Profile for Sam > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Sam
Top Reviewer Ranking: 59,398
Helpful Votes: 289

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Sam (Ireland)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
The Ghost [DVD]
The Ghost [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ewan McGregor
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: 3.40

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let this Ghost slip through the cracks.., 18 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Ghost [DVD] (DVD)
This is an excellent thriller that is small in scale, well acted and peppered with clever dialogue and paranoia throughout. As for what I say next, it is my description of the plot and my opinion. If you're not interested in reading that then take heed, anonymous film fan, this is one film best suited for a quiet nights rent. There's enough acting talent, creepily atmospheric direction, suspense and paranoid plot to sustain your interest for one viewing.

Now, adapted from Robert Harris best selling political thriller by no less a director than Roman Polanski (he of "Chinatown", "The Pianist" and "Rosemary's Baby" fame and off screen infamy worth checking out in the documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" if you're interested)"The Ghost" weaves the should-be-simple tale of a writer (Ewan McGregor), hired at the bequest of fictitious former British prime minister Adam Lang to ghost write his autobiography. On the surface this appears to be a straightforward task, until you consider the mysterious nature of the previous Ghost Writers death, that the British MP(clearly modeled after Tony Blair and played very well by Pierce Brosnan)is embroiled in charges against him relating to war crimes, namely the handing over of terrorists for torture to the US, and the general state of lockdown caused by protesters on the ex Prime Ministers front door calling him a murderer, then you have the scenario faced by the unfortunate writer who walks into a tangled web of political double crossing, intrigue and, in general matters grossly over his head.

After bland performances in last years "Angels and Demons" and "The Men Who Stare At Goats" Ewan McGregor gives a welcoming riveting turn as a man who's assignment brings him closer to peril than he could have possibly imagined. Equal parts bored and stressed over his work for the former PM he gradually uncovers considerably deadly information concerning his employer and his wife(played by Olivia Wilde who comfortably steals every scene she's in as Langs duplicite spouse), the CIA, and......well no fair telling, save that this research leads to encounters with shady characters particularly a dead cold CIA operative played with sharp wit and contained threat by the reliably excellent, Oscar-nominated actor Tom Wilkinson. While the cast in "The Ghost" is uniformly excellent the triumph here is the paranoid, shifty tone established by the director who generates tension with such remarkable ease that a shot of a lone car being emptied off a ferry is made suspenseful. Carefully composed shots, camera angles though meaning little to me consciously are masterfully executed along with a brilliantly effective, minimalist score by Alexandre Desplat, to engineer an almost constant sense of dread. So much of the film has little more than three of four actors in any given scene yet there is always a suspicious feeling that something is amiss or that danger is close at hand.

While it's regrettable that many who would've enjoyed "The Ghost" on the big screen well be watching it on DVD I strongly recommend this to any film fanatic who enjoys a good, suspenseful thriller. That's exactly what you'll get with "The Ghost" what it does not give in Jason Bourne style espionage thrillers-i.e. frantic car chases, gunplay, explosive action etc, it delivers in spades of suspense, intelligent dialogue and excellent acting marshaled by a genuine master director who knows how to make movies like this tick.

Shutter Island [DVD] (2010)
Shutter Island [DVD] (2010)
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: 3.00

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "When you see a monster, you must stop it", 14 Mar 2010
This review is from: Shutter Island [DVD] (2010) (DVD)
As the fog clears we catch sight of a boat moving towards an island shrouded in mystery. This could be a scene from King Kong or any number of stories that sends it's heros into the heart of darkness and back, often without the "back" part. Here the boat carries two federal marshals played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo. They have been sent to investigate the disseaperence of a dangerous mental patient in Martin Scorsesse's feature film follow up to his oscar winning crime drama "The Departed" Unlike that film "Shutter Island" apperas far more straighfoward, even generic. The marshals arrive, encounter difficulty from an oddly uncooperative staff, a hurricane hits leaving them stranded on an island with "only the most dangerous, damaged patients, ones no other hospital will manage" Cue two hours of deranged maniacs jumping out from shadowy corners, right? Wrong.

Based on a very good 2003 thriller novel written by Dennis Leehane(who's other works were the basis for the films "Mystic River" and "Gone Baby Gone")"Shutter Island" is a nightmarish exploration of the mind laced with themes of guilt and paranoia. We see this world through the eyes of Edward "Teddy" Daniels, a man who even prior to his visit to Aschlecliff is carrying considerable baggage. Set in the 1950s we learn through flashbacks that Teddy was a soilder involved in the liberation of Dachau during the second world war. Needless to say this left a lasting impression on Teddy and when you see them in cinemas or on dvd you won't forget them either. These scenes are for my money the most frank, disturbing sequences this excellent thriller has to offer. From the man who almost directed "Schindlers List" Scorseeses recreation of the camps are deeply unsettling, and unflinching in his approach to showing what human beings are capable of doing to one another. These scenes are also essential to our understanding of Teddy. Leonardo Di Caprio has done a lot of terrific work in interesting roles but he strikes notes as Teddy that showcase an extraordinary talent. Men like Teddy, these portrayls, appear to be his niche. men driven close to or past their pschological or emotional breaking point(note his soilder in "Blood Diamond", his undercover cooper in "The Departed", Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" or another man behind enemy lines in "Body Of Lies"). His performance here is remarkable running through Teddys mental detoriation and scenes of severe trauma, particularly as the film draws to it's inevitably grim finale.

As for the island itself the setting is wonderfully gothic and atmosheric, as we enter Aschlecliff the music(assmbled from other film, deliberately none of it is original) is almost overbearingly foreboading and every point the marshals cross to enter the facility-departing the ferry, handing over their guns, walking past the massive gates that have that "movie" clank as they lock them in-is marked as a point of no return.To make the enviroment even more inhospiatble the administrative staff present are obliquley unco-operative: Sir Ben Kingsley is excellent as the morally ambigious, adisarmingly friendly chief doctor. The ever relaible Jonh Carrol Lynch showed in "Gothika" and "Zodiac" that his prescence alone can be suitably unnerving, Ted Levine (remember the killer Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs")has a brief but memorablely creepy supporting role as the facilitys warden and legendary actor Max Von Scydow steas every scene he's in as a veteran doctor behind the scenes.The rest of the cast in general fares quite well: Mark Ruffalo is a very fine actor but he has little to do here but stand around and take notes, playing the straight detective to Di Caprios nerve wrecked Teddy. Chuck Aule(Ruffalo) is not flesed out and he becomes alomost superflous next to Di Caprios tour de force performance. Oscar nominated "Little Children" and "Watchmen" actor Jackie Earl haley has a power house scene as an inmate, Patricia Clakson and british actress Emily Mortimer are memorable in small roles and Michelle Williams is eerie as Teddys late wife seen in a mixture of flashbacks and startling hallucinations.

Overall Scorseeses unforgetable visulas, moody cinematography and above all else Di Caprios magnificent work ellivate a stylish thriller into a significant film. I implore you to find it, see it and discuss it for yourself.

Seraphim Falls [DVD]
Seraphim Falls [DVD]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: 8.23

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great acting with startling backdrops, recommended viewing., 27 Jan 2010
This review is from: Seraphim Falls [DVD] (DVD)
Continuing the spate of recent westerns including,, the Out-Back set The Proposition, 3:10 to Yuma, Appaloosa, and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford among others is Seraphim Falls, an enjoyable story and worthwhile film centered around the bitter pursuit of a one time union solider, played terrifically by Pierce Brosnan, by a an ex military Colonel portrayed by the great Liam Neeson. It is relentless if initially ambiguous nature of Neeson's pursuit that sets up the entire film. As this is virtually a hunter and prey chase the rest of the characters provide a substitute in the gap of a fully realized story or plot. That's not to imply that Seraphim Falls is not in possession of a decent character or even an idea outside of it's two main guns but whatever of the claims by Brosnan in the behind the scenes doc about this being an anti-war film Seraphim Falls exists for the chase, the hunting of Brosnan's man by Neeson and it is with great relief that two such actors provide nuance and screen presence to accompany the typically well-shot and appealing landscapes as they not only provide and sustain the viewers interest but manage to extract several quiet, emotional moments that subsidies the harsher aspects of the story with moments of genuine human feeling, giving a faint but real heart-beat to a film that could have descended into meaningless bursts of violence accompanied by picturesque foregrounds.

I think on the strength of the performances alone, in addition to the two leads we are treated to appearances from the likes of Michael Wincott, Angelica Huston, Tom Noonan and several other familiar faces, Seraphim Falls is easily worth a look but there are several other factors that bolster the film, namely the stunning imagery provided by the landscape ranging from frost ridden mountain passes to the unforgiving, desolate stretch in the desert as the film progresses.

The story itself is close to essentially being one elongated chase sequence between Carver (Neeson's) and a group of hired guns by his side never terribly far behind Gideon (Brosnan). From the start we brief shoot-out that leads to probably the most impressive set piece in the film involving Gideon and a pounding waterfall descent. From there Gideonis put through his paces be it tending to a wound by gouging out a bullet from his arm or attemtping to avoid running foul of unscrupulous characters that run abound in films such as these. And that always been one of my favorite traits in westerns, their seemingly endless landscapes existing as perfect grounds for directors to give very good actors grounds to suddenly, in the case of Seraphim Falls literally, appear out of nowhere sometimes in wonderfully bizarre fashion as here-Angelica Huston in particular in a brief but memorable supporting performance. As the plot of Seraphim Falls is essentially a chase through the wilderness, occasionally punctuated by bursts of violence (being a hired gun appears to have been a more than precarious means of getting by) as well as the aforementioned cameos that crop up rather regularly the filmmakers wisely hit the ground running with a brief shoot-out that leads to probably the most impressive set-piece, involving Gideon and a pounding waterfall descent that sends us on our way through a story that to my best estimation works out as chase-halt-meet intriguing side character-chase-halt-intriguing character etc until the finale which is plays around with symbolism to an extent that is slightly at odds with what proceeds it but to it's credit avoids any by the number shoot-outs and resolves itself on a more cerebral level.

Having possibly out-stayed my welcome I'll wrap things up by referencing what one critic remarked of Seraphim Falls. Without a clear-cut "bad guy" the film is even more interesting but it's down to the excellent work by the two leads that keeps these men interesting. Flashbacks, more or less, provide reasons for why each man is where he is but their characterization never really grows beyond a sketchy outline-not that it really needs to give more of either here- Nessons forceful screen presence and the sympathetic, oddly interesting appearance Brosnan takes on keeps the motor on Seraphim Falls alive (I think with two lesser actors the film would have died in the waters), and that for me was enough for what is, as advertised, a gritty chase and revenge western. Strong acting, a feast for the eyes in the backdrop and confident direction (from co-writer David Von Ancken) draws my hand here and though not on a par with other films in the genre that have seen release in the decade just past, Seraphim Falls is for the most part a gripping western worthy of your attention. 3.5/5

DVD extras include a directors commentary which also has Brosnan's participation and there's a behind the scenes feature with the producers, director and lead actors that runs for approximately twenty minutes

Public Enemies [DVD] (2009)
Public Enemies [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by Discs4all
Price: 2.50

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America's first war on crime., 8 July 2009
This review is from: Public Enemies [DVD] (2009) (DVD)
In an interview for "Public Enemies" writer/director/producer Michael Mann discussed how John Dilinger "exploded onto the scene", a feat that Mann seems to have left out in his movie. Having just left a screening of "Public Enemies" I'm surprised at my own sense of indifference at a film that looked like one of the years very best. The players involved couldn't be of a higher calibre, Michael Mann a much celebrated filmmaker whose works include "Heat", "Collateral", "The Insider", "Manhunter", Johnny Depp who is incapable of giving a bad performance, and the reliably excellent Christian Bale as special agent Melvin Purvis the man charged with brining down John Dilinger. It sounds, and a times feels vaguely like "Heat" with two of the best actors of their time going head to head, albeit with little screen time together, an epic tale of cops and robbers with some elaborate shootouts and two devoted men working on opposite sides of the law.

At the beginning of "Public Enemies" we see Dilinger pull off an audacious prison break for several members of his gang, including his mentor Walter Dietrich. The Dilinger we are introduced to here isn't romanticized, he's efficient, calculating and undeniably intelligent but he's never portrayed as a hero and the opening at the prison shows the importance of his relationship with Walter Dietrich and how he treats the man responsible for his death. As far as folk heroes go (I think Depp mentioned Jesse James was Dilingers idol) he never stole and gave back to the poor but he cared deeply enough about his public image to turn down jobs that may dissatisfy the public, such as kidnapping. Johnny Depp plays Mr. John Dilinger in a very restrained performance, not so much of a charismatic folk hero but rather a straight up, highly impressive outlaw who probably knew his wild ride wasn't going to last. The film encapsulates the thirteen months that according to Michael Mann was when Dilinger enjoyed life enough for several lifetimes after getting out of prison having been incarcerated much earlier in his life for nine years for petty theft. Among the various familiar faces playing small roles as members of Dilingers gang and associates are David Wenham (Harry Pierpont), Stephen Graham (Baby Face Nelson), Giovanni Ribisi (Alvin Karpis), Stephen Dorff (Homer Van Meter), Jason Clarke (John "Red" Hamilton) and for such an infamous bunch only Jason Clarke and Stephen Graham are given significant screen time to leave an impression which is disappointing as a host of colourful supporting characters have little more than cameos. Dilinger may have been head-honcho but the likes of Alvin Karpis and FBI agent Purvis (Christian Bale) could have entire films devoted to their stories.

Watching "Public Enemies" I felt like the story never really got off the ground despite an excellent cast, top class director and production values of the highest order. Dilingers romance with Billie Frechette (played by Marion Cotillard), feels rushed though that may very well have been the case in reality as it is presented in Manns film, the shoot-outs lack the intensity of that legendary Los Angeles shoot-out in "Heat" perhaps because most of the people watching may know who's time here is up and when and we never see what happens to more than half the Public Enemies. As an audience member who was largely uninformed about the time and the Public Enemies, I don't feel like I found out a great deal or at least enough about Dilinger (strange for a two hour and twenty minute picture devoted to his legacy), his gang, and his girlfriend Billie or Melvin Purvis to really feel anything strongly about any of them and Dilinger as a person in this medium doesn't come off as grand or as richly as say, in recent biographical pictures, Howard Hughes, Muhammad Ali (Mann produced "The Aviator" and co wrote, produced and directed "Ali"), Jesse James or to a slightly lesser extent Frank Lucas in Ridley Scott's "American Gangster". Bale and Cotillard are both solid in their respective roles but neither appears to be given a great deal to do. As Purvis Bale makes several speeches to agents in relation to getting Dilinger and he does have to deal with several deaths of his own men that could and maybe should have been avoided, he also has one rather brief and under-whelming scene with Dilinger. Also the dynamic between Purvis and his mentor J Edgar Hoover, played brilliantly in a small but absolutely pivotal part by Billy Crudup, isn't touched upon here. Purvis and his own personal downfall would make an interesting film if anyone out there wanted to make it. As for Marion Cotillard she ends up being the love interest who gets swept off her feet by Dilinger but their relationship isn't fleshed out enough in the film to give it the heart the story needs, though Depp's performance provides it's soul and his final scene is one of the few truly great cinematic moments in the film.

I've rambled along quite a bit more than I initially intended and I am aware that this is extremely schizophrenic assessment but I think anyone with even a passing interest in cinema should check this out, three out of five stars is not really a fair rating, three and a half out of five would represent a more even score. Solid with a few moments of greatness and as shot in digital high definition gorgeous to look at, as was Collateral, though I felt it distorted the authentic period look and as a result doesn't feel as a gritty as one might expect a depression era set period piece should, though that's a very marginal complaint. Go see "Public Enemies".

Snake Eyes [DVD] [1998]
Snake Eyes [DVD] [1998]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by Jasuli
Price: 2.65

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lively thriller, but not De Palma's best., 22 Jun 2009
This review is from: Snake Eyes [DVD] [1998] (DVD)
No commentary track, no "making of Snake Eyes" feature, very hard to find interviews about this film anywhere in fact "Snake Eyes" seems to have been sent to the Davy Jones locker equivalent of forgotten cinema. Over ten years old it seems to exist as the beginning of a worrying slide at least commercially for it's distinguished director Brian De Palma who has not enjoyed any major success at the box office since 1996 with "Mission Impossible". Yet I seem to have developed a minor obsession with this seemingly unremarkable film, hence this review.

"Snake Eyes" begins with a grandiose tracking shot, a rather long, complicated and quite unforgettable sequence which begins outside the casino in the beginning of a hurricane and finds Richard Santoro, a hot-shot, corrupt Atlantic city cop played by Nicolas Cage, in another high energy performance, strutting his way past television cameras, shaking down a hustler played Luis Guisman for some cash, placing a bet, talking to his wife and flirting with his mistress on his cell phone almost simultaneously and meeting up with his best friend, a naval commander, Kevin Dunne, played by Gary Sinise who happens to be running security for the secretary of defence in attendance at the fight. Once Cage and Sinise sit down talk and the fight starts the mesmerising opening shot is brought to an end just before the secretary is shot (shortly after Sinise left his post having noticed a "suspicious character"). This is the set-up for Brian De Palma's thriller and thanks to Cages motor mouth character and De Palma's camerawork in the opening sequence, which lasts almost thirteen minutes in what appears to be an unbroken shot, together with extras and supporting actors like the ever reliable Kevin Dunne playing a paper view reporter they maintain a remarkable pace and energy that gripped me for all of those thirteen minutes. As soon as this novelty ends however "Snake Eyes" loses much of its urgency.

Once the secretary is down, Santoro is now the acting officer on the case and he assists his childhood buddy Dunne (Sinise) track down three suspects involved in the shooting including, in a relatively early role, Carla Gugino playing a young woman who was talking to the secretary moments before he was killed, a drunk in the crowd who gave the signal for a heavyweight champion in the ring to throw the fight, and a mysterious woman spotted by Sinise. All of them appear to have been involved in a conspiracy to eliminate the secretary who was opposed to the production of a new weapons system that is in some background characters best financial interests. While this aspect of the story is just window dressing that sets up the shooting, there is no big political message here on the part of screenwriter David Koepp ("Jurassic Park"," Mission Impossible", "Carlto's Way") or De Palma himself, it does effectively get the ball rolling

Aside from the mechanisms of the plot that exist only to allow De Palma some fun with his camera the only part of the film that resembles something of an attempt at character development is the friendship between Santoro and Dunne and the questions of loyalty that arise between them over the course of the night, otherwise this is an exercise solely in style and suspense and to achieve that De Palma throws a lot at the screen including that brilliant opening thirteen minute tracking shot, Cage's edgy performance, different people recounting events leading up to the shooting that results in the showing of several alternate perspectives on what they each believed happened, tricked up camera angles, a dynamic score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, the directors trademark split screen technique, and the threat of a hurricane approaching the casino which does play a part, somewhat disastrously in the finale. All these ingredients suit the directors and indeed the audiences craving for style but little of it helps build up any suspense or tension and here is "Snake Eyes" failing, despite Cage and Sinise on good form and De Palma's directorial bravura there's never any real feeling of dread, excitement, shock, or feeling to any of this coupled with an ending that was rushed after a more special effects driven ending was scrapped late in the making of the film that results in a finish that feels too preposterous to go with what's come before it(and somewhat patched together).

There are enjoyable elements here, I liked that the movie is almost entirely contained in the casino, the two leading men give typically strong performances, although Cage doesn't maintain his electrifying energy throughout the film, De Palma's sensational visual style is rarely dull to watch and I have few complaints regarding the first two-thirds in general. It's only once "Snake Eyes" lazily tries to cobble together a dramatic ending that the film really begins to unravel. I believe the original ending (which ILM are still credited for despite it's absence) should have stayed and it would have worked far better than the re-worked ending. Having criticized the botched ending I still give a marginal recommendation to "Snake Eyes" due to the fine work of two excellent actors and a director who consistently produces memorable moments even in his worst films.Imagine Brian De Palma working on a script that matched his technical flair. Wouldn't that be something?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine [DVD] (2009)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: 7.36

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "putting together a special team with special privileges", 8 Jun 2009
Origin stories tend to be a bit of a drag, I mean watching Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine and so on it feels like these franchise openers fulfil an almost obligatory back story that simply sets up a far more interesting instalment, the sequels to Spiderman and X-Men were both vastly superior to their predecessors and if Wolverine gets a second chance on his own which I'm sure he will, then maybe justice will be done to he character. As a story X-Men Origins: Wolverine is routine enough, savage family tragedy sets Logan off with his antagonistic, deranged half brother Victor Creed (played menacingly to terrific effect by Liv Schreiber) whom he fights alongside in he civil war, both World Wars, as well as Vietnam. Things are going well until Victor decapitates a senior officer which long story short brings a mysterious army colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) into the mix. He offers the brothers a chance to work alongside fellow mutants that include samurai sword wielding mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), teleporter John Wraith (, The Blob (Kevin Durand), technopath Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan) and lethal marksman Agent Zero (Daniel Henney) in a covert military unit under Strykers command. It's here the movie enjoys it's finest spell, watching Reynolds mouth off as Wade in a role he was born to play, and the team showcasing their respective talents during an infiltration of an African stronghold is as good a sequence in a Marvel superhero outing that I've ever seen.

Alas this carefree fun comes to an abrupt end when Logan witness an atrocity committed by the group and deserts his comrades for the quiet life in the Canadian Rockies with a sweet school teacher (Lynn Collins) in a cosy cabin while Logan makes a honest living as a lumberjack. This picturesque existence is cut down however when Victor shows up murdering Logan's girl as well as beating Logan in an all-out fist fight (somewhat redundant since neither can be killed, though Stryker believes a decapitation might do it).

After this latest personal tragedy Logan accepts Strykers timely offer to pump adamantium into him thus making even more indestructible (huh?) so he can take down his brother once and for all. As we saw in eerie flashbacks in the first two X-Men, Logan evades Stryker and from here on the movie is a revenge tale with Logan on the run from the military while hunting down Victor. As an earlier review here stated the main reason to go see this is undoubtedly the actors, Schreiber in particular is very good here underplaying an over the top psychotic, while Taylor Kitsch and Ryan Reynolds make the most out of frustratingly fleeting appearances as fans favourites Wade Wilson "the merc with a mouth" and a New Orleans Street Hustler called Gambit. It's the chemistry or camaraderie in scenes between Jackman(who is again reliably excellent) and as well as his brief screen partnership with Taylor Kitsch or his feral rivalry with Victor that gives the movie it's most memorable moments.

The action is, with respect to people infinitely more creative and intelligent than myself, fairly by the numbers bar the brilliant opening sequence showing the two brothers progression through each major war as well as the early scenes in Africa. The final battle, in tradition of the X-Men films takes place on a major landmark and feels more like a shadow of the Wolverine/Sabertooth battle atop the statue of Liberty in the first X-Men than a truly pulsating climax. Finally for what it's worth at a running time of 98 minutes too many interesting characters are shoehorned in without anything significant to do or indeed the screen time to do it (though spin-offs for Deadpool and Gambit may go some way to remedying that problem). Overall I enjoyed Wolverine for the performances as well as some very cool looking action and for that I thinks it's worth your time provided you're into this sort of stuff.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2011 12:18 PM GMT

Terminator Salvation [DVD] [2009]
Terminator Salvation [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Price: 2.44

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars T4, 4 Jun 2009
With a timeline more twisted than hybrid film co directed by Tim Burton and Eli Roth, one of the most spectacular films ever produced in Terminator 2, a stone cold classic in Terminator and a bona-fide popcorn seller in T3 does one of the great franchises of the last quarter century risk adding a mediocre piece of filler to a series that has probably run it's course? Given the existence of Terminator Salvation the answer is here for the world to see, while Rise of The Machines was undoubtedly a step down from Cameron's Films it still at least managed to just about move the story in a direction that James Cameron had ruled out in the end of Terminator 2: Judgement day. Salvation, rather unfortunately has no such courage, it gives us the only logical step forward in the series by hurtling into the post-apocalyptic Earth shown only in snippets of the first three Terminators. This allows for some glorious action, but by the end not a great deal happens in Terminator Salvation, which is only the first in a supposed new trilogy of Terminator films.

A new major player in the story is introduced in Marcus Wright, a prisoner on death row in the year 2003. Marcus agrees to sign his body over for medical research, following his execution by lethal injection, to a scientist of Cyberdyne Systems (played by Helena Bonham Carter in a brief but creepy and pivotal part). Fast-forward to 2018 and a post Judgement Day world, we find Marcus stumbling naked through a war torn Los Angeles where he meets a dogged young solider by the name of Kyle Reese who as we all know must do the nasty in the pasty with Linda Hamilton in order for the future leader of mankind to exist and lead a the human resistance in a glorious and bloody triumph over the machines who try to save themselves by sending machines back to kill Connors mother, Sarah Connor, and later Connor himself, assuming those timelines in Cameron's films even exist anymore what with the many time travel strains at work. Connor himself, at one point, claims this future is different from what his mother described. Here he is faced with the task of dealing with information of an impending new, deadlier Terminator in the form of the T-800 101, as well as having to rescue his father from the clutches of Sky-Net. Revealing anymore would jeopardize what few surprises T4 has up it's sleeve the plot is essentially the parallel stories of Reese and Marcus evading capture by machines in the ruins of Los Angeles and Connor and the resistance preparing for a potentially decisive battle with Sky-Net. Bizarrely much of the films plot is given away immediately in the trailers but the muddled finale is dependent on a neat twist involving our new buddy Marcus. What Terminator Salvation offers fans both new and familiar to the series is action, piles and piles of raw action, explosions, helicopter battles, T-600 and 700 Terminators, Hunter-Killers, 60-foot-tall humanoid Harvesters that look like something out of Transformers only far more imposing, and to round off the "talented" ensemble of machines McG gives you the hydrobot, which again looks like the snake like creature that attacked from under the sand in Transformers, and can also operate under water to chilling effect in one particular good sequence involving a crashed helicopter. These all combine for some really immerse action scenes, call it video game syndrome if you must be so cynical, but I'll take the gritty fights offered up here any day of the week over what a very successful Michael Bay will throw at us when Transformers 2 hits our screens in a couple of weeks time. Where Salvation stumbles is in it's ridiculously informative trailers which did in fact give half the movie away and a very suspect ending that qualifies as an audience cheater.

Those two deadly sins aside Terminator Salvation is a more than enjoyable piece of summer fanfare that while admittedly is far removed from the glory days of the series when it actually meant something significant under James Cameron, is still better than what Oscar winners like Gavin Hood and Ron Howard have given us so far this summer, and rather crucially it fails to dishonour it's more thought-provoking predecessors (and T3). The cast is uniformly reliable though Bale is largely wasted shouting into radios, motoring through combat scenes a stunt double could have actually acted in. A powerful if occasionally foul-mouthed actor Bale has been great in quite a few films this not being one of them. He just has nothing particularly important or memorable to do or rather John Connor just isn't needed here. He is not the leader of the resistance (an honour bestowed on Michael Ironside in a very good extended cameo) but a leader of a branch of troops as well as a prophet of sorts for those who believe his time travel jargon. Interesting there was apparently an idea present in an alternate script for the film that only used Connor for a few minutes towards the end that could so easily have been applied here. No doubt had an actor without Bale's calibre and profile been given the part of John Connor then many seemingly harmful re-writes may have been avoided. In short the man charged with one day saving humanity is a solider with marginally more to do than the men and women he commands save for looking important and fulfilling the twist in the plot late in the game that actually leaves a gaping plot-hole.

The standout performance comes from Anton Yelchin as a teenage Kyle Reese, who looks and sounds like a young Michael Biehn without ever resorting to an impersonation, if anything he gives a welcome new dimension to a fan favourite sadly but necessarily noticeable by his absence in the previous two films. Moon Bloodgood as a resistance solider, Bryce Dallas Howard (as Kate Connor) and Common as Connors second in command have little to do but give presence when it's needed with limited dialog, they're soldiers and function as such without ever fully coming into their own at any point. Finally Sam Worthington gives the kind of screen presence I'd expect from a Russell Crowe or indeed Bale himself in a commanding performance as the man lost in a future he is not familiar with but nevertheless steps up to the plate time and time and time again be it an audacious rescue attempt for Kyle Reese (and his mute companion, a precious and in the end invaluable little girl named Star played by Jadagrace Berry) taking on an Harvester or saving Bloodgoods character from a pack of rapists in the desert.

In the end I must say the first two Terminators were among my all time favourites and any sequel has a lot to live up to for fan boys like myself but for the spectacle it delivers as well as Anton Yelchin and Sam Worthington's sterling work, Terminator Salvation should give viewers fresh and familiar to the series a pleasant de-tour to the future that could have been a far more meaningful addition to the franchise but for the limp ending that plays it far, far, far too safe.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Angels and Demons [DVD] [2009]
Angels and Demons [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.77

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased, 17 May 2009
If "The Da Vinci Code" was considered an unforgivable bore by many (not me) then at least it had the great Sir Ian Mckellen to inject a bit of fun into the proceedings, remembering Mckellen as well as Paul Bethany's brutal monk and the contribution of Alfred Molina, always a most welcome presence, the most derided and second most commercially successful film of 2006 actually had a few things going for it despite the many nay-Sayers. In stark contrast Ron Howard's latest crack at Dan Brown's material is quite dull, visually it's absolutely gorgeous with Roman landmarks illuminating Robert Langdon's latest scavenger hunt, this time in a desperate race against time to stop a vial of anti-matter wiping out the Vatican city. This particular vial was stolen by the Illuminati, an organisation seeking retribution for the savage persecution of great scientists who were brutally slain by the Vatican in order to suppress findings that were deemed potentially damaging to the Catholic Church. In addition to this ticking time bomb four cardinals, one of which is in line to replace the recently deceased pope, are kidnapped by the Illuminati who plan to execute each one on the hour from 8.00-11.00pm, branding each cardinal with an Illuminati symbol while carrying out the killings in almost John Doe like style in relation to the four natural elements wind, earth, fire and water, and to round it all off with a bang the vial of anti matter will go off at midnight taking Vatican city and a chunk of Rome with it.

Professor Robert Langdon, currently enjoying harmonious relationship with the Catholic Church after his discoveries surrounding Jesus Christ, is recruited to aid the Vatican in the pursuit of the four missing cardinals and the bomb threatening the city. Replacing Audrey Tautou as Hanks sidekick is a scientist played by Ayelet Zurer. She was a member of the research team responsible for the harvesting of the anti-matter. Despite her beauty this is no remarkable chemistry between her and Langdon and her role being a perfunctory exercise in exposition though she is required to deal with the bomb should they find it. Ewan McGregor plays the Camerlengo, who was adopted by the pope as a boy after bombings in Northern Ireland either left him an orphan or he was orphaned by his parents anyway, I'm not sure which though any characters back story is of little relevance here in a movie that very much lives in the now with 24 style time updates reminding us of the impending bomb threat. Which to be honest is all "Angels and Demons" really is, a race against time with Tom Hanks doing his Indiana Jones routine minus the hat, whip, pistol and sense of adventure, piecing together clues invariably scattered all about Rome and while his does do a good job of leading us though the city (a friend watching with me enjoyed spotting places he himself had visited) it does little in the way of getting pulses going which is what this type of film seems set out to do.

Advertised as a faster paced thrill ride through the Vatican this feels rather like a brisk stroll down the streets of a city that undoubtedly is beautiful to look at but unfortunately is occupied by characters and plot devices that only barely manage to come together well enough to feel any way plausible, let alone heart stopping. The mystery itself is fairly arbitrary, with sinister actors like Armin Mueller-Stahl and Stellan Skarsgard thrown in the mix (and promptly wasted) creating an Agatha Christie sense whodunit where everyone bar Langdon is a suspect in pulling the strings behind the attack, which seeing as "Angels and Demons" was written and set before "The Da Vinci Code", the movie changes this, is reasonably predictable in execution. While "Angels and Demons" is well directed and has good actors at its disposal it's ultimately too un-involving for me to seriously recommend, if you have read the book or liked the first film (join the six of us) then you're going to want too see it regardless, but if you're just looking for something enjoyable to pass two and a quarter hours maybe give this one a miss or rent it when it comes out.

A Scanner Darkly [DVD] [2006]
A Scanner Darkly [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: 2.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What does a Scanner see?, 18 April 2009
Now here is a interesting proposition, a semi autobiographical book by the late, much lauded writer Philip K Dick, adapted by the man who directed "School Of Rock" ("A Scanner Darkly" not exactly being an obvious follow up), featuring Robert Downey Jr, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson playing a group of drugged up, progressively paranoid individuals who basically just hang around exchanging o-so-very-paranoid chatter about almost everyone and everything around them. I confess to being a quite a lightweight when it comes to Philip K Dick. Of his writings I've only read "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep" and was startled that such a fascinating read could be altered, borderline scrapped and still be made into one of the most celebrated films ever made, you should know the one. I've seen "Minority Report"(adapted from a series of short stories by Dick) and Total Recall and while I enjoyed both, particularly the former there's something to be revelled in "A Scanner Darkly" seeing what is supposed to be a faithful adaptation (last time I use that word I promise) of one of Dick's works particularly one that is a very personal piece of writing and partly because of this the film is a tough one to dissect. Paranoia, drug use, basic human rights, identity and sacrifice are all major themes explored here viewed through the brilliant mind of Dick and the wildly creative Richard Linklater who shot the film digitally before using animators to rotoscope over live action footage giving the film a highly stylised and distinctive look, like that of a graphic novel come to life but in a more literal, cartoon-like manner as opposed to something like "Sin City"

"A Scanner Darkly" opens in bizarre fashion with the sight of drug addict Freck (Rory Cochrane) trying to rid his body, home and dog of imaginary little green insects crawling all over his body, which he is only seeing due to a typical side effect caused by Substance D, a pivotal plot point and a very powerful drug that eventually wreaks havoc with the mental capacity of the user, such as that of burned out undercover narcotics agent Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) who comes to wearily describing the drug he's becoming addicted to as "dumbness and despair and desertion...elation loneliness hating and suspecting others, and finally slow death". As a cop Arctor wears a scramble suit, an odd creation, which could only work within the film's unique rotoscoping process, which contains over a million fragmented images of men, woman and children that constantly move around. This special suit keeps Bob's identity secret from those around him though its function is to prevent fellow officers knowing who he is. Bob's personal life is filled with colourful drug addicts, his roommates, Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and Barris (Robert Downey Jr) who both happily make the most of Substance D. The director Richard Linklater makes the most of a very brilliant, on form Downey Jr working with an edgy character that conducts such interesting experiments as creating homemade silencers for sixty-one cents as well as attempting to extract cocaine from aerosol cans. Downey fills Barris with an wonderfully erratic energy along with a sense of intellectual superiority over all those around him, he talks the talk like all good bluffs but his homemade silencer and cocaine trick aren't up to much amongst other ideas and fantasies concocted by this darkly amusing, edgy, paranoid and absolutely brilliant creation that the actor brings giving a great contrast to everyone else be it the Reeves character who is either laid back, dazed or playing a purposeful cop, or the similarly strung out yet honest and likable Ryder character as well as a very over the top Woody Harrelson who, in comparison to Downey, Reeves and Ryder gets saddled with a comic yet slightly limited stoner and unlike another addict played by Rory Cochrane doesn't get to go to the darkly comic regions we see Cochran's in.

While Downey, Harrelson and Cochran's characters appear to be Bob's friends he is romantically involved with a small time drug dealer and fellow addict Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder), often a confused young woman, possibly due to the fact she's drugged up on Substance D and cocaine to the point where she robustly rejects any form of sexual contact. Yet she's an oddly warm figure in the film, the only real female presence and her relationship with Bob Arctor pays off by the time we come to a surprisingly poignant climax that re-affirms the tender soul in Donna while giving her a whole new complexion in the proceedings. Looking back over the film, not a great deal happens in comparison to the far more elaborate films based on Dicks work, there's a considerable amount of simple drug fuelled chatter among the burn-out group Arctor hangs around with. As an undercover cop who is experiencing severe problems with Substance D he begins to lose sight of his own identity and due to leads connected with Downey's character ends up investigating his own group of friends as surveillance cameras are secretly placed all over his house. As problems with D rise Arctor begins to experience difficulty seeing what's right in front of him, even wondering whether a life he had, involving a wife and children was merely a very detailed creation within his own mind. His addiction eventually renders him with two personalities, one, his undercover cop monitoring his everyday life as Bob Arctor and his day-to-day life as Arctor. These are the same person of course but when we start Arctor is fully aware of his identity despite exposure to Substance D and it was only on the second viewing that I took real notice of the changeover, which eventually leads to a tragic finale for this troubled individual.

The distinctive look of "A Scanner Darkly" may put some off, though in my opinion the performances are strong enough, particularly Downey's and Ryder's (though Cochran's character, as the actor himself feared does become little more than a cartoon) to survive the transition. If not the look, then the off beat nature of the story is sure to alienate certain viewers and produce a few negative remarks for a film that may only ever obtain a very select "cult" following, but you don't need to be a particularly adventurous film fan to give this a look, or to experience something that on a cinematic level, at times is actually quite meaningful. An open mind certainly helps in any case.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [DVD] [2009]
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Price: 2.75

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical Film., 28 Feb 2009
It's difficult to add anything worthwhile or indeed justifiably decent to the many articles on "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button", because in a nutshell it's the type of film that transcends what someone like myself would have to say about it. I'm typing now because Button is fresh in my mind and I liked it, to say the very least.

The film begins in New Orleans on the eve of hurricane Katrina, where a dying woman (Daisy played by Cate Blanchett appearing in her eighties) has her daughter read the diary of her old love, who is of course the title character played by a Mr. Brad Pitt in an Oscar nominated performance. Without giving too much of the precious plot away we see Benjamin Button's life as an abandoned and seemingly deformed infant abandoned by his father (Jason Flemyng) on the doorsteps of a retirement home where he is immediately picked up by a worker named Queenie (another Oscar nominated performance this time from Taraji P. Henson) who immediately warms to the bizarre new-born taking him in and assuming the unique paternal duties that come from raising an eighty plus year old child. Of course Benjamin is oddly at home with the elder residents and amongst other residents befriends a woman whose granddaughter will grow up to be Cate Blanchett and the love of Benjamin Button's life. We see their first meeting with Benjamin in the seventy to eighties bracket physically and Daisy around ten years though both are in the same developmental stage mentally. It's a testament to the films success and Brad Pitt's performance that these opening exchanges never feel inappropriate or for the lack of a better word strange. This is after all an eighty-year-old man (at least physically) falling for a ten year old. But then Benjamin never has the feel of an old man and you sense that straight away, that he is on par with Daisy and their first meeting is still one of children.

As Benjamin grows physically younger he embarks on new adventures and journeys that lead him through war while working aboard a tug boat under a father figure (well sort of) the wonderfully colourful character Captain Mike (Jared Harris) during the second world war, sex, true love in Russia involving the wife of a British spy (Tilda Swinton) in one of Benjamin s many stop offs, and varying degrees of personal loss along the way. As director David Fincher put it this film is about life and the moments in it that define a person and we see such moments throughout Benjamin s life as various figures come and go, some leaving a more lasting impression than others notably Benjamin s father, his love in Russia, Captain Mike and his adoptive mother not to mention Daisy who aside from the scenes inter cut with a dying Daisy in New Orleans doesn't prominently feature in the film until the halfway point. Benjamin may age backwards and therefore lead an extraordinary existence, but his experiences are never fantastical in comparison to say, for instance the life and times of Forrest Gump. Speaking of the film "Forrest Gump", much has been made (none of it negative) of the presence of Gump screenwriter and Oscar winner Eric Roth who penned Button. While some critics have drawn comparisons between the two, some less favourably than others it's worth mentioning that Benjamin is no Gump. Over the course of a lifetime condensed to 163 minutes we see the personal evolution of a character that eventually has to reconcile his unique situation with that of those around him. Unlike Gump he legitimately knows how to hold his own in a conversation and form complex opinions. As someone who immensely enjoyed "Forrest Gump" I don't mean any of this in a derogatory manner towards the 1994 best picture winner, I just think Benjamin Button is perhaps more knowingly an active participant in the events in his life particularly towards the latter stages of the film where the stakes get raised considerably.

Overall the film is rich in strong characterization and wonderful all round performances from it's A-list cast and it's a surprisingly moving experience watching Benjamin Button's life unfold over nearly a century and the twists and turns and very meaningful encounters and acquaintances he makes along the way. Everything is so richly drawn here, only after the cinematic experience has ended do you begin to truly appreciate that all of the 150 million dollar budget that is present on screen, the production values, art decoration and visual trickery to make Brad Pitts reverse aging as well as Cate Blanchett's latter years among others is absolutely remarkable deservedly winning the film multiple effects awards. As a reviewer on the website IGN noted one of the principle beauties of cinema is it's ability to say different things and mean different things to different people and that couldn't be truer of any film than "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" which viewed through the eyes of some major critics and many regular film fans I'm sure, as overly long and sentimental. Now whatever anyone thinks about the two hour forty minute running time which I felt flew by, the part about over sentimentality ala Forrest Gump is ludicrous, lets not forget this was directed by the man who gave the world "Se7en", "Fight Club" and "Zodiac". You wouldn't expect David Fincher to sugar coat a story or spoon-feed his audience and he certainly does not. Rather Fincher's takes on life, love and death as well as dealing with the loss of a loved one are as interesting and indeed moving as anything I can remember watching in recent memory.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5