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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.

Reviews written

since 11/07/2000


Suicide Squad (DVD) 22/07/2017

Suicide Squad is Brainless

Suicide Squad (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW US intelligence officer Amanda Waller is given the unenviable task of bringing together a group of the most dangerous super villains, arming them with the most powerful weapons at the government’s disposal and sending them off on a mission to defeat a seemingly unstoppable entity. But when the team of despicable individuals discover that they weren’t picked to succeed, are they more likely to die trying or decide it’s every man for himself? “Fury” director David Ayer’s name might be above the title of this weird entry into the superhero subgenre, but executive producer Zack Snyder’s grubby fingerprints are all over it. Like all of the other DC movies, this one is so visually dark that it’s often hard to see the characters and so frantically edited that you can barely tell, let alone understand what’s going on. The murky lighting and palette of muddy blues and greys is a far cry from the eye-poppingly colourful film the marketing materials promised. I suspect the ceaselessly choppy camerawork and the rapid editing is meant to give the narrative forward momentum and give the film a manic personality that matches its protagonists. But instead it swiftly becomes irritating and left me on the verge of headache for most of the running-time. In conjunction with the shoddy computer-generated effects and the heavy-handed symbolism (Look! The Joker laying on the floor surrounded by precisely arranged weapons while he laughs - he must be dangerous AND crazy!), it ...

The Lego Batman Movie (DVD) 08/07/2017

Finally, a FUN Batman Movie!

The Lego Batman Movie (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW When Gotham City is under attack from The Joker and his huge team of supervillains, Batman decides to take him on alone. But Joker has more tricks up his sleeve and if Batman wants to save the city from his hostile takeover, he might just have to drop the lone wolf thing and work with other people. He might even have to learn to lighten up, which is hard for a guy who only knows how to work in shades of black and sometimes very, very dark grey… “Robot Chicken” director Chris McKay makes the leap to the big screen with this Batman parody. He has crafted a meticulously detailed world. Almost every item, character and location is constructed from virtual Lego bricks and they are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. The animators have painstakingly captured the precision of Lego’s moulding techniques and have recreated the scratches and scuffs the toys pick up. In addition, they have also recreated the reflective and semi-translucent qualities of the plastic. There are a few more special effects this time around, which include billowing clouds of smoke and mist, liquid water, lightning and more realistic explosions. But these tweaks work because they are in the style of previous Batman movies. The location choices are more limited than in “The Lego Movie”, as the narrative mainly takes place in a single world. This just means that there is continuity of design and style, without forsaking a sense of scope. The animators manage to make Wayne Manor and ...

Bleed For This (DVD) 30/06/2017

I Wouldn't Bleed For This

Bleed For This (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza is a small-town boxer from Rhode Island, who makes a name for himself after winning two world title fights. But after a car accident leaves him with a broken neck, it looks as though his career is over. Doctors tell him that another fight could kill him. However, the stubborn pugilist is determined to get back in the ring. He enlists the help of disgraced trainer Kevin Rooney and just a year after his accident and against doctors’ orders he begins to train for what could be his very last fight. Ben Younger (director of middling age-gap comedy “Prime”) returns with a boxing movie that seems very familiar. It feels as though he has absorbed ideas from almost every other boxing film ever made and has combined them to make an inspirational real-life tale feel flat and rote. Producer Martin Scorsese’s shadow looms large over the production, with the director aping his style but lacking the grace of Scorsese’s camerawork or the subtlety of his storytelling. Younger uses every boxing movie gambit. This includes the hand-held pans and the now ubiquitous lens flare, that is meant to give the film a sense of immediacy, but feels like a cliché due to overuse. He employs serious sans serif intertitles, pre-fight news reports, voiceover fight commentary and the obligatory woozy camerawork, slow-motion knock-outs and squealing feedback as the hero is floored by his opponent and rushed into hospital. There are also a lot of training ...

Assassin's Creed (DVD) 23/06/2017

A Pain in the Assassin

Assassin's Creed (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Criminal Callum Lynch is captured by a secret society, who want to use revolutionary technology to unlock his genetic memories. In doing so, Callum discovers he is descended from a member of a secret society known as the Assassins. He experiences the adventures of his 15th century ancestor Aguilar, who lived through the Spanish Inquisition. He amasses incredible skills and knowledge that will allow him to take on the powerful and oppressive Templar organisation in the present day. Before watching “Assassin’s Creed”, I’d never seen a good computer game adaptation on the big screen. After seeing this movie, nothing has changed. In contrast to many video game movies, the production is terribly earnest, features a big-name cast and has clearly had a great deal of money thrown at it. But in still manages to be absolutely dreadful in every respect. Australian director Justin Kurzel reunites with the two stars of his bloody interpretation of “Macbeth” and tries to imbue his latest project with the same bleak aesthetic. The present-day sequences play out in a sterile concrete bunker overlooking Madrid. It’s very much like a Bond villain’s secret base as designed by Apple, from the weirdly angled, spotlessly white concrete walls to the seemingly endless supply of uniformed guards. And for some reason never sufficiently explained (in in film where EVERYTHING is tediously over-explained) a robot arm boingles the hero up and down and somehow sends him back in time to ...

La La Land (2016) (DVD) 14/06/2017

I Didn't Go Ga Ga For La La Land

La La Land (2016) (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Mia is an aspiring actress working as a waitress in a film studio coffee shop, while Sebastian is a jazz musician scraping a living playing in bars and at cocktail parties. Circumstances keep bringing them together and they finally fall in love. But as success finds them, they are faced with decisions that threaten to pull them apart. I went into this film with high expectations. The trailer looked great. I loved director Damien Chazelle’s last Oscar-winning flick, “Whiplash”. I had read nothing but positive reviews and I love Emma Stone and could gaze at Ryan Gosling for hours (even if I’m unconvinced of his acting prowess). It starts well enough, with the promise of a production shot in CinemaScope (the format used for many musicals in the 1940s and 50s) and a colourful, energetic song-and-dance number set on an LA freeway, that introduces us to a city full of young wannabes. But this is just a chorus line of people we never see again and the film never quite scales the heights of the joyful ensemble number afterwards. That being said, the movie looks great. The director employs saturated primary colours at the beginning of the film that reflect the leads’ naivety and enthusiasm. But as the production progresses, the colours become more faded, as the characters become either more sophisticated or jaded, depending on your point of view. The cinematography is lush. LA is presented in a seemingly endless summer fading into Technicolor golden hours every ...

Moana (DVD) 05/06/2017

An Oceanic Adventure

Moana (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Moana has been raised to take over from her father as the chief of their island village. But she longs for adventure. When her home is threatened by a mysterious blight, she takes to the seas to find the once mighty demigod Maui, who can help her to save her people. Together they must brave the perils of the sea, encountering many mythical Polynesian beasts, in order to fulfil the quest of Moana’s ancestors. Disney continue their run of animated features with strong female leads, with this Oceanic adventure directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The animators have created a complete world, with highly detailed backgrounds. Moana’s island home of Motonui is glorious to look at. The verdant slopes of the volcanic isle are covered in lush vegetation, which is all beautifully rendered. There are a variety of tropical plants and trees, which move in the breeze and cluster together in a believable fashion. The land gives way to sheets of uneven stone and lava peppered with rock pools and blowholes and beautiful beaches with powdery, caramel-coloured beaches. The seas around the island are gorgeously and almost photo-realistically realised. You can see the effect of winds, tides and currents playing across the surface of the limpid blue water, which convincingly reflects any objects floating atop it and the sky. The animators incorporate traditional Oceanic designs wherever possible, whether in the architecture of the islanders’ village, the construction and ...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (DVD) 19/05/2017

Abolutely Flabulous

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Edina Monsoon’s PR business is in trouble and she is desperate for a new client to keep her in the manner to which she has become accustomed. So when she hears that supermodel Kate Moss is looking for representation, she is determined to snag her. But in her haste, she accidentally knocks Moss into the Thames. With her name now mud and the paparazzi on her tail, she and best friend Patsy Stone sneak off to the south of France until the furore dies down. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Absolutely Fabulous”, but I make a point of supporting the British film industry by watching as many British movies as I can. That being said, I always have reservations if I see the BBC’s logo come up when I go to the cinema. It usually means that the production has a limited budget and that it is eventually destined for numerous repeats on television. Consequently, the films tend to look cheap and lack a sense of scope. That is certainly true of this one, which may feature some glamorous locations and a whole raft of celebrity walk-ons, but always feels more like a made-for-TV special than a bona fide big-screen release. Director Mandie Fletcher comes from a sitcom-directing background and I wonder if that has affected her overall style. There’s something a bit slapdash about many of the scenes, as though she only had the time to do a couple of takes of each one and then had to pick the best from what was available. Maybe it took so long to get all of the celebrity ...

Penguins of Madagascar (DVD) 16/05/2017

P-p-pick Up a Madcap Madagascar Penguin

Penguins of Madagascar (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Daring action penguins Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private join forces with super-secret spy organisation The North Wind. Together they must battle the evil Doctor Octavius Brine, who threatens to destroy the world as we know it. I’m not a fan of the “Madagascar” films, seeing them more as a repository for irritating characters than a successful kids’ movie franchise. That being said, I have always been entertained by the antics of the gung-ho action penguins. Consequently, I went into this movie with very modest expectations. Director Eric Darnell has been with the franchise since the very first “Madagascar” film, but co-director Simon J Smith is a newcomer to the series, which may be why the production feels fresh, if not entirely new. Dreamworks Animation’s visual style may lack the fine detail of competitors such as Disney and Pixar, but it is distinctive, particularly where the “Madagascar” movies are concerned. the animators have created a colourful world populated by highly stylised characters. The players come in all different shapes and sizes, each with their own look and personality, but there are some commonalities between them. Their design owes more to geometry than nature. Curves and straight lines are exaggerated so some creatures have squared-off paws and angular faces, while others have almost spherical heads. Their faces are generally expressive, although they tend to have glassy eyes and spongy mouth movements, which limits their range ...

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (DVD) 19/04/2017

Fatman V The Man of Wood: Yawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Fearing what might happen if Superman’s actions are allowed to run on unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, the world has to decide what kind of hero it really needs. “Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder’s second stab at bringing the DC superhero universe to the screen is even more tedious than his first. In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed “Dark Knight” trilogy, the decision to reboot the superhero franchise so soon seems like a cynical cash-in. What could Snyder have to say about Gotham’s Caped Crusader that hasn’t already been said? As it turns out, absolutely nothing… The director appears to have confused emotionally gritty with visually dark. The production design is sombre to the point of depressing, with a palette of sludgy greys and blues and grubby reds that help to suck the joy out of the act of viewing. The visuals are frequently so murky that it’s all but impossible to see what’s going on. However, that could be considered a mercy, considering the overall quality of the acting. There might be some amazing stunts and fight choreography in there, but it’s all obscured by the gloomy lighting. As a result, every big set piece is wasted and matters aren’t helped by frenetic editing, which makes it even more difficult to see what’s going on. Snyder tries to make up for this with an excess of arbitrary slow-motion shots and epic choral arrangements on the soundtrack. These are presumably meant to give the action a ...

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 ...
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