Category: Movie Reviews

Fan Film Review: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2001-2003

The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring movie posterBefore I start, I want to clarify that this is a review of the films only. I have read the books between 13-20 times (I lost count at 13) and seen the whole trilogy of films more than 20 times. I have also read The Hobbit 3 or 4 times, read the Silmarillion twice, The Book of Lost Tales, Unfinished Tales and The Children of Hurin, so I would say I am pretty familiar with Tolkien’s work. The films are a pretty good reflection of the books but they are not an accurate rendering on screen, so if you really want to know and understand Tolkien, read the books; the man was a genius, so I can’t even attempt to do him justice in a review of his work. We are simply talking about Peter Jackson’s excellent movies here. I will attempt to outline what is good and bad about the movies and compare them with the books, as well as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, both of which it’s frequently compared to. This whole review is a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know what happens to the characters, don’t read this.

Continue reading “Fan Film Review: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2001-2003”

Fan Film Review: The Song Remains the Same, 1976 – Led Zeppelin

The Song Remains the Same posterThe Song Remains the Same is quite simply the best movie of a live concert I have ever seen. I was going to concerts in the 70s – I saw Santana do 5 encores at Wembley Arena, the last being simply an extended jam and I watched Jethro Tull suffer an electrical failure and perform an acoustic set only to get the power back on and launch into an incredibly 30-minute jam at the end, but I have never seen anything to top Led Zeppelin live at Madison Square Gardens in 1973. Now we have got that out of the way, for those who haven’t seen it yet, what are you missing?

I won’t discuss length, because, though long, you have to view this as a movie with many segments, so if you are any kind of rock music fan, you won’t get bored. The movie starts with short vignettes – fantasy snapshots – of each bandmember receiving ‘news’ of a new tour; Robert Plant is by a remote waterfall in Wales, Bonham on his way to the pub (where else?) in his hot rod, John Paul Jones in his mansion’s kitchen with his wife and Jimmy Page by a lake in his Sussex mansion. Finally, we get to see Peter Grant, the larger-than-life but often forgotten manager of Led Zeppelin, a man who has been called the 5th member, in his Sussex mansion.

Continue reading “Fan Film Review: The Song Remains the Same, 1976 – Led Zeppelin”

Movie Review: Oblivion, 2013

Oblivion movie still of the Sky Tower
Oblivion movie still of the Sky Tower

What more can be said of Tom Cruise in sci-fi roles? He always seems to deliver, so I was expecting something a bit special when I sat down to watch Oblivion last week.

Things were looking good after half an hour; great sets, great scenery and great special effects. Cruise was, as usual, dry in his delivery of Jack’s lines and held my attention.

But then I noticed something odd; Andrea Risborough, as Jack’s girlfriend and teammate Victoria, was acting badly. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, she must be an android and this will all be explained properly later,’ but no, the further into the movie I got, the more it became apparent that Victoria was human, and therefore badly portrayed. I am not saying Risborough can’t act, but she must have been at least badly cast here. It makes all the scenes with Cruise wooden and the love-making scene was just embarrassing. Continue reading “Movie Review: Oblivion, 2013”

2 Film Reviews: Fury and The Yakuza

fury_article_story_large
Brad Pitt as Wardaddy in Fury.

Fury (2014)

I first saw this film when it came to cable TV. I wasn’t impressed. The penultimate scene, whereby one of the main characters gets blown up by a grenade, looked totally unrealistic. German grenades were about half as powerful as allied ones but in a confined space like the turret of a tank, there would be still be little left of a man to identify, let alone a complete body with only a few stylish blood stains on its face.

But recently, I had to do some research for a book I am writing so I watched it again. Having written off the movie as an authentic document, I took a more relaxed approach and, I must say, I enjoyed it a lot more. Continue reading “2 Film Reviews: Fury and The Yakuza”

Review: The Blue Max

The Blue Max - 1966
The Blue Max – 1966

The 1966 movie, The Blue Max, stands out in my mind as the only movie I can think of without a hero.

I watched The Blue Max last week (okay I admit it, I have it on DVD). I am a huge fan of aviation films and this one is all about a German Air Force pilot in World War I. Skip the bits about aircraft if that is not your thing but that’s not the main point of this review.

Briefly, Bruno Stachel is an infantry corporal in the trenches. From a working-class background, he nevertheless longs for the noble arena of death in the skies and enlists in the German Air Force. He proves a talented pilot but his new squadron of officers, enlisted from the ruling classes, do not accept his ambitious ruthlessness. They have a strict code of conduct, which he breaks in many ways, including bedding the top-scoring Willi’s aunt and lover, the Countess Kaeti. Willi’s nobility, until now, has extended to taking Stachel under his wing but now the gloves are off and the two duel for supremacy in the skies and in bed. Continue reading “Review: The Blue Max”

Red Tails – review

What a wasted opportunity for George Lucas. Here we have the story of the first black (is that the correct term now?) fighter pilots in WWII and their struggle to be allowed to fight for their country, up against entrenched and endemic Racism. Not only did they succeed but they won a combined award for their outstanding bravery and performance. Their job was to protect American Bombers raiding Germay and they were the only Squadron who managed to lose not one single Bomber during their missions. So you have: politics, heroism, great action, technology in abundance, lots of potential personal stories and history all in one story. You also have the guy who made Star Wars at the helm. It should have been great, it was barely better than pap.

In fact I resigned myself to watching it purely for how bad it was – before the title credits. It opens with a really dire CGI bit of action with American P40 Kittyhawks(?) fighting Me109s. The German pilots are portayed as ice-cold manifestations of the devil who speak like Cybermen. Somebody has been reading too many Eagle comics. The stereo types were just way too much to take. The dialogue was pretty bad too. Continue reading “Red Tails – review”

Film Reviews

Film Reviews for: Shame, Soldier of God, Anna Karenina and First Men in the Moon

Shame

I am a big Michael Fassbender fan. His performance in Inglorious Basterds was up there with the Brandos and Pacino’s of this world. He holds this movie together with a taught, up-tight performance but the movie doesn’t quite deliver. It stops one base short of a home run. Which is a shame because it’s beautifully filmed, paced and has all the ingredients for a good movie. The locations are very evocative of emotional breakdown which is what you basically see happening. An emotionally repressed young exec – Fassbender is seeking release through sexual-obsession. He is willing to try anything with anyone and has retreated into this world. His workplace provides a sort of second family for him and is the only place he actually connects with people. Into his life, against his will, comes his emotionally fraught little sister – sissy, played by Carey Mulligan. Their parents are no longer around and she seems on the edge of a breakdown. He resents bitterly her pull on his emotions and the clash pushes her even closer to the edge. She is a semi-professional singer and the scene of her performance in a club made my teeth grind. Carey Mulligan has a good, but untrained voice and the over-egged delivery of New York, New York – in New York, acapella, was a little painful. If Fassbender’s character hadn’t stayed silent, when asked if he though it was good, I would have really disliked this film. The main protagonist’s essential taste is one of things that holds this together. This movie had the potential to be a 4/5 or 5/5 but it doesn’t quite get there. I think the writer just didn’t want to take the risk that would have been necessary to actually say something of value. I am all for movies that start from nowhere and end nowhere – existential movies in the 60s and early 70s excelled at this – even in Hollywood (I am thinking of a James Caan film where he is a hitman wanting to retire). Those movies start with an unusual premise but this movie just builds around a disfunctional family – nothing unusual these days – 3/5. Continue reading “Film Reviews”

Film Reviews: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Enter the Void and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

I have been busy over the last few weeks. Have finished Chapter 1 of Iron II and also Chapter 1 of the follow up to Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. It’s all top secret though so I can’t say anything. Instead here are some reviews of films I have seen lately:

The Bridges of Toko-Ri.
On the face of it just standard 50s Korean War drama starring William Holden and Grace Kelly. But look again. Apparently Holden only took the part on the understanding that the books sad ending would not be changed by the Director. And it pays off. I haven’t read the book but it must be very thoughtful. Holden’t character, Harry Brubaker was a hero pilot in WWII and then became a lawyer. However he is called up to fly jets in Korea and gets involved in the mission to bomb a set of bridges which are a key supply route from China and consequently very heavily defended. You might think Aha! 633 Squadron all over again but no – the film veers away from that kind of feat of daring-do. Instead we find out that Holden’s character is afraid of fighting. He has a wife, Nancy – ably played in one of her last films by Grace kelly, and two children and he just has too much to lose. Also he can’t understand why he has been called up when his status was completely inactive when reservists are still at home. Is it something to do with his ace-status?

Continue reading “Film Reviews: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Enter the Void and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”

Flowers for Algernon

I finally got to read this wonderful little novel (read the novel and not the novella – my friend Gary informs me that the longer one is better) on holiday and I have been pondering it before writing anything about it. I also saw the film afterwards so I comment on that later:

Flowers for Algernon – The Novel

I must say this is the ideal book for the beach. Not only does it start off with very simple text: simple words and short sentences, but it is broken up into bite-sized chunks about half-page long. It couldn’t be easier. If you haven’t read the book you will not know that this is because the text mainly consists of diary entries by Charly Gordon, an American with learning difficulties and subnormal intelligence who is about to undergo an operation to make him clever. I have to say right away that it is a very touching book and in no way prejudiced or insensitive. Indeed its subject matter is a great source of pathos and humour and treated with great care by its author Daniel Keyes. Continue reading “Flowers for Algernon”

Two Film Reviews: D.O.A. (1950) and Helen of Troy (1956)

As many of you know I am a big movie buff. After a solid afternoon’s writing on Sunday I settled down to watch two movies in the evening. D.O.A. (1950) and Helen of Troy (1956)

D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) is a noirish movie about a guy with a shady business who goes on an unexplained break to a city in US and gets poisoned. Thinking it’s just a bad hangover he goes to the doctor who tells him it’s fatal and he has days to live. He then goes on a desperate hunt for his own killer before finally reporting a homicide at the Police Station. The officer asks him who was murdered and he says “Me.” This is actually the film’s opening scene and surprisingly the officer, far from being incredulous, actually hunts for the report of the guy’s murder which he already has. Continue reading “Two Film Reviews: D.O.A. (1950) and Helen of Troy (1956)”