Monthly Archives: May 2014

Who’d have thought there would be a scene where people get trapped on a bridge as Godzilla approaches?

Most of the reviews I had seen before watching this said it was average to good. It’s not – it’s crap. For some reason having a respectable director and decent actors seems to have made critics ignore the fact that: 1) The actors are just place-holders and pretty much any actor could have done the same job. 2) The film is terrible, has a stupid story and is criminally boring in places, and 3) Millions of dollars of special effects budget has seemingly meant that they are able to make Godzilla and the two bad monsters look exactly like 3 men in rubber suits – without actually having to buy rubber suits. This is, as it turns out, the film’s only real achievement.

I found it difficult to sit through the first half-hour without squirming in embarrassment at the story. The director has taken a serious approach here and tries to make you care about the main characters but this just doesn’t work when there is such a ridiculous story in the first place. There were some unintentionally amusing moments however such as the Japanese professor who keeps repeating “It’s Godzilla, I think he’s an alpha-predator come to keep nature in balance”. And pretty much any moment is funny where they have to seriously explain the existence of either 1) Godzilla or 2) The Mutos (the bad monsters).

I also struggled with boredom in the build up to the real action starting (when you finally get to see Godzilla confront the Mutos). However when this does happen and you see Godzilla close up, be prepared for disappointment. He’s not very impressive at all and for good reason has already been dismissed as ‘Fatzilla’ in Japan. He has a new cuddly look, and clearly sports some cellulite (or rubber-suit folds) around the hips.

The film is not all bad however, there are some good action sequences and the tension is cranked up as Lieutenant Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and a special forces squad rush to defuse a nuclear warhead. This section also starts with an impressive halo-jumping sequence from a plane. However to have to sit through 1 hour 10 minutes of dullness to find 20 minutes of good action is just not worthwhile.

Those ‘good’ reviews will look more ridiculous than this film in 20 years time. I would say from memory that this is actually worse than the last Godzilla film. Cloverfield was certainly much better, and at least most of that was a surprise at the time. This is just a predictable, below average, dull standard monster flick. It attempts to be serious and involve the audience emotionally but fails. 4/10

The Black Hole is quite frightening for a Disney film.

This was my favourite film when I was a child and it gave me nightmares too – specifically the part where the evil red robot Maximilian uses his rotating blade weapon to cut into a scientist’s chest. Back then Maximilian seemed sinister and scary but when you watch it now, it looks like it would be possible to fight him off with a well-positioned broom handle. It’s surprising this is a Disney film because it’s very dark and bleak at times. There is no hope for the once human but now zombified crew on the Cygnus and at the end of the film there isn’t a great outcome for the protagonists either. So it’s interesting then…

Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster) of the Palomino, a research ship and his crew discover a huge black hole, and amazingly there appears to be a man-made space ship (The Cygnus) in a stationary orbit near it. The ship is commanded by Dr Hans Reinhardt who has been missing since a mission 20 years ago. Dr Reinhardt initially seems a friendly and benevolent host but soon the crew of the Palomino find themselves making shocking discovery after shocking discovery and it’s not long before they wonder if they will leave the Cygnus alive.

Interesting this may be, but it’s not Alien, it’s not scary at all for adults, and it’s a little predictable especially since this there have been numerous films before and since that follow a similar plot – that of a benevolent host turned malevolent. The special effects have dated but they aren’t bad at all and after the first 20 minutes you’ll find your imagination easily fills in the gaps, and then you can sit back and enjoy the story.

One of my favourite things about this film when I was a kid was the robots – Vincent and Bob. Back then Vincent seemed very cool, and while not exactly cool anymore, he at least has a quirky personailty. He constantly quotes from famous thinkers and philosophers which almost annoys the crew as much as it entertains them. He’s also a sharp shooter with his laser gun, and his willingless to face off against the much larger Maximilian shows he has guts.

Sadly it all feels a little rigid (acting included) and staid now, and if you’re coming to it new without the nostalgia there’s not really enough intrigue or excitement to hold your adult attention. For a much younger audience though it would still be an exciting adventure, and who knows? maybe even a little scary. Just don’t have nightmares. 6/10

The men of Gondor led by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) ride forwards to confront Sauron in Mordor.

Making film versions of each of the books was always going to be a difficult task. Overall Peter Jackson hasn’t done badly but there are some shortcomings. His films manage to capture most of the dark of the original stories – but little of the light and the good times (there is no Tom Bombadil for example). However having seen the rather  too long opening tea-party scene in The Hobbit maybe that’s not a bad thing.

It had been a long time now since I watched The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) so I thought it overdue that I watch the two sequels.

The Two Towers (2002) starts inauspiciously with Aragorn, Gimli (the dwarf) and Legolas (the elf) on a race against time to save Merry and Pippin from the Orcs, who have captured them. There’s a lot of pursuing in this section but not much dialogue or action.

The story only really gets underway properly in the build up to the show-piece battle – The Battle of Helmsdeep. At the same time, the other main story-thread, that of Frodo and Sam continues as they push onward towards Mordor. The ring must be destroyed but every day it’s influence over Frodo is growing stronger and he is getting weaker. Then there’s Gollum of course who offers to show the hobbits the way but who secretly plots to get his ‘precious’ back for himself.

Overall its a good film, although a little over-earnest at times and the acting can be hammy too. Elijah Wood who plays Frodo is a notable culprit and there’s a section (after he has been captured by Faramir) where you see his face continually react to the situation and lets just say it reminded me of school drama class. “Do your shocked face, now do your surprised face, now do your downcast look”. It was exactly like that. I was not over impressed with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) either. I remember reading an interview saying he read the books in a week before they started shooting and maybe it shows a little in him not always taking or understanding things as seriously as he might. He’s not bad at all but the expressions on his face and eyes were not always convincing for me. Ian Mackellen as Gandalf is a standout in both films, getting seriousness, weight and humour into his role. (Interesting fact – actually 5 people play Gandalf, although he does all the speaking) and perhaps surprisingly Orlando Bloom is very good as Legolas. In almost every other film I have seen him in since – I haven’t been impressed but here the slight woodeness in his acting (Sorry Orlando) works to his advantage. Being an elf he is meant to seem different and to have an otherworldly quality to him, and that he does. He also looks the part, ‘pretty’ with fine features and long blonde hair.

The Return of the King (2003) is overall a better film than The Two Towers.  It has more spectacle, an even bigger battle – this time in Gondor against Sauron’s huge invading army and since it ends the trilogy, it’s also more satisfying. As in the other films, and I know it is quite close to the books in this respect, but Sam and Frodo’s relationship is a little over-the-top times to the point where you almost expect one of Sam’s children at the end of the film to be Frodo’s. Also worth pointing out is that this is one of the few films where once evil has been defeated, it actually carries on for quite a while afterwards to tell the rest of the tale. I quite liked this and although it’s true to the books you can see why most films don’t do this. As Frodo says “How do you pick up the threads of your old life after such an adventure?”. Everything is now a bit of an anti-climax, and the bland smiles as Gandalf and the elfs say goodbye to the hobbits say it all. In times with no evil, there are no interesting stories worth telling.

As a trilogy there is a lot to cram in, and some events are missed out or only given lip-service to but this is to be expected. As I mentioned before it could do with a little more lightness as well as all the darkness. Lord of The Rings has always been as much about shades of grey as well as much as contrasting good and evil. The quality of the acting is up and down but overall Peter Jackson has done a good job. There are impressive special effects too especially in the final film. Scores? The Two Towers 6/10 and The Return of the King 7/10.

Franck (Vincent Cassel) leader of the criminal gang wonders why everything has suddenly gone black.

Trance is an interesting movie and is often more cinematic drug than film. It can also be at times an indecipherable mess, often resembling more a fast-cut music video where violence, action and reality-switches come thick and fast.

Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer who needs to locate a £27 million painting (that’s 45 million US dollars) which he hid during a robbery at the auction house. He received a hard blow to the head during the robbery and he can’t remember where he put it. The criminal gang want the painting and are threatening him with extreme violence. A hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) is brought in to help him recover his lost memory. The trouble is – if he locates the painting he will no longer be of any use to the gang, and he is sure they will kill him. Also, why is he becoming obsessed with the beautiful hypnotherapist? And why does she seem strangely familiar to him?

It’s an interesting set up and makes for an intriguing film, however it never really fulfils it’s intelligent initial promise. Eventually proving more visceral and exciting than thought provoking. Trance music (appropriately) is pumped into your brain as well as violence, and the story is pumped inside along with it.

You do of course expect a twist but the director keeps you guessing as to exactly what that twist might be. Since Simon is frequently under hypnosis, you never know for sure if what is happening is really happening or if he is in a trance. Its a trick that’s been done before many times before but the way it’s done here does seem fresh and new.

I would have liked to have seen this on release. It’s perfect cinema-fodder and would have made for a semi-dumb but enjoyable hour and half of escapist viewing. It has satisfying pay offs, good acting (James McAvoy is surprising good here, switching between weak and ineffectual and strong and confident as the role demands), a fast story with multiple layers which you may not fully be able to process at the time but which you can think about later. On the negative side it’s frequently ridiculous with the concluding section straying a little too far into the unbelievable. Fast, thrilling, unbelievable but certainly not boring.  6/10