Category Archives: Film Reviews

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

JimmyNeutronJimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) – Originally written December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

There’s not too much that can really be said about “Jimmy Neutron” as far as films go. A previous reviewer described it as something to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon and that sounds like an adequate description. There are a few reviews on this website of the film though which feel a bit harsh. Ultimately, theres no denying that “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” is a kids film, that’s what it was meant to be, that’s what it is. That’s not a bad thing though. Whilst it may not have the adult humour of other animations (mainly the greatest animation of them all, “Shrek”), it does still have the occasional funny joke that will make people of all ages laugh. Whilst the plot is a bit wafer thin and the animation a bit simplistic at times, I’d like to see most of the reviewers on this website try and do better. Ultimately, I can understand that to some people, this film may not be their cup of tea, and for a long time I avoided trying to watch it. Once you sit down and give it the time of day though, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not the best animation of the last few years, but definately worth a viewing.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

mastercommanderMaster and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Every so often, a few friends of mine will read the 40 or so reviews I’ve done over the months on this website, and will make some comical opinion regarding them. Truth be told, I don’t care anymore. What I hate is when I go to see a film with someone and come out in admiration of the creators and awe at the film itself, yet someone else comes out and instantly condemns part of it. This happened with “Master and Commander”.

In this film, we’re introduced to Captain Jack “Lucky” Aubrey (played with an almost Maximus type persona by Russell Crowe who could possibly win the oscar for this). Aubrey is the captain of the HMS Surprise (yes, I know it’s not the best of ship names, but I don’t need someone in the cinema mentioning this the second the name is mentioned!), a British ship during the Napoleonic Wars which has been stationed to the seas around Brazil with the mission to stop a French ship from stealing british Whaler’s goods. Aubrey is joined by a crew of varied types, including Billy Boyd in his first performance since playing Pippin in “Lord Of The Rings”, and most importantly his best friend and ship’s Medic Dr Stephen Maturin, played majestically by Paul Bettany (who ironically is playing Crowe’s best friend for not the first time, having appeared as his imaginery friend in “A Beautiful Mind”). The film continues along the similar sort of path as for two hours, Crowe almost constantly chases the French ship, stopping only partially at the Galapagos Islands, and involves a fair few battles against the French and against nature.

What can be said about this film? Well, theres limited cgi in this film, meaning that everything which takes place revolves around a real life boat created from scratch and actually taken out onto the sea’s for shooting. The acting is spot on, and the realism is accurate, showing us just how gritty it was aboard boats in the old days. This film reminds us just how lucky we should feel about being alive in this era rather than centuries before. Whilst I do confess at times, the characterisation drags a bit and some of the characters don’t really connect to us on a higher level, attempts are made for some of them. Bettany in particular is easy to associate with, and if the guy doesn’t get Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars then there really is something wrong with the world, and also an unfortunate officer is developed for us to pity and bond with.

I guess really, there isn’t too much to be said about this film. This could possibly be one of it’s flaws. When it is released on DVD & VHS, I look forward to reading the blurb on the back of the box, simply because I’m sceptical it could be anything more than three lines. Crowe & Company chase a French ship around the Far Side of the World for two and a half hours. That’s all that can really be said to be honest. As far as twists and turns go, there aren’t any. The plot is straightforward, VERY simple, and ultimately this doesn’t matter one bit. This film is something you can’t really do justice to when describing it. Some of the best films of the last few years (this, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Adaptation”, etc) were beautiful, not because they were crammed with events, but because with the few minor events they did contain, they developed grit filled beauty on a high scale.

Will this film win any Oscars? Currently it’s a lot of people’s favourite to scoop at least one of the big ones, I’m unsure though. I think it was amazing, but it doesn’t seem like something Oscar would really plump for. Then again though, I never thought Gladiator would scoop many awards and that proved me wrong. Watch this film, but if you get sea sick, take a bag in with you.

Adaptation

adaptationAdaptation (2002) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Once in a while, a film is made which affects you in a way that hours afterwards, your still sat, obsessed almost, by the shear magnitude of what you’ve witnessed. For the vast majority of it, this film is one of this rare breed.

“Adaptation” is about that very word. It concentrates on the lives of the Kaufman twins (real life Charlie and his fictional brother Donald), played with genius by Nicolas Cage. Charlie is a balding, fat “loser”, who manages to make practically every situation awkward. Donald on the other hand is a flirtatious layed back kind of person who enjoys life and seems to represent both what Charlie hates and what he wishes he could be. Both brothers are writing screenplays during this film, Donald a thriller called “the 3” and Charlie an adaptation of a real life book called “The Orchid Thief”.

It’s hard to know what to say about this film really. It’s a moving story of Charlie’s pathetic existance as he feels more and more useless. His first lines in the entire film are a voice-over stating how awful his life is and how he’s a complete mess. His emotions don’t improve much until the very end of the film. It’s strange attempting to analyse the character really. In a way, it feels incredibly subjective, as a lot of the time, most of us feel this hopeless and I know personally I feel sympathetic connections to Charlie.

This film is something which deserves genuine praise and it deserves an enourmous review about how wonderful it is. The problem is that no matter what I could write, I could never do the majority of this film justice. I say majority because I do confess that for a short period, it does seem to go off on a completely different angle, before returning to pattern for a beautiful finale. For this small section, it is questionable why it went this way, but even in a moment of almost action film type activity, it still fits in truely moving moments which touch the heart.

I’m not going to say anything more about this movie. It’s easily one of (if not the) best films of the last five years, and if you haven’t seen it, make it your top priority. Pure beauty in film is something rare, so embrace this example. Superb.

The Matrix Revolutions

matrix-revolutionsThe Matrix Revolutions (2003) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Ok, so I confess, I wasn’t an enourmous fan of the 2nd film, but then I fail to see the fuss about the first (yeah it was original, but just because something is original doesn’t necessarily make it good), so if your an enourmous fan of the films, perhaps i’m not the best person to read. Anyway, I went into this third installment expecting relatively little. Whilst I enjoyed “Matrix Reloaded” the 2nd time I watched it (maybe the same will be true of this one), I found it tedious the 1st time. With this film I’ve kinda expected the same. So, after the negative expectations, was I surprised? In ways yes.

At this point I’d normally write a brief summary of what happens in this film, but lets be honest, most of you will have watched the first two and could quite possibly have seen the trailer for this, and that’s all that is really needed. So I’m going to quickly flick forward to what I liked and what I hated.

Firstly, I do confess, for a lot of this film the graphics were well made, if slightly fast at times, and the fight scenes involving technology never failed to impress me. The almost “Aliens” like contraptions which the men at Zion used were quality and I almost wish i had one.

To be honest with you, this could quite easily be the only thing I really enjoyed about this film. There are a few key reasons for this.

“The Matrix Revolutions” feels ridiculously action packed. Whilst the 2nd was at times slow and painstaking, this film was so fast and paced that it feels almost like the Wachowski (spelling?) Brothers had told their stories and just wanted to cause fights. So ultimately, that’s what they’ve done. During the ultimate final load of battles, whilst the machine battles are taking place, the incredibly tacky fighting between Neo and Agent Smith is almost legendarily bad. I went to see this film with my friend Alex and he’d been told before hand that the fighting felt like something out of “Dragonball Z”. Well whoever told him that, they weren’t far wrong. The two men seemed to zip across the screen in almost depressingly fast shots which were blurred and all in all, relatively weak.

So, other than the fighting, what else can I complain about? Well theres the almost satirical nature of the religious implications. This film feels at times almost like the Brothers got so fed up with the religion comments in regard to the first film that they thought they’d get revenge by putting as many Christian links in as possible. I won’t say much on this, but basically, towards the end of the film, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Also, there were times where I felt a bucket was almost compulsory to someones cinema going experience. Your reading something here by someone who rates “When Harry Met Sally” as one of his favourite films, and if forced to watch a well-scripted romantic comedy, can tend to stomach it (“Notting Hill” being an ok example), but there were scenes in this film (most involving Trinity, but not all) which were so ridiculously sickening, that I’m sure I heard someone throwing up on one of the front rows.

To summarise then, I know the Wachowski Brothers faced a lot of problems in their filming (actors getting injured or dying… the Oracle’s Death was cleverly delt with by the way), but ultimately I can’t help but feeling that they should have left these films after the original (having said that, the ending to the original was pretty weak too), and saved themselves all that unnecessary cost and stress. Go watch this film for the experience (I recommend watching any truely awful film for the cinema experience …… except “Crocodile Hunter”), but don’t expect too much. Go in, try to shut your brain out to enjoy the action, but most of all, remember your sickbag.

Falling Down

FallingDownFalling Down (1993) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

It’s a rare thing to encounter a film which is so powerful and revealing about life as this film is at times. It is an absolute gem.

In “Falling Down”, Michael Douglas (in possibly his finest performance) plays William Foster (or D-Fens), a slightly aggresive, but ultimately relatively ordinary guy who one day simply cracks. Foster decides he needs to visit his ex-wife and his daughter (it’s his daughters birthday), and sets off on a route of rampage on the way, taking out anyone who stands in his way in this crazy world.

As well as the fine performance by Douglas, Robert Duvall as a policeman on his final day is superb, as are the remainder of the cast. Ultimately though, without Douglas, this film would quite possibly fall flat. The way he manages to show a man who obviously has tinkered on the edge for some time, who finally snaps at the truely insane things in life (not being able to get a fastfood breakfast because they stopped 3 minutes ago for example) is stunning & for him to not even be nominated for an Oscar (was it going to be in the running for the 1993 or 1994 Oscars? Not sure) is a travesty.

Whilst the acting is obviously worthy of mention, what we need to remember about films like this is that ultimately, even good acting is worthless without such an outstanding plot and script.

“Falling Down” is clever in the way that, and I find it strange that out of the 10 or so reviews I’ve read on imdb, not one person has mentioned this, but the film is clever in the way that it regularly refers to London Bridge being located in America.

In a world where capitalism, and an increasing obsession with the superficiality of life are taking over at an alarming rate, the title of this film reminds us of one of the biggest travesties of this capitalist history, this being the purchase of London Bridge. The title of this film “Falling Down” is taken from that age old nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”, and for vast stages of the film, there are subtle, and not so subtle, links also made to the bridge. As well as Duvall’s Prendergast, being forced by his domineering wife to move away, close to where the London Bridge now stands, there are the occasional clever lines which link Douglas to the Bridge and the Rhyme. The perfect example of these being when he is with the fascist and the fascist (Nick) tells him to spread his legs further. At this moment, Douglas replies with something along the lines of “I can’t move my arm because without it, I’ll fall down.” The writers of this film are clever clever men.

Truth be told, I have but one complaint with this film. During his wave of distruction, Douglas arrives at the home of a Plastic Surgeon, and whilst there, he talks to a family who’re having a BBQ. At this point, Douglas bursts into tears and seems almost like his mind has gone beyond that breaking point. At this moment though, the film switches across to Duvall and, when we return to Douglas (our “anti-hero” perhaps?) he is back on his feet and close to his ex-wife’s home. What happened to him between these points? It appears almost as if the writers reached a blockage and didn’t know where to go next, so they just skipped what could have been an amazing extra five minutes. A small shame, but ultimately it doesn’t detract from this film too much.

So to summarise. In “Falling Down” we are presented with a cleverly written piece of cinema with Michael Douglas putting on possibly the best performance of his career as he presents us with an ordinary man, who one day got so angry with the hideously flawed system in which we live, that he simply snapped. We all can associate with this man, this almost justice based psycho, who simply wants to be with his family & be happy. A modern masterpiece of cinema. Well worth a watch.

Igby Goes Down

igby1Igby Goes Down (2002) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Truth be told, before even reviewing Igby, it’s probably worth mentioning, that no matter how I feel or describe this film, this review will never be as detailed as some of the reviews I’ve already read on this website. Since beginning writing reviews on imdb, I’ve never seen a film produce so many detailed, yet slightly obscure reviews. Ultimately, this is a sign of how good this film really is.

In “Igby Goes Down”, Kieran Culkin proves once and for all that he’s the more talented of the Culkin family with a powerful performance as Igby Slocumb, the youngest of two brothers to the hideously dysfunctional Slocumb family. Igby’s mother (played with passion by Susan Sarandon) is a bit of a cruel, heartless drug addict who has been diagnosed with cancer. Igby’s father (played by Bill Pullman) has by the time of this film slowly gone insane (as shown by cleverly placed flashbacks) and is now in a mental ward in what seems like an almost comatose state. With these parents, it is little wonder then that as well as the disruptive Igby, the family has produced his elder brother Ollie (played by Ryan Phillippe in a way reminicent of his performance in “Cruel Intentions”) who is a success obsessed college student, who unlike Igby has at least some small link to his mother. With a family like this, it is no surprise really that Igby spends a vast majority of his time attempting to escape from the family, aiming eventually to make it to California (where he can finally see some sun).

“Igby Goes Down” is a very cleverly written film, with a stunning soundtrack and quality cinematography. It reminds us that it doesn’t always matter how rich or poor the family is, sometimes we just need to escape them.

As well as the main family, the acting is superb. Claire Danes as Sookie the love interest is excellent, as is Jeff Goldbloom as D.H. Igby’s rich Godfather (or is he more to Igby perhaps than meets the eye? Queue a surprising throw away line towards the end). Other actors in the film also excel, but ultimately the film belongs to Kieran Culkin.

“Igby Goes Down” is a thought provoking work of genius with all round excellence in all departments. It might not win any awards (possibly the wrong time of year to really be in with an Oscars chance?), but this film provokes us to think in a way that not many films seem to do in recent years. Well worthy of watching, and well worthy of any praise it might receive.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

KillBillKill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

So here he is again. Mr Tarantino has released another movie, and as with the rest of his works, it’s a gem.

Kill Bill Volume 1 (I’ll never get used to there being two volumes, but then, it’d be enourmous if not split in two) stars Uma Thurman as “The Bride” who is attacked on her wedding day by Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and placed in a coma for four years. Awakening to the realisation that her unborn baby, and the entire wedding contingent have all been killed, she sets off in an attempt to get revenge on those five people responsible.

In this film, Tarantino pays homage to all those Bruce Lee types of films which he adores (and which the Vega’s and co from his other films would also adore, hence “I’m writing a film my characters from my other films would probably watch at the movies”), and he does it very well. The fighting is almost constant, incredibly gory and extreme, but cleverly done and without any cgi (makes a good change). The outfits are stylish and well suited to the film, the same going for the stunning soundtrack, and the acting is up to the standard required.

To be honest, the one flaw with Kill Bill which everyone will pick up on is the relatively little amount of quality substance regarding dialogue. These people would have a fair point, as I admit that for the first time, Tarantino has made a movie which doesn’t make you want to quote it every five minutes (unlike the Royal with Cheese from Pulp Fiction, the tipping scene from Reservoir Dogs, and many many others). Ultimately though, that is ok. To make Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino has been incredibly brave and I sincerly hope it pays off for him. It’s a bit of an epic film (or at least it will be once both parts are together on one video or dvd), but compared with all the other enourmous epics going around at the moment (Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix, etc), it’s a pleasant change of pace and it’s enough to make everyone smile. Well worth viewing.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

ExtraordinaryGentlemenThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

For a while now myself and a friend have really been looking forward to this film. I confess to being slightly sceptical about Sean Connery’s involvement (lets be honest, the guy had 1 average film left in him five films ago) and the introduction of Tom Sawyer. Still, we were keen and we made our way to the cinema on the opening day in Britain. My viewpoint? Certainly an Extraordinary experience, but no Gentleman would say some of the words I could use to describe this film.

I can go on for hours about the weak aspects of this film, so beforehand, I’ll quickly mention the good points.

Firstly, I thought the Invisible Man and Dr Jekyll were both excellent characters who were well used. I’ve seen Curran (Invisible Man) in other things before and for a Scot, I was rather quite fond of his attempt at an accent. Dr Jekyll’s fear of Mr Hyde was also impressive and relatively true to the book, although I admit Hyde’s occasional niceness seemed strange for a “monster”. These two were however the only really enjoyable characters.

What else did I enjoy about the film? Well I suppose I quite enjoyed the beginning scenes involving the Bank Of England and the Blimp Factory. Those were nice touches. Other than this though, I’m finding it hard to think up anything nice.

The remaining characters other than The Invisible Man and Dr Jekyll were, to put it mildly, a joke. Connery’s Quatermain was an irritating old fart who bugged me from start to finish. Dorian Gray was remarkably camp and seemed to have exactly the same expression throughout. The poor actor who played Nemo was forced to wear a ridiculous beard and Nemo’s one interesting character point (the worship of Kali) was never properly explored. Mina Harker was a nice touch, although everytime she did something vampiric I shuddered at how weakly it was portrayed. Finally, Tom Sawyer. What the hell was he doing there in the first place? Sawyer was added, obviously for the American market, and whilst this may make financial sense, it doesn’t make good film sense.

Other than the few weak characters, the special effects are at times good, but mostly awful. I confess right now that I’d have found it hard to have come up for a decent design for the Nautilus, but the version they chose was so blatantly a cgi image, that all it needed was the Pixar Lamp to be positioned at the front. It was a joke. Hyde was a saving grace for the CGI, as were the explosions at the end, and the Invisible Man was clever, although unoriginal. Ultimately though, after watching the Nautilus sailing through the sea, and watching Nemo’s ridiculous car, I’d began to loose the will to live.

So far, I’ve laid into some of the cgi and the characters a lot, but to be honest, some films (The Hulk for example) have weak moments of cgi and characterisation and yet still come shining through due to a valid and clever plot. So technically, even after my complaints, this film could have a chance of being good. Did it manage it though? Nope. The script and plot were the worst parts.

For one thing, I’ll lay aside the fact that the plot was as random and disorganised as this review is becoming, but the dialogue was so dreadful I found myself shaking my head in disgust at times. It was dire and VERY weak.

Truth be told, this review should really finish now, but then if the film’s creators can randomly add Sawyer to the equation, then I can put in one random section complaining about how unrealistic the film is, and the fault of this being placed on the word “sequel”.

If this film is successful, and for this sake I hope it isn’t, then the people in power will no doubt wish to create another. Now aside for the simple fact that thankfully (and DON’T READ THIS IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN IT YET) at least one or two of the cast die (although the ending is a blatant piece of trash), technically more of the League should have been killed. In the end battles, two major characters get bad injuries, and yet they just seem to almost shake them off. I mean, what the hell is that about? Nemo not only gets smashed hard against a wall and shakes himself off without pain, but the Invisible Man ends up with miraculously healing 3rd Degree Burns. Now I know technically people live healthy (if scarred) lives after receiving such burns nowadays, but in the Victorian Era, people tended to die. So how come Mr Invisible (as he should thus be called for pure tacky value) survives and seems back to normal at the end? My mind is a blank.

Anyway, YOU CAN READ AGAIN NOW THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET.

To summarise, I guess I was a bit fed up with how this film ended up. I’d expected a lot, I’d been delivered prospect with the opening five minutes, I received a few decent characters, but ultimately, this film is a bit of a waste of time and will probably receive a fair few Raspberry Awards come Oscar time. Could have been so much better. What a pity.

The Third Man

ThirdManThe Third Man (1949) – Originally written October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

For a long time I’ve wanted to view this film. Ultimately though, it was sitting in a lecture on films a week ago when the lecturer said “this is my all time favourite movie” that I ended up being determined enough to have a viewing, my opinion now that it’s finished? Good ol’ Orson made it enjoyable.

I know this film is in the top 50 films of all time according to IMDb, and compared to most films on that list, it’s definitely true. The acting is first class, cinematography worthy of it’s Oscar, and the story is a Graham Greene story, which also counts for something. The problem is that, I can’t help but feel that this film has got a bit too dated. In 1949, the vision of Vienna in ruins on the cinema screen must have been majestic, moving and a beautiful tribute to the ultimate futility of war, but now in 2003, a lot of the time I feel the beauty is lost.

As well as the dating of the film, one other thing bugs me, and that’s that truthfully, Holly Martin (played by Joseph Cotten) and Anna Schmidt (played by Alida Valli) infuriate me almost constantly. The characters are often whiny and Anna especially is a source for constant aggravation. Therefore, with the two main characters bugging me, I was left with the short amount of screen time which featured Orson.

I confess here and now that up until today, I’d never properly witnessed Orson Welles acting properly. I’d heard the name spoken with awe and amazement, but it wasn’t until the scene on the Ferris Wheel that this awe suddenly made sense. Truthfully, I’m starting to wonder just how high De Niro and Pacino (2 and 1 respectively) would have got in the top 100 actors of all time on British TV had the voters witnessed Orson’s performances. During this film, Orson seems to be able to portray a character who was described as that lecturer of mine as “Pure Evil” and yet to me he almost seemed to be sensitive and complex. Orson saves this film, just by the mention of his characters name, and by being able to show the character in a small scene. If it wasn’t for him, would this film really be as highly rated?

“The Third Man” is portrayed as being one of the best films of all time. For characterisation, cinematography and sound, it has to be in the top five, however for dating so easily, having an annoying main character and for being a bit slow at times, it suffers. Give me Orson, give me the concept, but I wish it hadn’t lost part of it’s relevance.

“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” – Orson Welles as Harry Lime

Matchstick Men

MatchstickMenMatchstick Men (2003) – Originally written September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Truth be told, I think I probably summed up this film with my title. “Matchstick Men” is at times powerful, at times moving, yet at times slow and tedious. Nicolas Cage is occasionally stunning as Roy Waller, a conman with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but at times his performance is similar to the disorder itself and is incredibly inconsistent. Cage seems to switch from stunning acting one moment, to ridiculously wooden the next. His character provides the occasional laugh, but sadly too many laughs are provided by his closing of doors. When studying Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an actor should watch “As Good As It Gets” and witness Jack Nicholson’s performance to view how to treat it properly. Sadly Cage obviously didn’t.

Other than Cage, the acting is relatively upto scratch but nothing special. Sam Rockwell as Frank Mercer is playing what seems like exactly the same character as he always plays. I wouldn’t say Rockwell gets a bit type cast, simply as he isn’t, but in everything I’ve seen him in, he’s got different characters and mingled them to make the same person.

Irrelevant of acting capabilities, what else can be said about this film? The plot is up to scratch, if somewhat predictable at times (although one twist at the end is clever, if obvious looking back at it), the directing is as you’d expect for Ridley Scott & the cinematography is at times stunning. Other than this, there is relatively little to say. This film is by no means the best film of the year, but it is by no means the worst. It’s good to watch if nothing else is available and you fancy to be moved (and slightly depressed perhaps), but ultimately, don’t expect anything special.

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