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Life End

Posted : 8 years, 8 months ago on 6 November 2008 04:34 (A review of Weekend)

I am thankful that I didn’t part with any of my own money in order to watch this film. I went into it with mildly high hopes due to its billing as an ‘apocalyptic road movie’. The back of the DVD case promises ‘cataclysmic traffic jams’, ‘rape, murder, pillage and even cannibalism’ – so why was it such a terrible viewing experience?

The films starts with a fairly humorous scene of a man being ‘brutally’ beaten over an incident of road rage. From the scene I assume that the film is going to be filled with this sort of black humour, and to its credit, it is. But just when you thought it was safe to laugh – DON’T! As we are constantly reminded not to by overbearing synth-strings whenever something profoundly disturbing happens. Whenever something isn’t funny (i.e dead children at the side of the road) – this ridiculous audio reminder seems to pipe up. Thanks very much, I was almost about to choke to death from laughter at the sight of dead children. From the introduction scene, we are then subjected to the female protagonist describe a sexual encounter she had in the past to her husband, who sits there smoking like an unconvincing film-noir detective.

Some semblance of plot follows as the two set out to visit one of their parents and attempt to claim an inheritance (via nefarious means if necessary). For a seemingly inexplicable reason, the French countryside if an absolute death trap for anyone who is driving. Road traffic accidents are everywhere and soon the couple are caught in a tailback which lasts for about ten minutes. The viewer is subjected to ten solid minutes of the speechless audio of car horns and engine sounds as the camera tracks the car through this ‘cataclysmic traffic jam’. It is so ‘cataclysmic’ that the other lane of traffic is open and they are driving along it seemingly unhindered. Maybe I was about thirty minutes into the film, but I’d reached my breaking point.

If I hadn’t tired of the film by then, it would’ve only been a matter of time. The couple eventually lose their car in their own traffic accident but persevere on foot. They are terribly greedy and materialistic, at times stopping to strip corpses of high end fashion items, as well as offering no help to those in need. The film devolves into some surrealist gibberish which then attempts to offer up profound musings on the dangers of consumerism and materialistic desires. Even remembering some of the freak encounters the couple has along their journey makes me angry that I ever bothered to sit through the film until the end. They meet a magician, one of the Bronte sisters (who they set on fire), a pianist (during which the director treats us to another terrific and ingenious scene – the camera spinning in a circle for ten minutes) and some dustbin men who happen to be intensely educated on the current affairs of African politics.

Along the way at random intervals, the screen blacks out and large blue lettering appears giving us such profound messages as “This is a film adrift in the cosmos” and “This is a film found in a scrap heap” which all reeked of a desperate art student trying to come up with something intellectually profound for his final year project. The ending offers no conclusion to the story, no character development and zero satisfaction. Despite the multiple cars that must’ve been smashed up to make this film, I’d hazard a guess that it was the plotline that took the biggest beating. Avoid at all costs, unless you are a final year art student looking for inspiration.


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Looks like Beirut in here...

Posted : 8 years, 9 months ago on 29 September 2008 10:57 (A review of The Flying Club Cup)

I tend to throw this word around a lot, but Beirut and this album are just sublime. I can not believe how young and talented one guy can be. The entire band play just about every instrument under the sun and the final result is something that resembles an Eastern Bloc carnival. Brass ensembles and traditional Balkan instruments provide the soundtrack to romantic evening strolls through the friendly French suburbs in The Flying Club Cup. It's definitely a more upbeat and relaxed album than it's predecessor. It often makes me wish I wasn't such a bitter and resentful person and instead the kind of guy who got to experience the festivities that seem to entwine casually with the life of Zach Condon.

This is something amazingly different yet completely solid on my media player. I've never had so much respect or admiration for a band! It's what music should be, he has an amazing voice and an immense talent for writing fantastic songs. His love affair with south eastern Europe and the Mediterranean translates into thoroughly enjoyable music.


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The courts are the great levellers

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 14 September 2008 02:15 (A review of To Kill a Mockingbird)

Watching the film was the logical next step after reading the novel. Although the film was in the IMDb Top 250 list, I wondered if it achieved that status purely because of the worldwide acclaim of the book. I needn't have worried. The story is so strong that it would have been extremely difficult to mess up a film adaptation, although in the end, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right.

The plot is just about world-famous by now, considering this book pervades English Literature syllabuses across the globe. Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, a single father who lives with his two children and a housekeeper. It is the 1930s and Atticus is given the task of defending a black man against allegations of rape from a white woman in the chronically racist Alabamian deep south. Hardly an enviable task. As a result, he is vilified by the town and blasted with sickening racist jibes.

The story is told from the point of view of his daughter. As well as her relationship with her father, her experiences with her brother and their childhood friends are also regaled. I anticipated, as a result, a cringe-worthy handful of child-actors playing the important parts. Thankfully, the acting from the youngsters in this film utterly blows away the unbearable and painful experiences we are subjected to by today's standards. When you watch a Harry Potter film, let's be fair, you can't enjoy such torrid acting, but here it is a complete non-issue.

Gregory Peck is the star of the show though. As Atticus, he is a man so righteous that even Jesus probably would have asked him for advice. His voice could probably have stopped a world war it was so comforting and authoritative. He is the perfect bastion of morality and an exemplary human being for his children. His courtroom scene is extremely rousing, with most of his lines being lifted directly from the book. He is ideal personification of Atticus, exactly the sort of character I imagined whilst reading the book.

There are a few differences between the novel and the movie adaptation. Whereas in the book, Atticus' children are subjected to the hate-filled rants of the townsfolk, it is only Atticus who receives abuse in the film. And it's mild at that. There is also no mention of the Finch's extended family, but as a result you have a much more concise and refined story. In all it is a fantastic adaptation which remains faithful to the novel and more importantly, it portrays Atticus brilliantly as the absolute legend that he is!


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I want your balls

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 12 September 2008 01:48 (A review of Planet Terror)

destruction of humanity.

Freddy Rodriguez is El Wray, the primary protagonist who has clearly fell foul of the law too many times thanks to his shady past. A chance encounter with his ex-stripper ex-girlfriend, 'Cherry', (Rose McGowan) leads to both rekindled emotions and a pesky encounter with flesh eating monsters who tear off her leg. After rushing her to the hospital, Wray is arrested for his trouble, but it's just as well the law is portrayed by everyone's favourite cult actor Michael Biehn, and both men soon realise that the law shouldn't get in the way of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Both men then team up with every survivor they can find in the backwater town.

The action is hysterical and ridiculously over the top, it's just perfect. Every single bullet impact seems to burst an entire balloon full of blood to accompany exploding limbs and viscera. The survivors eventually end up in a military complex overrun by soldiers who are staving off horrific mutations using overexposure to the chemical weapon responsible for the initial outbreak. The plot then thunders towards the ludicrous as Cherry affixes a high-calibre machine gun with under slung grenade launcher to her stump, and the evil soldiers are revealed to have already killed Bin Laden. This is without mentioning the scientist who collects testicles or the crazed doctor who oversees his son shoot his own face off. Everything I expected from the Grindhouse combo and more! Comically violent and far-fetched.


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Not sleep proof.

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 12 September 2008 12:41 (A review of Death Proof)

Quentin Tarantino's contribution to the Grindhouse double-feature largely hinges on the unpredictable exploits of 'Stuntman Mike' (Kurt Russell). The film shows two separate groups of fun-seeking women and how their lives are affected thanks to interactions with Mike. Whereas Planet Terror was steeped in violence and over-the-top action, Death Proof is an incredibly slow burner. Incredibly slow.

The film is two separate stories which essentially follow the same pattern. A group of young, care-free women are stalked silently by Mike and the camera focuses primarily on them and their conversations, before they end up in a brutal confrontation with the sadistic stuntman. While there is no doubt in my mind that Tarantino is capable of some entertaining dialogue (as witnessed in Pulp Fiction & Reservoir dogs, which were beautiful until they were drawn out, quoted and flogged to death by film students everywhere!), there is no such example of ingeniously witty barbs here. The exchanges between both groups of women were utterly inane. I want to choose my words artfully so I can fully demonstrate just how senseless and insignificant the banter was between the superficial women involved.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the film could rely on action scenes to carry you through, but sadly at least 75% of Death Proof is the vapid chit-chat. What a let down! I can't emphasise how close I was to just turning the film off as a result of its complete failure to entertain. It's the complete opposite of what I expected given Tarantino has been given an almost free licence to entertain with explicit violence!

The other 25% of the film was great. Intense car chases, crashes and smashes. The middle of the film presents a sickening scene of vehicular manslaughter that pretty much counts as the only piece of action in the first 90 or so minutes in the film. I was impressed with the way the second segment of the film ended and it was quite a refreshing twist, but other than that, my I.Q points were well and truly routed by the films empty dialogue.


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Adventurism gone mad!

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 11 September 2008 06:23 (A review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

I'm quite surprised at how generous the other reviews and ratings of this film actually are. I have to say I was sceptical from the get-go when I saw this was being planned (along with Rambo, Rocky etc) and have to say my scepticism was justified. Indiana Jones is a character and a franchise with a lot of credibility. I can see why they decided to produce another film, though it was always going to be a risk with the ageing star of the show well past his best.

The film opened poorly and disappointed from the very beginning. Indy's first lines were utterly forced and I cringed at the prospect that Dr. Jones was going to be transformed from a witty dead-pan legend into a cheesy one-liner cracking Van Damme style character. Thankfully, they sorted out his persona as the film went on, but one annoyance that remained throughout the whole film was Ray Winstone. God knows how many times he changed sides in the film, or why Indy would even be friends with such an oaf in the first place!

The franchise is built on epic adventurism, and to be fair, the adventure in Crystal Skull is just that. However, previous films at least flirted with realism, this one blows it out of the water with nuclear bombs and replaces it with incredibility and sensationalism. That's what grated me the most. Certain things I just couldn't get my head around, such as using a snake as a lasso, escaping nuclear bomb blasts (and the ensuing radiation/slamming into Earth) in a refrigerator - but then it got worse. The biggest insult of all must have been a toss up between careering over three waterfalls in a clapped out vehicle (which floated without any trouble whatsoever) with no ill effects at all, or Shia LaBeouf turning into Tarzan and swinging through the Amazonian jungle with enough velocity to catch up with a speeding car chase. Oh boy.

For some, this might have classed as entertainment, but it was way too far fetched for me. It turned into a total farce. The only high point was seeing Indy's hat and John Hurt's performance. I expect a lot better from a Spielberg/Lucas team up!


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Mums reunited.

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 2 September 2008 10:45 (A review of Loose Women)

An utterly dire British daytime TV programme in which a bunch of crusty old has-been celebrities digress about the days news events. An unsubtle anti-male theme courses through the daily chit-chat in which the saggy old menopausal dragons push the boundaries of prime-time bawdy humour. Depending on the guest, the gaggle of witches will berate, scorn, mother or flirt wildly with the poor sap who has been foolish enough to listen to his booking agent and appear on the show.

Occasionally, more 'serious' topics come up (such as whether prisoners who win the lottery should be paid the winning money), and they are tackled with all the delicacy of a sledge hammer to the face. Their brash and insensitive solutions to world problems often border on the racist, always border on the sexist and are universally greeted with feverish applause from the baying and hormonal crowd. It seems that in the 21st Century, an accepted form of equality is for women to disrespect and misrepresent their entire gender every single day under a shroud of lewd behaviour and a lorry-load of make up.

Utterly abysmal television.


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In-vesting in technology

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 2 September 2008 08:49 (A review of Live Free or Die Hard)

Whoever agreed to make another Die Hard film certainly had a lot of pressure on their shoulders. It's not just any old action film, but probably one of the greatest films of the genre! The franchise spawned many elements which became clichés in later action films, but no matter what, the Die Hard films always managed to have novel stunts, action sequences and brilliant lines that put other films to shame.

The plot felt quite unconventional. I can't remember any other film which deals with such widespread cyber-terrorism, though it was quite hilarious seeing McClane pit his wits, not against marines or German master criminals, but frustrated internet nerds. These nerds essentially cripple the united states technological infrastructure, reducing its cities to pandemonium and leaving every law enforcement agency utterly impotent. Luckily John McClane's crime-fighting tools are his razor-sharp wit and a standard-issue 9mm, both of which aren't reliant on the internet!

McClane is still the linchpin of the franchise, he's still as legendary as ever. The classic everyman who takes it upon himself to dissolve the terrorist threat. I have to say, my favourite McClane moments included watching him take down - not one, but TWO different aircraft, beating up a woman with some good old-fashioned blows to the head and even shooting himself in order to ice a bad guy. It just doesn't get any more manly than that.

There are lots of references to the previous Die Hard films, from obvious one-liners to more subtle similarities regarding action sequences. There were plenty of memorable stand-alone action sequences which do the Die Hard franchise proud, which I was more than happy about. There was only one seriously neglected icon that was missing from Die Hard 4.0:



The Vest
1988 - 1995


No doubt it went to the big laundrette in the sky. Bruce swaps it instead for a skin-tight khaki tee and it performs admirably. While this film doesn't reach the heady heights that former Die Hard films have scaled, it's an adequate addition to the series. I just hope it's the last!


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SSDD

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 28 August 2008 12:25 (A review of The Simpsons Movie)

It's quite difficult to write an extensive review for this film. You can probably count on two hands the amount of people who've told you 'It's just like...a really LONG Simpsons episode!' and... well I think that pretty much sums it right up.

Of course, we all know that The Simpsons hasn't been funny now for almost five years and this is reflected in the movie. There are the same number of hits and misses as if you strung five or so episodes together. Homer is a terrible father, Marge is a long suffering housewife, Bart so naughty, Maggie is a child prodigy and Lisa is still really really annoying and detestable. Springfield is quarantined thanks to Homer, but he manages to escape to Alaska before deciding to go back and rescue Springfield from the grasp of the Environment Protection Agency. The End.

The show should have retired with dignity by now, but you get the impression that the creators just couldn't live any more without their creation. No doubt a sequel is already in the pipeline, but it doesn't mask the fact that the TV show has been ailing for years. If it wasn't so established and resting on its former glories, it'd have been axed long ago.


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Dark days for cinema.

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 28 August 2008 12:29 (A review of Darkman)

Oh boy, what a disaster. MORE LIKE DISASTERMAN.

Sam Raimi takes control of his own creation in the story of a scientist-turned masked vigilante in this wholly forgettable superhero flick. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt in places but it kept letting me down over and over again.

Somehow, Liam Neeson stars as 'Darkman' (he must not have been very famous back in 1990), the story of a scientist whose life's work is dedicated to developing artificial skin. Well it's just as well! His girlfriend is in possession of a memo which could potentially devastate a big time real estate developer - with mob connections! In an utterly inexplicable series of events, Neeson decides to take his girlfriend's paperwork to work with him, and the mob know that this threatening woman has a boyfriend, and they know where he works, and they know he's taken the paperwork with him (repeat, inexplicable)... so they show up just as he field tests his latest invention. You see, the DARK helps his artificial skin survive. Hmmm, you may think this could be of some use to, say, a superhero who spends his time lurking around at night?

Well, Neeson gets his face smashed in by the mobsters who show up while the lights are off. Not content with a few bruises they put him through a massive electric shock (which doesn't shock the men holding on to him) and try to drown him, before blowing him up in a massive gas explosion. Don't worry though, he survives, horribly burned. Which is where his skin expertise comes in! Instead of hanging around at night with his fake skin which can seemingly endure forever, he chooses to go out in the daytime with prosthetics that only last 99 minutes. Cue him taking revenge by mimicking and impersonating his mobster attackers in a bid to extract revenge!

Interspersed with his quest for vengeance, he undergoes the usual affair of trying to get his life back on track. But he's a broken man. We are shown this by special effects sequences of intense anger which look like the worst and most basic MTV dance music video you have ever seen. At the end of the film I was lost for words. Granted it is ridiculous for a purpose, but it was just terrible all over.


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