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afy9mab

afy9mab

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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information.

Reviews written

since 11/07/2000

1468

The Choice (DVD) 16/03/2017

The Choicest Clichés

The Choice (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW When feisty medical student Gabby moves in next door to perennial ladies' man Travis it leads them into a relationship neither of them had expected. Travis has always shied away from serious relationships in case they cramp his laidback lifestyle, while Gabby is about to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. After a whirlwind courtship, Gabby and Travis marry and have a family. They make every decision together, until circumstances force one of them to make the most important choice of their life alone. Producer-turned-director Ross Katz’s third movie is a clichéd and undemanding romance that will find favour with those who like their films safe and predictable. I know that most romantic movies are pretty formulaic – that’s what makes them so comforting to watch. But I think adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels may be the only ones that conform to a rigid visual style. The films are generally set in picturesque small, waterside towns filled with quaint clapboard houses and populated by photogenic young white people and cuddly grandparent-types. It’s the kind of place where the pace of life is as slow as the drawling speech and no-one has a bad word to say about anybody. The inhabitants exist in a world seemingly suspended in late summer, where the time is always the golden hour before sunset, when the light gives everything and everyone a warm and comforting glow. When the sun finally sets, the nights are velvet dark and scattered with twinkling ...

Eddie the Eagle (DVD) 15/02/2017

The Eagle Has Landed (On His Face)

Eddie the Eagle (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards is an unlikely but courageous ski-jumper, who never loses faith in himself, even if the sporting establishment and an entire nation sees him as a joke. With the help of a charismatic but rebellious coach, he takes on the naysayers and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world when he qualifies for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The British film industry isn’t well-known for making feel-good movies, but it looks as though actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher is out to change that. I loved his first two films (Wild Bill” and The Proclaimers musical “Sunshine on Leith”), so going to see his latest film was a no-brainer for me, even though the trailer didn’t look very promising. Fletcher’s visual style is pretty unassuming. He shoots on film in a series of believable locations, but allows the story to speak for itself rather than distracting from the narrative with unnecessarily flashy camerawork. The film is bathed in a nostalgic golden glow throughout and there is plenty of convincing period detail. From the tonged hair, side ponytails, mullets and hideous acrylic pullovers to the garish snowsuits and eye-searing anoraks of the skiing competitors and the over-abundance of stonewashed denim, Fletcher doesn't stint on the fashion crimes of the 80s. He uses actual footage of the 1988 Winter Olympics to help tell the story, but doesn’t bother to match the grainy style of late-1980s television, which I think is a good call, as it ...

Grimsby (DVD) 05/12/2016

Puts the "Grim" in Grimsby

Grimsby (DVD) FILM-ONLY REVIEW Nobby is a dim-witted football hooligan, who has spent the last twenty-eight years looking for his little brother Sebastian, after being separated as kids. Unbeknownst to him, Sebastian is now MI6’s deadliest assassin, who has just uncovered plans for an imminent global terrorist attack. But when trying to reunite with his sibling, Nobby blows his cover and his mission. On the run and wrongfully accused, Sebastian realises that in order to save the world, he’s going to need the help of his idiotic brother. “The Incredible Hulk” director Louis Leterrier returns with this ill-advised stab at an action comedy, that is neither as funny nor as thrilling as it thinks it is. The film really only comes alive during the action sequences (perhaps unsurprisingly, considering Leterrier’s involvement in the “Transporter” franchise). His opening foray plays out like a first-person shooter computer game, that shows a flair for extremely silly, hyperkinetic action, which favours pace over sense. There’s a moment where the hero kicks a man down a flight of stairs before shooting him in mid-air. It’s the kind of flourish that Michael Bay has been chasing for his entire career. Sadly, these flashes of invention are few and far between. The visual style of the production is generally flat and uninspired. I think the film’s greatest problem is that the director is utterly beholden to his star (although I suppose it’s hard not to be, as he is also a co-writer and producer). ...

The Finest Hours (DVD) 21/11/2016

All At Sea with Chris Pine

The Finest Hours (DVD) During a blizzard in the winter of 1952 an oil tanker named the SS Pendleton splits in half off the New England coast. U.S. Coast Guard Bernie Webber and three of his colleagues are sent out in a tiny boat to rescue the crew members. But with conditions worsening and the ship starting to sink, their success is far from assured. “Lars and the Real Girl” director Craig Gillespie returns with a film that is far more like his first Disney live-action production “Million Dollar Arm” in terms of tone and execution. It is a strangely old-fashioned production. Barring the digital effects, it feels like the sort of movie that could have been made at the time the film is set. It focusses on the true-blue heroism of the U.S. Coast Guard and the crew of the oil tanker. Emotions are as buttoned up as the clothing and not a single person swears, in spite of the perilous situations they find themselves in. There is a very strong sense of place and time, even if the accents are prone to wobbling. The small coastal town of Chatham is presented as a slightly ramshackle and very insular place, where grudges are held for years and newcomers are looked upon with suspicion. It is a film that has the earnestness of the other US Coast Guard movie “The Guardian”, with all of the CGI dramatics of “The Perfect Storm”. I got the distinct impression that the movie was made to capitalise on the 3D format, by drawing the audience into the heart of the roiling waves. Admittedly the splitting of the ...

Zoolander 2 (DVD) 17/11/2016

A Definite Number Two

Zoolander 2 (DVD) After the collapse of the Derek Zoolander Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good killed his wife and led to his son being taken into care, Derek Zoolander has withdrawn from the world of high fashion and lives as a recluse. But he is brought out of hiding by a mysterious invitation from the world’s top designer. Once in Rome, Derek learns from a sexy Interpol agent that pop stars are being gunned down while sporting his iconic facial expressions. Ben Stiller gets back behind and in front of the camera for an extremely belated and completely unnecessary sequel to “Zoolander”. Like its characters, it is shallow and soulless. He goes for the bigger-is-better approach, front-loading the production with glossy visuals, a star count that is well into double figures and a glamorous Italian setting. Nevertheless, it fails to satisfy on any level. Stiller’s shot selection and editing are graceless, so it feels as though he never makes enough of the locations, the cast or the set-up. The script is paper-thin and as a director, Stiller does nothing to beef it up (the fact that he’s also co-writer and star suggest he may have been too close to the project to see its many glaring deficiencies). Weirdly, it has the feeling of being rushed into production, as though it was being made to cash-in on the latest hit. Considering he had fifteen years to work on the follow-up, I expected better. The humour is far more miss than hit and extremely repetitive. This is mainly because regardless of ...

Jersey Boys (DVD) 10/11/2016

Walk Like A Man

Jersey Boys (DVD) Four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey form a band that will become The Four Seasons. Together, they navigate the pleasures and pitfalls of fame and fortune. If I was looking for a filmmaker to bring a Broadway musical to the big screen. I don’t think veteran director Clint Eastwood would even be on the list. Although his films are held in high esteem, I find his style staid. Consequently, I wasn’t that surprised that his stab at a jukebox musical was more sombre than celebratory. The muted palette of browns, slate grey and washed-out blues made me feel as though I was seeing the world of the film through a series of faded photographs. There is a lot of really good attention to period detail, which gives a strong sense of nostalgia. However, the story plays out in a vacuum, devoid of a wider historical or cultural context. As a result, nothing felt quite real to me, especially as adult characters are played by the same actors throughout and they don't age. I had to guess at when various scenes were set based on fashions and hairdos (and by that, I mean truly terrible wigs and stick-on beards). A number of theatrical devices crop up, which make the film feel stage-bound. The most notable of these is the use of direct-to-camera address. While actors talking directly to the audience in a theatre makes them feel involved in the story, in cinema breaking the fourth wall is jarring because it just makes you more aware that you’re watching a film. A cast ...

Love, Rosie (DVD) 01/11/2016

In the Club 18-30

Love, Rosie (DVD) Rosie and Alex have been best friends since they were five years old, sharing all of the ups and downs of growing up. But a fleeting moment and a missed opportunity send their lives in opposite directions. As the years go by they always seem to find their way back to one another, but is it just friendship, or something more? German TV and film director Christian Ditter makes his English-language debut with this serviceable, if unsurprising romantic comedy. He tries to update the format by employing woozy handheld camera-work. This includes shots that swim in and out of focus. However, it would appear that this is not always intentional, giving the production a slightly amateurish look at times. Other frames are bathed in lens flare, which gives the actors a golden glow. Flashbacks are shot on grainy 35mm film, accompanied by whimsical chalk-written captions, to give it that extra sheen of nostalgia. Instant messages and texts appear on-screen with voiceover readings and there are key scenes that take place over video chat. However, these devices don’t really enhance the story. The director is perhaps overly fond of montages, which he uses to illustrate any major life changes. But by compressing these events into a series of snapshots, he sucks the emotion out of them and diminishes the drama of various twists and turns. He also struggles to show the passage of time. The film takes place over a period of many years, but the characters don’t visibly age – their hair just gets ...

The Other Woman (DVD) 19/10/2016

Putting the Woe in Womance

The Other Woman (DVD) Carly has never really believed in true love, until she meets Mark, who seems like the ideal man. But then she discovers that he has a wife. Carly and Kate soon become friends and decide to spy on the two-timing Mark, only to find that he has another mistress. The three women then team up to teach him a very important lesson… “The Notebook” director Nick Cassavetes returns with an ill-judged female-centric comedy that is neither as feminist nor as funny as it clearly thinks it is. I would have loved it if it was smart, funny and made the most of its female cast. But it just doesn't. Although the film stars three women, was written by one and is clearly aimed at a female audience, the director presents it with a distinctly male gaze (which most often lingers on Kate Upton’s obvious charms and Cameron Diaz’s physique). It sets the tone for a very clumsy movie. The shots are framed arbitrarily and Cassavetes can't even keep the camera steady during close-ups. Scenes are ruined by extras wandering through the frame. The harsh lighting, make-up and terrible costumes (particularly the multitude of garish outfits worn by Leslie Mann) are deeply unflattering to the female leads. The director cherry-picks ideas from other (far better) movies that make this one seem worse by comparison. Amber’s introduction seems to be copied from Bo Derek’s slow-motion, bikini-clad beach run in “10”. Spying on Mark is accompanied by the theme tune from “Mission: Impossible” and the end credits ...

Mother's Day (2016) (DVD) 14/10/2016

Not Even A Mother Could Love It

Mother's Day (2016) (DVD) As Mother’s Day approaches, three generations of people in Atlanta come together. The late Garry Marshall’s final film as director is another star-studded portmanteau movie based around a commercialised holiday. It looks slick and there are plenty of big names in the cast, but the whole production feels like a sitcom with a budget far bigger than its ambitions. However, the tropes and visual devices that work in half-hour TV formats, don’t translate well to the big screen. There are times when it appears the stars have been told to pause to accommodate a laugh from the audience, which gives the scenes an oddly stilted quality. Then there are scenes in stand-up comedy club, where the in-camera audience laughs uproariously at material that would be met with stony silence in any comedy club I’ve ever been to. The aspirational setting feels utterly false. The film appears to exist in a strange alternate world where Atlanta is one vast suburb, which is inhabited almost solely by photogenic white people. The only concessions to ethnic diversity are the token sassy black woman and a south Asian man, whose sole purpose is to bear the brunt of a number of racist gags. The storytelling is as superficial as the visual style. The filmmakers substitute contrived events for an actual plot, stereotypes for three-dimensional characters, clichés for insight and schmaltz for genuine emotion. The director seems to believe that simply having some big names on the cast list is enough to confer ...

The Book Thief (DVD) 05/10/2016

Don't Judge a Book...

The Book Thief (DVD) Liesel Meminger is an illiterate nine-year-old sent to live with foster parents during the late 1930s. Henpecked but kindly Hans Hubermann encourages his new foster daughter to learn to read. She soon develops a great love of books and storytelling. But everything changes with the arrival of Max, whose father saved Hans’ life during the Great War. Max is a Jew and his presence must be hidden from the Nazis. But while hiding in the Hubermanns’ cellar, the young man develops a powerful bond with Liesel. “Downton Abbey” director Brian Percival brings admirable production values to this literary adaptation, but cannot match it with sufficient heart. The production is flush with period detail and I think it is at its best when dealing with the day-to-day minutiae of living under Nazi rule. But once the scope gets wider, the film struggles. For all its good intentions, it always looks more like a TV movie than a bona fide big-screen outing. The chocolate box visuals and the metaphysical aspects of the narrative, give the whole production a fable-like quality that sits wildly at odds with the setting. Although the director effectively conveys the pressure that ordinary Germans were under to conform to the brutal regime’s ideals, he fails to explore why so many were seduced by the propaganda. In addition, the Nazis are presented as little more than a pack of bullies, which undersells the situation to ridiculous extent. The film lacks a larger context, which would have given it ...

300: Rise of an Empire (DVD) 26/09/2016

Derisory Empire

300: Rise of an Empire (DVD) Themistokles, the hero of the Battle of Marathon and killer of the King Darius of Persia is determined to unite the city states of Greece. But when Darius’ son Xerxes, self-proclaimed God King invades, the city states refuse to stand together, leaving Themistokles with only a handful of ships to fight the might of the Persian navy and its ruthless female commander, Artemisia. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then executive producer Zack Snyder (director of the first “300” movie) must be pleased as punch by Israeli director Noam Murro’s sequel, which is visually indistinguishable from his movie. It has the same glowing backdrops rendered in sepia tones, the soft-focus visual style that makes it appear that the camera is coated in Vaseline, backlit close-ups and flashes of colour picked out against monochromatic backgrounds. Almost every shot features embers or dust motes floating through the air (presumably in an attempt to create depth of field for 3D viewers). I suspect the same is true of the gouts of blood and sprays of seawater that spatter the camera lens. It shares the same slow-fast-slow editing (also known as speed-ramping) that felt fresh and new when Snyder used it nine years ago, but now seems trite and try-hard. The film feels like it is very faithful to the Frank Miller comic it is based on, but therein lies the problem. Comic books are a static art form, the best of which can suggest movement and impact. However, this overwrought ...

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (DVD) 19/09/2016

The Tom Cruise Movie for People Who Hate Tom Cruise

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (DVD) Major William Cage is an army publicity officer, who has never seen combat. But in a war against an invading alien army known as Mimics, it’s all hands to the pumps. After upsetting one of his superiors, an unwilling Cage is sent to the front line on a suicide mission and is killed on the battlefield. But then he wakes up and relives the same day over and over again, each time learning a little more about what he’s capable of. Doug Liman, director of “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr & Mrs Smith” returns with a film that parlays a high-concept science fiction conceit into a highly enjoyable action movie that thrives on invention, thrills and spectacle. It feels like a cross between “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers”. Set in the not-too-distant future, it presents a recognisable world, in which soldiers go to war in full body armour and cumbersome exo-suits that seem to have been heavily influenced by the computer game “Halo”. The visceral beach battle scenes owe a debt to the D-Day landing sequences in “Saving Private Ryan” and there are also visual references to “Aliens”. The film is shot in gunmetal greys and blues and the battle scenes are accented with roiling clouds of black smoke and boiling orange flames. The combination of digital and physical effects works really well. The digital elements of the world (including quad copter drop ships and the horribly speedy tree root-tentacled metal monstrosities known as Mimics) are well integrated with their surroundings. The ...

Everest (2015) (DVD) 05/09/2016

Mountain Madness

Everest (2015) (DVD) On 10th May 1996, two teams of climbers from commercial expeditions begin their final ascent to the summit of Mount Everest. But with little warning, a fierce storm strikes the mountain as they are making their descent, engulfing the climbers and leaving them struggling for survival against the elements and almost impossible odds. “Two Guns” director Baltasar Kormákur returns with a docudrama based on the true story of an ill-fated attempt to conquer Mount Everest. On a purely visual level, the movie is a huge success. Shot on location in Nepal, in the Italian mountains, Iceland and the backlot of the Cinecitta studios in Rome (where the base camp scenes were shot) it is a production of immense scale that captures the majesty and the implacability of the Himalayas. The cinematography is almost literally dizzying – the vertiginous drops and awe-inspiring views of the mountains are apt to make the viewer feel insignificant, while underlining the frailty of the human form in the face of nature. The digital effects are smoothly integrated with real locations, so you don’t really notice them. Kormákur is very good at conveying the difficulties and dangers of the climb. Tiny figures are framed in a sea of white. Gaping crevasses and sheer drops abound, with flimsy ladders and nylon ropes the only thing between the protagonists and certain death. Every slip, trip or extended pause becomes nail-bitingly tense, as a result. The elements are rendered vicious and unpredictable; distant ...

Star Trek Beyond (DVD) 31/08/2016

Star Trek Back to Basics

Star Trek Beyond (DVD) Three years into their five-year mission, the crew of The Enterprise respond to a distress signal. But their ship is destroyed and the crew members find themselves marooned on an alien planet, facing an implacable enemy, who is determined to destroy them. After the disappointment of “Into Darkness”, I had very low expectations for this instalment of the “Star Trek” franchise. Add into the mix “Fast and Furious 6” director Justin Lin, whose last project was certainly action-packed, but also bloated, self-important and often nonsensical and my anticipation couldn’t have been lower. But it’s one of the few films this summer my partner has really wanted to see, so I dutifully went along with him. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which plays out like an extended episode of the original series (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). It’s full of action and adventure, but it also takes steps to deepen the relationships between characters, while sloughing off the aspects of the rebooted franchise that didn’t quite work. The visuals are big and shiny and seem determined to hammer home the epic scope of the galactic setting. There are pristine, gigantic space stations, alien landscapes and spaceships that seem to have been designed by Apple, thanks to their glossy white surfaces and curvy shapes. The sets are huge and there are dozens of heavily made-up actors playing many alien races. The film is heavily reliant on CGI, which means that action sequences can lack the ...

Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD) 12/08/2016

Hooked On a Feeling

Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD) Abducted from earth as a child and raised by alien scavengers, Peter Quill is a thief who gets his hands on a mysterious orb. But he isn’t the only one who wants it. Soon he has a bounty on his head and has to team up with a band of intergalactic criminals to save the orb from a fanatical warrior intent on using it to destroy the entire galaxy. As a film studio, Marvel has proven itself surprisingly willing to take risks, handing out big budgets to relatively untested directors and giving them free rein to create entire worlds. Once more this hands-off tactic has paid dividends with “Slither” director James Gunn at the helm. He has created a lovingly detailed universe filled with distinct worlds. They put me in mind of classic science fiction book covers from the 1970s, thanks to the range of vivid colours and futuristic cities. There is also a touch of “Blade Runner” about the outlaw outpost of Knowhere. But overall there is a sort of pop art aesthetic that suits the style of this knockabout romp and its comic book origins. The sets are huge and are supplemented by gigantic computer-generated backdrops that don’t just look as though they have been hastily pasted on. The range of environments (from super-shiny Xandar to the ramshackle Knowhere) gives the production a sense of scale. But in general nothing looks too clean or perfect. The planets are populated by a range of humanoid aliens of all colours and descriptions, who add to the scope of the production. There is a ...
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