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Elysium [DVD] [2013]
Elysium [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Matt Damon
Price: 6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5, 27 May 2014
This review is from: Elysium [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
In the ruins of Earth circa 2154, ninety-nine per cent struggle to survive day to day while one per cent has fled to a self-sustaining space station to “preserve their way of life”. That orbiting space station is Elysium and bewitches the dreams of a young boy named Max who will grow into Matt Damon three decades later. As a boy he dreamt of life in the floating palace, as an adult following an industrial accident that leaves him five days to live he now needs to break into Elysium where any illness or injury can be fixed in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately for Max a defence system ruthlessly run by Jodie Foster’s defence secretary is set up to prevent anyone without a fortune breaching the walls of the one per cents kingdom.

Swapping themes of bigotry and racism for class conflict District 9 writer-director Neil Blomkamp expands the ghetto aesthetic that pervaded his Johannesburg setting in his feature debut to the surface of the planet this time out. A bravura opening shot establishes skyscrapers covered by shanty dwellings as if slum life has become a virus that has devoured most of the planet. The juxtaposition between rich and poor is visually conveyed in some nice touches as we jump from Max receiving an undeserved beating from a robotic law enforcer for making a harmless joke to members of the one per cent enjoying champagne and cupcakes. While Elysium citizens enjoy impossible comprehensive health care hospital staff back on Earth are predictably over run. Indeed it’s disgusting disregard for Max’s life by a worker drone under the watchful eye of William Fitchner’s evilly entitled corporate titan that sets the plot in motion.

An ex-con who must reunite with some old friends to save his life Max’s quest to Elysium sees him accidentally hijack a series of reboot codes that could open Elysium to the entire planet. On his trail, courtesy of Jodie Foster’s dulpicite political figure, Blomkamp reunites with District 9 leading man Sharlto Copley. Playing a foul mouthed, South African mercenary-“I don’t believe in committing violence in front of children, tell your daughter to close her eyes”- whose hobbies we’re told include murder and rape Copley carries the nasty edge of feral authenticity over from District 9. He’s alone though in edge stakes, as Matt Damon gives a likeable, engaging but slightly predictable heroic turn in the central role. Damon’s very good but where Copley’s character in District 9 began as an unsympathetic bigot and went on a gut wrenching journey that was violent, unpredictable and genuinely unsettling to watch Max is a far more typical heroic leading man type. Fitting neatly into Damon’s nice guy persona the script tries to make Max a selfish as possible but by and large we expect him to put the needs of the many above his own fight for survival. Rounding out the main cast Alice Braga appears as a childhood sweetheart of Max’s, and Jodie Foster gives reliable ice queen (albeit with a distracting French-African accent) in the vein of her work in something like Inside Man. While it lacks the harsher qualities and moral ambiguity of Blomkamp’s last film, Elysium still offers a consistently entertaining experience that rises at times into the majestic as Blomkamp’s eye for detail observes wet petals descending on two violent combatants, the extensive ghetto’s that Max and the rest of the world live in, or Earth as seen from Elysium. Following from his breakout hit Blomkamp has delivered an exciting sci-fi action adventure. Technically executed with precision and boasting a wild turn by Copley with a legitimate interest in class politics that doesn’t feel tacked on as an afterthought. That’s more than enough.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues [DVD] [2013]
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Will Ferrell
Price: 12.00

3.0 out of 5 stars At least twelve laughs in two hours. I’ll take that., 27 May 2014
Anchorman 2 starts, continues and ends in comparative mayhem. From Harrison Ford grumbling magnificently as a legendary led anchor to an apocalyptic showdown in Central Park the comedy sequel is a scatter-shot collection of weird, random, occasionally sensational moments. Picking up a decade after the events of the original film which left the channel four news team (comprised once again of Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrel and David Koechner) having reclaimed their place as the top ratings team in San Diego. Now in the 1980s they’re reunited in New York in a bid to launch the first 24 hour news network. Loosely speaking that’s the premise.

From this thin line the writing team of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell launch into bizarre flights of fancy that take the anarchic sense of humour from the first instalment (choice example of Tim Robbins chopping Luke Wilson’s hand off with a machete in a news gang battle) and up the ante ferociously. Characters and plot strands are introduced then left behind or consigned to the background. Animals perform acts of great redemptive heroism and violence and somewhere in there Ron Burgundy stumbles upon the notion that high speed car chases and sensationalist, jingoistic journalism sells. None of this adds up to much in the way of a story, none of it really needs to. Whatever faults-mainly an inconsistent stream after laughs after a bombardment in the opening fifteen minutes-the moment Will Ferrell appears in full Burgundy swagger something magical happens.

Back in his signature role I found it impossible not to smile at the sight of that moustache, walk, and irresistible sense of buffoonery which made the character so endearing ten years ago. This is I think the key to either Anchorman; the laughs are sporadic, more so here, whatever the sometimes violent commitment of the actors at getting a laugh there’s always a charm to these characters (save Steve Carrel’s mentally deficient Brick who here seems to have been left to his own very random devices). Where the script and improvisations stop I don’t know but when the film works it is great comedy.

It’s not without languors. As a Saturday Night Live brain child product there’s a sketch formula to the movie where tangents are snatched at and multiple gags, seemingly improvised at length, are ran through with anything and everything tossed in. Among them shark fights, futuristic weapons, an extraordinary cameo roaster, Ron pioneering trash journalism, a rival played by James Marsden who the film introduces and does little with, a new love interest for Will Ferrell who comes and goes, Christina Applegate returning as Ron’s wife, even the original news team are just there with David Koechner’s Champ getting particularly short shrift. Paul Rudd is in and out of the picture and is excellent when called upon while Steve Carrel is given more time and a love interest of his own (played by Kristen Wig) to explore the enigmatic internal mechanisms of Brick with far more mixed results than first time around.

In that regard the continuing legend of Ron Burgundy is a mixed bag where much of the film seems (although I’m sure this is rigorously scripted for the most part) to lumber from one comic set-piece to another without any discernible pattern, rhythm or consistency. Some of it is fantastically funny and has been, gratefully, withheld during the extensive advertising campaign where the principals’ actors have performed in character rather than spoiling the best jokes. Of which there are enough good ones here to go around. This isn’t a balanced motion picture and there may be a totally different reel of Anchorman 2 playing elsewhere to the one I saw such is the anarchic plotting at hand. Yet even in its weak spots the opening euphoria and scattered moments of brilliance sustains the second chapter in Ron Burgundy’s cinematic legacy.

Sinister [DVD]
Sinister [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ethan Hawke
Price: 3.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5, 15 Mar 2013
This review is from: Sinister [DVD] (DVD)
Looking for a solid piece of horror fare one could do far worse than "Sinister", a quietly unsettling offering from the director of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". The story revolves around a true crime writer who, in the hunt for a bestseller, moves his family to a house where a particularly gruesome multiple murder took place. Played by Ethan Hawke here's a man who sold one New York Times number one bestseller a decade ago and has been desperately seeking a taste of past glories since having followed his initial success with two flops. Uprooting his wife and two children to the site of a murder Hawkes character isn't the most atypically sympathetic character to head a horror picture and his morally ambivalent nature works in establishing an engaging lead. Within a week of arriving in their new home Hawkes writer locates a box of home-movies in the attic. Believing them connected to his new book he begins watching what is revealed to be a series of grisly murders each connected by occult symbolism, a missing child and a murky image of a figure on the periphery of the killings.
To reveal any more about the nature of the killings would be to spoil "Sinister", which like any solid outing in the cinema is better discovered fresh. Needless to say once our leading man cracks open the home movies strange and increasingly unsettling events begin to occur around the house. Plenty of small creaks, bumps and the odd loud crash in the house populate the first half of "Sinister" and with fairly limited characterization outside of Ethan Hawkes crime writer the life looks like it's about to drain from the picture well before the sixty minute mark. Then, as things take a turn both for the worse and for the supernatural, "Sinister" slowly evolves into a genuinely tense experience. This is especially true as the increasingly disturbing killings are shown via the Super-8 home movies and oddities began occurring in the house allowing Hawkes to show his every man character unraveling while director Scott Derrickson carefully builds an understated and satisfying sense of tension.
Whether or not the second half of "Sinister" (where I found the movie picked up considerably) works depends on ones willingness to go with the overtly supernatural elements at play. Situations involving characters doing typically stupid things in horror movies are kept to a minimal. Admittedly the discovery of the murder tapes and how long they are kept private is strained and there's one key scene near the end, which I will not spoil here, where Ethan Hawkes behavior is a plot necessity as opposed to a logical action. Yet these are quibbles and the stories pay-off is comfortably worth it. Overall "Sinister" is a deft, well-paced and effectively tense thriller that to its immense credit follows its grim convictions and story line to the very last shot.

Lawless [DVD]
Lawless [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hardy
Price: 4.25

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5/5, 3 Oct 2012
This review is from: Lawless [DVD] (DVD)
Bursts of savage violence, fine acting from a top class cast and atmospheric direction grace "Lawless" a semi-biographical crime drama set in at the height of prohibition Virginia. Reuniting director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave, the creative team behind the excellent Australian drama "The Proposition", Lawless" follows the travails of the Bondurant brothers (Forrest, Jack and Howard played respectively by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke) a family of bootleggers who clash with a sadistic Chicago law enforcer by the name of Rakes (Guy Pearce) sent to Franklin County demanding payment from bootleggers for the privilege of supplying moonshine without reprisal from the law. Headed by the thoughtful but when necessary violent Forrest, the Bondurant brothers refuse to comply and war ensues between the outlaws and lawmen. Thrown into the mix is a pair of romantic subplots involving Forrest and a runaway Chicago dancer named Maggie (Jessica Chastain) and the youngest Bondurant Jack with a preacher's daughter played by Mia Wasikowski.

Quickly establishing the outlaws as heroes and lawmen as villains "Lawless" occupies a middle ground between mainstream gangster action and art house drama. When the inevitable violence comes it's quick and suitably horrific. Characters are tarred and feathered, there's a graphic throat slitting and a particularly nasty beating dished out by Rakes to Jack. Yet this is not a gratuitously violent picture and as vicious as Forrest and Howard (a shell-shocked, often drunken war veteran who operates largely as additional muscle) can be to protect their livelihood there is never any question of which side we're rooting for. Sleazy, cruel and foppish almost to the point of caricature Rakes is a pantomime but effective movie villain through and through. His character exists to make life as difficult as possible for the outlaws and be generally repulsive. In this regard Guy Pearce does strong work getting us to hate Rakes. Another colourful villain is supplied by Gary Oldman in little more than an extended cameo role as a Chicago mobster. Reminiscent of the kind of flamboyant bad guys the actor was once famous for it's a distractingly brief part leaving us wanting more Oldman.

Amongst the aforementioned bloodshed valuably tender moments are provided through the strikingly well played female leads though the romance involving Jack and a preacher's sheltered daughter feels slight and underdeveloped. Chastain's dancer fares better, her chemistry with Tom Hardy and steely fortitude when caught between Rakes' men and the brothers is always compelling. While the drama focuses somewhat on Jacks journey from "runt of the litter" to becoming a major cog in his brothers operation the standout performance and main reason to seek the film out comes from the ever charismatic Tom Hardy. Drawing laughs through Forrest's taciturn nature, commanding and compulsively watchable his performance is the highlight in a film that also boasts a darkly humorous streak that allows for several unexpected laughs. With lyrical imagery to go with its brutality "Lawless" may not have many new tricks up its sleeve but it is constantly watchable and entertaining if a fine shot shy of greatness.

The Amazing Spider-Man (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
The Amazing Spider-Man (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
Dvd ~ Andrew Garfield
Price: 5.00

14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Amazing, maybe The Consistently Solid Spider-Man? 7/10, 4 July 2012
Bias right off the bat I think it's ridiculously soon to reboot this series. What's the point in retelling the origins of Peter Parker/Spider-Man a mere ten years after Sam Raimi successfully brought Spidey to the bring screen and a mere 5 years after the critically divisive but box office smash Spider-Man 3? Well the point is money and as such I went into this with a healthy dose of scepticism coupled with a handful of mixed to good reviews (certainly weaker than the buzz for the first Spider-Man ten years ago). And yet I found myself being won over to this new incarnation on the strength of the performances of the central duo of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the requisite humour we come to expect from a Spider-Man movie and the clever manner in which the key aspects of the characters origin are handled in a way that doesn't feel repetitive next to the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire version.

Once again we find Peter Parker attending High School, clashing with Flash Thompson a.k.a disposable high school jock type, awkwardly approaching a girl-next-door type (no Mary Jane in sight, this time we get blond bombshell Gwen Stacy played by the reliably excellent Emma Stone). Uncle Bens alive alongside Aunt May (played in the back round by Martin Sheen and Sally Field respectively). The key difference or "untold story" promised by the trailer is the role of Peter's deceased parents and his discovery of secrets pertaining to his father's work with scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) that's sets the story in motion. Familiar beats are explored (Uncle Ben's arc, the famous Spidey-bite and subsequent new powers montage and a mad but inherently good scientist trying to save the world) but the shift in focus surrounding Peters father and the very different romantic dilemma with Gwen sets this movie apart from its predecessors.

Andrew Garfield nails the role despite any inherent disadvantages playing high school Peter at 28 with movie-star good looks. He brings a perfect blend of twitchy awkwardness to the Parker scenes but never plays him as a wimp, rather an introvert who's more comfortable on his skateboard or taking photos than approaching Gwen. Over in the suit he plays into humour fans of the cartoon series will recognise in a way that is more pronounced than in the Raimi trilogy. With his powers he is suitably heroic, cocky and has more than a touch of fun embarrassing the school bully (not unlike Raimi's movie but funnier). In this regard his work is at the very least on a par with Tobey Maguire's if not superior. We root for him and crucially the lead female role has a lot less screaming and a lot more back and forth with our hero. The scene where he tries asking her out for the first time is played awkwardly on both sides and early on Gwen knows his secret which ends up making her far more central to the action late on as opposed to being in need of a good saving. Be it Peter or her cop Dad (played very well by Dennis Leary) Gwen operates as her own character. Wittily written, beautifully acted and all round a very strong female lead. I just wished for more scenes with the two of them together but alas this is a blockbuster and backstory and action must take charge.

On this note I wonder how compelling a villain the lizard is. Rhys Ifans is a terrific actor and Connors has a potentially tragic story but it never feels fully fleshed out here in the way the villains in the first two Spider-Man films did. Once bad experiment related stuff occurs we lose Ifans to a massive computer generated lizard and while the creature maintains a level of consciousness (we hear the actor speak and see the character has clear motivations as opposed to animalistic carnage) there isn't enough meat on the bones. The connective tissue between Connors and Peter's father and their work together is never fully explored nor do we see anyone connected with Connors. In Raimi's films the Green Goblin/Norman Osborne was also Peter best friends Dad and a friend to Peter. As such his fate had emotional weight for both Peter and his son Harry. In this regard Connors great emotional wallop is what, trying to grow his arm back? Even the driven mad scientist angle was done far more satisfactorily in Spider-Man 2 (such comparisons are constantly invited given the short space of time between these movies).

So a mixed bag for sure but a better time at the cinema than I expected and considering the problems that arose from the last Spidey outing this reboot series getting a chance to fly won't do the summer seasons ahead any harm whatsoever. This is a good movie.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2012 9:18 PM BST

The Grey [DVD]
The Grey [DVD]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Offered by Discs4all
Price: 3.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different film to the one in adverts., 17 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Grey [DVD] (DVD)
Advertised as a punch up between Liam Neeson and a pack of man-eating Wolves, director Joe Carnahan's ("Narc", "The A-Team") survival thriller "The Grey" arrives as a surprisingly thoughtful, slow paced survival thriller about a group of working men whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness and find themselves prey to a group of wolves whose territory they have invaded. With the odds stacked against them they are rallied into action by Ottaway (Neeson) a sharpshooter who prior to the crash was hired to protect workers on rigs from animal attacks. When we first meet Ottaway he is a defeated man who, mourning the death of wife, is about to commit suicide only for the cry of wolf in the distance halting him. When we see him next it is to board the doomed flight that by its end will leave him fighting desperately for his life.

Assessing the balance between wolf action and drama in "The Grey" it is worth observing that while the wolves exist as an ever present threat to the dwindling survivors, populated by character actors such as Dermot Mulroney ("Zodiac") and Frank Grillo ("Warrior"), the bulk of the film centres on how the men attempt to survive the unforgiving conditions, and how they respond when staring into the face of certain death and here the supporting cast are given a chance to shine. Carnahan gives us just enough detail to care about their respective faiths and as a result each death carries some resonance rather than being a vehicle for CGI wolf attacks. This is a more contemplative film than one might expect given the adverts, Neeson's recent high profile releases such as "Taken", "Unknown", or his previous collaboration with this director on "The A-Team". That said the films not without thrills and when the wolves do appear they are used to maximum effect either in brief but brutal attacks on the survivors or in one memorable scene seen only by the light of their eyes as they descend upon the men's camp. Their ominous howls guarantee they are never far from the action.

Wolves and all this is Liam Neeson's movie and he is excellent in a commanding performance. Playing the groups own Alpha Male it's hard to imagine the directors alleged first choice Bradley Cooper holding the screen as convincingly as Neeson does whether he's forcefully stopping a fellow survivor from stealing a dead mans wallet, talking a fatally wounded man through his death or staring down the pack of wolves with the conviction that he does as well as movingly making the most out of the subplot involving the death of Ottaway's wife. It's a consummate performance in a film that takes it's time, sometimes appearing to run out of steam given the sparse story being told, but successfully builds to a satisfying conclusion on the back of a terrific central performance, fine work from the ensemble cast and steady direction from Carnahan who, as well as writing the film from Ian McKenzie Jeffers short story " Ghost Walkers", deserves credit for shooting on location in British Columbia and giving the film an invaluable level of authenticity.

Prometheus (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Prometheus (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Noomi Rapace
Offered by zenfromzen
Price: 10.00

10 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A big empty shell of an Alien related film., 3 Jun 2012
There are three big questions in "Prometheus" according to Ridley Scott; who made us, why and where did they come from? Also in the mix are the tantalising link to Scott's 1979 science fiction horror landmark "Alien" and the origin of the title creature from that series. Our main eyes and ears in this world are Noomi Rapace's character Elizabeth Shaw and her beau and fellow scientist Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green). The pair begin the film in Scotland discovering a cave that contains wall markings/paintings/drawings that are identical to others found across the globe. Somehow these markings are common to various ancient cultures who were separated by thousands of years. Deciding that these cave drawing are really star maps to the planet where they hope to find the creatures that inspired these ancinet images-possibly mankinds creators the pair attract funding from a certain Weyland corporation and off we go.

Maybe it's the Alien link or the promise of a sci-fi epic that plays with big ideas and questions whilst delivering thrills fans of the earlier Alien movies will be drawn to but Prometheus feels like one big trailer teasing a very interesting film. While its attempt to mount a serious quest into the origins of our beginning are admirable for a big budget summer release the end product feels oddly disjointed. To begin too many of the characters feel interchangeable in a way the crew of the first Alien didn't. Even without the comparison they're an awfully expendable bunch. Plot devices and well-worn archetypes personified only by familiar faces or the occasional flash of humour. We have the gruff captain who's just there to do his job (Elba), the corporate suit (Theron doing ice queen to a tee) and an assortment of colourful worker bees and general medical and science staff just there to make money and help the plot along (Sean Harris and Rafe Spall's characters being the most prominently featured after Idris Elba's sardonic captain). None are developed beyond a few character ticks, and when the deaths come (there's a 17 strong crew altogether) they feel strangely rushed or simply anti-climactic. There's a surprisingly low level of gore or indeed any palpable sense of tension in Prometheus but I digress.

Character wise Shaw and Holloway an attractive pair that would've benefited from more development. Shaw unwavering in her faith of a higher power (sample dialogue-you still believe in God? They created us. To which she asks "who created them?"). Holloway by comparison is an atheist prepared to do "anything and everything" to find his answers and meet his maker. Yet both characters and their respective story arcs (bar Elizabeth's rather extraordinary survival instincts as wryly noted by Fassbenders android) feel like jumping off points for more three dimensional characters. It's reasonable to suggest as ideas driven science fiction epic with grand ideas about humanities beginnings at its heart need only enough characterisation to drive its potentially visionary story forward. Fatally audience-wise the lack of interesting or even existing answers to those ideas makes the lack of interesting characters to care for in Prometheus all the more glaring. Faring better is Michael Fassbender as the ships replicant David. His is the standout performance, breathing drawl and sinister ambiguity into David. We never quite get a lock on him. Supposedly devoid of feelings or motives he instigates a lot of the plot without revealing how much personality he has developed of his own and teases us with signs that perhaps David has a mind of his own, even a mean streak. He injects just the right amount of venom into his exchanges with Logan Marshalls Greens character (who frequently talks down to David) to tease a personality beyond his impassive veneer.

As impressive as Fassbender is the lack of interesting or developed characters around him leave the film hanging on its big questions: where do we come from, who made us, why and how did they get there? Leaving Prometheus not long ago I didn't find these questions were adequately answered. The monosyllabic beings charged with creating us are almost as much of a cypher now as they were in the opening scene. As for any satisfying answer into the origins of the Space Jokey discovered in Alien no great connective tissue is provided. Scott says we are two movies away from even arriving at Alien and our knowledge of the space jokey and its race isn't greatly developed after two hours in Prometheus. As benefitting the co-creator of Lost Damon Lindelof's script raises interesting questions without satisfactory answers. We know who our makers are in a nifty opening scene depicting the beginning of man. The why and where they came from remains untouched. For all its undoubted visual splendour (let it be said Prometheus is always a marvel to look at) I didn't find the exploration of the films theme or its characters very satisfying. It's bewildering that as a disciple of Stanley Kubrick (Scott has stated 2001 as a film he wished he had directed) Scott would tackle a story about the origins of mankind and end it with so little in the way of actual discovery. The where and why concerning the makers or Space Jockeys is left for potential sequels to answer which, after months if not years of anticipation around the film is borderline maddening (where does the story go if this like Scott's other proposed franchise starter "Robin Hood" doesn't deliver at the box office?). The origins of the xenomorph from the "Alien" series fare better. True to his word Scott does deliver familiar creatures in the film's final minutes. This is a cameo and appropriately so as "Prometheus" is its own beast pursuing a story that is merely located in the same universe as "Alien" and the value of face huggers, chest busters and alien drones, queens etc., has probably been driven into the ground in various equals and cross over franchises (cheers "Alien versus Predator").

Unfortunately by failing to deliver on the big questions and central ideas inherent to the story the lack of tension or dread generated by the small level of, shall we say Alien-sequel thrills "Prometheus" ends up being a very good looking empty shell of a film. The only elements that really shine are Fassbenders excellent performance, the majestic opening sequence, the sets and the hardware. Probably enough to hang a 120-140 million dollar film on but overall it's a disappointment for fans of "Alien" and cinephiles in general awaiting Scott's sci-fi follow up to "Blade Runner". As a footnote small but important roles as Weyland founder Peter Weyland with the great Guy Pearce, buried under prosthetics and hindered by his limited screentime, and Patrick Wilson as Shaws father do little to fire up the proceddings but leave me looking at the DVD as a possible source of salvation in the way Scott brought "Kindom Of Heaven" back to life in his acclaimed directors cut of that picture. Unfortuantely Sir Ridley has confirmed that this is his prefered version of Prometheus. To the sequel then for our answers.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 12, 2012 7:50 PM GMT

The Woman in Black [DVD]
The Woman in Black [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Offered by Bee-Entertained
Price: 4.39

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When Hammer meet Harry.., 8 May 2012
This review is from: The Woman in Black [DVD] (DVD)
Hammer studious have risen from their slumber. Having once been a major power in delivering a host of iconic horror pictures including early incarnations of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy they have been dormant in film since 1979. Hammer returned under new backing in 2007 and this coming June sees the DVD and Blu-Ray release of their new ghost story "The Woman in Black" which follows the travails of a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps played by Daniel Radcliffe. When we meet him Kipps is locked in depression since his wife's death in childbirth and has been sent by his firm to a remote village to speed up the sale of a house that the locals believe to be inhabited by the vengeful spirit of a woman who shortly after her son drowned took her own life. Since her suicide horrific deaths involving the residents' children have followed. As such they do not take to Arthur's arrival and stirring up of past horrors too kindly and do everything in their power to send him back to London.

Not intent on being scared off Arthur finds allies in a wealthy, forward thinking couple played by Ciaran Hinds and recent Oscar nominee Janet McTeer who bring some badly needed gravitas to the proceedings, themselves having lost a child. Yet no sooner has Arthur opted to stay at the dreaded Eel Marsh house (rather inconveniently located in marshes whose only linked to the mainland is by a long causeway that spends much of the movie is covered over by the tide trapping our faithful Mr Kipps), then local children start perishing, apparently by their own hand. To make matters worse Arthurs time at Eel Marsh is blighted by ghastly apparitions and the most hideously creepy array of children's toys I have seen in quite some time. It's a movie soaked in atmosphere, the Edwardian setting suitably chilly for this tale of ghosts that go bump in the night.

Director James Watkins knows how to build up an atmosphere of dread peppering the movie with the occasional heart stopping scare. It's the kind of horror where the antagonist-the title Woman in Black- appears only in the background; her horrifically haggard image blurred until close the end. It's a relatively effective cat and mouse affair with Kipps wandering around the house at night with various creaking, bumping and rocking noises in the background along with the occasional reveal of his tormentor. Watkins takes care in building tension to a palpable level before a swift release rather than going for a cheap "BOO" moment. As a result this is not an overly frightening movie but a very creepy one.

As our eyes and ears Daniel Radcliffe acquits himself perfectly fine as the young lawyer. Perhaps a few years too young for the part (he went from Harry Potter to having a four year old son terribly fast), he imbues Arthur with enough melancholy to maintain our sympathy and interest whilst doing a fine job wandering around Eel Marsh looking increasing strained and eventually flat-out terrified. By no means a heavyweight horror there's still enough to recommend in The Woman in Black for a rental at home, preferably in a nice dark room.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2012 3:46 PM BST

X-Men: First Class (DVD + Digital Copy)
X-Men: First Class (DVD + Digital Copy)
Dvd ~ James McAvoy
Price: 3.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overly familar to a fault., 24 Dec 2011
Right here we go, number 4 in the series (not counting Wolfe's big day out) and you know what? Great cast, excellent production design evoking the 60's, technically accomplished and an eclectic soundtrack to boot. Das good ya? Not quite. Much as I admire Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman's' previous efforts (Stardust, Kick Ass and-minus Goldman's participation-Layer Cake were all thoroughly enjoyable)there's no escaping the fact that after a strong opening 30 minutes "X-Men: First Class" descends into territory that has been exhaustively covered in previous instalments. That is not to say First Class is a bad movie just a redundant one that exists solely to reinvigorate an ailing cash cow. By investing in such a First Class (pun defiantly intended) writing/directing team and a cast including Michael Fassbender, James McCavoy, Jennifer Lawrence and the reliably excellent Kevin Bacon fox have successfully kept the franchise wheel rolling. But I digress.

Set at the height of cold war paranoia the story charts the origins of Fassbender's Holocaust survivor Erik and his first meeting and subsequent alliance with Charles Xavier and, precariously, the C.I.A in their efforts to combat a mutant uprising led by Bacons Hellfire Club leader Sebastian Shaw who wants to initiate a war between the Americans and the Soviets in a bid to exterminate the human race. So there's a nifty montage scene of Charles and Erik recruiting young mutants including fan favourites Beast (Nicholas Hoult of Skins fame), Havoc, Banshee and a bunch of others whose screen time is even more superfluous than that of the side mutant characters in either Singers or Ratner's instalments. We've been here before, X-Men and the first sequel covering the same ground with greater success. This time the villain just happens to be played (very well) by Kevin Bacon. The central theme or message of the movie revolves around that of outsiders coming to grips with a society that either fears or downright hates them. Of our two leading men Erik distrusts humanity and seeks revolution while Charles believes there is still hope for both species to co-exist. Bryan Singer also covered this character dynamic within about 30 seconds of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meeting onscreen 11 years ago. A sense of been there done that hangs over their interplay which is especially problematic considering their relationship provides a decent chunk of the movies emotional punch.

Also in the mix is Mystiques familiar blue visage, she functions as the main vocal point of the movies "mutant and proud" why should we hide ourselves and why can't society accept us rhetoric that was combed with a fine toothcomb in X-Men 1-3. Jason Flemying pops up as a teleporter working for Shaw, January Jones serves secondary villain duty as Emma Frost and Rose Byrne rounds off the main cast as C.I.A agent who works alongside the future professor X. A host of recognisable cameos add to mix. However as good as the cast is it's hard to get over the fact that this material has been pounded into the ground 3-now 4-times over (with more sequels for Wolverine, First Class, potentially the first trilogy and a Deadpool spin-off to come).

Occasionally First Class strikes a cord but it's most impressive output occurs in the first 30 minutes as we follow Erik hunting down Nazi's who destroyed his life in the camps. Once him and Xavier collide the movie reverts to the formula established in Singers superior efforts. Even my tired critique is becoming repetive a trait unfortunately shared by First Class. Still when all is said and done the movie's diverting enough at times and the cast is appealing if a tad wasted. Vaughn's last comic adaptation was made independently of a studio and it showed. The reverse is true of First Class. Again it's not a badly made movie, nor is it without some entertaining moments, it's just not nessecary after a glut of X-Men movies. If you're new to the series First Class may feel like a breath of fresh air, alternatively 1-2 can presumably be found on the cheap on a tesco/HMV shelf near you.

Cowboys & Aliens [DVD]
Cowboys & Aliens [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Price: 3.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware: target audience, 31 Aug 2011
This review is from: Cowboys & Aliens [DVD] (DVD)
Now here is an interesting, reasonably well acted western with all the trappings associated with that great dying genre combined with a classic alien invasion scenario. On paper it sounds like a fun two hours of James Bond and Indiana Jones fighting extraterrestials across stunning, beautiful photographed backdrops evoking the spirit of those great westerns of many years ago. What the title may do in fact is hurt the movie as adults seeing it may dismiss it as late summer tosh whilst younger audience will see it as a dead serious western with sci fi elements blended in. Which simply put is what it is. Indeed the first 25 minutes or so could be the start of any(promising) looking western as a lone rider played by Daniel Craig(just afetr he wakes up in the desert with a strange alien device attached to his wrist and proceeds to disarm a group of scavengers hoping to bring him in for a crime he cannot remember commiting), who rides into a town aptly called Absolution. No memeory of his past he is promplty arrested and at this time we encounter another lead this time in the form of the immortal Harrisson Ford as Colonel Dolarhyde who wants Craigs wanted man now known as Jake Lonergan.

It's fun in these opening exchanges that but for Craigs braclet someone without prior knowledge of the title could see this and think it was a straight up western. These parts work and looking through Fords and Craigs past work the two leading men certainly fit thier respective charaters and play them well, archetypes though they ultimately are both actors are canny enough to flesh out some personality and even compassion for their respective fates before the climax.

Almost immideately after their re-intoduction, Alien forces attack the city in scout ships that could've been inspired from old Star Wars concept art. In a scene eerily reminiscent of Speilbergs "War Of The Worlds" humans are plucked off the ground and taken from their homes. At this point our disparate groups must unite in a bid to save their townspeople. Such was all plot given to you, the good viewer, in every trailer released for "COWBOYS&ALIENS" this summer.

Thats the basic plot set-up. Anywho, question now is is this worth seeing while it's still in cinemas or latter on dvd/rental(time of writing it is in cinemas, any future shoppers please excuse me)and the short answer is yes. Brimming with effects that stand out much more in a town in the old west than the many buildings destroyed in modern day New York in 1998s "Godzilla" it is geniuenly exciting watching cowboys attempt to, and not without some success, tackle Alien forces. Perhaps someone will tell me of many but for me this is the first big-budget alien invasion release set in the wild west. Even as a novelty(the movie is more than this, and that I must strees)the opening 40 or so minutes are engaging enough within the western elements and are supplemented by the innovative amalgamation of Cowboys and Aliens going to war. There are enough genuienly strong visulas, impressive special effects and typically releible work from Ford, Craig, the luminous Oliva Wilde(sidelined early on as a mysterious figure who clearly knows something important about all of this but also merely, even regretably a potential love interest for Daniel Craigs charater). There's also a nice supporting turn from the reliably superb Sam Rockwell who plays a doctor who's wife is missing. Others shine in small moments scattered throughout the film but bar a failure to give the fantastic Rockwell more to do(ALWAYS WORTH TRYING) the acting is strong across the board.

Complemented by a solid search and rescue mission that propels the plot along after the opening onslaught the movie just about pulls off the trick of being a successful hybrid of classic western and science fiction elements albeit with a climax that feels a tad by the numbers but this is nowhere near fatal when assessing the finished movie. For being able to deliver this kind of rough in hew spectatle and grandiose alien effects shots with strong actors taking the material deadly serious(i.e. Fords dissappointment of a son has been captured, Craig has vague memories and flashbacks of an ultimately gruseome tragedy in his past and good people are met with grisly ends at the hands of experimenting alien doctors examining their captives.

So, wrapping this rant up, definitely worth rental, worth seeing on the bigscreen and its in your hands shelling out 20+cuid for the dvd (I wouldn't). The novel premise holds together tonally aided by Ford, Craig, Williams and Rockwells reiably strong service as well as some exciting special effects which, to conclude and to be fair, big movies with solid effects are a dime a dozen, but this one has something up its sleeve that makes the effects a legitimate selling point. Of which there are enough to go around in "COWBOYS AND ALIENS"

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