Some games I played in



I've come across a lot of animated film reviews in the past couple of years, perhaps most notably Doug Walker's Disneycember series, and it's great seeing real critiques on the films - their themes, characters, stories and whatnot.

Problem is, I keep forgetting they're still Disney films, and that they're still musicals.

Mulan doesn't have a good start. The basic idea of "girl who messes everything up and brings shame to her family, wants to do the right thing" is there, but the execution feels lousy. The film starts with two awful songs, and the animation and design for this part is really, really uninspiring. Boring designs, flat animation, unimaginative scene setups - this is Disney quality? I was tempted to just walk out.

Once the ghosts of the ancestors show up, it shows its true colours. The character designs from then on are stylish and colourful, the animation becomes fluid and bouncy, and the movie simply becomes a lot more fun. He skips between entertaining and obnoxious multiple times per scene, but Eddie Murphy as Mushu brings a lot of character to the film.

Once Mulan joins the war it picks up, and seeing all the rough-and-tumble soldiers having to work together and pal around is a lot of fun. The pally, chummy attitude of the soldiers meeting the dark and brooding hun soldiers makes for good action, I feel. The antiquated Chinese beliefs around gender roles get a bit tiresome, but it's all well in the end, sure. A good watch.

(it's a bit of a pity that for a musical, only one song is actually memorable at all, eh?)

The Little Mermaid


I'm surprised I've never seen the film until now. I know the "Under The Ocean" song, I saw the TV show as a kid, but never saw the movie. Time for that to change!

It's amazing that it was made in 1989, yet still maintains the same 'charm' of their films from 40 years ago; the same beautiful animation, the same brilliant orchestral music, the same functional and entertaining storylines. It's just a really neato production! I got serious Peter Pan vibes anytime boats were on-screen, and that's always a plus.

The characters are fair enough - Ariel is a flighty but curious teenager, but the way she's voiced and animated really brings her to life, especially once she loses her voice. There's a lot of character to be portrayed just through her body language, which is a real credit to the animators.

Ursula is a really fun villain; as if they took some visual ingredients from Cruella DeVille and spun it in an entirely different direction. Such a fun character.

Sebastian is an okay comic relief guy - he entertains and contributes to the flow of the story, but neither to an incredible extent. Also, it only took me twenty-something years to finally realise he's meant to have a Jamaican accent. Either I'm deaf, or the TV series didn't convey that very well.

I wasn't too keen on a lot of the animal designs, though. underwater life is fascinating and full of weird and wonderful critters, of all shapes and sizes. I guess capturing that while maintaining a Disney style would be too difficult, as a lot of the fish are just... boring. Ol' fishy shapes with regular-ass faces. Ursula's eels are great looking, but it's only now I realised how strange Flounder and Sebastian look - they've got the basic shapes of a fish or a crab, but Sebastian's head is just a shapeless mound built purely for expression, and Flounder's like a pudgy little dog thing with a pronounced nose. It works as cute and expression-friendly cartoon designs, but if you saw a fish looking like Flounder you'd run for the hills.

The animation as a whole is fantastic, though some scenes are better than others. The chef who hunts Sebastian has some of the film's best cartoony animation, but his design looked like it came from another production entirely.

The songs were decent, but outside one or two they were a touch forgettable. Under The Sea isn't even that great, but Disney made sure as hell even people who never saw the film knew about it.

A fun watch, and good to finally see. A solid production. Not much else to remark upon!

Dr. No


The one where that woman swims out of the ocean.

The folks had bought the Bond 50 boxset just before the new year, so we figured watching the whole lot in order would be a bit of fun. I'm kind of sort of familiar with most of the films, but actually sitting down and watching them would be all new for me!

For a fifty year old film it holds up well. The first hour practically sails by, setting a brisk pace and flowing very smoothly. It does slow down once they reach Dr. No's lair, but for good reason - it's a pretty swank lair! Private apartments, giant fish on display, and a wonderful chamber built just to fiddle about with lethal doses of radiation. Absolutely smashing.

Right from the first film, Bond is flawless and mysterious as all get-out, which you could argue makes him a boring protagonist - but dang if him being flawless and mysterious isn't entertaining to watch. The background music is half his character - every time he's on-screen he's got that guitar twanging like it's a part of his natural musk.

Dr. No admittedly doesn't get quite the screen time or build-up to make a great villain. He's got a mean off-screen presence for the first chunk of the film, picturing only his imposing metal hands and his disembodied booming voice... but once you see him proper he's instantly forgettable, especially considering he dies like a punk. Giving him more excuses to crush things with his hands would've helped.

Not a bad watch, this one!



I actually saw the first hour of this years and years ago in school - of all places! - when one of the guys in class brought in a bootleg DVD during the lead-up to Summer. We got maybe an hour into it before the principal told us to do some work, so I never saw anything past the attack on the parade, as far as I recall.

It's a very comic book movie. It doesn't balance the elements quite the same way, but it's got the same style of ludicrous-but-acceptable concepts, the same over-the-top melodrama, the same preposterous characters... it's good fun, is what I'm saying. It does a decent job as an origin story; it's not quite as snappy and succinct as the 90s cartoon show, but it does a good job establishing all the vital elements.

The cast is pretty good for a first run. The film doesn't get the time to show us the frivulous, wisecracking Spider-Man most folks are acquainted with, though showing us the dorky-but-loveable Peter Parker and his growth from bitter youth to troubled but upstanding hero is done very nicely.

The supporting cast are all great, too - Uncle Ben is a memorable figure for his short screentime, Harry Osborn is the well-meaning but perpetually-snubbed friend. Mary Jane admittedly doesn't do much get dragged into danger and be pined over, but she fits the bill, as unglamourous as it may be.

Norman Osborn's a bit odd. you've got a guy with split personalities, getting into long exchanges with his mask. it's... kooky, to put it lightly, but the man acts so gosh-darned over the top, and Sam Raimi directs it in his usual off-beat manner that, well, you accept it as well as you would in the comic books. An almost tragic figure, but damn it, he is such a hammy fool.

It goes without saying, but J. Jonah Jameson is FANTASTIC. They could not have picked a better actor. The man does not get enough screentime. He should've gotten his own three-movie deal. Words cannot express my love.

The special effects are a mixed bag. Like, wow, it's hard to believe. Some sequences look like PlayStation 2 models overlaid atop of live-action footage, while other scenes still look amazing today. The Green Goblin and his glider phase in and out of being semi-convincing and like something out of Puma Man. Spidey's acrobatics gel well on some occasions, and other times he morphs between Tobey McGuire and elastic computer-generated man.

That said, every single sequence of him webslinging is an absolute treat. It might be because it doesn't have to blend special effects with recorded footage - you're not watching guys mimimg being clobbered while the CG crew add a springy red dude to it later. These scenes are built entirely around admiring just how fluid and incredible Spider-Man looks in motion; there's no background elements to break the illusion, it's all eyes on Spidey.

The film's tone is a bit of everything - high school drama, coming-of-age adventure, superhero antics, weird supernatural drama - but the scenes with Norman Osborn overacting in front of a mirror are obviously where Raimi has the most fun. There's not much of a plot, though. Yes, it's an origin story with an adequate reason for Spider-Man's heroics. There's no "save the world" plot, it's just Spidey being a helpful dude. The Green Goblin hasn't a very clear ambition. There's trying to sell his wares to the military, and a rivalry with another company, and there's a desire to recruit Spider-Man to his side, but whatever his aim is eventually devolves down to "this dude's bananas." He's entertaining to watch, but he doesn't seem to full embrace the "I just wanna mess shit up!" angle like the Joker, he still latches onto some sort of motive, as strained as it gets.

I don't know. It's a decent enough story, but it's not a good plot, y'know? The romantic rivalry between Peter and Harry with MJ, and then Harry blaming Spider-Man for his father's death, it's a cool angle to explore, but the Green Goblin himself, whoa, I don't even know.

One scene has always stuck with me over the years. At the festival when Green Goblin attacks, he blows up the executives of the company on the balcony with a bomb... but not with an explosive bomb, but one that reduces them to SKELETONS.

I seriously have no idea what to make of it; not then and not now. Goblin murders a few dudes throughout the movie, but always in relatively 'obscured' ways, either just beating the stuffing of them or blowing them up. You never see what mangled mess they are afterwards. This is the only time it's explicitly shown, and I guess being fried to a wispy skeleton is a very 'fantasy' way of snuffing dudes... but holy shit, I always found it spooky. It's the one and only instance of it happening, and no comment is made on where the hell he got it from. It just weirds me out, is all!

A standard superhero flick, but you should know by now my standards for quality cinema are pretty low. It was good to see it all the way through for once, and an enjoyable watch.

From Russia With Love


The one with that villain whose ripoff got more screentime in Austin Powers than the original ever did.

I was a bit knackered when I watched this one, so I admit what I remember of it isn't favourable. It is neat seeing the familiar Bond elements trickle their way in - Q and his gadgets, Blofield and his gimmicky cronies, and the James Bond staple of being attacked in his bedroom.

Dr. No had a fairly punctual plot (there's a mysterious island owned by a chap called Dr. No, let's look into this!), but this one established international feuds and double agents and Lektors and all sorts, and by the end of the film it just seems to be an endless stream of dudes trying to kill Bond in inventive manners and locations... and I had no idea what the goal was by that point. There are some great fights, but holy cow, I had no idea when the movie was going to end.

I think my beef was that it introduced some great aspects - Turkey makes for a great location, the partner Bond meets there is a lot of fun, and Rosa Klebb is a really iconic villain - but those two characters are unceremoniously offed and after leaving Turkey they just seem to bounce around everywhere with little rhyme or reason.

I can't say I remember it favourably, but I was tired, so what do I know.

The Hobbit


With a bit of trimming and squashing, the book could easily have fit into one film... but given the epic stature of the Lord of the Rings movies, they could hardly have done that - not when there's money to be milked! To its credit, it fills itself rather nicely; nothing feels too rushed, nor does anything feel too drawn-out. It's nicely plump.

If I were to say a scene was drawn-out, it'd be the scene with Gollum. I don't know, I just got bored of it very quickly! It's a great little scene in the book, and I suppose it's a novelty to have him come back onto our screens again after all these years, but for all the pandering the film does, this felt the most shameless. I think it's because we've had over ten years of people and pop culture referencing Gollum and his mannerisms, it's difficult to respect it without thinking of the worst possible imitations.

It's a strong cast, everyone is in top form. Martin Short makes for a delightfully geeky Bilbo, and the dwarves are all a hoot. I was almost certain the actor who played Ori was Paul Elliot of the Chuckles Brothers, but no, it was just a guy who looked remarkably like him. Funny, that!

The plot does a reasonable job filling itself, but it admittedly does feel like it's throwing too much around. The goal is to reclaim the old dwarven homeland from Smaug, but then we're told of the necromancer, the giant spiders, the political tiffs going on... and although the movie certainly has a good climax, it's like, what have we accomplished so far? Their destination is in viewing distance by now, that's a plus.

I remember hearing talk about the movie being filmed in 48FPS and 3D, unprecedented for most blockbusters, though I honestly couldn't tell the difference - if our cinema even showed it in that framerate or not. I did notice that all the panning shots had a strange stuttering effect, as if they'd 'flattened' the 3D effect and done a shit job of it. Seeing those big panning shots is the whole point of seeing this in the cinema, and having that spoil it was a bit of a bummer!

I enjoyed the film, but I probably didn't enjoy it as much as most folks. It was fun, but I wasn't blown away.



The one with the hat that kills people.

Now this is back on form. What really sells this instalment is the cast of characters - Connery is on good form, and there's a whole stack of people out to assist or hinder Bond. I wasn't too sure what to think of Goldfinger at first - a tubby guy with bad fashion sense, what is there to be afraid of? Besides his fat wallets, not much, but when he puts Bond in the laser trap and delivers that famous line, you know what he's good for.

And then you've got Pussy Galore and her female flying circus; there's Oddjob, the grim-but-jolly silent assassin, and then there's the two CIA guys keeping an eye on Bond. They don't offer much, but it's good for him to have some foil once in a while.

It's fast-paced, breezy and laden with good action. I think the lack of continuity following From Russia From Love was a good move - it's not here to establish an ongoing threat or anything, it's just a fun and entertaining standalone adventure. Good watch!



The one with the kickass underwater battle.

I'm glad I sat through this to the end, but I was definitely squirming in my seat a little. It's very slow-paced.

SPECTRE get their paws on some bombs, and demand the UK to fork over mucho dinero or else they'll wipe out a couple of landmarks with them. It's a fun and simple plot... but the film just feels very drawn-out, and whatever accomplishments or developments are made don't seem to feel like ones. It doesn't help that there's a dire lack of interesting characters; there are at least four female characters, and I hate to say it, but I had trouble keeping track of them. One of them commits suicide partway through, and I'm thinking, which one was that again?

For all the drawn-out pacing, there are some brilliant moments, but they seem to go by too fast for you to really appreciate them. The film begins with Bond at a funeral, and is nearly murdered by a man disguised as a grieving widow, with veil, high heels and everything - and this is thrown at you in the first two minutes! There's a sequence where Bond is attacked in a spa, and another long chase where Bond nips in through a Mardi Gras-esque parade, and kills his pursuer by dancing with her.

But, gosh, is it so freakin' slow. There's a lot of underwater sequences, and although very nice and no doubt gob-smacking back in the day, they feel like definite padding - long sequences of little happening, very slowly, with no dialogue. I think that's partly why I couldn't keep track of any plot developments - watching five minutes of dudes swimming between every advancement must destroy whatever memory I have.

It's worth hanging around to the end, which is the absolute pinnacle of the film: a huge underwater battle between SPECTRE frogmen and heroic divers, with knives, spear guns, motorised watercraft, sharks, traps, and underwater kung-fu. It's a fantastic sequence that's I've yet to see matched - I'd dare say it's the highlight of the movies so far!

And when that's done and dusted, Bond then storms the boat which promptly goes out of control, forcing a madcap brawl at the steering wheel where everything and everyone is thrown around by the boat's turbulence. It's just short of being Benny Hill material.

The few great moments are really great moments, but I'd only recommend this as an "ITV watch" - have it on in the background and only pay attention once the action starts up. Those scenes are unmissable, but the rest isn't worth tuning in for.



Based off the real event of rescuing refugees from the Middle Easy by staging a mock film production to get in unnoticed.

I wasn't expecting a lot from this, but this was a very gripping adventure; they may be based off true events, but it's so outlandish at times you feel there's no way it could be real. Some of the artistic licenses do stretch belief a little bit, like the intense climax where the pursuers are just behind the heroes before they make their daring escape.

Seeing all the work put in behind the scenes to make the production as convincing as possible is really nifty, especially the recreations of timely set design and fashion. The politcal side of things are also a bit skewed simply to make it a more clear-cut "here we come to save the day" story, but it remains a highly enjoyable film.



I'm only scantly familiar with Judge Dredd, and only through comic-readin' pals and that one unreleased arcade game, but it comes across as something rather unique. A British underground pulp comic that thrived in its niche little zone of interest, and if you were to expose it to a mass audience it'd probably lose its edge.

Dredd and his partner are trapped inside an apartment block, filled to the brim with criminals, hoodlums and gang members, and they need to scale to the top to apprehend the crime lord they're after. I'm told another film around the same time did the exact same premise... without the Dreddy bits. And to its credit, it's a rock-solid all-purpose premise! The film does it well, boasting slick visuals and entertaining, engaging action.

I hate to bitch about something I'm quite clueless about, but... I just feel there's so much you're missing out on. I'm the furthest thing from knowledgable about Judge Dredd, but it sounds like a real entertaining universe - Mega City 17 itself is as much a character as any of the cops and crooks. The comic panels of the everyday life in there looks kooky and intriguing, and it's disappointing that they isolate him inside a single building for the entire film. It just could've showed us something a bit more interesting, y'know?

That aside, it's a solid film. It's a good way to get Dredd into cinema without anything too out-there. I remember watching the trailers and just thinking, this looks like Nolan's Batman all over again. And in that regard, I suppose I'm glad it was set indoors if that's what you'd be looking at otherwise. I've had my fill of boring cynic cities.

You Only Live Twice


The one with the sweet volcano base.

SPECTRE are stealing Russian and American spaceships, causing a bit of a tiff between the two nations, so Bond is sent to explore Japan to find their lair.

This is a fun watch! There are some terrific action sequences, some fun gadgets, amusing enemies, and a beautiful locale. Though, let's be honest, it's hard to top that final battle. It's a fantastic evil lair - it's a base inside a volcano with a secret hatch; it's got a pool of man-eating piranhas; it's got a monorail popemobile... and, of course, you've got Ernst Blofield and his kooky cronies at the helm of it. And as if that wasn't enough, Bond assaults it with a squadron of ninjas. How do you top that?!

The car chase sequence is fantastic, too. It's amazing seeing a car chase choreographed involving two cars, a helicopter and a giant magnet, all moving at the same time... and they still manage to get great composition out of it! The cinematography is really superb at parts, with terrific crane shots to show the real scope of the situation. Bond being attacked at the docks is another great example - it's a silly comparison, but the zoom-out of him being surrounded by guys on the rooftop gave me flashbacks to Rumble In The Bronx.

... but then at times the editing feels rather lousy. There's a number of scenes that seem harshly cut. The helicopter fight is hard to follow with footage being reused several times, and there's a lot of bits where a guy takes a bullet to the chest, and then seems to teleport several yards just so he can fall off a cliff in the next shot. Not that i'm complaining, mind you. I'd kill to have that as my superpower.

It's daft ol' James Bond guff, and that's just what I like.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service


The one with the new fella.

An intriguing one. It takes a fair while before it warms up, and it's not even until the final act that Bond actually gets some decent action to chew into, but once it gets rolling it's an entertaining ride. The villains are good fun and the premise is suitably corny. The German woman makes for an entertaining antagonist, while Blofield is just kinda there.

George Lazenby isn't bad, though it does feel like he's trying to be Connery 2.0 rather than bring his own unique flavour. And thanks to the premise, he spends a majority of the running time masquerading as a dorky professor, only getting a chance to Bond it up over halfway through the film. That said, he does a decent enough job and the ending is very, very iconic - a good chance for him to show off his acting chops.

Most of the movie I've forgotten about by now, but it was a good watch if I recall correctly!

Black Samurai


A hokey old blaxploitation film my dad dug out. Some fuckers are up to no good, the government agents are lousy at resolving it, meaning there's only one mofo capable of taking them on!

The film's a a bit of a blur to me. I don't recall any amazing martial arts taking place, nor any killer dialogue or... well, anything memorable, actually. The locations were rather pretty and they had a lot of fun dragging out the fight scenes just so they could have a brawl in every possible nook and cranny. The fights on the rooftops were particularly nice, if just because I'm a sucker for scenery.

Black Samurai wasn't even that cool a character; in fact, they had to artifically enhance his coolness by pairing him up with a tubby white collar dope for the climax... though having to share screentime with him only makes the whole affair look dangerously uncool. He was not a man suitable for chubsploitation.

My dad admitted he's just a sucker for schlock (he didn't need to tell me that!), and, well, if this sounds like your bag, then go nuts.

Alone in the Dark II


I had probably finished the game by the time dad and I watched this. It's not directed by Uwe Boll, it's got no releation to the last film, and it certainly hasn't any relation to the games from what I can tell. An Edward Carnby shows up, but he just seems to be there because of a bullshit prophecy; there's something to do with a witch's curse, but the movie is just lots of people fucking about in the woods and getting killed when they look at the camera. I don't think it was even an hour and a half, there was so little content, and what was there was a load of wank.

The only thing I remember is there's a bit where a guy is in a cabin, he goes into the hallway and seals the door to protect the allies from some nondescript advancing threat you don't even see. That threat advances on him and he screams and he dies, and that's the last you see of him.

And I'm thinking, from an actor's point of view, how disappointing must that be? You get a role in a horror film and you don't even get to die properly. No chance to show your acting chops where you scream and thrash and howl. No, you turn, you scream, and then you take your paycheck. You're done.

I think that's why movies like this bug me; it's disappointing for the watching audience, and how much fun are the people making it having? Sure, it's a business, but give them something entertaining to do, at least.

Really forgettable. Absolutely awful. Do not watch.

Diamonds Are Forever


The one with the stupid villains. Like, way stupider than usual.

Apparently this film marks the start of the franchise's silly season, and was not fondly remembered by my parents. This is my first time seeing it, so I had no prior expectations.

Diamonds are stolen to power a space satellite that's going to hold the world hostage. James masquerades as the diamond smuggler to gain the trust of a lady accomplice, but she ends up helping voluntarily, as they try and track down who's responsible for the smuggling and what their purpose is.

Connery's back, and brings his indescribable rogue-ish appeal to the role. He's got a cheeky charm and lots of fantastic snarky lines ("I was just taking my rat for a walk and must have lost my way!"), though I couldn't help but wonder if he wanted to still be around - he's said that he hated Bond, didn't he?

It's not a bad adventure, but it always feels like it's missing something. There are a number of sequences you watch, and then only afterwards you realise, "okay... how did that fit in with the rest of the film?" The encounter with Bambi and Thumper, the moon buggy chase scene - I wholeheartedly embrace the silliness, but they seemed like strange (if stupidly entertaining) ways of filling out the running time.

That, and there's a strange lack of music. There's a grand car chase through Las Vegas with the police featuring stacks of car crashes, almost like a precursor to The Blues Brothers, and a helicopter attack on an ocean rig... and both sequence have no music at all. It ends up feeling very tepid.

The girl does make good bumbling foil for Bond, especially later on, but it lacks decent characters, I feel. Blofield's all right, if a bit too cartoony at this point. There's two camp guys who serve as recurring villains: they are dangerous, and they do kill people, but they're just too tiresome to take seriously or be entertained by. They only become fun when they start facing Bond in proper combat at the end, and only because they're defeated in such comically violent ways.

It's not a bad watch, but it's just missing a few vital pieces.

Battle of the Bone


I've been waiting too long to see this. I actually attended some sort of wrap party for this in somebody's apartment where a couple of the actors milled about and let us in on top secret information: the sequel was in the works, and was to feature WEREWOLVES. Whether this was true but failed to happen, or the actors were just looking for attention, I have no idea. I think the evening ended with a creative writing session where our topic of choice "doors". This is the Belfast night life you're missing out on, folks.

It's an indie Northern Irish zombie martial arts film. Some bad shit goes down at a laboratory that unleashes zombies upon the city, and our heroes flee both from the zombies and yobbos, busting out sick parkour moves to find safety.

There's next to no story present, and even for an independent film it looks... well, yikes. I was this close to turning it off within the first thirty minutes, but once the martial arts stuff happens it begins to show some merit. The guys really flaunt their stuntman chops! Admittedly long stretches of the film are nothing but getting into brawls in various locations, be they in warehouses or shipyards or alleyways, but they're full of energy and quite a lot of fun to watch. I wouldn't credit the chereographer for that; I think they just found a springy cast of guys who knew good places to stage fights.

The zombie stuff did nothing for me. Those parts of the film come across more like somebody's home movie - I can imagine the making of it was a lot of fun, with the whole neighbourhood getting gussied up in face paint and chasing after people (you can see the zombies smiling half the time!), but it's just people being chased around parts of Belfast or miming getting eaten.

Every character has a name in the credits, including such greats as "Dr. Death", but there's no real attachment to anyone. The writing's not good, the acting's pretty dire, and the ending is bloody awful. Six straight minutes of slow-motion action dipped in fifteen different filters. Get these guys an editor.

Speaking of editors... the man in charge of the projector has his name slathered all over it. He directed it, produced it, edited, chereographed it, designed the DVD case and was probably the one-man marketing team, judging by his social media profiles. I always say kudos to anyone who's ever started and finished a production, as it's no small undertaking... but one wonders how much of your soul is lost when you spend a straight year prowling movie forums to hype up your film.

I'm always a sucker for local productions, and it is cute seeing people I know get turned into zombies or watching chase sequences happen across familiar sights. That said, hooee. It might be worth watching if you've got patience, but the martial arts are the only saving grace if you're not familiar with Belfast.

The Hunger Games


I'd only heard of this movie when overhearing discussions comparing it to Battle Royale; I haven't seen that movie, but the basic premise of pitting kids together in a deathmatch is pretty much shock value, but does make for an interesting story. You've got forced coming-of-age, making warriors out of innocents, all those golden tropes. There's a lot you can make out of the concept.

Some futuristic society where rich wankers sit in luxury make an annual deathsport out of pitting workers from sixteen sectors into the wilderness, and whoever wins gets to join high society - but in the meantime they've got to survive, outwit each other, and pander to the audience for support.

It's an interesting idea, and maybe it's explored better in the book, but I found the movie a bit opulent and wanky. I didn't find the characters terribly interesting, the scope of the events too constrained. It's Katniss' story, I suppose, but it seemed a waste to show the kids demonstrating their various battle techniques in the pre-game training, and they either die instantly or are completely unseen. It's hard to tell how big these battles are when the latter half of the movie is spent hiding in a ditch. Sensible, but hardly exciting!

I just found it predictable. It was hard to engage when I could see all these tropes coming from a mile away, though I'd consider that a criticism at myself as well. Some ideas were neat like the younger girl supporting Katniss, but I just knew she would die, Katniss burying her in the traditions of her sector would incite an uprising, and basically come across as a mighty whitey situation, personally. I might just be cynical.

The film just went by me and I didn't really care.

Live And Let Die


The one with the awesome song and the crocodile farm and J.W. Pepper and gosh darn it what HASN'T this one got!?

I actually have trouble remembering this one sometimes, because it has just so much I'm almost sure it's spread across multiple films. There's some absolutely outstanding chase sequences, spanning cars, boats and even a light aircraft; there's some brilliant fights; the settings are all memorable and lively; it introduces the comedy stylings of J.W. Pepper (which admittedly is hit-or-miss, but it adds some decent comic relief), and dang it, that title song!

If there's one downside, the main villain played by Yaphet Kotto is... well, what do you remember of him? He's performed well and he's sinister enough, sure, but it's all undermined when he gets one of the most embarrassing deaths in the series. The other baddies are more compelling, like the bloke with the hook and Baron Samedi, but that death, holy cow. What a buzzkill.

Aside from that, I'd have to say this is perhaps my favourite Bond movie of them all. There's never a dull moment!

Wreck-It Ralph


You've got Ralph, who's an essential part of an arcade game but gets no respect, so he tries finding a role in other games, be it a good guy or bad guy. Doing so ends up causing unexpected mayhem across the other games, including introducing a hostile lifeform to a cutesy racing game...

The story's about what you'd expect from a kid's film; it's fun, it's bouncy and the characters all play off each other entertainingly enough. It doesn't need saying there's big appeal for game nerds seeing all the references and characters and injokes.

It is a bit funny with its rules, though. Like, why will winning this race will somehow reset the game to its factory settings? Geneva of Cartoon Book Club complained that it seemed to introduce stuff as it went along, and the others defended it as being a staple of video game logic... though at the very least, it helped pushed the plot along. And the latter half of the film is spent in Sugar Rush, a candy-themed racing game, turning the tone from "all video games, all the time" to candy jokes and product placement. It is a setting and story closer in tone to Disney's traditional affair, though; the video game stuff is cute but is also something we've been exposed to for the past fifteen years through bad webcomics.

I think it balanced the two aspects pretty well, and neither got too overbearing. I hear people saying they wanted more game characters and references, or even have established franchises be more integral to the plot, but it needs to tell its own story, man! I don't think SEGA's in a position to hijack the plot of a Disney movie. Not yet, anyway. (coming soon: Wreck-It Ralph 2: The Tears of Opa-Opa)

I have one topic to raise, though: just how big are these games? Sugar Rush is a modern racer so there's no doubt the locations would be expansive, the features in-depth and some assets left unused or unfinished. But Wreck-It Ralph is a field with a hotel and a stump, but the hotel has an entire interior going on inside. You wouldn't see that in regular gameplay, would you? I know, I digress, but ever since Red Dwarf's Timeslides this is stuff I always have to fuss over.

Anyway, yeah, it's a decent enough watch.

Jack the Giant Slayer


Some construction was taking place in the neighbourhood all afternoon, so we figured going to the cinema was the best way to get away from it. Dad fancied this, and I had no expectations from it.

Dirt poor Jack exchanges his horse for beans, which are actually magical relics that the king's treacherous aide wishes to steal, who is also seeking to marry the princess. She's having none of that and goes out on her own to find adventure. While she's visiting Jack, one of the beans is accidentally triggered, whisking the princess into the skies. Jack, the aide, and a troupe of cannon fodder clamber up to haul her back.

It's a very basic story, but it has a bit of fun simply playing with the old schtick or twisting things a little. The villain is almost panto-levels of cheesy, and the whole crux of the story, the magic beans, are used to entertaining effect. A bunch of them get planted, and they really utilise the spectacle of giant plants erupting from the earth... and then falling down again.

The film does look pretty slick. The giants look fantastic, with faces that cover everything from rugged to gosh-darned unsightly; they have a lot of fun zooming in to show you all of their warts and pores. The giant leader has a second diminutive head, almost Gollum-esque - it's completely unnecessary, but it adds a certain flavour to his scenes, and it's charmingly gross. And, of course, the landscapes are gorgeous - everything from the overgrown plains of the giants' floating island, or the lush medieval castles of Cloister. It's CGI central, but I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

The characters aren't quite so detailed, though. Jack is one of those stock teenage protagonists - he wants more out of life, a woman, respect, adventure, and gets it all handed to him with little to no effort. He might have had some character development in there somewhere, but I didn't see it. And for being some chump kid, he's the only character to get the privilege of actually slaying a giant on-screen. Two of 'em!

The king's aide is villainous purely because of his occupation, though he's entertainingly hammy. Ewan McGregor is probably the most interesting dude simply because he's a noble knight - he can't run around pursuing his own ambitions to rule kingdoms or pork ladies, he has knightly duties! He foregoes the chance to return home and puts his life on the line to stop the aide from ruling the giants, and hasn't even time to rest from that before he defends the castle.

I'll confess the film's tone bugged me to no end. It is a fairy tale, in a sense, with comedic characters and a drop of whimsy, but it's also quite eager to appear like an epic fantasy thriller with a shockingly huge bodycount. It doesn't shy away from death at all - HEAPS of characters have their heads bitten off, and the two comic relief characters are eaten alive, thrashing and screaming, within the first 40 minutes. There's no blood or gore in those instances, but it's done with a shocking amount of frivoloity and callousness.

I don't know, I guess I'm just a big ol' softie? There's a few bits that just sat strangely with me. One sequence is when the group defeat a giant by sticking a beehive in his helmet, and in the confusion he falls off a cliff. The three start laughing, out of relief, I suppose... but a man just died. Yes, it was comical, and he would've killed you, and the film makes no attempt to make the giants seem pleasant, but that's blood on your hands, guys!! DON'T LAUGH ABOUT THIS I'M REALLY UPSET

Also, hey, spoilers!, at the end, Jack drops a seed in the lead giant's mouth, and a beanstalk erupts out of him, crushing and tearing him apart. It's a pretty awesome way of defeating him and I am a sucker for body horror... but not when it's in kids movies, I guess? There's a short scene of the giant's malformed second head getting crushed between two stalks, and it begins to mutter "oh, fuck", before its head explodes, cutting it off and sending gore, giblets and eyeballs flying towards the screen.

On one hand it's wicked awesome and a totally kickass death scene, but on the other hand it felt... I don't know, forced? Out of place? I think I'm conflicted because-- it's a Disney film! It's rated PG! The really gross body horror sequence of this guy exploding has got to be seen, but... at what cost?!

So you've got the ultraviolence, and then you've got the women who don't do anything. Early on it tries to set up Jack and the princess as parallels - they were both taught the same stories as a child, and both have the same abuse from their father-figure in their teens, so one would expect her to transform into a rip-roaring action chick somewhere along the line.

... nope!

I cannot remember her doing a single thing. I can't remember any of the three women in the film doing anything of note, besides one of them being dead before the story begins. There is a token mention of the princess marking trees so she can find her way back, but it's just to show that she got kidnapped in the process. She throws Jack his sword in the climax, but for the entire rest of the running time she's a damsel in distress in the purest form of the word. She's a MacGuffin. They need some reason to haul ass up that beanstalk, and Jack's cat apparently isn't important enough to require the king's assistance.

I was almost sure I saw a few female giants in the crowd scenes, but an interview confirms they didn't include female giants because it'd be weird and they didn't like the idea of killing ladies. I'd argue some more but I'd sooner throw someone in a ditch at this point. Possibly myself.

Worst of all: the ending. It doesn't need much of an ending - they get the crown back, the giants bog off, happy days, right? Roll credits. But no, it then shows how the story mutates into the myth, and the crown was eventually modified and became part of the Crown Jewels, and this is regaled to students on a school-trip in modern day England. One of the kids smiles, revealing he's got the same crooked teeth as the villain had.

My first thought was "fuckin' A, you can't be serious."

I can't stand it. I can accept a good fantasy story, but having to accept that this allegedly whimsical fantasy takes place in our real world with all our lovely atrocities - the floating islands, magical beans and giants that don't obey the square-cube law share the same universe as Jeremy Clarkson and Margaret Thatcher and Facebook... it just takes me out of the picture. It doesn't sit well with me. I was hoping for an ending where they could forge an alliance or even just make peace with the giants, not "go back to your own country." Ugh. They could've cut that final bit and I would've been slightly less salty.

As a brainless action fantasy it does a decent job, but as someone who takes their escapism seriously, it simply did not sit well with me. I was stewing over this one for months, let me tell ya.

The Croods


It's the end of the world, so this family of cavemen and a stranger they meet try to find a way to safe ground, and get up to misadventures along the way.

It's a decent, lighthearted family watch. The family make a good cast, though I recall Geneva discussing something in Cartoon Book Club, how it seems like it's going to be the teenage girl's story, but then it comes back to the dad and how it's his attempts to save the day. It's about his anger at this stranger leading his family astray and not listening to him. It was a topic she went on about animated adventures about dads, and something I'd noticed myself, especially in fuckin' Die Hard 4 with its dodgy father-daughter relations, the dad is overprotective to a frightening degree but comes out on top in the end. It's-- hmmm. Something I'm a bit tired of seeing, but at least The Croods did it a little more tactfully. Fuckin' Die Hard 4, man. Jeez.

Also, I really was almost expecting the dad to buy it at the end, to be left behind and slowly die. In a way I was really hoping for that happen, because, wow, that'd be a change! He's done all he can. He's gone to the absolute limit of his potential, but it wasn't enough, so he must die along with the old world that bore him. A fitting end.

But then he frees some animals and they bail him out and it's all fun and whimiscal and potential for a sequel hook: old men in a new world! Coming next Summer, probably!

The Croods was a fun watch, I guess. There were worse things I could've seen. If I didn't see it I wouldn't have gotten a chance to argue about dads in media and wishing for more deaths in kids's shows. That's what you come here for, right? Random Hoo Haas: I Don't Even Know Anymore.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs


A very, very stupid cartoon, but bursting with energy and is totally unashamed about its idiocy. Some dope makes a device to rain food on the city, and it shouldn't take a genius to tell it turns bad fast.

The film doesn't try to rise above its station - it doesn't try to be mature, it doesn't try to inject drama, it's just an out-and-out cartoon, and it does a great job. The animation style in particular is superb, using elements of 2D animation on 3D models, which creates a surprisingly good effect. The style worked so well I was under the impression it was imported directly from the story book, but I since found it uses old-fashioned traditional pencil or chalk drawings. Just a curiosity, is all.

A good watch! Wish I had more to say than just geeking out over animation, but oh well!!



The one where Jaws is a good guy.

This one I can barely even remember - some bullshit about a guy who wants to eradicate the Earth and repopulate it with the offspring of the couples on his space station? I think it's really about stealing a diamond to power said station, and Jaws is there to get into strange slapstick.

It's a very silly movie; very stupid and very lighthearted. The final space battle looks like it's trying to ape the underwater climax from Thunderball, but it can't even compare. I don't recall being too impressed, but it was okay, I suppose.

George of the Jungle


I saw this in England while visiting my brother; his wife wasn't feeling well, so we just hung out and watched her favourite movies. This was a fun one to revisit! It's a cartoon through and through. I've only seen a few of the original cartoons by Pen Ward, but the film captures the same kind of dopey, fourth wall-leaning humour it employed. It's a dumb, fun time that's suitable for all ages and has no time to get dark or dramatic.

This is perfectly demonstrated in a scene where one of the jungle guides falls off a bridge supposedly to his death... only for the narrator comment this is a kids' movie, so he only suffered a "big whoopsie", appearing in the next scene covered in bandages. I'm just a sucker for drama-free comedics like that, and there's few films that could pull it off so well.

Heck, even the finale wherein George and the baddie are battling over the girl, George wins and swings away with the girl, while a lady gorilla ends up snogging the loser. Only in kids' media could that be the resolution to a climax, and I love it.

All the actors do a good job and make the most of the cheesiness. Nobody looks embarrassed to be there. Brendan Fraser does a great job as George, really mugging it up, if perhaps a bit too much. He's just such a fun guy to watch in this role, especially with those freakin' abs! I can see why ladies love him in the role - he's a fun, whimiscal, lighthearted guy with a heart of gold and a rock-hard bod. I'd take him out any time.

Star Trek: Into Darkness


The new Trek boys venture into a rehash of Wrath of Khan.

The Enterprise meets up with Khan John Whoever after he blows away some Klingons with a giant minigun (why yes, this IS written by the same guys behind the Transformers movie franchise, why do you ask?), and he claims his homies are being held captive by a big bad Federation ship. Everyone's a bit sceptical of Khan, but a big ol' sob story wins them over...

... until Old Spock appears out of nowhere! No build-up, no lead-in, not even an ounce of restraint - Leonard Nimoy just pops up on the comm screen and is all "yo, how's life in your shithole". New Spock asks him if he encountered Khan in their timeline, and Old Spock spills the beans - he's a ruthless son of a bitch. A murderin' a-hole. I don't care how handsome he is, don't trust him, you numpties.

Then New Spock asks, "did you defeat him?"

Old Spock pauses, and answers, "at great cost."

It's that one line I get hung up on. That is the line of dialogue that made me get into arguments with everyone for the next four months. You don't throw lines like that around unless you mean it. Spock died. He saved the Enterprise but kicked the bucket, and it was a beautiful scene and wonderful send-off to the character. Unless someone's gonna snuff it just as dramatically, don't you dare throw those words around.

So later on, Khan goes nuts, kills a Federation captain who had it out for him, hijacks his ship and attacks the Enterprise. Kirk has to go to the engine room and kick the power supply back into place, and gots shot full of space radiation. Dude's freakin' dying, but he can't be let out. Trapped, he lies by the glass door, Spock helplessly on the other side, as Kirk commentates on the strange sensation of death, as the two cement their friendship and loyalty to each other. WHERE HAVE WE SEEN THIS BEFORE!?!?

It's pandering as all hell (Spock actually screams "Khaaan!" in grief this time, which is legit awful, like, holy cow, who wrote this), but darn it, I loved the original scene, and just swapping the roles is really entertaining. Also, holy shit, Kirk's dying! That sucker is DEAD. Whodathunkit?

HOWEVER. Earlier in the film for no darn reason, Bones got some of Khan's blood and injected it into a dead Tribble just for the hell of it. After Kirk's death, the Tribble miraculously springs back to life, because Khan has magic super soldier blood or some baloney.

And, wouldn't you know it, it turns out Khan is alive and has crashed a Federation ship into future-London! Spock has to go down there, beat the shit out of him, and suppress his newfound emotions so he can bring him int custody. Bada bing, bada boom, Kirk's alive again, there's a ceremony where he's all "welp there sure were some tragedies on this adventure am i right", he becomes captain again, and they set off on their five year mission.

And I'm thinking, what a waste of a movie.

So Kirk dies, and nothing is done with it. Khan has magic super blood that's a cure for death (WHO WROTE THIS), and nothing is done with it. And they've already encountered Tribbles, Gorn, Klingons and freaky green space babes, so what's left to do on their five year mission?

My big beef with the new Star Trek films is that they're in an unfortunate limbo where they've got a new rebooted universe to play around with, to do wild and crazy things, with hip young actors giving new takes on all the old characters... but are still left paying lip service to the original show. There's respecting your roots and paying tribute to the fans, and then there's creative stagnation.

I was legit hoping Kirk would die. Heck, in the scene where Khan kills the bad captain, the dodgy editing made me think it was Scotty who get his skull crushed, and I was worried - now that's a shocking development! But... now they've lost the one half-likeable character. What good would that have been for the story?

Kirk, meanwhile, I spent the whole movie thinking: wouldn't it be more interesting if there was a different captain? What would Picard do in this situation? And what better sense of "great loss" is there than the head of the franchise getting snuffed? Nothing says "alternate universe" like offing the main character! It's fantastic! It's brilliant! It's just the kind of shake-up the series is looking for! It's... completely undermined by the end of the film.

He didn't even need to be dead dead. They could bring him back in the next movie - but in the interim, what a swerve! You'd get people talking, that's for sure. Perhaps some immature boycotts as well because nerd culture is mighty tiresome these days, but it'd get people curious what they've got up their sleeves for next time.

As it stands, it's hard to be at all enthusiastic. Kirk's cowboy attitude got tiresome fast, and how much of a story has he left to tell? Plonking someone else in the captain's chair would give every character a fresh dynamic, learning to work with their new style of command. But... fuck it. Who cares.

The movie's also got other weird issues like the sexualisation of that one woman officer for no apparent reason and other creepy shit, but other folks have made better complaints against it. I'm just here to fume over nerdy crap.

As a no-brainer action film, it's fair enough. As a Star Trek film... don't ask.

Iron Man 3


Iron Man 2 had so much hype, but I honestly found it a forgettable film. What was there? There were a couple of stupid jokes and the dumb scene where the two blast each other and you think it's just a dumb scene but, whoops!, that's actually what saves the day. I didn't really like it. Spoilers for Iron Man 2, by the way.

Iron Man 3 is a direct sequel to The Avengers and addresses a bit of the fallout from it; Tony is still recovering, physically and mentally, from that alien invasion, and is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. I can't say it's an angle that did much for me, but I guess it's neat to see it explored even in a Hollywood superhero film.

There are incidents of suicide bombers around America, and it's implied to be the work of an al-Qaeda-esque organisation - though in actuality it's a botched supersoldier formula to rehabilitate soldiers with amputations, only now it makes them turn evil or explode or... something. It's not a tasteful angle, either of them.

The hype for this movie was directed towards the Mandarin, who's played up as an Osama bin Laden kinda guy, leaving threating messages on news broadcasts. You can't play him as Chinese because that's racist, and the magic element would probably be too far-out for Iron Man, so middle eastern terrorist is the way to go, I guess. Ooer. It does turn out he's not a terrorist, but instead this limey, hammy British stage actor who's been shang-hai'd to be the front for this scheme, and he knows nothing about the actual crimes it's masking. It's quite daft, but it's a pleasant surprise and turns him into an entertaining comic foil. Probably not the best way they could've handled it, but it worked out in the end, probably.

Oh, and the real villain? Some fuckin' businessman. COLOUR ME SURPRISED!!

Honestly, it's another forgettable film. It's not bad, but it's not Iron Man 1 either. Now that was a solid, rounded film; Tony had a story arc and the plot was structured around that. The sequels so far have just been eh. It's not a dreadful watch, but struggling to remember anything about it probably ain't a good sign either.

For Your Eyes Only


The one where Roger Moore kicks a car off a cliff.

I, uh, struggle to remember this one. The plot was engaging and there were some pretty sweet chases, I'm sure... but I could barely tell you anything else about it. The ending is pretty strong and gives Roger Moore a chance to show his acting chops for once, after so many out-of-this-world escapades.



The one with the circus train full of assassins.

Some crazy Russian bloke's got a bomb, and god knows what else happens. The villain isn't actually in it much, and he doesn't even get offed by Bond - instead he's shot by some punk law enforcement fella - but he really steals the show whenever he's there. He's such a hammy actor! He's downright frothing and raging and rattling his fists the entire time, he's such a boon to watch.

Can't remember what the rest of the film was like, though! It was a particularly silly one though I still enjoyed it.



This was on Channel4 one night, so I stayed up late to watch it. I forgot how bad TV ad breaks could get - the film's only two hours long, but the five-minute breaks padded it somewhere close to three! Get yourself a recorder, everyone - zipping through ads should be a human right.

It was quite nostalgic watching it; it'd been a long time since I've seen Ghostbusters, and years since I'd ever stayed up late to watch a film on TV. The characters are so much fun, the writing is sharp and witty, and there's always something new to observe when rewatching. Flying Omelette's review got me to keep my eyes peeled for a few aspects... perhaps most notably, the actual story! You're so taken by the characters and special effects it's easy to miss the actual prophecy behind the plot, and what events trigger it to occur.

It's just a good movie. You don't need me to say that.

A View To A Kill


The one with Christopher Walken and Grace Jones!

(see, this is what happens when you don't take notes throughout the year)

A sterling instalment if I recall, though the two villains easily steal the show with their performances; Walken is a terrific asshole and Grace Jones is not only more than a match for Bond, but does a promising job when the two have to team up towards the end. Pity it doesn't go too well, though. Why didn't Grace Jones get a spy franchise?

The Quick and the Dead


A Sam Raimi cowboy movie where a duelling contest is held to try and topple the corrupt sheriff, and one woman is out for revenge.

i've forgotten so much

It was entertaining, though. Very Sam Raimi. Sharply shot and stylishly done, and unrealistically violent when you least expect it; in a movie where gunshots just knock people off their feet, it's a real shock when a fist-sized hole gets blasted through somebody's head. A decent watch.

The Living Daylights


The one with Timothy Dalton.

I am positively kicking myself for not writing notes, because I'm pretty certain this was not only another great film, but a great kick-off to Dalton's tenure. He played a rather cold and straight-forward Bond, but still possessed an engaging amount of charm. His two films were easily top-tier in my opinion. I just wish I had some words to back up those thoughts!

I remember enough to have a complaint, though - the plane crashed because it totally dry on fuel... so how the hell did it manage to explode in a massive fireball? Is every vehicle chassis in the world just a fire hazard waiting to happen? You'd think somebody would've warned us by now.

Man of Steel


Well, it's an update of Superman, innit? Krypton is doomed and blows up, leaving Supes as the only survivor... except all those criminals in the Phantom Zone - whoops! Big Red is raised on Earth and has to come to terms with his powers and what his parents teach him. He also happens to be the last hope of reviving Krypton, hence why the baddies bust out of super jail and try to claim that power from him.

So I'm one of those dopes who's simply never seen Superman media (besides, like, five combined minutes of the Christopher Reeve movies), so to me Supes is just an icon... but one with a lot of connotations. He's hope, justice and the American way! He's typecast as a boring invincible hero, but his stories are less power battles and more triumphs of the human spirit... or such is the impression I've gotten!

This movie follows in the oh-so-successful vein of Nolan's Batman and makes everything dark. It admittedly tries to show some of that triumph amidst the darkness, but everything feels so bleak without a hint of whimsy to it. The scene of him learning is powers was actually genuinely hair-raising, a terrific moment to see on the big screen... but it's hard to get attached to the man when he's such a blank slate. It doesn't help that the villain is a shouty asshole with a really stupid haircut who I wish would be told to take a timeout. Settle, petal.

One of the biggest grievances about this dark tone is that Superman doesn't save everyone. He saves the day, but not without losses. You could argue it's challenging the character, putting him to the test... but at the same time, this is fuckin' Superman! What do we pay this guy for if he ain't saving everyone?!

The climax also felt rather... exploitative? Bully The Little Stuffed Bull did a good entry on it, remarking the whole affair is such a visual bell-ringer to the events of 9/11, so much so he walked out of the theatre. I obviously have no firsthand experience of the tragedy, and admittedly it's not an uncommon event for Summer blockbusters - let's trash the the city because I don't know??? Other films usually had some counterbalance to the destruction; The Avengers had colourful heroes zipping about saving folks and thumping aliens, while Transformers had goofball dumptrucks blasting each other. The heroes are on the scene, and help to distract from the human tragedy.

But in Man of Steel, Superman doesn't show up! He's halfway across the globe fighting some bullshit CGI tentacle thing, while the city's getting bodied by this gravity machine. It's not a legit alien threat, it's just a machine fucking up the place. There's no hero to fight it, so you see the citizens - the little people - and their plight. And they are scrambling to get away from this debris, this wreckage, this catastrophe. Perry White and Lois Lane and all those guys are trying to pull the female Jimmy Olsen replacement out of some rubble, and the gravity destroyer's coming closer and closer, and there's no way out of it - they're fuckin' doomed.

And... yeah. It's a staple of film, to push despair to its absolute limit before making the dramatic turnaround, and that does happen - Lois Lane and the lovelies are spared - but the way this does it, in what you'd hope to be a lighthearted superhero thing... it's very unwanted, I'd say.

And then you've got the other controversial elements, like Mr. Kent telling Clark to drown a bus full of kids before chucking himself into a tornado, and Superman killing Zod. The film does try and present arguments for why they happen, but it's a little too easy to just flip the table and cry, "but it's Superman!!" It's an intersting angle to explore, I'll confess, and maybe a sequel will have the time to do it justice, but in the end I just can't say I cared. Gimme something positive to root for.

Man of Steel was okay, if unremarkable. Despite the wordcount I just dedicated to it.

License to Kill


The one where Felix gets his legs munched off.

It's gone. I can't remember a thing. Was it good? I'm pretty sure it was. Couldn't tell you why, though.


And we're not even halfway through, folks!

World War Z


I've had the book kicking about for yonks but I've never got around to reading it. I've heard plenty about its unique format and vignette style of storytelling, and how difficult that would be to properly adapt... so the film just turns it into 2012 with zombies.

It follows a family in the thick of the outbreak just running around, trying to find their way to safety - which they find very quickly, in exchange for the military recruiting the father to take on the zombie threat across the globe, travelling from Korea, Jerusalem, then England, all the while trying to find a cure.

Well, if you like zombies, there's lot of 'em! Their behaviour was a bit too unpredictable for me to really get behind; sometimes they're a literal hivemind, throwing themselves into massive zombie pyramids to get at the fleshies; other times they're super-quick hunters, practically human shapes with panther-like agility and reflexes... and then there are times where they do little more than spasm and make faces. The first approach make for some real eye candy, but the latter two just feel a little ridiculous. Yes, I find inconsistent zombie behaviour more ridiculous than creating a human pyramid to scale the walls of Jerusalem. This is what nerd priorities look like.

One of the interviews before the film mentioned that the zombies behaviour was modelled after disabilities and mental illnesses; Alzheimers, Parkinsons and so on... and I personally found it a bit tasteless. Maybe it's because it elicited more laughs from the audience than scares. The finale features a caged zombie with lingering shots of her gnashing her teeth, twitching her head and generally sticking out like a sore thumb from all these Hollywood white guys; everytime she got a close-up the audience cackled. It made my skin crawl, but not for the right reasons.

Personal beefs aside, it's a brainless run around with a lot of whambam going on. My pals liked it, and I could've been watching a worse movie, but I simply haven't much time for zombie stuff these days.



The one where Bond flattens St. Peterburg.

This was great to see, both because I'd just played the Nintendo 64 game last year, but it'd just been too long since I'd seen it!

It's a fair enough Bond, isn't it? The plot's some guff about a former British agent rebelling against the organisation and wants a laser to blow up the world, or something. It's just neat to see Bond reach the 1990s, I guess. Pierce Brosnan makes for a good James; a very "cheeky" Bond, almost like a pastiche of the character. A little too smooth, a little too slick, coming out with all the right little flaunts and flourishes. The kind of Bond you'd call "cute", whether you mean it sarcastically or not.

The villains are admittedly a bit forgettable, but the side characters make up for it - Valentine is actually a lot of fun and Judi Dench makes for a terrific M, she really lays into the role and takes it for herself. Overall, it's a fun way of bringing the series back from its hiatus. It's all completely dumb, but it's what I expect out of a Bond film: fun characters, goofy gadgets, fancy cars, and iconic chase sequences. It'll take a lot to top driving a tank through St. Peterburg! It's a dumb Bond movie, but what more do you want?

Not only that, it's great seeing the film after playing the video game, because it shows off just how detailed that game was. They took the exact set and turned them into levels! The scene of the bunker getting blasted with the Goldeneye laser gives you a good clean shot of the control room with all the nooks and crannies, and you can think, "aha, that's where you find the body armour!" It's a dumb bonus only colossal nerds would get a kick out of, but I liked it.

Batman Returns


ComicsAlliance has some great comic book movie reviews by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, and I'd been reading up on their Batman movie reviews around this time. The two really read into each film, and seeing their critiques gave me more respect for some of the films than actually watching them myself ever did. (which is a little sad, as i find myself enjoying reading about things more than experiencing them, but that's another subject entirely)

The Penguin, a circus freak who's been spurned by humanity, rises from the sewers and tries to rule over Gotham by becoming the mayor; meanwhile, you've got Catwoman, an office assistant back from the dead who wants her revenge against big industry. And Batman's somewhere in there, I think? It's a mess of a story.

There are elements in the story that appear out of nowhere and had the chance to really swing the plot around, but end up disappearing without consequence - and it's hard to tell if it was an intentional red herring or bits from old drafts that never got edited out. The Penguin makes his debut as the self-proclaimed "underworld of the underworld," dishing out the dirt on all of Gotham's thugs to gain influence for himself; but then an hour later, he comes across as a big dumb baby in a bird-man's body. There might've been a scene that stated Catwoman's involvment in the plot, but it just felt like she was there to satiate Tim Burton's corpse fetish.

It tries to draw parallels between the characters, which would've been interesting had it been done well. Batman is practically a side-character; the son of a bitch spends most of the film sitting in front of the television! He feels wasted! Sure, the first one had the Joker taking up half the bloody film, but it was very much a story about Bruce Wayne: like, who's this weirdo? Michael Keaton played that angle spectacularly; he may be a crusader of the night and all that, but Batman was still an anti-social kooky oddball.

But with Batman having no story in this one, he just kinda shows up and looks dumb. The film pushes hard for similarities between him and the villains - the old "we're not so different, you and I" routine - but Batman isn't a person in this story. He's a formality. You've got supervillains fighting and campaigning for their rights, so obviously you need a superhero to stomp over them. Otherwise we might have had potential for an interesting story somewhere in here!

Again, the Tim Burton vibe is the best thing about the movie. It's got his distinct off-kilter gothic feel, and the whole film has a strange dream-like vibe to it - the killer clowns add to that a lot - but it's trying to play it goofy and serious and dramatic and gothic all at once, and none of it really works. It's a great film to watch, but to watch it for its story or its characters... not so much.

I'm rarely fond of Burton's films, though I respect them in one way or another. He carries his unique vision across to the final product in a way I see few other big-name directors accomplish... but he also can't make a film that I find halfway enjoyable. Whose loss is that, mine or his?

Bad Boys


This is a Michael Bay film isn't it? Two cops, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence... uh, I don't know what they do. Bad guys are doing something? I think? I can't remember.

It's all right. Will Smith's a cool cat and Martin's a goofy sod, and their undercover mission involves the two having to swap identities for some reaso, so that's amusing nonsense. It's fun and irreverent and full of dumb action, though I've forgotten most of it already. I'm sure there's worse things I could've watched.

Pacific Rim


Speaking of better things to watch! I didn't pay attention to the hype leading up to it and wasn't expecting much, but found it possibly the most satisfying cinema experience of the whole year.

Kaiji, collosal creatures from the deep, rise to mess shit up, so giant robots are built to fight them. By the time the film actually begins, the robots are being decommissioned, leaving only a few still operational to stage a final assault. It's very fun! It's very anime!

There's a lot to love! The characters are engaging, the world is interesting, the robot action is FANTASTIC, and it's got a hearty dose of conflict and melodrama, but it's just so FUN. It's an up-and-at-'em, well-to-do adventure with no hatred in its voice. The monsters are wild beasts, but dang if they ain't things of splendour to watch. Even the allegedy weak characters like the scientists are a vital component in finding the kaijus' weakness. The girl and the main character have to get over their emotional barriers to work together, and don't even have to hitched, either. It's a very feel-good movie with fun, involving characters that also happens to have really kickass battle scenes!

I can't give enough love to the cast, they make them mixed and colourful and dynamic without looking too egregiously anime. In fact, my only complaint was that it was very hard to tell the white people apart! The main character is this buff, slicked-haired jock kinda guy (he says he isn't a jock, but c'mon, he fits the bill), and the australian team has a buff, slicked-haired jock, and the two of them happen to argue a lot. I legitimately had trouble telling them apart.

Everyone else is very colourful and distinctive. Idris Elba is always rocking the suit. Mako is the girl with the coloured streak in her hair. The navigator has the old-timey attire and bowtie. It's a very unique cast, and that I respect. I'm a sucker for sharp designs in live-action media!

One thing I wanna comment on - people loved the film because it had a female character who had her own story, without having to revolve around a man (well, it does still revolve around her daddy issues and then having to come to grips with her new male partner, but still). It's great to see an Asian female character who gets a big role and isn't sexualised either. It's not perfect - it is a pity she's the only female character with a speaking role - but it's a good step in the right direction.

Some folks latched onto it and declared it should be a new variant of the Bechdel test, basically if it's got one female character with an engaging story of her own that doesn't revolve around a man, it passes. Like, it'd be a good start, for sure, but the Bechdel test was a joke in that it's the least a movie can do... and yet so many fail it, right? Peeps take the tropes so literally they treat it as a passing grade, when I feel you shouldn't settle for good enough, but that's a whole other argument. Mako's a neat character, it's cool to see people liking her and latching onto her, but there's always step two, right?

Also there's a bunch of scenes where robots and monsters hit each other. Those are pretty hype, too.

It's an engaging, entertaining, and most importantly, satisfying movie. There's so many films I see in the cinema and feel I would've gotten the same experience on DVD without needing to hike to a theatre. I don't know why this one left such an impact, but I has a blast. Best movie of the freakin' year, man.



Shit's going down in some colony, so space marines mosey in and take a look. Is it mutations? Science experiments gone wrong? Demons in all but name? I honestly can't remember.

Well... it's an interesting take on Doom. Its atmosphere feels closer to the original proof-of-concept bible from the game's early development, and there are some amusing interpretations of the features from the levels; the solid-matter doors that appear to homage the fake walls in some areas. They're cute details, and it's always neat to see a film take incidental concepts from other media and get a chance to put them in a realistic context.

The movie itself? It's okay. If it didn't have the Doom name I don't think anyone would've cared.

Tomorrow Never Dies


The one where the helicopter tries to chop them up with its propellors so its inches forward slowly while tilted near-horizontally and I'm like THAT'S NOT HOW HELICOPTERS WORK YOU NUMPTIES and nobody's surprised when it suddenly grazes a wall and violently explodes, but I digress.

Welp, another one I can barely recall. The plot's something to do with this baddie who wants to livestream himself nuking all the major cities or something... right? The climax takes place on a stupidly huge boat, I know that much.

This one probably serves as a better example of what to expect Pierce's tenure: lots of silly gadgets (including a prolonged sequence of James remote-controlling his car like a Game Boy), more capable and memorable lady sidekicks, and villains who can barely be taken seriously. It's an entertaining enough watch, though.

The Incredible Hulk


The not-Ang Lee version. It was okay, I guess? Bruce Banner runs around trying to find a cure to his plight while some military dude tries to stop him and ends up turning into the Abomination.

It had more satisfying Hulk action than the last movie, I can tell you that much; he felt like a real mean machine and not just some CGI blob this time around. Characters were okay, story was adequate... boy howdy do I not remember this movie! It was a better effort than prior non-Spidey movies, though I don't think it was until Iron Man that things really took off.

The Expendables 2


I can barely remember a thing about the first movie at this point, but the hype it generated was something else. This one tries to top it by bringing in even bigger names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and even Chuck Norris (at the cost of Jet Li and Mickey Rourke). It's a packed cast.

Names aside, it's a straightforward action romp that aims to be a bit tamer than the first one: less swearing, less violence, but it's all silliness, innit?

To its credit, the action scenes are shot so you can actually tell what's happening now; it doesn't abuse the shaky camera like the first one did. Problem is, now that you can see what's happening, you discover that none of these sequences are terribly memorable.

I imagine seeing this in the cinema with a pumped audience would've been a real kick, but when the hype's gone, who's fussed?

Street Fighter


The dog was feeling a little bit lonely, so I spent some time doting over her and watching this. General M. Bison, ruler of Shadaloo, wants to take over the world (of course) by creating his own nation by kidnapping the queen, forcing the elite crimefighting organisation Street Fighter to step in.

This is a fantastic film, one that I'm sorry I didn't watch sooner - it's so bananas! After watching Die Hard you can tell they're written by the same guy; Steven E. DeSouza is a fantastic writer with a knack for great action and fantastic, irreverent dialogue. The man is unmatched.

If you hadn't guessed already, this is a silly movie. It's barely a thing like the games; it's like some bizarre, pseudo-military espionage action terrorist-busting adventure? It's hard to define, it's such a strange film. You've got Chun-Li and her journalists reporting on the news, you've got Guile and his soldiers, then you got ragtag smugglers Ryu and Ken - and that's just the good guys! It's juggling all these characters and it has a lot of fun having them bounce off of each other. It's a stupid movie, but it embraces it wholeheartedly. The cast come across like they're having a blast, and it cannot be said enough, but Raul Julia as M. Bison is positively terrific.

The directing is a bit odd; it's an over-the-top, almost self-aware lighthearted adventure that at times almost wants to be taken seriously, but I wouldn't say that ruins it, it just makes it that more charming. A bit like Hudson Hawk, I wonder if film audiences (and game audiences) knew what to make of this; Street Fighter II was an arcade phenomena, and to turn it into some weird pseudo-military G.I. Joe pastiche was... certainly unique, but not quite what anyone was expecting. Honestly, though, give me more like this.

A terrific movie. Not enough praise in the world for it. If I had three wishes I'd ask for a sequel, then a Super Turbo edition, and maybe a better cartoon series.

The World Is Not Enough


The one with the guy who can't feel pain.

... yup, that's all I remember of this one! And man, was that villain a lousy one! They try making a big deal out of how he can't feel pain, and his own personal gripes over how it makes him feel detached from the world, but it simply didn't sell the concept. He was just a very boring person who complained a lot while making out with hot chicks. Which I suppose is fine enough reason to hate a character, but it just left me very blasé about the whole affair. Gimme a baddie with charisma!

Now You See Me


Four magicians are foretold of a vision, so they begin performing a world tour of magic acts involving great heists; transporting money from inside a vault to the stage, robbing a millionaire of his empire, and so on. A bumbling cop and a competent French detective set out to try and uncover the mystery behind all this.

It was okay. You do wonder how they performed these magic acts, and they do deconstruct them to figure out the practical element behind each heist, but it's tough to take it seriously when the CGI is being abused so much. I know, I sound like a tosser. For instance, they imply this vault on-stage will teleport a member of the audience to the real vault, when in actuality it's just a trapdoor to a recreation of the vault. That's cool, that's nifty. But they introduce this machine by throwing a cloth into the air that creates a hurricane and the vault just appears out of thin air, and it's like, how the fuck do you explain that, buster?

(answer: it's hollywood.)

The actors aren't bad. It's cute to see Woody Harrelson sounding like he did in Cheers again, and Michael Caine plays a suitably assholish business man. Morgan Freeman's role is allegedly a master magician, but the film spends its entire running time shitting on him, which felt a bit mean. The incompetent cop turns out to be a hypercompetent cop who KNEW EVERYTHING ALL ALONG, and I guess it's meant to be a twist, but it only made me hate him even more.

It's a film produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the fellas behind Transformers, Star Trek and all those glitzy remakes, so obviously it's a very slick and swish production. It's an okay watch, but I had an awful time watching it in the cinema. I don't know if I was sitting too close, but my neck was craned up the entire time and the constant whip-pans and lens flares only gave me a killer headache. Maybe it's better on DVD. It was alright, but not my kind of film, nor a good cinema experience.

Die Another Day


The one with Halle Berry.

I am bloody stretching my head to try and remember a lick of these by now. Maybe I should watch them again next year. There's a great setpiece in a ballroom made of ice that makes for some great action sequences, but other than that... What was the villain like? Was he good? Anyone care to remind me?

A Bullet For The General


Dad uncovered this on VHS, so we figured we'd check it out while we still had a functioning player.

Set in a Mexican revolution, a group of vigilantes are fighting off the invaders when this smooth-talking white conman joins their group. The conman works only for the highest bidder, so his beliefs are up for grabs, while the vigilante leader struggles with his faith in his people, his cause and his ethics. The gang come to a messy dissolution, but the two survive multiple ordeals and bond along the way, learning a little about each others' beliefs... and whether or not it's worth betraying your own cause for personal gain.

It's a very intersting film full of great atmosphere. It probably doesn't look a thing like Mexico, being an Italian production, but the ambiance and quirky-looking actors help it fit the mood brilliantly. Our copy had the English dub, which was... well, it did the job. The head of the bandits had this very over the top "my friend!!" kinda attitude, which does render the story a bit silly at times, but I found it endearing. Realistic or not, there's something believable about the picture it paints and the desire for justice against the odds.

It's great watching the two hang together through thick and thin, through all the worst of circumstances; things get pretty wild towards the end with all manner of horrible twists, but the ending is a strong one. A great watch, and great to read up about as well.

Casino Royale


The one where the evil plan takes place in the casino. Hey, kill two birds with one stone!

This was my first time watching it all the way through. Hm. I can see the appeal of the new, grittier Bond in his early days of spyhood, but I found it hard to be enthused by. It's closer to what a real spy would be like, I guess - a brutish thug with minimal charm - but I like the series for the stupid fantasy nonsense.

The film's focus is on the ambiance, the titular casino royale. The plot is that villains are making money. That's it. It's not a very engaging plot. If this were a Roger Moore film, they'd be stealing these gems to fund a death laser to blow up Washington or some bollocks, but this? Bad guys are exchanging money. GET EXCITED!! WATCH THEM PLAY POKER!!!!!!

Which, to a poker player, I'm sure might be enthralling. My brother enjoyed it a lot for that reason, but I just didn't get into it. None of the characers interested me, and the few action scenes are decent enough, but feel more like apologies than anything.

The film ends on Bond falling in love with some woman that you know won't end well - though on the plus side, it does end with a really awesome shoot-out in a sinking building in Venice, easily the highlight of the show. Aside from that, I just didn't get into it. Nice to know there's different flavours for folks out there. This one just isn't my taste.

Cowboys & Aliens


With a straightforward title like that, I was expecting some sort of pirates-vs-ninjas style action schlock, but the film actually takes itself reasonably seriously. There's some character development and a bit of depth and maybe even room for a plot! It involves aliens coming down for some reason, and a woman from space wants to stop them, and grumpy Harrison Ford's inept son is kidnapped, so they strike a deal with the native Americans to take down these alien bastards.

It's an entertaining enough film; better than I expected. The characters do the job, although none of them really blew me away. The drama is done well and for a ridiculous premise it treats itself with credibility, which is nice. That said, I can't help but wonder what it would've been like if they had made the movie like I was expecting it - like a big dumb toy battle. Here's the cowboys shouting "yeehaw!", riding horses and firing six-shooters while blobby aliens in UFOs fly around. Oh well!

The Green Hornet


Some rich playboy's dad is a newspaper tycoon who gets killed unexpectedly, forcing him to wise up and take the reins of his pop's operations... which he does by pretending to be a supervillain, getting insight into street crime and generating news for his paper.

Being an adaptation of an old radio show, I knew nothing about it and had no expectations, so a charmingly stupid plot was something to be appreciated! The angle of pretending to be a supervillain is an interesting one, albeit one that isn't played up nearly enough.

Going by the trailers on TV I was expecting something slightly more kid-friendly (at least, as kid-friendly as any superhero movie is these days), but it's full of immature fratboy humour and rampant perving. Well, this was my introduction to Seth Rogen, so I should've expected as much. Still, it's a big silly movie that's very entertaining, full of cartoonish plots and ridiculous car action. Not a bad film.

Quantum of Solace


The one with the stupid name.

Fuckin' A. What was this film like? I know it finished off the Bond 20 boxset, but I can barely remember a lick of it. As far as I recall it's literally Casino Royale: Part 2. It's a direct sequel to that story, with Bond trying to get revenge on the guy who killed his girlfriend, and... that's it, really? It barely serves as a standalone film as elements from Casino Royale pop up that, without context, their significance would be a mystery to the viewer.

I do remember it being poop, though. I wrote down "fuck this movie" when my memory on it was still clear, so I'll run with that. It was a really dank end to the boxset. I can attest that Skyfall was a better movie, but this set the bar super low to begin with.

Virtual Sexuality


I tracked this down on a whim for an ONM Remembered feature, and it was a surprising amount of fun! The movie was entertaining, I gave the dog some attention while watching it, and then I spent the whole day writing the review, grabbing screenshots, doing research... it was a fun day. It reminded me of all the energy I had when working on big dumb features for Random Hoo Haas - I'd get a dumb idea and just roll with it, diving into it and dedicating whole days towards working on it. Okay, more often than not it was for something nobody would care about, but I enjoyed the experience.

The movie? Well, you can read the entry, can't you? It's a teenage sex comedy: a girl gets transformed into her dream boy, so she and her nerdy boy pal try to fix that before complications arise. It's quite dumb and very puerile, but could I stretch it enough to say it's a feel-good film? A dumb feel-good film?

(of all the things i could try and classify it as, it sure ain't a video game film)

The Shawshank Redemption


Been meaning to see this for ages. Prison life is always an interesting topic to hear about, be it in fact or fiction (though it's no less a shitty place to be), and this makes for a very engaging story. One man buckles down and tries to make the best of it, doing favours and oddjobs that help improve the living standards of his fellow inmates and get him in the good books of the authorities... all in the hopes of breaking out.

The main guy is interesting to follow (if perhaps a little too perfect at times?), but it's the lives of the other prisoners that interested me the most. I don't even know the official definition of prison anymore - is it a punishment for bad deeds? Is it a correctional facility to help bad eggs rehabilitate into society? Either way, seeing the inmates come to treat the prison as their home, scared and frightened of the outside world to such an extent they'd sooner kill someone to get more time in the clink... it's just intriguing, y'know? Powerful stuff.

It's p'good! You didn't need to hear me from me, though.

Resident Evil: Damnation


Another film I watched to give the dog some company. This is the sequel to the other CGI movie... Degeneration, was it? Leon's in the starring role again, investigating an uprising in some vaguely Middle-Eastern country where B.O.W.s are being employed as weapons by the resistance. He's there to help out and look cool and Ada's there doing mysterious shit, and I'm almost certain zombies (or the Resident Evil 5 equivalent) are involved. What else is new.

It's... well, what do you expect? It's total fan-wankery. It's pandering to all those nifty bits you love from the games, like Leon being cool and fighting all these monsters in wicked awesome CG battles, but the story is forgettable, the characters are forgettable, and even the characters who return from the games feel ill-defined. Leon has so many awful quotes. At one point he has to go in through a chimney to access a building, and he makes some remark about Santa Claus or "Christmas came early", it's so oustandingly awful I've blocked it from my memory. It's the sort of thing where to a Japanese audience it might sound cool, but in English, especially with the new voice actors, you just get second-hand embarrassment.

Writing aside, well, it's entertaining enough. Like I said, what do you expect? You want CGI high-quality action movie nonsense with the Resident Evil characters and monsters - the monsters especially! It really has a lot fun letting the CGI do its work in these scenarios. The resistance toy with injecting themselves with B.O.W.-controlling gunk so they can control the Lickers, and this guy controls a huge mass of them to hurl them at incoming zombies, dogpiling them on top of a Mr. X, and then it's like the final battle has three Mr. Xs fighting against the two of them using the Lickers and their weapons and then they get a tank and WOW IT'S INTENSE!

But again, aside from the action, it's pretty forgettable. I think the Super Best Friendcast said it best when they challenged each other to see if they could even remember the movie's title. Awesome CGI battles, but don't expect much else of worth.

Weird Science


An old 80s flick I watched with dad. To be honest, I was thinking of a totally different movie when I'd heard him describe it, and now I'm wracking my head over what it was called. It must've been a late-90s/early-2000s production about geeks trying to create the perfect woman in a video game, but then she escapes into the real world and becomes a hideously mutated monstrosity with Pamela Anderson-sized mammaries and a thirst for blood. I've no idea where on Earth I even heard of such a film and I can't find results relevant to what I'm thinking of, making me worry I just thought it up? Long story short, it sounded mega crass and gross as hell, but this is just a silly and charming 80s flick. What a relief.

Anyway! Two dorks use an old computer (and weird science, narf) to spawn their ideal girlfriend, who comes to live and is taken on dates to be shown the ways of their world. She, meanwhile, teaches them lessons about themselves and respect for one another, giving them the confidence to make their girlfriends happy.

It's, dare I say it, a rather sweet film? It's got plenty of silliness - including a ridiculous party where rockets burst from the roof, the grandparents are stuffed in a cupboard and the two boys have to protect their girlfriends from real Mad Max-lookin' bikers - but it feels rather charming about it. It is yet another 80s film about teenage boys eager to enter the bone zone, but the interaction with the dream gal is very cute and positive, a pleasant change from "eyyy, misogyny!" A pleasant and charming little watch.

The Emperor's New Groove


This seemed like an offbeat one for Disney; it almost feels closer to something you'd expect from Cartoon Network. It's fast-paced, it's zany, and it doesn't even have any songs!

A selfish prick of an emperor is turned into a llama by his vizor who wants him out of the way, so he has to team up with a friends (whom he previously shat upon) to get back there and set things straight. It's a very silly buddy comedy, but it embraces that wholeheartedly, with both the heroes and the villains riffing off each other hilariously.

It's tonally different from other Disney stuff of the time, but its animation is still top-notch - I dig the stylish designs! The animal characters in particular are a lot of fun, like the llama's eyebrows which just seem to rotate around his eyes, yet still look fine in 3D perspective. Hats off to the designers!

A solid watch. It's fluff, but it's entertaining fluff.

Con Air


Nicholas Cage is some punk who's about to be released from prison, but he's being escorted on a plane that's got all the really worst dudes on board, who - surprise! - take command and go on a rampage. Nick and his buddy masquerade as master criminals to blend in while secretly supporting the helpful lady guard, and all the while the authorities are watching from afar, hoping Nick's got the moral compass to do something about this disaster waiting to happen.

It's Nicholas Cage, so naturally it's very stupid. I confess it's hard to take him seriously with that exaggerated southern drawl, but it's very dumb and entertaining. And what entertainment! It's got action! OUTRAGEOUS action! Oh my god, the climax is absurd, you gotta see it.

The only strange thing about it is Steve Buscemi's character, a Hannibal Lector-esque serial killer. He's introduced strapped to a stretcher with a mouth guard as someone explains what a hardcore killing machine he is. He kills one guard during the breakout, but spends much of the time there just dictating the meanings behind people's actions when asked. After they land he finds and befriends a little girl, albeit framed in such a way you expect something sinister's about to happen. The ending shows him escaping to Las Vegas where now makes a killing in the roulette tables.

I guess you could argue one of the themes of the movie is about hardened prisoners reinventing themselves and being able to rejoin society; Nicholas Cage and his pal are decent folk who the authorities hold faith in them doing the right thing. It's just a little strange when the rest of the prisoners are such total caricatures, depicted as strange, eclectic scum just waiting to get blasted away, even if the worst of their crimes is aspiring to be a poledancer.

It just seems strange when the actual serial killer among the cast is depicted as this kooky, almost "cute" character who we're expected to be endeared by. I was more enamoured with the nutty bus driver in the climax, but so it goes. The film probably wouldn't miss much if they dropped the character from the story, but at the same time having him around adds an interesting point of discussion. I don't know!

Con Air was good fun and terrific to finally see.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Another 80s film I watched with dad. Ferris and company bunk off school and have a grand old time, all the while deluding their school into thinking he's sick and the principal eager to uncover his ruse for himself, no matter what it takes.

It's just a lot of lighthearted teen fun with a great series of farces on the side. Ferris himself is an interesting character. He's a cool dude, but he's also a real wormy kinda guy who always manages to get his way; in some regards he makes life better for people through those actions, and at the same time he causes plenty of trouble for everyone. He's a compelling dude to watch, but I've no idea if you'd ever want him as a pal.

Air Force One


It's been years and years since I saw this; back in the day I loved this because it was just such a stupid concept. Harrison Ford is the president! Bad guys are trying on assassinate him while aboard Air Force One! Get off my plane! It was dumb, but it also the sort of thing I unironically considered "awesome", and would use that word ten times while describing it.

But watching it now it's kind of... tough to watch, now that I'm almost faintly aware of politics? Like, okay, it eases off after a while, but the first half-hour to an hour is a bit more political and deals with what the president has to do and what he does to end up pissing off these people that they end up wanting to kill him, and that angle's a bit hmm, ooer, y'know. We like to romanticise the idea of the leader of the country being this cool dude who blows away bad guys and saves his family and all, but it's just a difference between romanticised figure versus a real genuine person who's in that role doing that thing. But I digress. I don't know what point I was trying to make.

Once you get past me being a stinky leftie about everything then it's almost a bit Die Hard-esque. Air Force One is a huge plane to begin with, so they've only got all this space to work with and make the most of the possibilites. Every part of the plane, even the guys on the ground and the low-level staff aboard like the photocopiers, everyone manages to help out in some way. The woman who reminds them that the only communication channel they have is the fax machine, she actually helps out! Those little guys are heroes! Little stuff like that just tickles me, y'know.

It's a dumb action movie, but at the same time, at least when you're a grown-up (or told you look like one), it's kinda hard to embrace it without going "ooer, that's a bit political, innit?" Shit like Die Hard is kinda political, but it's about a dude in a tanktop shooting dudes and the terrorists themselves are vain and stupid so it balances out. It was neat to watch it again, but a whole different experience from when I saw it when I was 13.

Mission: Impossible


I'd seen bits and pieces of this one, but it was interesting to finally see it in full. This is a movie made just for the setpieces! You've got the famous laser scene, the sweat dropping between them, a big train battle with a helicopter chasing after the carriages - all fantastic stuff. Definitely worth watching for those alone; I can see why everybody was eager to rip it off back when it was topical!

But at the same time, I struggled to care a whiff about the story. It's a long movie and I could barely stand any of the characters. Tom Cruise is a spy who refuses to let his emotions show, and he comes across as almost "cute"; he's forever sporting a big dumb grin on his face. However, it's hard to engage with him because of it - we don't see a character with a heart, we just see Tom Cruise being perfect and flawless. All the other characters are double-crossing shitheads; so much so it's hard to tell who's who and what's what.

It is very much in the vein of spy fiction, which is nifty to see on the big screen, but you can't get engaged because who cares about who's who? Everybody double-crosses each other eventually, it seems.

Some great action and decent atmosphere, but it's tough to get invested unless you're big into spy shit.



The city is plagued with surprise fires occurring everywhere, almost as if it were terrorism, so this guy joins his brother's firefighting department to get hands-on action with it.

I'd seen the intro to this years ago during my days of staying up late, chatting on IRC and telling people what weird stuff was on late-night television. I partied hard, lemme tell ya. The opening where the dad gets blown up and the kid is standing there with the helmet is an iconic scene - it was nifty to finally see the rest of the film attached to it!

It's fun watching the antics of the fire department; they're a real rough-and-tumble cowboy crowd, getting into hijinks hazing the newcomer. It's quite a long film, and in hindsight it probably doesn't need to be that long, but I'm kinda glad it is. It gives everything a lot of room to breathe. It's all not all-firefighting, all-the-time. It finds the time to sit down with these characters and see what makes them tick, mull over every development and work out their issues, which is quite commendable. The characters are fun; they may butt heads often, but there's a real chummy relationship between them all.

It's a fair enough watch, good to finally see it. Not one I'd rewatch in a hurry, but it's a unique kind of film, one that makes for a nice change of pace. And at the end of the day, how many films are there about firefighters?

Vertical Limit


A big mountain climbing expedition is underway, but the climbers find themselves trapped after an accident, forcing a team of misfits to go up and rescue them.

It's not a bad wee movie, there's decent drama to be mined from the situation: the turbulent equipment, the treacherous environments, both the rescuers and rescuees butting heads with other. It keeps itself interesting, even if it isn't a totally outstanding movie.

I'd seen bits of this on TV years ago, but I think I got a lot of it mixed up with the other rock-climbing blockbuster, Cliffhanger, particularly the scene of the hero and villain fighting over a briefcase on a mountaintop while a helicopter tries to gun them down. Vertical Limit takes place in a country that's in a cold war with its neighbour, though that's mostly background story to explain how they get their hands on nitroglycerin... but I was totally expecting it to heat up and impact the main characters. 'Fraid not!



Oh, Tremors! It has been too long since I've seen Tremors. It's a good movie. It's silly, it's stupid, but it's a plain ol' entertaining monster movie. A nowhere town in the deep south gets invaded by subterranean sandworms that gobble people from beneath the soil, so the survivors have to band together and find a way out of this mess.

It's such a fun watch. The characters are a lot of fun, the location is superb, and there's no CGI, the monsters are done entirely with puppetry. That's always an easy way to impress me.

I've a feeling one of the sequels introduces some sort of graboid expert who shows up halfway through the movie and solves everything effortlessly? Because I'm sure I recall a Tremors film where a car rolls in and a guy steps out, moustached and sporting a cowboy hat, and he just seems to know everything and solves everything. I was waiting for that to happen... but no, it's the same crowd through the whole film. I don't know, maybe I'm thinking of a different movie? I'm not mad, right?

Tremors. Good film. Watch it.

Mission: Impossible 2


Was this the John Woo one? I'm not sure. God, I can't even remember the plot! What is it? It's an excuse for Tom Cruise to go nuts and shoot people and have lots of John Woo fight scenes, with the slow-motion and the dual-wielding and the leaping and the doves - THE DOVES!! And then there's a ridiculous bike chase where they crash the bikes into each other and leap at each other and it's like something out of a fucking anime! It's outraaaageous.

As an action film, this is a heck of a lot of fun. As a spy film, it's... actually a bit disappointing? I'm pretty sure the only spy tool they use in the entire film is the face replicator, and that's it. It's a novelty for sure, but it felt like a cheap way of driving the plot; you could tell when it was going to be used a mile away, and you're waiting for the rest of the cast to cotton on.

A decent watch. I get the impression after the first film the Mission: Impossible name was just up for grabs. It wasn't a franchise so much as a vehicle for Tom Cruise to do stunts and look perfect. Oh well. There's worse ways to make money.

Turner & Hooch


A buddy comedy where a cranky cop finds one of his leads murdered, but their dog is the only witness they have, so they hold onto it for the investigation. Being a junkyard dog it does nothing but bully him, mess up his house and make his life a nightmare, but they eventually grow to love each other and get some tail on the side.

It's a movie for dog lovers. The first hour might as well be Dogs: The Movie, full of foibles there to elicit reactions of "oh, I've been there, fellow dog owner!" The sort of hijinks you'd see on Animal Planet clip shows. That said, when the action starts it does a good job either getting laughs or a tense atmosphere, and like Backdraft, it spends a lot of time just building the personal lives of these characters. A lot of time getting to know one another, findng love and tolerating one another. That way you might almost feel a pang of emotion when the dog inevitably snuffs it. But it's okay because it knocked up the girlfriend's dog, and its puppies are just as unruly! Spoilers, by the way.

It's a cute movie. I can't tell whether you'd categorise it as a police thriller or a dog movie, but you get a satisfying dose of both.

Captain Phillips


A retelling of the real life story of that bloke who got kidnapped by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks does a great job in the role, playing it very believably; the film's shot and staged in such a way that it almost feels like a candid documentary.

What interested me the most was the Somali pirates' side of the story. They're admittedly portrayed as thuggish and seemingly incapable of conversing without shouting and firing their guns in the air, but the film does a decent job of showing their side of things, how although they're committing some pretty heinous crimes, they too are at the mercy of the kingpin making these demands. It's a shitty job, but this is their livelihood whether they like it or not. Somalia's still a bit of a heated subject as of this writing, and I'm sure there's far more to the situation than a whitebread Hollywood film can portray, but it's neat to at least see a passing glance at the other side of the coin. An entertaining watch.

Mission: Impossible 3


A pretty good watch full of non-stop action. Ethan Hunt gets mixed up with a nasty terrorist who threatens his wife unless he can find him a nuclear weapon, and shit proceeds to happen.

I haven't an awful lot to remark upon. It's an entertaining action flick. The spy angle is pushed hard during the entertaining Vatican sequence, but everything else is just wham-bang action. It's amusing seeing the Mission: Impossible franchise change so much, from balls-deep in spy lore to intentionally having as little plot as possible. Not arguing, though!

Crazy On The Outside


After a few years in prison, Tim Allen hopes to resume an ordinary life in normal society again, but his oddball family have only made things complicated for him. To spare their mother grief they told her he was away in Paris, prompting a French-themed return party - and to spare him grief, they told him his girlfriend was dead, when in actuality she was hooking up with another man.

It's the first time I've seen Tim Allen in anything other than Home Improvement or Toy Story, so this was a pleasant surprise. It's a silly, lighthearted comedy that makes the most of its daft premises. The characters are a lot of fun, and Sigourney Weaver does a great job as Tim's sister - she easily drives the story, revising events for other people's sake and subtly manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

It's got elements of oddball comedy, but the early chunk of the movie tries to make that the centrepoint, featuring strange cutaways of what stupid pratfall Tim's up to elsewhere, or wish fulfilment where he enacts what he really wants to do, like chucking a fork through someone's head or dunking a guy in a deep-fat fryer. It's... amusing, but it doesn't really fit with the rest of the film, opting more for shock value than "oh, aren't families crazy?" It feels like something they made just to put in the trailers. There is a great one involving Tim reminiscing on some train tracks he was told were no longer used, though I'm just a sucker for old-fashion cartoon humour.

A pleasant surprise, this one.



A small island off the Irish coast is stricken by "grabbers", tentacled creatures that come aland to suck the blood of human beings. The island's only two police officers end up having to protect the community, coming up with some peculiar measures...

A surprisingly good film! Knowing who funded the film, it put me off quite a bit - the Northern Ireland Film Board, and the National Lottery. The former produced Shrooms, completely generic dreck that was forgettable as a horror film and completely unnoticable as an "Irish" film. The latter funded Sex Lives of the Potato People. Need I say more?

This stands leagues above them, though. It's a sharply written and tightly produced little film, with lots of humour, charm and entertaining antics. The small community is very, very Irish, and they're all very entertaining. The two cops, one a raging alcoholic forever slacking off from his duties, and the other a workaholic transfer from Dublin, have a great dynamic going on, and those they let in on the monster threat are a hoot, too.

The monsters are actually pretty great looking. Shambling, rolling, tentacled beasts with frog-tongues and nasty sea-teeth. Beautifully animated when presented CGI, and suitably spooky even as props. Late in the film a batch of younglings hatch and shamble and play in the bar, evoking a real Gremlins vibe - which is quite admirable for what are nothing more than disembodied tentacles with teeth.

The breezy atmosphere of the film really makes it work. It doesn't take itself seriously, and plays the dark-comedy vibe pitch perfectly. There's a serious-enough threat that the events don't feel like a walk in the park, but it's not so grisly and bleak that it's hard to appreciate the humour, which is one of my common faults with even silly affair like Mars Attacks. There's only about five or six deaths in the film, and they're darn-near nobodies, so who's to care?

The humour is excellent. Lots of great 'antic' humour, but lots of brilliant mannerisms and dialogue that are very Irish. I'm not sure how well the humour would work across the pond, both because of the culture and the sheer thickness of the accents, but I thought it was a darn good flick.

And the Irish-ness is ssomething to be appreciated. The dark-comedy nature of the film gels perfectly with the Irish sensibilities, and the small nature of the community and island is very country, almost evoking a Father Ted feeling.

I mention this because Shrooms was a fucking pile. It was a film hinged entirely on hokey pretenses, but also had darn-near nothing going for it, horror-wise or Irish-wise. It wasn't even filmed in Ireland, for god's sake! It has a cast of American tourists, therewere Irish hillbillies (and not even Irish hillbillies - these were male-rape-nightmare hillbillies transported to allegedly-Irish-but-probably-filmed-in-New-Zealand woods), and the whole darn film takes place in a nondescript forest. The only worthwhile part of that film was the talking cow.

Grabbers, meanwhile, is a very entertaining film. I'm probably more than a little biased, but I suppose I'm pleased to see an Irish-produced film that doesn't wallow in the shitheap of our culture and adds a pleasing contribution to the dark-comedy library. I'd probably rank it up there with Tremors.

National Treasure


Nicholas Cage searches for the declaration of independance because it's secretly a treasure map, or some BS like that. It's a really stupid plot, but it remains a fun little adventure. It plays itself seriously enough that it doesn't fall into "nudge nudge wink wink how stupid are we" territory, but lighthearted enough that it doesn't feel dry and lifeless. A modern day Indiana Jones in places people probably pass by on their way to work.

The characters are rather stock, like we've seen them all somewhere before, especially the snarky sidekick, but it's never too obnoxious. A fun watch.

Thor: The Dark World


I never saw any trailers for this, but went ahead to see it anyway. Once you watch a dozen superhero movies, why stop now? It's another entertaining enough romp. Decent action, fun characters, a token amount of drama and interaction. It's good to have the two girls aboard again; their presence helps bring the man-between-worlds plight to Thor's character, whereas in The Avengers he was just some cosmic dude visiting earth, no biggie.

The plot was fair enough, but it's saddled with a rather forgettable villain. After using Loki for two films, he's now a burden foisted into cells before assisting Thor briefly on his quest, but never stopping with the tricks. The new villain is a Malekith, a dark elf who seeks to plummet the universe into darkness. He had a brawl with the Asgardians yonks ago, who believed they destroyed all the dark elves, but that's as far as his motivation or development goes.

He's a bad guy with explicitly villainous intentions (destroying the fucking universe!), but after capitalising on Loki for multiple stories, I was expecting them to try and play this guy up a bit more, give him some human quality that'd make his plight believement. Instead the climax begins with the dark elves crashing into Greenwich, and I'm thinking, "hang on, already?" I was seriously expecting some more exposition or development on Malekith, even a short scene to sell him as a deep or tragic figure of some sort - more than just a literal comic book villain. Nope! He's a selfish prick who wants to envelop the universe in darkness. The end.

Likewise, the Dark Elves are just dudes wearing silly mannequin masks, occasionally with monstrous dudes among their ranks. It's alien, yes, but it makes them feel like cheap Doctor Who dropouts, not cosmic entities from the far planes of space. Funnily enough, Christopher Eccleston plays Malekith, though you'd never notice under his makeup or his modulated voice. The man would make a good comic book villain given the chance, but this isn't even worth his talents. What a waste.

The girls have moved to England in this story, and there's a barely highlighted subplot of Stonehenge and other historical monuments serving as a triangulation, the centre of which marks the rift between the Nine Realms. It's mentioned once and it's total bullshit, and I couldn't help but get the impression the setting was chosen just to capitalise on America's love for all things Brittania at the time. Darcy gets a cute but bumbling English intern, there's lots of high-visibility police officers accosting Seldvig when he strips naked at Stonehenge...

I admit I thought it was a bit pandering, but a pal suggested it could just be a tip of the hat to Marvel UK, whose contributions were vital to their work during the '80s, as well as simply a change of scenery. London's got a more varied skyline to wreak havoc with, boasting more unique monuments in a (relatively) close proximity, and not just a bunch of skyscrapers. Gives audience something fun to look, and I bet it gives the special effects crew a challenge. Seeing skyscrapers of any sort being knocked down might still be insensitive to some folk. And how boring are skyscrapers, am I right? Get some decent architects, major cities!

Lacklustre villain aside, it was a fair enough superhero romp. I'd rank it higher than the Iron Man sequels, though I'd say the only superhero sequel to really take off was Raimi's Spider-Man 2.



Dad was keen to revisit this to compare and contrast after the sequel. And to its credit, it's very rewatchable! I reviewed the film back in 2011 on the blog, so this is just a bunch of observations since last time.

The first thing I kept an eye out for was the intro. Thor: The Dark World begins with an infodump on the villains and their evil macguffin, which is one of those unfortunate, investment-detached sequences that are really only seen in fantasy and superhero flicks.

This has a more engaging intro, beginning with the girls and Seldvic storm-chasing, so to speak, when they crash into Thor. Just as they (and the audience) are pondering where he came from, it then cuts to the backstory of the Frost Giants, their macguffin, and their war with the Asgardians. This is then revealed to be a story told to a young Loki and Thor, which also ends up showing their preferred ways of resolving the ordeal, helping establish the basics of their characters. It stays on Asgard for the first twenty to thirty minutes, from Thor's 'knighthood' to his banishment, and then it reconnects on Earth. It makes for a much better and engaging intro.

I'd forgotten a bit of Loki's development. In The Avengers and The Dark World he's just a trickster through and through, but in this one there's a sense of humanity to him. He's understandably distraught at the reasons why he adopted, and his actions are all an attempt to please his father, in some sick, twisted manner. At the end when Odin basically tells Loki "jeez why do you think that'd make me happy," you can pinpoint the exact moment his heart breaks in two and he goes, fuck it, let's do villainy for shits and giggles.

I'd also forgotten that Loki wasn't just any old frost giant child, he was the child of the King Frost Giant! The frost giants feel like more compelling villains - they are just big dudes with icicle arms, nothing quite as far-out as I would prefer, but the fact they actually argue with the heroes and seem like reasonable (if violent) blokes gives them a bit more intrigue. They're nasty scheming punks, sure, but Odin doesn't want to resolve matters by obliterating them like Loki wants. Those guys in The Dark World might as well have been mail-order villains.

I'd also forgotten about the S.H.I.E.L.D. subplot of them taking over Thor's hammer, which kinda slowed the film down, but it was worth it for Thor earning the right to wield his hammer. Strange seeing Agent Coulsen again, though. Tumblr fetished that guy so much, and he doesn't even do much before The Avengers!

It remained a pretty good watch. Not sure how many superhero movies I can say that to!

Nothing To Lose


After coming home early from work to find his wife in bed with another man, Tim Robbins loses it and begins driving like mad, accidentally abducting a would-be mugger, before the two end up in the middle of nowhere. Out of gas, out of money and slowly coming to their senses, the two try to know one another and work out a way to get home and solve each other's problems.

A great watch - Martin Lawrence is fantastic, as always, and Tim Robbins does a great job playing an ordinary joe pushed over the edge, now trying to pit their skills together to become master criminals; it's a lot of fun seeing that work out. It's quite a crass film - there's heaps of swearing! - but the film is not only funny, but warmhearted as well. Martin Lawrence plays the act of a cool and suave thief, but he's at home he's a sweet, mellow guy whose family love him and wish he had the opportunities to make it big. You can admittedly see the real answer behind Tim's crisis a mile away, but it's nice to see it all work out for the two families.

A real fun ride, a film with some truly terrific moments in it - and a great use of music as well! A solid watch, probably one of the best comedies I've watched this year, actually.

Three Men and a Baby


I watched this one with the parents, though partly to satisfy my curiosity. Back when I first got the internet donkey's years ago I was positively nuts about anything weird about urban legends and ghost stories - Snopes and Castle of Spirits were my regular haunts. So, naturally, I stumbled across that old yarn of about the kid who allegedly died in the film's apartment and his ghost haunts that very movie!!... but no, you plonkers, it's a cardboard cutout. That's all I'd heard of the movie for years, so what had I been missing out on?

Ted Dansen, Tom Sellect and some bozo not nearly as handsome as them are all playboy thousandaires - Ted is an actor, Tom's a businessman and the other schmuck makes a newspaper comic strip - and they all share an apartment. But then a baby shows up on their doorstep... and I'm pretty sure the plot gets a bit complicated for a second? There's some bizarre sideplot about a mysterious package Ted had ordered and some rough lads who are after it and I'm pretty certain the police or FBI get involved... but at the end of the day it's just fodder for baby antics, isn't it? Three clueless grown men struggling to look after an infant, none too keen on the idea at first before growing quite attached to her.

It's a very 80s film; everything from the fashion to the decor to the sensibilities. It's very cutesy but entertaining enough, and it's nice to see a film like this once in a while. It was particularly amusing watch with the parents, what with the film reminding of all the times they had to wash me in the sink or other such staples of baby maintenance. The joys of an inter-generational audience, eh?

My Cousin Vinnie


Two kids are framed for a murder at a grocery store, so they call in their completely inept cousin, a fast and smooth con man, a real wheeler-dealer, Vinnie, to bail them out. He talks big but has to learn courtroom protocol on the fly, often earning jailtime for his mistakes, all the while trying to prove how the kids are innocent and contending with his big attitude, the rural folks of the town, and his underappreciated girlfriend.

It's a surprisingly entertaining little film! It's tough to describe a courtroom drama and keep me interested, but this is a really compelling one; it might help that the protagonist knows as little as I do to begin with. The writing is sharp and the acting is great and from what I've read it's actually lauded for playing it fair - sure, you'd prefer it if the kids didn't get the electric chair, but both parties have their own sense of duty and are simply following it through.

A great watch, one I'd definitely check out again.

Blue Streak


A professional thief steals a valuable jewel with the help of his buddies... one of whom turns out to be a double-crosser, looking to eliminate the others to claim the riches for himself. During his getaway, the thief tapes the jewel to the inside of a ventilation duct of an under-construction building... which, by the time he's out of jail, has been made into a police station! Using his street smarts and fast mouth, he masquerades as a burglary detective to get the jewel back, unintentionally solving numerous crimes, making a name for himself and rising to the rank of lead detective.

It's a straightforward movie, but it's a whole heap of fun. Martin Lawrence always makes for an entertaining protagonist, and this movie is no exception. For every unintentional good deed he does, he only buries himself deeper and deeper into his troubles, and seeing him to try to stay afloat of it is hilarious.

The movie is never slow and has little in the way of sub-plots, and combined with the funky soundtrack makes for an upbeat, fast-paced watch. Well, there is a sub-plot regarding Tulley, one of the guy's old partners and played by Dave Chapelle, who's a chronic crook and Martin does his best to bail him out from sticky situations, but keeps showing up at the worst times - including during his sting operation against a notorious crimelord. He's an entertaining guy, someone to throw a bone into Martin's fast-and-loose schemes, but after a scene of him hiding bags of heroin in his coat, he's never seen again. It would've been nice to see that loose end sorted out, I guess.

It's interesting that this is the first Martin Lawrence film I've seen where his character hasn't got a family of any sort. There's a brief scene after he gets out of jail where he visits his girlfriend, but after that, it's all about the jewel - literally. We never see where this guy is living during all of this. The way the film's shot, you'd think he slept in his office.

But yeah, in Bad Boys his character was married with children, and ended up roped into the ridiculous masquerade scheme he and Mike Larry had going on. And in Nothing To Lose, for playing such a macho man criminal, he goes home to his wife, mom and kids in the slums, claiming to be a down-on-his-luck job searcher. They add a little extra heart to the character, something to tie them down when his characters are always so wild and ambitious.

I was expecting a scene at the end that would tie the character down in some heart-warming manner, like discovering the positive, constructive vibes he brings to the department... but his partner discovers that he's the jewel thief, and willingly let him escape into Mexico where he can get into even more hare-brained shenanigans. It's a cute way for the characters to say goodbye, and the guy does have a heart, but you kinda worry, jeez, what messes is he gonna get into this time? Ah well.

I'm digging Martin Lawrence, but was kinda disappointed to discover he wasn't in many other 'action' films... unless you want to count Big Momma's House. Let's not, though. Anyway, Blue Streak! Fun characters, great soundtrack, entertaining watch.

Hudson Hawk


I first saw the DVD case for this lying around in my brother's place years ago, and only knew about it as "that one movie that bombed really bad," without knowing why. If I'd known it tanked because it was a live-action cartoon with Bruce Willis pulling silly faces, I would've seen this sooner!

Apparently, Leonardo da Vinci made a machine that could turn lead into gold, but hid the vital components inside his later works. After being released from jail, the professional catburglar Hudson Hawk is called upon by a line-up of cartoonishly outlandish crooks to steal these pieces to fund their master plan - flipping the table on the world's economy!

For so long, I was under the impression the movie bombed because it was a boring action movie that was bad - I mean, vague summaries of reviews were quick to note "I didn't like this" without making note of the "because:" parts. I wasn't expecting the film to begin with a man in an awful beard playing Leonardo da Vinci, a man sniping Hawk's coffee in a blueblood's bar, or the variety of comically violent pratfalls that later ensue.

It takes a while to belabour its point, but the film does not want you to take itself seriously. The villains all clarify upon their introductions "we're villains!", in varying degrees of non-subtlety. The plot, thin as it is, is little more than an excuse to throw the characters into ridiculous scenarios plucked straight out of Tom & Jerry cartoons. It's oafish, it's childish, and very lowbrow. I love it.

Seeing Stephen E. DeSouza's writing credit, I knew to expect this, though. You can tell, from the comic situations, the idiotic banter to the pop culture references ("I'd like you to play Nintendo with me."), that it's written by a cartoon writer. Well, okay, his only cartoon credit is Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, but surely the Street Fighter movie counts. Bruce Willis also has a writing credit, as does Robert Kraft, the man responsible for darn near everything involving the film's soundtrack. Fitting, given Hawk and Tommy's penchant for song and dance during their burglaries, a little inclusion that adds a lot of cartoon charm to the film and its characters.

It's a stupid, stupid movie, but it's a movie written by folks who want it to be stupid, and know just how to make it so. Some scripts I've seen have looked great on paper, but making the transition to film, either through its content or through its director, never quite matches to the vision. Hudson Hawk knows it's making a hamhock; doesn't it look great?

The characters, two-dimensional as they are, are a lot of fun and given suitably over the top performances - the film is dripping in villains, and all of them are a blast, It's hard to pick a favourite! So many of the baddies die so quickly it's hard to appreciate them, though, and given the film's cartoon content, you keep expecting them to show up later, blackened and smoking, twisting their hair back into shape while muttering "you're despicable."

Which comes to my one look-at-this-killjoy complaint about the film: it's a live-action cartoon with a 15 certificate. There's a heap of swearing, a number of off-colour jokes and a lot of deaths. I can't help but wonder had it cut or altered a lot of that content, would it have fared better with younger audiences? It's got such hilarious jokes and pratfalls that I'm certain I would've adored it as a kid... and then you've got scenes where Hawk remarks he was seconds away from ejaculating into a dog's mouth. It... spoils the mood a little bit, doesn't it? (it makes a hint of sense in context, but it's still not ball-busting humour.)

I had an absolute ball. You don't know where it's going next, for better or for worse, and that I respect in a movie.

Die Hard


We should all know this one. Nakatomi Plaza is taken over by terrorists. Regular joe John McClane is there to save the day, essentially leading the way before the rest of the police and FBI arrive to unintentionally make life hard for him.

A fantastic film. As an action movie it's very well paced and very well structured; you really get to know this building and all the people in and out of it. There's a great sense of tracking where people are, what they're doing and when they're doing it, and how it all has repercussions in different places. Even things like the media and their scumbag news reporter who's digging up all the dirt he can on everyone involved, effectively informing the villain who his antagonist is and how to get through to him. You've got the limo driver in the underground parking lot, and you've got the hostages who want to win the terrorists' favour. There's only about 20-something criminals in total, but you really get a sense of how they're being whittled down, who's left and who's where. It's fantastic.

The writing is very sharp. Like Hudson Hawk, it's got a whole rake of characters but are all performed excellently - and, well, it's all down to the writing. It's so punchy! It's just dripping in zing and pizzazz; I find myself watching other films and knowing exactly what stock phrase is going to come out of a character's mouth. There's very few that surprise me in that regard.

Steven E. DeSouza, however, has a real knack for punchy, characteristic dialogue. They work well as action movies but they're also very self-aware. Hans is a big bad guy, sure, he looks nasty and tries to create a powerful image, but at the end of the day he's a guy who wants money and is using the media to bolster his image; he makes a bold demand to release a list of big-name criminals from prison, but remarks to a comrade he only read about them in Entertainment Weekly. It uses pop culture not just for an easy "I recognise that!" gag, but to show all these guys, be they rip-roaring action heroes or scheming villains, are just regular dudes. To me it felt very "smart" for, well, dumb dialogue.

A lot of lines are in the same vein, mind you - John McClane telling people to shove [object of choice] up their asses and so on - but everything feels very punchy and witty and never feels tiresome. As a lousy writer who goes through "word of the month" phases, I found it commendable.

Really, it's just a fantastic film! There's a lot to love, from the Christmas backdrop to the great music to Bruce Willis just being a charming smartass, back when it felt earnest. Can't find a bad thing to say about it.

Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child


Stuart Ashen, a collector of rubbish old tat, has had one treasure he's never been able to find - the Game Child, a knockoff handheld which was completely withdrawn from the market due to exceptional dodginess. One unit is believed to still be in the wild, so Stuart, with the help of former-chef Geoff Excellence, set out on a mission to find it.

It is a motion picture with a director and a budget and all that, but it's still very much a YouTube video. There's some entertainment to be found, but it's hardly ground-breaking cinema. It's a movie based off a guy who reviews guff on his couch, for goodness sake. It's in that unfortunate divide where you want to give it the cinematic critique, but it is just free entertainment you paid nothing for (or was it crowdfunded?). Kudos is deserved for them getting the money, people and resources to produce a movie based on a YouTube channel, I suppose, but...

The humour is very hit-or-miss. Being a YouTube thing, it's got a fair dose of references and cameos - at least, I can only assume they're cameos, otherwise some bits are both unprecedented and unfunny. There are some good moments; Robert Llewelyn gets an amusing scene as Stuart's professor, and Warwick Davis makes a laugh-out-loud appearance completely out of nowhere as the true(?) identity of the Silver Skull. The two stand-out scenes to me are the intro animation, a geeky homage to Bond movie intros, and the claymation dream sequence. Not for outstanding humour or anything, but simply because they feel more creative than anything else in the film. Any old sod can go on camera trying to sound funny. Getting someone with a bit of animation talent, on the other hand...!

It's not a film with a grand plot, either. It's the ultimate macguffin story, an obtuse search forcing people to go to such-and-such location to learn such-and-such information. It's less a film and more an excuse for skits in various scenarios, from a battle of wits in a children's board game to a rather random Lord of the Rings homage that doesn't really go anywhere.

The main plot is paper-thin, and in between silly scenarios it fills the time with basic character development. Geoff is depressed about losing his job, and would do anything to get it back. Stuart is a lone wolf, reluctant to work with others due to trust (and competence) issues. It's time-filling, at best. It's no testamount to outstanding writing. but who am I to talk?

Stuart's channel is a solo act, so suddenly having a sidekick, a nemesis (named Nemesis) and a large supporting cast is a bit of a game changer. My biggest problem, however, was simply the fact that this bloke in front of a sofa who reviews things was now a 'character'. The one other film I've seen based off an internet show, Kickassia, had he benefit of each of its source shows balancing the shit-talking of media with silly character-driven vignettes. You knew you were watching the Nostalgia Critic doing inane shit, rather than Doug Walker the writer, director and actor, for instance.

Meanwhile, it's just a little weird watching a film starring Stuart Ashen, written by Stuart Ashen, about Stuart Ashen. It's a dumb thing to prattle on about, but when you've got a scene of real person Stuart Ashen reminiscing on past adventures with a fictional ex-girlfriend, or a scene where a stranger gushes over his work, giving him the confidence to save the day... one can't help but ponder the border between character writing and self-insert fan fiction.

For free entertainment funded by and made for geek culture, you can't bitch a whole lot, I guess. They made it and they released it for free and that's jolly swell of them. It's just a matter of whether or not you'll get more entertainment out of it than just marathoning an hour and a half's worth of Ashens' regular content. I vote for the latter, personally.

Die Hard 2


It's the same, but bigger! No longer just an office building, the baddies take control of an airport and aim to crash planes into the ground if they don't release a notorious criminal, causing much chaos. John McClane's back, his wife's still in trouble, the news reporter's still making an arse of himself, and even Al sneaks in a small cameo.

You don't see quite as much of the airport as you did the plaza since there's so much ground to cover; a lot of time is spent in the underground pathways the janitor uses, curiously enough. That said, it still does a terrific job making setpieces into action sequences, like the fight on the conveyor walkways, the scrap on the runway... you don't feel quite as intimiately familiar with the airport as you did Nakatomi Plaza, but they do a decent job utilising the best bits.

The plot is very much a repeat, and is certainly aware of that - "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" - but it does a decent job throwing in some new elements. John is no longer the cowboy cop on a one-man assault behind enemy lines, but instead more hands-on with the people assisting him. His wife is aboard one of the incoming planes that's threatening to crash, so there's still something personal on the line should he fail.

With the same writer and the same crew, it's still a very entertaining film. Not qite as perfect as the first one, and I hear people complaining that it is such a literal retread of the first film... but I don't know, I thought it was a winning formula! But, well, you can see just how stinkin' biased I am. Welp.

Slayers: The Motion Picture


A few years ago I'd been handed a heaping stockpile of Slayers stuff... but after watching a couple of episodes and OVAs, I wasn't exactly impressed by it. In hindsight, I'm not sure what possessed me to check this out. Giving the series a second chance? Starved for entertainment? Whatever it was, it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening.

The story, thin as it is, follows Lina Inverse and her rival Naga as they go to find a rarely-accessible hot spring. On their way, they battle the island's strongest warriors, before unearthing a legendary demon who seeks to destroy the universe. Or... something. It's not a well laid-out plot.

Slayers, being a "parody" series, has never been big on elaborate plots from what I've seen, and this hour-long movie is no different. It plays out like an extended episode of the TV show, for all intents and purposes. Lina and Naga bumble along, getting into mandatory scraps with the thinnest pretense of a plot pushing them along, seemingly making up shit as it goes. It does have the good humour to mock its storytelling clichés; Lina has cryptic dreams throughout the movie, and she eventually ends up shouting at whoever's causing them to cut the crap and just tell her what's up. It doesn't stop the film from constantly pulling twists out of its ass, mind you, but the gesture is appreciated.

It's not a show you watch for plot, but for its action and humour. And to its credit, you get a half-dozen or so battle sequences in its hour-long running time. You don't get a good reason why there's a battle taking place, but just run with it. The animation probably isn't cinematic material, but it's of a consistent and decent quality, and the exaggerated, cartoony characters look fabulous in motion, such as Juliano the magician and Michigan J. Joyrock. And given the lack of plot or tension, there's not a whiff of drama to any of the fights, but there's usually something of interest to them, be it decent sights or some amusing pratfalls.

The humour is, well, pretty anime. If you've seen one episodes of Slayers jokes, you've seen 'em all. Cracks at Lina's flat chest, goofy villains, all encounters resolved with needlessly dramatic explosives - it's hit or miss. One scene, where Naga produces a rather disproportionate dragon out of stone, made me laugh out loud, though. The problem I encounter with a lot of "parody" anime is that they change a few elements to make it seem 'goofy' - the characters are flirtacious, the villains have daft motivations, yadda yadda - but they play it darn-near straight otherwise, hoping token elements or scenes will make up for it. I guess I'm taken off-guard when it makes a genuine visual gag!

It wasn't an impressive use of an hour, but for Slayers, it was pretty decent! I'd recommend it over the other Slayers material I've watched. It helps that it's got the budget and running time to actually accomplish something... even if it was just endless magic battles.

Die Hard: With A Vengeance


"Simon", a German terrorist with a shit-ton of explosives, sends John McClane racing throughout the city to perform inane challenges to appease him and disable bombs he's planted at a variety of locations. In this mess, an unsuspecting store owner from Harlem is roped into his antics, the police are send on a wild goose chase, and terrorists swipe all the gold in the federal reserve bank. It's not a good day for anyone.

The film gets off to an awkward start, perhaps a bit too gung-ho in jump-starting the plot, with a bomb going off and a drunk and disorderly McClane being roped in and given a badge, before being forced to strip to his drawers in a black neighbourhood with a racial slur painted across his chest. There's no opportunity to see John in a neutral state of mind before the cowboy in him comes out - he's already shit-faced at the starting grid. This is one of many changes from the first two, and alongside the five year gap between productions, it didn't sit well with me.

John is the only returning character - Al got a token cameo in the last film, but goes unmentioned here. Dick the newscaster is missing, obviously due to the change of location. John's wife has left him and is the subject of several discussions, but is entirely absent from the events. The last one is especially troubling, as it strips the film of a "what's on the line" angle - the last two films cut between John's heroic antics to what his wife was up to, showing her in the line of fire of the enemy's schemes, be it directly or indirectly.

And no longer is the film set in one central location, like the office building or an airport - they've got the entire city of New York to romp through! It is an entertaining change of pace and finally allows for more open action sequences, such as a number of car chases, swinging from a bridge to a boat, and so on. However - and this is probably something only I care about - it doesn't allow the intimacy of knowing the location in depth. The last two films used every single asset the locations had to offer, but with a city... well, it's a city. Given how the film is spent running on "Simon"'s every demand, it does fit in, giving him a huge playground to send his victims scurrying around, but it lacks the hotbed of intensity as a setting, y'know?

Lastly, Stephen E. deSouza had no hand in writing it, and the film feels very different as a result. After watching three films with his writing and Bruce Willis starring, you see how the duo's work gels very well. deSouza was able to write quick-paced, fast-and-loose dialogue that was sharp and funny and gelled perfectly with Bruce's charming everyman persona. Perhaps most importantly, it wasn't predictable.

It's a minor thing to pick up on, but Stephen had a knack for writing quips and one-liners that were funny, and may have fit a basic motif, but never felt predictable. McClane's banter with the terrorists, especially in the first film, is just fantastic, and Bruce plays it perfectly. "Yippee kai-ay, motherfucker" wasn't just a catchphrase to spout out before or after murdering the villain, it perfectly embodied John's wildcard, cowboy tactics. He was a good guy, but when evil-doing bastards push him too far... well, he wouldn't be one to play nicely. This movie plays up the asshole cop angle more, and feels a bit dry as a result.

Perhaps most damningly, there are a few lines that made me chuckle in the movie, but it felt more out of luck or good acting than due to sharp writing. The first two movies may have used a lot of threats involving things being shoved up people's asses, but the writing and delivery always felt sharp.

Even in Hudson Hawk, one of its qualities was its penchant for great, unexpected lines of dialogue. One line I can't help but fixate on is when Hawk is abducted by the two mute hitmen. "What do they call you, Eek and Ook?" It's an incredibly dumb line, but it's an unexpected kind of dumb. It's not something trite like "Gumbo and Dumbo", or an allusion to comedy duos from pop culture. They're unexpected names that I can't imagine anyone thinking of as an on-the-fly insult, but Steve's writing and Bruce's performance make it work. It's brilliant.

Shit, I'm meant to be talking about Die Hard 3. right? Darn. I could praise deSouza's work all day.

Going into the city is an interesting change of pace, opening up the playground a bit. Samuel L Jackson makes an entertaining partner as Zeus, even if the constant racial remarks do feel distracting - I guess after two movies with plenty of characters of colour without racism being an issue, it seems strange to only now start going at it.

The villains were rather forgettable, despite attempts to give them character, with the silent femme fatale and the muscle who couldn't speak English. Making "Simon" the other Gruber sibling seemed like a cheap and easy way of giving him villain credentials, especially when the ramifications of his acts of terrorism weren't really expounded upon. The first film had a very low civilian bodycount - the boss, the wormy guy, and a couple of security guards, I think? The second movie also had a forgettable villain, but he crashed a plane of two hundred plus people, so he had it coming. Peter sets off two bombs in New York and kills the occupants of the Federal Bank, but, again, given the large landscape, none of it really sinks in. We're not intimate with these people or locations.

Finally, the ending almost felt tacked on. John and Zeus escape from the exploding boat, and the villains get away in another one with all the gold. There, when they're back on the dock and talk about them getting away, and Zeus telling John to phone his wife, it genuinely feels like the movie is ending. It's hit all the climatic and emotional beats, but only with the villains getting away. And it really seems like it's going to let that happen. They only detonated a couple of bombs and stole enough gold to buy several countries, but the film really, really, really looks like it's ready to end.

But then they find out where the villains are based purely on the label on a bottle of aspirin, and they swoop in, bundle the villains into a helicopter, and then crash it. Boom. Forget about all the other baddies still where the gold is. They blew up the villains, John phones his wife, that's it. Roll credits. No delay. It's like the staff roll had an itchy trigger finger.

I guess that's another problem if we're gonna keep comparing. For the limited playgrounds, the last two films had fantastic climaxes and plenty of action. This one feels a bit smaller by comparison, and after escaping the exploding boat, wrapping the helicopter in cable and sending it to a fiery eruption seems like a very abrupt way of offing the baddies. I'm lost for words, to be honest, it legitimately felt like an after-thought. They filmed an Empire Strikes Back ending, it didn't do well, so they went back and wrapped it up as quickly and uneventfully as possible.

Ah well. The first two are brilliant, and that's fine by me. If anything it's good to see the series branch out some more, with a bigger scope and landscape to work with, though without deSouza I've already lost one of my favourite aspects of the franchise.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


The fact they dropped the numeral keeps making me think this was a reboot, but it's pretty much a direct sequel to the last film, with the same characters played by a new cast. Tom Cruise's wife has allegedly been killed so he's suffering from manpain; meanwhile, they're framed for something they probably didn't do (I guess) and are disowned by the organisation, so they have to undergo missions with whatever they can haul around in a van.

It's a solid little instalment, and the twist does throw a bone into plans that would've otherwise gone smoothly - the face-copying tool is finally written out of the equation - so it's nifty seeing how they work around what they can't use. Simon Pegg adds a bit of humour to what's otherwise... another Mission: Impossible film. You got spying, you got action, what more do you want from a decent-enough film?!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation


A daft old Christmas film full of zany characters and stupid pratfalls. It's entertaining fluff!

More importantly, it's the first ever film I've seen of Chevy Chase in his prime. For so long I've only seen the man trotted out in low-tier schlock in a futile attempt to say, "look how much clout we have!", and as such, I had no idea why people liked the man. A bit like Robin Williams and Robots; you couldn't convince me he was a beloved idol of comedy with that movie. Upon seeing this - hey, Chevy Chase is a funny guy! He's kind of an everyman but brings an irreverent sense of energy to his role. Now I get it!

It was good to finally see this; it's one of those Christmas classics that I'd seen mentioned so often on American pop culture sites for years, but had yet to experience for myself. Good times.

Cat Soup


I couldn't sleep one night; I was feeling disjointed and my head was all over the place, so I figured I'd watch this. There couldn't be a better thing to watch on a restless night.

A 30 minute short about a cat whose sister has lost half of her soul, so the two go on a strange quest to recover the missing half... I think? There's not much of a plot, and even no real dialogue - all the character's thoughts are portrayed through speech balloons. It's simply a journey through abstract lands, encountering outlandish and often violent sights.

It's a very abstract film; very out-there, but very "human" in some elements. The story is little more than a charade in futility and cruelty; everyone they encounter is either out to hurt them or dies in some manner, by their hand or not. There's a pig who helps them out, offering pulled pork from under his skin, but when there's nothing left to eat the two beat him to death. A strange man offers them food and shelter, but only plans to cook them for himself, so they chop his legs off and boil him alive in his own cauldron. Is there meaning to the violence, something to reflect upon on the nature of humanity - or is it just edgy to see cute cartoon cats being cruel little shits?

It's a difficult film to describe, but it is beautiful to watch. The animation is positively superb, dripping in psychedelic visuals yet animating them with such life and splendour. There's a strange nostalgic feeling to the film; some of the scenes evoke a feeling of childhood, of wonder and mystery about the world around you. Exactly the sort of stuff I lap up when I'm feeling mopey and retrospective.

I'd say it's a movie worth checking out once in your life, just to see what you make of it. Personally, watching it in a conflicted state of mind in the dead of night made the experience for me - it wouldn't have made the same impact any other way.

Dead Leaves


Two people awake with no memories before going on a killing spree, which lands them in the titular prison colony where they lead a breakout... and that's it. That's the movie. Half the running time is one long continuous action sequence of them learning about the facility, trying to make their way out, and the prisoners lending their useful skills before getting brutally slaughtered. There is a plot, though it's proper bullshit and played for laughs.

It's a dumb, dumb movie, but it knows that and doesn't take itself seriously. This is a movie whose only goal is to be stylish, loud and energetic, and dang if it doesn't accomplish that! The characters look like the twisted side of Cartoon Network, boasting bold outlines and outlandish anatomy, all the while getting into extremely energetic shootouts. It's energetic. Can I stress that enough?

As a prolonged action sequence, it's terrific, but the moment it tries to make an actual movie out of itself it drops the ball just a little bit. The climax is cool and all, but all the fun characters are dead at this point so it loses out on the pizzazz. Still, not a bad watch, and the dub does a great job keeping up with the endless irreverence.

Die Hard 4.0


Some fucker's using computers to destroy the government and steal wads of cash or something, so an even grumpier and even balder John McClane teams up with some hacker kid to try and stop them, I guess.

As a bog-standard action film, it's okay. You've got some outrageous stunts like driving a car into a helicopter and the great elevator fight, but it's hard to get attached to any of it. It's tough to even call it a Die Hard film. John McClane comes across as totally charmless with protection issues regarding his daughter that are common among bald male action heroes, but never fail to make my skin crawl. Someone lock Bruce Willis in a closet and don't let him out until he can make somebody smile again. It'd do us all a world of good.

Speaking as an irrational fan of the first two movies, it's just disheartening that this is what's been done with the series. The first two films felt so focused and so tightly produced, and this just seems to boil it down to "well, it's got Bruce Willis in it, right?" It's not an awful watch, but I can barely remember a positive thing from it, so what does that tell you.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark


Such a great, great movie. Having caught glimpses of Crystal Skull during Christmas, it's great to see where it all began, and demonstrating why it's such a well-loved, timeless classic.

It's such fun watching Indiana Jones get into these scrapes, and see him constantly on edge, working out how to get out of this latest scrape. Harrison Ford has a real manic edge to his performance, and during some of his stunts he looks like he's on the verge of insanity. It's so brilliant, and it reminds why we like Harrison Ford in the first place!

Which, after watching Die Hard 4.0 recently, seems like a problem these days. They trot these old actors out, but with only a percentage of the charm and charisma (and good writing) they had in their groundbreaking roles. Bruce Willis simply wasn't the gripping protagonist he used to be in that flick. He was just some bald, grumpy lout who certainly performed action movie things, but rarely were we given reason to find him likeable besides "you liked him in the previous movies, didn't you?"

The first two Die Hards showed a rather hotheaded fellow pushed beyond his limit to become the daring, devil-may-care nutjob who ends up saving the day, with a heap of smartass attitude to boot; but you knew he was a 'relatively' ordinary dude underneath. In Die Hard 4.0, what do we see of him? He spends the whole movie being a grouchy bitch, and in his off-time he stalks his daughter. I don't think even Stephen E. DeSouza's writing could make that charming.


I can't say anything new about this. It's action-packed, it's light-hearted, there's a real sense of mystery and adventure. You've seen it, haven't you?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


I reviewed this a few Christmases ago, and I think I summed it up as the first hour being a bit slow and boring, and then the last hour being really rip-roaring. I'd probably disagree now, as the first hour does build up a lot; it probably doesn't need to build so much, but it creates a fun dynamic for all the characters. Great locations and great little antics. The characters can perhaps be a little obnoxious, but I found them a lot of fun.

The last hour really ramps up the peril, it's such a game changer. After all the goofy hijinks it comes across as so dark and gloomy, but then they fix that with a truly fantastic climax - swashbuckling through the temple, freeing all the kids, and then the minecarts! And then the bridge!! Oh my goodness! And the kids get reunited with their folks and it's so gosh-darned happy!

It's a rather tremendous moodswing, and you could argue a lot of the film is influenced by George Lucas' divorce at the time, but it's still a great watch. Definitely not deserving of the bashing it sometimes receives.