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Mr. Od Smith "d2kvirus" (Coulsdon, Surrey)

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(500) Days of Summer [DVD] [2009]
(500) Days of Summer [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.76

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovin' Summer, 26 Jan. 2010
I'll be honest: I'm not exactly a romantic comedy aficionado, so on the surface that would imply - or you'd presume - that I'm not the sort of person who'd watch 500 Days of Summer, let alone enjoy it.

However, 500 Days... isn't a mere rom com, and certainly doesn't follow the usual route of boy meets girl (etc etc) like you'd expect from a rom com: in this case, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl...but girl isn't interested in anything more than a casual fling, whilst he wants far more from their relationship, believing her to be The Girl For Him.

Rather than following the relationship from start to finish, 500 Days... shows their relationship ending before we even see them meet, and from then on skips between key dates, where things are good, things are bad, and things from one time affect another, or clearly aren't as good as they weren't before. In doing this, not only do we see the rose-tinted version of the relationship Tom believes he had, but also the reasons it didn't work out, or wasn't as good as he first assumed. As a result, we see Tom sink into depression - especially when he discovers Summer has gone back on her no commitment policy.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries the film as Tom, demonstrating once again that he's such an underrated actor, at one time a happy-go-lucky guy in a frustrating job, another time happy in love with Summer, and others angry at her lack of commitment to him or despondent at their breakup. At no point does he come across as obnoxious or whiny, instead like so many people at a loss when the relationship they thought was perfect has ended, and wasn't really that perfect. Equally good is Zooey Deschanel as Summer, making a role that could turn the audience against her, and instead making her bewitching and understandable, albeit retaining an air of the unknown, which is what makes her so captivating to Tom.

The writing is spot-on, balancing the comedy and some flights of fancy that come with being loved-up (Tom's song and dance number) as well as the feeling of utter dejection when you find you lost your chance of happiness, and by placing them in close context makes Tom that much more sympathetic, even when he mopes around in a lake of self-pity, despite his friend's best efforts to cheer him up. There's also a great soundtrack, including both Tom and Summer's shared love of The Smiths, and a great use of Mumm-Ra's She's Got You High to end the film on a more positive note.

In other words, a film that manages to convey the ups and downs of true love - or something you think is true love - which manages to show both the very real lows alongside the equally real highs, and be one of the most enjoyable films of the last year. Worth watching. Worth watching indeed.

Moonlight - Season 1 - Complete [DVD] [2008]
Moonlight - Season 1 - Complete [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Alex O'Loughlin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sadly missed, 15 Jan. 2010
Given how vampires have taken over popular culture in the past year or so, most notably with True Blood and Twilight, its unfortunate that Moonlight arrived too early and, as a result, didn't receive the success (or the second season) it deserved.

The premise is simple: Mick St. John is a private detective in LA, whose 85 years old - but hasn't aged in over 50 years, having been turned into a vampire by his former wife on their wedding night. Rather than preying on people for blood, or following the lead of his close ally Josef by having a series of groupies happily being drunk from, Mick lives off supplies from the blood bank. Indeed, it seems LA is home to a vampire society that nobody has noticed, ranging from Mick and Josef, to Guillermo (the vamp at the morgue who supplies Mick's blood), to The Cleaner - and Mick's ex-wife, Coraline.

Outside of this secret society is Beth Turner, a Buzzwire journalist who meets with Mick when investigating a case in the first episode - and unaware that Mick saved her 22 years ago from Coraline. Of course, romance can't be too far away.

Unlike the aforementioned vampire shows/films, Moonlight doesn't dwell on half the cast being vampires, instead it just gets on with it - besides, being a vampire helps Mick as a private detective, given his vastly improved senses of sight and smell, as well as his ability to leap buildings, run at the speed of an Olympic sprinter for long distances without getting tired, or walk out of a scrap without taking any damage. There's also frequent vampire vs. vampire fights throughout the series.

There's real onscreen chemistry between Mick and Beth, and their relationship feels natural rather than forced as it grows throughout the series, but the show rests on the shoulders of Alex O'Loughlin and he plays Mick with the right degree of self-deprecation to make him feel like a very human vampire.

The only real criticism has to be the show never really got out of it's Vampire of the Week phase, with the Coraline story arc wrapping up within three episodes instead of being built upon, but on the other hand the vampires are all different and pose a different set of problems, be it one furious at being trapped in the body of a teenager, to one using vampire blood as a narcotic, or a serial killer trying once again to get the witness who sent them to Death Row. Mick's desire to become human once more, or the underlying notion that Beth may want Mick to turn her, also don't seem to be fully realised.

But it has to be said, Moonlight was a great show that sadly ended far too soon, especially when they seemed to be setting up an interesting storyline for season two. What might have been, eh?

Moon [DVD] [2009]
Moon [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Sam Rockwell
Price: £2.92

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moon shines, 15 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Moon [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Sometimes a film comes from out of nowhere that manages to be superb on almost every level. And, as you can guess with an introduction like that, Moon is one of those films.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a lonely soul coming towards the end of his three-year stint mining the moon's surface to supply the earth's energy needs, the only company he has being the station's computer GERTY whilst he misses his wife and child back on earth whilst his mind and body start to fray, when one day he crashes into a harvester. He awakens in the medical lab, and investigates a crash site on the lunar surface to find...Sam Bell.

Moon has received plenty of comparisons with 2001, being a haunting and thought-provoking experience (with an underlying tone of far-away conspiracies that are closing in by the minute), and indeed Kevin Spacey's delivery as GERTY is reminiscent of Douglas Rain as HAL, just as the station has the look of the Discovery. But rather than be a mere homage with little or no new ideas, Moon is brimming with them.

Given he has to play two versions of Sam Bell, Sam Rockwell puts in a fantastic performance - indeed, as the sole character onscreen (the other characters you see are on monitors linked back to earth, and they're barely onscreen for a few minutes) he carries the film effortlessly, and both versions of Bell are clearly different but share noticeable similarities, so if there's any justice he'll receive some recognition come awards season.

Duncan Jones, too, deserves credit for making such a superbly-crafted film, which should mean he is known as Director of Moon Duncan Jones, rather than the title of Duncan "Son of Bowie" Jones.

Clint Mansell also deserves a lot of credit for providing yet another of his modern classic film scores, which evokes the loneliness of Bell's existence, as well as the mystery and isolation of the moon itself, and is worth purchasing (if you watched the most recent series of Top Gear, you'll be familiar with Welcome to lunar Industries, which has been used regularly).

An elegant, thought-provoking experience that deserves to be found and can defy words to describe how good it is: That's no comparison with 2001, that's a comment about how Moon stands by itself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2012 11:18 AM BST

Bronson [DVD]
Bronson [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt King
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A central performance demanding a better film, 29 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Bronson [DVD] (DVD)
Let's just ignore any notion of hand-wringing about the central subject of Bronson, as that gets in the way of looking at the film with any kind of objectivity. Instead, let's just ask a very important question: is it any good?

There is one thing the film does have going for it, and that's Tom Hardy's central performance. He put in a lot of work at the gym to get in shape, and he does put in a very watchable performance that captures the characteristics of the real-life Bronson, so he deserves kudos for giving it his all and doing a very good job.

The problem is, however, the film around him fails or, to put it another way, it gets monotonous very, very quickly. The film has, in essence, three scenes: Bronson's talking head, Bronson in prison beating up guards/being beaten up by guards, Bronson on stage addressing an audience. Repeat for 92 minutes, and that's what you have.

And it's the third of these scenes which brings the film down rapidly: what could be an interesting stream of consciousness; filling in the gaps between one sequence and another, just comes across as pretentious and, with the constant repetition, becomes quite irritating very quickly indeed.

By keeping the focus solely on Bronson ends up being the thing that ruins the film, as the direction doesn't quite know what to do with him: the idea of him being an ultraviolent performance artist could be a good one if handled correctly, but instead it is handled very poorly and wastes Hardy's performance in the other sequences. And, frankly, the film also becomes one-dimensional very quickly because too much emphasis is put on these scenes, when in actual fact the real story is being pushed aside along with what few strengths the film has going for it.

Red Cliff [DVD]
Red Cliff [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chen Chang
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £0.94

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scaled-down epic, 29 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Red Cliff [DVD] (DVD)
This version of Red Cliff isn't the one split between two, three-hour long films, so as a result the full story of the build-up to the historic battle, as well as the battle itself, has been truncated - truncated, however, into an accessible film in its own right that doesn't spare on the spectacle, or the story behind the events.

Indeed, this version of the film starts with a voiceover that quickly brings you into the landscape of the period; whenever a key character first appears, their name also appears onscreen much like a historical documentary. In other words, rather than presume you know the players and the events anyway, the Western version leads the viewer into the socio-political realities of the Three Kingdoms.

But rather than play like a dramatised documentary (like, say, Kingdom of Heaven), Red Cliff plays the events with an outer layer of mythology, for example presenting Zhuge Liang as a combination of military genius and Confucius, whilst Xiao Qiao takes on an air of Guinevere in the way she's portrayed. By keeping one foot placed outside the realm of historical fact allows the film to take on a mythical guise, which somehow makes the events seem more realistic.

John Woo, meanwhile, reigns in his visual pyrotechnics and instead crafts a more poetic view of the Three Kingdoms, one which sits alongside the world of Hero, or the other wuxia films (i.e. Crouching Tiger... or House of Flying Daggers). The scale in which the film operates is also occasionally breathtaking, as huge as the legendary warriors that populate the film. There are also some moments of serene beauty, such as the mission to steal arrows, balanced with a visually stunning cavalry ambush, and a distinctly un-serene plague outbreak.

The battle itself is where the film really excels, though, as the scale of destruction is impossible to ignore - the sight of a navy blazing in the wind sailing towards the enemy port is one of the cinematic visuals of the year, and the ever-expanding inferno that follows it throughout the battle means there is a sense of constantly building tension in the lead-up to the final showdown between the two forces.

Red Cliff is a true military epic, and one where you have a choice: this cut-down accessible version, or you can take the plunge and see the full version on the special edition DVD.

Che - Part One and Part Two [DVD]
Che - Part One and Part Two [DVD]
Dvd ~ Julia Ormond
Price: £8.09

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viva la Revolucion! Viva Benicio!, 15 July 2009
Having seen the full film in a bum-numbing five and a half hour session at the cinema last year, and I have to say if you are going to see Che, it is best to see both parts back-to-back rather than catching them individually, as it rounds off the portrait of a man who is an icon to some, an image to others - or a revolutionary to some, a terrorist to others.

The first part is the better film, I have to say, because it shows the means of how Che became an icon in the eyes of the many, with the means and the methods of how he - and Castro - overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba, without overemphasising or over-sentimentalising any potential sloganeering that many would have expected. We see a small group land on Cuban soil, and slowly gain strength enough to topple a government, but what is more surprising is that they show Che not as the face on t-shirts and posters around the world, but as a man: he may be intelligent and have sound plans, yet he also shows weakness in his asthma and the occasional fractious relationship with Fidel Castro throughout the campaign.

As the first part builds, it is solely the charisma of Benicio Del Toro driving the film, and he delivers a true tour de force performance that keeps you watching not because of who he's playing, but because of how he's playing him. When he, and Steven Soderbergh, can divert attention from the subject matter and onto what drives them, that is the sign of a great actor, and a great director, both at the top of their game.

Of course, when it comes to the overthrow of Havana, that is where the film divulges from ideas and promises to action, and again rather than making it too "Hollywood" with epic gun battles to stirring string compositions as they all fight together, it presents it as it was: tooth and nail, with no soundtrack - almost documentary like. Indeed, with the film interspersed with Che addressing the UN, the first one does feel like a documentary.

Part Two, meanwhile, shows us how Che also became a martyr in his disastrous Bolivian campaign, and it does reflect the first film: where everything succeeded in Cuba, everything fails in Bolivia - nobody wants to join his revolution, and they face an organised military who are determined to defeat him, and pick off his group mercilessly. As the first film you went in expecting victory, the second part you expect his death.

True, a lot of issues are skirted in regards to his time in Cuba after the victory, and they make scant mention of his campaigns before Bolivia, so you aren't getting a full biopic of Che Guevara as such, but what you are getting is a window onto the man behind the legend, and you see more than a face on a t-shirt, but the reason his face became a symbol. Not for everyone, but it's a feat of filmmaking that deserves to be seen.

100 %
100 %
by Paul Pope
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read life to 100%, 21 Jun. 2009
This review is from: 100 % (Paperback)
I remember reading 100% when it was on initial release back in 2002/3, and I was never able to get hold of the last issue - and the initial TPB was equally impossible to get hold of. As a result, this release is a godsend to me, as I finally find out how it ends!

The first things you'll notice is the monochrome art style, with its bold black lines that fit in with the book's vision of NYC in 2038. The second is how it's presented as an actual novel (albeit with images instead of words as the driving force), broken down into chapters instead of being issue-by-issue. Indeed, this is how the comic was presented, but in that case they had a cover on each side.

The vision of NYC 2038 is also straight from the pages of George Foy, where now both pole dancing and boxing are accompanied by projections of the participants' innards sloshing about above the arena - but, like Blade Runner, on street level you couldn't tell the difference between then the present-day, barring a few fashion choices. Indeed, it isn't Pope's intention to explore this world, as it follows the lives of various people who live there.

The storylines are all, as Pope explains, all about one thing: it's three inter-related love stories, which just happen to be taking place thirty-odd years into the future, where the world seems to have gotten a lot trashier than it currently is. There's Daisy/Dollar Bill, a gastro dancer (see above...) and busboy John, Strel and her gastro boxing ex-husband Haitous, and lastly Kim and Strel's cousin/kettle-centric artist Elroy. So whilst the future may be seen as a chaotic place, the book focuses on the humanity that lives there.

The characters are all likeable, even though they all have their flaws worn on their sleeve and they draw you into the world, so although it does sound a tad pompous, the novel comparisons do stand up because you are going to turn the pages not to look at the next bit of artwork, but for the next piece of dialogue.

However, it is a shame they didn't reproduce the comic's original covers within the pages of the TPB, because they too were works of art - and would five extra pages really have broken the bank at DC Vertigo?

Either way, if you want a TPB that rises above those lined up for a Hollywood defilement and doesn't weigh half a ton, this is a good place to start.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil [DVD]
Anvil! The Story of Anvil [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anvil
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £3.94

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Rock Hallelujah, 21 Jun. 2009
A lot of the pre-release reviews of Anvil seemed to be trying to find a way to avoid saying "Spinal Tap" for the longest time, before giving in as soon as it became impossible to get past the fact their drummer has a name not indifferent to the director of the aforementioned film. At that point, sniggers began.

However, although there are moments where it does descend into complete farce (i.e. a promoter attempting to pay them in goulash in Prague, or gigs where you can count the fans on your fingers), the film doesn't ridicule the band at any point - although it does seem like frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow is on a one-man mission to have us lose any sympathy with the band, given his habit of throwing adolescent tantrums and/or pinning various people to the wall by their lapels with very minor provocation.

The thing is, even though they seem intent on keep denying they missed their opportunity to dine at the top table 25 years earlier - especially with some of their encounters with members of bands that did make it and can't get away from them fast enough - you can't deny that Steve and Robb want to stop being a footnote and are working their backsides off to try and gain some recognition for their hard work, and see that glimmer of success that's eluded them for so long. So even with Lips' tantrums, the band's inept management and the overriding sense that every situation could turn into a catastrophic farce for a couple of middle-aged teenagers, you do side with the band - which is a credit to the documentary makers, who could've quite easily made a hatchet job for cheap laughs and left the band out to dry.

At the start you may want to point and laugh at the band, but halfway through you'll want them to get it together and turn their fortunes around, and by the end you'll hope they have a brighter future. When a documentary can do that, you know it's worth watching.

The Spirit [DVD]
The Spirit [DVD]
Dvd ~ Samuel L. Jackson
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.96

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Proof - if you needed it - that looks can be deceiving..., 21 Jun. 2009
This review is from: The Spirit [DVD] (DVD)
On paper, The Spirit looks like a pretty good film. It shares the visual style of Sin City, and also has the creator of that stripe and co-director of the film at the helm, in the shape of Frank Miller. However, it soon becomes apparent that Robert Rodriguez was what made Sin City a great film, not Frank Miller.

The visuals are, as with Sin City, stunning - even if they do occasionally crib some of the white-on-black silhouettes seen in Sin City at various intervals. Of course, when you have Scarlett Johanssen, Eva Mendes, Paz Vega, Jaime King and Stana Katic on screen, it's certainly worth looking at. The thing is, after saying it looks nice, you soon run out of any real compliments about the film.

The idea to have a campy sense of humour to differentiate it from the harshness of Sin City is what hamstrings it the most, simply because that immediately drags it into the same territory as Joel Schumacher's contribution to the Batman franchise. Samuel L Jackson's portrayal of The Octopus plants it firmly there, as he overacts like no movie villain has overacted before (and, hopefully, since), to the point he's practically acting in another film - quite possibly playing The Riddler in Batman Forever, actually.

With a villain that's so OTT, it isn't balanced out with a weak hero, which is what The Spirit is. Again, the campy humour does him no favours, as he's another character who seems to be in a very different film - some 1930s serial, to be exact. Also, when hero and villain have the exact same superpower, it does render a lot of the film irrelevant - as does having all The Octopus' henchmen as identical clones, for the simple reason seeing the same person getting beaten up or killed off in a film several dozen times isn't particularly funny, whilst also making it even more obvious there's no real threat to the hero in the film.

Of course, the main problem is the one I've mentioned offhand several times in this review already: Sin City. The Spirit can't fail to be compared to the film, and there isn't a good comparison you can make at any point - and with that, then you realise all the flaws The Spirit has. By making it quirky and OTT to attempt to differentiate itself, it creates more reasons to prefer Sin City - because the quirkiness and OTT humour grate more often than not.

The latest in a line of films that look good but have no plot of character depth - the filmic equivalent of far too many 360/PS3 games, in other words.

Machine Girl [DVD] [2007] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Machine Girl [DVD] [2007] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All in the worst possible taste - thankfully!, 7 Jun. 2009
Given the film has a reputation that came long before it about the high amount of blood and gore on show, you have to say that The Machine Girl doesn't beat around the bush - within two minutes, we've already had one character have their arm lopped off and spray blood all over the place. By the ten minute mark, heads have been blown off, faces reduced to mincemeat by gunfire, holes blown through chests, and somebody has a pole rammed through their mouth and out the back of their head.

In other words, if it's the sort of OTT splatter that gained Ichi the Killer a reputation long before its UK release, or made Braindead the real film on Peter Jackson's CV that has to be seen to be believed, then this is right up your ally.

The filmmakers have embraced the absurdity of the premise with relish, and any gore gag they can think up (and afford) is gleefully put on screen, be it decapitations, lopping off limbs, arm tempura, finger sushi, or large holes being blasted through people. And, aside from the scene where Ami is being tortured, it's all done in the type of splatstick you get in Braindead or Evil Dead II - yes, it's hugely violent, but it's done in a humorous way (because it would be unwatchable if it wasn't). The problem is, of course, that by the halfway mark they've run out of ways to kill people in increasingly OTT ways, and have to rely on the old genre fallback - the chainsaw - to get to the end.

Of course, that's not all that gets lost by the halfway point of the film, either, given how just about every supporting character with a line of dialogue gets killed off in order to move the story forward - or to the next blood-drenched showdown, be it with yakuza, ninjas, or the Super Mourner Squad. Yes, I just said Super Mourning Squad. In other words, it's similar to the way Chocolate was an excuse to have a lot of fight scenes at random intervals. In other words, this is what puts it at a disadvantage against Ichi the Killer (or any of Takashi Miike's nuttiest films, like Fudoh: The New Generation) or Braindead, because there's barely anything outside of the fight/splatter scenes.

Sure, The Machine Girl is a lot of fun when it's ramping up the splatter content, but there's any number of films you can say that about that're just as much fun, but also keep the interest far longer.

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