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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Classics Corner: St Elmo's Fire (1985)

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Plot
A Group of friends, just out of college, struggle with adulthood. Their main problem is that they're all self-centered and obnoxious.

Review

For a long time after I’d first seen “St Elmo’s Fire” I actually thought it was a John Hughes film. Given its focus on character development twinned with a subtle blend of comedy, drama and coming-of-age angst, you’d be forgiven for making the same mistake. Indeed, when Joel Schumacher released “St Elmo’” in 1985, Hughes was already ruling the genre with both “The Breakfast Club” and “Weird Science”, indeed three of “St Elmo’s’” lead actors (Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez) also appear in “‘Breakfast Club”.
As a child of the 1980’s, many of the ‘feel good’ movies of that decade remain firm favourites two decades later – but is this one of them?

The story of “St Elmo’s Fire” centres around seven friends who have just graduated from university and are trying to find their way in life, whilst trying to find themselves. As a formula, it’s now been done a thousand times over and at an initial glance of the screenplay the characters could be described as stereotypical, tired and flat. Arguably however, it must be noted that this film was made 25 years ago and like the John Hughes comparisons which were drawn earlier, still stands the test of time, spawning countless copies even today (Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen – please stand up).

Sure, you’ve got some pretty standard characters in there - there’s the shy and selfless virgin, the rebellious, unstable musician and there’s the career man without morals. What sets this apart from many others that try and fail to reproduce a heartfelt “growing-up” movie is the finesse in which Schumacher combines a great one-liner with real emotion. It could be argued that the character stereotypes have become so common-place in films of this kind because they are echoed in the adolescent lives of countless generations – ours included.

It wouldn’t be a massive spoiler to reveal that throughout the course of the film the main characters all learn something about themselves and in some way grow. What gives this movie credibility is that the issues each protagonist faces are imprinted on the memory of anyone who has been trapped in the early-twenties void between childhood and adulthood – drug abuse, acceptance, parental pressures, death and unrequited love all feature and are treated with both respect and dry wit in equal measure.

Films that are set in the 1980’s now come with the expectance of a suitably euphoric soundtrack and ‘St Elmo’ doesn’t disappoint – David Foster supplies a rousing orchestral score throughout the film and there’s enough saxophone solo action to keep a Michael Bolton fan-club member happy. In addition to the soundtrack - set, wardrobe and script all combine to make this authentic to its 1980’s backdrop (admittedly, this shouldn’t have been hard, given that it was made during that time period).

Overall, this film is never going to change your life – it isn’t overly thought provoking, it isn’t pushing the boundaries of modern cinema and it won’t change the way that you feel about any of the character types that are portrayed. What it will do however is make you smile and make you remember. Maybe if you’re watching it without direction or purpose it will give you something to associate with. Maybe it will just remind you that Andie MacDowell has always been annoying.

Joel Schumacher is perhaps best remembered for his awesome 1987 “St Elmo’” follow up “The Lost Boys” and his sadly woeful contribution towards the Batman saga, however this film should not be overlooked and has perhaps been overshadowed by the master-craftsman that was John Hughes who made the moral journey tale his own. Even as a lesser-storyteller, Schumacher makes a decent job of this seminal ‘journey’ flick, providing an enjoyable and memorable picture of how and who we used to be.

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill


Review: Where The Wild Things Are (PG) ★★★

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Plot
An adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world--a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler

Review
I went into Where The Wild Things Are not having read any of the source material but being drawn to the movie because of Spike Jonze. Although the film recognizes alot of what it was like to be young and there is plenty to enjoy about it there was one fundamental flaw that irked me throughout. Max.

The film starts by showing Max playing by himself in the snow, when he goes to his older sister to ask her something she ignores him. add to this a single mother who is working hard to keep a roof over her familys head and its immediately apparent that Max is a loner without any real friends and to try and block out the real world retreats into his own. This sets the foundations of what is to come and leaves you in no doubt about the 'real worldliness' the film is set in.

Now what should happen during this time is that you start to feel for Max and garner a relation to his loneliness so you can empathise with him. The problem is though is that Max is annoying and I started to detach from this relationship almost immediately. Was this my fault because I'm older now and as a parent see such acts of misbehaviour as unacceptable? Quite possibly or maybe its a clever trick by the film-makers to deliberately try and alienate the adult, parental audience and connect more to the kids. If so its a brave move and one the quite possible does pay off.

After one act of misbehaviour that has Max jumping on the dinner table yelling at his mother to feed him, he runs off into the woods, finds a boat and sets sale across the ocean where he comes across an island and meets the wild things. From the pictures I've seen from the book the wild things are spot on. Carol, Alexander, Judith, Ira, Dougals, KW and The Bull, all with there own personalties and very articulate interactive with Max and crown him King of the Island based on his wild tales of victory over the Vikings and his wizardry.

This however raises a fundamental question that is never really answered in the film in that, does it send a message stating you have to create fantastical lies about yourself to become popular? Its covered briefly later on in the film but quickly swept under the carpet and never spoken of again which I though was a little strange. 
As Max grows closer to the gang, especially Carol which sends out messages of a missing father figure in Max's life, they embark on creating the ultimate fortress and playing war, again another message of missing friends possibly?

The middle part of the film is the most magical of all, the creating of the fortress, the playing of games and having run of an entire island without any rules are the dreams of every young girl and boy and the way its portrayed is cleverly done.

The film attaches itself to youth throughout and never lets go, even the tearful goodbye ending (which you know is coming throughout) remains in childhood territory. Where The Wild Things Are is a good film but the most frighting thing of all is that it will make you really feel like an adult in instead of the child we all still long to be.

Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (12A) ★★

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Plot
To take down a merciless finance executive, a young trader agrees to a disgraced Wall street legend's proposal in exchange for the man to be reunited with his daughter, the trader's fiancée

Review

Has there ever been a better time to make a movie which addresses the current financial problems we have at the moment? Or a better question could be do we want to be reminded that there doesn't seem to be any money out there? Either way here's Olive Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and the return of Gordon Gekko. Sort of.

For those reading this I'm assuming you've seen the original Wall Street, the story of Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko, the financial shark who gets brought down by young upstart Charlie Sheen. Well this is a straight continuation of that story. Gekko, now out of jail is spending his time as an author, Shia Labeouf's Jake Moore takes over the Charlie Sheen role of the young hotshot out for revenge after his mentor in the financial world is drove to suicide by the new big shark in the water Josh Brolin's Bretten James. Add to this the fact Jake is engaged to Gekko's daughter and you can see where the story is going.


There was a time when an Oliver Stone film meant something. You knew you were going to get edgy, controversial, cutting edge film-making, something with a point, something that asked questions. Now however everything Stone does is non offensive and safe. Wall Street 2 is off the same product line as World Trade Centre, W and Alexander, by the number, enclosed and unencapsulating. Its this type of direction that rubs off on Michael Douglas and instead of getting the mean, cut-throat Gekko we were hoping for we get a standard, everyday lead character who brings nothing of interest to the film and a twist that is seen within minutes of meeting him.


What a disappointment this film turned out to be, Gekko turns into a bit-part player, Labeouf's Moore is a non-entity and the blankest character I've seen in ages and Brolin's James, who should be the guilty pleasure of the piece, is just the token bad guy with a fall you see coming a mile away. I also have to mention the Charlie Sheen cameo. I like cameos and nods to previous films but this was so out of place it was embarrassing. You can actually hear Oliver Stone shouting "Look your watching Wall Street 2, the sequel to Wall Street, and that's Charlie Sheen". Crikey.


The visuals of the film, the New York skylines being used as financial charts and panning shots of the area are breathtaking but this is the one and only redeeming feature. Stone for some bizarre reason also decides to use strange split screens and in one almost laugh out loud moment uses a circular split to cover someone's face whilst talking on the phone. Honestly it's like something out of Airplane.


I sat through the film awaiting the kick, the spark which would kick everything off but unfortunately this never came. 


So onto the ending. Christ this ending would be out of place at the end of the nicest, most cuddly Disney film ever made. There is a spoiler coming now (you'll see it coming a mile away anyway) so if you don't want to know the end stop reading now ........ Well the ending is.... everyone is the bestist friends ever , and there's a baby, and a party with balloons and dancing *vomits* Completely out of place and a head shaker in the worst possible terms.


Give this one a miss, unless you want the nicest ending since Pinocchio.


Review: True Grit (2010) (15) ★★★★★

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Plot
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.

Review

Before we begin I feel I need to make one thing perfectly clear, the Coen Brothers True Grit is not a remake of the John Wayne film of old. No. This is a Coen Brothers film, it wouldn't be that straight forward. So forget about The Duke and marvel at The Dude as there will be no reference to Wayne's film in this review.

Joel and Ethan Coen take Charles Portis's novel and adapt it to the screen so faithfully yet retain their own style and influence that it's breathtaking to see the thing unfold minute by minute. The adage "they don't make em like they used to" isn't a phrase that's applicable here.

The story revolves around fourteen year old Mattie Ross and her journey in bringing her fathers killer to justice. In her quest to see the murderer Tom Chaney hanged she enlists the help of aged, merciless US Marshall Rooster Cogburn and the more young, enthusiastic Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. This is the base of the storyline which sets the foundations for some great storytelling and astounding character development.

At the forefront of everything is Jeff Bridges's Cogburn. Mean, grizzled, with a reputation for an itchy trigger finger and an almost indistinguishable accent, Bridges Cogburn casts a massive shadow over the rest of the cast. The joy in this however is that everyone else has to be on their A game so it's amazing that  newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie almost steals the show. With Bridges, Matt Damon (Laboeuf) and Josh Brolin (Chaney), all oscar winners and all hitting top form it'd be easy for the relative newcomer to underplay everything and just ride on their coat-tails but Steinfeld never lets this happen. In fact, she's the one in which I believe spurs on these heavyweights to bring out their best, she's cock-sure, confident and exudes a maturity that belies her fourteen years of age. An astonishing performance and one which should bring about some form of awards recognition.

However this is Bridges movie and all the praise will rightly be laid at his feet. The Coens know how cool he can be, for Christ sake he was The Dude, and they, including Bridges, pitch Cogburn perfectly.

It'd be ridiculous for me to comment on the Coen's direction, they are without doubt the masters in their field and Grit is no exception. Yes it's true that the style and atmosphere of the film is a nod to rugged westerns of old but it has their stamp right the way through it, this cannot be argued. The way they seem to balance seriousness with black humour is without equal and even in this tough western they still manage to raise wry smiles throughout "if you want to sleep in a coffin it'd be allright".  The cinematography and visuals are again breathtaking from the slight drops of snow which pepper the actors, to the sharp, quick scenes of violence that catch you off guard. Incredible.

Joel and Ethan have made yet another great, classic piece of cinema and you'd be a fool to miss this. Oscar will most definitely take notice but the question is will it be the old hands that reap the rewards or the new kid on the block?

Review: Toy Story 3 (U) ★★★★★

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Plot
The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it's up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren't abandoned and to return home.

Review

I've now watched Toy Story 3 twice and without a doubt this is easily the strongest edition to the trilogy. It has more warmth, emotion and comedy than the other two put together, quite simply this is a perfect family film.

Toy Story, was something original, something completely new and fresh and resonated with it's audience at a level that satisfied all age ranges. It introduced us to characters that you immediately cared about, a premise that you always thought was a reality when you were a kid and a comedy that was smart enough for kids and clever enough for adults. It was a rare blend that many thought couldn't be beat, some still maintain that Toy Story is the yardstick to judge all animated films, and I was one of them. Until I saw Toy Story 3.

I loved Toy Story and I liked Toy Story 2. For some reason Toy Story 2 never hit the same nostalgic spots with me as the original and truth be told I was never the biggest fan of Jessie. I found her annoying and misplaced, but that was a minor blip and the movie still remained a triumph and is still regularly played at home. Once I learned that Toy Story 3 was in development my expectations levels burst through the roof and I waited impatiently to hear what the storyline would be.

Then I found out, and for some reason my excitement dropped. Andy is on his way to college and has no need for  his toys so they are donated to a daycare centre where they can spend the rest of their days being played with and loved. This didn't seem the clever, smart storyline Pixar had become synonymous with, it seemed an easy out, a simple way to end on a high. I was disappointed and lost interest in the project after hearing that synopsis but I should have known better. I'd made a serious schoolboy error.

Toy Story 3 hit cinemas and was immediately hailed as a classic, one of the best films, not just animated, but actual films for quite some time. Five star reviews everywhere you looked with even the harshest critics being moved by the story and characters. I'd unfairly misjudged Pixar, Woody and Buzz so immediately sought to put things right. I settled down to watch Toy Story 3 and throughout the 103minutes was captivated, I was hooked by exactly what I had heard by others.

It was great to see all the characters back together again, yes even Jessie to an extent, and the storyline that I had failed to warm to swept me up and carried me along for the ride. All the new characters, especially Ken, slot in seamlessly along side the old favourites and help crank up the excitement as the plot drives forward. There's plenty of twists, huge amounts of laugh out loud moments and some quite astonishing emotional scenes. I'm not ashamed to say that these scenes really did move me, one in particular which is so well created you have to be some sort of iron giant with a heart made of stone not to start welling up at.

The voice talents bring their A game to proceedings but that's a formality, you always knew you were going to get quality from the likes of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Michael Keaton who all fit their respective characters perfectly. As is the norm with a Pixar production you get animation of the highest order and the direction to match. Every scene is crystal clear with amazing detail and I've been reliably informed that the 3D (which I didn't watch it in) is an accomplished piece of work.

It's an acknowledgement indeed to hear that the Oscar Academy may well be moving Toy Story 3 from the Best Animated Film category to Best Picture which speaks volumes about its quality. If it's left in the Animated category then it's a shoe-in to win but if it is moved then I bet it's going to push some of the other 'real' films to the winners post.

Review: Taken (18) ★★

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Plot
A former spy relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been forced into the slave trade.

Review

I could sum up this film in a nutshell by saying its every Bond film you’ve ever seen but with Liam Neeson.
To add more depth to the review however let’s examine the plot:

Neeson is a former government spy whose self-imposed retirement centres around wanting to spend more time with his estranged teenage daughter. At odds with his ex-wife, Neeson is pressured into allowing his daughter to travel to Paris where, surprise surprise, she’s kidnapped and sold into prostitution (of course).
Cue two hours of Neeson powering through various cities, unleashing a variety of death and destruction upon his daughter’s captors. Although the plot for the film is far from imaginative (Ransom anyone?) it is well filmed and the fight scene choreography is slick and bone-crunching. Neeson is pretty believable as the desperate father and highly trained killer.

Where the film falls down is in its lack of imagination and creativity – the plot is predictable, the acting is pretty lethargic (Famke Janssen is just plain annoying) and the ending is so sugary it will make you want to weep glucose tears.
What’s more disappointing about this effort is the fact that Luc Besson co-wrote the script. From the guy who was responsible for Leon, you’d expect more.

This film doesn’t break any new ground in the action/thriller genre and uses a fair amount of the usual clichés. If you’re looking for something to kill a couple of hours, give it a go, but only if you’ve seen all of the Bond films, Miami Vice and Ransom at least once.

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill

Review: Somewhere (15) ★

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Plot
A hard-living Hollywood actor re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.

Review

This will be the shortest review the site has ever had and probably ever will have.

Nothing happens in this film. Literally nothing. Pretentious rubbish of the highest order and one of the worst, if not most boring film I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through.


That's it. I can't say anymore as nothing happened for me to comment on.

Review: The Slammin' Salmon (15) ★★

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Plot
The owner of a Miami restaurant indebted to the mob institutes a contest to see what waiter can earn the most money in one night.

Review

I'm a huge fan of the Broken Lizard boys which is why it pains me to write this review. Super Troopers is a classic, Club Dread was enjoyable, Beerfest was fantastic and then they follow up with this.

Set in The Slammin Salmon restaurant, established by ex-boxer Cleon 'Slammin' Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan), we see the boys as waiters competing to earn $10,000 in a contest to make the most money in one night. Its a simple idea which shouldn't have been hard to execute but fails on almost all counts.

Its starts badly as we are introduced to the characters. Arrogant, misogynistic, fake tanned Guy (Erik Stolhanske), failed actor Connor (Steve Lemme), spineless restaurant manager Rich (Kevin Heffernan), angry chef Dave/Donnie (Paul Soter) and Nuts/Zongo (Jay Chandrasekhar), all with no character depth and completely unlikeable. And so the story unfolds as each waiter, including additional waitresses Stacy and Mia, battle to sell all the expensive meals on the menu.

The problem with the movie rests solely upon its unoriginality. Every laugh, and I do mean EVERY laugh, is seen coming a mile off and has been done many times before. They don't help themselves by making it quite obvious to what is coming, I mean a guy called 'Nuts' who's on medication, hmmm wonder what will happen with him. I guarantee that you'll watch this and see every single joke coming, its simple play by numbers comedy which doesn't need any thought. Sloppy and lazy spring to mind. The script also tries to rely on heaving swearing to garner laughs but in places that just seem unnecessary. Think of stand up comics struggling for laughs, stick in a 'Mother-fucker' or a 'cunt' and people can't help but snigger, its the same here but just comes across as vulgar and seves no point. The idea of a comedy is to get laughs from its audience, this fails with the only saving grace Michael Clarke Duncan who does raise the odd laugh with his angry rants.

I wouldn't encourage you to see this movie as its just doesn't hit the mark, but I can encourage you to check out their back-catalogue. Think I'm going to have to dig out Super Troopers miaow.

Review: Shutter Island (15) ★★★★

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Plot
Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.

Review

Its taken two days for me to write this review because I just wasn't sure what I thought of Shutter Island and what rating it deserved. The outcome of this downtime is to report that Shutter Island is an excellent movie experience, challenging, disturbing and thoughtful but not without a minor fault.

I've always seen Martin Scorsese as a little 'hit and miss'. He can make truly great films (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Casino) but then equally make dull, tepid affairs (Raging Bull, Kundun, The Aviator, Cape Fear). I wasn't that impressed by The Departed that bagged him the coveted Oscar (that he should have won for Goodfellas!) and without Daniel Day-Lewis Gangs of New York would have been a disaster. So where does Shutter Island fit in my convoluted view point? The answer is that its right up there with the great films for me.

The story is, as outlined in the plot above, US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to a mental asylum on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of an inmate as well as having personal reasons for also visiting. As the plot unfolds you find out about Teddy's back-story, about his time serving in World War II and the death of his wife. This is played out in flashbacks but never once leaving the main story long enough for you to feel detached, its this that allows you to empathise with him and understand what he's going through. I'm not going into much more as the plot twists so much that to express any more would be teetering on spoilers.

The cast is fantastic, Mark Ruffalo as Teddy's partner brings a grounded reality to Teddy's increasingly out of control main man and Ben Kingsley as Dr Cawley, the head of the asylum, is cold and chilling, hardly expressing any form of emotion throughout other than a steely glare. Each of these main characters play off each other brilliantly putting up boundaries that are constantly being broken down and exposing more and more of the intricate detail that makes up their personalities. Its this film that for me finally makes Leo a qualified character actor instead of pretty boy trying to act tough.

The atmospherics of this film are equally astounding, every set-piece foreboding giving the impression that something is looming in the background waiting to leap out at you. You can tell that set design has been top of Scorsese's list and every minuscule detail has gone into creating this haunting island and its because of this that the tone of the film continually shifts so that it switches from detective noir novel to straight out horror to war with effortless ease.


The only reason why I came to the conclusion to give Shutter Island 4 out of 5 is down to the fact that mid-way through the film I guessed what was coming. Now whether this is the films fault is open to debate but because of this I grew a little detached from the film and started over analysing certain scenes and discussions noting that they were there for a reason and cementing my guess. Again is this my fault or the films for allowing me to know what was going to happen? It's this reason why the review took a couple of days to formulate before I put it down in writing, but it's also a credit to the film for challenging me and that's what I want from my films.

Review: Sherlock Holmes (12A) ★★★

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Plot
Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.

Review
There have been many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes so I was interested to see what Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jnr could bring to the table. Well it's different to previous Holmes but is it in a good way?

Guy Ritchie has plied his trade in making movies based on the London underground mob scene and dodgy cockney geezers, (lets forget Swept Away which I'm sure Ritchie would want you to do) so its no surprise that Sherlock Holmes stays on fairly similar ground.

The story is as straight forward as they come, A villain being pursued by Holmes with a plot to other-throw the government, corrupt politicians and a supernatural force at work, that's it, nothing new there then. So its because the storyline is so straight forward the film has to rely on the strength of the characters and how they are portrayed. Step forward Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law.

Downey Jnr plays Holmes as a gritty, unhinged genius, who has little or no people skills and a borderline drunk who engages in bare knuckle fighting to absolve himself of any guilt that he has ultimately brought on himself. Its a nice twist to the Holmes character mixed with similar traits like being able to read a person just from a quick glance and judge what to do next, the brief and under used fight scenes are a highlight. You do engage with Holmes but he still remains a very distant character, I can see people either loving him or finding him irritating and arrogant, I found him a little of both truth be told.

Jude Law plays Doctor Watson, a counter-balance to the Holmes character and brings grounded reality and likeability to his audience. While Holmes is at odds with everyone and everything Watson deals with them in a calm methodical manner befitting his title of Doctor. Its a role that many actors would have seen as simply second fiddle to Holmes but to be fair Watson more than holds up his side of the partnership, not afraid to get into a fight and at times beating Holmes to certain conclusions, its a credit to the script writer to write him this way as the Watson character could have been a nothing role. Its also testament to Law's ability and portrayal of Watson that he almost, if not, steals the show from Downey Jnr.

Mark Strong plays Lord Blackwood, the sinister villain with standard menace and steely glare but nothing more really. I feel its a character that they could have done more with, everyone loves a villain that has personality and looks to be enjoying himself (Alan Rickman anyone?), Strong doesn't and its play by numbers theatre villainy which to be honest is boring. Rachel McAdams is thrown in as a old love interest of Holmes but doesn't bring anything to the movie and its only a matter of time before she becomes the 'damsel in distress' which you'll see coming a mile off. Its Holmes and Watson though that you'll be more interested in and the partnership grows as the film progresses.

Ritchie directs the whole thing smoothly, lets the action flow and refrains from going into the over-the-top characters and dialogue we've seen in previous outings which would have just seemed ridiculous in this movie. Its also refreshing to see that he doesn't go overboard on the special effects, yes there are obviously effects in the movie but nothing in your face and there for effects sake. I keep banging on about character development and the story in films being most important and Ritchie seems to know this too and this is reflected throughout even though I'm sure he would have been given the budget.

I liked Sherlock Holmes, I wouldn't say its great but its certainly enjoyable. I just wished they'd gambled a little bit more on the story and given Holmes something to really get his teeth into. They've tried something different with the character so why not move the story in the same direction? Although Sherlock Holmes 2 has been greenlit so I may just get my wish.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (12A) ★★★★★

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Plot
Scott Pilgrim must defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil exes in order to win her heart.

Review
You thought Edgar Wright was good right? Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, All top quality. Well you don't know just how good he is until you've seen Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. 

Adapted from the comic series of the same name Scott Pilgrim is a tale of boy meets girl, boy finds different girl, boy has to fight seven evil exes. We've all been there right? The plot sounds like fun as a stand alone concept but added to mix are classic video game references along with characters that come straight out of ... well erm a comic book. Allow me to explain.
Scott Pilgrim plays bass in a band, he has a young girlfriend and shares a flat with his gay friend after being dumped by his ex-girfriend (who is now in a popular band). Scott still holds a candle for his ex until he meets Ramona Flowers who he instantly becomes besotted with, to the point of ordering the 'coolest' thing from Amazon so she can deliver it to him. Things play out rather nicely until the first evil ex turns up, that's when the film kicks into high gear. literally.


The idea to pitch the fights with over-the-top style video game violence is just a master stroke of genius, right down to people exploding into a pile of coins when defeated. Endurance points are gained (and lost) and with each new evil ex a new set of powers are displayed. I love the fact that the outlandish fight scenes are never explained (how is it Scott can survive being beaten black and blue?) and the story continues on with a casual shrug to whatever went on before. Of course leading on from the video game mythos things come to a head with the 'big boss' and a final showdown which includes a flaming katana sword. A FLAMING KATANA SWORD!. I don't usually punch the air when watching a film (I leave that to our American cousins) but I came darn close with this one.


Of course the film wouldn't be much without the characters and each of them are faultless. Michael Cera as Scott is plying his trademark which isn't anything much removed from his previous roles but he's on top of his game. Mary Elizabeth Winstead fits into the role of Ramona perfectly bring a deadpan sense of mis-adventure to the character, your really not sure if you should be rooting for her which works well. All the evil exes are visibly relishing the chance to have fun with the role with Brandon Routh a vegan stand out (Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday) but its Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells who owns this movie. Playing the counter balance to Cera's unstable Pilgrim he brings worldly knowledge and assurance to the table and also gets some of the films best lines, which in an Edgar Wright film is a massive privilege.


After all this though the one person who has now firmly cemented his place as one of Hollywood's big hitters is Edgar Wright himself. In someone else's hands this could have turned into a incoherent mess but Wright is too smart to let that happen. He's the king of pop culture and knows who the audience is for this film but more importantly knows they demand respect. Geek culture is a difficult gig to crack, mis-treat any of our beloved treasures and our wrath is legion, but Wright nails it with confidence and assurance.


Scott Pilgrim is a hugely enjoyable film filled with quotable lines and an essence of likeability running through it from opening to end credits. This is without doubt one of the best films of the year and one you should see as soon as possible, if you've not already done so.

Review: Rocky Balboa (12A) ★★★★

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Plot
Rocky Balboa comes out of retirement to step into the ring for the last time and face the heavyweight champ Mason 'The Line' Dixon.


Review

Who is the greatest? Who is the best of all time? This is the question that pulls Rocky Balboa out of retirement one last time.

Thirty years ago, a film about an underdog fighter from Philadelphia rocked the world with the heart, grit and determination of its namesake's desire to succeed.

Now, the bell chimes for the long awaited final round of the Rocky saga. Many, including myself, were disillusioned by the lazy and tired outing of Rocky V. Stallone himself was as nervous as his audience to learn how his redemption piece would be received on December 20th this year at its premiere.

As a true fan of the Rocky series, I am pleased to say that the sixth installment definitely goes the distance.

In stark contrast to the latter Rocky films, "Rocky Balboa" heads back to its Philadelphia roots and concentrates on character development and dialogue rather than flashy training sequences and a barely concealed morale showcase.

Stallone - Sixty in real life, does not receive the Hollywood make-over treatment and this serves to add gravity and emotion to the ex-champions last outing in the scarred and weary face of Rocky Balboa. Rather than suspending disbelieve, the film focuses on reality and makes no secret that Rocky is past his prime.

Where this film shines through is in the excellent script (again written and directed by Stallone) and its emphasis on its characters. A strong supporting cast (Pauly, Duke, Marie) add much needed depth to Balboa's story and Stallone himself plays the haunted, grief filled, past-obsessed widower to great effect.

As the film builds to its dramatic conclusion, the comparisons to the original 1976 blockbuster are apparent to both the casual viewer and hardcore fans alike and as such should appeal to both movie buffs and Rocky followers in unison.

In addition to its excellent script, character acting and ability to once again capture the imagination of its audience, "Balboa" also has the powerful original score from Bill Conti, and it is this, along with the emotionally charged dialogue that will keep you hooked until the very last punch.

Whether you are a fan of the original, or, are merely curious as to whether Stallone can resurrect a legacy after sixteen years, I urge you to see this film.

Stallone has managed to carry the Balboa story to a dignified and human ending, and for that, I say "It ain't over, till its over".

Are you ready for a rematch?....

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill

Review: Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith (12A) ★★★★

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Plot
After three years of fighting in the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker concludes his journey towards the Dark Side of the Force, putting his friendship with Obi Wan Kenobi and his marriage at risk

Review

If Return of the Jedi was about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, then Star Wars Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith was about the redemption of George Lucas and the legacy he created and nearly destroyed.

Having made two thirds of a lack-lustre prequel trilogy which drew Lucas widespread criticism from critics and fans alike, the pressure was on to end the trilogy and the story of Anakin Skywalkers downfall with the style and gravity which it deserved.

What resulted is a film which has surely been Lucas's saving grace with the core percentage of his fan base. Revenge of the Sith is a dark, powerful and emotional roller-coaster which left me speechless and overwhelmed after its two hours twenty minutes running time.

The fall from grace of Skywalker is plotted out with an ever growing pace which runs from start to finish in a relentless spiral towards its torturous conclusion. Even die-hard fans who, having lived with the dark tyrant throughout their whole lives would be hard pushed not to will Anakin to turn from his tragic destiny as his internal conflict is played out with cruel inevitability.

By returning to the dark and moody overtones of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas has paid homage to his more mature viewers and has given the third and final instalment of this legend the respect it deserves.

For all the films darkness, there are moments of humour and the romance between Anakin and Padame is handled well, even if at times it does seem slightly too tragic.

Seasoned fans will be pleased to note the abundance of nods to the original trilogy while newcomers to the saga will be entranced by the lightsaber duels which are truly stunning.

If you have even the slightest interest in finding out how a gifted but impatient Jedi became a ruthless and sadistic dictator, I urge you to go and see this film.

The story may be over, but the force will be with us......Always.

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill

Review: The Road (15) ★★★★★

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Plot
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.

Review

Bleak. Barren. Piercing. Lacking kindliness. These are words that can describe both the character of 'Man' and the post apocalyptic vision of director John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road. Be aware that this is not a happy film, this is about the destruction and breakdown of civilisation, where people have resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. In this world there are no friends, no hope and your only instinct should be that of survival. By any means.

The story tells the journey of Man and Boy (never named) who are heading south to get to the ocean, your never sure of the reason why, just that they feel they should. The post-apocalyptic world they now inhabit is never explained to the viewer, is it nuclear war? a natural disaster? All you know is that there are countless fires raging, consuming every bit of life left to take which makes the effect more menacing, an unseen force. Throughout their journey they must come up against man at his most despicable, who would batter women and children to death for a meal, where every abandoned house is filled with dread and unspoken horrors while all the while slowly starving to death. Told you this was bleak stuff.

Viggo Mortensen plays the Man, gaunt, filthy and without compassion for anyone else other than his young son played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Both leads are truly superb in the characters they portray, showing a astonishing range of emotions over the films 111mins running time. Its a testament to the actors, especially Smit-Mcphee that they pull it off and how both of them were overlooked at the Oscars is a complete mystery to me. The credit for their performance must be attributed to the director who got the most out of everyone associated, every aspect of the film is aimed to devastate and show a collapse of humankind and succeeds on every note.

I could throw all sorts of clichéd terms to describe this film, edge of your seat, terrifying, psychological but there isn't really anything you can bracket this movie into, it stands on it own and what's more draws you in and doesn't let you go until the end credits begin to run. Its quite possibly the best portrait of a post-apocalyptic world that has ever been put up on screen, and yes I include Mad Max in that assessment.

There is only one flaw that I found with the movie and that's the flash back scenes of the family together (including Man's wife played by Charlize Theron) before the disaster took place. This felt tacked on and didn't serve any real purpose to the narrative, they are not present in the novel and I don't think were needed in the movie either.

I urge you to seek out this film, there's not many of this type around and immerse you as much as they should. A definite triumph and should be lauded as such. 

Review: [REC 2] (18) ★★

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Plot
The action continues from [REC] with the medical officer and a SWAT team outfitted with video cameras are sent into the sealed off apartment to control the situation.

Review (spoilers)

[REC] was a genuine one-off, terrifying, engrossing, moments of real classic horror and an ending to rival the best of em. So why make [REC]2? Its a question that I thought when I learned they were making a sequel, where can they go with it and how can they make it quite as intriguing as the original? Well they made a really good film, the trouble with it is that it's all far too familiar. Want to know more, well gather round the fire and let me tell you.

[REC] 2 starts right off from the end of [REC], I mean literally a few minutes after the first film ends. For those that have not seen [REC] beware there are spoilers in this review from here on in so you have been warned. The building that hosted the original zombies is still protected with police and the army surrounding it, however a swat team, along with a doctor are being sent into the building to track down the potential host of the virus. 
In addition to the swat team a bunch of teens and the colleague of one of the fireman who went into the building in the original also find a way in. This is just an excuse to bump up the bodycount really and you'll see it coming which is unfortunately the main downfall of the film, you'll see and expect everything.

Everything that worked in the first film falls flat in the second, you know the environment, you know the zombies and you know where the really scary stuff is so there's nothing really to keep you hooked. They do however come up with an interesting twist on the zombie story which I thought worked well it's just that it sits somewhere it shouldn't.


[REC] 2 is just over eighty minutes long with the original just under eighty so I feel they could have compressed everything together and made one big fantastic horror movie. Instead they have two with the second being a retread on the original but this time, and this is the important bit, without the frights or originality.

Review: Predators (15) ★★★

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Plot
A group of elite warriors are hunted by members of a merciless alien race known as Predators.

Review
I'm a massive fan of Predator, I think that's more than well established now, so my expectation for Predators was very high. I've been posting the trailers, images and news on the site ever since it began and nothing dampened by spirits. Every nuance of information that was released I gobbled up and loved every bit of and now I get to see the end product. Has expectation once again got the better of me, was I only ever going to be disappointed?

Well I enjoyed it, its a solid, entertaining and respectful addition to the two previous Predator movies (I'm not including the AvP efforts). It ticked all the right boxes and delivered what it promised to deliver, a Predator movie, nothing more, nothing less. So why am I feeling like I still wanted more? As I've said its everything I expected but there's still an empty feeling left over, a feeling like its a disposable movie. You know the ones I mean, the ones you watch and think "that was ok" then never end up watching them again, or talking about them until they turn up on Film 4 several years later. For me that's not how I should be feeling after seeing Predators.

Anyway lets go on with the story. Your thrown into the melee immediately with Adrien Brody's 
unconscious Royce falling through the air only to be saved by an automatic opening parachute. Enter another seven characters in the same way and you have your chosen few. There are many nods to the original right from the outset, the same score and old painless are delivered with a cheerful grin, this is a common theme throughout the film.

The group band together and quickly come across the Pred-Hounds and then the Predator base camp, its from these first two visits where the bodies start to mount up. With each encounter comes another killing, the stand-out being Hanzo (yakuza) facing off against one of the Predators with a samurai sword, holding it off while the others escape. Its the missing Billy vs Predator fight from the first film! Along the way they stumble upon Laurence Fishbourne's crazy Noland who's been on the Planet for ten years and has a habit of talking to himself. His introduction is yet another nod to the original and the character is dealt with well as it could quite easily have spiralled out of control and become ridiculous. 
The ending is yet another throw back to Predator, I won't give too much away but I will say muddy and shirtless, and leaves it wide open for yet another chapter in the franchise.

All the actors did what they needed to do, I did think Brody was the stand out by a country mile, but you don't go into this sort of film expecting Oscar winning performances. The Predators were back to the original 'guys in suits' instead of CGI, this shows and helps give back the film its grounded reality. Direction and effects were also confidently done but yet again I find myself saying "everything was good" instead of "great" "outstanding" or "fantastic"


So all in all a good movie. It had echoes of Aliens and Planet Of The Apes for me during some scenes which again isn't a bad thing but leads me to think it's why I don't attach to this film as I do the others. It isn't it's own thing, it lends so much from the original that it could in fact be a remake, at least Predator 2 distanced itself from the first so it stood on its own. The heavy reliance on the first burdens the film slightly so you can't help thinking back to the original when these nods pop up, which is very often.

I need to see this again, possible a handful of times before I can really know what I think about it but on a first viewing, good, enjoyable popcorn nonsense hence the 'on the fence' three out of five. If that isn't the end line of an 'ok' movie review then I don't know what is.

Review: Moon (15) ★★★★

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Plot
Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.

Review

Lets get one thing straight right from the start, Moon is a great film, a majestic piece of sci-fi, directed with an assured confidence and a leading man who has never been better. But what it is not is a classic. The reason behind this is that has been made in the wrong time. Let me explain.

Moon echoes many sci-fi movies of the past, 2001, Silent Running, Saturn 3 and to an extent Alien. If Moon had been made and sandwiched snugly between these films made in this era it would have no doubt have been dubbed a classic and be sat in many 'Top 10 ever made' lists. The problem is we've seen this before and although Moon is a work of unbridled brilliance you still can't help but compare to those other movies. This for me takes the edge off 'classic'.

The story of Moon is that of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) who while working on the Moon harvesting resources to help with Earth's power problem has a accident while out attending one of the harvesters. When he awakens he finds himself back in the base being nursed back to health by his computer colleague Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Once back to a relatively healthy state of mind he goes back to the scene of the accident only to discover himself still there. Strange.

The movie then enters its surrealism phase where Sam and his doppelgänger try to comprehend exactly what is going on and why they are both there. The great thing about the film is that it never tries too hard to explain things, everything flows smoothly and the story progresses evenly to keep you hooked. The reason behind this however is the performance of Sam Rockwell.

Rockwell is really the only actor present on screen in this movie and its on his shoulders whether the film succeeds or fails, and succeed it does. Rockwell is majestic, portraying the alienation and loneliness with a realism that defies belief. Kevin Spacey lends his monotone vocals to the bases computer, Gerty, who is clearly a nod to HAL from 2001 with added smiley face.

Its also hard to believe that this is Duncan Jones directorial debut. The way he has shot the film is undeniably a throw back to the movies I mentioned earlier, but brings to it an updated swagger which portrays the confidence of a film maker who's been doing this successfully for years. The visuals and tone of the film are quite astounding, with the score being a particular haunting highlight. Its a credit to Jones that he is being bounded around as being 'the new Kubrick' but as with most of these tags its best to ignore and continue doing his own thing. Its interesting to see what he comes up with next as he's set the bar very high.

Moon is a solid entry into the massive catalogue of sci-fi and although its a homage to past films it can still sit proudly on its own as an original piece of work.

Review: Monsters (12A) ★★★★★

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Plot
Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.

Review

I don't think I've ever been as surprised by a film as I have with Monsters. To start with this is not your 'a' typical monster movie. What it is, is a deep character driven road-movie that concentrates more on the developing relationship of the two leads than it does with the monsters (or creatures as they are known throughout).

It was this twist that caught me off guard and how I thank the film-makers for it. I was expecting a District 9 (which its been unfairly compared with) style film with ladles of action and creature mayhem. What I got was something much more pure and sublime and a film that engaged me right through to the end credits.


Sure there are creatures in this film, don't get me wrong, but they play a bit part, even just the background if you will, to the two leads Samantha and Andrew. Its these two characters that make the film what it is, not the creatures or the CGI (which admittedly is impressive when shown) and drive the film forward.


Samantha is the spoilt rich girl who gets caught up in mayhem and when admitted to a local hospital her father, who owns a large publishing firm, sends one of his journalists to escort her back to the States. This story arc is nothing new and has been seen a hundred times before but is played out so well, so intricately that you begin to really care about these two people. At times you even forget they are stuck in the middle of this insane situation, it becomes almost nullified by their growing relationship. If you could imagine Lost In Translations loneliness and companionship in a foreign land and add the odd alien then you have Monsters in a nutshell.


When the aliens are shown, it is done with such subtlety and flair that nothing is ever over-stated. They move so quietly and silkly but attack with such ferocity that it makes them all the more terrifying. However, as one character states, they only attack when provoked, leave them be and they leave you be. Interesting then that there are air strikes aplenty and usually all bearing the America flag. Could the meaning of the title be leaning toward something other than the creatures?


Some people will watch this film and complain that nothing happens, that its boring and misleading, well that's their opinion but I really think they've unfairly misjudged the film for what it actually is. The fact that Gareth Edwards (writer, director and almost everything else) shot this with only the two lead actors, all others were locals asked to participate, one camera and a limited budget of approx $15,000 then I find it amazing what he's pulled off and should be heaped with praise.


An astounding film, great characters, and a great director in the making make this a film you must see.

Review: The Machinist (15) ★★★★

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Plot
An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity

Review
During the opening scene of The Machinist, two things become apparent very quickly. Firstly, its lead actor, Christian Bale is a long way away from the well-built healthy appearance he showcases in both "Batman Begins" and "Equilibrium". Having lost 40lbs (Just under three stone) for the role, Bale looks a sad skeleton of a man, haunted, broken and unwell.

As the camera pans out around Bale's sunken and battered features, taking in a pitch-black coastline and a deserted nightscape, the second more alarming aspect of the scene is revealed. Bales character Trevor Reznik appears to be frantically trying to edge a corpse, rolled in carpet, off the edge of a cliff.

As openers go, this obviously poses more than a few questions to the viewer (Who is this guy? Who's in the carpet? How did they both get there?), and this trend continues from beginning to end with twists intertwined throughout the films complicated plot line.

On the surface, Trevor Reznik has a reasonably basic, if not slightly unusual life. He lives on his own, he pays his rent on time and he works as a machinist in an industrial factory for an unappreciative and unpleasant foreman.

However, despite the exterior normality of Trevor's routine several things quickly indicate that all is not well in his life. Trevor cannot sleep and has not slept in quite some time. He spends most of his time, scrubbing both his hands and bathroom floor with litres of bleach. Significantly, Trevor's only human interaction outside of his day job is with a pretty but downtrodden prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

As Reznik's insomnia begins to take its toll on his mental state as well as the more than apparent punishment that is echoed in his gaunt reflection, things take a definite turn for the worse. Trevor's mind starts to become unravelled and his grip on reality is tested when a mysterious and obnoxious stranger named Ivan (John Sharian) seems to be deliberately making his life difficult.

The pace of the film is rapid and does not hold back on throwing key plot elements into the mix right from the outset. Because of its frenetic energy and relentless need for attention, this outing by director Brad Anderson (Largely unknown prior to this project, having being mainly involved in TV work) will test most peoples ability to take in all it has to offer in one sitting.

What sets this film apart from other titles I've watched this year is the sheer quality of both its acting and its direction. Bale is utterly convincing as Reznik and draws you effortlessly into his deranged world of uncertainty as it begins to crumble around him. An excellent supporting cast only works to strengthen the impact of the characters further with Jennifer Jason Leigh playing the tart with a heart to perfection.

Anderson's direction is deliberately basic (most of the film takes place in a handful of locations) but is utterly engrossing and proves to be a grounded but emotionally involving nerve shredder.

For those of you who enjoy tense, dark and overall entertaining thrillers, this film comes highly recommended and is guaranteed to keep you thinking as the credits roll.

For those of you who like your films straightforward enough to be able to watch over a Chinese while you decide what to do at the weekend, this probably isn't for you.

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill

Review: The Lovely Bones (12A) ★★

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Plot
enters on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

Review
You're Peter Jackson. You've made three of quite possibly the biggest and most popular films of all time. You then tackle a remake of a bona fide classic and similarly make it huge and epic. So how do you follow this exhausting spate of movies? You slow it right down and take on a dark, compact, claustrophobic novel centered around a dead child.


I haven't read the novel by Alice Sebold so had no frame of reference going into this film, and to be honest it didn't encourage me to seek out the original source material. The film essentially centers on a young girl, Susie Salmon, who is murdered and resides in the space between reality and the afterlife watching over her family as they struggle to come to terms with her murder. Her father, played by a game Mark Wahlberg, becomes obsessed with finding out who murdered Susie and delves deeper and deeper into paranoia blaming everyone in the neighborhood for the crime. Rachel Weisz plays his suffering wife, who for my money, is completely wasted and reduced to one line scenes where all she has to do is look depressed. Michael Imperioli plays the detective investigating the murder but for some reason just seems out of place and disinterested, and the least said about Susan Sarandon the better.


The heaven sequences where Susie resides are very reminiscent to the Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come, in fact I think every review I've read has said the same thing and its this that takes away the individualism of the film. There are also far, far too many of them, which prompts you to start thinking, okay we get it, can we carry on with the plot now. This was probably my biggest critique of the film. The plot itself never really gets going until the last twenty minutes, the scenes preceding feeling like a forced jigsaw with the pieces never fitting together correctly.

The saving grace of the film is Stanley Tucci's creepy Mr Harvey who embodies the role with such gusto that you actually start to feel repulsed by him yet compelled to want him back on the screen, even though you know its going to turn nasty. He's quite rightly been nominated for an Oscar and lifts this film from being a one star failure.

All in all a disappointment, which is a shame really as somewhere there's got to be a directors cut with scenes that will help the movie come together and turn it into the film it probably deserves to be.