July 15, 2012


DIRECTOR: Paul Verhoven

May Contain Spoilers!

January 1998: The mega-blockbuster that was Titanic had just arrived in cinemas, and I had seen it the night before. We wanted to see it again the next night but felt that was just a bit over the top, but it still didn’t stop me seeing it a total of FOUR times before the year was out, but this isn’t a review of Titanic, this is a review of the antidote. Starship Troopers.

The premise seemed to be ludicrous, as mankind was embroiled in an intergalactic war with giant bugs. But it worked and it worked well. There was gore, nudity and hammy dialogue but there was also a solid satirical streak running throughout the entire movie. The heroes are fascists! Humans are slowly invading the galaxy and citizenship is everything.

All this though, fits into the mold of Beverly Hills 90210! The troopers are all ‘pretty people’ who are about to be dropped into the horrors of war. But helped along by the rousing score by the late Bazil Poladorous, and at the time, some breathtaking visuals, not least the CGI bugs themselves, the bombastic themes of war and duty are played out the fullest effect.

The pacing is excellent, moving from one set piece to another, with action, humour, black comedy and satire all flowing in the same direction and to beat of the same drum. The film is also fragmented with interludes which come in the form of news broadcasts promoting the state and in a very similar vein to Verhoven’s other masterpiece, Robocop, demonstrating the power of propaganda.

Verhoven has stated that he didn’t like the original source novel by Robert A. Heinlein, which was more of a genuine fascist recruitment manifesto than pure open minded sci-fi novel, but it is considered to be one of the greats, and even though he was not faithful to this in its entirety, he has managed to satire it brilliantly, twisting it back on itself.


July 8, 2012




May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection?  NO

The 1994 Oscar-winning tale of a man with learning difficulties who manages to not only overcome adversity, walking difficulties and social prejudice, but also manages to change the direction of U.S. politics and culture forever, in a minor way, at least! Tom Hanks, who is obviously a great actor, plays the part brilliantly, but the part is cypher, who’s only role is help along the fantasy of a truly “Good” and “Accepting” America, though the truth is the exact opposite.

The mere fact that Gump is forced to contend with such adversaries, racists and bigots only goes to show the true nature of the film’s heart, a wistful tale of how the world and America should be rather than how it really is.

And it is this fantasy which propels this story and its awards gravitas, spoon-feeding us the ideas but at the expense of any real narrative development. Forrest sees the world and finds himself at the heart of the 1960’s most iconic moments, meeting presidents, celebrities and sociopolitical icons.

Because that’s what people do. But I do smell a real stench of cynicism, as their attempt at conveying the magic of the common man’s abilities to achieve greatness is told through the eyes of a man who is a cliché of a “simpleton”, cute and humble, rather than someone who should be respected. He is put on a pedestal, and revered but still held at a distance.

But would you be happy for someone like Forrest Gump to date your daughter? That seems to be a nasty question to ask but I believe that this is the core problem with Forrest Gump. He is like a pet, rather than a fully rounded human being. He is someone to be mothered, and even though he achieves to so much, he still ends up on that park bench looking adorable.

Granted, this is probably the only way to tell a story like this and make it work, but in the end, it doesn’t work for me. I feel like I’m been forced fed a series of ideals that the American right would love for a U.S. citizen, and folk like me, to embrace, but I don’t.

The character is good. The world is murky but filled with decent people at its heart. That is the message of Forrest Gump. Well, thank you for spelling that out for us SO clearly…


July 5, 2012


DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller


May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? MAYBE

Jason Siegel, who stars alongside Emily Blunt as the couple with The Five-Year Engagement seemed to have a lot to do with this. He has a screen-writing credit, as well as a Producer but this only serves to make this feel very much like a vanity project, certainly for Siegel and maybe even for Blunt, both of whom have worked together before, notably in Gulliver’s Travels

I quite like Emily Blunt, though I like her more as Emily than any of her characters, which doesn’t say much about my faith in her and acting, but this is in part due to her very English delivery of her lines regardless of the setting. Her voice is really starting to grate on me now, as are here inflections which seem to be there to play to the U.S. audience.

The film though, is okay. It has its funny moments but they are more gentle and fail offer enough insight in to the character’s relationships. The story is simple; Two lover meet one year, propose the next and spend the next five years putting off their wedding due to life altering events and obstacles being put in their path.

But even though there are moments of enlightenment and insights into relationships that many of us will find familiar, they are explored in a very flat manner, almost simply acknowledged rather than looked at or even dealt with. The last twenty minutes is ludicrous, out of touch with the rest of the film and is a massive contrivance, simply there to wrap the film up in a happy way (SPOILER!).

But having said that, there are some genuinely funny moments here too, as fingers are chopped off in cooling accidents, crossbow bolts are fired by children, Bambi’s mum get’s shot and the whole emotional breakdown segment of Siegel’s character. The other thing wrong with this, is all but a brief hairstyle change from Blunt, AFTER the five-year engagement has ended, there’s very little evidence of the passage of time besides being told.

But the shinning light of this film has to be Alison Brie who plays Blunt’s sister. She is an American who according to Blunt, shunned her language coach in favour of copying her. Well, she needn’t have bothered, as this resulted in Brie simply mimicking Emily which did sound a bit off, but still, besides this hiccup, she was a breath of fresh air, both comedically and charismatically in a film which otherwise, was stilted, contrived and not as funny nor insightful as it thought it was.

Jason Siegel should really stick to his second-rate TV show, How I Met Your Mother and Emily Blunt really needs to start doing more with her voice. Neither of which managed to fully hold this film as they should.


July 2, 2012

Finally, after almost three years of Blu-ray 3D, the first wave of older 3D classics, such as Jaws 3-D, Creature From The Black Lagoon and the all but unseen in 3D, Dial M For Murder are due for release throughout the latter part of 2012.

So far, the list includes:

Whether or not Creature From The Black Lagoon will also be restored to its native aspect ratio of 2.00:1  is still not clear but it is referred to by as 1.85:1. But it’s defiantly a move in the right direction, finally allowing the release of so an almost lost category of cinema from throughout the ages.

Fad or not, and I do believe that it is, 3D, along with other rare and until now, difficult formats to release such as Cinerama can finally see the light of day, or the dark of the home cinema.


June 27, 2012


DIRECTOR: John Badham

May Contain Spoilers!

I first saw this film in what for me, was a golden year of cinema, 1991 . John Badham at his best, is one of my favourite 80’s directors, with films such as War Games and Blue Thunder standing out as his best work.

The Hard Way is a lost comedy classic in my view, witty, funny, sharp and action packed, with Rob Cohen serving as 2nd Unit Director. The simple cine-literate premise of Michael J. Fox’s megastar actor, Nick Lang coveting the role of a hard-nosed cop in his desire to move away from his Indiana Jones style action adventure persona, asked to be teamed up with the hardest and most ‘Real’ New York cop possible, in the form of James Woods.

Woods really goes to town on his character, John Moss, as his anger issues present themselves in the form of hyper active rants, brought on by Fox’s naive desire to get under his skin. The film is filled with action cues that serve the comedy well, but at its heart, this is a straight forward comedy action satire, self-referential and lovingly poking fun at everything from blockbusters, to cop clichés.

Like most of Badham’s work, this has been relatively forgotten and I can see why, as this is a VERY 80’s/90’s crossover, and has become a little dated as such, but for those of us with a taste for that era of escapist cinema, The Hard Way is a pleasant break from so many more serious and brutal actioners of the day.

And even though the film has fallen into relative obscurity, it has been referenced on more than one occasion, most notably in the 1994 Simpson’s episode, “Homer & Apu”, where playing himself, he took on a similar role to Fox as he was getting into the role of a convenience store manager in Apu’s absence.

Both Woods and Fox were both excellent, playing the roles to both their strengths, Fox still playing Marty McFly and Woods, well, just James Woods which is hardly a bad thing.

I would highly recommend this film. Highly enjoyable for those of us with a soft spot for the early 90’s action and any James Woods fans out there who haven’t seen this.


June 26, 2012


DIRECTOR: Nick Cassavetes


May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection?  NO

This weepy, directed by Nick Cassavetes, best known by myself as Dietrich Hassler from John Woo’s, Face/Off, is a what it looks like. A sentimental tale of a dying teenager and the all the emotions there on with. But this has an added twist which does manage to propel it from the doldrums of daytime TV.

The younger sister of the terminal girl is a ‘designer baby’, bred mainly for the purpose of being a donor for her elder sister who has being diagnosed with Leukaemia . The younger girl, played by Little Miss Sunshine’sAbigail Breslin finds Alec Baldwin’s lawyer, who seems to have just stumbled off the set of 50 Rock, and proceeds to sue her parents for the rights to her own body, the rights,  she argues have been abused by her mother in her relentless quest to save her elder daughter.

The ideas raised here are intriguing, as the idea of ‘designer babies’ is always a controversial one, but creating the perfect child to be harvested for her parts, for another is even more so, but it does raise some very interesting moral issues.

But in the end, the final act ruined the drama, as everything that we have been watching just falls apart, creating a cop-out happy ending of sorts, though still leaving people sobbing enough tears to fill a bucket! But in the end, the moral questions are raised but not answered whilst solving the films core issues without harming anybody, any more than necessary.

So overall, for most of the film I was interested and at times hooked, but by the end, I felt cheated. The direction on the whole though, was never meant to be gritty or hard, in fact quite the opposite, as soft focus and slow-motion was used ad nauseam for the greatest sentimental effect. It worked, though it was a bit too much, as it seemed that we could hardly go more than five minutes with a song or a silent moment of reflection as life goes on around.

Not bad, worth a watch for the opening three acts and it does raise some valid issues but fails to commit to a view-point and lets everyone off way too easily.


June 25, 2012


DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

May Contain Spoilers!

2008 saw the first wave of the Marvel films in the build up to this years Avengers mash-up. This, along side The Incredible Hulk, would kick-start the four-year project and introduce some of the lesser known and less bankable characters, such as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk (Reboot) and controversially named, Captain America.

Iron Man had a major obstacle in its path, and that was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begin’s sequel, The Dark Knight. But not so much in box office  terms, rather in genre and tone. The Dark Knight is,  if not THE benchmark in comic book adaptations in the sense that it presents, along with its predecessor, a more plausible and “realist” or grounded take on the genre whilst Iron Man and Marvel’s new wave, as it were, offer the serialisation and long anticipated crossovers. Marvel now make their films as if they were comics, crafting the universe rather than a tight narrative.

So, Iron Man, for all it’s flash and thunder, is handicapped by being a film of a series and would only be a one-off if it had failed. Well, it didn’t. The tone seemed to work well with Marvel fans, but I was less convinced, certainly at the time, with Nolan casting a long shadow over the comic book world. The story is pretty tight though and nicely explains, were possible, the evolution of Stark the industrialist to Stark the robotic superhero.

But there’s no doubt that Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as Stark/Iron Man, and is possibly the best thing about the film. The movie’s tone is light, with nods to serious matters but quite rightly choosing to move on without too much ponderousness. Again, a method supported by Downy Jr’s light tough to the playboy, who’s hyperactive irresponsible attitude keeps the humour flowing and the plot moving.

But so far, this is the best of the Marvel films, with the exception of Ang Lee’s Hulk from 2003, a film which is criminally no longer cannon anyway, but the casting of Robert Downy Jr. was definitely a coup from Director, Favreau,  let alone Jeff Bridges as the mentor/villain, and it’s along with Favreau’s sharp direction and top casting has given The Avengers Initiative a strong start…


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