Monday, 31 March 2014


#23 Raid 2: Berhandal

Written and directed by Gareth Evans, starring: Iko Uwais
, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad.

148 minutes long.

A sequel, as the title suggests, to the 2012 The Raid – a fantastically simple action film that proved to be one of the most original and exhilarating films I've ever seen! The action sequences were simply superb. In that film a SWAT team storms a high-rise block of flats and have to fight their way to the top then out again, with the head of a crime syndicate as their prisoner. The action just kept on relentlessly, building from one extraordinary cinematic fight to the next, building to the equivalent  of a final level boss fight which was so incredible that the entire audience emitted a joint sigh of relief and physically relaxed at its end.

The sequel is a bigger, grander and more complex movie altogether, but there's still plenty of action scenes, which are equally as impressive as the original but now, they're spread across the two and a half hour running time and I have to say that for a lot of the running time, I had no real idea what was going on, the plot is too talky and complex and the audience is expected to fill in a lot of blanks themselves, I found the best thing to do was just go with it.

That's not to say this is a bad film, it's just not the non-stop action flick that early reports were claiming. The plot sees the sole policeman survivor from the first film,
Rama played by Iko Uwais  recruited into a super-secret police to infiltrate a established crime family and bring it down from inside. What follows is cross and double cross as rival crime families clash and puppets behind the scenes pull at the strings for their own nefarious purposes.

What makes this an extraordinary film are naturally enough the fight scenes that just seem to keep getting more brutal and more elaborate as the film unravels, building to a simply staggering fight to the death that easily matches the fight between Rama, his brother and Mad Dog from the first film.

This isn't as good as the original, it's too long and there's too much chat, but the action is breath-taking and the violence is genuinely shocking and very graphic. This is a truly savage and brutal film, the fights look like they hurt and you openly wince at some of the appalling onscreen injuries, especially those blows aimed at knees. There are fights to the death with hammers, baseball bats, hatchets, knives, fists, feet, bottles, brooms, in fact anything that anyone can get their hands on! This isn't a hollywood action film, Gareth doesn't shy away from showing the effects of a pump action shotgun to the face, or a truly brutal hammer fight that leaves Old Boy in the dust for savagery!

Tell you what, this is a tiring film to watch!


Sunday, 30 March 2014


Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Cobie Smoothers, Sebastian Stan and loads and loads of others.

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 136 minutes short.

Bloody hell, what a ride. Seen this twice now, once at the first press screening and once again yesterday with Baxter, whose expectations were running stupidly high. I love Captain America as a character, he's one of my favourites and I thoroughly enjoyed the first film, although I felt it lacked something, perhaps a satisfying middle?

I'd liked what I'd seen of Winter Soldier in the build-up and was massively grateful to be able to see it before the reviews and gossip spoiled it for me (so a big up to my homie's Hannah and Marcus for the tickets!). The trouble is, after so many films it's all too easy for me to piece together entire films from small unconnected titbits and conversations so I was able to go into this almost blind, save for the trailer, which revealed almost nothing.

I can't remember the last time I went to a press screening in a packed Odeon Leicester Sq. and witnessed not only three spontaneous eruptions of sustained applause during the film but also 99% of the audience sitting through ALL the credits too! Actually that reminds me, in utter contrast, Noah (also a press screening in the slightly less thrilling Odeon West End) garnished one single clap followed by a mass stampede for the exits.

By I digress.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a BIG, solid, exceeding satisfying thriller of a movie that manages sustaining quite an involved and elaborate story across all three acts. The two main stars, Evans and Johnasson easily hold their own and the interest of the audience and surely it can't be long before the Black Widow gets her own film!? Fantastically directed by siblings, Anthony and Joe Russo and with a cast to die for, Captain America is perhaps Marvel's best film to date. The only fly in the ointment, perhaps the need for an against-the-clock, action-packed final act fight in a rapidly exploding environment!

A lot of people dismiss Captain America as a boring character, but I think there's something noble in him, a man out of time, adrift in a world he doesn't really belong in. His relationship with Widow is lovely, as is the bro-mance that develops between him and Anthony Mackie's Falcon. The film, filled with thrilling, well directed and edited action set pieces (the lift scene is fantastic!) just kept getting better and better as the film progresses to a, for once, satisfying ending!

I can't, or perhaps, don't want to reveal anything about the plot, lest others out there reading will be able to piece the film together, but will say this film is 2 parts superhero, 2 parts spy movie.

And how great to see Robert Redford effortlessly bring a sense of gravitas to the proceedings.

Really, really enjoyed this and I was delighted to see that even second time round, my mind didn't wander and I remained thrilled and gripped.


Where as my 15-year old daughter, Lydia loved it. Baxter, who is almost 11 thought the film was too convoluted, 'too much story, dad! It just kept building and building.' So beware, this is a 12A film and perhaps not just for the action, we sat next to a group of chatty 10 year olds who seemed to have problems with it too, so perhaps not really suitable for kids younger than that.

But for me, it's a


Saturday, 29 March 2014

#21 NOAH

#21 NOAH - Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone directed by Darren (Black Swan) Aronofsky.

139 minutes.

Apparently this was an attempt by Aronofsky to make a myth movie, like Clash of the Tit Ants, the Legend of Hercules and the Immortals based on the old testament. To take an old myth and weave a CGI heavy movie around it with ancient gods, monsters and armies of men charging, epic battles and actors shouting: Release the Kraken, or in this case - "THE WRATH OF GOD!!!".

Trouble is, Darran can only go a little way to realising his dreams because let's face it, at the end of the day, it's still about, you know... God with a capital 'G' and he's 'real', isn't he? So you don't want to piss off any religious types, so you have to show some sort of respect, for a non-existent omni-present being, so, they can't have him being played by Anthony Hopkins or Liam Neeson, or even Morgan Freeman, so in this he's just played by a CGI serpent, a throbbing apple and a tree.

So, what do we have, well a film with fallen stone angels, a rampaging army of heathen environmental rapists and cannibals and a clearly demented Noah who's keeps hearing voices in his head and suffering from horrible visions of death and destruction on a global scale.

So, what's the story? Well, in case you don't know. Noah, begat by Whatnot and Do-Dah, begat by Zebedee and Mr Boingboing and his dad live happily until Ray "I'm the Daddy now!" Winstone turns up, kills dad and sends Noah scuttling off, until he's grown up to be Russell Crowe, to live off moss and bark with his drop-dead gorgeous super-model wife and two male-model sons.

Then Noah's brain tumor starts triggering horrific nightmares and before you can say, 'it's inoperable', Noah's dragging his family across Iceland in search of his grandad, Methuselah along the way picking up a gang of crippled stone angels called The Watchers and Hermione Granger.

Then there's a forest and a whopping great big boat where before there was just jam-soaked black gravel. Darren Aronofsky uses the device of facial hair to convey the passage of time and we get to see old Russ in a series of beards, although he avoids both the Caviler beard and the Landing strip.

Finally Ray turns up, bottles a couple of muppets and establishes he's not a believer, although that doesn't stop him constantly asking 'The Creator' why he's not returning his phonecalls any more?

Then the cgi animals fill up the ark, opting to sleep the rest of the film (lucky bastards) before the apocalypse happens and we watch 5 people discuss repopulating the world with just four childbearing women and four men, seven of which happen to be related and not think it's a bit creepy or odd then it all ends with Ray and Russell having a sexy, 'Women in Love-style wrestle' to the death, but thankfully fully dressed.

This is a film that subtly sneaks the idea of Origin of Species and the Big Bang Theory into the utterly preposterous concept of Creationism and the Garden of Eden, while at the same time nudge-nudge, wink winking at the whole stupid idea of the Noah and the Flood and the whole concept of 'In the Beginning there was darkness...'

It's full of heavy sombre and earnest acting and not a shred of humour or humility what so ever. Life back then wasn't fun, or rewarding, it was just relentlessly bleak and dystopic, Christ it's no wonder God just gave his whole creation a sort of Etch-a-Sketch shake and started again.

We're clearly living in the End of Days right now, or at least Holywood [sic] would like us to think so, what with a relentless glut of Disaster movies and these current fad for Old Testament block-busters, which I, for one, will be praying for to suffer a box-office apocalypse and disappear for god, sorry, good.

Darren Aranofski is a stunning director and this film is a brilliantly directed but that's it. As stories go, this doesn't have enough going on to support a 2 and a 1/2 hour dirge.

So, is it No Way for Noah or just a solid Yes Ah!?

From me, it's a solid NO-AH WAY!



#20 Under the Skin

Starring Scarlett Johannson, directed by Jonathan Glazer. 108 minutes long.

Without doubt, the single most unsettling and uncomfortable film I've seen in an absolute age. There are images and sequences you'll find yourself thinking about days later, sequences which are truly shocking and, at times, frankly disquieting and unsettling.

Scartlett, who is simply superb in this film and carries it single-handily, plays an un-named alien who drives around Scotland in a white van picking up men no one will miss and luring them back to a derelict house where she entices them, by undressing, into a sentient black-liquid filled swimming pool - where they are slowly absorbed over time (this sequence is truly unnerving).

No reason is given, no explanation is offered, nothing is revealed, there are no fantastic special effects, laser beams or spaceships, just a bleak, sinister sense of uncomfortableness made a thousand times worse by a soundtrack that gnaws at your psyche like an army of red ants.

Perhaps the most original film of the year.

Plus she takes her kit off too!




Starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.  Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. 110 minutes long.

This film is ridiculously entertaining in a way I really wasn't expecting! I got sucked up by it and it kept me hooked and gripped almost up to the end. A really silly experience but one that was thoroughly enjoyable!

Liam Neeson continues his big action man phase with another highly believable action hero, who because we live in the 21st century has to to be damaged in someway, this time round he's an alcoholic, grief-ridden dad. Roll on Nonstop 2 is all I can say, well that and Taken 3 of course.

The story in a nutshell. Neeson is Bill Marks, a sky marshal traveling on a trans-Alantic flight when it's effectively hi-jacked by an unknown third party and Marks is framed for it. The film follows the flight as Neeson races against the clock, over and over again to save the lives of everyone on board and clear his name!

Despite the fact you can spot who's the baddy is as soon as they've introduced themselves, this is a tense, claustrophobic and highly engrossing action film.



Starrin Ralph Fiennes, T. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson.

Written and Directed by Wes Anderson. 99minutes.

Right off the bat I have to say I'm a commited Wes Anderson fan. I love his films, and of his eight films, Pocket Rocket, Rushmore, Royal Tennabaums, Life Aquatic, Darjling Express, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and this one, I'd have to put my hand up and say even the one I liked least scores a satisfying 8/10 for me, while the rest score either a 9 or 10.

Wes Anderson is, in my humble opinion, one of the most visually arresting directors working today and his films just keep on getting better and better. Taking his passion for set design to giddy heights The Hotel Budapest is by far is most art-directed film.

The story, (for there is one this time, it's an odd thing to admit that his films don't usually seem to have a plot at all and are none the worse for it) concerns the telling of a life from the point of view of a bell-hop done good and his experiences of working with the mysterious deaths of one of his elderly lovers, a missing will and an insanely valueable painting. At its heart it's a chase movie, but it's a chase movie with so much heart that even when it ends you want more.

Everything about this film is an utter delight, from the casting, script, music (always massively important in a Wes Anderson film) and the forementioned set design and dressing.

I utterly adored this film and was disappointed when it ended, wishing it could have just carried on for a little bit longer, a trait I feel in all my favourite Anderson films, Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom and Life Aquatic.

Beautiful, bewitching and brilliant. I loved it. 9/10




A sequel to the 2007 film, 300 that made, for a blink of an eye, a star of out Gerald Butler, who then squandered all the good will he'd earned with a series of woeful and awful romantic comedies and the trilogy of horrific awfulness that was: Rocknrolla, Gamer and the Bounty Hunter. 

So, if you've seen the original, it's more of the same, but this time with lots of Eva Green's fantastic norks! Last time it was the Spartans, this time it's the Australian Greeks fighting a ridiculous man-god called Xerses.

Lots of sweaty men in leather jockstraps doing impossible things, thanks to CGI and having lots and lots of big fights, a lot of which happen on boats, all performed in front of a gigantic CGI green-screen. Huge gouts of chocolate sauce spurt out of every axe and sword wound and the whole thing is delivered in serious and deeply earnest tones. The whole thing is far too serious for its own good, but does benefit from some righteously ott action scenes and violence and a fantastic sex scene on top of a giant Risk board, where Eva releases both her Krakens to awesome effect, especially if you're watching the whole thing in 3D, which thank god, I was.

Great fun. 7/10

Thursday, 13 March 2014

#15 Escape From Planet Earth


Brandon Frasier, William Shatner, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry and Sarah Jessica Parker. Directed by Callun Brunker. 95 minutes long.
Baxter and I had a bet about this film going in, a bet he laid. If the film, as I predicted, was terrible then Baxter would not download any new games to his Kindle Fire for the next five weeks, however if the film was very good, as he claimed, then I wouldn't be allowed to play Angry Birds on his device for the next five weeks.
So, we both had a lot riding on this animated film. 95 minutes later as the lights came up and we left the cinema the conversation quickly turned to the film, "Well, what did you think?" I asked him. "The thing is dad, " he replied, "It wasn't terrible but it wasn't very good either." I had to agree with him and we agreed it was a rather meh 5/10. So at least neither of us lost Kindle privileges.
The animation and look of the film was good, voice wise, it had William Shatner as a villain and Branden Fraiser as a Buzz Lightyear rip off and a trio of Liverpudlian sounding Greys, but beyond that there was nothing you've not seen a million times before. The plot was as old as a 1950's B-Movie and the sickening family sentimentalism was nauseating, but the film moved at a lick, was silly and had some quite funny action sequences so it wasn't a train wreck. It won't win any Oscars but at least it won't win any Rasperberries either. Young kids should love it, but 9-year olds and older will be mehed out by this one.