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The Incredibles

Good family movie
This is a good family movie. It watched it with my wife, five year old and seven year old and we all enjoyed it (although the five year old got a bit scared by the 'good guy' getting captured). It's hard to find movies that we all get something out of so that is a win.

There's a good mix of action, peril, humour and character. The plot (superheroes struggling to accept normal life) isn't all that original but it does the job.

One thing that surprised me is that there are a lot of people that get blown up, crushed, sucked into plane turbines etc. Nothing particularly gruesome is shown but I was surprised at the sheer numbers of deaths shown in a movie aimed at families.

I'd definitely recommend it as a family viewing.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson does a decent job as the moody retired detective Matthew Scudder who finds himself on the trail of the brutal murderers of the wife of a drug kingpin.

It's a reasonably gripping movie. There's regular tension as Scudder puts himself at risk in graveyards, strange buildings, basements etc. The supporting cast all do a good job.

But it's nothing special. The plot is boringly predictable. The identity of the murderers is revealed to the viewer early on (and Scudder figures it out himself not much later) and from then on it's a fairly pedestrian chase and fight between them and Scudder.

There's also a strange lack of any major female characters. It's one of those movies where women are only represented as victims.

An ok watch but not really one I'd recommend.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

A good addition to the X-men franchise
A good addition to the X-men franchise. What makes it original is the strong contrast between the future scenes featuring a final band of X-men standing up to the power-absorbing Sentinels, and the scenes from the past featuring a young Xavier and Magneto.

The future scenes feature some impressive special effects and earthquakingly powerful mutant-on-Sentinel battles. The opening sequence in particular is a cracker.

The scenes set in the past are interesting for their insights into the early years of Xavier and Magneto but don't have the same oomph. James McAvoy is a little too fragile as the young Xavier - he's not a persuasive match for Patrick Stewart and seems to be easily outclassed by the young Magneto.

The climax of the movie is a tad pedestrian, but taken as a whole this is worth a watch.


Better than it sounds
This teens-fighting-teens coming of age Sci Fi is better than it sounds.

It's set in a society where people are divided into factions depending on their abilities. One girl, Tris, realises she doesn't really fit into any of the factions, and with the help of a man called Four sets out to challenge those who would kill anyone who threatens the world order.

It could be cheesy, but it's handled really well. Tris and her companions are set a series of physical and mental challenges, which add variety and tension to the plot. There is a strong cast, including Kate Winslet as the cold and calculating Jeanine, Ashley Judd as a caring mother, and various others, not to mention the pretty couple of Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four.

It's all set in a suitably post-Apocalyptic world, coloured by the different-hued garbs of the factions. A good movie.

Mr. Holmes

A pleasant amble
A curious approach to the Holmes mythology - this movie focuses on a retired and aged Holmes living a pastoral existence keeping bees, who tries to recall his last case as dementia strikes him.

Played by Ian McKellen, he has a strong on screen presence but is a bit dull. He's aided in his endeavours by Roger, the son of his housekeeper, played expertly by Milo Parker as a brooding budding intellectual.

There are some neat sequences, such as Holmes's trip to Japan and the beekeeping education of Roger, but this movie never really gets going. It's a pleasant amble through one of Holmes's cases, easy to watch but without thrills and spills.


Very shabby
This is very poor and quite bizarre. Propped up by the talents of Scarlet Johansson and Morgan Freeman, there is little going for this movie barring their acting talents.

The concept piques one's curiosity to start with - an innocent girl caught in a dark deal starts to gain powers after massively overdosing on a new drug. But the idea is developed in the worst possible way - as a pointless expansion of her powers to superhuman with no real moral quandaries to worry about, backed up by the most ludicrous pseudoscience.

I pity Freeman, tasked with playing the intellectual behind the absurd concept that by unlocking the untapped potential of the human brain, incredible powers over other people and inanimate objects can be unlocked.

This concept gradually replaces any semblance of a plot line until I found myself counting down the minutes to the movie's end. Very shabby.

Woman on Top

Cruz is stunning, the movie is not
Gazing with admiration at Penélope Cruz is pretty much the sole attraction of this movie. In fact, that's what the men *in* the movie spend most of their time doing, too. Cruz plays Isabella, a TV chef that cooks with 'passion' - and do so (literally) beautifully.

Everything else about this movie is poor.

It's a romantic comedy so I expected a love-lost-and-found plot line. But the premise of Isabella's break up with her husband Toninho is mind-bogglingly awful. Isabella suffers from motion sickness and so she likes to be on top when making love. Toninho, with the excuse that men 'need to be on top sometimes', sneaks away at night to have an affair, which Isabella discovers.

But Isabella's love for Toninho is so strong (even after the affair), that she has to call down a curse from the Brazilian god Yemanja, to end her love. It's a terrible story line. Toninho is impossible to relate to as a result, even when he tracks down Isabella and sings her love songs to try and win her back. What makes it worse is that the chemistry between them is pretty unconvincing. The supposed animal passion is unevident.

There are moments of gentle humour in the movie that delight momentarily. Isabella trying to make out to another man while Toninho sings Portugese songs through her answering machine was one that stuck with me. But overall, this is not a good movie.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Much better than the first Captain America movie
I was disappointed by the first Captain America film, so I was pleased that I found myself liking 'The Winter Soldier'.

Director Fury has a prominent role - he is hounded out of his position and almost killed. So Captain America finds himself in a position where he doesn't know who to trust. That said, he seems to trust Black Widow, who he quickly teams up with and who also features heavily in this movie.

And that's just the start of it. Together, Captain America and Black Widow uncover a truly sinister secret at the heart of the organisation they work for.

It's all delivered with perfectly good fight scenes and character interaction throughout. The sinister plot is unravelled at a steady pace, meaning it's easy to stay interested right up to the climax.

My major criticism is that I don't find the characters all that engaging. Captain America is a boringly clean-cut hero, and the bad guys didn't seem very memorable.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Takes itself too seriously
A decent movie from the Transformers franchise.

Dark of the Moon has a fairly dark plot, involving the seeming total invasion and enslavement of Earth, and the apparent exile of the Autobots. There is also an 'ememy from within' subplot that's delivered well.

What I dislike about these Transformer movies is that they take themselves too seriously. The transformers are portrayed as serious defenders of humanity. The fact that they are cars that turn into robots makes this seem a bit absurd. I do also find the transformers hard to engage with as characters.

They'd be better off embracing the absurdity and making the movies much more flashy, joyous and funny.

Lesbian Vampire Killers

Some good one liners, but that's it
A poor movie whose only real merit is the effectiveness of the James Corden/Matthew Horne buddy relationship fronting it up.

Lesbian Vampire Killers is of course intended to be a spoof of gross-out horror movies, so it's difficult to criticise it too much for the pathetic attempts at creating fearful vampirical lesbians.

So it's a good job that plenty of room is allowed for Corden to deliver a series of moderately amusing one-liners such as "Even dead women'd sooner sleep with each other than get with me it would appear." Unfortunately, by the climax, the comedy is well and truly exhausted and the movie really creaks at the seams as the heroes go about defeating the vampire queen by means of a phallus-handled sword.


The perfect action movie
I was surprised my just how much I liked this movie. It's the apotheosis of American military firepower and 'gung-ho', cleverly pitted against a single, jungle-dwelling enemy. It works brilliantly well.

The movie divides into three parts, each with a distinct feel, and this keeps it interesting from beginning to end:

1. A US special forces unit attacking an enemy military force. 2. The unit being picked off one by one by a mysterious 'predator' and futilely trying to defeat it with firepower. 3. Hand to hand combat between the predator and the unit's leader, 'Dutch'.

Dutch is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his powers - he is iconic in this film. It's hard to imagine there ever being a better action hero.

The film delivers on gratuitous, easy-watching violence. The are lots and lots (and lots) of munitions, deployed with gusto by the characters to noisy and visually satisfying effect.

But it delivers on drama too. The soldiers are all testosterone-fuelled prats, of course, but they each have distinctive and memorable characters and are given their fair share of screen-time. There is brilliant tension worthy of a horror movie, as the true nature of the Predator is revealed bit by bit as it picks off the other characters.

And the Dutch versus Predator climax is just superb.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Another superb movie from the original Star Wars trilogy.

I watched this thinking it must surely fall short of the brilliance of the first two movies, but it most certainly did not.

It introduces yet more weird and wonderful iconic aliens into the mix - most notably the grotesque Jabba the Hut and the adorable Ewoks.

It matches the other movies for thrilling set piece battle scenes, culminating in the excellent space battle between rebel forces and the Imperial Destroyers and Death Star.

Best of all, it delivers superbly on the ever evolving relationship between Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor. The scenes toward the end where the Emperor tries to persuade Luke to turn to the dark side, and Luke simultaneously tries to get Vader to turn back, are deftly managed and quite terrifying.

Oh, and we're treated with all the usual delightful characters of Leia, Solo, C3PO, R2-D2 et al.

The only time the movie does show its age is in some of the initial scenes where alien monsters are shown using unconvincing stop-motion techniques. Fortunately there's less of these as the movie goes on.

Return of the Jedi is yet another piece of brilliance from the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Wow. What an epic.

This is a glorious SciFi Adventure Fantasy.

Like with the first Star Wars movie, the Empire Strikes Back presents a rich and varied universe peopled with countless strange creatures. The Ice World of Hoth is a fantastic setting for the opening scenes. But whereas many other movies would have settled for that, here Hoth is abandoned within a few minutes in favour of other, equally wonderful climes. There's Dagobah, an isolated swamp world, and a Cloud City. Not to mention all the spaceships.

This is also the movie where we're introduced to the main characters' mentors - Yoda, surely the finest creation of the whole saga, who teaches Luke the arts of the Jedi. But also the Emperor, the true evil behind Darth Vader.

Overall The Empire Strikes Back is just as good as the first Star Wars movie. It builds on the original plot brilliantly, adding complexity as we discover the relationships between the characters.

It also matches the fight scenes. There might not be an equivalent to the first movie's X-Wing/Tie-Fighter aerial fights, but on the other hand the light sabre duels are a bit more convincing than first time round. There's also a cracking set piece battle early on featuring some impressive machines including the iconic Imperial Walkers.

The Empire Strikes Back is nearly a perfect movie. My only small gripe was the scenes on the Cloud City - there's an extended bit where nothing much happens as Vader and co go about capturing the rebels. When you get used to the brilliant pace and excitement of the rest of the movie, this is noticeable.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Not good enough
My least favourite Star Wars movie. It has one good performance - Liam Neeson as a Jedi knight. Everyone else is either mediocre or just plain bad. Ewan McGregor puts in a naive performance as a perpetually grinning Jedi apprentice. The bad guy is an absurd red- faced devil creature called Darth Maul. Then there's Jar Jar Binks, a ridiculously clumsy but 'goodhearted' alien.

But this is not a terrible movie. There's pleasure in seeing the origins of the Star Wars saga, familiar characters appearing like R2-D2, Obi-Wan Kenobe and Yoda, and the origins of later characters like Darth Vader.

There are some decent fight scenes, including a pretty cool double- edged light-sabre fight between the Jedi and Darth Maul, and interesting politics playing out in the Senate of the Republic.

This is not the Episode I that the Star Wars saga deserved, but it's just about watchable.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Better than The Phantom Menace
This is a little better than the Phantom Meanace, but it still suffers from the problems that plague the whole prequel trilogy - glossy special effects that lack heart, mediocre acting and dull set-piece battle scenes.

The highlight of Attack of the Clones is seeing Yoda engage in a light-sabre fight. I took inordinate pleasure in this.

In fact there's some good little sequences dotted throughout the movie. I thought the water planet inhabited by clone-farmers was interesting. And the development of Senator Palpatine's character is plain chilling.

But a scene that really frustrated me is the one that should have been the making of this movie - when Anakin Skywalker murders in cold blood the community that kidnapped his mother, including the women and children. This is surely an absolutely horrific act that signals his transition towards the dark side, but no one seems too bothered - Amidala reacts by comforting him.

Overall I thought this was a decent movie but it still didn't do justice to the saga.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Best of the 'Prequels' by far
This is easily the best of the prequel movies. In fact, it's an excellent movie, it which the strands of the previous movies come together brilliantly to set the scene for events in the original trilogy.

It does still suffer from the problems that plague the whole prequel trilogy - glossy special effects that lack heart, mediocre acting and boring set-piece battle scenes. But this is more than made up for by a series of glorious encounters between the central characters.

Senator Palpatine's plot to turn Anakin Skywalker into his apprentice is handled deftly through a series of interactions between them. There are gloriously satisfying light-sabre battles between virtually everyone. And a moving denouement as Amidala dies giving birth to the Skywalker twins and Anakin is left a crippled and deformed husk, rescued and encased in a suit to become Darth Vader. Every plot line you'd hoped for is in here.

Given the underwhelming quality of most the prequel trilogy, this is a creditable effort deserving of praise.

Star Wars

Just a joy to watch
Star Wars is a glorious swashbuckling tale, filled with memorable (and now iconic) characters and told at a ripping pace.

It's such a joy to watch.

Even now, the special effects hold up remarkably well. The X Wing / Tie-Fighter battles in particular are marvellous. The light sabres are brilliant (although the sabre fights themselves seem a tad lacklustre now).

But the best thing about Star Wars is the sheer love and care lavished on the fictional galaxy created for the film. It's a rich and varied place. The attention to detail is unequalled. There are weird and wonderful aliens at every turn. The cast is delightfully wide- ranging - Jedi, mercenaries, monsters, robots, soldiers and of course the star of the show, Darth Vader, all feature prominently. And the plot - simple enough (good guy versus bad guy), but fast- paced and varied. None of the scenes outstay their welcome, but make way for another equally as good.

It's simply an expertly delivered ripping yarn


Immerse yourself in a fabulous animated world
Zootropolis is a well-crafted Disney tale, with a simple moral message about not stereotyping other people. It's a really good movie.

The main character Judy Hopps, a police bunny, and her side-kick, a fox called Nick Wilde, live in a world where animals (well, mammals anyway) have evolved and become civilised. These two main characters are probably not Disney's most memorable creations, but they do a decent job at the heart of the movie.

What's really good about Zootropolis is the huge supporting cast - there are some fantastic characters among them. The two that stuck out for me were Flash, the sloth, who is helpful but painfully slow, and Mr. Big, a shrew who turns out to be a mafia godfather. There are many many others.

Disney also do a great job with the landscapes and cityscapes that make up Zootropolis. There's loads of detail and it all looks fabulous. It all makes for a full and diverse imaginary world that is easy to get lost in for an hour and forty minutes with the family. A real treat.

The Night Manager

Excellent stuff
A perfectly formed little series of espionage, organised crime and politics. It's a fabulous mix.

Tom Hiddleston is just superb as Jonathan Pine, the enigmatic hotel night-manager-turned-spy. He has enormous charisma but carries it lightly and coolly, and is also capable of portraying intense but credible emotion. He totally outshines the otherwise excellent performances of Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman.

The various settings and set-pieces are really well designed and directed. We get posh private island villas, London agency offices and Middle Eastern disaster zones, all seamlessly interwoven into the roller-coaster of a plot. It gives Homeland a run for its money.

The Night Manager really is a superb piece of television. I'd love to think there could be another series but I fear it's a one-off.


This was a disappointment.

I was looking forward to a good thought- provoking Sci-Fi. Equilibrium seemed to have the right ingredients - a solid plot line (a future in which emotions have been made illegal) and a top class lead actor (Christian Bale).

Sadly, the execution was poor. They didn't do much with the plot, save a series of predictable clichés - Sean Bean reading Yeats in secret, Bale smelling a ribbon from his wife's hair, Bale showing mercy for a dog. The fact the actors literally couldn't show emotion didn't help with the standard of the performances either.

I also found the sets a bit weird. I understand the use of grey stone and metal for an emotion-free civilisation, but the rebel-held areas weren't any more colourful. Slightly untidy with a few books strewn about was as exciting as it got. Neither were there any interesting rebel characters.

In fact, the best bits of Equilibrium were, oddly enough, the set-piece fight scenes. Bale's character is a ultra- trained killer and he showcases his ability in a series of Matrix-like sequences in which he overpowers groups of adversaries. It's kind of irrelevant to the story, but these scenes make decent viewing.

House of Cards

Astonishingly good
I've seen four series of House of Cards now (fifty-two episodes) and I'm not beginning to tire of it. That's unusual.

I do like a good political intrigue. What's special about House of Cards is that it gets you rooting for the bad guy. Frank Underwood, played by a superlatively versatile Kevin Spacey, is plain evil. He destroys everything in his path for political gain, and then unashamedly oozes with charm for the public.

Together with his wife, Claire Underwood, played by the cool as a cucumber Robin Wright, Frank faces a constant onslaught of political challenges. But he always comes out on top. And always at the expense of someone else.

There's no doubt that Spacey and Wright's performances are what makes this series so great. But there is also a very capable supporting case. Kate Mara from series 1 deserves a special mention as the novice reporter who gains Underwood's confidence.

I'd also say that the pace and complexity of the plot is spot on. It's a fast pace, but allows room for plenty of character development and set-piece scenes. And it's got enough twists and turns to keep you interested while maintaining a sense of realism.

House of Cards has got all its ingredients right. It's fast become one of my all time favourites.

Star Trek: Generations

Like an extended episode of The Next Generation
The feel is of an extended episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It doesn't really have that 'big movie' feel or the special effects to go with it.

Fortunately, it makes that up in part by the pure thrill of including the original Star Trek cast, culminating in the meeting of captains Kirk and Picard, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart. Both are excellent actors that bring superb gravitas to their roles.

The rest of the Next Generation crew don't get much of a look in, with the exception of Data who is the subject of a halfhearted subplot where he gets given an 'emotion chip'. Cue lots of getting overwhelmed by emotions and commenting on it continually.

The bad guy Soren, played by Malcolm McDowell is OK. He brings an intense, even psychotic focus to the character. But I'd like to have seen more from the Klingons that he falls in with.

In summary, if you're a Star Trek fan you'll enjoy this. But it's not a movie that will be of interest to a wider audience.

Män som hatar kvinnor

Really excellent Swedish thriller
Overall I prefer the English language version of this film directed by David Fincher, but this original Swedish version is excellent too.

Michael Nyqvist is very well cast as Mikael Blomkvist, the disgraced journalist trying to solve an obscure murder mystery. Noomi Rapace, meanwhile, is pretty good as the tattooed, socially inept but highly intelligent Lisbeth Salander - good, but nowhere near as good as Rooney Mara in the Fincher version.

The atmosphere created on the remote Swedish island is superb. It's the perfect setting for a murder mystery. There's a great contrast made between the aristocratic mansion of Henrik Vanger, the modern home of Martin Vanger, and the ramshackle cottage used by Blomkvist.

The story is the excellent plot from the book, and this film gives full rein to it, including the explicit sexual violence, the painstaking detective work, and the unusual relationship between Blomkvist and Salander.

It's a really good movie.

Along Came a Spider

Spoiled by wooden acting
This is a classic detective story of a chase between grizzled police officer (Morgan Freeman) and intelligent, ruthless villain (Michael Wincott), who has kidnapped a politician's daughter.

There is a good dose of double-crossing and plot twists involved and Morgan Freeman puts in an excellent performance as usual.

Unfortunately the same can't be said of his costar, Monica Potter, who plays a secret service agent and is a terribly wooden actor. This is a shame because the movie centres on the relationship between Freeman and Potter's characters and as a result fails to convince.

This could have been a good movie with better actors but in the end it's just OK. There's enough plot interest to keep things going and it's easy to watch, but don't expect to encounter any memorable characters here.

Saving Mr. Banks

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson at the top of their game
A rather curious idea for a movie. This is all about the making of the Mary Poppins film, and more particularly the love-hate relationship between Walt Disney and PL Travers (the author of Mary Poppins).

Disney and Travers are played by Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, and thank goodness they got hold of such great actors because the best scenes are where these two are interacting.

It's a classic personality clash between Disney the populist entertainer and Travers the stuck-up British 'serious author'. But of course the point of the film is that really they are very alike - they both want to make the world a better place.

It's an entertaining journey. Walt Disney is supported by a crew of three men who are the main creative force behind the Mary Poppins film. They provide some fascinating insights into how the songs were created. And yes I found myself singing along.

Finally, there's the subplot. Travers has repeated flashbacks to her childhood and memories of her drunkard (but well-meaning) father. I found this sat oddly with the rest of the movie (and even bored me) although I understand the point they were trying to make about how Travers became the way she is.

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