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Speed Racer [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
Speed Racer [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Emile Hirsch
Price: 5.00

3.0 out of 5 stars What it says on the 'Tin', 25 Dec 2013
This 2008 offering from the Wachowskis is about as close to a live-action version of a 60s cartoon series as you'll get, both in its pros and cons: the good including the exuberant, colorful visuals, some great racing sequences that are like a fusion of anime, Tex Avery and Mario Kart, and a fine cast of familiars, with Goodman in particular being solid and burly in his role as Speed's old fashioned father.

However, these are offset by a limited, one note story that does feel stretched at times, archetypical characters with the bare basics of personality (again, not that different from these kind of shows way back when) and some really forced & uninsightful commentary on the underhanded nature of the automobile & racing business, muddying who the film's intended demographic is.

That being said, the kid inside will perhaps see just the sheer, bombastic joy of this madcap, indulgent effects explosion, and the film's frenetic pace more or less matches that of the cartoon's, widely parodied since, so at least it can be accused of disloyalty. The Wachowskis set out to make a film of this type of show, and well, it came out as it should've, for better and worse.

Cutthroat Island [DVD]
Cutthroat Island [DVD]
Dvd ~ Geena Davis
Price: 5.47

2.0 out of 5 stars The Sinker of Carolco, 25 Dec 2013
This review is from: Cutthroat Island [DVD] (DVD)
Yes, the film history remembers as one of the most glorious failures of the 90s: the film that cut the rising careers of Geena Davis & director Renny Harlin short, and sank the studio that gave us Terminator 2 alongside the similarly dismal performance of Paul Verhoven's trashy-culty favourite Showgirls. But is it truly all that awful?

Well, yes and no.

Some decent action set pieces, including the completely CGI-Free pirate ship battle at the end, competent performances from its talented cast, with veteran Frank Langella hamming it up like there is no tomorrow, and a sweeping, majestic and awe-inspiring orchestral score by John Debney do help out. Aside from that, though, Harlin's pirate adventure suffers from an incredibly clunky & choppy script filled with awkward dialogue, sometimes lanky pacing that slows the film down several times, and flat characters that badly need a sense of roguish charm & lovability, and looking back now, reminds us how much Disney's 'Pirates' was needed to resurrect this particular type of film.

Worthwhile viewing for those into film history or this particular genre, but aside from that, even the later POTCs were better.

The Lost City [DVD]
The Lost City [DVD]
Dvd ~ Andy Garcia
Price: 12.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lost Opportunity, 3 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Lost City [DVD] (DVD)
Andy Garcia's Cuban odyssey ultimately succumbs to a lot of the same problems as many historical pieces, telling a story that is far less compelling than its setting or the actual history (the memory of Micheal Bay's woeful 'Pearl Harbor' lingering all too near).

With an underutilised cast, Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray utterly wasted and bored in their roles (Hoffman in an almost throwaway role as mob boss Meyer Lansky, for all of ten minutes across the whole film), uneven direction that spans from vibrant & colourful to amateurishly bland & flat, and woefully slow pacing (especially for a near 2 1/2 hour feature that should be more careful) and you have an admirable but ultimately misguided effort.

It's truly a shame, as the peppy Cuban soundtrack, the production values for an independent feature that recreate Cuba of the 50s, and Garcia's solid turn as the lead man certainly are a good foundation for a far, far better film, just not this time and not this one.

From Up On Poppy Hill [Blu-ray]
From Up On Poppy Hill [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Goro Miyazaki
Price: 19.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical teen love story, 3 Oct 2013
The Miyazakis' tale of young love, family secrets and connections to the past boasts all of the same strengths as the studio's many, many gems. This is all tanks to a number of elements, such as some of the most gorgeous & vibrant animation of the year, bringing 1960s Japan to beautiful, hand-drawn life. Mix that with some terrific voice work that adds a huge amount of personality, and a story that can be sweet and comforting, but also unsettling and emotional in equal measure (tackling a pretty taboo subject, made all the more touchy due to our protagonists' age), and 'Poppy Hill' is a truly stellar film that shows Good Old Hayao is far from out of his unique brand of tricks, while his son, Goro, has quite the bright future ahead of him...

The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Price: 9.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than you might Believe..., 3 Oct 2013
Disney, of all people, offers a grandiose western that sets out to reinvent the iconic masked cowboy and his Native American sidekick in a tale that documents their first adventure together. So, after mass critical mauling and box office stagnation, what do I think of it?

Indulgent and a tad unwieldy though it may be, Verbinski's oddball western still packs a very meaty punch. This is thanks to some of the most intense and well shot action setpieces of 2013, including a phenomenal twin train chase climax. Add in a stirring remix of William Tell's Overture by Hans Zimmer for the aforementioned climax that amps up the atmosphere, and it reverts one to younger, simpler days of tall popcorns and matinee fun. But then, throw in a dash of darkly Terry Gilliam-esque humour and jabs at the mythologizing of the West, and you have that little bit more substance than most large-scale films.

Go in more expecting a Sergio Leone epic by way of Tex Avery/Bob Clampett madness, and I think you'll be quite surprised, curious kemosabes. Hi-Ho, Silver!

The Legend of the Lone Ranger [Blu-ray] [UK Region German Import]
The Legend of the Lone Ranger [Blu-ray] [UK Region German Import]
Dvd ~ Christopher Lloyd
Offered by nagiry
Price: 12.47

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Both Misfire and Success, 18 Sep 2013
History has seemingly repeat itself this past summer, as both the 2013 and this 1981 version of the legendary lawman suffered critical and commercial decimation. But is there a silver lining to this cloud, some 30 years later?

Well, while the dubbing of our hero is poor (Spilsbury's voice was replaced by James Keach during post production), and some story elements and characters go nowhere (like the love interest who only serves a cheap way for the hero to find the villain in the last act, or that Wild Bill, Custer and 'Buffalo' Cody just so happen to be riding with President Grant as he tours the frontier), this infamous take on the iconic Western avenger is not all that bad really. Thanks to competent direction from veteran Fraker, with some sweeping Western vistas to boot, some fun set pieces like the battle in Cavendish's fort or a chase on a stagecoach, and a more than capable supporting cast, with Robards as a humorously drunken Grant and Lloyd as the bandit-turned-dictator Cavendish), 'Legend' achieves a simple popcorn enjoyability for anyone looking for a quick Western fix when you don't have time for Leone or Ford.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2013 10:47 PM BST

For Greater Glory [DVD] [2012] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
For Greater Glory [DVD] [2012] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Peter O'Toole

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For A Lesser Glory, 5 Aug 2013
Ambitious and sprawling, Dean Wright's (he worked on Lord Of The Rings as a visual effects supervisor) epic about the Cristero War, a conflict between Catholics and the state government of Mexico in the mid 1920s, is ultimately undone by a jumbled narrative that shifts focus often from different characters involved in the war, lack of background information for newcomers and thus get lost as to why the conflict was begun (the only reason the government is going after Catholics being merely 'the spirit of the revolution', as the President often says in the film), and sometimes chaotically filmed action sequences with irritating, close up 'shaky cam', especially the last stand at the end. However, its production values, especially for an independent foreign film, Andy Garcia's solid & imposing turn as the ideologically conflicted lead general, and lush, sweeping score by veteran master James Horner are certainly very admirable, but just not enough.

In the end, there is a story worth telling here, and they got some elements right, but it just needed more experienced people to pull it off properly.

The Money Pit [DVD]
The Money Pit [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Price: 5.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Comedy Pit, 4 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Money Pit [DVD] (DVD)
Despite the charisma of its two leads and some Three Stooges/Looney Tunes-esque sight gags, Richard Benjamin's 1986 special effects comedy sadly never makes the most of its amusing premise, with only a handful of gags taking advantage of the comedic gold mine that is a seemingly self-aware collapsing mansion and the effect it would have on its occupants. Instead, the film focuses on a rather lackluster love triangle involving a stereotypically smug European composer that is neither clever nor all that funny, especially when compared to the film's selling point.

Oz the Great and Powerful [DVD]
Oz the Great and Powerful [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Price: 5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Oz The Better than it should've been and Charming, 3 Aug 2013
Sam Raimi's (Spiderman, Darkman) prequel to the much beloved Oz mythos has virtues that outweigh its vices: a somewhat lankily-paced middle with a poor twist concerning the witches, moments of unneeded CGI where simple props or a little bit of set would've done much better, and an overly obvious villain (look at the cast and tell me that there isn't a giant red flag) can't suppress the energy and humour that 'The Great & Powerful' offers in spades, with a solid cast of actors, Franco growing more and more as a leading man after his solid turn in Rise of the Planet of The Apes in 2011, Technicolor-esque visuals that honour and update the imagery from the '39 film (the most famous adaptation, though this film is not a prequel to that, per say), and moments of genuine heart and emotion, especially the scenes involving an adorable girl made of China who has an uncrushable spirit, brought to life perfectly by a great combination of technology and talented young actress.

Baby's Day Out [DVD]
Baby's Day Out [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joe Mantegna
Offered by 101Trading
Price: 4.95

2.0 out of 5 stars City Alone, 3 Aug 2013
This review is from: Baby's Day Out [DVD] (DVD)
Another youthful romp from 90s John Hughes (who also gave us the first 3 Home Alones, as well as Flubber), Baby's Day Out does boast a lot of the same pros and cons as its brethern: good, colourful production values, a zany yet moving score from veteran Bruce Broughton (Silverado, Tombstone, Miracle on 34th Street (coincidentally, another Hughes project) that does take cues from the Carl Stalling tradition, and the odd funny sight gag in the Three Stooges/Warner Bros. tradition, but is also very light on plot, characters and even logic, given how much Baby Bink travels around a bustling city without being noticed by one single person or causing any sort of major alarm.

Children, especially the young, will take in the film's simple charms and goofiness, but there is little here for anyone above the age of 6, except for those who grew up with it or die-hard Hughes completionists.

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