Archive for April, 2015

After finishing part one of my Top 20 films several weeks ago, I finally conclude it with Part 2. Included are some films that probably won’t surprise you as they feature in the top ten list of a lot of people’s favourite films, whereas there are one or two coming that I know you will look at and go “ay?”

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Anyway, onto the list.

Star Trek20108900

Director : JJ Abrams

Cast : Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, John Cho,Simon Pegg and Chris Hemsworth

Star Trek, for me, is the best science fiction franchise set in space (and yes, I include Star Wars in that statement). I know a lot of people who read my site will probably have never watched an episode of any of the various series of Star Trek or the films, so many won’t appreciate why Star Trek is a great franchise. It’s one of the few franchises that covers so many facets of life, it can make you laugh, cry, get excited and on occasions, make you afraid. I say afraid because it makes you realise what might be out there and how easily it could overwhelm us.

Despite what I’ve just written, I had never seen an episode of the original series, only watching Next Generation, Deep Space Nine (which was plain awful) and Voyager, as well as the Next Generation based movies, but strangely I got exceptionally excited when I found out that this film would be coming out and I found myself standing at a cinema in May 2009 at just before midnight waiting to go in. At the time of writing, I have seen thirteen films twice at the cinema, but Star Trek is the ONLY film I have ever seen three times (to be fair I worked at a cinema at the time and got in for free).

In 2233 the USS Kelvin is investigating what appears to be a lightning storm in space. A humongous ship emerges from the storm and its captain, Nero (Bana), demands that the captain of the Kelvin goes over for negotiations. When the captain arrives and Nero realises that he has travelled to the past, he quickly kills the captain and launches an all out assault on the Kelvin. George Kirk (Hemsworth) successfully evacuates the ship as his wife enters labour, but he stays behind as he realises that the escape pods wouldn’t be given a chance unless he continues the fight. With every system except for the engines working, George sets a collision course and learns of his son’s birth just before impact. He and his wife debate the name and agree on James just as the Kelvin explodes on impact with the Narada.

22 years later a now grown up James Kirk (Pine) gets into a bar fight after an unsuccessful attempt to flirt with Uhura (Saldana) and her fellow Starfleet officers defend her. The fight is ended when Captain Pike (Greenwood) interrupts and tries to convince James to join Starfleet, giving his father as the perfect example of what could be achieved. Despite his reservations, James agrees to sign up and quickly becomes friends with Leonard McCoy (Urban). After three years at Starfleet Academy, Kirk is reprimanded when he cheats on a test designed by Commander Spock (Quinto) to test potential future captains.

Before the end of his trial, Starfleet receives a distress call from the Vulcan home world and all academy students are sent with ships to investigate. The Enterprise is slightly late due to Ensign Sulu (Cho) struggling to get the engines working, but when they arrive at Vulcan they are greeted with all of the other ships in the form of floating debris and when it clears, the crew lays eyes on the Narada. Nero orders the ship destroyed but stops when he realises it is the Enterprise. He invites Pike over to the Narada and extracts information about Earth’s defence network whilst he is there.

After unsuccessfully stopping Vulcan being destroyed, Kirk and Spock continue to fight about how the Enterprise should act, but with the Narada on the way to give Earth a similar fate to Vulcan, how much time can they waste?

Star Trek is one of the few films which I can just throw on and enjoy at any time of the year. It’s just fun and even if you’ve never seen the original television series, like myself, it brings you right into the lives of these characters and you can watch them grow, even in just this one movie. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only film I went to the cinema to watch three times and each time I got something new from it and I was never bored.

The cast does a superb job of playing these classic characters and make them their own. Pine brings a certain level of charm to the character of Kirk, Saldana brings her sex appeal to one of the few female characters in the Star Trek universe that wasn’t afraid to use her femininity to her advantage, Urban makes a brilliantly pessimistic Bones and in many ways Quinto manages to surpass his performances as Sylar in “Heroes”.

Whilst the action might be a bit predictable, Star Trek does what the franchise does best and that is making the antagonist more than one dimensional. For example, the aforementioned Star Wars’s main antagonist throughout the franchise is Darth Sidious, but he is exceptionally one dimensional. The main antagonist in Star Trek, Nero, is excellently developed and you feel sympathy for him, understanding why he is hell bent on revenge.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to share it’s trailer with you. This is the best trailer I have ever seen. I love this trailer and it is definitely helped by the use of the song “Freedom Fights” by “Two Steps From Hell”.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonposter

Director : David Fincher

Cast : Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris and Tilda Swinton

I know that there will be a lot of people out there who will look at this and go “really?” I admit that this isn’t an obvious choice for what is a largely forgettable film, but for me it represents an important message and that is appreciate what you have before it’s too late.

Just after the finish of the first World War, Thomas Button (Flemyng) is excited due to the birth of his first son, but when he sees that the child is deformed he takes it to the nearest old people’s home, run by Queenie (Henson). After examination, the baby appears to have been born as an old man. Queenie and her partner name him Benjamin. Several years later Benjamin (Pitt) appears to be a man at the very end of his life. He is unable to walk and his frail frame means that no-one is expecting him to live long, however, one day a fellow resident notes that Benjamin seems to be getting more hair and taller.

Still in his aged youth, Benjamin meets Daisy (Elle Fanning – child, Blanchett – adult) and the two appear to have a good connection. As time goes on Benjamin continues to seemingly grow younger and when he reaches adulthood (age wise), he decides to go out and earn a living. He does this by signing up to a local fishing boat that is run by Mike (Harris). Harris also notes that Benjamin is getting younger but throws it away as his mind playing tricks on his after years of drinking.

After Mike is killed in a battle with a submarine in World War 2, Benjamin returns home and is re-united with the now adult Daisy. Daisy is attracted to Benjamin but he turns down her advances and she goes off to pursue her dreams of being a professional dancer. Several years later Daisy has an accident that rules her unable to dance, but in a reversal of circumstances, she now rejects Benjamin’s advances. Benjamin, now appearing to be middle-aged, starts dating before Daisy shows up and they finally start their relationship.

Despite everything appearing to be happy between them, Daisy is growing uneasy as her body continues to get older, made even uneasier by Benjamin’s continual age regression. Daisy eventually becomes pregnant, leading Benjamin to question whether he will actually be a good parent due to his continuing age regression. Despite Daisy’s insistence that he will be a great father, Benjamin leaves shortly after the birth and goes to explore the world, but when he returns will either be ready for it?

Some people mark the comparison between this and Forest Gump and wonder what the point of this film is, why we should care about Benjamin, I ask the same question with regards to Gump. Both are a life story about a man that has a varied experience, all intertwined with a relationship with a woman with various issues.

I’m not going to go into Benjamin Button as much as I do the other films that have appeared on this list, but the one thing I will say is that the message I mentioned earlier works so well. It makes you realise that time is fleeting and that you should make the most of friends and family whilst you can. In that sense it is an exceptionally sad film and you are with Benjamin throughout his entire life , you see those long term relationships develop, only for the characters then to die.

I also loved the realisation of the character when he is the physical age of late 30s/early 40s and Daisy’s pregnancy. Benjamin thinks he can’t be a proper father to the child because of his issue with aging and he leaves. He’s already in a stressful situation and doesn’t know if he will reach a certain physical age and his reverse aging would stop, or whether it will keep going, and the fear involved in that situation is well played out.

 

The Dark Knighthr_Posters_1

Director : Christopher Nolan

Cast : Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Eric Roberts

Currently ranked Number 4 in the IMDB Top 250, this is a film that needs little introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway. Despite my love for films, there was a time when I only went to the cinema once in an eleven month spell (at the time of writing I am currently on three months since I last went) and when I mentioned this during my interview at the cinema I used to work at, they guessed straight away that it was The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight is the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman trilogy and it turned a franchise that was dying into a film that everyone wanted to watch, even those that previously had no interest in any of the characters. Batman Begins did a great job but is nothing compared to it’s sequel, making it one of the few sequels that is actually better than the first film.

Shortly after stopping Dr Crane (Cillian Murphy) distributing his toxin from the first film, Bruce Wayne (Bale) needs to improve his methods and armour to continue fighting the mob. Despite his success, Batman is vilified by the authorities and described as a vigilante. Wayne knows however that he won’t be able to keep this fight up forever and still pictures a life after the city of Gotham no longer needs Batman.

His main hope falls with new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Eckhart). Dent is seen as a saving grace in the city and is loved by everyone who is law abiding, and to make things more interesting, he is dating Rachel (Gyllenhaal, who replaces Katie Holmes), Bruce’s love interest. Harvey manages to get virtually all of the mob sent to prison and Bruce sees him as his eventual replacement as the protector of the city.

Meanwhile, the mob don’t know how to proceed and enlist the help of a man simply called “The Joker” (Ledger). The Joker proves to be more than anyone can handle though due to his unpredictable and chaotic nature. This results in the deaths of many figures in both the mob world and the authorities, including the police commissioner and the judge that sent all of the mobsters down. Harvey Dent narrowly escapes an assassination attempt himself, but it isn’t long before “The Joker” does get his hands on Dent and that will have ramifications for everyone.

The Dark Knight is one of the cleverest films that I’ve seen in a long time due to it’s numerous unique ideas and presentation style. The Batman franchise was dead and buried before the introduction of the more gritty and more realistic style. In the real world it isn’t the case where the “good” guy wins all of the time and the character of the Joker is the perfect example of this.

The Joker is the first antagonist that I have seen for a long time where you genuinely believe that he might win and <SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT FEW LINES> he kind of does. Despite being caught, the Joker succeeds in achieving his goals of proving that anyone is corruptible, even someone who was as seemingly untouchable as Harvey Dent. The Joker is an excellent character because he is pure chaos theory, how can you possibly predict someone that claims not to have a plan?

His character works as a perfect antithesis to Dent’s seemingly incorruptible nature and even when <SPOILER> Batman does eventually capture the Joker, it doesn’t feel like he’s won because of how easily he proved his point and effectively taken everything from Bruce.

With a strong supporting cast and secondary characters that actually contribute to the storyline, this is one of the most well constructed comic book films of all time.

 

The Fifth Element60_26_1330910645_2_the-fifth-element-original

Director : Luc Beeson

Cast : Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm

I remember first seeing the trailer for The Fifth Element back in the mid-late 90s and it was a trailer with no words in it. It didn’t tell you anything at all about the film and I remember absolutely hating the trailer. I had precisely no interest in watching it and if I’m honest, I can’t recall why I gave it a chance, but I am definitely glad I did.

Sci-fi is already a crowded genre anyway, even in mainstream cinema, but this has always stood out to be as one of the most enjoyable stand-alone films in the genre. It has near enough everything that you could want.

In 1914, a group of aliens arrive at an Egyptian temple to retrieve a weapon contained within a case. They promise to return it when the time is right so that the universe can fight off a great evil. Skip forward to 2263 and the aliens are returning to Earth, but they are intecepted and killed by a group of aliens known as the Mangalores, hired by Zorg (Oldman). The only thing that survives is a hand.

A group of scientists come into possession of the hand and recreate who it belonged to using rebuilding technology. After a lengthy process, the smoke clears to reveal a naked woman named Leeloo (Jovovich). Not speaking English, Leeloo panics and bursts through the wall and falls several thousand feet before crashing into the cab of Korban Dallas (Willis). After initially refusing, Korban decides to hide Leeloo.

Korban takes Leeloo to Father Vito Cornelius (Holm) and it emerges that Leeloo is infact the weapon that can be used to kill an evil force intent on killing the universe. To become the weapon though, Leeloo must find the four stones that were enclosed in a case with her during transport and after Korban’s former military colleagues rig a radio contest, they set out on a luxury cruise, the rumoured locations of the stones, but will Zorg get there first?

The Fifth Element is a strange film in many (good) ways and is certainly one of the more unique science fiction films that you’re likely to see. As I mention earlier it is everything that you could want in a movie as it has a vibrant environment, a decent storyline, comedy, action, adventure and romance. It could easily fit into so many genres that it is hard to pinpoint it down to a specific genre.

It is also unique in the sense that it is the only film that I can think of off of the top of my head where the protagonist and antagonist never actually meet. Oldman and Willis are never in the same room and don’t directly communicate in anyway. In the eighteen years since this film was released I don’t think I have seen another film that has a protagonist and antagonist that never meet.

Oldman in particular is exceptional in this film. His performance as Zorg is far different from anything you will have seen him as before, helped by the unusual appearance. I would classify the character of Zorg as a fun antagonist, he is one that you can actually enjoy watching and although the accent takes some getting used to, it’s hard to not relish Oldman’s performance as the charismatic sociopath.

Infact, my only negative in the entire film is the character of Ruby Rod, played by Chris Tucker. You know you when you get a character in a film and they are portrayed and written in such a way that you shudder every time they appear on screen, such as a Jar Jar Binks or any character portrayed by Dakota Fanning? Yeah, that’s what you get with this character. Fortunately he doesn’t appear until the second half of the film but if you haven’t seen this before then I would recommend bracing yourself.

Even though it is now 18 years old, The Fifth Element has aged exceptionally well and is one of the more graphically pleasing films of the 1990s, right from the futuristic look to Milla Jovovich’s bright orange hair.

 

The Flythe_fly___poster_remake_by_stevenandrew-d5hfzfh

Director : David Cronenberg

Cast : Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz

Dubbed one of the best ever remakes (and not the last one that will appear on this list), The Fly is an all time classic in the horror genre. If I had to rank all of these top 20 films in order of preference then The Fly would definitely be Top 5, possibly even number three.

Veronica (Davis) is attending an event run by Bartok Industries, hoping to find her next big story for her magazine. After almost giving up, she runs into Seth Brundle (Goldblum), a somewhat socially awkward, but rather brilliant scientist with some interesting ideas and theories. Goldblum reveals that Bartok let him do all of his work at home and he invites Veronica to view it. Veronica is intrigued enough to accept.

Once they arrive, Veronica is initially unimpressed until Brundle reveals three pods and that they are teleportation devices. Brundle proves this by teleporting various objects from one side of the room to another and Veronica agrees to cover his story. The only issue with Brundle’s technology is that is can’t transport living flesh. After several weeks of working on it, Brundle finally figures out what was missing and decides to send himself through as the test subject.

At first everything seems fine. Brundle and Veronica have started a sexual relationship and with a sudden burst of increased stamina, speed and strength, Brundle is convinced that the machine takes whatever is put in it and makes it better. However, after breaking a guy’s arm in an arm wrestling contest, Brundle goes home and notices physical changes, such as various patches of stiff hairs appearing on random locations on his body, acne breaking out, his finger nails coming off and his tooth coming out with practically no effort.

Brundle begins to research what has happened and only then discovers that a fly had flown into the pod at the same time and the two were now merged at the genetic level. Further research shows that the merging at the genetic level means that Brundle is slowly becoming a human/fly hybrid and only has a certain about of time left before it’s too late to do anything.

Jeff Goldblum gives a career defining, tour-de-force esque performance as Seth Brundle and it is almost criminal that he wasn’t nominated for the Best Actor academy award that year. The academy rarely gives the horror genre any nominations but to say that Jeff Goldblum wasn’t worth a nomination, at the very least, is purely farcical.

Goldblum’s portrayal as Brundle, especially the character’s desperation towards the end, is one of the best performances in any film that I have ever seen. The character effectively goes through the stages of denial and you’re with him all of the way, you feel everything that the character feels, with the exceptional of a leg bursting through your stomach, and Cronenberg tells the story brilliantly.

Let’s not make any bones about it though, this is a sad film and never more so than the final scene when <SPOILER> Brundlefly is fused with the door to a telepod, crawls out of the other telepod and holds the shotgun to his head, and Veronica’s despair leads you think he will have to live the rest of his life in this miserable existence, only for Veronica to then pull the trick and put him out of his misery. It is a truly emotional scene.

I don’t often do this but here is the final scene just so you can see the level of emotion involved on so many levels. It includes the final transformation into a human/fly hybrid, Veronica’s fears as he tries to force her to fuse with him and the subsequent ending that I just mentioned.

The amazing part about the whole thing is that it’s a relatively simple film in terms of it’s set it. Although it’s not the only set, the vast majority of the film takes part in the apartment and this gives a greater inside into the mental descent of the character. When you first join him his apartment is ridiculously tidy, but as time goes on and his body transforms even more, tidiness goes out of the window.

It doesn’t go overly complicated like most horror films do these days and in many ways that it is why it works. It never tries to jump-scare you and there are no genuine scares through the entire film. The horror of it all is the situation that Brundle finds himself in and the emotional struggle of dealing with it all.

If I was to recommend one horror film to you then it would be this,

 

The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring

lord-of-the-rings-1-the-fellowship-of-the-ring-movie-poster-2001-1020186895

Director : Peter Jackson

Cast : Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen,  Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving

Despite being a nerd, I am not going to lie, I’d never heard of Lord of the Rings before it came out in 2001, and to put that in some sort of context, I was 17 at the time. I had briefly heard of Gandalf in an episode of Friends, but it wasn’t put in any context and therefore I never made the connection until 2001.

Now, 14 years since the release of the initial film, the cultural impact of this franchise has been immense. It is one of the most successful franchises of all time, even taking into account the poor prequel trilogy (fancy that, a prequel trilogy being poor).

Gandalf (McKellan) arrives in the Shire to celebrate the birthday of his beloved friend, Bilbo (Holm). Upon meeting him he realises that Bilbo, despite being well into his hundreds, still looks like a man in middle age and this takes him by surprise. After an enjoyable party, Bilbo intends to disappear without trace due to his wanderlust, but he is stopped by Gandalf as he realises that Bilbo has something that he shouldn’t. After successfully convincing Bilbo to part with his ring, Gandalf discovers it is the ring of the long dead Sauron, an ancient enemy to the free people of the world.

Gandalf enlists the help of Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) to take the ring to the town of Bree. Family members Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd) join in but they soon find themselves being pursued by clocked men and they are only saved from certain death at the last minute by Aragorn (Mortensen), a man that they met at Bree after Gandalf failed to show up. Gandalf had been imprisoned by his senior wizard, Saruman (Lee), who has now joined Sauron’s ranks as he looks to take over Middle Earth again. Gandalf eventually escapes and meets the group at Rivendell.

After lengthy discussions about the fate of the ring, it is decided by Elrond (Weaving) that it can no longer stay in Rivendell. The plan is to take it to the volcano where it was initially forged and destroy it once and for all. Frodo volunteers to take the ring, eventually joined by his original group of Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf and Aragorn, as well as Boromir (Bean), Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Bloom). The group is quickly dubbed the Fellowship of the Ring and sets out to destroy the ring, but they are quickly taught how difficult it will be to destroy it as they encounter trolls, ancient demons and a giant squid in a lake.

Out of all six of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, this is comfortably my favourite as it puts into perspective just how large this world is that the characters are in. It encompasses so many different settings and environments that you are constantly in amazement of the scale of it. For example, it starts off in the relatively tranquil Shire, then moves onto the dangerous wild, the luxurious Rivendell, a mountain, a mine and a large wooded area, amongst others.

The reason I have chosen this over the others is that I didn’t actually enjoy Two Towers that much and whilst it’s good, I feel that Fellowship of the Ring is just a more enjoyable experience because it sets up the world so well. I know that three hours doesn’t sound like a short amount of time at all, but when you take into account the scope of it and that they don’t even arrive in Rivendell until after the hour mark, it makes you realise that they did well to fit the entire first book into such a short film, rather than the Battle of the Five Armies, in which they managed to drag five pages out for 2 and a half hours (and it showed).

Arguably my favourite section of the film comes from what is effectively just two pages in the book and that is when the wraiths are relentlessly pursuing Frodo. The description is so vivid in the book and draws you in, and Peter Jackson captures that seemingly effortless and you genuinely feel that the wraiths are unstoppable, an image that is ruined later on in the franchise when they are scared off by Gandalf shining a light in their face.

Whilst not my favourite fantasy/adventure film, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Fellowship of the Ring.

The Prestige

the-prestige.14577Director : Christopher Nolan

Cast : Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, David Bowie, Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson

I’m not going to lie, this is only in the list as a filler really. Whilst it is a film that I really like, I have mentioned previously that I only had 17 or 18 of my Top 20 and used the other two spots as filler, and this is one of them.

I have seen the Prestige on precisely three occassions but when I was going through my DVD collection, out of those that weren’t in the definites, this was probably the film I enjoyed the most, hence it’s appearance.

Alfred Borden (Bale) and Robert Angier (Jackman) are good friends that share a mutual respect in their chosen field of magic. Both are highly talented and regarded as the best magicians in the world, however, their friendship ends when a trick involving Angier’s wife goes wrong and she drowns, with Angier blaming Borden for what had happened as he had tied the knot that she couldn’t escape from.

When Borden finds love and has a child, it angers Angier and he purposefully rigs a trick of Borden’s to backfire, costing him two fingers. In response, Borden sabotages on of Angier’s tricks, causing harm to an audience member and damaging his reputation. When he goes to retaliate at a show, Angier is left astounded by Borden’s new trick, The Transported Man. Borden enters a door at one end of the stage and exits another door at the other end instantaneously. Angier refuses the theory of it being a double due even the smallest details being exact.

Angier takes the trick and turns it into his own via the help of a doppelganger (also Jackman), but he has trouble keeping control of him due to his alcoholism. Despite it being a success, Angier is driven to the point of madness as he can never receive the applause of the audience, and his obsession with finding out how Borden did it without a double. He soon meets Tesla (Bowie) and the two work together to create “The Real Transported Man”, but to what lengths is he willing to go to prove himself the better man to Borden?

Out of all of the films in my Top 20, it’s safe to say that The Prestige has more twists and turns than any of the others, it is remarkably complex and you really have to pay attention for it all to make sense. Even at the when, when you think you’ve seen the major twist, along comes another one and that is one of the reasons I really like this film. It’s not until the credits start rolling that you can be entirely sure of how it is actually going to end.

When the final twist does come around, you realise just how intricut and clever the twist is. I’m not going to reveal what the twist is here but it works so well and the most impressive thing is that has been in your face from the beginning. It’s not like the twists of Fight Club or the Sixth Sense where you have to be paying a ridiculous amount of attention throughout to have honestly figured it out before it’s revealed, you have virtually no chance of figuring it out.

Ultimately The Prestige is a film about obsession and how it can drive you to do outrageous things, and the way that Angier’s character develops in that sense is very intriguing.

 

The Thing (1982)

89137898Director : John Carpenter

Cast :Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat and Keith David

Whilst The Fly regularly tops lists of the top 10 horror films of the 1980s, The Thing, which is also a remake, regularly finishes Number 2 and again, if I ranked all 20 of these films from 1 to 20, there is a very realistic chance that this would be Number 4.

This is the only film out of this list of 20 films that is actually older than I am, coming out two years before I was born, and despite it not really holding up that well, it still works remarkably well as a horror film because it gets the basics right. It doesn’t try the ridiculous scares today, doesn’t reveal who has been taken over by an alien before the rest of the characters find out and even the ending leaves you constantly guessing.

It appears to be a normal day at an American research station in Antartica until a dog approaches the site, pursued by a helicopter that is shooting at it. The group quickly kills the men in the helicopter and put the dog with it’s own dogs until they can figure out what happened.

The group, led by MacReady (Russell) decide to go to the local Norwegian camp to see what would provoke such a seemingly random attack on an animal. Once there they discover that the Norwegians had found alien life and they take the remains back to their own base.

At first everything seems fine but they soon find the original dog has transformed and is slowly killing the other dogs. Childs (David) kills the alien with a flamethrower and in the autopsy, Blair (Brimley) realises that the life form is able to create an exact copy of, and replace, a living creature perfectly. This is soon evident as the group soon finds Bennings trying to escape camp whilst partially transformed. At this point everyone in the group knows that any number of them could have been overtaken by the alien life form and paranoia sets in. How long can any of them survive before the life form catches up with them?

Even now, 33 years after the film was released, it is still not entirely clear at the end whether some characters were aliens or not. Whilst you could argue that this has been answered in the game, it has been confirmed as not being canon and that is a relief. The final scene, as in the very final scene, is precisely what a final scene should be in a horror film, leaving you doubting everything. You genuinely don’t know whether all the surviving characters are human, aliens or a mixture, and nor do the characters.

I mentioned it briefly in the introduction that it doesn’t reveal who is an alien until the rest of the characters find out and this works perfectly on so many levels. The film leads you down the path to believing that a character might be an alien before it turning out that they aren’t, and vice versa. In contrast to the prequel a few years ago, you don’t see outright that characters are human or alien until the film needs them to be. Whilst not an awful film, The Thing (prequel) loses this as it shows a few characters not necessarily getting infected, but in situations where infection would be virtually impossible, and in this sense it ruins it somewhat.

There is a genuine sense of isolation in this film due to not only the setting, but also the destruction of any means of getting off of the site. The characters are trapped there as going out into the ice wastelands of Antarctica with no method of communications or transport would effectively be suicide.

With an extremely effective, yet simplistic soundtrack, it’s hard not to get drawn into the atmosphere of the film.

 

Troydownload

Director : Wolfgang Peterson

Cast : Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Garrett Hedlund and Peter O’Toole

Troy is another one that I suspect a lot of you will look at and go “really?” I’ve mentioned a few times on this website that I love Greek mythology and if done right, they can be really epic. Whilst a lot of Greek mythology films these days are proving to be less than exciting, such as Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to 300 and several others, it is the ones that are faithful to their source material and don’t try and bombard you with CGI that catches you attention.

With a directors cut over well over 3 hours, this is the longest film by quite some way that features on this list, although I promise that my mini summary at the end won’t be.

After years of war, the Greek countries of Sparta and Troy have finally negotiated peace, so solidify that, princes Hector (Bana) and his brother, Paris (Bloom) have travelled to Sparta. Whilst Hector is everything that a prince should be, Paris falls in love with Helen (Kruger), a woman who just happens to be the wife of the Spartan King, Menelaus (Gleeson). When Menelaus realises that Helen has left with Paris, he pleads with his megalomaniac brother, Agamemnon (Cox) to go to war with him.

Agamemnon’s army sails to Troy and contained within is Achilles (Pitt), widely believed to be the greatest warrior in the world and a man obsessed with being remembered for all of eternity. Whilst he officially fights under the flag of Agamemnon, Achilles shares none of his desires and he is only there to make his name legend.

Outside of the gates of Troy, Paris accepts Menelaus’ challenge for a one on one fight, a fight that the latter dominates. Just as Menelaus is about to strike the final blow, Hector saves his brother and kills Menelaus, sending Agamemnon into a rage and he sends his armies hurtling towards the Trojans. The Trojans make exceptionally light work of Agamemnon’s men before Odysseus (Bean) convinces him to retreat. As time goes on it becomes evident that despite travelling in great numbers, Agamemnon’s army are no match for the Trojans, but an early morning attack results in an unexpected death that will change the course of the war.

Now again, I know that some of you will be puzzled as to why I actually like Troy and for me it is simple, it doesn’t hold back. Too many films, especially ones that only get a 15 rating in the UK, try and hold back, but this definitely doesn’t as it is full of blood spurting out all over the place, realistic tactics from that time period and the way that the soldiers treat the women towards the end are just a few examples of this.

With one of the best ensemble casts that you will see, with the majority having established careers long before this came along, it’s hard not to enjoy this because it is acted exceptionally well, especially Brad Pitt in the role of Achilles. Brad Pitt has featured several times on this list and he revels in the role of the great anti-hero, a man who will happily desecrate a temple and kill all of it’s priests, but then show mercy towards Priam, the ruler of Troy when he comes begging for his son.

Even though the run time for the directors cut is a huge 196 minutes, you never really feel like you’ve been sat there for that long as it is well paced and the battles, whilst not exactly long, keep you drawn into the action and it is hard to take your eyes away. It sticks to historical accuracy pretty well, even to the point where it’s annoying, in other words the woman screaming like a beached whale when there is a funeral.

Out of all of the Greek mythology films, if you’re looking for the most accurate then I would recommend this.

 

 

Willowdownload (1)

Director : Ron Howard

Cast : Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Gavan O’Herlihy, Jean Marsh and Pat Roach

During my section on Fight Club in Part 1, I mentioned that my favourite movie was a contest between that and another film, and now we finally arrive at that film.

I can’t recall the first time I ever watched Willow. It is one of those films that has always been there and for a long time it was my undisputed number one, a country mile ahead of everything else, and to this day I still hold it in such esteem. Whilst I was never into George Lucas’ Star Wars, I couldn’t get enough of his and Ron Howard’s tale of hope, courage and defying the odds.

When Bavmorda (Marsh) hears that there is a prophecy of a baby being born that will end her reign of terror, she imprisions all the pregnant women in the land until the baby is born. When the baby is eventually born, a nursewife manages to smuggle it out of the dungeon and she lays it on a bed of weeds before sending it down river. When it eventually settles on a bank it is discovered by two children from a Nelwyn village.

The Nelwyns are a race of dwarves (for lack of better words) and the children are those of Willow (Davis), a pig farmer. Not knowing what to do with a daikini (humans) baby, Willow takes it to the local council and it is agreed that a group of them will take the baby to the nearest daikini crossroads and give it to the first person they see. Upon arriving they meet an imprisoned Madmartigan (Kilmer), a self-proclaimed greatest swordsman that ever lived.

Willow delays giving the baby to Madmaritgan as he doesn’t trust a man who is in prison but anyone else that passes isn’t interested. Willow gives the baby to Madmartigan but he loses her. Willow retrieves her after it emerges the kidnappers worked for Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe). She tells Willow of the prophecy and that the baby, named Elora Danan, must be taken to Fin Raziel (Hayes), but it’s never that easy, is it?

I will admit that I don’t watch Willow often. infact I very rarely watch it. I think the last time I watched it from start to finish was about 3 years ago when the Blu Ray came out to celebrate the 25th anniversary. But for me you don’t have to watch your favourite films on a regular basis. If you can not watch them for ages and still love them then it show what a good film it is. For example, in my review of films in 2014, I lauded Nightcrawler, saying it was a perfect 10/10 and it even made it into the Top 20 list, but I’ve actually only ever watched it twice. For me Willow is one of those films that you can just sit back and truly enjoy, going on a great adventure.

It is one of the few films in the world that has pretty much everything in it. There’s romance between Madmartigan and Sorsha, there’s science fiction, adventure, action, horror (the Eborsisk and the army being turned into pigs, for example), there’s comedy and even a bit of mystery. There isn’t a single traditional genre that this film wouldn’t fit into and the best part is that for the most part, it hasn’t aged at all. This is partly down to the lack of CGI, which given that it was released in 1988 is not surprising. Near enough every effect, other than the odd one here and there, is practical, and therefore it looks a hell of a lot better.

Willow is a heartwarming story of a family man who just gets pulled into a world that he knew little about before and the bond he develops with everyone around him is wonderful to watch. Warwick Davis’ performance is charming and memorable. At the time he was only 18 years old and yet pulled off such a magical and believeable performance as a man with children who are at least four or five. He is joined by Val Kilmer. Kilmer is nearly perfect in this film as the antihero who becomes an outright hero towards the end, and his journey from a prisoner to what he ends up is absorbing.

I can’t speak highly enough of Willow and I would gladly watch it over any of Lucas’ other films.

Also, you may notice that I have included the trailer for the Blu Ray rather than the original and the reason is that it’s just a better trailer.

Year Released : 2015MV5BMzg0MTE3NDc4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgxODMyNTE@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_
Director : James Moran
Cast : Chris Marquette, Alexandra Breckenridge and Jake McDorman

A few days ago I reviewed the film “Hunting Venus” and noted that with less than 200 votes on IMDB, it had been the most obscure film that I had probably written about….skip forward a few days and I’m now reviewing one with just 114 votes, although to be fair this one has only been out for a few days.

Even though I don’t play computer games that often these days, when I was younger I used to play them on a regular basis and there were very few games that terrified me. One game that did that sticks in my mind was Forbidden Siren, a game that made me lose 2 pounds in one night from sweating alone, but other than that was a largely uncommon thing for me to find a computer game generally terrifying. I suppose it’s one of the things about watching horror films since I was a child, I’ve become desensitised to being scared. Then I played Slenderman.

Slenderman was created several years ago on an interview forum and this spawned one of the scariest games ever created. It was genuinely terrifying and fear inducing games that I had ever seen. I was equally as frightened and fascinated by the subject and I was excited when I saw this film appear on the site where I usually go to view films, although I seriously hoped it was better than the other Slenderman film, which I can’t bring myself to review because it’s that terrible. Now, I write this part of the review before I start reviewing, so I could easily have egg on my face and this could be equally as terrible, but we’ll see. Either way, I would recommend playing the Slenderman games. To play the original (and best), go here (after you’ve read my review of course) – http://slendergame.com/download.php

Plot

Whilst filming for a documentary, Milo (Marquette) finds a box full of old VHS style types and his boss, Sara (Breckenridge) encourages him to watch them to discover if there is anything worth reporting on. Milo agrees and starts watching the tapes and it is of a family being terrorised by a man with no face, with the claims that the man can’t be seen without the aid of a camera. The family in the tapes eventually break down mentally and it unknown what happened to them.

Soon thereafter Milo starts having strange experiences, such as the lights suddenly going out in his home, his dog becoming fixated on seemingly nothing and his cameras not functioning properly. He gets the feeling that he is being stalked by the man in the videos and this is confirmed when one day he sees a man hiding in his yard. Milo approaches the man and within a split second the man jumps from the trees to in the middle of the yard, a distance of around 20 metres. Terrified, Milo runs to Sarah and her boyfriend Charlie (McDorman) for help. They refuse.

When Milo returns home, he finds that Charlie is waiting for him and has been watching some of Milo’s footage. It turns out that Milo has been stalking Sara since the two met at a party several months earlier and the fight is only stopped when Milo convinces Charlie to look through the camera. As he pans around the room, he spots the man with no face standing in the doorway to the closet and he suddenly bursts at them. Charlie and Sara also find themselves being stalked now and their only hope is to find the family from the original film and ask what happened.

always-watching

Better than the other Slenderman film?

Yes, most definitely. You know, I hope the man that came up with the original Slenderman idea actually copyrighted it. There has been a lot of media about the fictional character and he could have made a lot of money out of it. Anyway, I digress. Yes, it is far better, and more engaging that the other Slenderman film, without actually being that good itself.

Let’s start with the obvious and that this is a blatant rip off of two other films, the first of which is The Ring. It effectively steals The Ring’s plot of anyone who watches the video will end up getting stalked by this being, although there is seemingly nothing that you can do to stop this one and it will pursue you for far longer than seven days. I’m not going to lie, I hated The Ring and found it to be one of the worst mainstream horrors of the last twenty years, so this automatically put me off when I saw it was sort of ripping that off.

The other film it rips off, although to a lesser extent, is the VHS franchise. One of the characters sits down and watches VHS tapes and after that some strange things start happening. That is a major plot point of Always Watching and the entire plot of VHS. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against using ideas from numerous source materials to make your film, but don’t make it as blatant as this with your unoriginality. Bring something fresh to the table and don’t give people that they have already seen as it will ultimately leave people uninterested.

That is one of my key concerns with Always Watching, it didn’t keep my attention at all. The first twenty to twenty-five minutes are just filled with nothing at all and it’s only when Milo starts watching the tapes that it starts getting interesting. Even then I was still checking Facebook on a regular basis and didn’t really miss anything. This is never a good thing in your film. Your audience should never be able to browse their phone for a minute or two at a time and know that they haven’t missed anything.

The Operator

It’s not just that I knew that I hadn’t missed anything that disappointed me, it was that I figured out exactly how the film was going to end after the very first scene. I went through the film hoping it wouldn’t be the case but ultimately it did turn out that what I had predicted actually happened. This was exceptionally disappointing and has ultimately lead me to write a relatively negative review.

If I can predict the ending of a film then it ruins it a bit for me. For example, I went to watch “The Avengers : Age of Ultron” at my local cinema yesterday and (spoiler alert), I knew that the Avengers were going to win before I even went in. Marvel, despite producing heavily enjoyable films, are terrible at building the antagonists (other than Loki) and not once in their films do you ever believe that they will actually win, and again it turned out to be the case.

At no stage in any film should I be able to predict exactly how the film ends and as I say, independent and low budget films are normally good for that, but not this time.

Now onto the camera work. Normally I heavily criticise the camera work when it’s a found footage style film, but you know what, I can’t this time. The camera work is actually done really well, with the exception of when the characters are being chased. The cameras are held in a relatively still manner and it doesn’t feel like the cameraman has Parkinson’s disease, which makes a nice change. I was genuinely surprise that they actually used a variety of techniques to have a relatively steady image, and I can only applaud them for them.

The way the film is put together though isn’t the best, with jump cuts in particular proving a big distraction. Normally when a film uses jump cuts it is done in a very smooth way, but no, not Always Watching, they decided to go with the “fuck it” approach to editing a film together. There is a scene early on at a party when it jumps so often that you struggle to adapt to what you’re seeing before it jumps again, with the sound becoming somewhat distorted by all of this.

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It’s not just the way it’s put together either, it’s that there are scenes which are blatantly filler. When Milo’s lights turn out, he just wanders aimlessly around his home for some time before finally going off to turn the fuses back on. I mean, firstly who doesn’t know where the fuse box in his house is, and secondly, why are you just wandering between your kitchen and dining room at a pace that wouldn’t even be classed as a leisurely stroll. He walks into a room and just stands there for numerous seconds on end before moving off again, and this is well before he thinks that he is being stalked. It is blatant filler at it’s worst.

In many ways I think the film also uses too much Slenderman and after a while it loses it’s impact. There are too many scenes in all in a row where Slenderman is contained within it somewhere and it stops becoming interesting or scary when you’re actually expecting him to appear right there and then.

In terms of the cast, they’ve done a reasonable job with such a relatively small cast and all three main characters are well acted for the most part, and the interactions after they discover that Milo has been stalking Sara for sometime is actually done really well. When Sara confronts Milo about it, she has the perfect mix of being pissed off, inquizative and hurt by what has happened, and this bounces off of the vulnerability of Milo. Despite this, Sara and Charlie never really develop and it’s hard to really care about them as characters because you barely see them until half way through.

As a horror movie it really fails to be scary, and whilst I applaud it for trying to replicate the games in many ways, including Slenderman’s movement style, it’s not done in a way that makes me feel particularly scarred and that’s what horror films are for. You can successfully predict every time that he is about to appear and this takes the terror out of it somewhat.

Despite all of the negatives though, I will give Always Watching one thing and that is that I didn’t clock watch once. Not once did I look at how long was left in the film and that is the first time I have done that in quite a while. The pacing is excellent and this keeps you interested enough to keep watching (well, when you’re not checking your phone anyway). It made a nice change.

The Operator

Summary

It’s rare that I find an indie film where I am not constantly checking the time and where I feel like it’s a chore to review it. It is certainly the first time in a while that I have been able to say that, however, the film just isn’t that interesting or engaging. I was able to regularly check my Facebook throughout and never felt like I missed anything.

Whilst it tries to replicate the experience of the games, the predictability of the film in both it’s ending and it’s attempted scares in general makes it lose something.

If you’re a fan of the games then I think you will relatively enjoy this, but otherwise I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

I believe the world is a better place if people aren’t lying

Year Released : 2014LIS-poster-s
Director : Ira Sachs
Cast : John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson and Harriet Samson Harris

If there is a phrase that all movie goers should fear, it is “critically acclaimed”. I have found myself often going against what the professional critics say. I tend to like films that they hate and vice-versa. Whenever I see that a film is critically acclaimed then I tend to stay clear of them because they tend not to be that interesting, a pretentious and about as enjoyable as stepping on a rusty nail.

When I first saw the trailer for Love is Strange, I was intrigued by what is an interesting concept and a plot that isn’t really explored in films. Marriage between same sex couples became legal several years ago but I couldn’t tell you a single film, other than this, that he seen a cinema release covering the subject in a serious manner.

Then I saw that it was critically acclaimed and my heart sunk. Professional Critics tend to like films that are slow moving, don’t really have a lot going on and characters that despite having a lot about them, don’t develop at all during the course of the films length. Because of this I was highly sceptical, but decided to give it a go anyway.

Plot

After being together for 39 years, Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) finally get married with their friends any family around. At first everything is perfect and they couldn’t be happier, but soon thereafter they start having issues as George is fired from the catholic school that he works at. The two realise that they can no longer afford to live in their apartment and they turn to their friends and family to help them whilst they’re trying to sort themselves out.

Ben goes to stay with his nephew, whereas George goes to stay with friends. Ben’s family loves having him there at first, but his outgoing nature means that he soon starts distracting Kate (Tomei) from doing her work. Meanwhile George is uncomfortable staying in his friend’s apartment due to the considerably different lifestyle.

Things soon start picking up though when George decides he has had enough and goes to stay with Ben and his family. The two start looking optimistically to the future and find the community’s attitude towards their sexuality, but things soon change when Ben’s health take a downward turn.

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So was the scepticism justified?

The film started off really well. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening fifteen or so minutes brought you nicely into the lives of these two men and their first stage of marriage. It was an excellent opening and I felt optimistic for the remaining seventy five minutes, but it quickly lost a lot of momentum after that. The film dedicates around thirty minutes or so of the couple living apart due to their living situation, but it is a very slow thirty minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is told excellently about how both men struggle to cope apart from each other, but the film seems to stand somewhat still for a third of the film. For a few minutes here and there I could forgive it but not all in one chunk. Again, don’t get me wrong, I understand the purpose of the separation and the point of them longing for each other, struggling in their new surroundings, but in that half an hour I went from being excited about the film to being a bit unengaged. The fact I started watching it on Wednesday evening and only finished it on Thursday evening tells it’s own story (although to be far I did start watching it at about 11pm)

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However, that is pretty much my only complaint with the film. I’m not going to go as far as the critics did and give it a brilliant review when it doesn’t deserve one, but it is definitely an interesting look at a life that most people will never experience. It’s a great character study and a film which looks at the term “familiarity breeds contempt”.

I myself try to keep my distance from people if I have seen them too much in a short about of time. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to spend more time with my family and friends, but I know that if I actually spent too much time with them that I would start noticing things that would drive me crazy, and that is superbly shown in this, especially with Ben. As time goes on, characters that previously loved him struggle to cope with his quirks and struggling to keep quiet.

Ben is oblivious to how he starts grinding on his family and this is down to Lithgow’s brilliant display. Lithgow has turned in several excellent performances in recent years and like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better with age. Lithgow is one of Hollywood’s finer older actors for the simple reason that he accepts that he is getting older and doesn’t turn down roles because of his age, unlike other certain actors *cough*Sean Connery*cough*.

Lithgow is wonderful in this film and the best part is that he makes it look effortless. I grew up watching him in films such as “Harry and the Hendersons” and TV shows such as “Third Rock From the Sun”, and it’s rare to see an older actor with the flexibility to pull of roles of varying genres. He can pull of eccentric just as well as he can appearing completely vulnerable.

I love the realism with the film and it’s obvious that the main characters have been sheltered, which leads to the very life like scene where they are being introduced to more mainstream media, such as Game of Thrones, and have no idea what it is. This fits in which Ben seemingly perfectly as he gets nostalgic on a regular basis and never strikes you as a character that would have embraced that made new forms of media.

Finally, I’m going to talk about what probably gave me the most satisfaction in the film and that is that Sachs didn’t go down the route of showing the stereotypical same-sex couple. More often than not, the stereotype of two men being in love with each other is that at least one of them is overly effeminate, but isn’t very true to life. Being transgender myself, I know quite a few same sex couples in which neither of them are overly effeminate, or in the case of two women getting married, neither being butch. It is a stereotype that is too often shown and it is a relief to see a movie that accepts that this isn’t always going to be the case.

Neither George or Ben are effeminate, nor do they have many feminine qualities, they happen to just be two men that have fallen in love with each. Now, don’t get me wrong, whilst the stereotype is also true of a lot of same sex marriages, the relationship between George and Ben seems very grounded in reality and they have conversations that you would expect a real couple to actually have. Granted, I don’t think that Lithgow and Molina have any chemistry whatsoever, but that doesn’t distract from one of the more genuine love stories that I have seen on screen in sometime.

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Summary

Whilst it doesn’t really deserve to be critically acclaimed, it’s not an awful film by any stretch of the imagination. My only major problem with the film is that after an excellent opening fifteen minutes, the remaining 75 is exceptionally slow.

The characters are somewhat underdeveloped, and this isn’t helped by Molina and Lithgow having seemingly no chemistry at all, however, the latter almost single handedly saves the film with his heartwarming performance.

It’s hard to really recommend it based simply on that I will never watch it again, but if you’re interested in a story about love and relationships that is different from what you’ve seen before, go right ahead.

It was sometime, sometime on a trip to Uranus. Saturn, Pluto, Mars, who could blame us? Maybe sometime when the moon, no longer feels the pull of the Earth, we’ll be there at the new planet’s birth, and you and I, we will kiss! A supernova born of our bliss, for light years it could happen like this. A galaxy we could call home.

Year Released : 1999hv-1
Director : Martin Clunes
Cast : Martin Clunes, Neil Morrissey, Jane Horrocks, Mark Williams, Ben Miller, Danny Webb and Esther Coles.

It’s not often that I say this but quite frankly I would be astounded if anyone who reads this review will have ever heard of this film. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that at the time of writing it only has 212 rating votes on IMDB, barely averaging over a rating a month since it’s first appearance on British tv in 1999. That first appearance was also, as far as I am aware, the only appearance that it has ever made on TV.

I am pretty certain that this is the lowest profile film that I have reviewed so far. With such a low number of ratings and the very fact that the poster on the right looks completely unprofessional (just look at that font) and yet it’s the only one on Google Images. Ignoring the cast, if I saw that as the poster without knowing anything else about the film, I would avoid the film like the plague. All of this combines to make a fantastically obscure film lead by two of the best comedy actors of 1990s British televison.

This film came right at the end of the successful TV show, Men Behaving Badly, starring Clunes and Morrissey, and it uses their chemistry excellently, even though they are portraying different genders. There is something great and enjoyable about Clunes and Morrisey as a pair, and if you ever get a chance to watch Men Behaving Badly, I would seriously recommend it.

Anyway, enough of the Men Behaving Badly.

Plot

Over a decade after The Venus Hunters had a one hit wonder, Simon Delancy (Clunes) has turned to a life of crime. He regularly evades the police after robbing pensioners of their money and he celebrates one such escape by checking into a hotel run by Cassandra (Horrocks) and Jacqui (Coles). Much to Simon’s surprise, they know who he is having been obsessive fans in the 80s. They also know about his criminal record and blackmail him into getting the Venus Hunters back together.

Simon reluctantly agrees to find his old band members, none of whom actually like Simon due to various reasons. First on the list is the band’s singer, Charlie (Morrissey). Charlie’s parents claim that he is dead and the trio give in, only to then run into Charlie, who is now earning a living as a singer in a bar. All three are left stunned though as they soon realise that Charlie was so difficult to locate because he has had a sex change and now goes via Charlotte.

After initially refusing, Charlotte is convinced to join the reunion and this goes a long way to convincing the other members, nearly all of whom try and attack Simon upon sight.

hunting-venus-banner

 

So it’s a 80s music tribute?

Yes, you could say that. If you love British music from the 1980s then I get the serious feeling that you will love this. This is due to many reasons, including the very 80s influence on the song when you do eventually get to hear it, and best of all, the cameos from a plethora of familiar names.

This give you an idea of the dedication to the feeling 1980s nostalgia, here is a list of some of famous names that you’ve probably heard of that make a cameo;

Gary Numan

Phil Oakey

Simon Le Bon

Yasmin Le Bon

Tony Hadley

Midge Ure

and Jools Holland

It is definitely a fan service to those who lived through the 1980s, which leads me onto an interesting point as I loved it, even though most of the above names meant nothing to me growing up. I was born in September 1984, so I was only five years old when the 80s ended and even though a lot of my favourite films are from that decade, ultimately it means little to myself as a period of time.

That is my only real concern with this film, it appeals mainly to those that loved the 80s and whilst that is great, if you’re not actually overly bothered about that decade then you might struggle to get enthusiastic about it when you initially look into it. I would however seriously recommend giving it a fair chance. Even if you’re not overly a fan of British movie from the 1980s, you have to be impressed by how the they made a song with such an 80s vibe in the late 1990s. The below is the song from the end of the film and I have loved it ever since I heard it and it regularly features on whatever form of music player I am using.

Away from the 80s tribute, this is still a fairly enjoyable film and gives a great representation of England in the late 1990s. This is one of the great advantages of using actual locations rather than sets (for the most part), it gives a laid back feeling to the film and this eases you into the comedy, which is very subtle. British comedy is often very different to American comedy and it does take a bit of getting used to, as does Jane Horrocks’ accent.

The chemistry between the actors is what you would expect given that they had known each other for years, especially Clunes and Morrissey after their spell together on Men Behaving Badly. Clunes and Morrissey work so well together and although neither have quite shaken off their characters from Men Behaving Badly, both have gone on to have some very successful roles across a whole variety of genres. Clunes in particular has been a surprise, turning from a comedy actor to a dramatic actor.

Clunes has that fantastic ability to be deadly serious one minute and messing about the next. He reminds me a lot of my brother in law in that sense and I find this type of personality to be exceedingly likeable. Even though his character in Hunting Venus is not a particularly likeable person, but Clunes brings something that makes you want the character to do well. It’s not often that you want a character with villainous qualities to do well and in many ways, he is an antihero.

I unfortunately can’t write a particularly long review for this film as there isn’t really a lot to say, I’m struggling to find images to use and I am finding it difficult to say anything else about it.

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Summary

Hunting Venus is a generally enjoyable comedy that is unlike anything else that I have seen before. It is completely unique and that is something that I crave. I love seeing something that I haven’t seen before and this is definitely the case.

Don’t get in expecting it to be like an American comedy, it’s about as British as it can get and that is definitely a good thing.

Now normally I wouldn’t do this but as there is no actual trailer for this, I have decided to post the film below. Someone has uploaded the film on Youtube over 7 different parts, so I figure I would share this as it is one of the few (and even then I’m being generous) places that you can view the film. It’s not on iTunes, it’s not on any On Demand service, the last time I checked it wasn’t even on Amazon, so yeah, here it is if you’re interested.

Pregnant teenagers are never funny!

Year Released : 201detention1
Director : Joseph Khan
Cast : Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke and Dane Cook

There are times when I am debating whether to actually watch a film or not. For example, I went to the cinema for the first time in over 3 months on Friday to watch “Child 44” (it was ok, not great) and I was unsure whether to actually watch it up until the point where I put my card in the machine and entered my PIN number. Sometimes the decision is tough, but that decision becomes a lot easier when you see that someone has described the film you are about to watch as “Scott Pilgrim meets Scream.”

I was sold on Detention there and then. I didn’t need to know any more, I went out and found the film online, paid my £2.99 to watch it and away I went. I must admit that I am glad I found a film that actually looked very interesting as, to be honest, seeing so many crap films in recent months has demoralised me a lot. You may have noticed that it’s very rare that I give a film a positive review, and I think at the time of writing, the last positive review with very few negatives was nearly a month ago when I watched the quirky Summer of Blood (click for review).

But anyway, I digress. For once it was nice to see a film that looked like it would appeal to me just from the trailer alone, however, as I mentioned in several recent reviews, a good trailer doesn’t necessarily mean a good film.

Plot

Riley (Caswell) is your typical teenage outcast at Grizzly Lake High School. She is getting close to having her leg cast removed for an unknown injury and intends to celebrate by dancing with Clapton (Hutcherson) at the prom. Riley has been attracted to Clapton since childhood, but Clapton doesn’t feel the same about her, instead being infatuated with Ione (Locke).

Meanwhile, several students start getting killed off by a copycat killer from fictional slashflick “Cinderhella”. As the students slowly get killed off one by one, school principle Verge (Cook) refuses to let the school’s reputation suffer due to the murders and the activities of the students, especially after the video of one of the students being killed also features many from the school. Verge demands that all the students that appear on the videos attend detention during the prom.

During the detention, a previously unknown student finally figures out a mathematical problem that he was set in 1992, subsequently realising that a bomb is due to go off in a matter of minutes. To stop the bomb going off Riley has to go back to 1992 as it turns out that the giant bear is actually a time machine. Can she stop it in time?

detention1

Sounds unusual….

It sounds unusual because it is really. I was sat for nearly 20 minutes trying to figure out what to put as the plot because there are so many different aspects to it. In that sense it is quite unique and if you went into it not knowing what you were amount to watch, you could never be able to guess what’s going to happen It is unpredictable and that is what kept me interested. You literally don’t know what’s coming. For example, you see the bear at various points during the film but you will never, ever guess (well, you will now if you’re reading this and then watch it) that it’s a time machine.

I love films that are impossible to predict. I mentioned earlier that I’ve watched too many films recently which were awful and one of the main reasons is that they are predictable. I recently reviewed my 70th film for this website, most of which I had never seen before reviewing them, and I would guess that out of the 60 or so that I hadn’t seen before, I could tell you exactly how the film would end within twenty minutes of the film beginning, and that is never, ever, a good thing. The best films are the ones where you can’t see how it is going to end, even if the hints or there.

For example, The Shawshank Redemption is widely considered one of the best films ever made and (Spoiler Alert) although the hints are there, the fact that he escapes and gets out is one of the best endings in the history of cinema because you never see it coming. Another example I could use is Fight Club when it turns out that (Spoiler Alert) that Tyler and the narrator are in fact the same person. As I say, they are great endings because the hints are there but you never connect them until the conclusion of the film.

Don’t get me wrong, Detention has no-where near the level of cultural or emotional impact of the aforementioned, and comparing it on any other level with them would be farcical. The only reason I do mention the films in the same breath is because they are unpredictable and this is the same. For the first time in a long time, I was never actually bored. Even with films that I positively review, I regularly found myself getting a bit bored and wanting it to end, but with Detention I found myself engaged in the story throughout, even if it was a little far fetched.

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The dialogue constantly surprised me and on occasions actually made me laugh. I’m not the person to laugh at films, even when I find them funny, so to achieve that is noteworthy for me. I’m going to share with you some of the more unusual and random lines during the film, even if some of them have no context whatsoever;

  • “I make 40+ G’s a year, plus dental. You may not have a skittle.”
  • “It is not normal for seamen to glow in the dark!”
  • “I’d like to start off by saying that this girl’s argument is ridiculous! Vegetarians who eat fish are hypocrites! She thinks because fish may feel no pain they don’t value their lives. Absurd! And notice how she expresses almost no sympathy for chickens. That’s because Americans hate chickens. For example, KFC serves popcorn chicken to assure the customers that the chicken was blown to bits, yet the meatball sub at Subway isn’t called “popcorn cow.” Americans want chickens to die! Lame! Personally, I do feel sympathy for animals, which is why I choose to only eat baby animals. They have not lived as long, and they are not leaving as much behind. Baby clams, chicken wings, baby seals – no… big… loss! If we don’t eat meat, we lose out place in the food chain. Eating animals gives us confidence as humans.”
  • “It breaks my spirit to see that bra size wasted on someone like you.”

It is certainly one of the more unusual set of dialogue that you will see in a film, although sometimes it does actually feel like it’s being random for the sake of being random.

That is my one criticism of the film really, random doesn’t necessarily mean funny. I mentioned earlier that this film has been compared by some to Scott Pilgrim vs the World and I can sort of see why. It has a similar visual style, such as text popping up on screen, some quirky elements to the script and moments that you don’t expect, but they are used exceptionally well in Scott Pilgrim vs the World. You never get the feeling in that film that they’re using it for the sake of trying to be funny or unique, whilst not adding to the film, which is something that I can’t say about Detention. On occasions the randomness does feel forced and therefore not organic.

However, as I say, that is my only real criticism of the film and other than that I feel it works quite well. It does polarise those that watch it, hence the score of only 5.8/10 on IMDB, but I quite liked it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing like the high school based films of the 80s or 90s, which is ironic given that the film constantly mentions and is partially set in the latter.

Infact, up until the point where they travel back in time, you are constantly wondering what the obsession with the 1990s is as it is constantly mentioned and referenced, and most of the soundtrack is from that decade. It’s not even as if the film is actually set in the 90s, in which case I’d understand. It is set in 2011 and again, up until when they travel to 1992, it seems almost strange that the 90s is CONSTANTLY referred. Obviously when the film travels to 1992 and you realise that Ione is actually her own mother and therefore lived in that period that the constant referencing makes more sense……even if Ione turning out to be her own mother (you have to watch it to try and understand it) doesn’t.

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Summary

Despite being likened to it, this is nowhere near as enjoyable as Scott Pilgrim vs the World and at times it does feel like it is being approvedrandom for the sake of being random.

Other than that though I can’t really complain about Detention. It is unpredictable and largely enjoyable. I can see why some wouldn’t like it but for once I wasn’t clock-watching when watching it and that is such a relief. There are a few moments where I did actually laugh and that is the sign of a good comedy, especially given that I don’t have a very extrovert personality and tend to not laugh if I hear something amusing.

For once I can actually recommend a film, which is such a nice change, and if you fancy watching something a little different then you won’t go wrong with Detention.

Year Released : 2014LITTLE_ACCIDENTS_ONE_SHEET_V0h
Director : Sara Colangelo
Cast : Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Josh Lucas, Jacob Lofland and Chloe Sevigny

There aren’t many actresses that excite me these days and this is for various reasons. It could simply be because they typecast themselves and make no attempt to branch out (Katherine Heigl), they’re just not that talented (Jennifer Aniston), they are only capable of showing one facial expression (Kristen Stewart), they are only onscreen because of their looks and have very little actual acting ability (Scarlett Johansson), I could go on, but one of the few that I do enjoy watching is Elizabeth Banks.

Banks is everything a lead actress should be. She has that great girl-next-door quality to her for the romance movies, she is definitely likeable in any role that she tries and best of all, she doesn’t typecast herself and appears in a wide variety of different movies. She rarely sticks to the same genre for too long and this is a sign of a good actress. I have no time for actresses that stick at what they know, even if they aren’t that good at what they know….I’m looking at you again, Katherine Heigl.

Anyway, I first heard about this myself a few months ago when it appeared on my Youtube subscriptions feed and although it didn’t astonish me, it did enough to leave me wanting to watch more. The reason I mention the trailer being important is that today marks the release of the second trailer for the new Star Wars film and I seem to be the only one still not excited by it (I cover my thoughts on the new Star Wars film here). The point I’m trying to make is that a trailer can make you want to watch a film and that’s it’s job.

I should stop waffling on and just review the film….

Plot

Amos Jenkins (Holbrook) is the only survivor of a coal mining accident that killed all ten of his colleagues. Despite the community initially being supportive of him, Jenkins soon becomes a suspect in the eyes of the community. He isn’t the only suspect though as Bill Doyle (Lucas), the boss of the mine, allegedly refused to follow basic safety regulations when sending workers down into the mine. His son, JT (Travis Tope) bullies a local boy named Owen (Lofland) to the point where he openly blames Jenkins for killing everyone else. An enraged JT chases Owen through the countryside before tripping and hitting his head on a rock, killing him instantly.

JT is reported as missing and it takes a huge tole on his mother, Diana (Banks). This, combined with Bill being suspended pending an investigation, drives the couple apart and Diana really struggles to cope. Meanwhile, Amos is suffering with post traumatic stress and an injury that has rendered his right arm useless, meaning that he can no longer work in a mine until further notice.

Diana attends a local bible studies group to try and make sense of why her son is missing and there she meets Amos. The two establish a connection and start an affair, but how long can they hide it, especially as Bill comes under increasing pressure as the evidence mounts against him.

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Any good?

Well I’m going to start with something that I have mentioned on numerous occasions and that is the film being recorded with a mix of handheld cameras and those set up on tripods or other such apparatus. When will film-makers realise that recording on handheld/shoulder mounted cameras are not a good idea when you’ve shown that you have equipment available. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that there are a lot of shots that you can get on a tripod/equivalent mounted camera, but for the most part it makes the film look very amateurish and quite frankly, I hate it.

There are many films that I have watched in recent years which have been perfectly good films in terms of acting and plot, but they have been practically unwatchable due to the camera work. For example, when I reviewed Tom à la ferme, I noted that whilst the film is fantastic and one of the strongest films that I have reviewed for this site, early on it is following the character of Tom so closely due to the handheld/shoulder mounted nature that when they follow him around a corner, they are focusing on his shoulder and it ruins a lot of the early film.

The strange thing is that whilst the director opts for that handheld/shoulder mounted cameras, creating the shaking effect, a lot of the scenes didn’t require it and could have easily been tripod mounted, improving the picture. For example, there is a scene after about an hour or so when Diana and Bill are talking about their personal issues, it does pan between the character, it remains stationary on them and yet doesn’t use a mounted camera, and so whilst trying to concentrate on what they’re saying, your eyes are constantly moving just to try and keep them within your line of sight. I’m not sure what comes closer to it, calling it careless or just lazy, but either way if you have poor camera work then it could ruin the rest of the film for you.

Now, whilst the camera work didn’t distract from the rest of the film with Tom à la ferme, I struggled to find Little Accidents as enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not awful, it’s a rather interesting story or the characters are well developed, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. There is just something missing that would make it something that would want to watch again, but without being able to quite figure out what it is, I can’t really suggest an improvement for it.

It could potentially be something which all films need to engage you as a viewer and that is correct pacing. The pacing is fairly consistent throughout but that’s not necessarily a good thing as the film never really seems to move forward. You’ve constantly got the feeling of it standing still and never moves out of 1st gear. It’s slow, turgid, and more than 100 of wanting something to actually progress the story properly. Don’t get me wrong, there are new aspects to the story throughout, but they are few and far between and because of this it feels like the story is never moving towards a natural conclusion.

As I say, the characters are excellently developed and portrayed, with Boyd Holbrook’s portrayal as Amos being a particular stand out. There is a scene where he is involved in a bible studies group and they are talking about negative aspects about their lives. Amos goes into how he feels after the accident and how he can’t get the faces of his now deceased colleagues out of his head. The anguish on his face and in his voice feels real, and you genuinely feel for the character as he confronts his demons.

Banks is also predictably fantastic as the torn woman and this is no more evident than in one of the last scenes when she finally finds out that her son is dead. You don’t hear anything that is being said in the conversation as it’s seen through a closed window, but the slow realisation and collapse tells you everything that you need to know and it rounds off a very solid performance from her. Is it one of the best performances of her career? No, not a chance, but it is solid. She is dependable and that’s all you can ask of your cast.

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Summary

Whilst Little Accidents isn’t an awful film by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not good either. It’s one of those films which is just there and once you’ve seen it, you will never feel the need to watch it again, and that is probably the most telling aspect for me.

If you can get over the camera work and you don’t mind slow moving films then this is probably going to be a good film for you, but not me. I need something that can get me excited by what I am watching and unfortunately, despite it not being an awful film, Little Accidents fails miserably in that aspect.

If you were my kid I’d make you eat onion and lard sandwiches

Year Released : 2008The_Poker_House_Poster
Director : Lori Petty
Cast : Jennifer Lawrence, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bookeem Woodbine, Sophie Bairley and David Alan Grier

On Sunday evening I drove back from the Scottish town of Dumfries after watching my beloved Blackburn Hawks add the Playoff title to their League crown and I stopped at a local Asda (the English version of Walmart for my American readers) to get some provisions for the drive home. In the DVD section they had a film that looked interesting by the name of Behind Closed Doors, starring a young Jennifer Lawrence and Chloe Grace Moretz, who of the most promising actresses in Hollywood at the moment.

When I arrived home I searched for it on the internet and for some reason it wasn’t called Behind Closed Doors, nor had it ever been known by that name, it was instead called The Poker House. This continues a common trend where a film is known by several different names for seemingly no apparent reason. For example, I reviewed a film called Alien Outpost some months ago was then renamed to Outpost 37 and then simply Outpost on iTunes. I don’t know whether they’re simply trying to confuse people when it comes to bad reviews, but either way it’s a timewaster…much like this film.

Those who have read my reviews know that I don’t like time-wasters. I am a keen supporter of independent and lower budget films, hence why I run this website, but they have to have a point and I absolutely hate films that think they’re telling a big, important story but completely forget about the basics of story telling, all whilst fulfilling Lori Petty’s desire to tell us about a part of her life in a way that could basically be summed up with pointless and self-fulfilling nonsense.

Plot

As there isn’t really a plot I’ll just simply put it like this, Agnes (Lawrence) mopes around at home before getting raped by her drug riddled mother’s boyfriend/pimp Duval (Woodbine), all before going to play a game of basketball.

That is pretty much the entire film.

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Good? Yay or Nay?

This is one of the most pointless films I’ve ever seen and it’s almost as forgettable as the acting of it’s director, Lori Petty. Petty’s peak of her career in the early 90s with performances in films such as Free Willy, A League of Their Own, Point Break and Tank Girl, but even then she was largely forgettable in each role, that despite the high pitched voice that she has. Then again, this film is supposedly based on the teenage life of Petty herself and it is one of the most self-fulfilling and pretentious pieces of crap that has ever been produced in Hollywood. Petty has, for some reason, thought that her story was worth telling but has decided to tell it in a lifeless way.

If anything, this film reeks of a woman who is overly desperate to stay relevant in Hollywood whilst not realising that she was never that relevant in the first place. Much like her character in A League Of Their Own, Petty seems to think that she is more important and considerably more talented than she is. If Petty had ever been an actress that was worth remembering for more than ten seconds then I would forgive her for thinking that people care about her life and childhood, and it reeks of desperation for attention.

My main contention with The Poker House comes from that there is very little plot for the majority of it. I’m almost at an hour in the film whilst writing this sentence, nearly 2/3 of the way through the film, and yet I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the plot is. There seems to be no central storyline or anything remotely resembling a plot. That for me is the biggest crime that you can commit as a film maker.

When it does finally get moving, only in the final 20 minutes, it is still largely unwatchable because of how unsympathetic they have made Agnes throughout. One of the main problems is you’re expected to feel sorry for the character of Agnes and for the situation that she finds herself in. She wallows about her house, writes morbid poetry and watches as her mother flirts and sleeps with countless men, however, this is then completely countered by the few scenes that she actually leaves the house she is shown to be a happy go lucky, almost carefree girl, and it’s almost like she is in two entirely different films.

The character gets raped by Duval and instead of reporting it to the Police at any point, she goes to cry in a bath tub, threaten him with a gun and then goes to play a game of basketball, and the film ends with her and her sisters signing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. That is literally how the film ends. There’s no comeuppance for Duval, no resolution for the relationship with her mother and seemingly the only way to get over being raped is to play basketball and have a sing-along with your sisters.

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If you’re going to try and make me feel sympathy for a character, at least try and make the character consistent. I can’t take a supposedly depressed character seriously when she is a perfectly normal and functioning person outside of the house. If she was truly unhappy then she could just leave there as she clearly knows most people around the neighbourhood and could clearly stay with one of them for a while.

Before someone comes up with the “she’s staying for her sisters” argument for putting up with living in the house as long as she does, that is an invalid argument as with her two sisters, one of them is barely in the house and the other is literally not seen once in that house. Cammie is supposedly the sister of Agnes and yet the first time you see them on screen together is in the 83rd minute.

This is not to say that Agnes isn’t well acted by Jennifer Lawrence. It was Lawrence’s first feature film and it’s easy to see why she went onto bigger and better things than this pile of crap. The scene in the bathtub is excellently played by Lawrence and is arguably the stand out scene in the film.

Infact, none of the characters are played poorly, Moretz is fantastic as Cammie, although the character is completely irrelevant to the story. You could take Cammie out of the story and there would literally be no difference to the overall plot (well, what they try and pass of as a plot). She is almost the definition of a pointless character.

The character of Bee is exactly the same, although Bairley is no where near as enjoyable to watch as he counterparts. Much like Cammie, Bee offers nothing to the story and the only thing you learn about her is that she has a paper round and that is near enough literally it. There isn’t a redeeming

It’s not often I say this but I can’t think of a single positive with this film, not one.

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Summary

A meaningless and pointless film that is a complete waste of 92 minutes of your time. It doesn’t have a single redeeming feature and it is one of the most pretentious pieces of crap I’ve ever sat through and watched.

This is 92 minutes of your life that you won’t get back.

Who cares about these people unless they’re eating other people?

Year Released : 2015Dead-Rising-Watchtower-720x1053
Director : Zach Lipovsky
Cast : Jesse Metcalfe, Meghan Ory, Dennis Haysbert, Virginia Madsen and Keegan Connor Tracy

A weeks ago I wrote an article about how there were no well received films based on computer games (click here for that article) and I decided at that point to review the next film that came out that was based on a game, just to see if anyone was improving. That lead me nicely onto “Dead Rising : Watchtower”.

Now, the thing to remember about me and Dead Rising is that whilst I have played the games, or precisely, the second one, I was not a fan at all. I found Dead Rising 2 to be one of the least fun games that I have ever played and after I let a friend borrow it, I didn’t ever ask for it back. Whilst there was a main storyline, you weren’t forced to go through that storyline but there wasn’t a true open world feeling as the game ended after 72 in game hours (if my memory serves me correctly).

The game wasn’t even difficult either, it wasn’t a challenge and it just wasn’t enjoyable, and the only reason I reviewed this was based on the aforementioned look at movies based on computer games.

I also promise that this will be the last zombie film I review for a while. I know that I have reviewed more zombie films than any other type of film and it’s frustrating me, so this will be the last zombie related film that I review for at least three months, that is unless I see something that is astonishingly amazing, or horrendously bad.

For all my other zombie based reviews, here is a link to each of them – Let There Be Zombies, Exit Humanity, Night of the Living Dead : Resurrection, Zombie Apocaylpse and Zombeavers.

Plot

Chase (Metcalfe) is a news reporter trying to get first hand accounts of a zombie outbreak. The outbreak has been kept under control via a drug known as Zombrex, but whilst filming Chase witnesses several patients being given their regular dose and it having no effect. They all start turning and Chase barely makes it out alive before being rescued by Crystal (Ory). The two had previously clashed as Crystal thought Chase was leaching off of the misery of those infected.

As they are trying to escape they encounter grief stricken mother, Maggie (Madsen) but they soon realise that the area has been quarantined off by the military, although Chase’s colleague Jordan (Tracy) manages to make it out at the very last second. Whilst Chase and the group are trying to survive not only the zombies but also a group of humans that have decided that they own the quarantined area, Jordan is uncovering a conspiracy of the zombrex medication being altered to no longer be effective.

After realising that Crystal was infact infected as well, Chase decides to record and broadcast an experiment to the news in which Crystal uses to new batch of zombrex when her medication is needed, and if it doesn’t work, use her own personal stash from her medication wallet. The experiment goes as expected and reveals that the new batch of zombrex is completely ineffective, but how will the military and the government respond to this being shown on the news?

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So, is it as bad as other films based on computer games?

I’m not going to lie, I am genuinely surprised that I am writing this but I actually kind of liked it. I don’t get many pleasant surprises when watching films to review but I am pleased to say that this was an exception.

It’s not entirely positive though and I am going to start with the few negatives and arguably the thing that ruined it for me, the character of Frank West. Frank is a character that’s in the game (more on that later) but his character in the film is nothing like the game character. He character in the film is intolerable as he provides a panel style role on a news station, but everything he says it an attempt at comic relief from the film-makers and it just fails miserable. Every time he is on the screen I actually felt like turning it off, although at least the main news reader quickly grew tired of his crap as well.

It would class the character in the group of those characters that almost single handedly ruin the films. For example, the remake of War of the Worlds was a reasonable film in my opinion, but Dakota Fanning’s performance and character ruined the movie for me. She is a terrible actress at the best of times and you can always tell that she thinks that she is amazing, and yet she ruins virtually every film she is in. The only film I have ever seen where she wasn’t terrible was Push, but even then she was easily the least capable and competent character in it.

This isn’t to say that he isn’t played well be Rob Riggle. Riggle does an amazing job playing the intolerable arsehole, but the character is just awful.

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I’m not going to lie, this film almost lost me within the very first scene as Chase is cornered by two zombes. I say cornered, both of them were several metres away and moving very slowly. There were various methods and directions in which he could escape, but he just stands there looking terrified. Fortunately this is just a one off but I almost turned it off right there and then.

My only other negative really is that the main antagonist is just not very threatening, engaging or even two dimension. The best antagonists in films are the ones where they have bad intentions but you can understand the reasons behind it. For example, in the Star Trek remake in 2009 the main bad guy, Nero, is excellent because although he’s hell bent on destroying all of humanity, it’s because he lost his family due to a supernova, something which Starfleet had agreed to help with but didn’t act in time. You understand why Nero wanted revenge, making him an appealing antagonist.

The antagonist in Dead Rising : Watchtower is just there, that’s the only thing I can really say about him. He’s not a great antagonist, hell, he’s not even a good antagonist. I couldn’t even recall the antagonist’s name, which is never a good thing. I never once felt like he was going to win and that’s never a good thing for a film.

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So enough of the negatives and the first positive I am going to focus on is that despite not being a fan of the games, I am highly pleased that a film that is based on a game actually had relevance to the game. There are many aspects from the games that are used in the film and I really like that. This is right from the obvious things such as the name of a character being used, right to the characters taking two random objects to create a new weapon. How often do you get to see a a chainsaw attached to a boat oar or a machete attached to what appears to be a javelin? It was my favourite aspect of the games and it was nice that the film used that aspect.

The news reports, other than the annoying presence of Frank, were quite entertaining because much like the film “Gone Girl”, it shows that the news stations are prepared and willing to change their stance so easily with the flimsiest of evidence. They are prepared to broadcast anything that they believe will get the ratings in, or to fit their agenda, and that works well in Watchtower (I’m just going to simply call it that now as it’s easier).

It is a true reflection of real life and it’s not the only example of this, with another being how quickly it turns into a free-for-all when the zombie outbreak starts. People who were previously nice and friendly to each other and are suddenly hitting each other to avoid being the next zombie meal.

I’m going to end this relatively short review by talking about arguably my favourite moment lasted only a few seconds. The screen focuses to a man that has become a member of the undead and you realise that he is munching something. He has one of those harnesses on where he carries a baby against his chest, and when he turned his baby was still in the harness. He then uses the baby like a snack-pack right beneath his chin and I have never seen anything like that a film. You never see a baby eaten by a zombie and it was something new. It’s scary in a way because you realise that that child had precisely no chance of surviving.

I love when the films offer something new and you may have noticed in recent reviews that I have been talking about clichés in films, but I couldn’t see one in this film. It was one of the more unique zombie films I’ve ever seen, and for that I applaud it.

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Summary

This was actually a reasonable surprise. I was expecting that it would be terrible and it was a pleasant surprise that it was fairly enjoyable. That however is not to say it’s a great film, there are some fundamental flaws but it is one of the better zombie films that I have seen in recent years, not that that’s saying much

I’m not sure if this will ever get a wide release as it’s only been released on Crackle at the time of watching, but if you’re a fan of the games then I think that you will be reasonably pleased. There are few things better for a fan of computer games when it’s converted to a film and it’s done well, although it doesn’t happen very often at all.

I’ve started getting a few questions through to my emails from people asking me various questions (if you have a question, please email jacksonkate1984@gmail.com) and one question was someone wondering what my favourite ten mainstream films were, and this got me thinking quite hard about it. Five of the films were automatic choices, I didn’t even have to think about them, but then I had trouble with the other five spots.

I had several provisional top 10s but then I would remember another film that I loved that weren’t included but I wanted to get in there somehow, so I then decided to take a different stance with it. Instead of just doing a top ten, I would figure out how many films I do actually love and then round up to the nearest five from there, so when I wrote down 18 films, I decided to simply go with a Top 20 and filled with 2 other films that I like.

So here it is, my Top 20, so to speak, although please note that the only order that these are sorted into is alphabetical order. I could have easily gone with a 20 to 1 approach, but then I would have encountered a similar issue that I had avoided by doing a top 20, so here it goes.

28 Days Later28-Days-Later

Director : Danny Boyle

Cast : Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston

Coming out in November 2002, 28 Days Later became the first 18 Rated film (well, after I turned 18 anyway) that I saw at the cinemas and it scared the living crap out of me. In the years since it has obviously lost that scariness, but remains

28 Days Later follows Jim (Murphy) as he wakes up in a deserted London. He explores various areas of the city but there is not a soul to be seen before he enters a church. In there he sees hundreds of corpses. When he calls out to see if anyone is still alive, he is greeted by several people standing suddenly and glaring at him. Jim hears a distance door opening and someone running up a staircase, a priest bursts through the door and attacks Jim. Jim subdues the priest and runs away, only to then be relentlessly pursued by vicious attackers.

During one attack he is rescued by Selena (Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). Selena reveals that there was a viral outbreak several weeks prior that caused anyone infected with it to become permanently enraged, and infection usually takes hold within seconds. Jim visits his parents to see if they are still alive, only to be greeted by their decomposing bodies. When nightfall comes he explores his old family homes, only for the infected to spot the candlelight and they break in. The trio eventually subdue the infected, but when Selena sees that Mark has a deep cut on his arm, she kills him with a machete, stating that although it wasn’t certain that he was infected, she could tell by his eyes that he knew.

Soon therefore they run into Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns), and together they decide to travel up to Manchester to the source of a signal promising safety from infection, the journey there is far from safe though and they almost die several times. When they arrive at the supposed location of safety they find nothing there. In anger Frank starts ranting and raving, only to become infected when a drop of blood from a dead body gets into his eye. Frank is suddenly shot by soldiers and the group are rescued, but is it necessarily safer with them than it is with the infected nearby?

Had this been a movie about zombies then I would probably go as far as saying that it’s the best zombie film ever made, but as the infected aren’t dead they’re technically not zombies, but that doesn’t detract from what is an incredible British movie. This started off several years of my fellow Brits pumping out quality horror films, including Severance, Creep and a film I have previously reviewed, The Cottage (click for the review). Danny Boyle doesn’t bring out many films but when he does, they are usually quality.

The film has many excellent qualities to it, including bringing the excellent Cillian Murphy to the public eye in what would be the first of three films to date that he has been on screen with Brendan Gleeson. It also uses horror well, with the scariest element being that the infection doesn’t fuck about. It doesn’t take hours or days like most transformations in similar films, once you’re infected, you’re attacking people within thirty seconds, and this leads to an emotionally brilliant scene where Frank is infected, realises that he’s about to turn and tries desperately to say a final goodbye to Hannah in the little time he has left.

Using the methods that Boyle used to film 28 Days Later, don’t expect a clean, 4K quality video, it was literally recorded on a video camera and it shows, but it works. Visually, without having the context of the film, 28 Days Later looks terrible. It’s grainy, saturated and has lighting issues, but it works because you realise that’s what it would actually be like if it were to happen in real life. In too many films these days you will see a supposedly pitch black environment that is fully lit up from a lighter, so filming it on a video camera and using the absolute minimum they could in terms in digital effects.

It’s impossible not to respect the success that they achieved with so little. To manage to do what they did, such as agreeing to clear part of the motorway for several hours and getting the police to stop various people wandering into parts of London so they could film it and make it look deserted, is incredible.

If you’re going to make a zombie film, you need to watch this first because whilst it isn’t a zombie film (they’re not zombies), it does everything a zombie film should do.

 

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Director : Zack Synder

Cast : Gerard Butler, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan, David Wenham and Michael Fassbender

I know some of you will be looking at this and be surprised that I have included 300, but 300 is just one of those films where if there’s nothing else on, you can put this on and not really have to think about it, you can just put it on and go. In that sense it’s like the FIFA series on Playstation and X-Box, if you’re bored, pop it on and you’re enjoying yourself within minutes.

300 tells the story of Leonidas (Butler), the King of Sparta, as he rejects an offer for his country to be spared from a Persian invasion if they agree to find fight for it’s commander, Xerxes (Santoro), a man who believes himself to be a God. Knowing that the Persians will now attack, he seeks to use the army to fight them off, but the law states that Sparta can only go to war if the Oracle allows it, but that the request it denied.

In desperation, Leonidas figures out a loophole in the law and travels with 300 soldiers, who he claims are just there to be his personal bodyguard, as he “goes for a walk”. They soon find their way to Thermopylae and despite being outnumbered many thousands to one, the Spartans easily dispatch what is thrown at them. However, a deformed Spartan that was denied the chance to help defend his country by Leonidas, could cause all of his work to come undone.

300 is one of my favourite films because it is just fun. It’s exactly what a movie is supposed to me. You’re experiencing a battle through the eyes, or eye, of a character who survived the battle and is gearing up the rest of the army. He has been given the job of telling his army the story and making them pumped up and ready for battle, and it works well as an audience member.

Yes, it’s full of cheesiness and more abs than you can shake a stick at, but it’s one of the few films where I can watch it and notice something new every time. I love that even in the battles, even when focusing on just one character, it involves a lot of characters in the background as well. They aren’t just a random blur, you see their fights as clear as you’re seeing the character that’s centrally on screen. You don’t get that often in films and it’s that attention to detail that helps it so much.

I have previously reviewed the first film to be based on the Battle of Thermopylae (click here for that review) but this is one of the few remakes that is better than the original film. Infact, this list has several films that are remakes that are better than their originals and it isn’t something I use lightly. 300 is far better than the original and that’s not even to say that the original was a bad film. The original was more realistic and definitely more grounded with it’s visuals, but what it lacks compared to the original is the adrenaline rush.

Gerard Butler’s brilliant portrayal of Leonidas is one of the best breakthrough performances of the 21st century so far. Butler was already in several major motion pictures before this but this gave him the platform to become a leading man and it’s amazing what he achieved with a script that was full of cheesy one liners and well, more cheesy one liners.

It also has the brilliant Vincent Regan in it. Vincent Regan will feature again in this list and for good reason, he is a remarkable actor and is a joy to watch in any film. Midway through the film his son is killed and Regan goes from crying his eyes out to the angriest you’ve probably ever seen someone on film before, it’s a laudable bit of acting from Regan and anytime I see him on screen, I know I’m about to see an acting masterclass. If anything he is more fun to watch than Butler in this film.

 

Aliens54955776

Director : James Cameron

Cast : Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Lance Henrikson

For me this is comfortably the best film in the Alien franchise. I didn’t particularly like the first one, Alien3 is meh, Resurrection is just there, the first Alien vs Predator film was ok, the less said about the second the better, and don’t even get me started on Prometheus.

Aliens focuses on the sole survivor from the first film, Eleanor Ripley (Weaver) as she is awoken from hypersleep in her pod several decades after escape the ship. She struggles to cope with the more advanced world, especially after finding out that her daughter, who was just a young child at the time of the events of the first film, had died of old age whilst Ripley was asleep.

As Ripley is caught up in legal cases for destroying the ship with no evidence of an alien, a remote outpost sends a distress signal and she joins the marines on their trip.

Despite an initial slow start, the marines eventually find a survivor and just in time to see an alien burst out of her chest. The marines quickly kill it but that angers the nearby hidden aliens and they wipe out most of the marines. With only a small handful of them left, they must escape the station soon due to a pending explosion, but there is something more dangerous laying in wait.

James Cameron did such an amazing job with this film and the damaged, but still strong character of Ripley. Ripley is struggling in this film due to the death of her daughter but you see her try and establish that same mother-daughter style relationship with a child who has somehow survived on the station amongst the attacks.

It’s the little touches that make Cameron such a huge box office draw, and despite it being a sci-fi/horror movie, Aliens is also a great character driven movie and even those that don’t have a lot of screen time are given indications of what they’re like as a person. It’s not just the main characters that are developed, but the minor touches added, such as writing “Fly the friendly skies” on a pilot’s helmet is a subtle, yet very important aspect of building an otherwise unremarkable character.

Cameron also gets the pacing exceptionally well, and the first alien doesn’t even appear on screen until more than an hour into the movie. Up until that point it’s just a slow build, then action, time to breath, action again and so on. It’s not 100mph like a lot of horror films, there is a great chance to “take a breather” because the well executed action sequences.

Once scene that sticks in my mind as fantastic is when the marines have turrets set up in a narrow tunnel and they fire based on movement. You don’t see the guns firing, all you see is the screen showing the rapidly decreasing amount of bullets in the gun and the increasing panic of the characters as the chance of the aliens getting through increases. It’s an exceptionally well acted scene between several actors who moved onto much bigger things after this film.

 

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Director : Mary Harron

Cast : Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Willem Da Foe, Reese Witherspoon and Chloe Sevingy

In my opinion one of Christian Bale’s best performances comes from one of the his earliest films from his adulthood, American Psycho. I have been a fan of Bale since first seeing him in 1991’s Treasure Island, but it wasn’t until he reached adulthood that he became a great actor and he features three times in my top 20 list, with only one other actor having more than that.

American Psycho is set in the 1980s at the height of the yuppie era, and one such yuppie is Patrick Bateman (Bale). On the outside Bateman is just your average 20something that has done well in life due to his father practically owning the company that he works for. He enjoys the finer things in life and is engaged to the neurotic Evelyn (Witherspoon), although he is sleeping with the girlfriend of a colleague.

In his spare time however, Patrick is far from normal and kills people on a regular basis, including prostitutes, random people that he meets in nightclubs and models. Patrick soon becomes jealous of his colleague, Paul Allen (Leto), a man who keeps one-upping him in terms of getting seats at a restaurant that Patrick can’t get a reservation for, a better apartment and even a better business card (leading to one of the best scenes in the movie). Patrick tricks Paul into coming to his apartment and kills him with an axe. Patrick must then cover up his tracks as the police investigation begins.

American Psycho is a near perfect satire of life in 1980s America and none more so than Bateman himself, who is consistently loathing those around him, especially anyone who achieves more than he does, such as Paul, and he is played superbly by Bale. Bale’s ability to play someone who is all smiles on the outside but is planing to kill someone on the inside is a joy to watch and it’s refreshing to see an actor embrace a role of a character that you’re not really supposed to like but you can’t help but do so.

His feelings on the inside not matching his outside appearance is one of many continuing themes throughout the film and the contradiction between the situation and the way the film approaches it is joyful to watch. For example, in the seen where Paul is getting killed, Patrick has started playing “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, a complete contradiction of moods and it is portrayed so perfectly.

It is one of many interesting themes that are explored in the film, with others being the constant mistaken identity and mishearing what other people are saying, which comes to a head in one of the best endings on my top 20 list. It is an ending that leaves you asking questions and that is a great way to leave things sometimes. For example, if you think of the ending to Inception, people are still debating to this day whether Cobb is dreaming or not as you never see the top fall, that has lead to some great discussions online, including one theorising that the top isn’t his totem to begin with.

The ending in American Psycho is similar in the sense that even now, 15 years after it’s initial release (it’s the 15th anniversary on April 14th), people are still debating the ending and what it means. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t seen it, so if you haven’t then I would seriously recommend it.

There has been talk of a remake recently to follow the book a bit more closely (the book has far more depraved acts), but I hope they don’t as this is more of a one off masterpiece rather than something that should be explored on a regular basis.

 

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventurebillandtedfront

Director : Stephen Herek

Cast : Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves and George Carlin

Just one of two comedies that will appear on this list of my Top 20 films is the 1989 hit “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Despite being 26 years old, this film has dated relatively well as it is still relateable to any generation. Although it is a definite 80s film in terms of it’s style and presentation, the story can be translated to work for any generation and any time and that is something that you can’t say for many other films.

For example, if you taken American Psycho out of the 80s it wouldn’t work because it focuses primarily on the yuppie lifestyle of the 1980s, Aliens must be set in the future due to the technology, but Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure could be set at any point in time from when schools became commonplace because the struggling students getting an unusual chance to do something part of the storyline.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows slackers Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) as they are destined to change the world into a better place, bringing peace to the universe through rock and roll, but they don’t know this and are set to fail their high school history class. Failing the class would mean that Ted’s father would send him off to military school in Alaska and thus the band wouldn’t exist in the future. Rufus (Carlin) is sent back in time to help them pass by giving them a phone booth to learn about history first hand.

The phone booth can be used to travel through time and the pair figure that instead of simply learning from the historical figures, they can achieve more by actually bringing several historical figures back to the modern day to help them. Amongst those historical figures are Billy the Kid, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and several others. The journey is far from trouble free though as the phone booth gets damaged and their travel becomes sporadic. They do eventually find their way back to the the present day, but in a world completely unfamiliar to them, the historical figures don’t stay put.

Excellent Adventure is one of my favourite films from that era of the late 80s and early 90s. It is one of the few genuinely fun movies out there that you can just sit back, relax and enjoy what you’re about to watch. It is like most films from that era and celebrates it, rather than mocking it in some sense. The 1980s was full of great movies and this was one of the last ones to come out during the decade, but again it stands the test of time.

It’s rare to find a mainstream comedy film from the 1980s that wasn’t fun, it’s a generation that knew how to do comedies well, and there were quite a few that came very close to being included in this list, including Weird Science, The Goonies and many more.

It is also a very rare film where Keanu Reeves doesn’t actually look like he’s not enjoying himself. Whereas Winter hasn’t really had a big on screen career at all, Reeves has been in the main stream attention on various occasions since Excellent Adventure came out, with big roles in 1991’s Point Break, 1994’s Speed, 1999’s The Matrix and several others, but he has never truly been a mega-star and therefore his returning to a franchise from early in his career wouldn’t be out of the question. There has been talk of a third film in the franchise, set around the two when they are in their 40s, but whether we want to see another Bill and Ted film is another question.

 

Fight ClubFight_Club_Edward_by_cromley009

Director : David Fincher

Cast : Brad Pitt, Ed Norton, Jared Leto, Meatloaf and Helena Botham Carter

If I was to rank these top 20 films in order of my preferences then there is a very, very good chance that Fight Club would rank as Number One. Yes, that’s right, my top film, there is only one film that would rival that spot but that won’t come until part 2 of the list, but for now I want to laud this film as much as I can.

Fight Club is just an incredible piece of cinema, you can’t put it into a single genre and there is largely something for everyone, and even Helena Botham Carter doesn’t ruin it, which is probably the most lauding thing I can give to it. It makes the emotional void and talentless vacuum tolerable, something which I never thought possible.

An unnamed narrator (Norton) is a man who can’t sleep and after a trip to the doctor to find out what’s wrong with him, it’s recommended that to understand true suffering that he should attend support groups. Whilst there he meets a woman called Marla (Botham Carter) and after several arguments, they agree to go their separate ways.

The narrator soon meets Tyler Durden (Pitt) on a flight and after discovering that his condo has been blown up, he stays in Tyler’s run-down house in the middle of nowhere. Tyler convinces the narrator that the only way to live life is in a carefree manner and to achieve this you need to take your aggression out on others, so they start an underground boxing club called Fight Club.

There are only a few rules of Fight Club and it turns out to be a big hit, however, Tyler soon starts taking Fight Club to the next level, turning it into Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem sets out to commit acts of terrorism against anything corporate, such as destroying corporate art, coffee chain franchises, computer stores and expensive cars. The narrator soon becomes exceptionally frustrated that Tyler doesn’t share information with him, but when Tyler does choose to share a certain bit of information, it is the most shocking bit of news of the narrator’s life.

I really want to say what the twist is for those that don’t know, but I can’t because I want anyone who experiences this film for the first time and doesn’t know the twist to be as shocked as most people were when they saw it for the first time. I unfortunately can never say that as someone told me the twist before I saw the film, but even then it still wowed me when I eventually saw it.

Fight Club has tremendous rewatchability for numerous reasons. Once you know what the twist is you look for the signs of it throughout the film and every time I do watch it, I see something new. One of the fun little games is looking for a Starbucks cup because there is supposedly a Starbucks cup in every single shot.

For a glowing look at the film, all you have to do is realise that the author of the book, Chuck Pahalniuk, has even said himself that the film is better than the book. I read the novel soon after watching the film and the book is excellent, but when the author says that even the film is better, you know you’re onto a winner. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Pahalniuk pens the sequel.

 

Moneyballmoneyball-poster

Director : Bennett Miller

Cast : Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

Remember earlier when I mentioned that only one actor appeared in more films in this list than Christian Bale? Well that actor is Brad Pitt, appearing in this list for the second time, and by the time this list ends he will have been featured four times.

This follows on from a few weeks ago when I was looking through my Blu-Ray collection and there were a lot that featured Brad Pitt, it was at that point I realised that he was probably my favourite actor that’s still working on a regular bass. He rarely has a bad film and this was the same.

I’m not going to lie, I know precisely nothing about baseball other than the basic rules and some of the better known teams, i/e the Yankees, so I found myself surprised that I was watching this and when I saw it in the cinema, I was the only person in the screen. Baseball is not even slightly big in the UK and although I’ve watched a few games here and there, I’ve never seen any of my fellow Brits on Facebook or Twitter mentioning the sport.

Because this is actually a historical based story, rather than fiction, I’m going to talk about the entire film, now just a summary. Therefore, incase you haven’t figured that out, it will contain spoilers.

Moneyball tells the true story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in their 2002 season. The season starts with the Athletics losing their three star players and it is the duty of Billy Beane (Pitt), the General Manager, to replace them. The only issue is that Oakland have one of the lowest budgets in the league and they can’t replace them with established stars. When visiting the Cleveland Indians, Beane is intrigued by the input of an unknown office worker in a meeting by the name of Peter Brand (Hill).

Beane hires Brand when he learns of a unique system for bringing in players to establish their value. Instead of home runs or any other similar stats, Brand’s formula works on aspects such as how many times a player gets on base. The approach to signing players is met with ridicule by everyone and the early season results reflect this. Manager Art Howe (Seymour Hoffman) says that the approach, along with the lack of security with a rolling one year contract, means he can’t do his job properly and regularly threatens to leave.

Howe purposefully starts ignoring the instructions from Beane, including not playing his players. Beane responds by trading out the players that Howe keeps playing. Despite the high tensions, the A’s start winning a few games and they soon equal a record breaking winning run and they head into a game against Kansas to make it an unprecedented 20 in a row.

Thee game starts perfectly for the A’s as they quickly establish an 11-0 lead, but Kansa gradually pulls it back. Going into the final inning, one of the players brought in under the new system, Mark Hatteberg (Pratt) hits a walk-off home run and wins the game for the A’s. Despite this, the A’s lose in the Playoffs to the Minnesota Twins. The film ends with Beane rejecting a contract to take over at the Boston Red Sox.

All sports movies should do things the way that Moneyball did it. I’ll use the Mighty Ducks franchise as an example of how not to do it. According to the Mighty Ducks, the only things you really need to suddenly become unbeatable is a new jersey, to be taught how to receive a puck properly and shoot at a goalkeeper who is tied up. I don’t care how crap you are as a team, you’re not going to become unbeatable after months and months of being awful, and that’s what most sports films do.

Now, I know that this film is slightly different to most sports teams because it is actually based on real events, which helps with the realism factor, but again, it doesn’t pretend that all of a sudden the team are unbeatable. It shows that they are still very much very close to going back to where they started, whereas in most sports films once the team starts winning, there’s nothing that can stop them.

Against, I don’t really know anything about baseball, but the system that Brand comes up with seems the most realistic way to get success. It’s all well and good filling your team with star players if they don’t produce. I would rather have a bunch of unknowns that are statistically proven to succeed, rather than big name stars that don’t produce when it’s needed.

Hill is fantastic as Brand and does feel very believable as a guy who would come up with a statistical formula. Hill has grown as an actor in recent years and well beyond his comedic beginnings. I wasn’t a fan of him as a comedy actor, but as a serious actor he is exceptionally. With this and his performance in The Wolf on Wall Street, have turned me completely on side with him. For me he is the highlight of this movie and puts in a more memorable performance than Pitt, which is saying something given that Pitt is the main star in this film.

Arguably the main reason that I like Moneyball is that it’s all very real, it’s not given the usual sports movie treatment of ridiculous montages, overpowering music or anything or a similar nature. Moneyball treats everything like you’re there and a participant in every seen. Conversations are long, drawn out and feel natural, they’re not to the point every single time and feel more realistic because of this. In many ways it feels more like a fly on the wall documentary and you’re observing real life.

And finally, before I move onto the next film, I want to talk about the soundtrack and more specifically, the song “The Mighty Rio Grande” by a group called “This Will Destroy You”. This song is enough to send shivers down your spine due to the atmospheric nature of it and it is used excellently throughout the film. Find the song, press play, close your eyes and think of an amazing time in your life. I guarantee you that after you’ve done that, that already amazing time will feel even more epic.

 

NightcrawlerNightcrawlerfilm

Director : Dan Gilroy

Cast : Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton

Those of you who have been reading my site for a while will remember me talking about this film during my look at my Top 10 films of 2014 and how I ranked it as Number One, and by quite a long way. In particular I said that it was the only film I was able to give a perfect 10 for last year.

It is the only film from 2014 that will feature in this list and yet the remarkable thing is that I almost didn’t even see it. I went to the cinema to watch something else, Purge : Anarchy if memory serves me correctly, but I got there slightly too late for the showing I was intending to watch so I decided to go and watch a later showing instead, but in between was Nightcrawler. I had not been impressed with the trailer for Nightcrawler but I decided to give it a shot anyway and I’m so glad that I did.

What makes it even more awesome is that my brother bought this on Blu-Ray when I was out of work and then decided he didn’t want it, so gave me it for nothing. I got a Blu-Ray of my favourite film of 2014, and arguably of this decade so far, for free. How awesome is that?

Lou (Gyllenhaal) is a man down on his luck and trying to make money any way he can. He steals chain link fences to sell as scrap metal and whilst he is making money from it, he is after more. After being rejected for a job because of being a thief he encounters a car crash and a man called Joe (Paxton) recording it. He realises that he can make money by recording footage and selling it to the local news stations.

Whilst at Los Angeles beach, Lou steals a sports bike and sells it in exchange for a camera and police scanner, and he starts going out and night and recording everything he can find. He sells the video to the only station that will buy it and he meets Nina (Russo). Upon realising that the better footage he gets, the more money he will get, he hires Rick (Ahmed). Rick is keen to impress but is equally as concerned about money and is constantly asking Lou for a review and raise, much to the annoyance of Lou.

As time moves on, Lou is able to get better footage and better equipment, but soon he starts breaking the law in order to get better footage, such as not reporting a home invasion to the police, allowing him to get inside and footage of the victims before the police are even aware. With this comes risks and Lou blackmails Nina into having sex with him.

However, Lou isn’t the only person out to get footage and when he realises that Joe’s operation has grown and he now operates two vans. Lou purposes sabotage’s Joe’s car, causing him to crash and get numerous life threatening industries. Just how far will Lou go before it’s too far?

Before I saw this, I was never really that impressed with Gyllenhaal but he has completely won me over with his performance as Lou. It’s hard to really describe in words what his performance other than stupendous and tour-de-force. Gyllenhaal transformed himself into the character and you genuinely feel that Lou was a threat because of how well Gyllenhaal plays the character. His nonchalance towards causing physical harm and even death to various characters is just incredible to watch, and yet you want him to succeed.

Gyllenhaal’s delivery of threatening lines is a sign of great acting, afterall, who could say the following with glee and make it sound almost gleeful – “What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you’d have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that’s what I’m telling you, as clearly as I can.”

Much like Moneyball, the soundtrack for Nightcrawler helps superbly with the creation of a great atmosphere. The subtle guitar work, mixed with a sort of ambient theme, mixed with the neo-noir atmosphere of Los Angeles and night brings the environment to life. I’ve never been to Los Angeles and never had any intention of going before I saw this film. This made me want to visit what is supposedly one of America’s greatest cities and that is a great advert for the film.

Nightcrawler, as I said earlier, is a rare perfect 10 for me. If I did a scoring system on this website then this would get the full marks and if I had ranked every film within this list in terms of preference, this would have a great chance of being in the Top 5, it would certainly be Top 10.

 

Rushrush-salvatore-ferragamo-001

Director : Ron Howard

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino

From my favourite film of 2014 to the one from the previous year and the magnificent Rush. Rush is based on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the early to mid 1970s, a rivalry that started out professionally but very quickly turns personal.

Unlike baseball, I am actually a fan of Formula One, or rather, at least I used to be. I know a fair old bit about the sport and although it’s nowhere near as interesting as it used to be, it’s safe to say that this captures the excitement of what it used to be like. Before recently it used to be about who was the better driver as cars used to be very similar, whereas no there is usually one car that is miles above the rest and it doesn’t necessarily have to have the best driver in it to succeed.

Much like Moneyball, because this is based on historical events I am going to write exactly what happens right through to the ending, so again, spoiler alert

James Hunt (Hemsworth) is preparing for the 1970 Formula Three race at Crystal Palace when he lays eyes on Niki Lauda (Brühl) for the first time and they soon get into an argument after Hunt races in a dangerous manner, almost causing Lauda to crash. Lauda soon buys himself into Formula One and quickly establishes himself as a great driver. Hunt’s group decides to enter Formula One as well.

Hunt and Lauda renew their rivalry but Hesketh is no match for Lauda’s Ferrari. Hunt joins McLaren, a car that can make him competitive and the two, whilst respecting each other’s abilities, start a bitter rivalry for the title. Meanwhile, Hunt’s marriage has fallen apart and that, combined with bad luck, means Niki establishes a very early and seemingly dominating lead in the title race.

Niki marries his girlfriend just before the German Grand Prix is due to take place. The weather is terrible and the track already has a reputation for injuring people and taking lives. Niki calls a meeting to get the race postponed but Hunt rallies the room to vote for the race to go ahead. Lauda’s suspension breaks midway through the third lap and sends him crashing into the safety railing. Lauda has to be pulled from the burning wreckage and is taken to hospital.

In his absense Hunt closes the gap and this motivates a severely burnt and ill Niki to come back. Niki does eventually recover to rejoin the season still in the lead of the title race. Niki struggles in his first race back, quickly overcome with fear of the same thing happening again, but he soon regains his focus and goes on to finish the race, whereas Hunt has mechanical failures. That result means that despite missing a hefty section of the season, Lauda goes into the final day ahead of Hunt, but the weather when the race goes ahead is worse than Germany and Lauda leaves the race early on, realising that it isn’t worth the risk. Hunt eventually goes on to finish third and therefore winning the title.

Rush is one of the most stylish and realistic sports films that I have ever seen, possibly only bettered by Moneyball. Rush is visually incredible on every single level, right down to the simple things, such as Niki Lauda’s overbite. Too many sports films based on historical events ignore the little things, such as not making the actors look like those that they are portraying, and if you see a picture of Daniel Brühl normally compared to how he looked in the film, you will be amazed. It is a truly incredible transformation that the film-makers have pulled off.

Brühl is incredible as the Austrian Lauda and it’s impossible not to be impressed by him. I first became aware of Brühl due to his appearance in Inglorious Basterds and his mesmerising portrayal of a seemingly well mannered young man who simply won’t take no for an answer. He brings a great level of sympathy to the character because although the character is a self confessed arsehole, you understand why he is how he is and Brühl plays it excellently.

Both Landa and Hunt are portrayed as exactly what they were, flawed human beings. Hunt, despite being a world class racing driver, struggles with the normalities of life and this costs him his marriage, and Landa refuses to accept anything less than perfection and doesn’t know how to do anything other than via the most simple to achieve it. For example, when he marries his girlfriend, it’s simply in a registry office, he doesn’t go with a full on wedding because it is simple. Even Landa’s home is as basic as it gets.

Hunt and Landa are the perfect antithesis to each other and the duel between them, and how it escalates from a mere professional rivalry to a more personal battle, is a great build, but even better is when Niki has had his rivalry and James’ reaction to it. James’ guilt about how he rallied the other racers to ignore Niki’s protests for a race to go ahead, and the subsequent accident, is the perfect character development.

At the time of writing, Rush is ranked 161 in the IMDB Top 250 and yet was completely ignored by the Oscars, not even one nomination. It is highly unusual for a mainstream film to be in the IMDB Top 250 without receiving a single Oscar nomination.

 

Scott Pilgrim vs the WorldScott_Pilgrim_vs._the_World_teaser

Director : Edgar Wright

Cast : Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Ellen Wong and Mark Webber

Much like Nightcrawler I had precisely no interest in watching this film when I first saw it advertised and only saw it because I had time to kill in Sheffield. I was there to watch football but decided to do Christmas shopping before hand. I still had about 5 hours to kill so I went to the Vue that’s in Meadowhall and this was the only film on that whilst I didn’t overly want to see it, looked tolerable. It subsequently became arguably my favourite comedy film.

Portrayed in similar fashion to a video game and a mix of pop culture references, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is one of the most enjoyably fun films I’ve ever seen. It is one of the most visually unique films that I have ever seen, right from the simple things such as presenting a “pee bar” (similar to a life bar in a computer game) when Scott goes to toilet, right up to it’s comic book style visuals when one of the evil ex’s is skating down a steel bar too fast.

Scott (Cera) is a 22 year old going nowhere in life and refuses to admit it. One day he starts dating Knives Chau (Wong), a 17 year old high school student and Scott gets openly mocked by his friends and family. Scott soon attends a party there he lays eyes on Ramona (Winstead) for the first time, but his attempts at small talk go hilariously badly. Scott wallows in this for several days before he devises a plan to get Ramona around to his house.

After a while the pair do eventually start dating, all whilst Scott is still with Knives. When Scott’s band is invited to compete at a Battle of the Bands event and midway through performing, Scott is suddenly attacked by a man who claims to be one of Ramona’s ex-boyfriends and the first of seven tests he must past. Scott eventually makes light work of the man before Ramona reveals that in order for them to date, Scott must defeat he seven evil-ex’s. Scott finally breaks up with Knives.

As Scott progresses through his week to keeps running into more evil ex’s, finding it increasingly difficult to defeat each of them as their powers become more extreme. With his neuroticism in full swing, Scott begins to question whether Ramona is worth all of the effort and soon starts taking a half-arsed approach to the situation, only becoming concerned again after they split up and Ramona gets back together with one of her former boyfriends, Gideon (Schwartzman).

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is an excellent throw away film. If you have a random Sunday afternoon where you have nothing at all planned, this is an excellent film to put on and enjoy for a few hours. Much like Fight Club, every time you watch you get something new from the film and that is something that is so rare with films these days. There is always something that you’ve forgotten and it is a delight

The humour within Scott Pilgrim vs the World is relateable, regardless of whether you’re a geek of not. There is a joke for everyone and my personal favourite comes from ex-boyfriend number 3, Todd. Todd is a vegan and because of this, he is granted special powers, such as telekinesis, but when he accidentally drinks an animal based product, the vegan police show up and strip him of all of his powers. He is the scene in all of it’s glory.

 

Arguably the biggest plus for me though is that it is full of people that can’t act and actually makes it enjoyable. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick and many other members of the cast are terrible at acting, especially Plaza, and yet they somehow make it work and make the film enjoyable, which is something that if you told me that this was the cast and nothing else about the film, I wouldn’t watch it.

Scott Pilgrim vs the world is an enjoyable romp and although it does start getting a little tiresome towards the end, it is still at least an 8 out of 10. I’m not going to lie, if I was ranking all of the films that feature in this list of my top 20 films, Scott Pilgrim vs the World would be in the lower reaches of the list, but it is still a worthy addition to my list.

 

 

So that’s it for Part One of my Top 20, I will be posting Part 2 within the next few weeks.

If you try to set my island on fire again, I’ll gut you like a fish!

Year Released : 2009The_Black_Waters_of_Echo's_Pond
Director : Gabriel Bologna
Cast : Robert Patrick, Danielle Harris, James Duval, Nick Mennell and Mircea Monroe

If you were born in the mid-late 80s then chances are that one of your favourite films during your youth was the fantasy film, Jumanji. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Jumanji, it was basically set around two kids in the modern day that find a board game and when they role the dice, a message appears in the central dome and whatever is in that message comes true, such as a lion randomly appearing, a stampede storming through the house and vines coming out of everywhere. It was one of the truly great enjoyable films of the 1990s.

It was one of the most unique concepts for a film that I have ever seen, and I write this before I even start watching The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, I love that someone has tried a much darker and more horrific take on the concept. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m very much against directly stealing concepts from other films, but this seemed very different. For this reason I was looking forward to it.

However, this film was on the Horror Channel. For those that don’t live in the UK, the Horror Channel is the home of exceptionally low budget films that no-one has ever heard of. I could literally write about every film that appears on there for this site and be confident that 90% of those that read my reviews won’t have heard of them. They do occasionally show a decent horror films, such as a film called Dark Floors which I will review in the near future, but the channel is definitely more hit than miss.

Plot

A group of friends travel to a remote island for a weekend away and whilst searching for the fuse box, they find an ancient board game, written with ancient symbols and references to demons and hauntings. When the group starts playing it starts as fun and games, but soon they soon start to realise that the answers everyone are going too far, and even worse that those giving the answers don’t know that they’re going to it. Rick (Duval) soon grows tired of everyone turning against him and not appreciating how he has helped them (such as paying for an engagement ring) and leaves the game.

Those that continue to play find themselves in more and more uncomfortable situations and as the truth is revealed about numerous situations, including who wants to have sex with each other and professional jealousy between those that work together. Eventually the group splits up into their little groups, each with their own issues to solve and this isn’t helped by a demon that is slowly taking possession of them all.

cast

So is it like Jumanji?

Yes, it is like Jumanji, if you take out all of the fun, genuine suspense, good acting, an ending that didn’t leave you pissed off and everything else that made Jumanji a success.

You know, I am so fucked off with how the filmed ended that I am going to just tell you how it ends. It literally ends with it all being a vision. Nothing that you have seen during the previous 1 hour 30odd minutes is actually real, Rick has imagined every single minute of it. That is literally how the film ends. You know, I wasn’t going to give this film a favourable view anyway but that has just angered me.

I’ve often said in this reviews that I feel like I have wasted my time, but never more so than this. 90 or so minutes of film turns out to be nothing more than a dream/vision that one of the characters is having. Now, this is not the first time I have seen this in film, with the most high profile example being the ending battle of the Twilight films and it turns out that it’s nothing more than a vision that one of the vampires is showing to one of the others.

If I did a scoring system, that right there would have knocked the film down from a 3/10 to a 0.5/10 because that’s how much of a waste of time this film was. I can forgive bad endings but that just took the absolute piss.

As I said though, before that I would probably have given it a 3 out of 10, so it wasn’t really doing that well to begin with so let’s examine why.

Let me start with the terrible acting and whilst most of them are relatively average and un-noteworthy, I have to bring up just how poor the performances of Electra and Elise Avellan, I would even go as far as being diabolical. I’ve only seen them once before and that was in Planet Terror, and they were pretty bad in that, but now they have someone managed to expand on their atrocious performances. Now, I’m used to awful acting, see my recent review of Let There Be Zombies for a fine example of that, but the difference is that the terrible acting was actually quite amusing and funny, whereas watching the Avellan sisters act is nigh on torturous. They really are that bad.

Black_Waters_of_Echo_Pond_1

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t alone in their awfulness, but they are definitely the worst of the worst and in terms of characters, they offer nothing. I lost count of how many times that they use the words fiancées, husband or anything of a similar nature. The other characters aren’t particularly riveting though, and one of the main issues causing this is that there are too many main characters for such a very limited concept.

Jumanji worked well for many reasons, like I mentioned earlier, but one of the key aspects to it’s success was a relatively small main cast, with only four main cast members that are well developed, and a strong supporting cast with them. The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond doesn’t have the same level of development for any of it’s characters really, expect for when they are possessed by a demon, and then they turn into what you could argue are their true selves turned up….but the problem is that they are possessed and because of that it’s not really true character development.

I suppose it’s just one of many clichés that accompanies any film that centres around demons and possessions, and that leads me neatly onto what is becoming an all too familiar feature on this site. Now, I don’t like consistently pointing out clichés, I would love to review a truly unique film at some point, but the problem with horror films is that they are often so unoriginal that it’s impossible not to notice things that you’ve seen plenty of times before. So here it goes, the clichés…..

  • As soon as the characters arrive on the island, there isn’t any phone signal….because of course, that would be too easy
  • One of the group of friends is a stoner
  • Actor in his late 30s portraying someone who is in his early 20s. James Duval was 37 when the film was released and although the character’s is never revealed, it is obviously intended to be someone just out of his teenage years.
  • All of the electricity on the island goes out shortly after they get there
  • Girl gets a vision of the demon that no-one else sees and no-one believes her
  • Two of the group used to date each other
  • One of the group is a girl who removes/loses a piece of clothing every time she appears on the screen, eventually shown completely naked.
  • Group are told of the dangers of playing the game, they ignore them

Once, just once, I’d love to see something original in horror films, but alas, I doubt we will anytime soon.

 

So after something that pissed me off, actresses that can’t act and an ever growing list of cliches, the only thing left to talk about is the soundtrack. There isn’t actually a lot of music in the film, but when there is it is just bizarre. There is a scene early on when Rick has a pornographic movie that he wants everyone to watch, they soon start playing a game of piggy in the middle with it and there is a bizarre, country song playing in the background. Sometimes I am left puzzled by film-makers choosing what songs to use and this film is full of such occasions.MCDBLWA EC023

Summary

This is almost the very definition of a what-of-time movie. When you realise at the end that not a single thing you have just seen actually happened and it was all in someone’s imagination/vision, you can’t respect the film, and that’s how I felt. As I mentioned earlier, when I realised what had just happened, I lost all respect that I had previously had for the film, which wasn’t much to begin with, and if I did a scoring system (I might introduce one soon giving how many times I say that) then it would have gone down from a 3/10 to less than 1/10.

I can not emphasise enough that you should not waste your time with this film, but that’s what it does with you.