List o' Recent Reviews

Here's the latest twenty films what we've done reviewed and that. If you're looking for anything in particular, I'd recommend using the search box above, or if you're more generally browsing, either the Site Map or complete review list may fit your needs better.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

There is nothing new under the sun.

A belated return to the violent Noir stylings of Rodrigeuz and Miller as we see another handful of stories from the criminal underbelly of Sin City - the only city that's entirely criminal underbelly. A mostly returning cast perform mostly similar roles in mostly similarly themed and graphically executed stories, with enough style to push it through a relatively weak narrative. Provides enough highspots to be an enjoyable enough watch, but it's not going to set anyone's world on fire.

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Olympus Has Fallen

Acceptable in the 80s.

When North Korean terrorists invade the White House and hold the President hostage there is only one man who can save the day. Unfortunately he's busy on another job right now, but he's sub-contracted it out to Gerard Butler so you're in safe hands. Right? Well yes, if for some reason you've been living in a bubble for the last quarter century. Olympus Has Fallen is lazy, unimaginative, by-the-numbers filmmaking that steadfastly refuses to believe we're living in the 21st century. Creationist action, if you will. Avoid.

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Pacific Rim

A rare del Toro disappointment.

Giant monsters from an inter-dimensional portal beneath the sea threaten mankind, and in response giant robots to kick their asses. Operated by pairs of mentally compatible pilots these "Jaegers" are mankind's last line of defense, but as the alien menace increases in intensity it seems as though we may be on the brink of extinction. Can a former pilot re-team with a raw recruit and drive an obsolete Jaeger to victory over the monster menace?

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Wake Wood

The woods have, er...awoken.

Reeling from the tragic death of their young daughter, a middle class couple attempt to put the past behind them by moving to a quiet country village where NO GOOD CAN POSSIBLY COME OF IT. Initially unsettling as the locals are, nothing can quite prepare vet Patrick and pharmacist Louise for Timothy Spall's offer of their daughter's resurrection, OF WHICH NO GOOD CAN POSSIBLY COME. Brushing aside the highly unlikely nature of Spall's offer, our protagonists accept the attached conditions in return for three more days with their darling girl, as you do. Mark my words, NO GOOD WILL COME OF IT.

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Statham's best acting turn, but the shifting tones of this drama lets the side down.

Joey (Jason Statham) starts Hummingbird as a traumatised, perma-drunk ex-soldier homeless on the mean streets of London before seizing a chance to turn his life around, if by "turn around" you mean "work for the Triads". He uses his new position and earnings to help his estranged family and his friends on the street, leading to an unlikely romance with a nun that has little chance to go anywhere before Joey undertakes a quest of vengeance. There's a lot going on in Hummingbird, and some of it works at cross purposes to other things it's doing. It's trying to be all grim and gritty, but ruins that with enjoyable, but silly, Statham ass-kicking scenes and the tonal clash is quite grating. Dramatically, it has some fairly serious structural issues however the engine of Statham's personality does move everything along enjoyably enough to warrant a mild recommendation.

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World War Z

Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

I’ll say this for World War Z, it certainly delivers on the ‘zombies’ aspect of the film. After the first act it’s a little harder to have a reason to emotionally invest in Brad Pitt’s U.N. Investigator, trying to get to the bottom of the sudden zombie outbreak besieging the planet and find some sort of cure. Still, it’s by no means a bad film for all that, and surprisingly the rather jarring diversion caused by the re-write of the last third of the film was for the best, delivering easily the most tense and interesting moments of the film. It’s a much more credible contender for your tentpole dollar than anyone expected, although outclassed by the competition. And Pontypool.

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It's a shame it's not more interesting.

High flying exec Brandon (Michael Fassbender) struggles with his addiction to sex, a situation complicated by his semi-estranged sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) showing up with her own bagful of problems. It's a really well made film, however as a character piece it suffers somewhat from featuring characters that are particularly difficult to engage with on any level. While at points it feels very much like a film I should like, the sad reality is I found it rather boring.

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Identity Thief

Acceptably funny road trip shenanigans, mainly due to the talented leads.

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy star in Identity Thief, which takes a current security hot topic and turns it into an excuse for a road trip, with the requisite zany situations. The actual bones of the film aren't all that inherently funny, but the talent of the leads salvage most of it, bringing it up to acceptably funny levels. As comedies go, it's nothing like as bad as the overwhelming critical opinion and nothing like as funny as the box office might suggest, but it's far from the worst comedy you'll ever see.

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By no means a bad apocalypto-sci-fi outing, but it's much more predictable than it thinks it is.

Sci-fi shenanigans in Oblivion, as Tom Cruise discovers that his grim post-apocalyptic reality is a lie, and the truth is an even grimmer post-apocalyptic reality that he must rail against. While I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, it may be to naught as the story's rather predictable. There's nothing particularly bad here, but it's a little too close to mediocre to recommend.

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Great Gatsby, The

A trifle too audacious for it's own good, but it's truer to the novel than you'd expect.

After a PR campaign that seemed intent on giving entirely the wrong impression, once Baz Luhrmann gets the initial shock and awe glitter-strewn anachronisms out of his system you might be surprised to find this settling in to a fairly faithful rendition of Fitzgerald's story. With a very few niggles, it's well acted by a talented cast, particularly DiCaprio's Gatsby, and it's suitably lavish considering the monied 20's decadence of the characters. At the end of the day, my problem with the film is my problem with the book, in that it's a character piece with well-drawn but utterly unlikeable characters.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Pretty much more of the same, but not quite as good.

The first film in the rebooted series rocked our socks back in 2009, and while the follow-up is certainly very good, it's not on quite the same level. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are hot on the trail of a rogue special operations asset that seems hellbent on taking revenge on Starfleet. But are the higher-ups playing straight with Kirk? While this isn't the most tightly plotted film you'll see, it delivers action, emotion and humour in pacey, punchy, balanced measures that's a lot of fun to watch. Sadly the excellent ensemble of the rest of the Enterprise's crew take something of a back seat in this instalment, which is something of a waste of talent, but other than that J. Jonah Abrams delivers the goods again.

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Iron Man 3

A brilliant bubble-gum tent-pole spectacular.

Shane Black, writer of many a 90's buddy action flick tries his hand at directing this decade's go-to action formula, the comic book adaptation, and surprises by lining up the most enjoyable outing in the franchise so far. With Tony Stark still shaken from the events of Avengers Assemble, forces loyal to his comic-book nemesis The Mandarin get the drop on him, forcing him to essentially go undercover and rely on his wits, intelligence and ingenuity to find and face his foes. While it's not perfect, the story perhaps hanging together the least well of the series and a gimmick that comes a little too close to magic, but another great set of comic performances and some of the most innovative action set-pieces in the genre make this a ridiculously entertaining watch.

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Cloud Atlas

Laudably ambitious, for which we, er, laud it, although it's far from perfect and understandably too esoteric for many tastes

The Wachowskis team up with Tom Tykwer to bite off a hell of a project, and do a remarkably good job of chewing it. Telling many loosely linked stories across history, the present and the future, with the main link between them all being Hugo Weaving's incalculable evil, this could have suffered greatly from narrative and tonal whiplash as it bounces around but, somehow, it doesn't. Much. It's not perfect, and it's far too esoteric to find the mainstream love it was shooting for, but it's completely unlike anything else in recent cinema, and for that alone it's is worth seeking out.

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Side Effects

Talent and flair elevate this competent but unremarkable script to become a very solid, well-built drama.

In Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects, Rooney Mara plays Emily, a young woman struggling to cope with life after the return from prison of her crooked-trader husband. One ill-advised coping mechanism sees her drive her car at speed into the wall of her garage. This results in her hospitalisation and subsequent treatment with an experimental drug, which causes her to sleepwalk, sleep-cook and sleep-stab-her-husband-to-death. The film explores the culpability of Emily and the physician who prescribed the medication, played by Jude Law, and how they cope with the stress these events have brought about, until a third act twist. A tale that could be fit for a TV movie is elevated by Soderbergh's directorial flair and strong performances from the cast, and is certainly worth checking out.

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Far-fetched but very enjoyable thriller.

What starts off as a relatively conventional heist drama soon takes a turn for the weird when hypnotherapy gets involved, although it's a form of hypnotherapy so advanced it's indistinguishable from magic. It perhaps overtaxes credulity, but it's an interesting and pleasingly messy story backed with some good performances from James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson that's consistently "good", without tipping over into "great" despite always threatening to. I can't help but feel that a little more polish could have made this something special rather than "merely" something enjoyable and well above average, but I'll take what I can get these days.

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Dark Knight Rises, The

Weakest of the trilogy, but still one of the best comic book adaptations ever.

An old and busted Batman goes up against Bane and a League of Shadows intent on revenge, and tearing Bruce Wayne apart mentally and physically. Which, naturally, provides a great excuse for the dissections of character and motivations that this makes the series so special, over and above the big budget spectacle of the piece. It certainly stands the least well apart from the other films in Nolan's series, and to get the most out of this I really think you must have Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fresh in your mind, but this provides a great bookend to the series and ties the trilogy together nicely.

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Welcome to the Punch

Stylish but generic, mildly miscast thriller with a ludicrous conspiracy angle.

I had expected much more from this well-regarded script, with it's well-regarded cast and for a while it looks like it might deliver, as James McAvoy's cop goes up against Mark Strong's robber before being forced to team up against a grander conspiracy that effects them both. Problem is, well, aside from a reliance on clichéd characters and plot developments, that the conspiracy is so ridiculous as to make the film laughable. Ah well.

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An ordinary decent criminal flick.

After being screwed out of his heist payday and left for dead by Melander (Michael Chiklis)'s gang of thuggish thieves, rather more honourable thief Parker (Jason Statham) vows revenge. This takes him to Florida, where he sets about foiling their plans for an audacious diamond heist aided by local estate agent Leslie (Jennifer Lopez). Everything about Parker essentially exudes an air of reasonably enjoyable competence, from Statham's low-key, quite charismatic performance, Lopez's quite likable turn, and the quite interesting heist plots. Quite. The only really annoying thing is that it does rather seem like everyone involved has settled for producing a decent film, when there's the odd flash here and there (particularly in some of Statham's staple fight scenes) of the really good film that this could have been had everyone brought their "A" game.

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Hyde Park on Hudson

Less a character study, more a character quick-flick-through-the-summary-notes.

The other Yankee Presidentially Orientated Movie knocking around in cinemas, looking at FDR (Bill Murray)'s relationships with his cousin Daisy, his wife, his mother, and the visting King and Queen of Great Britain. While there's a number of decent-to-good performances here, notably from Murray, the film suffers somewhat from the shifting focus between characters to the extent that you never feel particularly invested in any of them. It's far from a bad film, but it's difficult to recommend making extraordinary efforts to see it.

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Another powerhouse central performance from Day-Lewis makes potentially dry subject matter riveting.

Telling of the fraught process of getting the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery through a bitterly divided House during the (obviously) divisive Civil War, Lincoln can be said to be as much about political process as it is about el Presidente. This could have made for a rather dry experience, but the typically superb title performance from Daniel Day-Lewis leaves no barn unstormed. Combined with a faultless supporting cast, the only quibble I can take with this film is that Lincoln's family life is rather less interesting than the politics of the time, and provide the only scenes that drag a little. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, and Lincoln is well worth your time and attention.

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