Apr 27

Film review – Aeon Flux (2005)

Film review – Aeon Flux (2005)

Aeon Flux

Rating: 6/10

Starring: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner, Ralph Herforth, Caroline Chikezie, Nikolai Kinski, Paterson Joseph, Yangzom Brauen

Directed by: Karyn Kusama

Review: Film review – Aeon Flux (2005) – Aeon Flux is a stylish sci-fi film starring Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux and Marton Csokas as Trevor Goodchild.

In 2011 a virus wipes out 99% of the worlds population, more than 400 years later the survivors live in a walled city/state called Bregna ruled over by a congress of scientists. Although seemingly idyllic there is something wrong, people mysteriously disappear and everyone has bad dreams. A resistance group called the ‘Monicans’ is fighting the government and Aeon Flux is a member of this resistance. She’s assigned the mission to kill Trevor Goodchild the scientist who leads the state but when she comes to the point of doing this discovers she has an unexpected connection with him. The two of them discover there is a coup under way to try and stop the work that Goodchild is carrying out to solve the problems people are having.

Stylish is the key phrase to describe this movie, there are some nice visions of the future and many scenes are nicely depicted vignettes with excellent composition. The script is a little wooden and to be honest some of the acting too. Theron is of course a very beautiful women and in fact pulls her part off well, the issues are around her rather than caused by her. I gather the creator (Peter Chung) of the original animated science fiction series it is based on was not happy with the outcome (not unusual to be honest). It feels as though there was a better film here that didn’t quite make it out of the cutting room. Perhaps the uncut version is better. Enjoyable never the less and a little better, I think, than the critics gave it credit for at the time.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86on_Flux_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402022/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Apr 21

Film review – Van Helsing (2004)

Film review – Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing

Rating: 4/10

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Kevin J. O’Connor, Alun Armstrong, Silvia Colloca, Josie Maran, Tom Fisher, Samuel West, Stephen Fisher, Robbie Coltrane, Frank Welker

Directed by: Stephen Sommers

Review: Film review – Van Helsing (2004) – This fantasy horror film stars Hugh Jackman (as Gabriel Van Helsing) and Kate Beckinsale (as Anna Valerious). It jumbles up the stories of Dracula, Werewolf and Frankenstein’s monster, even throwing in Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde for good measure. Van Helsing fights all evil around the world on behalf of the knights of the Holy Order stationed at the Vatican and we first meet him hunting down Jekyll and Hyde in Paris. Having dispatched Hyde he is called to Rome to receive his next mission and is told to go to Transylvania where Count Vladislaus Dracula is terrorising the population and plotting the worlds downfall. On his arrival he encounters Anna Valerious the last survivor of the Valerious family who have been fighting Dracula for centuries. Van Helsing has been charged with helping her to save her family from falling into purgatory for ever.

Dr. Frankenstein creates his monster with the help of Dracula, Dracula does this because he wants the secret to creating life to bring to life a new generation of Vampires. The monster escapes and seemingly dies and blah, blah, blah. What follows is a load of stuff and nonsense.

Its bad, there’s no getting around it. The script is terrible, the directing is terrible and the acting is terrible. Why have you given it 4/10 I hear you cry, well because it has some good special effects. I’m guessing there is a certain age of boy around say 11/12 who this is designed for? For everyone else, give it a miss.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Helsing_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.co.uk/title/tt0338526/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Mar 31

Film review – Robin Hood (2010)

Film review – Robin Hood (2010)

Robin Hood

Rating: 6/10

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Mark Lewis Jones, Mark Addy, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Max von Sydow, Jonathan Zaccaï, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Durand, Léa Seydoux, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, Denis Menochet, Velibor Topic

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Review: Film review – Robin Hood (2010) – Set in 12th century England this film tells the story of Robin Hood. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood/Robin Longstride, Cate Blanchette as Lady Marian and, among others, William Hurt and Max von Sydow.

Robin Longstride is an archer in King Richard The Lion Heart’s army, returning from the Crusades, when the king is killed at the siege of Chalus Castle. Seizing the moment Robin decides this is the time to leave for England and so sets out with some friends. As they are leaving they come across French soldiers who have ambushed the Kings Royal guard and upon defeating them learn that the guard was returning the Kings crown to England. They decide to adopt the identity of the kings guard and return the crown themselves in order to ensure passage back home. Before they leave one of the kings guard, Robert Loxley (played by Douglas Hodge), on his deathbed, hands his sword to Robin and asks him to return it to his father in Nottingham, Robin agrees. In England Robin returns the sword to Loxleys father who asks him to assume the position of his son to protect his lands as he is blind and elderly. Robin agrees to this and reluctantly so does Loxleys wife Lady Marian. Meanwhile the new king, King John appoints Sir Godfrey (played by Mark Strong) as his henchman and sends him north to collect taxes. However, unknown to him Godfrey is a French spy and uses his new power to stir up the northern barons and weaken the King ready for a French invasion.

The cast and director suggest this should be a great film but I’m afraid it’s rather ordinary. There’s no real depth to the script and although the actors performances are all fine there seems to be a complete lack of inspiration. Scott’s direction ensures its not a disaster (he could make even that look good) but in the end even he can’t save it entirely. Entertainment value only.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_(2010_film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0955308/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Mar 23

Film review – Shall We Dance? (2004)

Film review – Shall We Dance? (2004)

Shall We Dance

Rating: 5/10

Starring: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Lisa Ann Walter, Stanley Tucci, Anita Gillette, Bobby Cannavale, Omar Miller, Tamara Hope, Stark Sands, Richard Jenkins, Nick Cannon, Karina Smirnoff, Mýa Harrison, Ja Rule, Tony Dovolani, Cesar Corrales, Slavik Kryklyvyy

Directed by: Peter Chelsom

Review: Film review – Shall We Dance? (2004) – This romantic comedy (based on a Japanese film) sits firmly in the chic flick genre (Lets face it Richard Gere ballroom dancing couldn’t be anything else). It stars Richard Gere as the grey divorce lawyer John Clark who goes from work to home and home to work, without any excitement, day after day. One day on the train he looks up and sees a vision in the shape of Jennifer Lopez (playing Paulina) looking out of a window from a dance room during a break. The vision sticks with him and a few days later he can resist no longer and must go and investigate. What he finds is a run down Ballroom Dancing studio run by Miss Mitzi (played by Anita Gillette), before he knows it he is enrolled in a dance class and begins to learn ballroom dancing. As the weeks pass he continues to attend classes whilst keeping it secret from his wife Beverly Clark (played by Susan Sarandon). While Gere pursues the dancing as a way to restore his interest in life his wife fears he is having an affair and sets about trying to find out by hiring a private detective to follow him.

There’s some very gentle romance here, unrequited in the case of Gere and Lopez and a little comedy, but in the end its all a bit tame. Gere does his best, Lopez displays her wonderful body to the full (I believe that was why she was cast) and the rest contribute, but no more. Very light entertainment but you would probably need a rainy day to force you to watch it.

Henry David Thoreau – “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shall_We_Dance%3F_(2004_film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0358135/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Mar 09

Film review – Green Zone (2010)

Film review – Green Zone (2010)

Green Zone

Rating: 7/10

Starring: Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Greg Kinnear, Yigal Naor, Jerry Della Salla, Nicoye Banks, Jason Isaacs, Martin McDougall, Khalid Abdalla, Michael O’Neill, Antoni Corone, Tommy Campbell, Paul McIntosh, Sean Huze, Robert Harrison O’Neil, Said Faraj, Abdul Henderson

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Review: Film review – Green Zone (2010) – This war film based around the Invasion of Iraq (second time around) is basically a show case for Matt Damon (playing U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller) to run around and be an action man. He heads a small squad of soldiers sent in to find WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Having struck out several times he begins to suspect that the intelligence his searches are based on is not as good as it should be. During the course of one of these searches an Iraqi civilian who has witnessed the gathering of some potentially important people offers to take Damon to them. Initially he is suspicious but having been won over he takes a small part of his squad to investigate. They break up the meeting and capture one alive but the main man gets away.

What follows is a man hunt around Baghdad as Damon tries to find the one that got away who it turns out is important to the future of the country.

Its a little hard to comment on the other performances in the film since they play such small parts. Damon pretty much carries the whole film and though not overwhelming he does a competent job. There’s a lot of running around finding this, then that. It attempts to add a layer of suspense through conspiracy but this largely doesn’t come off. Its ok, nothing special.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Zone_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0947810/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Mar 02

Film review – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Film review – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Rating: 8/10

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Derek de Lint, Erland Josephson, Pavel Landovský, Donald Moffat, Tomek Bork, Daniel Olbrychski, Stellan Skarsgård, Bruce Myers, Pavel Slaby, Pascale Kalensky, Jacques Ciron, Anne Lonnberg

Directed by: Philip Kaufman

Review: Film review – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) – Essentially a three hander this film stars Daniel Day-Lewis (Tomas), Juliette Binoche (Tereza) and Lena Olin (Sabina). Based on an existential novel by Milan Kundera it tells the story of a ménage a trois between Tomas (a brain surgeon), Sabina (his lover) and Tereza whom he marries. It’s set in Czechoslovakia during the sixties and seventies and especially during the Prague Spring in August 1968.

Tomas is happy moving from one lover to another, always at ease with women and never staying the night so he doesn’t get attached. He maintains a long term affair with Sabina who doesn’t mind his womanising and everything is fine. One day he meets Tereza a young girl from the countryside and strikes up a conversation with her but before anything happens he has to leave and so that is that. Some days later Tereza shows up at his flat in Prague and he allows her to stay. They begin to live with each other and all is well except Tomas maintains his affairs and particularly continues to see Sabina. Slowly Teresa becomes aware of this and starts to feel ‘the unbearable lightness of being’.

The film follows the trio through their relationships and troubles, Sabina flees Czechoslovakia for Geneva in Switzerland when the Russians invade during the Summer of ’68 and although Tomas and Teresa initially stay they also follow her before eventually returning to Czechoslovakia and living under the Communist yoke.

It’s possible to say that the film lacks drive but in actual fact it prefers to meander, setting its own path and following the characters relentlessly to their conclusion. There are big themes especially around relationships, some excellent performances from all the cast, Daniel Day-Lewis for the women watching and Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin for the men. Who could want more. If, like me, the film hangs in your mind for days afterwards you’ve understood. Good stuff.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unbearable_Lightness_of_Being_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096332/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Feb 17

Film review – Little Big Man (1970)

Film review – Little Big Man (1970)

Little Big Man

Rating: 8/10

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan, Jeff Corey, Aimée Eccles, Kelly Jean Peters, Carole Androsky, Robert Little Star, Cal Bellini, Ruben Moreno, Steve Shemayne, William Hickey

Directed by: Arthur Penn

Review: Film review – Little Big Man (1970) – This western covers one hundred years of the life of a man (Jack Crabb) who lived through The Battle of Little Big Horn. Its stars Dustin Hoffman as Little Big Man a white boy who is captured and brought up by the Cheyenne nation. The film also stars Chief Dan George (as Old Lodge Skins), Faye Dunaway (as Mrs. Louise Pendrake), Martin Balsam (as Mr. Merriweather), Jeff Corey (as Wild Bill Hickok) and Richard Mulligan (as Gen. George Armstrong Custer).

Jack having been captured by Cheyenne (with his older sister, who soon escapes) is brought up as a ‘Human being’ until one day he falls back into the hands of some US cavalry. They hand him to a preacher who gives him to his wife to bring up. She teaches him abstinence and religion but in the end he discovers she is a sinner and renounces his religion.

He then becomes an apprentice of a snake-oil salesman until they are caught and tar and feathered, but it turns out that the people who tar and feather him are led by his older sister. She looks after him and after a while he discovers he is good with a gun and so becomes a gunslinger named the Soda Pop Kid. Jack soon gives this up when he sees Wild Bill Hickok kill a man.

Next he becomes a partner in a general store and marries a Swedish woman named Olga but his partner is a swindler and they lose their business. Soon afterwards their stage is attacked by Cheyenne and Olga is taken captive. Jack sets out to find her but ends up back with the Cheyenne for a while. Eventually he becomes a muleskinner in Custer’s 7th Cavalry but when they attack the Cheyenne he changes sides and having discovered a pregnant Cheyenne woman returns her to the Cheyenne. While the child is born he sleeps with her three sisters after she asks him to take them as his wives as there are few braves left because of the cavalry and so he ends up with four wives. At this point he finds Olga who is the wife of an old enemy of his, the enemy is henpecked and she doesn’t recognise him so he leaves them be.

After Jacks wives are killed by the 7th Cavalry in a surprise attack Jack tries to kill Custer but loses his nerve and as a result becomes the town drunk in Deadwood, South Dakota. There he is found by Wild Bill Hickok who gives him some money. Hickok is killed soon after but asks Jack to give some money to a prostitute, when Jack does this he discovers it is the preachers wife, now a fallen woman.

After another spell of being a drunk and falling to rock bottom Jack finally becomes a trapper and hermit, just as he is about to commit suicide he spots Custer and the 7th Cavalry, he seeks to gain revenge on Custer and gets Custer to hire him as a scout. Custer doesn’t trust him and so uses him as a reverse opinion always assuming whatever he says is the reverse of what he/Custer should do. So when Jack tells him to go to The Little Big Horn he assumes Jack doesn’t want him to go and so goes. Just as Jack is about to die with Custer and the 7th Cavalry he is rescued by his old Cheyenne enemy who owes him a life and so is set free from his debt finally. He finally ends up back with the cheyenne.

A comedy with a social conscience this film portrays native Americans in a positive light and The United States Cavalry as the villains. There are serious strands mixed in with the comedy expressing the revisionist view of this part of history experienced during the nineteen sixties, a time when anti-war thinking had become predominant as a result of the Vietnam War.

The film has a nice feel and is always engaging with good comedy and one or two very serious moments to reflect on the events of those times. Good stuff.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Big_Man_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065988/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Feb 16

Film review – Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Film review – Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Hyde Park on Hudson

Rating: 5/10

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wilson, Martin McDougall, Andrew Havill

Directed by: Roger Michell

Review: Film review – Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) – This is a comedy drama starring Bill Murray (as Franklin D. Roosevelt), Laura Linney (as Margaret Suckley), Samuel West (as King George VI) and Olivia Colman (as Queen Elizabeth). The story follows two parallel events, the first is the start of a relationship between Margaret Suckley and Roosevelt (based on diaries found after her death), the second is the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Roosevelts country estate in Hyde Park, New York in June 1939.

The royals have come to seek assistance from The United States in order to help them defeat the Germans should there be a war in Europe. They stay for a few days with Roosevelt while the king tries to persuade Roosevelt to help them. Meanwhile Roosevelt has begun an affair with Margaret Suckley a distant cousin.

Murray as Roosevelt is good but somewhat wasted, a nice performance from Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth helps with the comedy but to be honest this film is a bit of a mess. There are some good individual performances and no blame for the mess can be placed on the actors. The problem is the script, it doesn’t really say or do anything meaningful and as a consequence you wonder why you are watching. A missed opportunity I think.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyde_Park_on_Hudson

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1477855/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Feb 03

Film review – Dunkirk (1958)

Film review – Dunkirk (1958)

Dunkirk

Rating: 8/10

Starring: John Mills, Robert Urquhart, Ray Jackson, Meredith Edwards, Anthony Nicholls, Bernard Lee, Michael Shillo, Richard Attenborough, Sean Barrett, Victor Maddern, Maxine Audley, Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Kenneth Cope, Denys Graham, Barry Foster, Warwick Ashton, Peter Halliday, Ronald Hines, Roland Curram, John Welsh, Lloyd Lamble, Cyril Raymond, Nicholas Hannen, Eddie Byrne, Patricia Plunkett, Michael Gwynn, Michael Bates, Christopher Rhodes, Lionel Jeffries, Harry Landis, John Horsley, Patrick Allen

Directed by: Leslie Norman

Review: Film review – Dunkirk (1958) – This is an uncompromising telling of the story of Dunkirk. It follows the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces and French forces from the beaches of Dunkirk between 27th May and 4th June 1940. The story is told from two opposite ends and comes together on the beaches. One end tells the story of Corporal “Tubby” Binns (played by John Mills), Lieutenant Lumpkin (played by Kenneth Cope) and their platoon. Left behind accidentally they are trapped behind enemy lines and must fight their way through German lines to the beaches. The other end of the story follows Charles Foreman (played by Bernard Lee) a journalist who sees the disaster coming but is helpless to do anything about it. Foreman and an acquaintance, John Holden (played by Richard Attenborough) join the little boats that sail to Dunkirk to help rescue the allied forces on the beaches.

The two stories are based on novels, the first being Elleston Trevor’s The Big Pick-Up and the second Lt. Col. Ewan Hunter and Maj. J. S. Bradford’s Dunkirk. The combination of the two stories works well to help tell both the soldiers view and those of the civilians back in Britain.

There are strong performances from all three of the leads, Mills, Lee and Attenborough and some nice cameos from others. The film provides a personalised view of the evacuation telling the story from individuals perspectives and this helps the viewer to understand some of what must have happened on the real beaches. Most war films tell the story of great victories through history, this one celebrates a defeat that led to heroic actions and an incredible outcome. More than three hundred thousand troops where rescued during Operation Dynamo (the code name for the Dunkirk evacuation).

Winston Churchill to the House of Commons, 4 June 1940..

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051565/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

Feb 02

Film review – Prometheus (2012)

Film review – Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus

Rating: 9/10

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Patrick Wilson, Ian Whyte, Daniel James

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Review: Film review – Prometheus (2012) – I guess science fiction blockbuster best describes this film. Part of the Alien series this one refers back to the creation of the Aliens and humans. In the first Alien film there is a crashed spaceship and seemingly some form of alien who was piloting it before everything went wrong and it crashed. This alien has come to be referred to as the Engineer and Prometheus picks up some of the engineers story.

Two scientists discover drawings and paintings on earth created by previous civilizations suggesting that there is a place in the universe where man’s creator can be found. A scientific expedition financed by Weyland Corporation sets out to find the planet and see if they can indeed find their maker. The spaceship travels for two years to the point in space suggested by the drawings. With a crew of Fourteen their mission is to find the engineers, perhaps even meet them if they are alive.

Noomi Rapace plays Elizabeth Shaw the lead archaeologist, Michael Fassbender plays David, an android who is the ships butler come maintenance man. Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers a tough Weyland Corporation employee. Idris Elba plays Janek the Captain of the Prometheus, Guy Pearce is Peter Weyland the billionaire founder of Weyland Corporation and Logan Marshall-Green plays Charlie Holloway an archaeologist and love interest of Shaw’s.

Its an Alien film so you know its all going to go wrong and you know most of the crew aren’t going to make it so most of the fun is trying to work out who is going to make it.

The plot is a little muddled but this is a genuine effort to re-ignite this franchise and largely speaking it works. Obviously there are some great effects (these are a given now-a-days). There are also some good performances from Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace. Great new start to the Alien series and I look forward to the other two which are scheduled to follow..

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/

Amazon: Buy it

Trailer:

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