Eve (Amber Clayton) is about to find out there’s something even more frightening and much closer to her than the soldiers that have been sent to kill her.

After an ‘incident’ at a top secret Australian government research facility. 3 special forces teams are sent in and given orders to kill the human research subjects there.

Why is it called Crawlspace? Well because there’s not much wriggle-room in the air ducts (where the protagonists seem to find themselves a lot of the time) and even less when someone else has access to your mind and thoughts. Just where do you go to hide then?

This is the real horror in Crawlspace and it would be an intriguing idea to explore if it wasn’t buried amongst a huge amount of cliche, events and characters you’ll already have seen in so many previous films. You’ll notice the motion-detectors from Alien, and the same squad make-up as in Aliens and in many films since : tough badass female, crazy male, sensible captain. Then there’s the lone female with special powers who doesn’t know how powerful she is yet – see Resident Evil 1, Fifth Element, etc. There’s even an English villan – I won’t list films here because in 50% of films we get cast as the villan.  In fact I will need serious help if I ever to defend myself in a foreign court – After all how can I be English and not be evil?

So yes CrawlSpace is cliched, derivative, and predictable. There are also times however when it’s inventive, fresh and unexpected. Unfortunately this is only about 10% of the time. This means that although it’s watchable and you’ll want to see what happens next, it’s not a particularly rewarding experience. You’ve mostly seen it all before. I wish they had taken the central concept of thought and memory control and put it into a completely fresh setting, got rid of the soldiers and generated some real horror in an environment we could all relate to. As it is, for a horror film. Crawlspace is not very scary. It gets an average 5/10

“Listen Hanks! We liked you in Toy Story but now you are pushing your luck!!”

I don’t like hostage dramas in general (predictable and samey), so I wasn’t very keen to watch this: a film about a cargo vessel being boarded by Somali pirates. There was a lot written at the time about how this was based on a true story and it was impossible to miss the obvious fact that Captain Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) had survived the experience. So already you have a tension-reducer right there. Not that they would kill off Tom Hanks anyway – a quick search on the internet reveals the number of films Tom Hanks’ character has been killed in as precisely 2. (and no Philadelphia doesn’t count)

Fortunately, not only is Hanks very good in the role as the practical and brave captain but the scope is admirably broad with just as much time paid to the backstory and motivations of the Somali pirates as to those of Phillips. The captain of the Somali pirates Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) also impresses and won a much deserved BAFTA for his role.

This being said you still know that Phillips survives so even during particularly tense moments – for example where Phillips is alone with the increasingly hot-headed and desperate pirates in a small lifeboat – the tension is not as intense as it could have been. The only real question is ‘when’ he will be rescued. The ‘how’ being answered as soon as the Navy Seals train their sniper rifles on the boat.

Hopefully apart from being a good movie this will do a service to merchant shipping as a whole. It’s almost unbelievable how vulnerable large cargo vessels like the one in this film can be. You wonder at the lack of even a single armed guard on board. In fact in this case even a well placed crew member could have unhooked the boarding ladder and saved a whole lot of expense and trouble.

Over-rated upon release but definitely one of the better hostage dramas you will see. 6/10

There are some very talented prospective students and Portia (Tina Fey) has to stretch the truth to get her son Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) accepted into Harvard.

This is a slightly above-average romantic comedy starring Tina Fey as admissions officer Portia Nathan at Harvard. It’s fairly standard stuff but at least the setting is new. Portia finds herself put in an difficult position when she is told that one of the pupils she is  being asked to assess is actually the son who she gave up for adoption. Paul Rudd plays John Pressman (Fey’s soon-to-be-love interest). He is the headmaster of the the slightly unorthodox Quest school at which her son Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is a pupil.

On the romantic side there is some genuine warmth between Fey and Rudd but it never really goes much beyond that. There’s certainly nothing remotely tear-inducing. Comedy then seems to be the priority and while Fey is a good comic actor there’s nothing in the script that’s going to make you laugh out loud. So smiles rather than laughs then.

The supporting cast includes Mark (Michael Sheen) Portia’s academic long term boyfriend who likes to call her ‘good girl’ while patting her on the head – he basically treats her like a cute dog. Nelson (Travaris Spears) is John’s precocious adopted African son he also looks remarkably like a young Don Cheadle. Then there’s Susannah (Lily Tomlin) who is Portia’s bossy mother, and also Corinne (Gloria Reuben), her bitchy rival at the university.

It’s an interesting setting with interesting characters, but it’s not funny enough for a comedy and not romantic enough for a romantic comedy.
 
6/10

A pre-horror Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) enjoy a Bigfoot Burger in Willow Creek.

A found-footage film that follows a young couple’s attempt to make a film about Bigfoot and the famous Patterson-Gimlin 1967 film. (looks very fake but experts have since struggled to replicate the gait of the ‘creature’ on the film). The initial setup is told quite well, the highlight being the couple mocking a mural in the nearby town that shows Bigfoot helping the townsfolk in various tasks and also sitting with his head in his hands looking depressed – is it any wonder after all that slave labour?

The woman Kelly (Alexie Gilmore ) I thought was pretty much perfect but Jim (Bryce Johnson) was a bit too bland to be worth watching for more than half-an-hour. Maybe though that’s the idea – a perfectly nice and inoffensive couple getting terrorised in the Californian woods is more frightening that a couple you don’t like and can’t empathise with.

Disappointingly after all the set up – nothing out of the ordinary happens for at least an hour into the film. There’s the standard frightening noises – cue unending shots of the couple in the tent looking scared. Eventually at the end of the film there’s 5 minutes when something does happen. But it’s not frightening at all and you don’t actually see anything. Ok maybe I blinked at the wrong time but I never saw a Bigfoot. In fact all I saw was a distressed looking topless woman. When you have no special effects budget she’s probably much easier to conjure up than a 300 pound 7 foot ape man.

I would now like to see a found-footage horror film where absolutely nothing scary happens at all. That’s certainly a  twist the audience won’t be expecting. Willow Creek has already made bold steps in that direction.

2/10

Guess who the star draw is? New to this instalment is Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) on the far left.

The X-Men films are strange, you have these mutants with amazing powers but they don’t seem to be able to do a lot with them most of the time. Take Professor X (Patrick Stewart) – according to this instalment able to kill any (non-helmeted) mutant on the planet just with the power of his mind. You wouldn’t know it normally. Storm (Halle Berry) can fly/hover above the ground but seems unable to use this power to save herself (or anyone else) when in a crashing plane. Cyclops (James Marsden), might as well just be a man with a gun because that’s mostly all he uses his eye beams for – shooting the odd person. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) – incredibly powerful when the plot requires it but most of the time she uses her telekinetic powers in a very limited way.

All this neatly sums up most of the early X-Men films – interesting but unspectacular. (compare one of the X-Men films to The Avengers for example). The movies do have other strengths however and I will get to those later.

For now back to the story: William Stryker (Brian Cox) has captured  Professor X and is planning to to trick him into using his aforementioned lethal mind power to kill all the mutants on the planet. This is as much a concern for the X-Men’s arch-enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) as it for the X-Men so the one time enemies become allies as they team up to combat this deadly threat.

This is much better than the first X-Men film. It has a more gripping plot and is generally better executed. There’s still the problem that the X-men have to spend as much time saving the (mutant) children as they do battling the bad guys. Although even without the children there is always a reason why they are never to able to fully open up with their powers – some restriction or obstacle that’s stopping them. In a way though this what makes the series clever. It’s all about, getting the right X-Men into the right place so they can then use their combined powers to work around these restrictions. When everything does work it’s like a big satisfying puzzle, when the pieces finally click together to produce a solution.

I find most of the early X-Men films a bit lightweight, lacking in impact – and this is no exception but it’s intelligent (for the superhero genre) especially so with it’s layered commentary on attitudes and discrimination toward minority people and groups. More importantly though it has good action sequences.

6/10

Pull up to my bumper baby. Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and Jon (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) get close on the dancefloor.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is nicknamed Don Jon by his friends because he never fails to pull on a night out. He’ll usually get the 8/10 or 9/10 girl. However the sex is never as good as the porn he’s addicted to on his computer. Like he says: “a girl that hot doesn’t need to give a proper blowjob”. They all want to do missionary and look him in the eyes when they orgasm but all he wants to do is “lose himself” while he takes them from behind.

Things start to change for Don when he meets his dream 10/10 girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). The “Perfect tits and ass” but she won’t give him what he wants straight away and he’s made to work for it. He has to meet her friends, family and even enrols on an evening class – just because she wants him to. However it’s not long until he’s back on his computer searching for “gym sex” and “pov bj” videos. It seems it will take more than Barbara to change things for Don…

This is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directing debut and it’s an impressive one. It’s uncompromising and neither Don or Barbara are particularly likeable. Don is self-centred and doesn’t care much about his friends, job, church or family, seeing them all as a means to an end rather than as something to invest time and emotion in. He’s a compelling character though and the film is funny too as you watch Don struggle to adapt. When he’s given a baby to hold, he holds it straight-out at arms length and looks to Barbara and says “Am I doing ok?”.

Both Levitt and Johansson pull off impressive transformations to become their characters although there are times when both veer dangerously close to caricature. The sex between the main characters is filmed in a slightly conservative way, which jarrs a bit considering the amount of porn shown. It could be argued that this is on purpose to contrast between the fantasy and the reality,  but it seems more likely to do with the slightly conservative nature of it’s stars. Pretty good overall though. Certainly worth watching.

7/10

Yes they look innocent but wait until they do the ‘internal bleeding’ dance by jumping up and down on the dying bodies of their enemies.

An strange mixture of fairytale, realism, innocence and violence. This fantasy-drama tells the story of teenagers Violet (Alexia Kepel) and Daisy (Sairose Ronan) who work together for their boss as contract killers number 8 and 9 respectively. The lower the number the more people they have killed.

However their next job is an unusual one, they need the payment to be able to buy the new Barbie Sunday dresses (every girl wants one apparently) but the man they have been sent to kill (James Gandolfini) seems to want to be killed. It confuses them and they want to find out why.  Even more confusing he’s nice to them and bakes them cookies.

There are worse complications: killers from a rival crew have also been sent to kill him and will be arriving soon, and ominously the lethal killer No.1 is lurking nearby to make sure they get the job done.

An enjoyable film, well acted and different enough from the norm to be interesting and the naivety of the girls often sets up some unexpected events. I did feel there could have been a bit more to it though. There’s a lot of set-up and then it just ends. It also seems to be aching to tell you something more about Violet’s previous partner Rose, but never actually does, leaving you to guess. Having said that each of the main protagonists discovers something about themselves that they didn’t know before, and has changed in some way by the time the films ends.

6/10

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