Some games I played in

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Another go-around with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. A hard film to really remark upon - both because it was the first film I saw that year, and also because, well, it's a fair enough sequel to a fair enough film. If you liked what the last one offered and wouldn't mind more of the same, it doesn't disappoint. But if you were looking for something a bit more unique, or a bit more fresh, well...

It had some neat action scenes, if I recall. Stephen Fry didn't add a lot to it, though.

Further reading: A blog review.



A quirky little fantasy movie. To be frank, a lot of this has escaped from my memory, and this blog entry is all I can recall. I recall watching it and constantly comparing it to The Princess Bride, which I'd watched the year before and got a longer-lasting experience out of. I'm not sure why I was making the comparison, but dang it, who needs an excuse to want to watch that movie again?

Small Time Crooks


Would you believe this was the first time I'd ever seen a Woody Allen movie? I've seen plenty of parodies of the man's shtick, but not once had I seen the real thing in action. That was a novelty in itself, for sure.

... I do wish I could remember the movie! A group of buddies attempt to rob a bank, but to make their plan look inconspicuous, they buy the derelict building next to it and front it as a bakery, only for it to become unexpectedly popular. I... I think? I'm not confusing it with a film I saw the year before, am I?

Woody Allen was on form, I can say that much. Watching this again might still be a brand new experience for me.

Monster House


A spooky mystery adventure for kids. After giving a grumpy old man a heart attack, a group of kids notice some spooky events going down outside his empty house... and it looks like the house is alive!

I found it to be a rather plain kids movie. Entertaining enough, I suppose, but it takes its sweet time getting to the inventive parts, and in the meantime all you're left watching these unsightly 3D models fumble around. If you're going to watch it, watch it for the house. The rest is take it or take it.

Further reading: A more detailed blog entry.

Howard the Duck


The very first movie I watched in Netflix. What an introduction, eh?

Howard, a citizen from a dimension where ducks claimed the Earth, is warped to the 'real' world through a dodgy science experiment, and in trying to find a way back, has to stop a body-possessing demon from another dimension.

I'm yet another schmuck reviewing an adaptation without reading the original source material - and am I the only one tired of that? Point me to some reviews with legit first-hand knowledge, someone! I'm faintly familiar with elements of the original comic book, but the movie, even viewing it independently of its origins, simply doesn't know quite what to do. It's got 'mature' elements, like its nudity, its swearing, its genuinely-a-bit-creepy cosmic villain beast, and the implied fornication between grotesque duck puppet and 1980s rocker chick.

But at the same time, it's constantly playing up Howard's alleged cuteness, getting him into wacky hijinks and throwing him into whimsical escapades one would expect from any other George Lucas kids film. Howard at times is played up to be a regular joe, ignoring his duck-like complexion to emphasise his 'human' side... and then other scenes play him up like any other kids cartoon mascot.

It's got a viciously insecure identity crisis, but it does serve as an unwitting tribute to the sensibilities of '80s movies, and there's something strangely charming about the film. I don't know if I'd be in a rush to see it again, but it's certainly a... curiosity.



A single mom loses her kid on a plane. She proceeds to whine at everyone on-board, then single-handedly defeat a terrorist threat. Everyone apologises to her.

Wes's review from several years back clued me in to steer clear of this... but I still managed to see it anyway. I'm no good at following sensible advice, it seems.

As a thriller, it's adequate at best, with the misfortune of having to play up the lead's possible psychological instability just to give the audience something to think about. If you're writing a mystery and that's the best twist you can throw, then maybe you need a better mystery. It's also unfortunate because the possibility of her kid never being on board at all, that's a plot miles more interesting than what's happened so far, but hasn't the balls to run through with it. She just tells the psychiatrist to shut his gob and then the flight attendant straps a kid to a pile of bombs.

I might be making this sound more exciting than it actually is.

It's really, really, not good.

Further reading: The blog is host to a very sleep-addled review.

The Woman in Red


A happily married man risks losing his family over getting to hook up with an attractive model he can't get out of his head.

Gene Wilder makes for a fun protagonist, surrounded by a jolly set of characters. An entertaining flick with absurd little moments.

... yeah, you might have noticed I didn't take many notes for these first few months. Bear with me, in April I started writing shit down!

Further reading: The film is briefly mentioned in my rambling about movie romances.

Flash Gordon


A camp classic! What do you expect when people who worked on the 1960s Batman show are on board?

This is one of those films I've seen a dozen times on ITV, but had never properly sat down and watched from start to finish. And, boy howdy, is it worth it. It may be a little glacial at parts, but it's a film worth sticking around for.

It's a comic book movie in the truest sense of the word, isn't it? The bright colours, the hammy characters, the special effects that are simultaneously mesmerising and dodgy - it's a film that, to me, evokes the sense of reading sensational comic book stories when I was a tyke. A loud and colourful assault of the senses, with characters and scenarios that seem out of this world. You grow up to realise they were rather awfully dumb and puerile... but darn it, it was a fun sensation while it lasted, and Flash Gordon rejuvenates that feeling and brings it to the big screen.

It's dumb, but forever charming. It is remarkably aged, but perhaps in all the right ways. It's a breezy thrill ride that has a knack for getting you pumped - silly space battles may be taking place on screen, but a combination of the cute special effects, the actors acting their little hearts out, and that terminally incredibly Queen soundtrack, it's hard not to become engaged in all the tomfoolery.

John Carter


I went to see this with no expectations, and was pretty pleased with what I got! A fairly reasonable science fiction adventure with equal amounts light-hearted whimsy and far-out alien visuals. It probably won't be as "science fiction-y" as some people may wish for, especially being an adaptation of one of the granddaddy of science fiction's most popular works - and I would've loved something a bit more out-there, but I think that's expecting something remotely resembling risk from the film industry. Don't make me laugh!

This had the dubious distinction of being the only 3D film this year that actually worked for me, and the results were still sub-par. Paper cut-outs floating on top of moving backdrops, like poorly aligned animation cels. A few token scenes are there to catch your eye, but the effect lost its lustre even halfway through Avatar, so why bother? The film's worth watching, but the 3D isn't.

Further reading: A longer review, with a bonus discussion about romance and willies!

Dark Star


I watched this film in the autumn of last year, and was really taken with it. I was in an awful slump then, majorly stressed and depressed, and Dark Star was the first film I had seen in weeks. Something about its strange combination of comedy and its bleak, slightly wistful environment was exactly the sort of thing I love and needed.

It's probably not what most people would expect, though. It's billed as a sci-fi comedy, but it's not quite the belly laughs you'd get from Red Dwarf, nor is it a moody, old-timey science fiction piece like 2001. It's a mixture of oddball antics, mundane slice of life and lonely melancholia, and it's a peculiar fusion that I just love to bits.

Further reading: Last year's blog entry. The theme song, "Benson Arizona", is well worth checking out.



A train's running wild, and nobody can catch up to it! Only a jaded retiring train master and his young 'n' active apprentice can take on such a herculean task!

It's a good, fun package, innit? For a simple premise, it plays its pacing very well. You've got the train running wild, everyone getting their knickers in a twist, and so many shots of gloomy, mood-lighting communications centres. It's like 24, but with station masters. And given how the story basically revolves around everyone waiting for their opportunity to interact with a speeding train, the pacing remains relatively intense. The sensationalist style of directing adds a lot, with news stories and other snippets to keep the tension up. And for a big dumb action movie, I had to give credit to the fact that no one died! Well, okay, one person died, but you hardly know him, and it's played up as dramatic spectacle. Would a train really explode after just tipping on its side? That's something to find out for myself.

It's rather strange hearing Harry Gregson-Williams manning the score after I'd heard him in Kingdom of Heaven. A lot of the same motifs and themes are carried over, no longer under the context of a grand, historical battle between religions, but a train that's causing a ruckus. That might have been a little jarring, but the man does great scores.

A fun watch, and has the added luxury of being the first film I've seen on Blu-Ray! Like everything, you soak in the high-def resolution and pixel-perfect details for all of fifteen minutes, and then it just becomes another thing on a TV screen.

You'll Never Get Rich


After a series of misunderstandings involving his manager, a lady dancer and a necklace, a dancing fella chooses to get enlisted in the army.

I watched this with my brother's wife, though I was mostly catching it in between pages of The Stars My Destination. It's pretty basic old-timey comedy, though the snappy acting and some stupidly amusing gags make it pretty fun (the "spy pigeon" hiding under someone's hat had me tittering like a fool). The dancing was superb, with some great tap-dancing in particular. Not much else to say otherwise.

The Chronicles of Riddick


I've watched Pitch Black a whole bunch of times, but for many years, every opportunity I got to watch Riddick was intercepted. Either someone else was using the TV, the party was winding down, or we decided to watch Pitch Black again instead. I suggested this, and wasn't expecting to get my way for once!

I really couldn't tell you the story. There's something about "Necromongers" getting dudes to join a cult, Judy Dench speaking fantasy babble as an "air elemental", while Riddick gets hunted down constantly and beats up dudes. That last bit I could fully comprehend.

There's really not much of a story; it plays out like a half-baked RPG campaign more than anything. I never really understood Riddick's goals or ambitions. He just seems to bumble around, looking cool, exchanging token dialogue with plot-relevant mystics, until he finds the girl from the last movie and decides to protect her. Because, heck, what else is there to do?

The action scenes are great with some memorable moments ("No. I'll kill you with my teacup."), and for an eight year old film, I'm surprised how well the special effects have aged - the landscapes are really something. The cat things in Crematorian were a bit too obviously CGI, but really, I can hardly complain. Stuff looked neat, yo.

Watch it for the action scenes and forget the rest.



The sun is dying, so astronauts are sent into space to 'jumpstart' it. And at no point does anyone say "it's daylights saving time." Boo.

A very good watch! It reminded me a lot of Moon in a way - you got dudes in space on a mission, human drama and technical problems to make it gripping. The atmosphere is bleak and lonely, and really brings the movie to life. It's science fiction, but 'grounded' sci-fi; no aliens, nothing too extravagant, et cetera.

At least until the third act, when it turns out the captain of the original ship sent to restart the sun survived, and is some kind of burning man now? And he's onboard the ship and killing people because he wants the Earth to toast? Yeah, it felt very shoehorned in, and I've heard that the movie was advertised as a "slasher in space". That is most certainly not the selling point, and to be honest, the burning man adds nothing to the story. A change of pace, I guess, but nothing that couldn't have been done with the current formula.

Regardless of that cop-out, it's a gripping and beautiful movie, one I'd like to see again.



Dreams inside of dreams. White guys in suits. You've at least heard of this one, surely. The internet hive mind will have failed if you haven't.

It was alright, I guess? It was good to see what all the fuss was about, and there were some particularly inventive moments, but the internet's rabid frothing over it and Christopher Nolan's inability to be criticised kinda drained any enthusiasm I could've had.

There were some great moments, though. It's just hard to remember them with everyone constantly ejaculating about it.

Further reading: I wrote a longer review on the blog.



After being shot to shit, Alex Murphy is transformed into the super-powered and identity-challenged RoboCop!

An icon of stupid 80s cinema, and a very enjoyable one. Some great action, a relatively engaging plot, and a fuckin' robot cop, man! It's held up pretty well, and the sprinkling of commercials and newscasts throughout the film add a very unique appeal to it.

Further reading: I wrote a longer review on the blog.

RoboCop 2


Detroit is being ravaged by druuuugs, and RoboCop is rendered impotent by dorky protocols.

So many elements that made the original good are dropped. No news casts, less snarkiness, and nothing personal to drive RoboCop. The story feels pointless and the film feels hollow. There's a few decent scenes, but I wouldn't be in a rush to rewatch it.

Further reading: I wrote a longer review on the blog.

RoboCop 3


Citizens are being forcibly relocated so a new city can be built, and RoboCop sides with the homeless rebels.

It's less gritty and more kid-friendly, but there's a pleasing "fun" air about the film. It feels like a toy commercial at times. Pretty darn forgettable, but I had a smile on my face after watching, so that must have meant something.

Further reading: I wrote a longer review on the blog.

Avengers Assemble


So S.H.I.E.L.D. find themselves a big cosmic MacGuffin and Loki's all "I'll be 'avin' that" and everyone's going "oi knobhead put that back" and he's all "nah" and everyone gets on each others' tits. And then ALIENS.

I enjoyed it! You get a big ol' superhero romp on the big screen, everyone's personalities clashing, superpowers thrown around and lots of stupid nameless cannon fodder to fill up the climax. I went to see this with a big pile of friends, and we all had a rip-roaring afternoon. Stacks of fun.

That said, thinking back and looking past the hype, some things were a touch disappointing. Loki's a handsome fellow and all, and being a trickster is a good way of keeping the heroes at each others' throats until they need a kickass final fight sequence, but you could argue he's not a villain you'd think of that demands a team of big name super dudes. He challenges their trust and personalities, but you don't need all that manpower to beat him up.

Wes did a more critical review that I'd have to agree with on a lot of points. He's a man with a knack for cutting through spectacle to work on the plot behind it, and that I respect. That said, I saw the film with a bunch of chums and we were getting our knickers in a twist over all this superheroin', and as a movie to just nerd-out with pals, it's probably the choice of the year. I'm still a sucker for hype, folks. Sorry!

Further reading: For a critique of the cinema going experience...

The Birds


A strange, slice-of-life film that gets interrupted by an inexplicable invasion of angry avians. Beautifully shot and spookily paced. I do love how the events are so unprecedented. No reason, no excuse, no foreshadowing. Just a sudden bird invasion. The acting's a bit ropey, and you could argue the pacing and focus is a little spotty, but Hitchcock's superb cinematography helps one get over it.

Further reading: Here's a blog review - with duck photos!



Another Hitchcock classic. There's always a fear of watching old movies like this that, having heard all about them and seen heaps of homages and parodies, they'll have nothing to offer me. I'm not sure where I get that idea, because Alfie's movies still continue to impress me.

We all know the story, but the creeping, atmospheric manner in which it's told holds up spectacularly well. The appearances of Norman's "mother" are genuinely frightening, as she literally appears from nowhere and acts so fast, she might as well be a ghost. Everyone goes on about the famous shower scene (and for good reason!), but the scene of her stabbing the investigator at the top of the stairs is what gets me. It's like the 1960s equivalent of a jump scare. The image of her just zooming out with the knife raised still gives me the jibblies.

You might have gathered this is not an academic review by this point.

A well-deserved classic, one that's definitely worth seeing for yourself.



A labour of love from Madhouse - a fully 2D animated, feature-length racing film, with high-octane action and a pumping soundtrack. A production six years in the making. It's a fun ride!

The races are, of course, the main attraction. They are intense. Genuine thrill rides, full of twists and surprises, and they go on and on, but never do they feel tiresome. The eclectic vehicles are animated with such character as well, really demonstrating not just the intensity of the race, but the power behind them as well. My only grievance is that I never saw this on the big screen, because that would have been worth the price of admission.

... unfortunately, they still have a movie to make here! The film is two hours long, with one race at the start, and the other taking up the entire third act. It's a long wait in between. It's not without merit, but it can admittedly be a surprise - they advertise a film about racing, and it's a long time to go without seeing any!

The film creates an intriguing world, full of very colourful characters and species, and although it doesn't explore it in extreme depth, it gives you a lot of time to soak it all in. It's a fictional universe that thrives on spotting all the little details, if you're into that sort of thing. The characters are all a lot of fun, all with their own quirks and agendas, and it's neat seeing how these play not only into the race, but the politics surrounding it.

As with any labour of love, it may not be for everyone - for all the amazing animation and detail, it can be pretty puerile, with dumb jokes and unnecessary tittilation - but I got a lot of fun out of it. I'd probably skip the intermission if I were to rewatch it, but there's value of some sort in every moment.

The Bicycle Thief


Boy, is this a mood lifter! You're just clicking your gosh-darned heels on the way out after seeing it.

A job opening requires workers to own a bicycle, so a poor worker and his son travel the city, looking to work up the money to buy one. It begins a passionate quest for the betterment of his family, and ends in reputation-wrecking desperation. For its simplicity, the plot is pretty darned heart-wrenching, and the constant sombre soundtrack lays it on thick. It's depressing stuff, and I can't help but love it.

The look and feel of the movie is particularly fascinating. Apparently called "hyperrealism", every scene is shot on location, and there are many mesmerising sights of post-war Italy. The look of the city feels like a strange little pocket of time, with such a unique landscape. It has these cramped, block-like buildings that are so blank of detail they look like cartoons... and then they just stop, instantly transitioning from a crowded city street to empty wildlands. It's such a strange yet intriguing sight.

We watched this on Netflix, with subtitles. The subtitles were good, but it had this habit of not captioning every line of dialogue - which is understandable. it's not like every single spoken word in a film is going to be important, but you want to be assured you're not missing out on anything, y'know? It's just a little disconcerting seeing a scene full of talking run for a full minute without a lick of it getting translated.

Night of the Living Dead (2006)


I've been interested in checking out the original Night of the Living Dead, but - surprise! - this is the only version Netflix had to offer. It's a passable, if incredibly bog-standard zombie flick. I can't think of anything remarkable about it. Sid Haig makes for an amusing character, and there's one or two instances of embarrassing CGI effects... but, woof, what else is there to say?

If you have literally exhausted the world's supply of zombie media, hey, here's another one, knock yourself out. For anyone else, there's better ways of spending eighty minutes.

The one decent line: "When the dead start to walk, you gotta call the cops."

Men in Black 3


It's strange to think that Men in Black was a thing, with two movies, a toyline and a slickly-produced TV show, yet I've never known anyone to be diehard fans of it. It's like a cash cow that's floated by on middling enthusiasm; a franchise that existed with the universal opinion of, "it's all right, innit?"

A villain they cheesed off ventures into Agent K's past to have him eliminated, forcing J to chase after him, teaming up with his partner's younger self in the 1950s.

I literally haven't seen the first two movies since they were in theatres, but the third one seems to stand on its own well enough. There's little to no continuity to worry about, only the core characters are brought back, and it serves as its own, independent adventure. Early on one character possesses a tic that I thought was an in-joke I was missing out on, but it's something related to the time travel shenanigans. It's accessible, is what I'm saying!

Like what I remember of the other movies, it's a serviceable Summer action movie. You got gun fights and chases and light-hearted humour and a drop of drama. It's also intensely forgettable, though that's probably a by-product of Summer cinema in general, not just the franchise.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)


I'll be frank - I can't remember this one all too well! Not that the film was underwhelming in any way, but because the DVD we were watching was a skipping, stuttering mess, often pausing for a solid seven seconds at unwanted intervals. I should have been thinking how 2 spooky 4 words the film was, but I was instead keeping a mental check of how long each pause was. I think, combined, it added about twenty minutes to the running time. Take good care of your DVDS, everybody.

What I do remember was it being a very spooky, atmospheric watch. It's a slow build-up to its terror, edging for more psychological scares during its first two acts before launching into full on creepy times at the end. Because of that, its rare instances of gruesome imagery work outstandingly well, though it'd lose its edge if that's what it was all about.

A good watch... one I might need to revisit, given how little I remember. Welp.



I saw this with a couple of chums, and we had startlingly little to talk about after watching it. We enjoyed it to some degree, but simply had very little to comment on. I'm surprised I got so many paragraphs out of the blog entry I wrote for it!

It's a film with the unfortunate circumstance of being related to the Aliens series, with the original director back, hyped with the intention to answer mysteries or reveal a little more about the mythos. Because of that, there's no way you can't start comparing to a cracker couple of films.

It was okay, I guess. The characters were dreadful. The sense of mystery and environments were intriguing, if just to see something new for a change. However, I'd say the movie was pretty forgettable, though. I've heard so many people rag on it in podcasts, people I assume who had more intimate ties to the franchise or geek culture, but it just kinda went by me.

I can't help but wonder if tying it to Aliens was a blessing or a curse. The concept of seeing the mythos from a different angle is intriguing, but a damned hard promise to live up to - and by golly are people still tearing it a new one! But if it didn't have that connection, would people be able to view it under an unbiased light? ... or would it just be totally forgotten about? History works in funny ways.

Further reading: Stacks of wishy-washy paragraphs in this blog review.

The Terminator


A marine and a robot in disguise travel to the past to protect and destroy, respectively, the mother of their future's greatest soldier.

A very entertaining sci-fi adventure. I had heard that this one was very different to the rest in the series, though since I hadn't seen the others at all yet, that meant nothing to me. It's a bang-up film.

I love the tense atmosphere. I love the grody surroundings. It's a vibe that can't seem to be captured in modern films, and I'm forever mourning it. The love story felt a bit tacky, and a bit awkward when you think about it - it's all legal, sure, but man, "I banged a man from forty years in the future" just sounds wrong. Or at least something you'd see on a tabloid front page.

Arnie was great fun, seeing him as a silent, pursuing nemesis the entire time, and I was looking forward to see him play a hero in the next flick. The stop-motion robot at the end looks terrific, and I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen. Admittedly there are short scenes where it clearly looks like a puppet on the end of a stick, but I just love the mechanical, limping movements it makes.

One of those films where everyone's talked up how good it is for years before my time. It's a good film!

Terminator 2: Judgment Day


Same shit again, only now it's the future's greatest soldier as a kid who needs protecting. Also, heroic Terminators? Say what?

A really rip-roaring film! Fantastic action, great characters, some terrific themes... I can see what all the fuss is about. Impressive action scenes, great cinematography, it's got entertainment out the wazoo.

John Connor's a bit of a twerp, but the relationship between him and his Terminator is actually surprisingly sweet. Seeing Arnie's evolution from godless killing machine to an almost father/protector figure is really nice, and it's a shame to see him go.

It takes elements from the first film and expands upon them, making them miles better, which is both brilliant and unfortunate. I enjoyed the first Terminator, but this one has two Terminators! Arnie does more than look sinister! Sarah Connor kicks butt! The only things the first movie has that this doesn't are an evil Arnie, stop-motion puppet effects, and a really tacky love story. And I don't think I'm missing those too much.

But naw, they're both great films. Judgment Day is just so rip-roaring, y'know?

Terminator 3


The future's greatest soldier is currently a washed-up unlikeable bum. Now's the perfect time to need protecting!

Meh. A fair enough generic action movie, but a decidedly subpar Terminator sequel.

Terminator 2 is a very hard act to follow. It had great characters, fantastic action, an engaging plot, excellent themes, and James Cameron's cinematography is superb. They might have had a chance of improving on one of those elements... but the whole lot? Woof. Not a chance. Not on your nelly.

For starters, I did not give a shit about any of the characters. John Conner was a bit of a dweeb in T2, but he had something going for him - he was a delinquent kid thrust into a warzone, but had street smarts and wizkid hacker skills to back him up. Sarah Connor was a bit of a loonie, but was a no-nonsense tough girl who knew how to bust ass. The T-800 made for a fiercely loyal protector, and seeing its devotion and its increasing knowledge of humanity was very, very sweet.

T3's John Connor felt startlingly useless. There was very little reason to be interested in him, especially with his insufferable angst. His love interest did bring a bit of the original movie's "ordinary woman under strange threat" angle back, but it felt mighty obnoxious this time around. And it's a different T-800 this time; more accurately, it felt like a pastiche of Arnie. He's the source of some jokes and an intriguing backstory, but he felt like an 'image' more than a character. They got the actor but none of the charm.

Besides that, the plot's biggest strike is that we don't know much about the new Terminator. The last two films had sequences where we received an infodump on the current threat - their unique technology, what they can and can't do. This film rushes along too fast to give us a sequence like that, and as such, the villain feels less defined and less interesting. The first Terminator was just a really tough dude in human skin. The next Terminator was a liquid metal guy - really, really hard to even dent, and it could reform its body in all manner of interesting ways. It could survive serious injury! Transform its limbs into weaponry! Squeeze through small passages or blend into the floor! What couldn't it do?

After that, it's hard to imagine what the next step up is. I was thinking at the start of T2, "you know, you'd think they'd start putting built-in weaponry into these things by now," but the sheer inventiveness of the liquid metal more than made up for that. I'd say it was better than an arm-mounted cannon any day. Well, hey, T3's Terminator has built-in weaponry. Flamethrowers, laser cannons, buzzsaws - the works. Problem is, the heroes get so many toys to play with. Arnie gets a shotgun out of nowhere when he first shows up, and the characters later receive a crate stuffed with miniguns, machine guns and more. Arnie shows up with a rocket launcher at one point! They're not lugging armouries on their backs, but it makes the whole affair feel like a video game - they're never far away from the next gun.

Furthermore, the T2 Terminator really gives the heroes a hard time. It's pursuing them almost nonstop, and survives every damn thing they throw at it without so much as a dent. The long drawn-out climax really shows how hard it was to take it down - it took the efforts of all three protagonists, and they were all battered something fierce by the time it was out for the count.

The T3... the film just moves far too briskly with not enough engagement to really sell it as a villain, y'know? There's a lot of ludicrous battles between the two, but it's precisely that: ludicrous. It's like a live-action Tom & Jerry at times. There are instances when the film appears to be comedic, and if it had just gone for a full-out comedy many of the flaws could probably have been overlooked. Instead, you get a serious film where none of the battles feel realistic (ignoring the fact you've got two cyborgs from the future putting up their dukes).

We don't really know what the 'gimmick' of this Terminator is. It looks like it's both a metallic skeleton and liquid metal, but it's not explained. It doesn't take the time to give the audience the facts and let them work out what its weakness would be - T2 gives the audience plenty of time to think, and just when it looks like they've found the answer with the liquid nitrogen, it still moves! The T3... there's one scene with a magnetic field, but then that's taken care of without a problem. Arnie stuffs a bomb in its mouth and that's that, apparently. Very unsatisfying.

There are decent action scenes that clearly had monster budgets to tear up vehicles and property, but without decent characters, good music or even good pacing, they felt very hollow. The car chase early on is, in theory, a fantastic scene and easily the highlight of the film, but despite the excess of explosions, rampant property damage and amusing setpieces, it feels like it's missing something big. You'd think a glass building being crashed through, Arnie swinging on a crane hook and then completely uprooting the truck would make for a monster action scene that'd be hard to forget... but I barely got anything out of it. I watched it on screen, and actively thought to myself, "why isn't this exciting me?"

To the movie's credit, it isn't another instance where Judgment Day is far in the future. The characters defeated the enemy Terminator and could rest assured that even if they hadn't altered history, Judgment Day was still a long ways away. T3 takes place when Skynet actually begins, and it's the start of the end of the world. The future is now! We get to see these futuristic machines in a present day environment, although it doesn't feel as well explored as it could've been. For the start of the end of the world, you'd think you'd get to see more of it, but I guess there wasn't much budget. Or imagination.

For all its bleakness and sacrifices, the other movies seemed to imply some sort of optimism for the future. This one... well, fuck, a really boring person is in charge of the earth's resistance. What have we achieved? It does lay down the reality of the threat, and how you can't just solve a worldwide revolution by blowing up one building, but after getting so bored of these characters, Skynet can keep the planet.

A purely average action flick, but a really crummy Terminator movie. Don't tell me it gets worse?



One of those cult movies I've seen and heard so much about over the years, but never saw it until now. It was nice to finally watch it, but I didn't get a single rise out of the film.

A happily married couple die unexpectedly after driving off a bridge, and have to cope with becoming ghosts, forever doomed to haunt their house. A snooty new family move in to the empty property, and their goth daughter happens to be able to communicate with the two ghosts. Then, shit, I don't know. Things happen.

(cut me some slack, man, it's been over a year since I watched the movie!)

The film is host to many great elements and concepts, but not only are none of them explored to the full extent, nothing really seems to click. There's some terrific Burton imagery and great ingredients, but nothing funny or worthwhile seems to come out of it.

On one hand I'm shocked with myself that I got next to nothing out of watching it... and on the other, I'm shocked a movie that's got such great concepts going for it failed to get a rise out of me. I just don't think I'm a Burton fan.



Um. Er. Uh.

Well, it was good to finally watch it. The imagery is truly unique and spectacular, and the special effects, despite their age, are nifty. The range of actors is pretty neat, and, if anything, the attempt to adapt a brick-sized book into a motion picture is admirable, if totally inconceivable without reformatting it wholesale.

The plot isn't too complex, even if it took me until the film was over to really grasp what it was on about (just don't trust me to recap it for you!). It's just presented in a really obnoxious manner, with cryptic dialogue, cryptic characters, cryptic premonitions... cryptic everything. And when all's said and done, not much of it means an awful lot. It's basically Avatar with sandworms, isn't it? Planet is mined for resources, they fight back, and also crazy-ridiculous god powers get involved. I... think.

It doesn't help that I saw the movie only after learning a bit about its rather monstrous development, and how it was cut down from, what, four hours? It was hard enough keeping track of the plot with all the time-skipping, random internal monologues and narration going on, I couldn't help but frequently wonder, "what other crazy shit did Lynch film that didn't make the cut?"

I haven't read the Dune books, but I've read enough wonky sci-fi to know that there's no way of adapting every damn detail into a film, never mind accurately. The best you can hope for is either cutting it down to its core elements, or adapting it into a trilogy or TV series. And given all the strange editing and fade-outs in the film, it almost feels like a TV show that's been spliced together for the cinema. A TV show with a kickass budget.

Like I said, it was nice to see at last... but, yikes, I don't think I'd watch it again in a hurry. The sheer amount of pretension it generated gave me a splitting headache. No joke.

Because I gotta vent: Jeez, I really, really hated that prophet sister kid. I had that line "wait for my brother, baron!" stuck in my head for days for some unfathomable reason, and desperately wanted to hit someone because of it.



July must've been a month of cult films I never got around to watching until now - and whaddaya know, this is another Tim Burton flick I'd been interested to see what all the fuss was about! Pleasing to finally see, but, eh, I didn't think much of it in the long run.

Despite my undying appreciation for Batman & Robin, I don't get as many opportunities to see it as I'd like - The Dark Knight is the movie I'm most familiar with. It was amusing watching this and comparing and contrasting how they handle Batman as a character. Michael Keaton is actually a very effective Batman; he's spooky, he's mysterious, and he's got a shit-ton of gadgets. And perhaps most importantly, he barely talks. He's a mysterious dude! His Bruce Wayne comes off as a strange individual as well, feeling a little hidden from the audience and the characters for much of the film - it's only late in the second act that you even hear about his parents getting iced.

It's a total contrast to the Dark Knight trilogy, which seems to be all about spoiling every damn mystery about Batman. Yo, Batman, where'd you learn those sick moves at? China! Where'd you get them gadgets from, B-Man? Morgan Freeman makes 'em for me! Meanwhile, Keaton's Batman is this weird, quiet guy who doesn't reveal a lot about himself, and I think I prefer it that way.

Jack Nicholson makes for an interesting Joker. I wouldn't consider him a definitive Joker of any sort, but he does an entertaining job, even if the movie is a bit too interested in following his every mundane move.

The movie is pretty slow-going, and a lot of the time is spent with the two reporters trying to work out who these Batman and Joker chaps are. It's an interesting take, but neither angle is particularly interesting. The climax is one of the better parts of the movie, but it doesn't quite seem to grab the intensity and excitement it should've had.

The atmosphere is captured really, really nicely, though. Gotham City isn't just a gloomy town, it's a real old-fashioned, noir-lookin' place, with archaic, gothic architecture and everyone decked out in coats and derbies. The sheer look of the film, as well as the fantastic soundtrack, really create a fantastic atmosphere.

But it just feels uneven in a lot of ways. It tries to create a dark and moody picture, and then it's got strange moments of silliness that break it up way too much, like Joker pulling the huge gun out of his trousers... and for that matter, I can live with the absurdity of the Batmobile, but the Batwing just showing up out of nowhere personally felt like a bit of a stretch. I suppose there's no easy way of having a dark knight versus a murderous prankster without some violent mood swings. Burton clearly has lots of amusing ideas working with the Joker character, but facing him off against the mysterious Batman we know nothing about, it doesn't gel well as a thematically pleasing narrative, I suppose.

Neat to finally see it, but I don't think I'd be in a rush to watch it again.

Terminator Salvation


I wasn't expecting much from this, especially from the first half hour, but I actually came to enjoy it. A real game changer. Rather than sci-fi action, the movie comes across more as a survival war film with futuristic flavouring.

The movie's basically telling three different stories - one following a teenage Kyle Reese, one about Marcus, a mysterious dude in a coat, and one about John Connor... who doesn't actually do much until the last act.

I think chucking out the old formula was a definite improvement (at least over T3), though in this case it also takes a long time before things get interesting.

The movie first appears to focus on teenage Kyle Reese and a mute girl he hangs out with, who are the only resistance forces left in a ruined city. The girl serves as a clever distraction from the audience finding out that Kyle has absolutely no personality. Marcus hangs out with him until Kyle is captured, when John happens upon him and discovers Marcus is actually part human, part robot!

Now the movie gets interesting! John has been crazy paranoid about any and all machines - an earlier sub-plot involved the resistance using wave frequencies to disarm or control SkyNet machines, which he was uncertain about - but after some initial reluctance, the two form a strong bond and end up fighting to protect each other. It's an engaging dynamic, and seeing Marcus give his life for John's is very sweet.

It's just a pity it takes so long to get interesting. The film goes a long time without interesting characters or motivations, and it's only by the final act that we get some worthwhile interaction out of Marcus and John. Until then, Kyle is a dumb kid driven by emotions, Marcus is an adequate action hero, and John is fucking boring as shit.

But I enjoyed it! Slow build-up aside, I thought it was a fair watch, and I could walk out thinking, "I enjoyed that!", unlike T3. Mind you, as crummy and wasted as that film was, you'd probably need it to get the backstory to this one, sadly.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader


Edmund, Lucy and their cousin Eustace are whisked to Narnia once more, where they and Prince Caspian sail the seas in search of ancient, magical swords.

A decent flick, your usual fluff fantasy antics, though this instalment finally feels less like a Lord of the Rings ripoff this time, thanks to being set mostly at sea. The adventure is spent sailing to various locales and collecting ancient swords, which adds a pleasing bit of variety and nicely breaks up the story into short little episodes.

Of course, the actual story behind this is kind of nondescript. I can't even remember why they needed to find these swords. Something incredibly vague and nondescript, like to maintain peace, or something? They're pretty darn MacGuffin-y. Although the new setting and small cast of characters is a refreshing change, without seeing the varied folk of the lands or the kingdoms, you don't really know what's at stake here. There's one civilisation they visit, and it's darn near a ghost town. And I suppose without the grand war battle themes, the story feels less driven by strategic planning and more by bumbling into every threat there is.

It's neat to see Edmund stand on his own without his older siblings, but a lot of his drama still revolves around the White Witch. On one hand, It's a fair way of acknowledging continuity, and how one incident when he was younger is still haunting him (and it means more paychecks for the actress!)... but it also feels like they're actively refusing him from moving on and developing a more unique characterisation. Then again, Lucy hasn't moved beyond "Aslan groupie", so what can I expect?

I loved Eustace in the books, so I was looking forward to seeing him in the films. It takes a while for him to engage into his loveable grumpy-guts niche, but it works out eventually. Can he carry a movie on his own, though? Time will tell! ... or not. How are those sequel plans working out?

The film's imagery is spectacular, and easily the selling point. The locations look terrific, the effects are great, and the monsters are suitably monstrous. The music is pretty superb, too! I genuinely wish I saw this in the cinema, though. A dinky TV isn't enough to flaunt it.

It's rather unfortunate, though. The battles are exciting, the locales are whimsical, and it's got such great, lush elements that deserve praise... but without engaging characters or sharp writing, the film is rendered rather forgettable. There's only so much that can be added to the original text, sure. I guess I'm just miffed over how amazing some of the spectacles were, and how they weren't in a more memorable film.



This popped up on TV, and I figure I'd watch it. I caught it a week after finishing the entire TV series, so I've a hunch I was entering it with the wrong perspective!

It's interesting to see the grim and raunchy plots of the novels explored in comparison to the 'lighter' take of the TV show. The humour revolves more around how crass these army folks are and giving the middle finger to the military. There's no witty repartee or crafty scheming, it's just people being silly, crass and perverted. It clearly floats some people's boat, but it didn't do a lot for me.

Rather than a narrative, the film is presented much like I hear it is in the novel - as short, individual escapades. It's an interesting approach, but it does neuter the chance of any growth or development of any kind. By the time Hawkeye finally goes home, there's no impact to it - we've barely known this guy for two hours, and the turmoil of being away from home has hardly been played up. And how likeable has he been in those two hours?

After hearing some circles hype the film as an anti-war classic and one of the best movies in history, it was a little disappointing to finally see it. It's got its own style of wit (boorish as it is), and it's neat to see what spawned the TV show, but I much prefer the direction the latter version took. It had talented writers and capable actors who fleshed out the premise and turned these cardboard cut-outs into living, breathing characters who I still couldn't get enough of after nearly three hundred episodes. This was fair enough, but not my cup of tea.

The Magic Roundabout


Watched this on BBC iPlayer for kicks.

The Magic Roundabout is one of those peculiar things that always seems to crop up in British pop culture reminiscing, but all people seem to talk about are its origins and the speculation about drug allegories. All I really took out of it was its kooky visual style and its very low-key style of storytelling, where offbeat jokes and non-sequiturs were snuck into the quiet narration without making a fuss. The best I can describe it is as a "sleepy" kind of show.

Not that you'd know from the movie. The film basically takes the characters, the few basic traits people remember about them, and dunks it into a cookie-cutter kids fantasy adventure. It's quite the opposite of the low-key nature of the show - this is loud, energetic, and bursting with totally inappropriate melodrama. You can actually keep track of the movie's progression by the way it repeats events: first there'll be a colourful action scene; then a brief reflection; some more action; some over-the-top melodrama; then a dream sequence (there's like three of them, i swear to god), and then it repeats. It makes for a lousy drinking game, mind you.

Multiple dream sequences is bad enough, but seriously, the melodrama is outrageous. After every couple of action sequences the characters fall into despair and believe the whole adventure is an exercise in futility. I know losing hope is one of those go-to elements in an adventure story, but jeez, they do it so often and so exaggerated it's obscene. Can they find no better way to wind down from the 'exciting' scenes?

The characters are totally stock. Dylan is the walking adult joke. The snail and the cow are the obligatory romance. Dougal is the dumb hero who eventually makes amends. Zeebad is the self-aware villain who makes jokes about evil laughter and dumb henchmen. Zebedee is freakin' Gandalf. Once in a while one of the characters might have a decent line of dialogue, but it always falls flat one way or another.

The voice actors are all big name folks, and they do a fair enough job, but nothing spectacular or memorable, though the script is partly to blame for that, I suppose. Tom Baker and Ray Winstone do amusing work as the villains, though.

As crummy as the actual story and script are, it's got some terrific production values. The animation and modelling is great (even if some characters don't make the transfer to 3D too well), and the locations in particular are terrific. The Train has some of the best animation, if just for how intriguing his movements are - when's the last time you saw a train move like it had legs?

I didn't quite lose the will to live after watching it, I can say that much. It's worth watching just to admire the production values, but it's stock kid crap. There's worse stuff out there, but there's definitely stuff with more meat on their bones.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels


Two con artists try to top each other at their own game, and make a contest out of it.

A fair enough comedy, if a bit forgettable. The beautiful locales are easily among the highlights. Michael Caine and Martin Short play off each other very well, even if Martin is a bit tasteless at times.

Manhattan Murder Mystery


Another Woody Allen film, though we mostly watched it because we were hungry for more of Alan Alda's work after finishing M*A*S*H. It's a very enjoyable flick.

Woody Allen is in his usual role as a neurotic husband. One of the neighbours in his apartment building dies of a heart attack, and his wife believes the woman was actually murdered - it begins seemingly as an overactive imagination, but after the two of them and their friends think it over, begin sleuthing and keep uncovering bigger and bigger clues, they definitely think something is up. They're no master detectives, but together with all their 'talents' they manage to blow the lid off their big mystery.

It starts off a little slow, but the characters are all so fun to watch, and their constant questioning, along with some of the outrageous twists, keep you guessing and really engaged in the little adventure. All the actors give sterling performances - Woody Allen is in his usual fun form, and, of course, I simply cannot get enough of Alan Alda. The man's voice is like music to my ears. It didn't matter if he was hitting on Woody's wife or speculating on conspiracy theories or reading script directions, the man is a wonder to watch and listen to.

... will wanton praise for all things Alda work as my recommendation?

Rumble in the Bronx


Due to watching both series of Falling Skies, we barely watched any movies the past couple of months. This was the first movie we picked up once we were done with it.

Years and years ago, my brother was a huge Jackie Chan nut. You couldn't enter the room without one of his films playing on the VCR: Mr. Nice Guy, Operation Condor, Rush Hour, the works. Back then I quickly grew exhausted of them... but now I was in the mood see what I was missing out on.

I forgot how good Chan's films were! They're very fast-paced, very energetic, and full of character. This one does have a few grim scenes, like Chan getting brutalised to hell and a punk being thrown through a woodchipper, but there's a real heart to the film, a sense of goodwill and optimism to go with its gung-ho attitude, y'know? There's something to be said when the villain is a brutal, murderous crime lord, and the film declares him 'defeated' when they run him over in a hovercraft, stripping him to his skivvies. It's a silly and charming sensibility you don't see in enough action movies.



I first saw this on James Rolfe's Monster Madness; he made a remark about the kids encountering a horrific murdering space monster, and actually befriending it. That sounded pretty quirky! I knew it couldn't live up to the expectations, but what the heck.

There's not much of a plot. A zany family installs a gammy satellite dish that ends up housing an intergalactic monster after an attempt to exterminate it encounters technical difficulties. It beams out of the TV to prey on folks, liquefying them and eating their sludge.

The monster has a wide range of strange abilities, including being able to replicate the people it consumes, which is used for both horrific and comic effect. The residents of the house and the many visitors over the course of the film are all suitably kooky... but somehow it just doesn't take off.

The actors seem adequately suited for comedy, but the writing and pacing seems to let it all down. It takes a good fifty minutes for the movie to really start, but even then the most intriguing moments are over and done with before they can be truly exploited. Some parts seem like they could have been mined for lots more material, but either the budget wasn't big enough or the writing wasn't good enough to make the most of it.

It's got some neat elements, but the film just didn't do much for me. In its defence, it was the director's second ever film, so I guess I can pardon it.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie


The Bebop gang get a two hour motion picture!

It's a good watch, and the Bebop formula remains intact. It's still got some terrific action sequences. The amusing moments and character interaction are on form. The soundtrack is full of excellent tracks, and best of all, it's just as slickly produced as the TV show, if not moreso.

If I were to beef, it's that I feel Cowboy Bebop works best in its TV-sized format. Each 25 minute episode was all the time it needed to cover each adventure. It gave you action, it gave you story, and it gave you a resolution. Perfectly bite-sized.

The film is two hours long, and it can be a bit exhausting. The plot is only slightly grander than a typical adventure (crazy dude tries to kill everyone on the planet by exposing them to the same stuff that was experimented on him), but it's all wishy-washy, backstory-exploring guff that really just bogs the film down with padding. The action scenes are terrific, but they're no longer the punchy openers and finishers to an adventure, and instead are spaced very far apart between slow-going fact-finding missions. It does feel like a story that, with a few omissions, could have gotten by just as one or two episodes of the TV show.

It's also a bit disappointing that Spike is the only one to see much action. Faye gets into some decent antics, but gets tied up and drugged and spends the last half of the movie in that state. Jet helps stop a convenience store heist at the start, but does little afterwards. Edward does her hacking, but gets little chance to interact with anyone, which is when she gets to shine.

A good film, one I'm glad I watched. It's not quite the perfect send-off to the series I'd hoped for (the TV finale does that well enough on its own), but it's a fair enough flick. The anime just stands a bit better, though.



I saw this one twice. I could certainly have watched worse! It's a reasonably entertaining Bond flick - a decent amount of action and some quality drama as well.

The hype surrounding it was a bit overbearing, though. It's a decent watch, sure, but everyone's carrying on like it's the best Bond ever. It's like, is it really this good and I'm just not seeing it, or has the nation's ego swollen to hideous proportions over all things British because of the Olympics? I wouldn't say it's the best Bond ever. At least, I wouldn't say it is until they start incorporating some of my suggestions. Whenever will Bond have a talking helicopter for a sidekick, I ask you!

I wrote a big waffle on the blog where at one point I might have had some clue of what I was trying to say, but I might have lost it amidst all the word spewage. That's the good thing about a blog - you can huck any old rubbish out of your mouth, and it'll get lost under all the other crap you've said.

Further reading: The aforementioned big waffle, if you dare.

I'm All Right Jack


Dad told me about this one, making particular note of all the famous British actors and comedians that appeared in it. The first thought that came to my head was it being a British version of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World... a film I haven't even seen, but I've read Mark Evanier gush about it enough times to get the gist.

Well, no, it wasn't like that. They're nothing alike.

It was an intriguing watch, but a lot of it sailed past me. The recognisable celebrities were from before my time; the politics flew entirely over my head; and keeping track of the characters' tricks and schemes was difficult due to the parade of moustaches among the cast. I don't think I ever found Peter Sellers, since there were so many lip warmers to distinguish between. Oh well.



A stunt driver gets involved with a troubled family, but in striving to help them out, he lands himself in some dirty business.

I first heard of this one through a script writing class; the tutor sang its praises, though I can't remember if simply because she thought it was a good movie, or if she heralded it as an example of good script writing.

It's not a movie I'd say had a fantastic story. Not that it's bad, it's just a very bare basic plot. Where it shines, and what it focuses on, is its cinematography. It's very arthouse. Lots of slow, dramatic pans. Moody lighting. Very sparse dialogue. It is shot excellently, and every single scene in the movie has a tense, uneasy atmosphere. When it wants you to jump, you jump.

I wasn't expecting it to, but the movie stuck in my head for months after I watched it. The plot is bare as heck, but I think that's what helped the movie stick in my memory - very little time is spent thinking "what happens next?", but instead simply soaking in the imagery and the soundtrack. There are some truly memorable scenes, not always for what happens in them, but purely because the look and feel and sound of it is so beautiful. "A Real Hero" is a brilliant song, but it's only half the experience without the film's neon streets backing it.

Barton Fink


The trials and tribulations of a Jewish screenwriter in Hollywood.

Well, it sure is a Coen Brothers film. The cinematography is excellent. The story is quirky and engaging. There's fat stacks of symbolism, making for good discussion afterwards, a lot of it hitting home to writers in particular.

I'm also in no position to review it.

It's been over a year since I saw it, as of this writing! You know what the only note I wrote for this movie was? "Intriguing thing. Think more about it." The film was fresh in my head, and I decided the best course of action was to let my forgetful, incompetent future self to do the hard thinking. By leaving behind a really sloppy sentence, to boot. Thanks a lot, me.

I remember enjoying it, but I sure as heck can't tell you in a sophisticated or well-written manner why.

Further reading: Okay, this is cheating, but linking to big man Bert's review seems like the only way I can apologise for my incompetence.



Another of those films I've never seen my entire life, have been itching to rectify it, and glad I finally did.

A family encounter strange phenomena and spooky ghosts in their house, enduring wild hauntings before their youngest child is whisked away to realms unknown. It's a reasonable plot, if nothing spectacular - having seen parodies in a number of other shows probably dampens the experience - but the special effects are what sell the film.

There's something really believable about the supernatural occurrances throughout the movie, a certain ghostly presence that feels more 'authentic' than most other fright-fests. Being made in the days before CGI and advanced computer effects, there's something a lot more ethereal about the spooky spectacles it creates, all through old prop tricks, sculpted models and camera trickery.

The climax is well and truly intense, and it seems like such a wild blend of medium - live-action, props and goodness knows what else - I'm still intrigued over how they pieced it all together. I suppose when so many questions about movie effects can be answered with "computers" nowadays, there's something magical about seeing stuff like this from the analogue era, and wondering what sort of process was needed to bring it all together.

It's a fair movie with a great atmosphere, but I'm sorry, I gotta gush about old-timey special effects instead!

The Dark Crystal


Back in the day, if my brother liked a film, he'd watch it countless times. He was on a fantasy fix, and he watched Willow a gazillion times. I grew pretty sick of it (but now I'M the one with it on DVD!), and eventually he looked for something else in the same niche. He tried The Dark Crystal.

I think he only watched it once.

It's a very magical film. With just puppets and stage theatrics to work from, they really do create this strange, otherworldly... well, world, full of strange new beasts and alien flora. The creatures look terrific, and although it plainly feels like a soundstage in some bits, it feels a more convincing magical world than many other films can muster.

Plot-wise, it's a load of wank. Cookie-cutter fantasy prophecy bullshit that I can't stand the sight of. There's maybe two personalities to go around a cast of a dozen, and there's not one reason to really give a damn about any of the characters.

I do love the puppetry, though it does limit the scope of the action a bit. There are some fantastic setpieces that seem the perfect locations for brilliant fight scenes, but never quite live up to. Aughra's model of the stellar system is just begging to be climbed over... but, well, asking for good stunt choreography from hand puppets and little people in costumes might be asking a bit much.

A film with some brilliant imagery and fantastic physical effects. Very much rooted in cliché-as-hell fantasy, though.

How To Train Your Dragon


I didn't actually catch much on Christmas TV this year. There was lots on offer, but very few of it seemed like it was worth going out of my way to catch. But I'm a sucker for 3D cartoon stuff, so I had to watch this.

So, Vikings, right? They're on an island and make a livelihood out of hunting dragons (and the dragons a livelihood of wrecking their village and stealing their livestock), but scrawny Hiccup has no chance on earth of ever growing up to be as strong as the rest of the village. He does find a talent in bonding with a seemingly-abandoned dragon, which he soon trains and learns how to fly it.

It's a pretty simple story, but the entertaining cast of characters really help it along. I was particularly taken with how the dragons were treated. They're not just monstrous killing machines, nor is it a case of the hero's dragon being the only decent one among a mass of unsalvageable brutes. They're wild animals, sure, but they're hive creatures, only doing what the 'queen' demands.

I always dig the idea of 'evil' characters or creatures becoming amiable, so this was a pleasing way of getting around it... even if they still had a big nasty ringleader dragon they had no option but to destroy. Yeah, the message kinda falls apart on that instance, but when it works, it's a nice message!

The animation and visuals are really terrific; the environments in particular are beautiful. We seem to take it for granted nowadays, but I'm still impressed with how it blends breath-taking, realistic environments and effects with cartoony, caricature-esque characters. You've got guys with stocky limbs and bulbous heads, yet they can bear realistic skin textures and even stubble without coming across as unsightly. Hats off to the designers!

The 'scope' of the film is a bit limited compared to other animated flicks, but I'd dare say it gives them a better opportunity to design some really gorgeous locations. Better to design one or two gorgeous locations than have a motley of forgettable ones.

It's a very high quality production. Dreamsworks' output has been very hit and miss over the years; sometimes they put out a real corker, and sometimes you're struggling to find a good word to say about them. This is one I've nothing but kind words for. It's the sort of kids film that's so solidly put-together it's hard to remark upon, because it may not go beyond the scope of a kids' flick, nor does it make any foul-ups. It's a good, fun watch, and a very solid production.

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland


Hey, so, this came on TV right after How To Train Your Dragon. That was a good movie! It put me in high spirits, and I was up for another movie, even if it were only half as good. I was in a good mood!

Alice in Wonderland put me in a bad mood.

What haven't I already said? The story is boring. The characters are boring. The action is boring.

It's very bloody boring.

Even without reading the book, I'm astounded how they can take these concepts and make such a pile out of it. I'd like to hope that someone on the crew questioned if they were actually making an entertaining film, or just pandering to Tim Burton's girls-without-personalities fetish again.

The film exhausts and deflates me. What an awful thing to put on Christmas day.