Sunday, January 21, 2018

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Having purchased this on DVD for my son last Christmas (Dec 2016), this is the first time I have watched the film - my son hadn't even taken off the cellophane wrapped around it! That tells me what he thinks of it. He's more of a Marvel fan and thinks DC have gone off the track with their film adaptations. I started watching this film with a great deal of scepticism. However, the film I watched had some good qualities. I liked the Batman suit and gadgets (like his car and plane), especially the heavy lead alloy suit he wears when fighting Superman. I liked the female senator who attempts to bring everyone to Capital Hill to tell the truth.
I didn't like Batman's butler Alfred at all, I didn't enjoy Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I found it hard to accept the motivation for Bruce Wayne to fight Superman. The fight scene is good however and mitigates my disbelief while it lasts, although it doesn't last long enough. You could get away watching the special feature for 10 minutes rather than the whole film if that's what interests you.
I like the Wonder Woman character played by Gal Gadot.
Better than I expected but still largely silly.

Dark Feed (2013)

I watched this film this week and was less than impressed. It took a long time to get to the point and when it did reach the climax, there were no surprises. Standard fair here, setting the making of a horror film in an old mental hospital. Seen it many times before and done better, the acting was below par with absolutely no characterisation. I just didn't care for anyone who played a part in the movie - either in the crew or cast. There are no redeeming qualities that make me like this film.

Inferno (2016)

The latest in the trilogy of the Dan Brown film adaptations, I watched this the next evening after Angels and Demons. It is the least likeable of the three films and pushes even more at the limits of plausibility than the other two. As such it will seem more ridiculous to sceptical audiences. I'd only recommend to fans invested in the character of Robert Langdon, of which I consider myself. I am less harsh about the film as others might be because of this, I do recognise the silliness of it all though. This film concerns a billionaire who believes that the planet is over-populated and needs an extreme extinction event to save humanity from its own destruction. So Robert Langdon and the WHO have to prevent a weapon of extreme biological terror from being released in Istanbul.

Angels and Demons (2009)

After seeing the Da Vinci Code film, the following evening we watched the sequel called Angels and Demons. The sequel also features Robert Langdon as the main character. The first film was about the search for the Holy Grail. This film is about stopping the release of an anti-matter bomb. It has a faster pace than the first film and is also more of a typical thriller film. It is an enjoyable ride, if also implausible and silly at times. I enjoyed it and anyone who liked the first film would probably like this also.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

I watched this film for the first time last week. I must admit it was more captivating that I thought it was going to be. Most people I know who have started to read the book have just given up. That may say more about the writer though, Ron Howard directed this film and I think he is a safe pair of hands generally in films. Tom Hanks plays the main character Robert Langdon, an academic from Harvard University who is a professor in religious symbology and iconography. It is nice to have a hero who is academic rather than one who shoots guns and kills people. I must admit though, Tom hanks with long hair is hard to get used to. The film is long but it is quite good overall, the score by Hans Zimmer is worth mentioning in the way it plays on you.

Hannah (2011)

This film was probably the last one I watched in 2017. It was better than I thought it might be, I didn't know of the film and wasn't expecting to be impressed. I was impressed however. The suspense was good and the story was better than the usual fair for a thriller. Hannah is the daughter of a CIA operative who has gone dark somewhere in the wilds of Finland. He brings her up, teaching her self defence and more. There is a secret though. He leaves her to decide whether she wants to stay in the wild and be self supporting or whether to go into society and live in the city. She decides the latter but things aren't as simple as that. He can't return in plain sight as he would be identified and the CIA would be after him. They agree to separate and meet in Berlin. Well, Cate Blanchett plays a good character and she plays a baddie well. A good film for lovers of thrillers and suspense.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy New Year

I hope you have a fantastic and utterly brilliant 2018! My Christmas was short and not so great - I was stricken with cold/flu and so was the rest of my family. So a lot of the week was spent feeling ill and lying down or not feeling up to going out or seeing people. Not the greatest, at least I can say I didn't do much and mean it. I did see a few old films at The Rex cinema in Berkamsted. I saw Die Hard, It's A Wonderful Life and Pretty Woman. I enjoyed them, even Pretty Woman, I think it is better on a bigger screen than on the TV at home. Not on my favourite films list though. I'm looking forward to watching lots of films again in 2018.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I took my son to go and see this film, he said he enjoyed it a lot. I was not so sure I enjoyed it. I like the fact that there is a strong female lead character but as a film in its own right I just felt that something was missing. It felt too formulaic and unoriginal to me. A battle between Rey and Kylo Ren seems ends with a rebellion battle cruiser splitting the master Imperial star destroyer in two and in a later scene Rey appears in the Millenium Falcon with no explanation of how she got there. I was also confused by not really knowing the backstory of Supreme Leader Snoke or not having it explained - my son says he appeared as a hologram in The Phantom Menace, a fact I had fogotten. So, overall there was plenty of action in the film but not much of it was new. I also don't really enjoy the character of the pilot Poe Dameron - he had potential to be a good character with a touch of the Han Solo hustler about him but he is played too straight for my liking.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mirrorless Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

This week I purchased a new camera from e-Bay, well a secondhand camera but new to me and in pretty good condition. It is just missing the original box, cables and lens hood. I have got compatible cables anyway and I have downloaded the manuals for free. I just need to buy a lens hood and a strap. Shame the lens hood wasn't in the package but it wasn't advertised and I assumed it was something I'd have to buy anyway. A lens hood is not expensive, its just in short supply. Anyway, here is my new baby.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

We Are Still Here (2015)

This film is set in the 1970s but is from 2015. It does capture the 70s quite well, the acting is very good. I wasn't sure what to expect, I thought it must be better than some of the rubbish I've watched recently. It was. It's a story of some evil spirits who inhabit a house in the American countryside. The main couple have recently lost their son and have moved in to try and start a new life. but very quickly things go pear shaped when the woman feels a strange presence in the house who she believes might be the spirit of their son and they invite some friends who believe in the paranormal to stay for the weekend. Things don't go that well for them all and whatever evil inhabits the cellar comes out to wreak vengeance. It's a nice little horror film and one that is easily recommendable, there is some black humour in there as well, which just adds to the enjoyment.

5ive Girls (2006)

This film is set in a reopened Catholic school and involves a group of 5 girls who all have some unique ability but who all have been sent to the school by their dissatisfied parents. Ron Perlman plays a priest who tries to teach them, he was at the school when it was originally closed due to the disappearance of a girl. Well, I won't bore you with the plot, the film isn't very good. The story is uninteresting and there really isn't anything to recommend about the film. Ron Perlman looks very uncomfortable and is just not believable as a priest, he obviously knows the film is a dud. The women are all beautiful and that's why they were cast but the script is lacklustre and the effects aren't very good.

Muck (2015)

This film is set in America and starts with some friends escaping from what I would call a swamp but others more familiar with America might call something else. Something has been attacking them in the swamp and they are missing a couple of people, one of the survivors is injured. They find a vacant house and break in. One of the guys goes to find help and the others have to fend off the evil monster attackers. It is very silly and likes to show women in hardly any clothes for no reason at all. The plot is flimsy and uninteresting and the acting is just as bad. There really isn't anything positive I can say, muck by name and muck by nature I'm afraid.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I saw this film this week, I'd seen part of it before but not all the way through. It is the origin story for the domination of Earth over humans by the apes. It focuses on the story of an ape called Ceaser who is given a drug that stimulates the growth of his brain - or something like that. It makes him much more intelligent than other apes. The make-up and visual effects are vastly improved over the 2001 film. The apes look like apes and not the PG Tips monkey and Michael Jackson. I like the film, it is enjoyable to watch and the pacing and action is very well paced.

The Snowman (2017)

I went to the cinema to see this film. The idea of the film is good, a serial killer called The Snowman is active again and Harry Hole, a police detective from Oslo in Norway has to piece together lots of old case information. It is based on the book by Jo Nesbo, but I've not read the book. The scenery is lovely, part of the film is set in Bergen. I've been to Bergen but it wasn't snowing like it is in this film. I watched the story unfold with some interest but the pacing wasn't good all the way through and the way the film was edited didn't tell the story very well or very engagingly. It picks up at the end but by then a lot of people would probably be turned off.

Satan's Slave (1976)

This is a 1970s independent British horror film that likes to show a breast or two in the way that British film and TV liked to do in the 1970s. There are some good female characters in the film though, Candace Glendenning has a good part. It's a tale of a family who live out in the country and invite their attractive young niece and her parents from the city. It's a bit of a mess plot-wise if I'm honest. Necromancy is practiced by the family but the characters and setting don't quite feel right. The girl's uncle shows absolutely no sense of loss when his brother and his wife are killed in a car accident, he is more interested in sedating his niece. No real sense of time is portrayed in the film and it is quite confusing. If you like independent British horror, such as Hammer and Amicus films this might be up your street, as it has a similar feel but it really isn't very coherent.

The Collection (2012)

Not a very pleasant film, this is from the twisted minds of the people who brought us the equally unpleasant later versions of the SAW franchise. I'm not a great fan of this torture style of film. The Collector who maintains the collection is never revealed and there is no backstory to speak of, even though this is apparently a sequel to The Collector. There are some set pieces that are intended to gross out the audience with their gore and they largely achieve this but there is no real story or plot besides lumbering from set piece to set piece. Not a good film and certainly one I wouldn't recommend.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ex_Machina (2015)

I really enjoyed this film. I like science fiction films generally and I thought this brought a good story, cast and visual effects together really well. The story is based around the need for a genius programmer to have someone independently verify that he has built a robot that is intelligent and can think and feel for itself. He does this by bringing a gifted worker from his company to his remote home and spend a week with the robot across several daily sessions. The young programmer thinks he has won a competition but the nature of what he will be doing was kept secret from him. The genius has quite a challenging personality compared to the easy going nature of the young worker. There is a latent sense of threat throughout their exchanges that works very well. At the back of your mind during the film it is difficult to reconcile the personality of the genius with the apparent child-like quality of the robot called Ava. It's a great film and very easy to watch. Thoroughly recommend this.

Planet of the apes (2001)

I originally watched this in the cinema at the time it was released and I remember we sat near the back where the speakers were and it was phenomenally loud and I came out with a ringing headache. This time it wasn't so loud and I can actually remember the film. It is the story of a astronaut who is sucked in to a magnetic storm that transfers him to a different version of Earth where apes rule over humans. It is the story of the apes who argue for equal rights and their support for the human astronaut who tries to escape his captivity and return to space. It's a good story and this version isn't a bad one really. It is showing its age a fair amount though, the prosthetics aren't as good as they are today and the later Planet of the apes films have better effects, but saying that it is an entertaining film but the only thing I wasn't keen on was Mark Wahlberg as the main man, I didn't sympathise with his character much at all and ultimately the story depends on this. I think it was down to how he played the part, there was very little chemistry between him and the female characters. General Thade is easily hateful as the mean and vicious general of the apes.

Bridge of Spies (2015)

I enjoyed this cold-war thriller very much when I saw it last weekend during a wet Saturday afternoon, it was a perfect accompaniment to my suffering with a cold! The story is based on a real life story, with the usual Hollywood embellishments that have to accompany a true story to make it entertaining. Not knowing the true story makes it easier to watch I'm sure. Tom Hanks plays the part of a lawyer to represent a man accused of being a Russian spy. I like the way he is portrayed as a normal everyday insurance claim defence lawyer. The actor playing the man accused of being a spy is well acted. There are some nice acting touches where the personality of both of the men shine through during repeated refrains of their dialogue: Tom Hank's character uses the phrase "one one one" several times, which changes to "two two two" at one point and the spy character is asked "do you never worry?" several times to which he replies in a monotone "would it help?". It was only after the film ended that I saw it was directed by Steven Spielberg. I can easily recommend this film to anyone who enjoys thrillers, especially legal and spy oriented ones.

Game of Death (1978)

This film was released five years after Bruce Lee's death in 1973. It features scenes shot by Bruce Lee in 1972 where he fights opponents in the iconic yellow tracksuit. Lee's scenes were shot for a different storyline completely and only 11 minutes of footage from the original film were used in this 1978 version. The original story and the story in this version were very different but somehow I thought the film did hang together just enough to make sense and the score by John Barry was quite good. Despite the difficult challenge of using footage shot for a different film (with same title) and lookalike actors playing Lee's character, this was achieved. The 1978 version of the story is a very simple revenge story, where an actor who is an ex-martial arts fighter is threatened by gangsters led by an old man and he is eventually shot on the set of a film he is making. The gangsters and the girlfriend of the actor all think he is dead, the film even controversially uses actual real footage of Lee's open casket funeral to make this point. But the actor isn't dead, the shot just disfigures his face and he returns to exact his revenge on the gangsters. The last part of the film is the part using the footage shot for the original Game of Death, which was shot in the last surviving wooden pagoda in real life but is supposed to be the upper floors of the Red Pepper Restaurant in this version.
I thought some of the fight scenes were excellent, the original footage is great. The dubbing is not so great and some of the noises are frankly ridiculous but they may be the genuine audio. I didn't like a protracted motorbike scene in a warehouse, I thought it went on far too long and with little point. Other than that I enjoyed it pretty well and would recommend it to fans of Bruce Lee and martial arts films, just remember your not getting Lee's original vision for the story - he would probably hate this version.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Society (1989)

This film became more familiar as I watched it. I remember seeing part of it before but not sure if I have seen all of it in the past. The story follows a well to do society family and in particular the son. His sister's ex-boyfriend tries to tell him something funny is going on with his family but he doesn't believe it. Not until he listens to a tape from a bug planted on his sister. It reveals a secret hidden from him by the people he thought were his family. The society in question are all from rich families and the secret is that they are not human and they do some very strange things with their bodies. It is a body shock horror film and has some sexual overtones. The last part of the film is very strange and will stick in the mind of anyone seeing the film. The special effects are a bit like Spitting Image and not quite good enough to look real. At the time, they might have been OK though. There are some interesting ideas in the film but the casting decisions were a little bit strange.

Containment (2015)

I was very impressed with this small British horror film about the residents of a block of flats who wake one morning up to find themselves quarantined. Their doors and windows have been sealed and won't open. They look through the windows and can see people wearing Hazmat suits and moving in and out of detoxification tents. The guy playing the violent nutcase acts his part very well, it's believable.

Frankenhooker (1990)

I watched this film recently, against my better judgement I should add. While it was awful, I had a certain fondness for the combination of violence and humour found within it. So it isn't all bad. Infact, if you don't expect it to be any good you might even be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

I took my son to the cinema this weekend to watch a film that we've been looking forward to, it's the third film in the Thor series. I have to confess here that although my son has seen the first films, I haven't seen all of them from start to finish.
The film includes a lot of CGI effects and the humour is in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy. It's an entertaining romp that delivers everything fans of Marvel would enjoy. Thor's father Odin returns to Norway to die and with that it leaves Thor and Loki to deal with their exiled sister Hela: the Goddess of Death, played by Cate Blanchett. Hela returns to Asgard to take her seat as heir to the throne. She has ambitions for Asgard to conquer the Nine Realms again, like it emerges that she and Odin ruled them through violence and fear in the past. So Thor, Loki and the last surviving Valkyrie (that captured Thor on a planet ruled by the Grandmaster - played by Jeff Goldblum), eventually try to rescue Asgard from Hela.
There is rarely any sense of threat in this film, which is targeted more at the young than the old, there are a few jokes that are intended for adults. I found it entertaining while I was watching it but ultimately, the only thing I will remember is the use of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song during several key battles. It was a good choice of song but unfortunately had the effect on me of making the battles feel like a music video.