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District 9

Wikus rules
District 9 was as good a laugh as I would ever wish to have.

Wikus Van De Merwe is an absolute icon.

The first part of the movie is so funny, I almost wet my pants.

Prawns, cat food, Nigerians, high tech weapons, I loved every minute of the imagery.

Unfortunately the movie then gradually degenerates into real time crash bang special effects stuff.

But hey don't let that put you off.

It remains pretty good to the end.

I like prawns.

Keeping Mum

Maggie Smith is so good
I empathised with this film the moment I heard the yapping dog.

Many years ago, with seven iron in hand and with malice aforethought, I once approached the malevolent little flea bag that used to live across the road. It's incessant yapping had driven me to the brink of insanity. As I did so, club raised, the animal cowered, it's tail between it's legs it frantically scratched at it's front door. It sensed it's demise. It was so pathetic I couldn't do the deed. I failed. It needed to be dead but I couldn't do it.

"Keeping Mum" was one of the many of options on cable tonight. It wasn't an obvious choice until I noticed Maggie Smith in the cast. To see her perform again, I would endure the risk of cringing to Rowan Atkinson on the big screen.

As it turned out, Atkinson just acted well, Swayze was on Donnie Darko form and Maggie Smith was just as magnificent as ever in a role so typically easy for her.

To Grace, the problems were obvious and the solutions no less so.

This movie is easy to watch, nostalgic English country village life combined with "Death Wish". What more can you ask for?

Grace mercifully did the deed to the yapping dog. To her further credit she also did it's more deserving owner.


The Business

Things look better in the sun
We Brits are suckers for Brit gangster flicks. You make 'em, we watch 'em. Good or bad we want to love 'em. Nostalgic reminders of when the bad guys did their thing and left the rest of us alone. London lunatics were glamorous in those days. I know that, you know that and so did the producers of this tripe.

Dan Aykroyd lookalike meets Good fellas, meets Carry on Abroad and what have we got? The Business.

To comment on this film would be like counting the holes in a colander.

By chance or not, Sexy Beast has just been shown on Channel 4 as a reminder that a film of this genre can be good if it at least had a story to go with it's dirty mouth.

The Night of the Hunter

Mitchum is the man
This is a really dismal film.

I saw it many years ago and had a vague recollection of something sinister and nasty. I've just seen it again. It's not sinister but it's still very nasty.

Lot's of people get killed. Nobody seems all that concerned. Robert Mitchum plays it for laughs and Lillian Gish sends the post war world home cosy and warm.

If I were to try to describe the plot and interpret the motivation of all the characters, I would be doing the job Charles Laughton abysmally failed to do.

The only good thing is he had his shot at directing, listened to the criticism and promptly threw in the towel.

Buying big star names to sell a film didn't seem to work in 1955. But in 2005 it seems to, judging by the ridiculously high ranking on IMDb.

I'm as bad as the rest of you. I give it a 4 because I like Bob Mitchum and Lillian Gish.

War of the Worlds

Mr Spielberg has lost it
You know that little thrill when there's a clunk and a whir as the curtains open a couple of yards wider. You've endured the sensory bashing of the ad men and you know you can settle back to enjoy the main feature. Well this time the curtains didn't budge. No widescreen and a run time which struggled and ultimately failed to reach two hours. Not exactly blockbuster qualities.

I was left with a taste of Mr Spielbergs heart not being in it. After all he's done it all before and is now probably at an age when inability to change is inexorable. At my age I can empathise with that but endeavour not to impose it on others. No spark of adventure, no originality and a not very engaging family sub plot. He just sits back and lets the effects team dictate the drama and the big names guarantee the box office.

Desperation sets in when he calls on the authoritatively reassuring tones of Morgan Freeman to attempt set and conclude the story. The brilliant little Dakota Fanning is called upon to carry the whole film far more than was expected of Drew Barrymore. Tim Robins is appears to have been coerced into a disrespectfully shabby bit part. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise.

We take for granted the usual crash and bang special effects but when my seat almost started to come loose from it's fixings, the sound effects seemed overdone in desperation.

I hope Mr HG Wells is not travelling the ether in his time machine because if he ever sees this attempt to bring the storyline into the 21st Century he will surely strip a few cogs putting his mechanism into reverse. Ludicrous would just about sum up the arrival of the tripods. Had the writers spent more than fifteen minutes coming up with this daft storyline they might have attempted to convince us they did in fact come from Mars. Whatever silly account they might have come up with would surely been have more acceptable.

Comparisons with Independence Day are not valid. ID was fun and original. WotW is an indolent rip off.

I'm in a generous mood so a six is as generous as I can be.

Sin City

I went to see this movie because I read it's production style was similar and comparable to Sky Captain.

Comparable in style it is but far less entertaining. It's just an aimless nasty piece of (digital) work. A shabby and scurrilous use of the genre.

We could be forgiven for believing Bruce Willis did not actually appear in this movie but was digitally recreated from a dozen or so identical roles he has played previously.

As for Clive Owen, if some clever nurd could digitally improve his patent lack of acting ability he may one day aspire to the position of stardom consistent with the appeal of the squareness of his jaw.

On a more positive note, Mickey Rouke gave an outstandingly good classic comic book performance. Hellboy sprang to my mind as perhaps his inspiration. Whatever, he was the highlight.

Malice Aforethought

Why do Ladies like Doctors so much?
What a lovely, absorbing production. Bursting with period style supported by actors clearly enjoying the opportunity given to them. Ben Miller especially and intensely so.

Even the most grotesquely contrived modern TV soap story line would struggle to compete with this dark plot. Love, sex, greed, jealousy, murder most foul and to cap it off, a twist in the tail.

Most of all I enjoyed the pace. I dare say the whole thing could have been crammed into a Miss Marple style one hour afternoon TV filler but thankfully it wasn't. Three hours was timed to perfection. Enough time to absorb the period whilst the plot unfolds at a suitably measured pace.

Unlike some two part TV dramas, there's no padding. We don't experience the disappointment of a promising first part followed by a damp squid second.

A credit to all involved, especially it's producers.


Mars is alright tonight
I was entertained by this movie. Solid action.

When you pay to see a Willis movie you know what to expect. He did the business he's good at. Why he feels the need to continue to be so predictable is best only known to him and his wallet, but that's beside the point.

Without his name this painfully contrived plot would never have made general release and we would have not have seen the performance of the true acting stars of the movie. The three punks.

Mars in particular. I dare say his acting future will fade into obscurity but he and the other two deserve some recognition for injecting some convincing bad guy interest to this silly story.

Before seeing this movie I read a press review saying the movie had a twist to the plot.

I must have nodded off at the end.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Memo to Bill Murray: You are not a God
I enjoy something different. This film was hyped as something along those lines so I pay my £4.75.

It was easy to watch but nothing more.

My brain is not the largest on the planet so I may just have missed something. I left the cinema not so much confused as irritated.

Was this supposed to be funny, art house or what? I dare say the impressive cast list profited handsomely from this drivel and were happy to do so. None of them clearly had a clue what it was all about but revelled in enjoying several weeks in set locations we ordinary mortals would be happy to die for.

Good luck to them. They are just having a laugh at our expense.

I particularly noted the end credits overlaying extended film action and the number of people in the cinema who remained seated to watch in desperate expectation of completion.

It summed it all up for me.

Team America: World Police

Four letter word - Begins with a C and ends P.
I'm middle aged but still enjoy a laugh. I dare say I don't laugh at the same stuff I did when I was nineteen but I'm always prepared to give it a try.

It started off very well in Paris. Too well. Unfortunately this was THE laugh of the film. Enacted in the first ten minutes and later tiresomely repeated in other global locations.

I tell a lie. There was another good laugh when the distraught hero had a few soda's too many and wobbled out of the bar in magnificent puppet style. Unfortunately the following vomiting sequence was so crudely overplayed, the really funny bit was almost lost.

The UK newspapers gave this movie a reasonable rating as did the TV people. Thunderbirds are monumental and above all esteem. We all accept that, so the prospect of them being incorporated in a feature length satirical movie sounded like a clever idea worth seeing.

Unfortunately the writers having this clever idea fell very short of the talent to deliver it's potential. From what I can gather they are responsible for some cartoon show or other which is regarded highly in America and shown on a terrestrial British TV at a late hour when the beer bellies return home from the pub with a Tartrazine take away and a brain suitably conditioned.

This was one of those movies where you you walk out of the cinema hoping no one has seen you and cringing not to be classified as one of the cretinous whoopers this movie was clearly targeted at. I was genuinely embarrassed.

How on earth those involved in investing so much money in a movie with an opportunity to make America look inwards should be happy to settle for this crud makes me wonder. I came away with the impression that the satire was directed more against The Thunderbirds than America and they were more than happy to do so.

Hopefully, America may evolve a sense of humour one day.

btw Who is Alec Baldwin anyway?

Anger Management

You can do better than this Jack
I like Jack Nicholson. So do lots of people. The film industry knows we do and so does Jack. They know we like his eccentricity, his roughish style, the glint of the devil in his eye.

Unfortunately the old guy has allowed his distinguished career to be packaged and regurgitated it in one film too many.

This is just a typically silly Sandler genre film with Jack thrown in to boost the box office.

The phrase Jacksploitation springs to mind. Sadly, we can only assume Jack was a willing participant in this parody.

It was one of those films that starts badly but you expect it to be rescued as it develops. I dare say the appearance of Mayor of New York reassured America.

Personally, I found it a bit sick.

Da Ali G Show

Careful Mr Cohen, dis is da US u no.
I must admit I used to think of Ali G as a cheap late night UK Channel 4 filler. Not too demanding, appealing to adolescents and even occasionally funny. His UK victims mostly recognised the leg pull with magnanimity.

He's gone to seek his fame in America and good luck to him. A far bigger canvas for him to exercise his trade but at far greater risk. Having seen some of his US version shows I have to give the guy "respect". Some of the red neck goons he goes for appear to me to be dangerous. The bigger the danger, the more he gets away with it, the funnier it gets.

I have the kind of concern for his personal safety you might have for a front line reporter in a third world country. Wisely, he recognises you can say anything to anyone in the US provided you have a cameraman on your shoulder recording it.

The show I have just seen featured the block head "Actors Studio" guy. You know, the guy that introduced the worst TV show ever made, the one about the Simpsons. It also featured a leading US feminist, a hunky but "not gay" football player, a herd of cow punchers who had never actually punched a cow, finished of with a panel of four religious sages, the most vulnerable of whom was the dog-collar completely floundered by the old joke of there not being room at the inn because it was Christmas.

It's a clever show but relies too much on crude editing for comfort.


Unspeakably bad
Rather than blathering on about how bad this film is, let me try to give it some credit.

Guccione has produced a genuinely first rate trashy film. A deliberate effort to corrupt and degrade whichever profession participated in this shabby extravaganza.

Mirren looks good with nothing on and obviously enjoys it. McDowell portrays himself as a first rate nutter, yet again. Guccione had the vision to cast the pair of them in roles they would never again rise above.

I was fortunate enough to have only seen the short version of this dreary DVD.

It now resides in a landfill site.

Ladies in Lavender

An enjoyable piece of escapism.
Two sisters of independent means living a life of tranquility. A lovely country garden cottage, an idyllic Cornish village with inoffensive locals. A portly housekeeper prepared to empty the jerry as well as going to the fish market and conducting other activities unsuited to the sensitivities of her prim employers.

If you are a sucker for the maudlin, as I am, you will love this. The story is irrelevant. The acting superb. Dench and Smith together are a joy.

Dance clearly fancies himself as an art house type and attempts to consolidate himself as such. Unfortunately I couldn't help thinking he cashes in on the "Billy Elliot"/"Brassed Off" type of musical climax a little too crudely for jerking the tears at the end.

Arlington Road

High Anxiety II
I've just seen this film for the first time on Channel 4 TV and found it to be quite an entertaining thriller but one which sold itself short.

The events of the last fifteen minutes of the film relegated it to the ranks of ordinary. A film spoiled by it's hastily contrived ending.

The preposterously unlikely sequence of events leading to the bad guys cunningly tranfering blame to the good guy completely ruins it. A serious theme degenerates to fantasy.

This is one of those films (not unique) where a writer comes up with a good idea, works hard to develop it but lacks the talent and imagination to finish it.

Wildly exaggerated anxiety may be fashionable in America but is not very endearing.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Most enjoyable of 2004
For my money this is the best of the 2004 season so far. Strictly for grown ups with a secret garden that is still ten years old. The nostalgic style is so easy to bathe in.

Lots of movies these days use special effects to crudely bombard the senses. Thin plots are written around them and served up as just another helping of wide eyed pap. Sky Captain has no less a thin plot except the special effects are used to create a softness in a uniquely imaginative style. Even the club footed ten storey robots seem graceful. To use modern technology as a mood pallet with such good effect is a major step forward in recognising it's true potential as an art form. The last time I saw an art form movie which hit the same spot for me was Moulin Rouge.

Like Van Helsing, a lot of the fun of this movie is in spotting the old movie references. Things To Come, War of the Worlds, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Raiders, Star Wars, Battle of Britain, you name one, it's in there somewhere. Van Helsing was totally silly but I loved it. Sky Captain is equally silly but miles more fun and far more stylish.

Above all I have to acknowledge the the clever recognition of the impact of the WW2 Curtis P40 would deliver. Thrown in at the very beginning, to hear a V12 power plant in Dolby Stereo was worth the entrance money alone.

Oh, and by the way, the acting wasn't bad either.

Open Water

A very poor film
It's high in the movie going ratings so you think you are missing something by not seeing it. You see the shorts and think to yourself, "hey that looks promising, I will go and see it" as everyone else has done before you.

The trouble is everyone else is as easily led as you.

This is a case of a made for mid-week afternoon TV quality real life drama being marketed outrageously.


A couple go swimming in the sea and die. End of story.

I defy anyone to not ask themselves the question "Is that it?" when the credits roll.

The War Game

Perhaps I'm a complete air head but I had never heard of this film until I came across it at the Hack Green bunker in Cheshire a couple of years ago. Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker is a visitor attraction now, having ceased it's original function in 1966. It's a good day out. The whole place wreaks of nostalgia and has a dankness about it that draws you in to the mentality of the era. A little room is set aside for the repeated showing of The War Game.

I stepped into this little room and watched it. The seats were no less uncomfortable than the film. I dare say I was overly affected by the atmosphere of the bunker but I have to say I was genuinely chilled to the bone on seeing this creaky old film for the first time.

I recently got my own copy from BFI and viewed it in the comfort of my home. It still provided the same chill.

I was entertained by "The Day After", interested by "Threads" but "The War Game" wins the message game for me.

Early Doors

Ken is the King
This show is just about as good as TV gets. To watch it and suddenly realize 30 minutes have elapsed invariably surprises me. It is just about the most relaxing TV I have ever seen.

The Grapes is typical of the back street pub close to extinction in the north west of England. Especially one that serves cask conditioned beer. It's a celebration of it's gentle goings on and a sad obituary to their passing.

The latest series has just started and Ken realises the men in suits from the PubCo are round the corner, waiting to do what men in suits are consistently good at. Close the pub.

In the second episode, Ken soldiers on stoically, he has a cold, his bone idle fat arsed mother asks how the kettle works, the degenerate bobby's Phil and Nige are passing the dutchie in the back room and in the front room, the sparse customers expose their lives unashamedly because that's what you do in The Grapes.

After an episode packed with one liners, Ken finds himself propositioned by his barmaid. I only hope we don't have a storyline coming on. God forbid it. Early Doors is The Grapes not The Rovers Return.


Smokin Ron
Ron Perlman. I've seen his face before but never been inclined to put a name to it. His performance in Hellboy changes all that.

The film is undoubtedly an entertainment. It's a comic book story with the usual spectacular effects we take for granted these days but Red Ron is the star. The effects are merely supportive, the way they should be.

Charismatic is probably the word to explain his performance. It certainly raised my interest in the comic plot. An icon for weak willed smokers everywhere, a rarity in the media these days.

BTW, where do I get one of those clockwork heart tickers. Sounds like a marketable idea to me.


A cracking good film
Threads is disturbing but irresistible. It's so depressing you want to turn it off but you know you can't. Setting aside whatever original motivation there may have been in the making of this film, it is essentially a disaster movie. One which hits a spot most other mega bucks film producers only ever dream of doing. You don't see this and not be involved. How would I come out of it, you find yourself asking. Would you pee your pants? Would you eat rats? (no and yes, or is it yes and no?)

Rather than going to bed tonight in a suicidal frame of mind I will try to cling on to the single delightfully funny moment when, amongst the chaos and violence of a futile anti-war disturbance, Jack the Lad takes the opportunity to flog tin openers at a bargain price.

On the matter of humour, was it really necessary to portray people still as miserable zombies thirteen years after the event? This, for me is where the film is a tad pessimistic. We most certainly would have pulled ourselves together by then I'm sure. After all, we are British.

I, Robot

I, was bored.
I was looking forward to this movie. The pre release hype was excellent and irresistible but, having wasted my time paying to see it, I look back on it as having sat through nothing more than a slick two hour Audi advertisement. I was bored by the whole thing. It was like watching a replay of a computer gane.

A kind of Blade Runner I was expecting. I should have known better. It wasn't deep, original or thought provoking. I, Robot is pure pap.

There is obviously a massive industry out there thriving on providing amazing special effects. If you like amazingly spectacular, gob smackingly stupendous, unbelievably incredible digitaly created images then this movie hits the spot. My personal spot has been hit too often these days to be any further impressed by a bunch of overpaid button pushers.

It's a pity that film directors and producers seem to lack the imagination to utilise modern special effects to enhance their work rather than allowing them dominate. If a tenth the money was invested in challenging storylines we would all go home with much wider eyes.

Such is the nature of seasonal blockbusters and I suppose I am an idiot for expecting more.

Given the way things are going, a movie of a more realistic prediction of the world in the year 2035 might go along the lines of something medieval rather than technologicaly futuristic. Now that would be a really spectacularly challenging movie. Lets call it "The Day After Reality Kicks In".


Isn't life fun sometimes.
From the moment I heard Thunderbirds was being made, there was no way I would not go to see it. I made my mind up to enjoy it and, in the event, had little difficulty doing so.

There was always going to be the risk that the film might be just yet another awesome special effects extravaganza. The delightfully imaginative title sequence reassured me it wasn't going to be yet another kids film made for grown ups. Effects there were, but not so overwhelming as to detract from the cranky charm of the original puppet show. A tastefully balanced production leaving plenty of scope for youthful imagination. Not too heavy for the little kids to follow yet impressive enough for the bigger ones to appreciate.

For the even bigger kids, Lady Penelope is the star of the show by a long way. Sophie Myles delightfully over the top delivery of a stream of plummy one liners is well worth the cost of a seat.

Right, that's quite enough losing for one day :-)


A decent B movie
I quite enjoyed Signs.

Judging by the money spent on special effects I presume it wasn't supposed to be a science fiction movie. (one rubber catsuit, a field of rustling corn and a $20 baby alarm)

The priest loses his faith when his wife dies. As a priest, we might have expected him to understand that people do die and not to throw his dummy out of the pram so readily. Presumably had the priest been Catholic he wouldn't have had a wife and there wouldn't have been a film.

Anyway, Mel makes the most of things and gets the message across that bug eyed greys shouldn't mess with us because we've got the holy water.

Mel puts in a typically enthusiastic performance to raise the story above the corn. There is a good blend of suspense and sentiment. Little Abigail Breslin as Bo, is used to good effect to charm us and take our minds off being unnecessarily critical of the storyline.

Point to note. Do not advise that priest, carrying large kitchen knife, be used as emissary to possible future alien landing.

About Schmidt

I like Jack
I like to see movies about ordinary people. Americans churn out loads of footage but so little of it shows us what ordinary America might be like.

It's reassuring, from time to time, to know that there are some ordinary folks over there portrayed as other than murderers, bigots, drug crazed degenerates, patriotic heros, impossibly rich, vacant, beautiful people. America should know the way they depict themselves in movies is generally not very informative, until a genuinely eccentric film like About Schmidt manages to somehow manages to pop up above the parapet.

Of course it just doesn't "pop up", the only reason we get to see it on general release is because Jack Nicholson's in it. If he hadn't been then, let's face it, the film would have been just another reasonably decent "made for TV" movie.

Jack is magnificent. The guy has a big star presence which used to be based primarily on his smile and wicked eyebrows. The guy has an extraordinary talent for recognising his own physical attributes and applying them to the job in hand. His aging tired eyes now become his strength. We look to his eyes to understand every scene. He is a conductor of a movie if ever there was one. A genuine big actor re-affirms himself as a big star.

A very genuine film as well. I loved it. Mind you, I'm over 55 so I may be biased.

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