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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Love and Other Drugs: Review

Thank you, Love and Other Drugs! Not including some of the tasty treats coming soon, recently the cinema have been dishing up some absolute turkeys (Little Fockers, Gulliver's Travels, even Tron: Legacy to an extent) but I am glad to say that, while not the greatest rom-com ever, this is a film that had me laughing (and sweating as the cinema had their heating full blast!)

Jamie Randell is a cocky, self assured womaniser who can turn on the charm for his own personal needs as well as hoping to rise the ladder selling pharmaceuticals to doctors. His life is completely uncomplicated until he meets Maggie, a beautiful young woman who is suffering from stage one Parkinson's disease. He isn't looking for love and neither is she but what they are looking for is uncomplicated sex without the hang-ups. Unfortunately Jamie is starting to see things differently and his future, including selling Viagra, is changing.

You might be surprised to know that the film is directed by epic film maker Edward Zwick, who has given us Glory, The Siege, The Last Samurai and more recently, Defiance. Don't be that surprised, as he was also the producer of the hit TV show thirtysomething, a mix of comedy and drama around young upwardly mobiles facing all kinds of life problems. So he manages to handle the material here with a huge amount of sensitivity.
It being a romantic comedy there are the rom-com cliches, except this time they don't feel faced like in others.

Jake Gyllenhaal, as Jamie, is far too nice to be regarded as a bastard and even though we are suppose to hate him at the beginning, you cannot help but like it. Ably supported but the ever reliable Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria, there is a nice comic turn by Josh Gad as his slobbish younger brother, and even though every rom-com has to have one, his turn is actually funny.

Anne Hathaway is the star of this film. Not only is she one of the screens natural beauties, her performance is a dream. Never taking the Parkinson's disease to the extreme, she carries herself brilliantly, with warmth and humour (and she gets to show more of her than we've seen before, if you know what I mean.)

Mixing the comedy with real pathos, there is one scene that is both hilarious and moving, in which Maggie goes to a convention made up of Parkinson's sufferers, telling their stories and it is one of the high points of the film.

Those who read my reviews will know that the rom-com is not my favourite genre. When done bad, they can be awful. Gladly this is one of the good ones and instead of heading off to see Jack Black being unfunny or the Little Fockers being genuinely disappointing, try this sweet natured tale instead. Word of warning, however, it contains a lot of sex scenes...and I mean a lot, so maybe don't take your gran with you.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Gulliver's Travels: Review

For months now, every time you went to the cinema you were forced to watch an advert for Orange phones that was also an advert for Gulliver's Travels. Finally the film is here so hopefully we won't have to be inflicted with that unfunny advert again. I can only hope the same for this pathetic excuse of a comedy, and this has managed to elbow its way to the number 3 spot of the worst films of 2010.

Loosely (and I mean loosely) based on Jonathan Swift's classic satire, Jack Black plays Gulliver, a mail room worker for a New York newspaper who has a massive crush on a travel writer. He pretends to write about some of his so-called travels and is given the opportunity to go to Bermuda. On his journey, his boat gets sucked into a whirlpool that catapults him to Lilliput, a land filled with little people, and he is the beast. He is also the only hope they have of saving the land from another island, and a power hungry leader of the Lilliput army.

To be honest with you, the plot doesn't really matter, because this is a Jack Black movie, so we get Jack Black slacking, mugging, dancing and rocking it out. That's where the problem with this movie lies. Jack Black, it can be officially announced, is NOT funny. Sure he was brilliant in High Fidelity and School of Rock was superb. Even Tenacious D are terrific, but we've seen this act so many times it is beyond boring.

There is a terrifically talented cast involved here, all wasted. Jason Segel does a very good job with the English accent while Emily Blunt is always watchable but it looks like these two have wandered into the wrong movie. Billy Connolly, Catherine Tate and James Cordon might well have not even bothered to turn up, their parts are so insignificant and Chris O'Dowd (from The It Crowd) seems to be the only one to give his role the proper attitude and that is to ham things up as much as possible.

So it is left to Black and even he looks bored with the whole thing. The film, as with almost every film out now, is in god-awful 3D and is a complete waste of time. Only the Scrat short before the main feature is worth wearing the glasses and at 3 minutes long, it is far funnier than anything that happens in Gulliver's Travels.

Wondering why it's so bad? When gags involve wedgies, weeing on people and, worse of all, a Lilliput solider almost being crushed by a falling Black, only to be saved by Black enormous bum crack, then you know how basic this film is. Let's not forget the completely pointless and cringe-worthy end musical number, so we can have jack Black singing Edwin Starr's War!

If you haven't had enough of Christmas Turkey, then go see this miserable piece of tripe. Personally, it's not even fit to go into a Turkey curry!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Meet The Parents: Little Fockers: Review

In 2000, Meet The Parents hit our screens and it was a laugh riot of embarrassing situations and misunderstandings. Then came the sequel, Meet the Fockers, in which we were mildly amused by the embarrassing situations and misunderstandings. Now, ten years on, we get the second sequel and we are hardly amused by the embarrassing situations and misunderstandings.
Greg and Pam Focker are now a happy family with their twins who are on the verge of being 8. Jack, father-in-law from hell, has decided that Greg needs to prepare himself for leading the Byrnes family onwards, as he is suffering from heart problems, although Jack is still suspicious of Greg and when Greg is asked to help promote a new drug by the beautiful Andi Garcia, Jack is concerned that Greg might become more than involved with her and ruin his whole family.
I was a huge fan of the original film. It made me laugh harder than most comedies around at that time and it still does. The comedy of errors worked brilliantly, mainly because Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller had such great rapport together. Meet The Fockers was amusing but not as funny, yet by introducing Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Greg's parents and their overly sexual ways, took the series to another level. The trouble with Little Fockers is that there is no where else to go with the story. We know that jack doesn't like Greg and Greg will usually do something that makes him even more disliked by Jack but you cannot carry a series on that one premise.
The makers this time throw everything they have in the story, with subplots galore, none of which really work. Introducing Jessica Alba as the oh-so-no-funny Andi Garcia and making her behave like a 60s drop-out isn't funny. Having Harvey Keitel as a builder who seems to be ripping Greg off seems pointless. Even Ms Streisand's now cameo appearance with her sexual TV show, just isn't funny.
In fact, nothing in this film is funny. We get a scene in which Stiller has to inject DeNiro in the penis after he takes a new Viagra drug, only to have the 8-year-old boy enter the room, which is more creepy than cringy. Where Greg accidentally knocks over an urn of ashes in the first film, which was played out beautifully by all, this time he almost cuts off his finger while carving a turkey. Oh how we laughed as the family get covered in blood.
The ironic thing about this movie was that Dustin Hoffman wasn't suppose to be in this one, but after test audiences found it woefully unfunny, they re shot scenes with him in and these actually turn out to be the parts that do work.
If ever a film series needs to be put to bed, this is it. A shameful excuse of a comedy that makes you want to dig out the DVD of the original and watch how the series started off as being hilarious. This gag-less mess just needs to be forgotten and the otherwise talented cast need to move on with other projects that are better.
And by the way, just because the name Focker sounds like something rude, doesn't mean we have to hear the same gag over and over again. It was funny the first time, not anymore.

Monday, 20 December 2010

This year there have been two very different movies about facebook: the story of the beginning with the excellent The Social Network, and now this cautionary tale of what is real and what is not in the cyber world.

Two filmmakers, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, decide to make a movie about Ariel's brother Nev, a photographer of dancers, and his growing friendship with an 8-year-old girl who sent him a painting and now they correspond on facebook. She lives with her mother and father in a small town and has a sister, Megan. After speaking to the mother, Angela, he starts a relationship with Megan, a beautiful looking woman. Everything seems to be perfect. A little too perfect.

We have been told not to give away too much about this film, and so I will respect the film makers request. To be honest, it would really spoil this well made, clever and thought-provoking documentary which deals with how we all live in a world of lies and deceit.

We never know whether this film is truth or not. If it is, then there are moments of pure emotion that you would find hard to get from any other movie. If it is fabricated, then this is one of the best dramas of the year. This is where the film falls down. You sit watching and you become immediately captivated by the forming of the relationships that Nev makes, that when the first bomb drops, you genuinely feel for him, so if this is the real McCoy, then watching a man's heart literally shatter is a hard enough experience.

The Internet is a really positive place to be in, but in the hands of someone who doesn't fully grasp life, it can be a tool of destruction, and you do wonder how someone can do what is done here.

If you do see this film, and I strongly recommend you do, because it is moving, uplifting, funny and incredibly interesting, don't give away what happens. You will spoil it for those who haven't seen it and can enjoy it.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Tron: Legacy: Review

Way back in 1982, Disney produced a ground-breaking movie. Tron was the first film to use computer generated special effects and it was a treat for the eyes, although seeing it recently, it still manages to amaze, maybe not as much as it did in the 80s, but you cannot ignore the technical genius that was produced. 28 years later and the sequel has finally reached us, with modern technical achievements taking over, and once again it is a visually amazing treat. Shame that they didn't put as much effort into the script.

Sam Flynn is a the son of Encom creator Kevin Flynn, the man who made The Grid, a computer world way beyond anything that is available on earth. Flynn disappears in the 80s and is thought was dead, until his business partner receives a page message. Sam follows the message up by going to the old arcade. Once there, Sam discovers a secret room with a computer board that propels him into the Grid, run by Clu, a creation turned bad by Flynn. He also finds his missing father and so Sam's mission is to destroy the Grid and get his father home.

The effects are incredible. Taking all the elements from the original film, like the light bikes and the disc game, and bringing them right up to date. It is a feast on the eyes.

The script, however, isn't as appealing. It drifts in places and some of the lines are unintentionally funny. With a much tighter storyline this could have been the sensation of the season. As it is, it's nothing more than a light show.

Jeff Bridges reprises his role of Flynn with the bonus of a younger Bridges as Clu. It does take a little getting use to, but Clu is one of the triumphs of the film. Bridges, once again, is great, but you keep thinking that The Dude is in a computer world.

Garrett Hedlund is fine as Sam while Olivia Wilde is another treat for the eye. You do wonder what Michael Sheen is doing in the film. I thought for one moment he was auditioning The Rocky Horror Show.

The 3D disappoints, like all 3D seem to do, and you question why film makers are spending so much money when the technology isn't been used to its full advantage, and thus it just angers the audience who have to pay extra to see their wears which would probably have the same effect in 2D. This should have been incredible, it wasn't.

So if you like something flashy without an substance, then this will be for you. Just don't expect the cinematic event that we were promised.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Monsters: Review

Monsters has been compared as the thinking man's Cloverfield and has been promoted as this year's District 9 but this is a very different creature indeed. If you are looking for a sci-fi action film about aliens, then look somewhere else. if you are looking for a drama about two people falling in love then this will be right up your alley.

A NASA space probe crashed landed in Central America, bringing with it life forms from outer space. Trying to control the spread of the creatures, a large area called the 'infected zone' has been created between Mexico and the US. Andrew is a photographer who has been given the job of bring back the daughter of the owner of the magazine he works on from Mexico after she was injured during an alien attack. He is the father of a child but he has no love for the mother, while she is reluctantly engaged to a man that seems she doesn't want to be. As the pair head off to the ports to catch a ferry, they miss it and are forced to travel by land through the infected zone, which slowly brings each other closer together.

The back story is as interesting as the film. Director Gareth Edwards took a camcorder and two actors to South America to make a film. This is the result and I have to say while everyone has raved about it, it's good but not amazing. The problem is that at only 97 mins it seems much longer.

Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are likeable as the couple and they do give reasonably good performances but you are constantly craving for more. The occasional threat from the aliens or the army lift the film but this is mostly a travelogue that shows some unusual sights as they move through the country.

The ending is a highlight, with an impressive sequence in a gas station that can be compared to the human relationship, but there are so many moments when you want something exciting to happen and it doesn't. Never taking away the fact that this is a well made, nicely played romance, it is also a very misleading film that is much more than Monsters.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The American: Review

Going into The American, I had heard some very mixed reviews and wasn't expecting to like it. How wrong was I. This is a Hollywood film with a European art house heart and it works.

Jack is an assassin who suffers from paranoia and is a loner. He finds that getting close to anyone is a bad move. While in hiding in Sweden with a young woman, he is found by killers wanting him dead. He shoots them and then runs to a small village in Italy, where he has one last job; to bring a particular gun for a fellow killer. While in hiding he meets local prostitute Clara and once again he finds himself no longer alone but still very suspicious of those around him, including the woman he is slowly falling in love with.

Never have I sat through an American movie with so little dialogue. You could probably print the script off in five pages. It is made up on silences. This helps make for a much more interesting experience. It quietly builds the tension and proves that you don't need words to get your story across.

The scenery is beautifully used and shot and is the perfect backdrop for the an espionage film, being very reminiscent of the 70s thrillers. The cast do a terrific job too, with the standout being the strikingly beautiful Violante Placido as Clara,her eyes alone would make any man powerless.

The film, however, belongs to Mr Clooney, one of the few stars out there who could easily be compared to the movie actors of the 30s and 40s. His performance here is impeccable, as a troubled man who can just as easily shoot someone in cold blood while at the same time suffer from the cold sweats. His commands the screen being in almost every shot, and just impresses.

Those who are looking for a high action thriller will be greatly disappointed. There is one well executed action scene in which Clooney is chasing down a killer in the streets of the village but this isn't a film about action, it's about a man on the edge, having to make decisions about his life and his future. If you are after an intelligent, adult, if quiet film with sudden shocks and violence then look no further.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollow: Part 1

Hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the road for the world's most famous young wizard and his journey from naive schoolboy to manhood. Split into two films, J.K. Rowling's final book is possibly the most anticipated movies of the year. The second part is released next July, so here is part one. Unfortunately I found it very underwhelming indeed.

The dark forces are one step closer to taking over the world and it's only Harry Potter who is the last chance to stop it from happening. He must find all the Horcruxes that belong to his arch enemy Lord Voldermort in order to have a much better chance of beating him. So Harry, Hermione and Ron must set off to find them and the truth behind the Deathly Hollow.

The film starts off with great promise. Bill Nighy's Minister of Magic announcing that 'These are dark times', signs a darker movie. We then get a terrifically scary scene in which all the dark forces are brought together and Voldermort's snake made even me jump out of my skin. The scene in which Harry is escaping the country reminded me of a scene from a wartime dogfight, as good and evil fly around all over. However, the promise is short-lived, as the film then starts grinds to a casual stroll more than a gallop.

The problem I had with it was the repetition. We have a wand battle in a cafe in Shaftesbury Avenue (since when have you ever seen a greasy spoon cafe in Shaftesbury Avenue?); running through the woods, in fact, the only action is the occasional wand battle. The search for the Horcruxes is more like Harry and friends go camping, and while this is suppose to develop the characters, it only really shows Ron as a jealous guy who is bitter over Harry's relationship with Herimone.

Then there's the final 25 minutes in which the we get a little exciting scene but this seems tacked on, as if director David Yates decided that we've had enough character building, better have some action, and it is rushed to the finale that doesn't really go anywhere because it is to be continued.

The special effects have become less than special. It's as if the series has come to a stop when it comes to production values, and I just hope that the final part will have much more imagination than on display here.
The performances are fine, this time concentrating on the three main characters. Rupert Grint, who has always been the better of the three, gets a little more dramatic scenes than usual but he is still the comic relief and thank goodness he is around otherwise this would have been a dull old affair. Daniel Radcliffe has become Harry to the point it might be very hard ever to shake the character. The most improved has to be Emma Watson as Herimone, who, if you remember from the first film, had drama school brat written all over her performance. She has now proven herself as a reasonably good actress.

As always the film is littered with the cream of British acting, including new comers Nighy, Peter Mullen and Rhys Ifans. It does miss having Maggie Smith and some of the other characters have become nothing but extras (John Hurt doesn't even say a word).

I feel as an audience member who has followed this series a little cheated by this, making me wonder if it really was worth splitting the book into two. Maybe they should have trimmed the fat in this won and just made one big, spectacular ending. Instead we have a heartless, rather dull film that doesn't really build the excitement for the finale.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Skyline: Review

Alien invasion movies are always a popular subject matter for film directors and have been with us since the paranoid 50s. So here comes another one that manages to do something I thought I would never say. It makes Independence Day look like a masterpiece.

Los Angeles, and a couple have come from New York to celebrate the birthday of a friend in a penthouse of an apartment block. They are awoken by bright lights falling from the sky. The next minute and a party goer is sucked from the building. On closer investigation, the sky is filled with giant spaceships and they are far from friendly, sucking up people and sending out smaller probes to hunt for the humans who escaped in order to rip out their brains. The young couple must escape these aliens.

The film starts off with great promise. Visually it looks great and a lot of time has been spend on the special effects. Shame the same couldn't be said about everything else. This is just a film in which we see the bright young things running, hiding and running more from capture. We see a battle between the air force and the flying aliens and then more running and shouting.

The Brothers Strause (yes, they are credited as that) direct this with the enthusiasm of a child for the aliens but forgetting to build any characters so the audience can really back them. Each one is so wafer thin, they only seem to exist to be taken away by the arrivals.

It isn't just a bad film, it's a laughably bad movie! Some of the dialogue will make you chuckle but nothing will make you laugh louder than the sight of the young heroes (if you can call them that) ducking as a crashing plane hits the roof in front of them and bounces over their heads to kill off a monster.

Just when you think its all over, it has another trick up its sleeve and it is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous ending to a movie...ever!

If you are a lover of really bad movies, then you cannot do no wrong than go and see a film that has more giggles than Vampires Suck...but for all the wrong reasons.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Unstoppable: Review

The last time Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott worked together was on the ill-advised disastrous remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123, in which a subway train is hijacked. This time the pair can't seem to let go of the train theme for their new film, Unstoppable. I am pleased to tell you this is a marked improvement on their last film.

Washington plays Frank, a widower who has worked all his life on the railroads. He is joined, on just another day, by rookie Will, who has marital problems, and at first the elder driver isn't impressed with his new partner. Meanwhile, across Pennsyvania, a freak accident sends a train off on an unstoppable journey, it's cargo are tanks of combustible liquids. The runaway train has everyone in a flap, as it heads at full speed towards towns and the train that Frank and Will are driving.

The set-up is simple. Inspired on true events, it is just a train thundering its way across country while the railway bigwigs cannot work out how to stop it without losing millions of dollars in the process. Scott, who has made some terrific action films in the past, is on grounds that he knows well and delivers the pace almost as fast as the locomotive. His usual flashy camerawork is back on show and you cannot help but wish he could direct without having to spin the camera round and round a train till you are almost ready to throw up.

If anyone can play blue collar everyman, it's Washington. The character isn't the most interesting, yet he still manages to bring light and shade to it. Always watchable, never dull. Chris Pine, Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, is fine as Washington's partner but he isn't given as much interesting character traits as Denzel and so it comes across as workmanlike.

There are moments of truly tense excitement and moments when you think its the dumbest film around, yet it is enormously entertaining and you are strangely hooked from the very first frame. The denument does make you think "Why didn't they try that earlier" but this is a film more about the heroics of ordinary folk than a train that is out of control.

Not the greatest action film ever made but one that you should enjoy if you are looking for a straight foreward piece of escapism. It does the job very well.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

We Are What We Are: Review

Cannibals, in the genre of horror, have never really had a good time. Only Hannibal Lector came across with any dignity, if you can call it that. Before that they were tribes in the jungles eating any stranger that appeared. Now Mexican director/writer Jorge Michel Grau is trying to change how we see cannibals. Trying being the word.

An old man stumbles around a shopping mall and then falls to his knees and dies. He leaves behind him a family in disarray. His widow and three children have very little money coming in, It is also up to his eldest son, Alfredo to lead the family and to supply them with food. The food, however, is human, brought home for a ritual killing. He is also having to cope with his violent younger brother and a mother who refuses to have whores, as her husband would bring them back constantly. He is expected to deliver.

Already being compared as the cannibal equivalent to Let The Right One In, this actually isn't a patch on the vampire classic, but Grau is almost there. The film looks great and the finale part is very gripping indeed. What it suffers from is pacing.

The opening is intriguing as we watch a man dying but having no idea who he is draws us in. It loses its footing in the scenes after his death, where the family, unsure of what to do, generally sit around in silence. While it takes its time to build the suspense, it really does take far too long. Only when Alfredo takes his position seriously does the film pick up and you get drawn back in.

The film isn't that shocking either. Having moments to repulse are one thing but apart from one graphic scene, most of the film doesn't even make the heart race faster. It's more like a Mike Leigh film with added blood, so horror fans will be disappointed.

The performances are fine, especially Paulina Gaitan as young Sabina, the daughter who holds all the cards int eh family, being the only one to control the violent brother.

It's a frustrating film because you know it could have been so much better, if only it wasn't given so much time to ponder on its own self importance, but lacking the horror factor doesn't help its cause, and so we get a domestic drama about a family who happen to like human flesh.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Let Me In: Review

In the midst of the resurgence of the vampire, from the soppy Twilight saga to the excellent True Blood, a little Swedish movie opened and shook the whole blood-sucking phenomenon to the core. Let The Right One In was a critical hit and possibly the best film of last year. So when news came out that it was being remade by Hollywood, it send shudders down the spines of those who saw and loved that beautiful yet harrowing film. Well now it is upon us. Is it a crime against the original? Not at all. In fact, this could be the best remake I have ever seen.

The story is faithful to the original film. Owen is a lonely 12-year-old who lives with his alcoholic, religion-loving mother in a gloomy apartment block. By day he is viciously bullied and by night he takes his frustrations out on a tree with a penknife, until he is interrupted by Abby, a newly arrived girl who immediately tells him that they will never be friends. This, of course, is untrue, as their friendship slowly builds and Abby gives Owen the strength to stand up to his bullies. Abby, however, holds a very dark secret.

Let's get the negatives out of the way. It's not as beautiful looking as Let The Right One In. It uses some of the tricks but Thomas Alfredson's film is just stunning and no matter how anyone could try, it would never surpass it. One of the set pieces so memorable from the original is recaptured here but the use of CGI spoils it slightly. Finally, this is a much gorier picture than the first which doesn't distract but you feel almost sorry that director Matt Reeves has had to up the blood for the audience, as it works so well not actually seeing too much and letting the imagination run riot. This is only a slight quibble, because otherwise, this is a cracking film.

Reeves, who created the excellent Cloverfield, has done a wonderful job here. A darker use of lighting captures the mood and while he has taken away some of the fat from Alfredson's film (like the cat man), it's all to the benefit of the tremendous love story between two outsiders.

Remembering that two young actors are carrying this film, Kodi Smit-McPhee, last seen as the boy in The Road, and the excellent Chloe Moretz, who turned heads as the foul-mouthed Hit-Girl in Kiss-Ass, as superb. You really feel for these two characters and you are carried along by their relationship as it slowly grows. There's more tender moments between these two than anything that the Twilight series can produce and these are two young actors who are well worth watching.

The always excellent Richard Jerkins has a small but perfectly formed role as "The Father" and has one of the most heart-stopping scenes in the film, in which he is involved in a car crash, filmed in one shot from the back seat.

A word of warning. The scenes in which Owen is bullied are not easy viewing and are, in fact, more horrific than any of the blood-sucking.

Those who missed Let The Right One In should definitely see this. If you are into vampires, you should definitely see this. In fact, if you are a fan of the Twilight films, you should absolutely see this and see how it should be done. Hopefully once you have seen it, you will search out for the original. If not, then enjoy possibly the closest thing you will get to a perfect remake, and the best horror out there by a long shot. Well done, Matt Reeves.

(By the way, the film is the first to be produced by Hammer films in years and I am glad that they are still the kings of horror).

Friday, 29 October 2010

Burke and Hare: Review

A few weeks ago, one of the 80s great directors made a triumphant return. Joe Dante was back and on top form with The Hole. Now another big name director who made his name in the 80s has made a comeback with the genre that made him famous. John Landis, who was propelled to super director after An American Werewolf In London and more so, Michael Jackson's Thriller video, has teamed up with Ealing Studios to bring us Burke and Hare, a fun comedy horror. Fun it certainly is. Compared to Dante's film, it's not as triumphant.

It's Edinburgh in the 1800s and two warring medical colleges are constantly outbidding each other for recently executed bodies, used for medical experiments, until the richer of the two slaps a court injunction on having exclusive rights to the deceased. Meanwhile, Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare are struggling to make ends meet. Hare's wife, who is landlady to elderly gentlemen, isn't having much luck either, especially when one has just died. Getting rid of the body isn't easy, until the men discover that the college short of bodies will pay grandly. So the hapless partners begin to find ways of delivering these corpses.

The infamous body snatchers tale is played out for morbid laughs, with Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis perfectly cast in the leads, playing nicely off each other. Pegg gets to add a little light relief with his subplot of being infatuated with pretty actress Isla Fisher, who needs him to finance her all-female version of Macbeth. Jessica Hynes (Pegg's comedy partner in the cult TV show Spaced) gets the more physical comedy as Hare's drunken wife.

One of the joys and a trademark of Landis' previous films, is littering it with cameos from the great and good in British entertainment. Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse and Stephen Merchant all pop up while comedy legend Ronnie Corbett gets to ham it up as the chief of police.

There are some grisly laughs and a couple of innuendos that wouldn't look out of place in a Carry On film, as well as the occasional Landis comic touches. Yes it does have a few good laughs, it suffers from not being funny enough. Without taking away the talented cast's energy and likability, you chuckle more than belly laugh.

It's nice to have Landis back behind the camera, and it is great fun. It just leaves you wanting more.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Next Three Days: Review

Paul Haggis had the world at his feet. Award-winning script writer and director, he had two smash hits in a role with Million Dollar Baby and Crash. Then In The Land Of Elah flopped massively and Haggis was gone. Now he is back with his first thriller, and it's a cracker.

Russell Crowe plays a teacher with the perfect life, a young son and a loving wife. Their perfect life is rocked when his wife is arrested for murder. Thrown in jail, and months spent in court, even his lawyer cannot see any chance of her being released, as all the evidence points to her committing the crime. It leaves Crowe with only one option...breaking her out of prison.

This is a complex tale of a man obsessed. As former crook and jail-breaker Liam Neeson tells him, once it starts, there's no turning back. This isn't just about breaking her out, he has to break in too. Using the Internet, he slowly builds a plan but will it work?

Haggis has the good sense of letting building everything slowly, so for the first part hardly anything happens and yet this helps with the second part when it all kicks off. In once particular scene, the audience I saw it with were literally gasping as the thrills begin. If I had one complaint, its that the final section does outstay its welcome but don't let that spoil your enjoyment of a terrific thriller that has heart and emotion.

Elizabeth Banks, usually known for her comic roles, gets to play straight as the wife and she holds herself well but this is Crowe's show and he is on outstanding form. Playing the everyman he actually looks like a man on the edge and he commands the screen. You emote with him, you wonder if his plan will work and you sometimes want him to stop but you can also understand why he does what he does. It is a superb performance.

Haggis has taken the French thriller starring Diane Kruger called Anything For Her and has made it his own, with some great pieces of dialogue while still maintaining the feel of the original film.

If you are looking for a gripping, exciting film then you should definitely look no further.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Red: Review

Red (Retired Extremely Dangerous) has all the ingredients of a good night out: a top cast, action, comedy, just pure escapism. And yet, it also is a little disappointing.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who lives alone and tears up his pension cheques so he can speak everyday to single pension adviser Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). During one night, his house is raided by masked gunmen out to kill him. Of course they come off worse and he heads to Kansas City, fearing that the conversations he has been having with Sarah were heard and they would attack her. He kidnaps her and so begins a chase across America, where Moses enlists his fellow ex CIA agents Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, to uncover why they want him dead and what connects it with the murder of a New York reporter.

There's plenty on offer here to enjoy yet you get the destinct impression that the cast had loads of fun but most has ended up on the cutting room floor and will be a glorious extra on the DVD.

Director Robert Schwentke must have been smiling with glee at the cast but he doesn't let them loose. This is the problem with the film as a whole. There are moments of silliness and fun but they are just moments, as if Schwentke decides that he doesn't want it to get sillier. The perfect example is the scene in which Willis, Malkovich and Parker are pinned down in a store area. It is so silly you cannot help but laugh and yet its over far too quickly. For an action film, there doesn't seem to be enough action and yet when it does come, it is pulled back, restrained.

Willis is as cool as ever, proving he still has it in the action stakes. Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman, while the image of Helen Mirren in a long flowing white evening gown, hob-nail boots and firing a sub machine gun will be an image that will stick around for years. Malkovich gets to overact like crazy as the paranoid member of the team, and his performance raises more than a smile. The star of the film, however, is Mary-Louise Parker. After years on the hit TV show Weeds, she is back and acts all the leads off the screen, delivering some of the best lines and is constantly watchable throughout.

When the film ends, you know you've had a good time but with so much talent on show, you want just that little bit more. Not a terrible film by a long shot, just one that has much more potential. Maybe if there is a sequel, they will up the silliness factor.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Social Network: Review

Imagine. Billions of people are logging onto their PCs/laptops to go onto Facebook, the phenomenon of the 21st century. Very few people in this world don't use it so when it was announced that a film about the beginning of Facebook was being made, I thought to myself, 'Really? How interesting is that going to be?' How wrong I was. In the hands of director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is an incredible piece of work and the first true Oscar contender.

Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard student who manages, in one night, to alienate his ex-girlfriend and create a website that crashes the Harvard system. The young is, on one hand a genius while on the other, a hideous, thoughtless monster. So impressed with his web antics, two top rowers, the Winklevoss twins, and their friend invite Zuckerberg to help get their dating website off the ground. However, Zuckerberg has bigger ideas, and with capital coming in from his best friend, Eduardo Saverin, they create, and without them really knowing, it becomes an almost overnight success, with hundreds of University students logging in. As the project gets bigger, so the problems start to creep in; the Winklevoss angry that it was an idea they had, want retribution, while the relationship between the founding members are pushed when former Napster creator Sean Parker comes onto the scene, and what was once a close friendship is tested.

I once accused Jesse Eisenberg of being a lesser version of Michael Cera. I take that back immediately. Jessie Eisenberg, in the role of Zuckerberg, is superb. Managing to be both hateful and sympathetic is a hard balancing act but the young star handles it with great aplomb. You feel for his plight while at the same time wanting to slap his face. A difficult role for any actor but Eisenberg does it well. Andrew Garfield (soon to be the new Spider-Man) plays it pitch perfect as Eduardo, the friend who becomes his worse enemy. Even Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker is very good, firing lines story after story at great speed, it's a winning role for the popster. The rest of the cast do well and even Brenda Song, who is so incredibly annoying on The Suite Life, proves she can actually act, as Eduardo's girlfriend.

Director Fincher does sterling work, never once making the film look fussy or trying to dazzle us with effects and flashiness. He has a tale to tell with a talent cast and so he lines up every frame beautifully while making it look effortless. The one scene he does throw in a trick or two, at the Henley Regatta, somehow fits perfectly in a dream-like world that the twins live in. Fincher doesn't need tricks though when he has one of the best scripts to hit the screen in years.

Aaron Sorkin, the writer of The West Wing, has managed to make every line sing. Crisp dialogue that you feel is like poetry. It's witty, it's engrossing, it's intriguing and if it doesn't walk away with best Adapted screenplay this year then the Academy should sack itself. Trust me, it is that good. Most times you wouldn't even notice the dialogue but there are so many classy lines in this film you cannot help but sit up and take note.

Never would I thought that a film about a website be this good. It's one of Fincher's finest works and should put him up there with some of the great directors, and Sorkin should be applauded for creating words that you could listen to forever.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone's sequel to his 1987 smash, was originally scheduled for release at the beginning of the year, and we would have looked at it for its satirical attack on the money system that has made almost every country in recession. However, after the announcement that Michael Douglas has throat cancer, and this could be his last film, the focus has most definitely shifted.

Jake is a high-flying whiz-kid banker who has a taste for making money from alternative energy. When the bank he works for goes under and the top man throws himself under a train, Jake wants retribution as well as someone else to take hold of his pet project. He then meets Gordon Gecco, newly released from prison for his insider trading antics, and starts taking his advice. Things get out of hand, especially as the woman Jake is in a relationship with just happens to be Gecco's daughter.

Stone covers fairly familiar ground as he did with the first film, except we live in very different times. In the 80s, greed was good and the yuppie was king. Here, greed has left the banking world in a mess as they fight between themselves to get power and control of operations. There's plenty of techno babble that sometimes leaves you confused but the same can be said about Wall Street. This time, Stone has thrown a battle of family in the middle of this film and that makes for a more interesting premise.

He also has made the bankers seem more like the Mafia, with their suited meetings that wouldn't look out of place in The Godfather. These moments work. The film does suffer from a storyline that breezes over you, and you leave thinking it was OK but not up there with the classic that the original has become. Mainly to blame, or not, is Shia LeBeouf. He is given the duty to carry the film, and he is, quite frankly, adequate. This could be how it was written, or it could be how he decided to play it but often than not he is acted off the screen by his fellow cast members.

Carey Mulligan, as Jake's girlfriend, just goes from strength to strength and in a role that usually isn't a focal point, she manages to make it so, doing it with ease. The comparisons with a young Audrey Hepburn are there too and it wouldn't surprise me that she doesn't get a nod at next year's Oscars. Josh Brolin, obviously trying to forget the disastrous Johan Hex, sinks his teeth into this role with aplomb as the baddie.

The film, though, belongs to Douglas. Winning the Oscar as Gecco for the original film, he commands the screen with every scene he appears in, and you cannot wait for his next appearance. In some shots, the similarities to his dad, Kirk, are amazing. He has brought Gordon Gecco full circle, and if this is to be his swan song, it couldn't be a more fitting way to bow out, playing the role he will always be remembered for.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Christmas Carol: Review

Robert Zemeckis has found the style of movie making that he likes. Combining animation created by using the actors providing the voices. The Polar Express and Beuwolf were his first two and now he's back with the same formula, this time having Charles Dickens' timeless tale as his source material.

You know the story. Miser and penny-pincher Scrooge gets visited by the ghost of his former partner, Marley, and told he will be visited by three more spirits who ill show him his life in the past, present and things to come, obviously shaking him up.

Positives first: Zemeckis has done the clever thing of keeping faithful to the book. He hasn't strayed too far or added anything unnecessary, and so you feel comfortable with the tale. The animation is extraordinary, and given the bonus of 3D, it has extra depth. Does it need the third dimension? I don't think so, I think you can still enjoy this in 2D, it just makes the details clearer and more defined.

Jim Carrey gets the opportunity to play Scrooge, and he does a very fine job, restraining himself and in some places, underplaying it, leaving the hysterics behind. The character of Scrooge did look like Albert Steptoe from Steptoe And Son. Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins also appear and give their talents to the film.

If there is any criticism, it is the accents from some of the other characters. Carrey provides the voice of The Ghost of Christmas Present, a giant, jolly, red-headed gentlemen, but alas, we have absolutely no idea where he was suppose to be coming from. Is he Scottish? Northern? Cockney? Australian??? I am sure that with so much acing talent from this country at Zemeckis' fingertip that he could have found an actor to take on that role and do one accent, and do it well.

The film has also been criticised about losing its heart, but I don't think so. Scrooge has to be an unlikeable character to make the ending work, and Carrey has done this, and while many may think it is over sentimental, then they don't fully understand the story properly. Dickens wanted a tale of greed and gluttony turned into redemption and the only way you can do this is by having something that touches, and Tiny Tim is that catalyst.

It zips through at a steady pace, and it never has any dull patches. I do question who this film is actually aimed at, as the very young may find some of the images quite scary, and I also question Disney's decision to release it so far away from Christmas. Is this because they wanted to get their 3D movie out of the way before James Cameron's much hyped Avatar comes out next month?

No matter. If you want to get into the Christmas feeling early, then head off for this enjoyable re-telling. It doesn't come close to Alastair Sim's 40s version, but it's not too bad.

The Men Who Stare At Goats: Review

When The Men Who Stare At Goats opened at this year's London Film Festival, it caused incredible excitement and positive buzz from the critics, but I get the feeling that it was the critics trying to follow the crowd and look like they are 'with it' with their peers, because, to be totally honest, this is actually a very lacklustre affair.

Ewen McGregor plays a small town reporter who interviews a man about his psychic powers. He is informed that there was a secret military outfit who enlisted soldiers with such powers, and there was one man in particular, who could kill goats just by staring at them. Well, McGregor's marriage breaks down and so he heads off to Iraq, where he happens to meet this powerful man, and a journey to Baghdad begins, with the full story being conveyed.

The premise is fascinating, and it is supposedly based on a true story, and it is the flashback moments, where we get to see how this platoon are formed by Vietnam vet and hippie Jeff Bridges. The trouble is, this is far too quirky for its own liking, and by being quirky, it has the most heavy-handed screenplay this year, leading to the dullest last half hour ever.

George Clooney, looking like he is ready to play Blakey in On The Buses, is fine, while nobody does hippie as well as Jeff Bridges, but they are let down with this laden dialogue and direction that lacks any pace. The trip to Bagdad, in which Clooney crashes into rocks on roads or landmines are funny yet the bits in between drag it down.

I also couldn't help but think that director Grant Heslov has spent far too much time watching Coen Brothers movies to get his inspiration, but he doesn't have the wit, style or surreal sense to make this close to one of their movies.

The narration by McGregor becomes increasingly annoying, and Kevin Spacey, as the rival psychic to Clooney, is wasted. So what we have here is a film that promises so much and delivers very little.

Oh, and please ignore the posters claiming that this is 'fast and funny'. it is, quite frankly, neither.

Michael Jackson's This Is it: Review

Never has a movie been so difficult to review, mainly because my mind is in so many places about it.

Michael Jackson was just weeks away from performing at London's O2 for a 50 date sell-out concert, then he was taken from this earth. This is the rehearsal footage for that very concert, showing the backstage build-up and performances of some of his biggest hits, and allowing us a insight into some of the spectacular film work that would be screened around the show.

That is it. No complicated storyline, no subtexts, just a straight forward record of what could have been. This is where the problem lies. The film is dedicated "For the fans", and I am absolutely sure that the fans will lap up every single inch of this movie. However, as a man who liked Jackson but was never obsessed about his music or dance moves, this is actually quite a dull experience. We are given a two hour movie with all of his biggest songs, Bad, Beat It, Thriller, Wanna be Startin' Something, they are all lined up and on parade, and each song has a short lead up to the actual performance. This is, though, a rehearsal,so we never actually are given the full potential of the performance itself.

Single numbers are cut from obviously several different rehearsal days, and Jackson is giving about 75% of the performance that he would have given. Occasionally he throws himself into the numbers and we can see the sparkle, but this is on rare moments. We aren't given a clue to the costumes of the effects that will enhance the songs, and so one by one each number is played with Jackson, sometimes doing odd dance moves (one brought unexpected giggles from various audience members I saw the film with) but it's as if we are left longing for what would obviously be a show to remember.

And that's the problem. We are given a half show, and so we crave for some insight into the man but there is very little of that either. There are times when we get a glimpse of Jackson as a human being. The scene on the cherry picker is a prime example of a man who did enjoy what he did, but more often than not, he comes across like a spoilt child. Complaining to the musical director about not getting the feel of the song, or, in a very bizarre instance, going into great detail about having a fist in the ear during one of his numbers, and director Kenny Ortega almost grovelling to Jackson.

For me the most interesting part of this documentary is the behind-the-scenes stuff, yet there is far too little of it, and so, as we bounce from one musical number to the next, it all becomes a tad too alike, and while watching, you can't help but wonder if this really is for the fans, or a cynical way of making more money out of a legend.

Monsters Vs Aliens: Review

Dreamworks have always been in the shadows of Pixar when it comes to CGI animation. In fact, most studios cannot really compete with the genius of the studio who are innovators of the art form. So instead of trying to compete, Dreamworks take a different route and try to produce entertaining pieces that are high on laughs. They succeeded with Shrek and Shrek 2 (not so much with Shrek The Third) and they have succeeded with this.

A young girl on the day of her wedding, is hit by a meteor, making her grow into a giant. She is whisked away by the government where she discovers that they have hidden a group of other aliens. When the earth comes under attack, it is up to this mix of bizarre creatures to save day.

There is plenty to enjoy here, with the talented voices helping create some nicely rounded characters. Reece Witherspoon is perfect as the girl, while Seth Rogan gets the biggest laughs as a jelly-like creature called Bob. TV comedian Stephen Colbert (he of The Colbert Report) has fun as the President, while Hugh Laurie, Keifer Sutherland and Rainn Wilson all give enough persoanlity to make this bag of misfits plenty of colour.

This is an affectionate parody of the 50s B-movie sci-fi films, and you can see the love for this kind of movie making in the colourful animations. So the storyline is very thin and the inclusion of 3-D doesn't really enhance it but it's fun and should keep the more undemanding audience happy. Compared to other CGI animation of late, there is a lot more care and attention to detail, but this is like the second feature, while we await the arrival of Pixar's new film Up.

Up: Review

There was a question asked a few weeks ago. Can you name a bad Pixar movie? Let's see if you can? Challenge your friends. I bet you can't name a one. There maybe ones you don't like as much as other, but since Toy Story, Pixar have been the most consistent film studio around. And their latest, Up, is right there with their best.

Carl Fredicksen is an old man with a dream: to travel to a far away land that he and his wife have talked about, and to follow in the footsteps of their hero, an explorer from their childhood who was sent away for inventing a creature. With his home in the middle of a modernisation site, and he accidentally injuring a man, Carl is forced to give up his beloved home, but he has always been a fighter, and by attaching thousands of balloons, he releases his home and his new adventure begins, along with an unexpected traveller, a young scout who happens to be at his door when the journey began.

Pixar love movies. You can see this within the first few minutes of this delightfully funny and surprisingly moving tale. A montage scene showing Carl's life, which last no longer than three minutes, managed to reduce me to tears. Film directors take note. That's how you show the path of time.

Once the explorers get to their destination, there are plenty of laughs for both young and old. The cute bird and the Labrador with a voice collar will keep the kids happy, while the gags will have the adults laughing like loons. I cannot look at a squirrel now without bursting into hysterics.

This is beautiful film making too. Every single scene is so rich in detail, helped massively by the 3-D, that it's like a pure work of art. I was always captivated by the old Disney animations, in the way they made the background every bit as important as the foreground, and the same can be said of this. So even if the storyline doesn't grab you (although it will), the background will keep your attention.

Edward Asner is perfect as the voice of Carl, giving him enough grumpy attitude to make him endearing, while Christopher Plummer as the voice of the villain (who looks uncannily like Kirk Douglas) captures the baddie without going too over-the-top.

If there is a more sweeter, touching, funny and life-affirming film this year, I will be very, very surprised. Miss this gem, and you will be missing one of the best films this a country mile!

Bustin' Down The Door: Review

I have never been a surfer. I don't know much about surfing, apart from movies like Big Wednesday and Point Break. I haven't been that interested in surfing. So sitting through a documentary about surfers didn't grab me. Yet, this turned out to be quite interesting.

In 1974, surfers were considered as drop-outs who didn't do anything but hang out at the beach, and hit the waves. This is, until a group of Australians and South Africans came to Hawaii and changed all that, wanting more than just the thrill of the ride, but wanting a career, and to have surfing recognised as a sport, and not just a waste of time.

This is simplistic documentary film making. Director Jeremy Gosch has got the men involved, now a lot older but maybe not wiser, to talk about that time in the 70s, and how the events affected not only the ideals of surfing, but their own personal growth.

The tales of how they dealt with their passions are well documented, sometimes funny, sometimes quite poignant, as they took on the fellow surfers, and how the Australians upset the locals in Hawaii and they basically had a death warrant on their heads.

As far as documentaries go, this isn't too bad. It's short and it does fly by, but these are just men telling their stories and with home movies to prove their points, it does keep the attention. Edward Norton gives a fairly minimal commentary, and it is left the the 'heroes' of the waves to be the stars.

If you are a fan of surfing, then this is one for you. You will lap up the excitements of the waves, the emotions of the information but for the general film going public, the subject matter may not be inviting enough.

The Hurt Locker: Review

War films can be very difficult creatures to handle. They can be either too political or too cliched. Kathryn Bigelow, the director of such classics as Point Break and Near Dark, has gone for the approach of telling a simple tale of the men who risk their lives in possibly one of the best movies this year.

Concentrating on an elite Army bomb squad during the Iraq War, we follow the everyday lives of three men, as they face untold dangers from snipers, the locals and, of course, explosives. Nearly arrived Sergeant James has been on tour in Afghanistan, and now joins the team, but his methods are both too macho and too dangerous for his two fellow officers, and yet he gets the job done, from discovering explosives in the street, in cars and on human beings. Yet James seems to relish in the danger, but could this affect his relationship with the other men?

Bigalow has done a very clever thing. She doesn't once mention anything about the political views of the war, and as to why the soldiers are there, she simply has set her film smack in the middle of a land torn, and doesn't once question the reasoning. These are men who have a job to do. She gives the film a more realistic viewpoint, as if you are in the heart of the action along with the characters, and she piles on the tension so much so it almost becomes unbearable.

The other clever thing she has done is not used well known names to play the leads. Jeremy Renner has done stuff in the past but you wouldn't know his name if you saw him. Looking like a rougher Daniel Craig, he gives an impressively smoldering performance, as does Anthony Mackie as his fellow Sergeant Sanborn. Brian Geraghty, as the nervous, slightly psychotic Spc Eldridge make up as very strong trio. Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse all make appearances, but never too long of distracting from the three leads.

If I was to make a criticism, its more of a personal one, as we are in the middle of the action constantly, the camera swings about all over the place, causing a reaction that made me move seats in order not to be sick, but this is a minor problem.

This is an impressive piece of cinema, and one that will stick in the mind long after it has finished. I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't mentioned in the same breath as Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket or Platoon as being one of the best war films. It certainly is an amazing piece and puts Kathryn Bigalow right back among the best action directors around. If you like your movies to be incredibly tense and nail-biting, then I would highly recommend this stunner. It also has one of the most moving yet perfectly pitched endings I have seen in a film for a very long time.

Funny People: Review

A word of warning to those who wish to see Funny People because it has great comic talent, from Judd Apatow, the writer/director of The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and it has the word Funny in the title. This ISN'T a comedy. What it is though is a sweet natured tale of how tragedy can be turned into something positive.

George Simmons is living the Hollywood life: a huge comedy star, he lives in a mansion, can have any woman he wants and is loved by everyone. Except his life is far from perfect. He is dying. Shocked by the news, George returns to his start in life, as a stand-up, which is where he meets Ira, a comedian just starting out, who shares a flat with a TV star and a fellow, funnier comic. George offers him a job of being his assistant and writer, and the two begin a strange and stranded relationship. Convinced that George should share his bad news with his loved ones and friends. This leads George to rekindle his relationship with his one love that he lost.

This film has loads to offer. There are some very funny moments, but the stand-up routines are in fact the weakest part of the film. The story, while touching in places, is stretched out to the limits, and this is another thing the film falls down on. At almost 2 and a half hours, it is way too long. The first half works nicely but it loses its way by the third act.

The performances are good too. Seth Rogen is fine as Ira, and Leslie Mann is perfectly sweet as the love interest. We finally get to see Eric Bana in a role that suits his persona, and Jonah Hill is given the best lines. The film, however, does belong to Adam Sandler, who gives a very restrained performance and its nice to see him playing straight. He makes much better viewing than the dumb comedies of the past (even if he does self mock with the films in this movie).

Apatow has made a very ambitious film here. He has taken a story of grief and tried to be as uplifting as possible, but he needs to have someone tell him to edit more. It does drag its feet by the end, even if it is quite uplifting.

A good film that just slightly outstays its welcome. Yes, it is funny, but you won't be holding your sides with laughter.

(500) Days Of Summer: Review

Those who know me will know that I have a dislike for the modern romantic comedy. Following too many cliches and a formula that was old before its time, there are only a handful that I would consider any good (Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally, The Truth About Cats And Dogs). Well add another one to the list. Although this is more an anti-romantic comedy.

The plot is as old as time. Tom writes greeting cards and yet dreams of being an architech. He meets Summer, who has become his boss' new assistant. He falls in love and they start a relationship. This, however, is not a conventional romance.

Told through jumping backwards and forwards in time, this is a cleverly written comedy that actually makes you laugh. A rare thing in this day and age. We follow the beginning, the break-up and the after mass as Tom, likeably performed by Joseph-Gordon Levitt, goes through every emotion that the male feels when falling in love and when being dumped. I guess this is another nice thing about this quirky tale. It isn't aimed solely at females, like most other rom-coms. As a male, you can fully understand what he is going through. Zooey Deschanel, who is always outstanding in everything she does, gives another delightful character with a hint of cruelty. The two leads light up the screen and you could be with them throughout the whole of their relationship and not be bored.

There is so much to like here. The surreal touches when looking back to the problems arising, to the hilarious panache of the musical number in Enchanted, when Tom dances to Hall & Oates 'You Make My Dreams Come True' through a park full of regular people who join in the dance.

Having gone through a Summer of utter dross, it is so nice to finally find a film that made me leave the cinema with a huge smile on my face, and with its very satisfying ending, this is the best male orientated rom-com since High Fidelity, and one of the freshest, coolest comedy you are going to see all year.

If you are looking for a delightful night out, then look no further.

Adventureland: Review

Adventureland is director Greg Mottola's follow-up to Superbad, but even though there are very similar themes, there are two very different movies, and if you are expecting the same level of humour that Superbad had, you maybe a little disappointed.

Jesse Eisenberg plays James, a young man just graduating from high school and has his summer all mapped out until his parents announce that they cannot help him financially and so is forced to get a summer job at a small town amusement park called Adventureland. There he meets Em, a cool girl who he slowly builds a relationship with. Does she feel the same? Or is there something she isn't saying? Will he ever find true happiness and love.

This is a really nice film. What I mean by that is that it is a sweet, well played love story, but be warned, those who are looking for the vulgar craziness of Superbad, it's not here. This is a more human story, a coming-of-age tale that, while very good natured, is a little slow.

The characters are well drawn out and some interesting supporting roles. Bill Hader, who played one of the cops in Superbad, gets to steal the movie with some of the more comic moments, while Ryan Reynolds pops up as the park's hunk and electrician. This leaves Jess Eisenberg and Twilight's Kristen Stewart to take control of the main story.

Eisenberg, almost unknown over in the UK, does his best to be Michael Cena, and he is a very likeable guy, but he comes across as too straight, too dull, while Stewart, who has become an overnight success after the teen vampire movie, is perfectly cool as Em, and you do genuinely care what happens to them. It's just a shame that it takes forever to get to the ending. Mottola obviously loves his characters and wants his audience to love them too, but he has forgotten about plot and pace, which is a pity, and i feel guilty for saying it, as it is a nice movie.

It does, however, make a change to see a love story that isn't too mushy and doesn't expect you to cry every three minutes, or follow the rules of the rom-com. Just don't go in expecting the laugh-a-minute comedy fest that the advertising promises.

Inglorious Basterds: Review

Quentin Tarantio has been batting about this movie idea for years. Was it worth the wait? You bet it was. Many may not agree with me, and I don't care, but this is definitely one of the best movies this year.

It's World War II, but not as we know it. As the subtitle suggests, this is a fairy tale. After escaping from the Nazi officer Landa, nicknamed 'The Jew Hunter', Shosanna has been living in Paris where she runs a cinema. For four years she has been building hatred in her heart and waiting for the right time to inflict revenge for the death of her family. After meeting another German officer, who begins to pester her, it turns out he is a national hero, and a film about his exploits is about to be premiered. The officer convinces the German high command to move the event to Shosanna's cinema.

News of this spreads and the chance to kill many of the top dogs of the German forces arises, so a British officer is sent to France to join forces with a renegade bunch called The Basterds, led by Southern Lt Aldo Raines and his band of Jewish soldiers, who enjoy nothing more than killing Nazis and scalping them.

And so we have the set up for quite possibly Tarantino's best film since Jackie Brown.

I have recently complained about the length of movies, particularly the blockbusters, but at two and a half hours, this flies. Tarantino has pushed aside some of the more flashier elements of his film making (as found in the Kill Bill movies) and gone for long, dialogue-led scenes in which we really get to understand the characters. Most of the film is in subtitles, which also surprises, as the characters switch from German, to French, to, hilariously, Italian. We know that Tarantino can write pretty decent dialogue, well here we get to appreciate his wordmanship.

It is violent, as you would expect, but the violence isn't as frequent as you would thought, even if it is quite graphic and squirmish when it does happen. This is a film that relies on performances and they all shine, particularly two stand-outs. Melanie Laurent, as Shosanna, is stunning. A woman who shows so much pain in her eyes, and hatred in her heart. The scene in which she is ordered to dinner, and she doesn't say much is beautifully handled. The star, however, is Christoph Waltz as Landa. A multi-layered performance that takes the part of a villain to a new level. He shows every nuance of the character, moving effortlessly from acting like a man just doing his job to being understanding to pure evil in a blink of an eye. He is also very funny, and if he doesn't get more work from this, then the world is missing out on a superb talent.

The film belongs to Tarantino. His obvious love of spaghetti westerns is given a proper springboard here. From the stunning opening scene, which comes right from the pages of A Fistful Of Dollars, to the use of music and the characters he has created, you feel like you are in Sergio Leone country. This is a far more mature, more restrained film maker than he was with Kill Bill, where every visual trick going was thrown at the screen. With most films being full of fast cuts and flashy editing, this is quite a leisurely affair, and it works in its favour. Better to take its time than rush the point, and you are given time to relish every single frame.

It is lyrical, it is brutal, it is violent and it is very, very funny. It may not be for everyone. For me, it is a triumph and as Pitt says at the end, a masterpiece.

Orphan: Review

Those who know me, know I have a slight disdain for modern horrors. They are usually clumsy and lack any real imagination, just as long as limbs and brains are thrown at the screen, the people will come. Which is why Orphan is such a refreshing change.

Young couple Kate and John long for a third child, but due to a still birth, they have to turn to adopting, and head off to an orphanage where John bonds with a quiet, reclusive little girl called Esther. Immediately she becomes the new member of the family, but there is something very strange. Only Kate starts to realise, but is it paranoia or something else.

I really don't want to give too much away because this is the strong point with this film. It starts with a flash of gore, which led me to believe that this was going to be another modern horror that played into the blood hungry fans. I was, however, pleasantly surprised, if you can be at horror, that this was much more than just buckets of guts.

A film, if it is made well, should move you emotionally. You should feel for the characters. You should be drawn into their worlds. That is exactly what happens here, thanks to a clever script, some terrific performances, especially from Vera Farmiga as the tormented mother, and excellent direction from Jaume Collet-Serra, who allows the characters to develop for the first hour, making the shocks and the twist work.

So it might not be the most original movie of the year, but it is far superior to some of the rubbish that is pulling in the punters at the moment, and if you want an adult, intelligent chiller, then you should rush to this little gem. If you thought Damien from The Omen was bad, you haven't met Esther yet. Damien was an angel compared to her.

G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra: Review

Hooray! Another over-the-top, loud (very loud) CGI filled pile of dross for the summer. As if we haven't had enough already. This time, the popular boy's toys GI Joe comes crashing to the big screen like some uninvited party guest, and with Stephen Sommers (he of The Mummy fame) at the helm, it's throw everything you have at the screen and see if it sticks. Most slides off and lands in a pile on the floor.

US Army officers Channing (I look like every other movie star wannabe) Tatum and Marlon (I'm the comic relief, and I use the word comic very loosely) Wayans have been assigned to deliver a new deadly weapon when it is almost stolen by a surprise ambush, led by dark haired Sienna Miller. But wait! The cavalry arrive in the form of an elite special ops platoon called the GI Joes. Naturally, Tatum and Wayans want to join, as they battle against the evil that is led by weapons genius Christopher Eccleson and his nasty but disposable men.

Thus, we have two hours of explosions, shooting, fighting and mass destruction on a level that even the Transformers would be proud of. So not to make it look like its another 'American forces, aren't we great' movie, they have enlisted a computer and surveillance expert with a dodgy Spanish accent and a tough Brit with the kind of Cockerny accent you would expect Americans to dream up if they wanted a football thug to appear in a movie. Admittedly, unlike Transformers 2, Sommers does realise that this is all too ridiculous for words and adds some humour into the proceedings, and yes, it's so over the top that you can't help but laugh at it. Yet he lets himself down by adding unnecessary flashbacks explaining how the characters got to where they are today, usually through violence, and the violence is, for a film aimed at kids, incredibly high and quite graphic.

The performances are on a level of phoned in to non existent. Dennis Quaid, as the leader of the GIs does his patriotic thing of looking mean and moody and 'we're doing this for the President', while Canning Tatum fits perfectly into the role of brain dead grunt with too much testosterone. Marlon Wayans comes across as a randy soldier who hasn't had a woman in years, and for all those teenage boys who need to up their totty count, instead of Megan Fox, we have Sienna Miller (with the strangest accent known to man) and Rachel Nichols dressed in an array of leather.

The two most curious performances, however, come from indie regular Joseph Gordon Levitt and Mr Eccleson. Levitt has been in some of the finest indie hits of recent years (Brick, anyone?) so why is he here doing this? The same question could be asked of former Doctor Who Eccleson. Did he leave that show for this?

In summing up, if you like your films loud with loads of explosions and fighting, then you will lap this tripe up. To me, it was like watching a video game but not having any control over what happens. In a summer full of poor movies, was I expecting too much that this could be good? Maybe I was. That's wishful thinking for you.

The Taking Of Pelham 123: Review

Take a classic 1975 thriller in which hi-jackers hold New York City to ransom by taking a subway train with passengers as hostages; give it a modern update; throw in two bankable stars and a director who has made a career of making hi-tech action thrillers, and what do you get? A dud.

Maybe that's unfair. It does have a few high points but Tony Scott's remake lacks any tension or suspense, because he thinks that to keep the attention of the audience, you have to hand the camera over to an over-excitable mouse who darts around the place and then get an MTV music video editor to cut the thing together. What you end up, is a flashy, somewhat nauseating film that gives you a migraine.

Denzel Washington, taking over from Walter Matthau, plays the everyman with a dark secret who becomes baddie John Travolta's pawn, as he is in the middle of the negotiations for the hostages and the 10 million dollars that Travolta wants for them. If there is anyone who can play nice guys, it's Washington, and he delivers his usual solid performance. Travolta, however, should have taken notes from original Pelham baddie Robert Shaw in how to play nasty. Shaw was cool, calm and quietly menacing. Travolta gives us another pantomime villain who screams, shouts and mugs at the camera, and it slightly upsets the balance of the film. John Turturro is the star of the film, underplaying everything and stealing the film right from under every one's noses. His is the most believable performance of the lot.

The other problem with the film is the gaping holes in the plot and some quite obviously stupid errors. For example, surely you would notice a laptop broadcasting on the floor of a train...especially when they are in darkness. Or are these the dumbest criminals in the world. Plus you should never lose your audience with a subplot about stocks and shares. Only a small percentage of the audience will have a clue what the techno babble about gold shares is about, so you lose the rest. Remember, that director Scott is aiming this film at an audience who only have very short attention spans, and then tries to be all clever. Make up your mind!

Scott last good movie, surprisingly, was a remake. Man Of Fire (with Washington as well) was a remake of a small Scott Glen thriller from the 80s. Proof that he can make decent remakes. This doesn't even get close to the original, and even makes the Matthau/Shaw film a far greater film.

Moon: Review

A crime has been committed right under our noses. The distributors of Moon are the criminals. They have released this fine, intelligent sci-fi thriller the same week as Harry Potter, and even the girl at the box office in the cinema I went to see it didn't know it was on. A real crime, because this is a film that deserves to be seen by a larger audience.

Sam Bell is alone on the moon, working for a corporation mining energy for earth. he has been there for three years and in two weeks time, he will be allowed to return home to his wife and baby. However, in a series of unexplained events, Sam soon discovers that he is not alone.

I'm not going to give away too much of the plot because this is all part of the fun of this small scaled movie, directed with aplomb by David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones. Sam Rockwell, who in my books has always been an interesting actor, gives his best performance as Sam, and as he is on screen almost all the way through, he manages the feat of keeping our attention throughout.

Kevin Spacey supplies the voice of company robot Gerty, and you can see the similarities to such movies as 2001 and Solaris, for this is a sci-fi film that doesn't deal with lasers and fights and big special effects, but of isolation and the madness that it brings.

So it may not be Transformers or Terminator Salvation, but that is a good, nay, great thing. It is a mature tale, an adult story that doesn't come across as being childish or lacking in ideas. It is brimming with them and it keeps the attention throughout. Jones has created a gentle, sometimes moving tale with plenty of grace and elegance, and it looks tremendous, very reminiscent of the sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s. As for Sam Rockwell? This is his masterpiece, with a performance that will stick in my memory for a long time.

So if you are looking for the perfect antidote to the big budget crapola that the major studios are throwing up at us week in week out at the moment, you can no do wrong than see this little gem of a film. In fact I urge you to see it.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince: Review

No matter what anyone says, like James Bond, Harry Potter has become almost critic proof. Even if it was the worse film in the world, it would still make a bucket load of money and we would still get the final part (in two parts to milk that money cow even more), but while this has been the most eagerly awaited Potter film of them all (as it was promised for Christmas but was held back due to the writer's strike from a while back) I actually felt this was the weakest film of the lot.

Not saying it wasn't entertaining, it just lacked the magic what we have come to expect from the young wizard's films. Literally lacking in magic.

The young wizards of Hogwarts are now fully grown teenagers all suffering from teenage pangs (although they haven't decided that hanging outside kebab shops yet). Love, however is in the air, and the three are all having to cope with the 'relationship' problems, while Harry still has to cope with the threat of the dark lord's arrival.

Let's get the good out of the way first. It is very funny. in fact, probably the funniest one of the series yet, as they jostle with their emotions. The acting is first class. The young leads have grown up in front of our very eyes, and have grown in their acting abilities, particularly Emma Watson. Remember her from the first film? Annoying little brat was she. Well now she has learnt subtle and plays everything just right. The other acting giants also get more screen time as well: Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith are no longer part of the scenery. The addition of Jim Broadbent also works well.

Having said that, the girl who plays Ron's love interest is so awful she looks completely out of place among the now experienced cast.

Now the downside. It is far too long. At 2 and a half hours, it is one of the longest and it really feels it. The reason? This is a more talky Potter. There are very little major set pieces, like in previous films, and this is what draws it back. you go to see a Harry Potter film to see magic and wizardry and spell and special effects. This just doesn't have enough, and the young audience in the cinema I was in weren't given enough to keep their attention. When the special effects do arrive, it looks like a reject from The Lord of The Rings, including loads of Gollum like creatures.

Some of the scenes seemed to feel unfinished, and end too abruptly. This could be because of bad editing, which is something that these usually smooth movies haven't had before.

The other let-down is the climax. Everyone and their mother knows what happens at the end (thanks critics and readers of the books) so it becomes more like an anti-climax.

This was always going to be a hard book to film, and I am sure that it will end over the next two years with a massive bang. I know that the fans will love it no matter what. I am a fan, and yes it was good but it could have been a whole lot better.

The Proposal: Review

Wes Craven, during his vastly overrated 'Scream', gave us a list of cliches that you would find in an horror movie. Someone now needs to make a Scream-type film in which they list the cliches of the romantic comedy. If that is not possible, then just go and see this pile of tripe and you will get them all. Every single one of them.

Sandra Bullock plays a cold-hearted publishing editor who is threatened with deportation back to Canada, that she comes up with a plan: to have a business deal with her assistant, Ryan Reynolds, in which they are to marry and he would get a promotion, in order to keep her in her job and in new York. Of course Immigration is suspicious of the forth-coming wedding but allows the couple to fly off to Alaska, where Reynolds family live, for his Gran's 90th birthday. The pair, of course, hate each other, but I don't have to tell you what happens, you probably already know.

If ever there was a film that ticked every box when he comes to formulas, this does, except's not that funny. Sure there are the 'embarrassing' set pieces (the pair fall on each other naked blah blah blah) but this just isn't good enough, especially when there are plenty of romantic comedies that have done this sort of thing so much better.

Before I go on, I do like some rom-coms. When Harry Met Sally is a classic, and The Truth About Cats And Dogs is an underrated masterpiece, but this just smacks of cynical film making, with so many questions that are left unanswered. For example, if the Immigration people were so concerned that fraud was being committed, would they honestly allow them to go off for three days to 'learn' about each other? I mean, really.

Bullock and Reynolds are appealing leads, but that is far from enough to keep the film alive. We also have that other stable of rom-coms, the slightly embarrassing elderly, played by Betty White.

This is shallow, unimaginative stuff, and we will keep getting crap like this delivered to our screens time and time again until someone stands up and says 'This has been done before. We should stop going to these films.' Unfortunately, I can't see this ever happening.

Bruno: Review

Sacha Baron Cohen is back, and be prepared to be shocked, offended, surprised and to cry with laughter, but maybe not as much as Borat.

Borat was a huge hit a few years ago and what made that film work, was that Cohen's creation was an innocent. A man who didn't understand the cultures or values of a country so far removed from his own. Bruno, however, is very knowing, and this is where the film slightly falls down.

Borat could get away with some of the comments by his look, the crumpled suit made him look fairly normal. Bruno comes on as a flamboyant, over-the-top lover of latex and you wonder if the people he meets and talks to really can't see that it's a joke.

Don't let that get in the way of the joke. Bruno is very, very funny, to the point of painful. There are moments when you will be fighting for breath, and these moments come at the expense of others. At its best, the scenes where Bruno is interviewing parents to use their children for a photo shoot, for example, will leave you shocked at the levels in which some people will push their children for fame; at its worse, like the scene in which Bruno tries to seduce an elderly senator, will leave you tutting at the screen, as the joke maybe went too far.

This is the difference between Borat and Bruno. Borat knew when to stop. Bruno doesn't, and works in fits and starts. The level of vulgarity is pushed through the roof, and sometimes this just disgusts, where the best parts come later in the film, when Bruno decides the only way to become famous is to be straight. The scenes with the hunters are hilarious, as the breakdown in communications under the stars speaks volumes more about the machoness of men.

The film is definitely more adult than Borat, and doesn't leave much to the imagination. The scene where Bruno imagines a graphic sexual act with a dead friend in front of a spiritualist is uncomfortable to the max, and where the relationship between Borat and his manager worked to move the film along, the relationship between Bruno and his assistant's assistant slows it down.

Cohen has managed to do it again, but it's not a consistent as Borat, and you do begin to wonder if Cohen should now stop and let this style of mockumentary alone.

Public Enemies: Review

Someone once said to me recently that I don't seem to like any movie that I see. This is not true, and I don't go to see these films with the intention of hating them (although hate can be a very strong word...let's say dislike). For example, I went in to see Public Enemies really wanting to like it. The press have been raving over it (particularly Empire magazine) and it has enough prestige for it not to fail. Alas, it does...and quite badly.

This is the last days of America's most wanted criminal of the 30s, John Dillinger. A bank robber who had managed to avoid the law because of the police having no powers from state to state. J. Edgar Hoover wants more power and he enlists top cop Christian Bale to track him down.

There is so much wrong with this movie that it is hard to know where to start, and the thing is, all the intentions are great. Johnny Depp is, without a doubt, one of the most watchable actors around, and we get to spend a lot of time with him. He looks cool. Very cool. With his shades and nice suits, he wouldn't look out of place in Mann's other creation, Miami Vice. That, however, is all Depp is allowed to cool. Hardly pushing his acting ability. Christian Bale, who grunted and frowned through Terminator Salvation, gives possibly the least inspiring performance of his career, and seems bored with the whole thing. The two biggest crimes are the woeful wasting of Marion Cotillard, the Oscar winner from La Vie En Rose, who is given nothing at all to do until the final scene; and the supporting cast of incredibly fine actors and actresses who pass us by so quickly that I was surprised to see their names in the credits. Stephen Dorff, for example, is given nothing to make him stand out from the extras.

The real trouble is the script. There is no character development, no relationships formed and many questionable acts which makes you wonder if these people were really for real (and they were). Scenes which could have been really interesting are passed over for more gun-play (and the gun-play is really loud). the look of the film, like all Mann movies, is impressive and the set-pieces are well executed, but that's all they are; one set-piece after another, and no actual substance.

At 2 hours 20 minutes, it feels far longer. The second act drags on without anything actually happening and I spent my time looking at my watch and struggling to stay awake.

If there was to be an award for the most disappointing movie of the year, then i am afraid this would win. I say that, with a very heavy heart indeed.

Ice Age 3: Rise Of The Dinosaurs: Review

The boys are back for a third outing of the CGI animation adventures of a mammoth, a saber tooth tiger and a sloth that started all those years ago with them finding a baby and trying to return it to its family. The family connection comes around once again as Manny and Ellie are expecting their first child, and Sid wants to be a mother too, but his discovery of three eggs in a frozen cavern starts a brand new adventure, in which dinosaurs live under their frozen wilderness.

The trouble with this third outing is that it neither improves or hinders the previous films. Shrek The Third was a disappointment, because it tried to be different from the other films. This doesn't, and gives you what you've already experienced before. This slightly drags the film down, as there doesn't seem to be any character development.

We do get two new characters: Buck, a weasel who is the guide for the underground world, who tells of the perils ahead and of a white dinosaur. Voiced by Simon Pegg, he gets some of the best lines. Also introduced is a female equivalent to Scratch, the acorn obsessed squirrel, and like the other films, his scenes are the most inventive and most enjoyable, with definite nods to Ted Avery and Loony Tunes.

The rest of the film is littered with lines that adults will snigger at, while the kids will enjoy the slapstick, but given the added 3D, it isn't used to the best effect, and you might as well save your extra money and see the flat version, as the 3D does nothing to enhance your experience.

On the whole, an entertaining, funny film but is instantly forgettable once you leave the cinema.

Sunshine Cleaning: Review

In the heat of the Summer blockbusters comes a small-scale movie that doesn't rely on explosions, brain-numbing scripts or Megan Fox running in slow motion, but one with quality stamped all over it, and this is such a film.

Amy Adams plays a single mother down on her luck. She is having an affair with a cop, doesn't like her life and her son needs to go to private school, but she has no money. She is given the idea of starting up a cleaning service with her lacklustre sister (Emily Blunt), but with a difference: cleaning up after bloody deaths.

If I was to be critical, the script is the weakest thing about this independent drama. It doesn't always stay on track and some of the ideas are forced upon its audience, but that's only a small criticism, because, to be honest, you won't worry too much about it when you have two of the screens most exciting actresses together.

Amy Adams has proved time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with, and she does it again, with a heart-felt, completely believable performance. Every inch of pain comes across on the screen. She doesn't just command the film, she rules it with grace and emotional depth.

Emily Blunt, playing her sister, gives as good as she gets, and when the pair are together, it is just a masterclass of acting. She gets some of the better scenes and yet never takes the character over the top, delivering a pitch perfect character.

Throw into the mix Alan Arkin as their father and you are witnessing acting gold.

So it might not be perfect in all departments, and it has independent film making written all over it, but it's a better hour and a half than any Transforming robots.

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Review

Could someone give Michael Bay a dictionary and show him what the word 'subtle' means? I'm not sure he knows, as this 'in-your-face' sequel to the 2007 sequel proves.

Those pesky Deceptacons are back and they still want to rule the Earth, this time by using a device that blocks out the sun, but the Autobots aren't going to let that happen, and neither is Sam (Shia LaBeouf) who has symbols flashing in his mind after touching a sliver of the box from the original film.

Really, does it matter what the story is? This is a long (very long) explosion where anything and everything blows up. We do get moments of silence but they are very few and far between. Instead we get houses, bridges, even pyramids being destroyed by the giant robots or the army. The final 45 minutes are the worse, as it is one long battle scene that goes on and on and on.

The humans seem to be there because they have to be. LaBeouf returns as geek Sam, with a constant worried look on his face (apart from the scene in college where he goes nuts). Megan Fox, voted one of the most beautiful women in the world, also returns and only seems to be there for the teenage boys to dribble over. There she is in shorts straddling a motorbike. Now she is leather all-in-one, and here she is running away from explosions wearing a top with very little support. In the 30s this would have been considered soft porn. Only John Turturro comes out with any real dignity but even then it is little.

The trouble is that Michael Bay throws everything at the screen and just hopes it will stick. The dialogue is written and spoken like a sound bit for the trailer, and I mean every single line, and yes the CGIs are amazing but its all directed with such franticness that you can't really work out what is actually happening. This is accompanied by the soundtrack being full blast, so you shudder in your seat at every explosion.

The film will be a hit because teenage boys, fan boys and those who are clinging onto their childhood will rush out to see it, but like Terminator: Salvation a few weeks ago, this is truly empty-headed stuff and without any heart, it is completely soulless. Plus it has given me one hell of a headache.

Spartacus: Review

Good old Universal. For this summer they are re-screening five of their classic movies in digital on the big screen, where they truly belong. The first one being Stanley Kubrick's classic gladiator movie starring Kirk Douglas as the title character, a slave who is taken to gladiator school, where he leads a revolt and forms his own army, crossing through Italy and fighting against the Roman Army.

At over 3 hours, it is a long haul, but the epic scenes of thousands of extras, the carefully staged battle scenes and the enormous sets just make the mouth water, as every detail is no longer squashed onto a tiny screen in a living, and where the thunderous roar of the sound echo around the darken movie house.

I have seen this countless times, with almost regular screenings on Bank Holidays and, of course, as part of my DVD collection, but you never really get to see a film unless it is up there on the huge white screen. I got to see things that I never saw before, and even managed to see things that were unintentionally amusing. Particularly the restored scene between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis. It's incredible how you see a film truly for the first time when it is on the screen. the whole conversation about liking oysters and snails had pass me by when on DVD, but here it is amplified ten fold.

The performances also show their weaknesses. Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor of our time, looks like he is hamming it up to the hills, and Jean Simmons just comes across as annoyingly wet, leaving veterans Charles Laughton to be more subtle and Peter Ustinov to supply a more comic approach. Tony Curtis' Brooklyn accent seems very out of place but he is fine, but it is Kirk Douglas who really shines. His performance is electric, particularly the infamous 'I'm Spartacus!' scene, where you can almost feel the powerful warmth and love and respect that this man feels. Touching is an understatement.

Kubrick's film is a masterpiece. It hasn't lost any of its charm, wonderment or visual power. It's also a joy to experience such greatness where it belongs.

Over the next few months, there are more Universal classics being re-issued for one day screenings (The Blues Brothers, The Thing, Animal house and Scarface). I for one, will be there.