calm to his experienced and tired Virgil Cole.

Mortensen, seems to be viewing this tale as a competition in silence with Harris, almost apologetically interrupting the silence at times seems to be a major loss for their team. But as with all Mortensen performances he is never less than compelling, and easily, as in their previous outing together (History Of Violence, since you ask), Harris' equal if not his better.

The rest of the cast is less good - Lance Henriksen plays a blinder as a rival gunslinger but as the villain Jeremy Irons has too little authority or menace to impress. Renee Zellwegger too, never one of my favourite screen companions, has a slightly interesting part considering the history of women in Westerns, but again just doesn't convince as someone to utterly and immediately fall in love with, to the point of rethinking your whole life - and her chemistry with Harris is non existent.

That the film is still enjoyable is entirely thanks to the efforts of the lead duo of Harris and Mortensen, and I reckon if you're a fan of Westerns this will do you nicely. It's not Unforgiven, but it isn't Back To The Future III either.

A decent effort.

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