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A rare moment showing Optimus Prime actually winning a fight against the human-made Galvatron. It doesn’t last for long…

First of all this is the worst Transformers film I have seen, and given the low standards of the other 3 films, that means it’s pretty bad. There’s no Shia LaBeouf this time, Megan Fox was of course booted out long ago after making disparaging comments about the first and second film (She had a point given the snore-fest that was Transformers 2) and finding yet another hot girlfriend (after Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the 3rd film) for a guy who hangs around with toy robots would have probably pushed the boundaries of credibility a little too far.

This time Mark Wahlberg takes the lead role as inventor dad Cade Yeager. His daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) fill the other 2 protagonist slots. Strangely – for a family film – his 17 year old daughter’s relationship with Shane.. a 21 year old Irish rally driver is actually illegal in most states. Making you wonder what exactly the reason for its inclusion is? I suspect it’s just so they could have a ‘hot’ teen girl (the primary audience for these films are teenage boys ) and a boyfriend who can drive everyone about at high speed. In fact this is what is interesting about Transformers 4. Everything happens for a reason – the reason usually being found in our world. So the film is set in the US (the biggest film market in the world), but then halfway through relocates wholesale to China (conveniently the second biggest film market in the world). Chinese actors also come to the fore at this point and it’s amusing to hear such propaganda as “We must ask the CENTRAL GOVERNMENT for help” as a huge alien spaceship enters Hong Kong and then later this response from Shanghai: “The CENTRAL GOVERNMENT will not leave Hong Kong to stand alone”. Yes China – you are great!

There’s some shockingly blatant product placement, which you get the idea was done obviously on purpose to be funny. Especially since two of the products  – Bud Light and a Chinese drink are spat out by the people drinking them. By far the best product placement though is when arrogant scientist Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is showing off the newly discovered element ‘Transformium’ (the worst named element since Unobtanium in Avatar) and he transformers a chunk of it into a spiral and then into a gun and finally into a Beats Pill speaker – “..even a BEATS PILL WIRELESS SPEAKER if you want to listen to some music”.

I haven’t talked much about the story because its the dullest part of the film. It starts off ok but then after a while it’s just action sequence after action sequence. Michael Bay again forgets the rule that you need quiet meaningful bits in-between to make the exciting action parts actually seem exciting. While this may be the worst Transformers film so far, you can still get some enjoyment from watching the giant robots kick the crap out of each other. Bumblebee is still great. Optimus Prime still annoying (that voice), and still bizarrely loses almost every fight he is in.The final fight in which humans and transformers coordinate to bring Lockdown down *is* pretty good, and did I mention… I really feel like a BUD LIGHT right now… That’s right – it would be really great to drink a BUD LIGHT right now..

4 for the film  + 1 for the giant robots = 5/10

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He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), Teela (Chelsea Field) and Man-At-Arms (Jon Cypher) all ready to battle the evil Skeletor (Frank Langella).

You can play a really difficult game during this film : Find The Standout Actor. There’s so much hammy and wooden acting, just to find someone half-decent is almost a Herculean task. One thing is certain : Dolph Lundgren (He-Man) is the funniest. Almost every time he opens his mouth it’s funny. He never seems bothered by what’s going on around him and sounds incredibly laid back almost as if he doesn’t really know where he is – like a mental patient on a day out.

Watching this it’s easy to detect a heavy Star Wars influence : Skeletor and his minions (essentially black Stormtroopers) are introduced using similar imagery and music to that used to introduce  Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. The film also initially has a similar epic feel, as if some great story is waiting to unfold. (Don’t get too excited – it doesn’t) For anyone who used to watch the He-Man cartoons you will be pleased to recognise many of the characters – albeit slightly altered ones, Teela now preferring to actually wear clothes for example. In another departure from the cartoons, a large proportion of the film is actually set in our world (home to a young Courtney Cox and her boyfriend) not that of Eternia (home to the famous Castle Grayskull).

It’s not really possible to compare this to other films since it’s one of those that almost falls into the ‘So Bad It’s Good’ category. Going against this is it’s length (it’s overlong). You’re be better off watching half of it and having some fun and then give up and watch something else. Subjecting yourself to the whole film would be masochism. Some of the laser gun fights are frustrating. He-Man and his friends (Teela and Man-At-Arms) will normally be crack-shots but If some drama is required they will suddenly lose the ability to hit enemies, even ones standing right in front of them.

Yes it’s crap but there is some fun to be had just from how bad it is, and it also has the classic 80’s film qualities of warmth and innocence, now all but lost in these harsher more realistic times. 3/10

Gary King (Simon Pegg) and his slightly less enthusiastic friends…

I have one of the most embarrassing drunk stories ever. I won’t go into the dark details, except to say that night also featured me attempting the rap from ‘I’m Free’ by the Soup Dragons and a friend who was a big fan of the Sisters of Mercy. All of which (except my friend) feature in this film.

I have no desire to relive that night, but that’s certainly not the case for charismatic loser Gary King (Simon Pegg) who had one of the best nights of his life in 1992 while drunk with his gang of friends from school. They were attempting ‘The Golden Mile’ – a pub crawl taking in 12 pubs, one drink in each pub. They failed to make it to the end and even though it’s now 2012, King still hasn’t moved on, seeing that night as the best of his life. While his other friends now have families, jobs and responsibilities, he’s a loner attending an AA meeting. Still wearing his trademark trenchcoat and Sisters of Mercy T-Shirt, he decides to round up the old gang and finish what they failed to do 20 years earlier.

There’s a lot of great jokes in this film and you will especially appreciate them if you grew up in 90’s Britain (like me). If you didn’t you will still be entertained but there are many subtle references to English culture you may not get if you didn’t live here. There are also times when Gary quotes song lyrics verbatim and although these songs were played earlier in the film – if you aren’t from the UK you may not be familiar enough with them to notice.

In a way it’s a shame that what happens halfway through the film  – the group find out that most of the inhabitants of their old home town have been replaced by alien robots – couldn’t have been kept secret and out of the trailers, but even so it’s a great idea. Exactly how would you know in many of these towns? the inhabitants already look like robots! At this point the film becomes very action-orientated as the group have to fight the robots and also desperately try to avoid being replaced by robots themselves. Thankfully this doesn’t stop Gary and his friends carrying on with the pub crawl regardless. Do they make it to ‘The World’s End ‘ (the final pub)? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

Overall it’s very enjoyable and also very funny. If you enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (the other two films in The Cornetto Trilogy of which this is the third) you will enjoy this. The only negative point for me was that some of the humour is lost as the action takes over and you wish the pub crawl could have gone on a little longer in it’s normal state first. My favourite bit? when Gary tells the alien leader to “Get back in your f*cking rocket ship and fly back to Legoland you c*nt!” 8/10

Hugo was shown in 3D for it’s theatrical release which meant that  the early films of George Melies were also recreated in 3D…

This is the story of Hugo, a young orphaned boy played by Asa Butterfield. He lives inside the walls of a train station and is searching for parts so that he can fix a mechanical man that he and his late father (Jude Law) had begun to fix. In the process he befriends a young girl called Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), rediscovers early film maker George Melies (Ben Kingsley), learns about his pioneering work in film, and finds himself part of new family. It’s a fairytale directed by Martin Scorsese with a story about the early history of film shoehorned in. It was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, undeservedly in my opinion, although its not a bad film by any means.

Initially I struggled to get into the story. It feels almost like you are watching a bunch of cartoon characters albeit ones played by humans. It takes a little while before the emotional elements of the film work their magic so that you can become more accepting of these slightly unreal characters. There is lot of light humour, much of it coming from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Inspector Gustave, who has an injured left leg. Although it has to be said many of the humourous elements do feel a little flat and forced. And while it was genuinely interesting to learn about George Melies and his films, there is an educational tone to these sections which makes them feel slightly incongrous when compared with the adventure and fantasy of the main story.

In all but name this is a live-action Disney film featuring the now familiar story where the orphaned main character finds himself alone in the world and then through a ‘journey’ and with the help of various characters he meets on the way, is able to find happiness and ultimately a new family. But sadly this isn’t vintage ‘Disney’. The screenplay and dramatic pacing just aren’t good enough and the emotional hooks the film tries to get into you never go deep enough under your skin for you to really care. You were upset when Bambi’s mother died, and no doubt you cared when Simba was left alone after his father’s death, but with Hugo….. not so much.

6/10

The film follows The Pirate Captain’s (on the right here and voiced by Hugh Grant) quest to win the coveted “Pirate of The Year” Award.

Arrr….Initially I was very impressed by this film. The stop-motion clay animation is superb and very smooth. It’s so smooth in fact that it ironically makes you wonder if they could have eased the workload somewhat and used computer graphics to create the same effect.

This is different from many of the other animated films made by giants such as Pixar and Disney in that it doesn’t show you a joke and then pause as a cue for you to laugh – the funny things are just there, and you can laugh if you want but the film will carry on regardless. In other words the humour is very British, very understated and also very refreshing.

Unfortunately I didn’t feel the story or character development were good enough for a full length film. The character of The Pirate Captain himself is well developed but all of the other characters are pretty much ciphers – they are there just there to make you laugh, there’s no depth to them. As a result there’s little emotional involvement, and when the film does try tugging at your heart strings it fails.

Well made and funny at times, delightful in fact. but there’s just not enough depth for a full-length film. 5/10

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) realises too late that reports of Mars being uninhabited were inaccurate

Can a poorly chosen name really cause a film to flop? Well it can’t help and John Carter is certainly one of the worst names for a film since…. well maybe ‘The Phantom Menace’, which managed to make Star Wars : Episode 1 sound like an episode of Scooby Doo.

This name certainly tells you nothing about the film which is based on a 1912 Edgar Rice Burrough’s book ‘The Princess of Mars’, and sees ex US cavalryman John Carter transported to the red planet. Once there, Carter finds that he has superhuman strength and jumping ability – due to the reduced gravitational pull – and becomes involved in a conflict between two Martian tribes.

It’s hard to find a decent film set on Mars, and John Carter doesn’t really buck that trend. Part of the problem is the location is so uninspiring. It’s basically a big red dusty desert with rivers (I don’t know why it has rivers but hey it’s a film). On a positive note the film tells it’s story well, and is very reminiscent of old-fashioned adventure films e.g. The Clash of the Titans, and Sinbad. Although a more modern day equivalent might be The Prince of Persia.

Some of the acting is bad, notably female lead Lynn Collins who plays Martian Princess and chief romantic interest Deja Thoris, is slightly wooden in her delivery. One of the main villans in the film Sab Than (Dominic West) isn’t charismatic enough and comes across as a bland villian. However primary antagonist Mark Strong as the leader of the evil Therns is a lot more interesting, and provides some much needed menace.

Watch it : as a piece of entertainment with dramatic but unspectacular action sequences
Don’t Watch it : if you are looking for a meaningful cinematic experience or good acting.

An average 5/10

Gollum is particularly well realised although some of the dwarves do look like they are wearing facial-prosthetics

The HFR 3D : This is one film I have seen the reviews for, and they were very mixed with a lot of the people complaining about it being over-long or stretched and also many more complaints about the new High Frequency (HFR) 3D making it look ‘too real’ and being headache-inducing. No headaches for me at all, but I agree that the film did look a little hyper-real at times, although this might have been more to do with the fantasy-setting than a problem with the 3D. Overall I found the new HFR 3D effect to be better than the standard 3D effect which could be a little unclear and often struggled to keep up during fast action sequences.

The Film : The film tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) who is employed by a company of dwarves as their ‘burglar’, and along with Gandalf The Grey (again played by Ian Mckellen)  they  seek to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, a fearsome dragon. Martin Freeman plays the role of Bilbo very well, and the standout scene in the movie features him and Gollum (Andy Serkis) asking each other riddles in an underground cave. Gollum is a very fine piece of CGI, and the 3D works excellently here, managing to bring him to life as a real creature.

The main bad point for me is that this is a book adaptation – actually a quite a faithful one (so far as I can remember the book) but this does mean that too much is crammed into the almost 3 hour running-time (despite this being the first of three films). There is some emotional depth to the film but not enough – you don’t really care much about anyone beyond Bilbo and Gandalf. To be fair early on in the film director Peter Jackson does include quite a few sequences of the dwarves and Bilbo at rest or singing and conversing which does help you to get to know their characters but later in the film it can feel like there are just a lot of action sequences all strung together and not much else. These were enjoyable but at no time did I think ‘wow, that was amazing’! So a good film, quite close to the book, with lots of excitement but a little too long with just has too much crammed in 6/10