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Knowing (it sucks) and warning you to avoid
***This review contains spoilers *** Oh dear, where to start? Okay, for a movie obsessed with numbers, here's three you need to know: 1.12 - or rather 1hr 12 mins - the time at which this promising movie goes off the rails with an annoying twist straight out of The Forgotten and countless other poor sci-fi flicks. For a man who works at MIT, it's obvious our moping hero doesn't recognise a plot device that was used in Close Encounters back in the late seventies. Hmm, a series of random numbers. Ooh, they're all dates when disasters happen and the number of casualties. Ooh, but what are these unaccounted for numbers? Could they be co-ordinates? How about yes Nicolas Cage? Yes, they are and yes i saw the same plot device used when i was 10 years old in Close Encounters. Knowing isn't a bad film for that first 72 minutes. The plot unfolds nicely and the premise is good. Cage is okay, not great and it ticks over nicely. But as that shark looks into view at the 72min mark i found myself getting angry as the inevitable twist loomed its large, ugly head - then the movie jumped said shark. And from that point on it just got worse. Remember that annoyed feeling you may have felt at the end of Contact when Jodie Foster lands on an alien planet and it looks like something from a holiday advert (aka a complete sell out?) That's mild compared to the hideous mess of a resolution at the end of Knowing. And that last half hour of AI, with the rubbish aliens? Also as bad here, complete with a spaceship that still looks like CGI artwork pitched to the producers, complete with stupid floaty contraptions that are utterly pointless (even a fantasy film has to have some logic). As for the protracted ending in which Cage emotes to his son for what seems like days, well that's 10 minutes of my life i'll never get back. I've seen some bad films in my time but Knowing ranks up there with Rancid Aluminium as one of the worst. Three words: avoid, avoid, avoid.
Believe the hype
James Cameron has always been a visionary director, since he burst onto an unsuspecting world with The Terminator in 1984. At $6million, that movie was anticipated by almost nobody; the big film of that Orwellian year was Dune - at $40million, the most expensive film ever made. Fast forward to 2009, a Cameron returns from more than a decade in the film-making wilderness to deliver his most expensive, ambitious film yet. It's rare for any movie to live up to they hype these days, and at a cost of $300million, the critics were sharpening their quills to stab at the self proclaimed king of the world. Comparisons to Ferngully and Halo were rife, but Avatar quickly buries those small minded, trite jibes; this is the real deal, and every penny of its price tag is up there on the big screen. The 3d is as immersive as you'd hope from any big screen blockbuster which requests grown men and women sit in chilly cinemas looking like refugees from the golden era of the 1950s - aka rather ridiculous. James Cameron's script might not be the most polished in the world, but on a comic book, teenage level it works wonders, and it's hard not to be gripped by some of the best action scenes committed to celluloid. Will it make it's money back? Only time will tell. However, for one 41-year-old who has grown up loving most of Cameron's work, the fact i could quite happily sit through the movie again a couple of hours after watching it suggests it will make a pile of cash from repeat business. Do yourself a favour, get to the biggest cinema screening it with a pair of 3d glasses, sit back and enjoy the ride. For once you can believe the hype.
The Mist (2007)
***The following contains spoilers *** Great horror films are few and far between thanks to the fact many lazy film-makers stick to the tried and tested routine of unstoppable serial killers and rarely address more original ideas. Thankfully, writer/director Frank Darabont is a far more intelligent director who wisely returned to the rich source material of Stephen King for this stunning classic. Shot at breakneck speed on a modest budget, his movie features a terrific ensemble cast, a great script and nail-biting scenes. Luckily the weakest visual effects sequence, involving a tentacle in a supermarket loading bay, doesn't get in the way of the rest of the drama, and once that is out the way, the rest is a sheer roller-coaster ride. Much has been written about the ending, so i won't repeat it here. But just to say for a film-maker to opt for such a brave ending knowing it will affect box office takings takes some guts. Long after all those bleak horror movies with a happy ending have faded from the memory, The Mist will linger as a tribute to its incredible cast and crew. 10/10.
Early Doors (2003)
An outstanding piece of work
This is easily one of the best sitcoms of the 21st century. Penned by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, the ensemble cast do wonders with the script, and even though Eddie (Mark Benton) hammers a gag home to the point of annoyance, the effect doesn't detract from the series. The first run was beautifully handled by director Adrian Shergold, and while the second didn't boast the same gorgeous photography, Craig Cash ensured it was as rib tickling and as poignant. The rest of the cast are wonderful. Christine Bottomley is a ray of sunshine, while John Henshaw gives a sublime performance as her adoptive dad. Although there was no Christmas special or a third series, at least fans were left wanting more instead of wishing cast and crew hadn't milked the format dry. To the regiment! You'll wish you were there.
The Nines (2007)
Inspired and worthy of a series
This film vanished without a trace in 2007, and given the lack of publicity for the DVD, it's only because i was intrigued by an iTunes trailer i bothered tracking it down. Thank goodness i did because it was well worth a look. Ryan Reynolds gave a terrific performance, and was so good, i had to look hard to check he was playing the second of three characters. The rest of the cast, especially Melissa McCarthy, were superb, and the complex plot kept me hooked until the end. One of those movies that benefits from a second look, but with such a great idea, it would be good to see it stretched out as a TV series. A good soundtrack too. Check it out.
Harley Street (2008)
Alas, this is another fast moving, post watershed medical drama that fails to set the pulse racing, despite a couple of racy moments. Paul Nicholls is okay as the leading man and the always excellent Suranne Jones shines in her role (despite a dubious posh accent), but there's nothing new here. With a glorified cameo by James Fox and a host of humdrum supporting characters, it may be a grower as the weeks go by, but based on the pilot episode, you may opt for another episode of Casualty or Holby City instead. Jones fans may want to watch old episodes of Coronation Street or Strictly Confidential to see her on better form. As for Nicholls: he seems sold short by the routine premise. If you have a pile of ironing to do it should pass the time a treat, but those seeking thought provoking drama may be better off giving it a miss.
About as much fun as piles.
The most morally bankrupt mess of a movie i've seen in years. Bad characterisation; outrageously poor direction and a stunningly retarded idea of what passes for horror. The Strause brothers may know their way around an effects unit, but their woeful lack of intelligence in the script department defies belief. The fact David Giler gave this a greenlight is also staggering. If Alien and Aliens were the highpoint of the saga, this is a subterranean embarrassment. It featured more plot holes than Swiss Cheese: The Movie and a hospital scene so repulsive it beggars belief. If a friend brings it round on DVD, make sure they pay your electric bill. Avoid it like a skittering facehugger.
Robin Hood (2006)
Borez n the Hood
The BBC's much publicised new version of Robin Hood makes the Patrick Bergin movie version look like a masterpiece.
Zero appeal from the eponymous character, a humdrum script, middling action scenes and the revelation that mascara apparently was developed in the era of merry men - well, that's one excuse for having one photogenic character parading around like something from a 2006 fashion mag.
Only Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham makes this worthwhile.
His deliciously corrupt tyrant adds levity and menace to the rest of the poorly realised scenario.
With David Tennant as Hood and Billie Piper as Maid Marian, this could have worked... oh, and Russell T Davies scripting would have helped as well. In other words, get the Dr Who crew on board and it may work.
As is stands, this is a big disappointment.
Whoever swiped the original episodes may have been doing the world a favour.
A shame they didn't pinch the apparently re-shot bits as well.
Hopefully things will improve as the weeks go by.
In the meantime, catch the Michael Praed/Jason Connery series to see how this should have been done.
Patchy but engaging
Whether you're a fan of the series which inspired it or not, there's no denying this is a patchy piece of work. But in the best possible sense. Keen to get away from the trappings of old sitcoms which made an uneasy transition to the big screen, Messrs Pemberton, Dyson, Shearmsith and Gatiss have gone down a different road, addressing the problems of dealing with their success along with adding other creations and, inevitably, rehashing some of their best-loved characters. It's a pity they didn't stick to just a more consistent League of Gents movie because as inventive as including themselves in the screenplay is, it weakens the finished movie. Well worth renting though.
The Punisher (2004)
Saturday night, the TV is awful so i popped this on expecting a movie as bad as it sounded. Never read the Marvel comic which inspired it but revenge thrillers can be a hit and miss affair at the best of times, especially when you can see the plot trajectory a mile off. However,one of the main things going for it was Jonathan Hensleigh. The talented scriptwriter had delivered some inspired work on Die Hard With A Vengeance and Armageddon and with Gale Anne Hurd producing, you know you're in for something a little more polished than your average no brainer flick. As a director and screenwriter, Hensleigh is a formidable force who did wonders with the $33million budget. Tom Jane is excellent as the eponymous hero, Frank Castle, seeking revenge after his family are wiped out by a ganglord (John Travolta). Laura Harring, the sexy protagonist from Mulholland Dr. is sadly wasted as his sultry wife, while an almost unrecognisable Samantha Mathis plays Castle's ill-fated spouse and then Rebecca Romijn Stamos pops up as the down on her luck tenant who falls for her hunky neighbour. While the first chunk feels like Mad Max revisited - wholesome law enforcer turned into a shell of a man after the death of his wife and son - the middle features a pointless comedy fight scene between Castle and a pumped up Russian villain. The third act is rather good, despite some sadistic scenes - if i never see a weedy supporting character having his piercings ripped out with pliers i'll be a happy bloke. A good looking nod to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel with an above average score. Not the greatest movie ever made and despite the obligatory Marvel shot of the hero explaining his future in a voice over at the end, i for one wouldn't mind seeing more adventures with Castle.
A Thing Called Love (2004)
One of the finest TV dramas of 2004. Beautifully written by William Ivory, great acting by Paul Nicholls, the outstanding Liz White and company. Using a similar idea to Clocking Off, in which several characters' personal stories are played out over the weeks, this Nottingham-based drama is bound to get the odd Bafta at the next ceremony. The finale may have pushed every emotional button, even down to featuring a box of cute puppies, but despite the obvious manipulation of the viewer, it was heartbreaking. A second series can't come soon enough. If you haven't seen it, watching it on DVD may be a benefit as the various threads are tied together by episode six. A must see. 10/10
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
One of the best British romantic zombie comedies ever made
As a lover of sublime sitcom Spaced, like millions of fans waiting for Shaun of the Dead, i never imagined writer and star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright could repeat their magic for the big screen. Thankfully i was wrong. SOTD is one of the freshest, most enjoyable British films i've ever seen and boasts more inventive one liners and set pieces staged for a low budget British movie. Pegg is on fine form as the hopeless electrical store salesman who finds his authority threatened by a surly teenage co-worker, his love life is on the rocks and he doesn't get on with his step dad. His housemate is a loveably offensive drug dealer who spends all day lounging around the house playing computer games, while Shaun's entire social life seems to consist of going to the pub. When zombies appear in London, Shaun rises to the occasion and leads his band of friends and relatives in a full on battle again the living dead. Familiar faces from Spaced, the excellent Nick Frost, Peter Serafinowicz, Julia Deakin (in a brief cameo) and some from Black Books (also a Nira Park production) Dylan Moran and Tamsin Greig, make this a delight while Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman from the office also appear. Bill Nighy has a short but memorable appearance as Pegg's screen stepfather Phillip and while the first half of the film is hilarious, the second half turns into a genuine horror film as Shaun and friends tackle an army of excellent zombies. An instant cult classic which some will find disturbing. However, despite the modest budget, Wright and Pegg have done a fantastic job of delivering one of the best films of the year, and indeed the decade. The fact that i couldn't wait for it to finish so i could watch it all again is testament to its quality. More soon please. 10/10
In the Cut (2003)
Good not great
Meg Ryan seems to be going through a mid life crisis at the moment. In an attempt to get past her wholesome girl next door image, she obviously decided that a risque adult thriller was just the ticket for making Hollywood execs realise she was more than just a pretty face.
Teaming up with Jane Campion, Ryan made this erotic thriller which pushes back the boundaries of explicitness in a mainstream American film, and yet at the same time, takes 10 steps backwards in terms of the well worn storyline.
If you've seen Looking For Mr Goodbar then you may get a nagging sense of deja vu as single teacher Ryan witnesses a sex act in a bar and then spends the rest of the movie being quizzed by a cop with a bad moustache.
Was it him that she saw receiving oral pleasure from a girl who wound up dead? Well Ryan's character is obviously having a hard time coping with what she saw as a personal fantasy puts bad 'tash cop in the scene.
Meanwhile, Campion throws a few red herrings into the movie as it winds its way to an inevitable conclusion.
In the Cut is not a bad movie. It takes its time examining the nature of desire and fantasy while the audience is left guessing about who could be the killer stalking New York and slicing up poor victims.
Great cinematography and fine performances by all make this worth a look but the irritating flashbacks on an ice rink would have been better left out of the cut.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Writer and director Neil Marshall has managed to take elements of
Aliens, An American Werewolf and Zulu and condensed them into
an enjoyable horror flick. It doesn't take itself too seriously, the
dialogue is sharp and witty and the action scenes pass muster.
The acting is very good with Kevin McKidd giving a fine
performance alongside the always reliable Sean Pertwee. Well
worth a look.
*Contains possible spoilers* Having seen this the morning after a hit and miss Christmas party,
with no food and no sleep, I felt pretty sick in the first few minutes.
So, heartbroken, sleep deprived and starving, the sight of
Smeagol's descent into madness as the one ring turned him into
Gollum was not the most appeasing of starts. But having waited with the rest of the world for two years to see this
conclusion, nausea would be kept at bay for the next three hours
and something. What unfolded was one of theose movies you remember forever,
despite it being just a day and a half since it was over. Hollywood is going to have a hard time recreating the level of
excellence on display here and although some bits were dubious -
Legolas on the Olymphant was a CGI lowpoint, the rest of the
movie was a stunning treat. Finally a director has told a story in
which computer effects, actors and craftsmen get the chance to
shine, none of which was at the expense of the story. There were far too many endings and Jackson could have done
with cutting 20 mins from the finale. However, you certainly get your money's worth and it deserves all
the praise and awards that will be heaped on it in the months that
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Mixed thoughts while watching this movie. One) That the special
effects are among the finest ever committed to celluloid. Two)
Trinity is one of the most fascinating heroines in recent years.
Three) When film-makers like The Wachowski brothers have
enough time and money, they can do anything Four) In creating a
universe where we're not sure what's real, the finale does leave
you wondering whether to cheer or wonder whether this is just
another red herring meant to confuse an already confused
audience. However, unlike many sniffy critics who have seen this as a
pretentious computer game, i loved it. Big clunky exoskeletons
fighting off big squid like machines is something never seen on
screen before and when you pay five quid for a movie, that's what
you want to see. Yes, much of the dialogue and logic is clunky but there are many
positive points here. Disappointing, fascinating, jaw-dropping, sexy, occasionally funny
and a feast for the senses. Well worth another look even though it
gives some the same effect as a scratch on the roof of your mouth
that just won't heal. Keep probing but eventually let it go. TMR is a
wonderful wound that may never heal.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Gritty and absorbing
After the success of Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, the
Jack Ryan saga went off the rails a little with Clear and Present
Danger in 1994. By the time producer Mace Neufeld decided to
dust down the series, interest was not that high. Full credit to him
then that he managed to deliver one of the most absorbing thrillers
of recent years. Ben Affleck delivers a fine performance as the
younger Ryan while Morgan Freeman is as watchable as ever as
the CIA VIP who takes him under his wing. The direction by Phil
Alden Robinson is also excellent, mixing gritty documentary style
drama while nail biting stylistic tension. The supporting cast,
including the excellent Ron (Alias) Rifkin and Alan Bates are
splendid while Jerry Goldsmith delivers a stylish score. Well worth
It's a long time since i've been so bored watching a movie. Kate
Beckinsale is miscast as a surly vampire warrior who clashes with
a race of werewolves. There's no humour in the movie, the
supporting cast are hugely bland and unlikeable while the special
effects are often cheesy and dull. The fact that it was released on
such a huge scale in the US and Britain proves that the powers
that be were keen on making a fast buck before bad word of mouth
was passed around. If you can imagine Aliens, Blade, The Matrix
and The Crow merged together and then all of the charm sucked
out, then this is the result. Bargepoles required.
The Italian Job (2003)
Hugely enjoyable revamp
Like many fans of the original Italian Job, i had been looking
forward to and dreading a revamp.
The idea of a gold bullion heist in Turin at rush hour was delicious
and thanks to a screenplay by the excellent Troy Kennedy Martin,
the Michael Caine classic has lost little of its charm over the years.
There was little point in refilming the screenplay the way Gus Van
Sant had done with Psycho. Instead, director F Gary Gray and the
screenwriters have done a fine job taking the best elements from
the original movie, then changing them to suit a new story.
The result is a delicious mix of action, suspense and humour that
left this fan hungry for more.
The finale does feel like something of a let down but having seen it
after the woeful Underworld, i was willing to forgive any little
niggles. Full marks all round.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Eerie, beautiful and unforgettable
One reviewer hit the nail on the head with their verdict: John
Hughes meets David Lynch. Of course that's just an idea of what
wonders await you in Donnie Darko. This clever, well written and
beautifully directed movie was made for next to no money and
proves that you don't need a Titanic style budget to make a movie
gem. The cast and crew are excellent while Frank has become an
instant icon. First time viewers: watch it around midnight and then
watch it again, preferably with DVD commentary. You won't regret
The fantasy epic to rule them all
Quite simply the best fantasy film ever made. High praise? Well any movie had to go some to beat The Empire
Strikes Back for that position but in my opinion, this did a stunning
job. Great acting, script, special effects, photography, music and even
the DVD turned out to be an unmissable piece of work. Two Towers may have taken $50million more but without Ian
Holm, less McKellen and minimal Blanchett, the movie suffers as
a result. Peter Jackson and the hundreds of crew involved proved what
remarkable things can be achieved with intelligence, warmth and
heart felt film-making. A gift that keeps on giving.
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Not as bad as part2
Cheap and not so cheerful mix of Alien and Hellraiser with bargain basement sets and some good effects by Midlands whiz kid turned LA horror guru Gary Tunnicliffe. If you think Scooby Doo is a fresh idea, this man was working on an animatronic version 12 years ago so nice to see he's finally made it in Hollywood. No classic but not as bad as it could have been.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
This psychological thriller was something of a way to pass the time for director Robert Zemeckis.
While making Cast Away, one of the world's most lucrative film-makers decided to have a year off so Tom Hanks could spend the time getting into character for the rest of the movie.
Instead of taking it easy, the director hired Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford for a Hitchcockian tale of murder, suspense and intrigue.
Pfeiffer stars as a doctor's wife troubled by terrifying visions of a ghostly girl who seems to be asking for help from beyond the grave - little suspecting the sinister manifestations are about to reveal shocking truths about her own marriage.
Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton and James Remar also star in this disappointing offering which does boast an audacious finale. Pfeiffer, paralysed for a short time, attempts to stay alive before drowning in her own bath.
Little happens during this scene. In fact the movie could have kicked off a new genre of 'inaction' thrillers.
Being Human (1994)
A beautiful mess
Having delivered some wonderfully charming movies with That Sinking Feeling, Gregory's Girl and Local Hero, Bill Forsyth seemes to have spent the years since 1983 trying to pull himself out of a nosedive.
This ambitious mess never made it to England and having just seen it on video I can see why.
A fair cast, Robin Williams, bit parts from Ewan McGregor, John Turturro, Robert Carlyle, Ken Stott and EastEnders Gavin Richards make this worth a look. However, the story - a wild, rambling yarn about one man through the ages (or something) is just awful.
Worth a look but well done if you make it to the end.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
One third awful, two thirds great
The first hour of this war epic is enough to make most intelligent people turn off in disgust. The script is hilariously bad, the characters are wooden and unbelievable while director Michael Bay's irritating habit of letting few scenes last longer than a second, intercutting every other scene with a crane shot gets on the nerves.
Randall Wallace's dialogue seems to have been inspired by war comics where chracters shout: Aiieeee! when the die. The British come across is incompetent without the aid of good old Ben Affleck while the Japanese only ever say crucial dialogue such as: We have enough information...
Everything is spelled out for the lowest common denominator which is a real shame as technically this is a fantastic movie. Great lighting and sets, costumes by Michael Kaplan and the hilarious habit that characters have of standing in front of design classics. Blood transfusions are even carried out with the aid of classic Coke bottles. However, once the attack begins about an hour in, things get really interesting.
Take out the first hour and this could have been something really special instead of a desperate attempt to merge Top Gun with Titanic.