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bizmandan (staffordshire, england)

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Die Hard 4.0 [Blu-ray] [2007]
Die Hard 4.0 [Blu-ray] [2007]
Dvd ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by rsdvd
Price: £4.35

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good action movie but not really die hard, 17 Mar 2012
John McClane is back in another installment of the Die Hard franchise, or is he? That's the question that faces the viewers upon seeing Die Hard 4.0, a techno-talky popcorn popper that has enough explosions to wake the dead, but very little to do with the esteemed film series.

So what went wrong? The main gripe is that this really isn't a film about John McClane. When I was watching it I was reminded very much of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in that, when I left the theatre at the end of that film I remember thinking "well that was enjoyable but, it wasn't an Indiana Jones movie." Sure, there are a fair share of stunts and one-liners, but the crux of the story has little to do with the cop from New York who virtually reinvented the modern-day movie hero. Sadly, he's made to play second fiddle to Justin Long, a young, sarcastic hacker whose part in the plot ends up nearly as substantial as McClane. Thus the movie essentially boils down to the two characters squabbling in an annoying "culture clash" fashion as they race from one destination to another, with lots of typing away at a keyboard and McClane only in tow to beat up the bad guys when they show up. Sound fun? Then maybe this is the flick for you. One thing is for sure though, this isn't Die Hard.

While it's never too easy to reboot an older franchise for modern audiences, 4.0 does just enough to forget what came before it so people too young to remember the Three films won't feel left out, presumably. Bruce Willis has said in the past that he despises the second film for giving too many nods to the original, and I do see his point but at least acknowledged that said film is from a well established franchise! Here, the only thread of continuation has to do with McClane's family, his estranged ex-wife and a daughter who gets annoyed by him, yet calls for daddy as soon as she gets stuck in an elevator! Does the government or the boring baddie (played with zero zest) even recognize that this is the same guy that thwarted three, count 'em, three terrorist attacks? No, not really. It's a point that thrusts the entire series into the light on its own territory, where McClane now has adventures that don't necessarily have to do with anything that came before. As soon as this is understood, viewers can either tune out or just not give a hoot and enjoy the big pretty explosions. And to be sure, there are plenty of those.

In fact, take away any Die Hard references and this becomes a fairly good, although forgettable excursion into the world of action movies. The action is nice and at points, over-the-top, but it never seems to have the same ability to grip you in the way that the other films did.

In the end, when all the gun shells are collected and freeways fixed, it's pretty obvious that Die Hard 4.0 was a pretty fun film to watch with plenty of action and eye candy, but as far as staying loyal to, probably one of the, if not, the best action franchises of all time it's clear that it is half-heartedly tailored to fit the Die Hard model, which is really too bad, because John McClane deserved better...and so do the fans.

Battle: Los Angeles [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Battle: Los Angeles [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Aaron Eckhart
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £4.02

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the poor writing really let this film down, 15 Mar 2012
So front-loaded with clichés that it initially feels as if it might buckle under the weight of its own derivativeness, Battle: Los Angeles eventually finds its footing during an explosive bridge battle around the midway mark, and subsequently muscles through with the efficiency of a battle-hardened Marine.

Battle: Los Angeles, is a film so chaotic and incoherent that it nearly self-destructs before miraculously gaining enough momentum halfway through to offer a bombastic take on humankind's fight against a technologically advanced, yet not impervious, race of malevolent alien invaders. Presented in a handheld style that gives the impression of a wartime documentary, this unorthodox take on the traditional combat film feels as if the screenwriter simply dusted off an old script in which Nazis invaded a major American city and replaced Hitler's henchmen with bio-mechanical aliens.

From the retiring, battle-scarred military veteran drawn reluctantly back into battle, to the virginal rookie, to the shell-shocked combat vet, to the brave grunt just fighting for citizenship, the screenplay is so saturated in wartime stereotypes that it feels like it might just sink until characterization mercifully takes a back seat to action. Even then, it's difficult to feel as if we're actually witnessing anything new, though by that point the rapid-fire editing at least succeeds in stimulating us enough to create the illusion of excitement. Later, when the purpose of the invasion is finally revealed in a throwaway line, it quickly becomes apparent how uninterested the writer is in flexing any creative muscle.

Likewise, the generic creature design feels just about as uninspired as the storytelling, what is it about alien films these days, which seems to have an imperative to not let the audience have a good look at the aliens? Though credit where it is due, the special-effects team does manage the impressive feat of making the alien technology seem all at once highly advanced and vulnerable to attack.

Performances are standard-issue grunt all around, with the exception of capable lead, Aaron Eckhart who provides the film's only discernible human emotion with a pair of heartfelt speeches that could have had genuine impact if only the dialogue didn't reek of predictability. Those speeches, combined with all of the other combat movie clichés found in Battle: Los Angeles, reveal the film to be little more than a traditional war film disguised as an alien invasion flick, tailor-made for a generation of kids raised on Call of duty shooters and jitter-inducing Red Bull.

I can't say that this film was terrible because it wasn't but I would have given it a hell of a lot higher score if it was written better. I guess I just came out of that film feeling cheated, because I expected Independence Day meets Cloverfield and what I got was Saving Private Ryan with aliens minus all of the humanity.

The Proposal Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
The Proposal Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Sandra Bullock
Offered by silvertiplibrary
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars tries hard but still ends up being average, 15 Mar 2012
In her romantic comedies, Sandra Bullock traditionally plays the wacky free spirit or the earnest do-gooder. She's the force of nature that gets the uptight to loosen their tie, or the environmental activist who softens up the callous. The Proposal tries to break new ground by having Bullock take on the role of the queen-bitch big-city professional who needs to relax. And it works, kind of. It turns out that Bullock playing against type is the only original thing going on in the whole film.

Here's the problem with a movie as formulaic as The Proposal: anybody who wants to see it already knows exactly how everything will play out, right down to the identity of the person who performs their wedding ceremony. Now I am not ashamed to say that I like the occasional romantic comedy and, let's face it, I know how the movie is going to pan out before I even start watching it. In fact odds are strong that the core audience for this movie doesn't want to be surprised anyway, but unfortunately the obviousness of everything makes it a snooze fest for anybody else.

As hard as Bullock and the cast try to make this film go against the norm of rom-coms, The Proposal never differentiates itself enough from the modern romantic comedy enough to stick in your memory and gets lost in the crowd of the already saturated genre.

On the whole the film is reasonably enjoyable for fans of the genre as well as Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock enthusiasts but, as you would expect, The Proposal will certainly not blow your mind.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [Blu-ray] [2011]
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Tyler Labine
Price: £7.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must see gem, 3 Mar 2012
The well-worn slasher-film aesthetic gets ingeniously sent up in the smart and witty Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Horror fans will find much to like about the film, because, well, it's extremely likable, it plays on many of the stereotypes inherent in the genre, and fans will immediately get the references. Much of the credit for its agreeability is due to bearish backwoods star Tyler Labine, whose comic timing and warmth help carry the film.

If you've seen your share of teenagers getting sliced and diced out in the boondocks, chances are you'll be tickled pink by this tale of a couple of good-natured bumpkins who are mistaken for serial murderers.

High-concept horror comedies that actually work are a rare breed, yet Tucker & Dale vs. Evil manages to continually make the comedy-of-errors routine work. Props should not only go to Labine, but his co-star Alan Tudyk as well, who bears the brunt of the comic violence heaped upon the clueless duo. Thankfully, the laughs are evened out with a heaping of gore that'll please the horror hounds out there. Amazingly, even some unbelievable romance between two very unlikely characters comes off as rather sweet.

And that is all I really want to say about this film, because it is such a gem I don't want to ruin or spoil anything for you at all. Suffice to say that in its own pleasantly blood-soaked way, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil delivers a whole lot more than just a one-joke concept, making it an essential watch for genre devotees and maybe, if you can handle a bit of gore, people that aren't fans of horror as well. Just please, watch it, highly recommended!

The Smurfs (Blu-ray + DVD) [2011] [Region Free]
The Smurfs (Blu-ray + DVD) [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Hank Azaria
Price: £4.25

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars its not smurf and its not smurf either, its just smurf, 2 Mar 2012
There are a couple of things to remember when watching a movie like The Smurfs. One: rarely do films measure up to the cartoons of yesteryear; it would be unwise to expect such. Two: the phenomenon of interpersonal communication known as language will be compromised by excessive use of the word "Smurf" as both a noun and a verb, among other grammatical functions. It's probably better to just go with it.

The director appears to have adopted the philosophy, of not thinking too hard in the making of The Smurfs. At one point, one of the characters in the movie asks the Smurfs how they get their personality-based names; for example, does Clumsy Smurf become Clumsy Smurf upon his birth, or only after he has proved to be clumsy in life? The Smurfs' answer is, simply, "yes." Even Gargamel (played by Hank Azaria) sarcastically references a piece of Smurf history (Papa Smurf is apparently the father of 99 sons and 1 daughter) as "not weird at all."

This element of self-awareness, while heavy-handed, manages to save the film from itself. Taken seriously, The Smurfs is a bad movie. Taken as a light-hearted summer flick that everyone knows doesn't match up to the magic of a Saturday morning in the early '80s, it's a passable, albeit totally forgettable, experience.

The film plays like an infomercial for New York tourism, stopping at Central Park, and Time Square, pretty much anywhere that is a famous landmark in New York and everywhere a Smurf could run amok.

The voice work for the Smurfs themselves is relatively unremarkable. Azaria is, for the most part, everything one would expect Gargamel to be, though at times he goes way over the top, saying, doing, and experiencing things (like getting hit by a bus) that really could only work for actual cartoon villains. The rest of the cast are fine in their roles but you get a sense that the actors aren't really stretching themselves. I think, the movie, having been made essentially for children, may have benefitted had one of the human leads been a child.

There's nothing particularly bad about The Smurfs, length-wise, plot-wise, or otherwise. The problem is that there isn't anything particularly good, either. As mentioned, the film is plastered by a sense of its own silliness, but one still gets the feeling that no one involved with this project really tried.

It's doubtful that The Smurfs would have been great in anybody's hands, but just going through the motions and making a safe, average movie as opposed to a terrible one does not guarantee a great film, and The Smurfs is the proof.

Die Hard With A Vengeance [DVD]
Die Hard With A Vengeance [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Willis
Price: £3.69

5.0 out of 5 stars same calibre as the original, 2 Mar 2012
Die Hard with a Vengeance brings John McClain back to the big action and equally large laughs that made the original so successful. With the director of the first film returning to the series, this third entry is heavily buttered popcorn entertainment that manages to easily one-up the fun but slightly flawed second film.

There's still the heavy terrorist angle, but what the script does so well is keep the whole set up really fresh, changing everything possible but still keeping that Die Hard magic.

In this iteration we see Bruce Willis, teamed up with a hilarious Samuel L. Jackson for a cat-and-mouse game through the streets of New York City. Though Jeremy Irons is no Alan Rickman, he takes great evil glee from his goofy-accented movie villain and is miles above the antagonists from the previous film. Supporting characters are equally as fresh, with both the cops and the German henchmen getting juicy screen time throughout the piece. With numerous gusto action scenes that, I think only the director, John McTiernan could deliver, Vengeance lives up to the high pedestal of the series and makes for one heck of a fun thrill ride.

The ending is probably the film's biggest downer; it seems, not only unnecessary but also very rushed. I read somewhere that the ending was reshot at the last second for some reason and that the original ending had Irons escaping to Europe where McClain hunts him down with a bazooka. I personally would have cut either of those endings in favour of finishing the film end where it feels like it should naturally end (you would know what I mean if you saw it).

It's strange how hindsight shines upon Die Hard with a Vengeance, especially after 9/11. This is one movie that simply could not be made now. It does, however, feature some incredibly unnerving visuals that are downright haunting considering the events that occurred just six years later.

Where as Die Hard 2 was a good action movie in its own right it didn't have the same pedigree as the first, but I can safely say that Die Hard with a Vengeance brings the franchise right back on track up to its former greatness.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Price: £6.50

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars better than the last two not as good as the first, 1 Mar 2012
The first three films in the Pirates franchise were marketed as a trilogy, but of course Disney couldn't just let the now-iconic character of Captain Jack Sparrow die, so here we are four years after At World's End with the fourth instalment, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which promises to be the start of a new trilogy, or at least the cash lovers at Disney hopes that's the case. However, this isn't the same old Pirates film with an overly complicated plot and a run time that would put even the most seasoned of moviegoers into a mild case of comatose; with Gore Verbinski out, director Rob Marshall breathes new life into the franchise with a streamlined story that's easier to follow than the hectic delirium of the originals.

Ian McShane fits his pirate boots brilliantly with a mixture of playfulness and dangerous unpredictability as Blackbeard. Visually, one of the best things in the movie is Blackbeard's ship, with its blood-stained sails and fire-breathing cannons, just the thing you need to punctuate the already-treacherous nature of McShane's character.

The cunning and voluptuous female lead, played by Penélope Cruz, is an old flame of Jacks and, apparently his one true love, I know this because the story says that is the case but the chemistry between the two says otherwise. They fight, they flirt, they sort of kiss, but their relationship feels unconvincing, and her character is so ill-defined that there's no romantic tension between the pair.

Really, though, at this point the Pirates franchise is all about Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, the Keith Richards-inspired scallywag who always seems to oscillate between being drunk or hung-over. When the original Pirates appeared eight years ago, Jack wasn't the movie's main character; the films were mostly, and what seems baffling with hindsight, about Orlando Bloom's and Keira Knightley's characters (who thankfully are absent from this latest incarnation) which allows Depp the freedom to strut around mocking the stodgy, un-ironic bigness of the blockbuster in which he has found himself in. But Jack is the main event now, and while Depp manages to get his laughs, his act is starting to grow old. Still, he's like the party guest you can always count on to be the most entertaining, and he delivers.

Fans of the franchise will appreciate cameos by Keith Richards, who returns as Jack's dad. There is also a surprising and completely random cameo by Dame Judi Dench as a noblewoman who appears in an elaborate escape scene in London featuring swordplay, a wagon filled with flaming coal, and Jack swinging from a chandelier. The movie may not have all of the charm and vigour of the original Pirates film, but it's certainly worlds better than the last two instalments thanks to the renewed energy the new director brings to the table.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2012 7:42 PM GMT

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End [Blu-ray]
Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Price: £7.56

3.0 out of 5 stars very very loooooong, 24 Feb 2012
The producers of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End clearly wanted to end the threequel with plenty of room left for a fourth instalment so they could flog this horse for all that it is worth. But, with me, the prospect of expanding the franchise well beyond the borders of a trilogy inspires truly irritated groans. That's not to say that this is a bad movie but at this point in the trilogy I am seeing the Pirates Of The Caribbean less as a form of entertainment and more of an endurance test. so with that said, if you couldn't get onboard with the previous films, for gods sake please give this one a miss as I imagine it is enjoyed most by the hardcore fan base of the Pirates franchise.

On the one hand, Pirates 3 has an even longer running time than the second movie which, trust me is a real problem by this point. On the other hand, this film streamlines the story and brings it to fruition, providing a payoff for all that head-scratching setup we had to figure out last time.

It'll be clear to you within the first 20 minutes whether you're too turned off by the narrative style of Pirates 3 to dig it, because if you cant deal with just 20 minutes you will definitely not last another two and a half hours on top of that.

On the good side, At World's End is full of the delightful, adrenaline-fuelled action sequences that an adventure movie requires, but while the second film (despite being a rollicking good time) lost sight of its own pacing because its sword fights, chase scenes, and naval battles were a tad too long, too many, and too near-between for some tastes, this movie nails the momentum a lot better. It spaces its over-the-top excitement sparingly, giving you just a taste here and there of the high-flying action to come, until it finally lets the swords, cannons, and supernaturally conjured sea storms fly in the well-tuned climax.

There's also a fantastic sense of pirate lore in the film. The piratical world is brimming with rules and councils and procedures, with arbitrary authority and magical objects to be exploited, stolen, or misused by the brethren, whose double-crossing nature is the source of most pirate adventures in the first place. The confusing ins and outs of pirate bylaws provide a lot of humour, but those looking for a movie with a robust comedic side will be disappointed.

The script for Pirates 3 isn't constructed around jokes for the most part, though there's still a healthy dose of character-driven humour. Johnny Depp, in particular and as usual, is as hilarious as he was in either of the previous movies, but that doesn't mean that Jack Sparrow's existential crisis is over. That's one great thing about this film: the surprisingly sophisticated character development. Sparrow losing his cool because he no longer knows what he wants (as illustrated by the aimless spinning of his magic "knows-what's-in-your-heart" compass) passes as he realizes that he does know what he wants, he just doesn't know how to get it and still respect himself in the morning. Now, Captain Jack hallucinates a room full of Jacks talking his ear off and offering him an unflinching reflection of himself, which both forces him to think about who he is and provides Depp with the great chance to flex his bulging comic muscles.

Other characters get fleshed out, too, including Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann, who gives up hoop skirts altogether in favor of trousers and an impressive arsenal. And Knightley plays the part with intelligence and dignity; she doesn't shriek her way through it or play her hard-fighting duties like some cute, spunky girl from a romance novel. That's actually another surprisingly exceptional element of Pirates 3: the underlying themes about women are pretty progressive. Intentional or not, it's a relief that despite all the male blustering and masculine badassery, it remains in the movie that women wield the most potent power, and that the men who seek to contain it aren't rewarded.

This iteration of Pirates is even less kid friendly than the last film. Not only is there a ton of complex plot and wordy, old-fashioned dialogue that little ones just won't follow, this movie's violent themes are much more gruesome. The opening sequence, for instance, is meant to illustrate just how evil the bad guy, East India Trading Company boss-man, really is, so it shows a crowd of peasants being led to the gallows, where we see nooses tightened around their necks, and their twitching feet dangling from below the planks following the drop. It's creepy and moving, and it does exactly what it's meant to for adults, but for young kids, it probably just means nightmares. Scenes like this, while not graphic, would be very conceptually disturbing for younger kids, so unfortunately for them, it might be a few years until they can watch what could, for all its faults, quite possibly become an adventure classic that is fondly remembered, just not by me.

Lethal Weapon 3 [DVD] [1992]
Lethal Weapon 3 [DVD] [1992]
Dvd ~ Mel Gibson
Price: £2.50

4.0 out of 5 stars its good, but its not lethal weapon 2, 22 Feb 2012
This review is from: Lethal Weapon 3 [DVD] [1992] (DVD)
I like to think of the Lethal Weapon franchise as a some what polarised object. At one end we have the original, touching on some really dark tones like suicide and depression, and on the other end we have the light hearted buddy comedy with a few explosions and kung fu moves thrown in for good measure.

As the Lethal Weapon series becomes an increasingly cartoonish self-parody, the jokes are starting to get a little tired. Lethal Weapon Two had the perfect balance between the great comic moments and the dark tones of the first film, number three of the series is moving more to the silly side of things.

A proven formula is what allows a franchise to grow old and gray, but Lethal Weapon 3 borrows and replicates the memorable moments of its predecessors so shamelessly that it hardly feels like the franchise is evolving into anything. The squabbling buddy cops Riggs and Murtaugh are still arguing over who gets to drive, how to count to three, and whether Riggs should dive headlong into extreme danger, often without a weapon.

The cast seems to be getting noticeably bigger with every iteration of Lethal Weapon, this provides additional banter but the larger the ensemble gets, the more cumbersome the results seem to be.

Even though there is plenty of action within this film it certainly doesn't score as an action movie, apart from the massive explosion at the beginning, there's little to get excited about among the succession of generally unrelated scenes involving fisticuffs, car chases, and gun battles. The wispy plot about a crooked cop-turned-gun-runner exists mostly to lend righteousness to Murtaugh, who guns down a gangster his son's age during a shoot-out with said illegal weapons.

One thing that can not be denied is that Gibson and Glover have unique chemistry that is, often, very fun to watch, and they're blessed with the zippy timing of a good comedic partnership and maybe that's enough to make a good film.

I certainly wouldn't say I hated this film, it was very enjoyable, but after seeing how perfect they managed to get the formula in number 2, Lethal Weapon 3 just seems like less of a film. This is definitely worth a look in if you are a fan of the series, but just don't expect it to have the same impact that Lethal Weapon 2 did.

Lethal Weapon 2 [DVD] [1989]
Lethal Weapon 2 [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ Mel Gibson
Offered by RCDiscs.
Price: £6.35

5.0 out of 5 stars the stuff that sequels should be made of, 22 Feb 2012
This review is from: Lethal Weapon 2 [DVD] [1989] (DVD)
As much as Lethal Weapon may have stepped outside its genre trappings to strike an unexpected chord, its sequel was the film that gave the series the legs it needed to continue onward and upward.

While it still plumbs some dark, painful subject matter for its lead characters, Lethal Weapon 2 skews lighter by treating the Murtaugh-Riggs dynamic as the stuff of fruitful comedy, an approach intensified by the slightly annoying, but still faithfully endearing, Leo Getz character, whom Joe Pesci makes all his own.

But it's the supreme comfort of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, with both each other and the script that rockets this to the top of buddy movies to such an extent that it became ripe for parody.

The director again proves his command of this material with a handful of memorable scenes, and especially his use of Gibson in his trademark "lethal weapon" scenes, which coined the franchise title. Even though Gibson is a lot less depressed in this film you still completely believe him as a guy that has nothing to lose.

Where as the first lethal weapon really successfully put the story of the franchise out there, It was still not quite hitting the mark for me, but here, there is the stuff that sequel dreams are made of.

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