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Mercury

Mercury

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since 31/10/2000

148

Terminator 3 - Rise Of The Machines (DVD) 29/08/2003

I'M BACK!

Terminator 3 - Rise Of The Machines (DVD) Well the title of my opinion is not only a line from the second sequel of Schwarzenegger's original rise to fame, but also quite applicable to my own recent absence from the site. Sadly my new job allows me far less time to enjoy the creative outlet Ciao provides, I've certainly missed it even if the reverse is not true. Anyway my spurious babblings aside, the air conditioning of a cinema proved welcome after successfully crisping myself in the weekend sun a few short weeks ago, I settled back to enjoy, in all likelihood, a Schwarzenegger swansong. Terminator 3 probably benefits from the fact the Arnie's career has been in freefall since he last acquisitioned some black leathers, donned shades, leapt on a Harley and proceeded to blow seven shades of shit out of everything. In short, the ten long years since Terminator 2. It's certainly the first Arnie film I've actually enjoyed in the last decade although, whilst it shines with inferno-like brightness compared to his recent releases, it pales when compared to the first two in this high-profile sci-fi series. Terminator managed to combine a fine sci-fi plot, emotive performances, excellent action sequences and some truly heart-stopping moments. In order to prevent the audience getting too entangled in the time travelling difficulties inherent in the plot of the sequel, blockbuster-meister James Cameron dazzled the audience with some of the most mind blowing stunts and set pieces imaginable. In short both certainly ...

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) 24/05/2003

Roll on the Revolutions...

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) The intense anticipation, hysterical hype and overwhelming clamour of expectation that preceded the release of The Matrix Reloaded could all be adequately captured in one simple question - Would it live up to its most illustrious predecessor? To answer the question I’d like to take you back four years to the release of said predecessor, a film that redefined a genre and easily lifted the bar for action films (which is what the Matrix is at its core) beyond the reach of any film since. Nowhere had martial arts and jaw-dropping special effects been so seamlessly entwined in a science fiction plot doused in philosophical intrigue, each element serving only to enrapt and enrich the viewing experience. It left an audience disorientated, questioning our existence, mesmerised by the action sequences and blown away by the sheer audacious style and execution of a truly original movie. With these thoughts in mind it is no surprise that The Matrix Reloaded fails to live up to the original, but how could it? Stripped as it is of said originality and loaded by expectation to raise the bar to new and more impressive heights. This is not to say that this first part of a two-film sequel will not be the cause of much mind spinning, adrenaline pumping and once again bewilderment at the nigh on unbelievable action and effects, because it most certainly will. This instalment picks up the story just after the ending of the first one but quickly develops the story in terms of ...

The Bourne Identity (DVD) 21/05/2003

A Case of Mistaken Identity...

The Bourne Identity (DVD) In many ways this is one of the hardest movie reviews I’ve ever written and will probably ever write, largely because, depending on what stance I take my opinion is literally poles apart. On the one hand it is an intelligent, original and highly impressive action film with two strong lead performances, a coherent and suspense-ridden plot and exceptional action sequences. On the other it is an adaptation of a book, not just any book mind, but one of my favourite books. It is an adaptation I have awaited probably with palm-sweatingly eager anticipation ever since I first read it some thirteen years ago. The Bourne Identity was written by the late Robert Ludlum back in 1980 and was the first of a trilogy that proved to be his creative and story-telling zenith. His novels of recent years are shallow, characterless nonsense in comparison. Unfortunately whilst the central premise is used in the film, many of the wonderful intricacies of the plot and one of the main protagonists have been conveniently shelved to its detriment. As an analogy it would be like making the Lord of the Rings but leaving out the ring, something that I’m sure would have angered fans a tad. As this is supposed to be a review of the film I’ll leave my confusing witterings aside for now and concentrate on the matter at hand. The story begins with the main character, an amnesiac, being fished half-dead out of the sea. He is slowly nursed back to health by the well-meaning ship’s ...

X2 (2003) 09/05/2003

Xcellent Comicbook Conversion

X2 (2003) A Summer of Sequels is not something that would normally get me overly excited such is their overwhelming propensity to disappoint. With the recent release of X-Men 2 however and the forthcoming Matrix Reloaded I was prepared to put my misgivings aside and let the magic of the movies have its wicked way with me. The first X-Men movie flirted with breaking the poor sequence of comic book to silver screen adaptations but had too many foibles to completely buck the trend. In slowly introducing us to the range of characters that inhabit the X-Men universe the limited running time ensured that a hum-drum plot felt shoe-horned into the second half of the movie. It also seemed that director Bryan Singer was out of his depth at the helm of a big budget blockbuster, certainly there were flashes of inspiration but the action sequences made for comfortable rather than compelling viewing. Running Time: 132 mins Tomatometer Rating: 88% - A rating taken from www.rottentomatoes.com - an essential site for any self-respecting movie buff. X2 (the trendy title of this) shows Singer much more at ease, no better exemplified than during the electric opening sequence which sees teleporting mutant Nightcrawler easily infiltrate the Oval Office, wreaking no small amount of havoc on the petrified Secret Service agents, before delivering a chilling message to the president. The audience is then allowed to catch its collective breath as it is re-introduced to the main players from the ...

XXX (DVD) 02/05/2003

Will leave you neither Shaken nor Stirred

XXX (DVD) Well having sat down expecting a big dumb action movie I was not exactly shocked by xXx as it turned out to be exactly that; what was shocking though was how disappointing it proved. I remember being vaguely intrigued by the pre-release hype and its somewhat arrogant billing as the James Bond for the 21st Century. No offence to my optimistic American counterparts but the idea of Vin Diesel replacing the charm and sophistication of Bond and xXx usurping the seemingly evergreen Bond franchise was enough to make me choke on my popcorn. xXx most definitely falls well short of its promise even though it attempts to discredit the Bond trademarks at every turn. The opening sequence includes a tuxedoed agent, supremely out of place at a rave, being embarrassingly easily killed. The apparent lack of success of conventional agents leads to Agent Gibbons to resort to the Nikita method of agency recruitment, with thrill seeking Xander Cage apprehended following an opening highly illegal stunt sequence and ‘persuaded’ to join the CIA or face a lengthy prison sentence. Cage is the antithesis of Bond, an extreme sports star coerced into serving an establishment he hates. Unfortunately from such unbelievable beginnings sadly there are never really any moments where disbelief is adequately suspended. Our unlikely hero is assigned to infiltrate criminal group Anarchy 99 and what follows is a hokum destroy-the-world plot line with a suitable love interest sideline and a number ...

The Last Temptation - Val McDermid 02/04/2003

Inferior Second Sequel

The Last Temptation - Val McDermid As my time is somewhat limited these days with work, the hunt for a real job and the pursuit of fitness all combining to deprive me of sufficient time to watch any new films, I find myself increasingly stuck for subjects to write about. Thankfully my current lifestyle does allow me a reasonable amount of time to read and so it is to another piece of literary criticism that I find myself turning. Whilst the name Val McDermid may be unfamiliar to many of you, the names of the lead characters may be less so, as Tony Hill and Carol Jordan were recently part of TV mini series starring Robson Green and Hermoine Norris. I must confess to missing the ITV drama but was already aware of McDermids work having whiled away long antipodean bus journeys with her first two novels. This is her third work in this series and brings her two emotionally scarred characters into new ground. Dr Tony Hill is a criminal profiler, renowned in his field for his uncanny knack of getting inside the head of psychopaths and serial killers; his ability though is based as much on his own troubled psyche and the demons of his past as on his unquestioned intellectual capacity. Carol Jordan is a brilliant young career cop whose instincts and abilities are matched by her ambition, her previous work with Tony have made for an difficult friendship such are the appalling memories that reuniting cause each other, but the underlying affinity and attraction are still very much evident. The Last Temptation is ...

The Summons - John Grisham 20/03/2003

Diverting Rather Than Dazzling

The Summons - John Grisham Having once again become exposed to the vagaries of the London transport system, I decided it was time to purchase some new reading material. For any of those used to the world renowned fish in can experience that is the London Underground, I won’t need to mention that high-brow reading that requires all your concentration is far from ideal. No, for the cramped, sweaty, bustling underground light untaxing reading is definitely the order of the day. So it was that I found myself drawn to the latest John Grisham paperback for a measly £3.84 in my local Tesco’s. Whilst I don’t profess to being a huge Grisham fan, a brief glance at the list of his previous publications revealed that I’ve read all but one, so clearly there’s something I appreciate about his work. His flowing lucid prose usually contains within it a legal tale of intriguing content, with enough complexity and nuance to keep me entertained and occasionally enthralled. The conversion of so many of his novels to Hollywood blockbusters further underline what a fine storyteller he is. The Summons sees Grisham in indifferent form; there’s some intrigue generated in plot that only reveals its secrets as its denouement unfurls, the main characters are well-rounded and the pace just quick enough to prove page turning. It all adds up to an accomplished novel that never sparkles; interesting rather than intriguing, entertaining rather than engrossing and undemanding rather than ...

Men in Black 2 (2002) 02/03/2003

Another Disappointing Sequel

Men in Black 2 (2002) As a general rule sequels are inferior to their predecessors, in some cases it is just the tarnishing of that gloss of originality that ensures the sequel fails to shine so brightly, more usually though, a pale imitation of its forbearer is produced that disappoints and denigrates all that was worthy about the previous offering. Usually the blame lies firmly at the feet of film studios that all too often rush sequels into production sacrificing quality for that all-important bottom line. The end result invariably has the acrid stench of a director and cast that have conveniently shelved their artist integrity and sold out. Of course as with all rules there are exceptions, the second instalment of the Godfather trilogy the most oft quoted, however drawing on the widely perceived logic that the exception proves the rule, I’ll stand by my original claim. Men in Black (MIB) II bucks the trend of being rushed to production as it appeared on general release some five years after the original, unfortunately it does little to trouble the sequel rule. This instalment finds ‘J’ (Will Smith) as the top agent in MIB, an agency designed to monitor alien activity on earth, however the arrival of an old enemy Serleena in search of the light of Zartha prompts a swift recall to action for retired agent ‘K’ (Tommy Lee Jones). Conveniently K has the secrets to the hidden light locked in his neuralysed (flashy thinged to use J’s vernacular) mind. What ...

Remote Part - Idlewild 13/02/2003

The Album of 2002

Remote Part - Idlewild I stumbled on Idlewild a few years ago. The bar I was gainfully employed in at the time had a compilation tape, it was not a great compilation tape, infact to describe it as good would be doing good a mis-service, bland, middle-of-the road, uninspired, insipid, downright dowdy infact … but I digress. The one ear perking plus side was a song called These Wooden Ideas, whose forceful guitar, catchy refrain, distinct vocals and pensive lyrics piqued my interest enough to find out who was responsible, a band named Idlewild. My early interest led to purchasing the Scottish rockers third album, 100 Broken Windows, which I have certainly enjoyed without ever being overwhelmed by it. The main problem is the lack of subtlety of their approach; loud frenetic guitars were the order of the day with a samey sound plaguing the album, their music needed more variation and nuance, a little introspection and restraint and with The Remote Part they have delivered it in spades. Returning from my voyages I became aware of The Remote Part but shied away from a purchase because I’d somehow avoided the plethora of gushing reviews it received on release. This all changed with the inescapable Top Ten Albums of 2002 that came out as last year drew to it’s inevitable conclusion, where every single one included Idlewild’s latest effort and deservedly so. The first song opens with customary gusto almost drowning the prophetic words, ‘everything’s changed since ...

Tape (DVD) 10/02/2003

Dialogue Driven Drama

Tape (DVD) A strange one this, Tape almost comes across as the work of an ambitious film student. However the presence of the remarkable triumvirate of stars in Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman ensures that it has an air of respectability and breathes life into a script that occasionally teeters on the edge of cliché and predictability before successfully delivering an intriguing and eminently watchable film. Converted by playwright Stephen Belber the screenplay has just three characters and the action is shot in a single run down motel room in Lansing, Michigan. Vincent is in town to meet his oldest high school friend, Jon, a filmmaker, who, ten years out of school, is on the verge of success with his most recent creation. Their characters could not be more different, Vince has clearly gone nowhere since leaving school and along with downing cans of beer, his life consists of little more than taking and selling drugs. Initially it is difficult not to side with Jon, who is polite and well spoken, and about to enjoy the fruits of his hard work since school. The two have an uneasy dynamic, the friendship developed ten years previously is clearly strained, the banter uneasy and the unpredictability of Vince apparent. After a period of conversation that seems aimless a darker side of Jon is made visible, as Vince’s insistent probing slowly reveals an event in his past that he is clearly troubled by. Perceptions challenged by the blurring of initially ...

About A Boy (DVD) 07/02/2003

About a Charming Comedy

About A Boy (DVD) After the remarkable High Fidelity and its subsequent and surprising transatlantic translation to celluloid, the prospect of another converted Hornby novel and a recommendation by a colleague all led, to cut a rather babbling sentence short, to my settling down recently with a rented copy of About a Boy. To be honest it was a film that I knew little or nothing about, its cinema release was ever so slightly overshadowed by one George Lucas’s Jedi cloning mayhem and at the time I was on the other side of the world. So with more than a small amount of intrigue I pressed play. The opening voice-over from an impressive Hugh Grant are distinctly Hornby, not as pensive as Rob Gordon’s High Fidelity soliloquies, but easily recognisable. Gone are Grant’s Four Weddings foppish public school locks replaced with a trendy short but scruffy style and the upper class vocals have been toned down for Will, a charismatic if vapid 38 year old. He is a character content with drifting through life, pandering to his own whims, free from the mundanity of work thanks to royalties from his one-hit wonder father, however all this is changes when an odd eleven year old boy becomes an inextricable part of his world. On the realisation that single mums present the perfect dating opportunity, Will finds himself inventing an offspring and heads to a single parenting social group, his first date does not go quite to plan as Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) is invited along. A shocking end to ...

Ko Pha Ngan (Thailand) 07/02/2003

A Sublime Destination

Ko Pha Ngan (Thailand) Thailand is probably most famous, in terms of tourism, for the beautiful islands that adorn both the east and west coastlines of the southern part of the country. To the west lies the massive tourist resort of Phuket, the dramatic scenery of Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach was filmed) as well as several smaller less developed islands. To the east Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao are potential destinations each offering different attractions with Koh Samui being the most developed and largest of the three, Koh Pha Ngan smaller but lively and Koh Tao a more tranquil island surrounded by great dive sites. Our choice of Koh Pha Ngan was based partly on educated judgement and partly on blind luck. We travelled south through Thailand in July, the wet season, a time in which the Western islands suffer far more from the seasonal monsoons than their more sheltered eastern counterparts, hence an eastern island seemed a sensible choice. The options of Koh Samui and Koh Tao were eliminated, the first being well developed and hence more expensive than our meagre budget would allow and the second sounding just a little too quiet. Thus Koh Pha Ngan was the third destination of my Thailand travels and had the alluring promise of blue sky, beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. The focal point of the island for most backpackers is the town of Haad Rin located at the Southeast tip of the island and as such is the focus of this opinion. How to get to Koh Pha Ngan As with my other ...

Ford Escort 1.6 Si 30/01/2003

Become Part of a National Institution

Ford Escort 1.6 Si ::Introduction:: As new car prices in England finally come slightly more into line with the rest of the world, the second-hand market has become a bargain hunters dream. Gone are the days where a budget limited to a couple of grand might stretch far enough to purchase a dated old banger that has enough miles on the clock to raise serious doubts about it making the journey home, let alone a long-term future. I recently required reliable transport that would be inexpensive (around £2000), yet have enough life to still be mildly entertaining to drive (1.6 minimum) and preferably not look like it was designed by anybody associated with the mid-80’s box-like Volvos. My quest led me to the small family hatchback/saloon market. Essentially my choice boiled down to deciding between a Peugeot 306, a Vauxhall Astra and the institution that is a Ford Escort. I spent my formative driving years in an Astra and a Peugeot 306 so was well aware of what to expect for this size car. The category of this opinion may have led the more astute among you to realise that an Escort finally won through. ::The Escort:: Remarkably Escorts have been with us, in one guise or another, since 1968 and have only recently been taken out of production by their much-improved replacement, the Focus. Originally sold with an 1100cc engine, the Escort achieved iconic status through it’s more powerful incarnations, a 1600cc version sped to victory in the 1970 London to Mexico Rally, the ...

The Gift DVD 27/01/2003

Passable Supernatural Shocker

The Gift DVD Since the arrival of the, in my view over-rated, Sixth Sense we seem to have been bombarded with supernatural thrillers of one sort or another, from the more subtle What Lies Beneath to the brazen yet unimpressive Thirteen Ghosts, writers and directors everywhere are trying to develop a new take on this genre. The Gift is another addition to a increasingly movie-laden genre but penned by eccentric Billy Bob Thornton, directed by Sam Raimi and involving a star laden cast, I had high hopes for this one. Definitely a slow burner The Gift flatters to deceive, with much of its running time spent developing a character driven plot with some genuinely popcorn scattering shocks thrown in for good measure, the ending is all a little too predictable and I fear this is destined to fade from memory all too quickly. Set in Brixton, Georgia, Cate Blanchett stars as Annie Hall, a psychic who in trying to deal with the recent loss of her husband has become a kind of spiritual social worker for the small town. Her troubled clientele include Valerie Barksdale, a victim of vicious spousal abuse and local mechanic, Buddy, who seems tormented by suppressed memories of his father. In advising Valerie to leave husband Donnie, Annie soon becomes subject to his rather unpleasant threats against her and her three young sons. As we are slowly introduced to Annie and her gift through her clients, the other major characters in the piece emerge, Wayne Collins and the attractive and, unknown to ...

The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham 16/01/2003

What Does the Future Hold

The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham For those blessed with an imagination books are far superior to movies, even the seemingly unimaginative can find themselves transported to a different world, time or place by the evocative power of the written world; the more adventurous the imagination, the more vivid and extraordinary the experience. Of course not all books achieve this, some fail totally to inspire with insipid, unsubstantial characters and themes, many offer a glimpse of escape but fail to captivate but there is an elusive few that provide a perfect catalyst for the readers imagination The recent phenomenon that is The Lord of The Rings motion picture stands as a perfect example. To my mind no film has ever been produced that has achieved such epic scale, combining the natural beauty of New Zealand, some truly mesmeric special effects with a more than accomplished cast yet compared with Tolkien’s wonderful prose and an active imagination it is distinctly second best. No, for me the written word, not shackled by budget, technical constraints or the whim of actor, director or studio will always allow my imagination the soaring freedom that the silver screen is incapable of. My cumbersome musing aside, The Day of The Triffids, is certainly a book that captured my imagination, to say it is an unputdownable page-turner would be to do it a disservice. Novels these days, or more specifically modern fiction seems more intent on dragging the reader through the chapters to generally unfulfilling ...
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