Author Topic: Jon's Random Reviews  (Read 62144 times)

Najemikon

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Jon's Random Reviews
« on: January 28, 2009, 12:35:13 AM »
This is where I'll dump quick reviews for stuff I can't be bothered to write essays for. So far it's a bit of an unwatched marathon... :training:

Najemikon

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Touching the Void *****
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2009, 12:54:26 AM »
Touching the Void
5 out of 5


Documentary about two mountaineers, Joe and Simon, descending from the summit of Siula Grande in Peru, a feat in itself. But Joe breaks his leg, normally a death sentence. They persevere, Simon lowering Joe on 300 feet of rope which works time and time again. Until Joe goes over an edge and is hanging in space with no way out. He's staring down into nothing. Simon has no idea what has happened and after a long while of just sitting, holding the taut rope, waiting for a sign there's more than dead weight on the end, he comes to a decision and cuts the rope... Joe plummets into the void yet makes it back to camp four days later. This is the story of how.

This is an incredible documentary and a testament to the strength of human spirit. Well, testament to Joe's spirit, because I doubt there are many could pull of what he did. Much easier to just lie down and die. Broken leg, 20000 feet up, plummets at least a hundred feet, almost gives in, but manages to crawl out anyway. Takes him four days, via near insanity, to make it back, hopping much of the way across rocks and falling Every Single Time and feeling like he was breaking his leg over and over again. It's a sobering film because both climbers relate their story with abject honesty. On their return, Simon was criticised for cutting the rope, even though he was in an impossible situation. Joe wrote the book on which the documentary is based in an effort to make sure we all knew what Simon achieved. A broken leg could have been a death sentence for both of them and to get as far as they did together is incredible enough.

The DVD has a feature about the making of the film, involving the climbers going back to Peru. Joe's reaction is fascinating and the whole thing is highly recommended. A healthy dose of reality! Mind you, you'll never find me going up a bloody mountain... ???

Najemikon

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Fail Safe ***
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2009, 01:11:22 AM »
Fail Safe
3 out of 5


First shown live on television, this remake of the 1964 film is a serious spin on Dr. Strangelove. American bombers heading for Russia with a nuclear payload have just passed the "fail safe" point and can't be recalled as they are trained to ignore all radio communication in case the enemy are trying to fool them. A malfunction means they have orders to bomb Moscow. The President and his generals work desperately to rectify the mistake, going so far as to help the Russians shoot them down. Should all else fail, the President has a terrible price to pay to prove it was a mistake and avert war.

This is an oddity. I haven't seen the original, but of course I am very familiar with Kubrick's wonderfully black comedy. The story is just about strong enough to take serious in a genuine "What if?" scenario, except I really hope our leaders have better contingency plans than this. I found the ending a little too contrived and noble to take seriously, but up until that point, it was a well played exercise in how paranoia will undo us all. Overall Kubrick highlighting the absurdity makes a stronger impression, but this is still worth seeing.

Being shown live means it can't escape being stagey and frequently dull, but the cast is fantastic and mostly from film and TV so their unusual one-take chance gives the whole thing an edge. So it both succeeds and fails by the same decision to go live. All the actors do well, especially Harvey Keitel, Sam Shepard, Brian Dennehy, Noah Wyle and Hank Azaria, but I think George Clooney as the bomber pilot and in particular Richard Dreyfuss as the President excel in arguably harder roles.

It's short at 85 minutes so if you enjoy Strangelove, give it a chance.

That's "enjoy Strangelove", by the way, as in "Dr.". Not "enjoy strange love" as in... something else... :-X

Najemikon

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Darkman ***
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2009, 01:24:01 AM »
Darkman
3 out of 5


Peyton (Liam Neeson) is a scientist working on synthetic skin that only lasts 99 minutes in the light. His girlfriend (Frances McDormand) is uncovering corruption and so hired thug Durant (Larry Drake) blows up him and his lab. Horribly disfigured, without feeling and in a rage, Peyton plots his revenge.

A pure comic book movie from Sam Raimi and an obvious dry run for Spider-Man, but bears a huge resemblance to both Robocop and Batman (especially Danny Elfman's lazy overbearing score that never... shuts... up! :surrender:)

It's an unusual cast really for this sort of thing which along with Raimi's trademark abstract direction makes for a surreal experience. So it should be much better than it is, but for poor dialogue and a story that plays safe by borrowing far too much. Apparently Raimi's creation, he obviously didn't trust himself. It gets much better in the end, after finally abandoning Robocop (hero dead and buried, except he's rebuilt and looking for his old life while picking off the gang) and Batman (duh), but it's so clearly what would become Spider-Man that even it's best bits are too familiar now. Hero swinging through city, albeit attached to a helicopter, leading to kidnapped girlfriend about to drop many hundreds of feet before he swings in and catches her...  Raimi obviously has a bit of a fetish about swings... :shrug:

Najemikon

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Stargate: The Director's Cut ****
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2009, 12:44:57 AM »
Stargate: The Director's Cut
3 out of 5


In 1928, an ancient Egyptian artefact covered in strange symbols is excavated at the foot of the Great Pyramids. Decades later the American Government recruits the help of Egyptologist Dr Daniel Jackson (James Spader) to decode the secret of these symbols. He reveals the key to a "stargate", an intergalactic portal to the far side of the known universe. Jackson is joined by a crack military unit led by Colonel O'Neill (Kurt Russel) on a voyage of discovery.

A typical Devlin/Emmerich movie, all waffle and no substance, but also lacks the epic scale and sheer awesome audacity of their later Independence Day or Day After Tomorrow. Everything is bombastic and overdone. It could have been vastly improved by cutting out most of the cliched crap involving the natives and letting Kurt Russell be Kurt Russell instead of hamstringing his character with baggage. James Spader's good though, Mili Avital is gorgeous*, and the Ra God-squad are impressive. The whole thing bats along being inoffensively fun. It just wouldn't hurt to skip a couple of middle chapters.

This is the "Director's Cut". Not a whole lot of difference and the quality of the additional footage is frequently terrible. A half-arsed release of a half-arsed film. Shame because the story is a cracker and sets-up a great TV series. Haven't seen many myself but they seemed to learn from the mistakes. That said the canon becomes very confusing across several mediums, all of which Devlin seems to ignore, going so far as to announce a sequel in 2006 that would pick up at the end of this film and ignore everything else. Russell and Spader were to return in a planned trilogy.

Devlin, your film's shit. Leave it alone and let the telly boys have their fun because they know what they're doing and actually understand things called "plot" and "character".


*-Along with Natalie Portman, proving that Israel is thus far a seemingly untapped world of totty possibilities! :devil:

Najemikon

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Mars Attacks! ***
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2009, 01:13:21 AM »
Mars Attacks!
3 out of 5


In a parody of classic 50s sci-fi, Tim Burton directs a stellar cast in a cartoony story of invaders from Mars.

Somewhere in the middle of this eccentric, wonderful mess from the back-to-front imagination of Tim Burton, there is Jack Nicholson giving a performance I think better than his Joker. No-one ever says so of course because it doesn't matter how brilliant someone is if it's lost in noise. And this film is noisy, incoherent, and yet, strangely flat. Still it holds together well enough to give us some outstanding moments and the storyline is as wacky as you could hope it to be. I love his martians!

The cast is huge and maybe that's one of the problems. Too many recognisable faces. I can't think of anyone letting the side down, but none of them have enough time to make a real mark. Alongside Nicholson, Rod Steiger, Annette Bening and Glenn Close are fantastic, while the kids (Lukas Haas and Natalie Portman) do fine with the most normal characters (and therefore the weakest).

Holds up just as well as Independence Day which came out the same year, simply because it knows how daft it is from the outset. The resolution actually makes more sense than Emmerich's all too serious version.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2009, 02:02:01 AM »
Jon if you really want to watch a good parody of the 50's SF B-movies try this one instead



No stars in it, but much better in my oppinion than Mars Attack

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

The sequel will be release sometimes this year and I really wait for it (see I watch new movie too :laugh:)

edit : I'll watch it tonight, stay tuned for my review later (done ;D)
« Last Edit: January 30, 2009, 08:39:07 AM by Jimmy »

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2009, 07:35:19 PM »
edit : I'll watch it tonight, stay tuned for my review later (done ;D)

I read your review and it does look like a good laugh, but the best thing about the original movies was that they were taken seriously. That one is obviously making as much fun of about how they were made as anything in the story; for example, is it a story about a skeleton because that was the script, or because getting a skeleton model was cheaper? :laugh: Mars Attacks! takes itself seriously (in terms of the story) with a typical Tim Burton twist to it. Plus, as I said, it has a fantastic performance by Nicholson who has done his fair share of b-movies.

Najemikon

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Ring 2 **
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2009, 01:31:58 AM »
Ring 2
2 out of 5


Rachel and her son have survived their first encounter with Samara, but not without a price. She's trying to rebuild her life in a sleepy town when a local boy is found dead, in worryingly familiar circumstances. It soon becomes clear that Samara is now coming for the two of them, but why?

I always judge remakes -especially of foreign films- on how they stand up if the original didn't exist. Remakes are rarely better, but every now and then you drop across one that certainly did nothing wrong and was a watchable version. I thought the American Ring was like that. It was loud, brash and overdone, but the intricate storyline was intact and still powerful. Unfortunately this sequel to the remake is a missed opportunity, especially when directed by Hideo Nakata, director of the first Ringu.

Japanese horror films seem to generate a lot of impact by being made as simple dramas; no unnecessary editing or music and the actors play it straight. Howard Hawks once said, "no action without danger" and it makes a lot of sense. I get the impression Hideo is trying that here, but the score and cast are still being played like there is a ghost around every damn corner. Nothing can be accepted for what it is, it's overflowing with unresolved innuendo and furtive glances. It doesn't help that most of the cast are wooden or half-developed characters.

Naomi Watts is gorgeous as usual and does nothing particularly wrong and David Dorfman still impresses as Aidan coming across much older than his years, although I think he's being stretched in the last act. They're let down though by a murky, unfocused script and poor supporting characters. It tells you something when the most memorable is the ever reliable Gary Cole who is on screen for about 30 seconds. He gives the film a much needed slap in the face, but then goes away again.

Overall I quite liked the premise. Fitted in well with the mythology, as you'd expect. It just needed some... oomph! There's a scene toward the end in Samara's well that was great.
(click to show/hide)
It needed lots more of that while letting the drama scenes lighten up and simmer down.

All in all, this is a Asian-American fusion that has failed completely, taking the worst of both sides.

Note: there is an extra on the DVD, a short film acting as a sort of prelude to the first victim, that while being weak nevertheless makes me think it could have been a decent storyline for a sequel on its own. All the Rings start off with kids finding tapes and showing them to each other, scaring themselves shitless. Here they go one typical teen step further by forming a cult that records everything that happens after viewing the tape and seeing how close they can get to the 7 day deadline before showing it to the next person, a pre-appointed "tail". I liked the idea of them trying to play Samara at her own game for thrills.

Najemikon

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ***
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2009, 09:51:28 PM »
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
3 out of 5


Lawrence (Michael Caine) is a sophisticated and successful conman, with a long established and lucrative spot on the Riviera, preying on rich single women. Freddy (Steve Martin) muscles in and Lawrence tries to get rid of him, thinking he's small fry, but Freddy has substantial skills and reluctantly Lawrence is forced to help him so he can be sure he's rid of him. Not all goes to plan and they resort to a bet: Janet (Glenne Headly).

This is a classy 80s comedy with just about the right amount of all ingredients to work very well without offending anyone. It isn't full of bellylaughs, but it's fun, working like an old Hollywood farce with a modern twist. Michael Caine is wonderful as Lawrence and the partnership with Steve Martin works beautifully. If you aren't keen on Martin's madder characters, be assured this isn't one of his full on lunatic roles, but he does have a couple of gems, like Ruprecht the Monkey Boy ("why does his fork have a cork?")! :hysterical: Even in this moments, Caine's mere presence keeps it all in check.


Najemikon

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Groundhog Day *****
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2009, 02:01:39 AM »
Groundhog Day
5 out of 5


Bill Murray is Phil, a cynical weatherman forced to report on Groundhog Day with his cheery producer (Andie McDowell). They're unable to return home because of a blizzard, but the next morning, Phil has bigger problems. He's not only trapped in the town, he's trapped in the same day.

February 2nd? What the hell, I thought! This is a fantastic film that is strong enough to be counted alongside It's A Wonderful Life. It's sold as a romantic comedy, but delivers so much more. But importantly, it works as well as any modern rom-com, with Bill Murray possibly at his best; he delivers all the one-liners and convinces in the many emotions Phil encounters on his years in the town. Probably years anyway. It's never explained or detailed, an important trait shared with Capra's fantasy. The reason and the conclusion are the important things, not the how. Certainly the character seems tailor made for him while Andie MacDowell is effortless in the role, which is amazing as she's done very little else.

It's a brilliant premise that allows all sorts of interpretations, from comic to romantic, via depression and suicide! And Bill is right there in every one, pitch perfect. Apparently the original script started in the middle, with Phil already underway in his nightmare, but here Hollywood convention and starting at the... well, start, is the far better idea. Gorgeous film.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2009, 02:03:20 AM by Jon »

Offline addicted2dvd

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2009, 09:56:37 AM »
I haven't even thought about Groundhog's Day in a long time! I always enjoyed it... I will have to be sure to add that one to my collection!
Pete

richierich

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Re: Groundhog Day *****
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2009, 10:18:37 AM »
Groundhog Day
5 out of 5

 This is a fantastic film that is strong enough to be counted alongside It's A Wonderful Life.

I'm really surprised by your comments, I just can't warm to Bill Murray in many films, he seems so unconvincing.  :shrug:  In fact I lost interest in Bill Murray after Stripes, and that was some years ago! And as for Andie MacDowell, typical depthless performance and an assumption that everyone falls for a good old hometown girl - Pah!

Najemikon

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Re: Groundhog Day *****
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2009, 03:16:09 PM »
Groundhog Day
5 out of 5

 This is a fantastic film that is strong enough to be counted alongside It's A Wonderful Life.

I'm really surprised by your comments, I just can't warm to Bill Murray in many films, he seems so unconvincing.  :shrug:  In fact I lost interest in Bill Murray after Stripes, and that was some years ago! And as for Andie MacDowell, typical depthless performance and an assumption that everyone falls for a good old hometown girl - Pah!


Bill Murray is solid gold in my eyes, from everything like Stripes to Broken Flowers, via Royal Tenenbaums. And I find him particularly good in this. Andie MacDowell I thought was good too here. Her timing and delivery were spot on and there was real chemistry with Murray, especially when you consider he's trying to woo her over probably 10 years. I often felt like there were few others at the time could have found the cute/sparky balance. In comparison, the only other role I can think of hers where she was acceptable was Four Weddings, and actually, she was awful! Mind you, the script didn't treat her well, but Groundhog Day was just right.

She's a writer's or director's actress; obviously does exactly what she's told and sadly she hasn't been with the right crew very often.

Najemikon

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Wanted ****
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2009, 11:43:19 PM »
Wanted
4 out of 5


This is about a guy in a dead-end job/life, who is persuaded by a tough sexy woman to meet an enigmatic leader of a group of people with very special abilities, working outside of society. He has the same gifts and may hold the key for all their futures...

So far, so The Matrix. It's a shame the plot is so close because it detracts from what is essentially great fun and a shot of pure adrenalin right through your TV. It's bloody great, especially several action set-pieces that will have you on the edge of your seat.

In fact, taking the comparison with The Matrix a step further, it's more fun and better written, especially dialogue, with a stronger backstory that should be able to support the inevitable sequels. It's a bit hectic and overdone in places, which is where the smoother and darker Matrix will always win out (at least the first film), but damn, it's still fantastic!
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 03:43:37 PM by Jon »