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Mr. T. COLEMAN "Jesus freak movie geek" (Coventry, UK)
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Quantum of Solace (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2008]
Quantum of Solace (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Price: £3.29

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry and mediocre, 11 Jun 2010
Casino Royale (2006) was a ground-breaking movie. Not only did it successfully reboot and re-energise the Bond franchise but for the first time in a long time it successful competed with more modern thrillers and their respective heroes: for the first time we believed Bond could take on Bourne. So when people started calling Quantum of Solace (2008) "Royale Part 2", I was excited.
I shouldn't have been. Whilst Royale subverted and reinterpreted the tired Bond clichés, Quantum sticks to them whilst trying to appear clever. Examples? Royale was surprisingly violent - the opening gritty kill in the toilet, Bond being captured and tortured - which cleverly went against the sexy chic of earlier Bond films and made the killings feel messy and unpleasant. Quantum, in contrast, relies on set pieces that are so choreographed you already know what's going to happen in the opening few seconds - the opening car chase, Bond chasing rogue agent on Italian rooftops. Whilst Royale cleverly avoided Bond bedding every beautiful woman who came his way (save Vesper, the woman he ultimately fell in love with), in Quantum he again happily jumps into bed with stock beauties at the drop of the hat. And so on and on and on. It's such a woeful step backwards, and readily gives up a lot of the ground gained by Royale in reinventing and updating Bond. To make it slightly worse, the plot is shrouded in almost impenetrable plot devices and yawnsome dialogue that one is kept in a the perpetual dark - not through suspense, but just because the whole thing is so wretchedly oblique.
If Quantum had come first, I guess I would have shrugged my shoulders and held it as an example of why the Bond franchise is tired and waning. But it didn't - Royale set the bar so much higher that this offering is a thorough disappointment. Let's hope Bond 23 shakes this dry and mediocre film from it's shoulders and returns to form.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2010 9:01 AM BST


24 - Season 8 [DVD]
24 - Season 8 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kiefer Sutherland

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 24's day finally draws to a close - contains spoilers, 7 Jun 2010
This review is from: 24 - Season 8 [DVD] (DVD)
24 has been comething of a cultural phenomenon, defining a lot of our Western anxieties in the first decade of the 21st century. The first season aired shortly after 9/11 and since then the missions of the Counter Terrorist Unit, and their uber-man superhero Jack Bauer, dealt with issues such as torture, terrorism and whether one can navigate these troubling times with a clean conscience. Sure, the show has always had a distinctively neo-conservative bent (Laura Ingraham's famous line that America's love of 24 is a referrendum on torture is somewhat worrying), but with well drawn characters, aggresive plot twists and great scenes it is, and will remain, a classic of modern TV.
So series 8, as the swan song for the franchise, has a lot riding on it. How to wind up the legacy? Well, first the good points. The shift to New York gives some fresh blood to the formula (the show hasn't been set in LA since s6 now), and the series kicks off with terrorists planning to assassinate a visiting President before he can sign a peace accord. This works well, as historically 24 has tried to go bigger and brasher, so it benefits from a more tightly focused plot. Jack Bauer is drawn back into the mix (of course), as is disgraced FBI agent Renee Walker and CTU veteran analyst Chloe O'Brian. There is some really tight plotting and well constructed scenes, and some genuinely moving moments in the latter half of the season which will remain unnamed. Lastly, the final few episodes really go all out in terms of showing Jack unleashed, and whilst it is sometimes stomach churning it perhaps speaks volumes about the kind of things this man has always been capable of, but we haven't always been shown on screen.
However, there are problems. As the last season, I approached the final third of the season with expecations about characters I wanted to return, previous plot threads that remain unresolved and and expecation for the mother of all final episodes - indeed, the finales of 24 have been something of a selling point, including shock deaths (s1), last minute assassination attempts (s2), faking one's own death (s4) or extreme rendition (s5). Here, the season rollocks along nicely, and there is a wonderful scene when Jack ambushes a suspects car in a tunnel (genuinely scary), but the series never really starts hitting the highs it needes to. Big characters who are still alive never return, and when those final few seconds come up, the whole thing is left wide open to be resuscitated at some future point. I wanted grnadeur, glory, tragedy, beauty - what I got was a so-so ending with the writers hedging their bets and not comitting themselves with any of the really brave writing that marked 24 out in the early years.
Season 8 is not bad season - in fact it's rather good, and certainly better than those rather mediocre offerings from s4 and 6. However, as the last season my standards were higher, and I wanted something more than good - I wanted great. And this just isn't.


FlashForward - The Complete Series [DVD]
FlashForward - The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joseph Fiennes

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The new Lost? Close but no cigar., 2 Jun 2010
Flashforward's premise is brilliant: everyone in the world blacks out and has a vision of their future in six months time. When they come to, some are elated (even saved) by what they've seen, whilst others are haunted by whether their vision will come true. Joe Fiennes is the FBI agent investigating what caused the blackout, racing against the clock to solve the puzzle whilst all the time aware that in his flashforward his wife had left him, and he was about to be assassinated.
First, the good: this is all high concept stuff. From the get go you have world disaster (when people blackout planes crash, cars collide and the world is plunged into chaos); the cast effectively includes everyone in the world, with characters surfacing from diverse backgrounds and adding pieces to an ever increasing puzzle; and the high philosophical underpinnings of the story are immediately apparent - is the future written or can we change it? Fate or freewill? There is an obvious debt to that other TV chin-stroker "Lost", but also to the "Matrix" films in this marriage of science, faith, philosophy and action.
However, Flashforward is hampered by some serious, serious clangers. The acting is patchy at best, with Joe Fiennes surprisingly turning in one of the weaker performances: his Agent Benford is oddly wooden and 2D. There are too many convenient plot devices that unfold at just the right time, which pulls down the suspension of disbelief. And perhaps most tellingly there are numerous moments when the drama is so mishandled, so ill-timed, that tension, suspense and thrills are literally sucked out of a scene. Examples: without spoiling it you have gun battles set to cheesy music (must have seemed like a good Tarantinoesque move at the time) and choppy editting that has principle characters dash into battle, only for the battle to be completely omitted and then have them dashing out again. It's unsatisfying, mishandled and poor.
That said, for all it's numerous shortfalls, Flashforward is still pretty good. It definately improves after the mid-season break, and there are some absolutely corking episodes in the final third: unfortunately the series just sometimes saunters when it should run, and runs when it should explain. And with season 2 now cancelled, we may never know how Flashforward finishes after that final cliffhanger... which to be honest, is a real shame.


Rogue [DVD]
Rogue [DVD]
Dvd ~ Radha Mitchell
Price: £3.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so creature feature, 1 Jun 2010
This review is from: Rogue [DVD] (DVD)
Rogue starts off really well. Pseudo-documentary cinematography and understated performances from well drawn characters (when one character empties an urn of ashes into the river, it's all show and no tell). Things continue in this tightly controlled vein after the initial croc strike lands our hapless band of protagonists on a mid-river island with the tide coming in and a killer beastie in the water. The tension is stacked up, and some lovely moments really set it apart from uber-silly B-movie fare such as Mega Shark et al.

However, this arc does not continue indefinitely, and ultimately comes down to a classic one man vs beastie showdown. It's clichéd and a shame, lacking the tension and guts (metaphorically) of the opening two thirds. It's perhaps lazy to compare all creature features to "Jaws", and Rogue goes some way to moving away from the stylistic precedent set by that classic, but in the end it Rogue ends with one man against a toothsome monster, and I'm sorry - that's been done before, and better.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - (Xbox 360)
Offered by Global Xpress
Price: £15.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possible the greatest FPS ever made, 10 April 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
COD4 stands on the shoulders of giants, but is also in a league of it's own. Spawned from the incredibly popular WWII franchise it's the first episode set in modern times, so takes the COD formula and resets the clock in terms of story and weapons, and then ups-the-ante with graphics and gameplay. The result is one of the most visually spectacular, genuinely immersive game playing experiences to date.
Specific areas of praise: the plot. It might not seem important for a FPS but it actually is - COD4 constructs a believable world of covert ops and full throttle military incursions, drawing you into the action rather than just giving you a bunch of objectives. Well drawn characters further flesh it out, so that when the imfamous final moments come (like something out of a war film but with you in the driving seat) it is genuinely moving.
Secondly, the graphics really are something to behold. On a HD TV they blow you away; however our main set is a standard def and they look awesome there too.
Finally - gameplay. Variety is the spice of life and there's plenty of it here. There are street battles, covert sniping levels, incursion, rescue missions, escape, capturing suspects - and with a variety of weapons and gadgets (night vision, claymores etc) there really is more than one way to do most levels. An early level "Blackout" is a good example of this - stealth attacks turns into sniper support, turns into all out firefight, turns into a night-vision rescue mission in a house.
In short, COD4 is a classic. That word is used lightly nowadays, but here it is true. It's gritty, realistic and enthralling, and in some ways it's even better than it's more famous sequel Modern Warfare 2. So if you're a FPS fan - go on, ready up. You won't be disappointed.


Medal of Honor: Airborne (Xbox 360)
Medal of Honor: Airborne (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £19.77

2.0 out of 5 stars WWII shooter - Allied forces vs. a ragdoll army?, 9 April 2010
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
MOH Airborne is a real missed opportunity. I'm a big fan of MOH Vanguard on the PS2, and Airborne is essentially the same premise - paratroops airdrop in, choose where you land, liberate Europe. However EA Games have really dropped the ball on this one, and here's why.

Firstly, the lack of realism. WWII shooters are supposed to be earthy, dirty and putting you in the thick of it. Airborne doesn't do this convincingly in a number of ways. The maps feel very orchestrated and plotted rather than realistic battlefields; the graphics are shiney and polished (compare to washed out Private Ryan style in Vanguard), and the physics engine is all wrong here - using a sniper rifle I take a guy out with a head shot and he literally goes a flip, his legs flapping above the sandbags he was hiding about. This is a biggy for me - it takes you right out of the moment and makes you feel like you're fighting a legion of ragdolls rather than the Third Reich. Baring in mind that Airborne came out the same year as COD4, and there is no excuse for this.

Secondly, the frustration. This is mainly down to the incredibly long time between save positions. Like another reviewer I was definately taken out of enjoying the game by a grim determination to get to the next save point so I didn't have to redo the bit I was stuck on for the 200th time.

On the good side, the game is still fairly passable inspite of it's foibles. You can tackle objectives in different orders, which is ok I guess (though it makes no difference, it's just like a set of mini-missions within a level), and I liked being able to land ontop of buildings if I wanted to. However it's very much a case of taking the rough with the smooth on this one, and unfortunately it's too seriously flawed to be a classic. Disappointing.


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (1-Disc) [DVD]
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (1-Disc) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shia LaBeouf
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.72

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars There are no words to describe how bad this film is, 9 Jan 2010
I am a Transformer's fan. I loved the original animated film (1986) and really enjoyed Michael Bay's first Transformer outing (2007): sure it was not high art, but with a straight forward plot, fantastic battle scenes and a great score from Steve Jabolosky, it ticked all the right blockbuster boxes. So I was excited about Revenge of the Fallen (2009).

There are not words enough to describe the cinematic train wreck that is this movie. With an incoherent plot, complete lack of meaningful characterisation, and not even a decent action sequence the film lumbers on and on for a seemingly endless 2.5 hours. I completely agree with a previous reviewer who commented on the silly humour which fills the film, with a plethora of fart, sex and drug jokes; plus stir in some gratuitous up-skirt shots of some hottie trying to mount Shia Le Beouf, and it's clear this film is aimed squarely at frat boys and and an all male adolescent demographic. As such it feels like a marketing machine has identified this target audience, spewed out a bunch of things to appeal to this audience (big robots? check. hot babes? check. low brow comedy ad nauseum? check) and just jumbled out those ingredients with no particular order or semblance of cohesion. The result is awful; relentlessly, unremittingly, irredeemably, awful.


Red Eye [DVD]
Red Eye [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rachel McAdams
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.77

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn-by-numbers thriller-come-slasher from Wes Craven, 9 Jan 2010
This review is from: Red Eye [DVD] (DVD)
Red Eye should have worked. It's premise is simple and intriguing, the setting claustrophobic and with a run time of a little over an hour this could have been a taught piece of film making. But what should have been a tight slap to the face doesn't quite deliver in almost every respect.

Firstly the script fails to deliver convincing dialogue. It feels scripted (which of course it is) rather than naturalistic or believable. Secondly, despite only being an hour long it takes rather a long time to get going, which might be ok if the dialogge was good. And thirdly (perhaps most damningly) Craven can't resist taking a thriller movie and letting it slip into established slasher conventions, culminating in a yawn-by-numbers finale involving a maniac in the house with a knife. This is a real shame, as the idea was good, and Cillian Murphy (always watchable) gives it his best shot, but ultimately it's not up to scratch. Enjoyable but below par.


The Lazarus Project
The Lazarus Project
by Aleksandar Hemon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Grindingly nihilistic, 29 Nov 2009
This review is from: The Lazarus Project (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a big fan of Aleksandar Hemon's "Love and Obstacles" I started to devour this offering ravenously. However I was not long into "The Lazarus Project" before I felt weighed down by the turgid prose and the grinding nihilism of the plot as it unfolded with clunking slowness.

As with "Love and Obstacles", "Lazarus" reads like an autobiographical work, so one is left wondering whether this a story or a confession: the narrator Brik is, like Hemon, a Bosnian who was in America during the seige of Sarajevo, who is writing a book about Lazarus, a Jewish immigrant killed by Chicago's chief of Police at the turn of the 20th Century, and secures a grant to complete this task. The book unfolds in jumping between the exploits of Brik as he goes about researching his book on Lazarus, and an account of the events as they unfolded in Chicago about a 100 years ago with Lazarus' surviving sister Olga taking centre stage. On a positive note this dual narrative allows for some pleasing synchronizing of themes, motifs and images being repeated by different characters in different times, which gives the effect of these motifs seeming eternal and superlative. This serves Hemon well, as one is eventually left with a series of impressions and photographs of a worldview, rather than a conventional A-Z plot.

On the down side, "Lazarus" is almost unremittingly bleak. This in itself needn't be a criticism, but bleakness (like romance or comedy) is a topic that is easy to misjudge and fall into cliche with, and unfortunately Hemon does this repeatedly. There is only so much I could read about "meaninglessness", "the void" and other such yawnsome sub-Hamlet existential worrys before I felt what Brik needed was a jolly good slap. If you are going to wallow in despair you'd better have something worthwhile to say about it, otherwise it just sounds like moaning teenage poetry.

For me, this flaw crippled the novel. Hemon is a good writer, and can craft language exquisitely, but here he hits doldrum after doldrum. A pretty pacey final 40 pages is too little too late, and although there is a satisfying denouement it is just a pretty full stop at the end of an overlong, bland sentence. Disappointing.


Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
by Tim Butcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood River, 15 Sep 2009
Tim Butcher's travelogue / historical account of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a strange book, being at times insightful, astounding, annoying, real as well as cheesy.

Butcher undertook to cross the DRC following the Congo river on the same route taken by the explorer Stanley in the 19th Century, whose expedition kick started the Congo's modern colonial history. As such, as Butcher makes his way across land he has ample opportunity to wax lyrical on historical events in each locality as well as the broader social history of how the Congo came to experience over a century of national bloodshed. The physical feat Butcher achieves is incredible, and he does a good job of capturing the sense of complete isolation he must have experienced as he carved a path across country, thousands of kilometers from any form of rescue.

However Butcher does have a taste for the melodramatic, hamming up his stories repeatedly with clichéd descriptions. That said he also manages to tell stories of genuine human interest, as well as make some thoughtful analysis of why the post-colonial Congo has struggled so much with corruption. As such I felt a mixture of admiration towards the man, sorrow for the country and annoyance at the text. Ultimately it is a tribute to Butcher's passion for his subject that despite his repeatedly cheesy writing the overall sense one if left with is of sombre pathos for a whole nation, and it's people, who have been used and abused again and again.


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