Sunday, 14 October 2018

Review: Elysium

Wonderfully realised vision of a dystopia where the bulk of the population live nasty, brutish and short lives on a ruined earth while rather less billionaires float around in a flying donut in outer space. In it, they've near eliminated disease and their world looks very much like the posher regions of Hollywood - only with more robots.

If I'm being honest, I find this has more rewatch value than director Blomkamp's debut District 9. It explores some of the same ideas, but benefits from a bigger budget for cast and special effects. The cast is a good range of upcoming, can't quite put a name to and A-listers like Damon & Foster.  Damon makes for a good beefy everyman, while Foster is a perfectly judged obnoxious politician.

Verdict: Only the last act falls slightly flat. 

Review: Moon

Low key and rare example of hard science fiction that's also a tip of the hat to films like Silent Running from the 1970s.  Jones and Rockwell have done a fine job with this near one hander (Spacey provides some company for Rockwell's lonesome astronaut in the form of a grimly stained robot).

Rockwell is excellent at conveying the different facets - and especially the routine, loneliness and isolation - of his character's life.  The authentic looking model work, set design and lighting only enhances the feeling.

Verdict: Fly me to the Moon, but make sure I've got a return ticket. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Review: The Commuter

Serviceable actioner addition to Neeson's now considerable post-Taken catalogue. Opening, and beautifully edited, sequence aside (which manages to convey the mind-numbing routine of commuting) - the cast are probably a bit better than the material.

Neeson's solidly excellent as a washed up insurance salesman, of course, and Farmiga's short spot memorably sets up the core premise with a Twilight Zone like vibe.  A sprinkling of recognisable faces provide enough red herrings to keep you guessing as to who his real focus should be.

Verdict: Enjoyable and never boring. 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Review: Terminator 2

An outing for the UHD of this, and contrary to established opinion I thought it looked quite stunning on our projector. The bad news, however, is that only the theatrical edition is on offer in 4K.

I have such a long history with this film that it's hard to be truly objective (I can even remember seeing it at a special preview one summer afternoon at the local cinema).   To my eyes, it remains one of the best action movies of certainly the 90s, if not all time.

Schwarzenegger was born for this part. Furlong makes a good foil, while Hamilton's transformation from unambitious waitress to driven combatant remains astounding.

Verdict: Perhaps the definitive action movie.

Review: Leave no trace

Leave no trace is a touching and moving study of the relationship between a veteran and his daughter both of whom live off grid together. Refreshingly, there are no bad guys in this movie - just gentleness, compassion and love (even from those associated with the authorities).

Actingwise, it's some of Foster's best work. Portraying someone broken by war, he could have been a lot less restrained.  McKenzie, however, has the makings of a real superstar.  She's extraordinarily good - especially considering her relative youth.

Lastly, a word on the scenery and cinematography. The forest looks absolutely beautiful and near mystical in this film. Some shots are worthy of Planet Earth.

Verdict: Deeply moving and compassionate. 

Monday, 24 September 2018

Review: Fame

Before Britain's Got Talent, before the X-Factor, before Glee - there was Fame - one of the quintessential musicals of the 80s. For some reason, I never managed to see it back then, but remember the iconic theme music dominating the charts.

It traces a number of performing arts students as they progress through school. The dialogue is one of the best bits of it. It's gritty, loaded with appealing slang and seems to perfectly capture the struggles and aspirations of teenagers.  The students and teacher interactions, thanks to strong casting on both sides, are never less than completely believable. The teaching points were some of my favourite parts.

Thematically, it manages to cover most of the bases teens are concerned about.

Where the film struggles is in having too many characters to follow - some of whom I barely managed to connect with before it had moved on.  While Fame does have a structure based around school years, it feels perhaps realistically chaotic.

Verdict: A slice of 80s nostalgia.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Review: Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

I loved idea of this book. Take a simple concept like what does life after death really look like and instead of squeezing the juice out of one idea - produce a few dozen vignettes on the theme and let your reader ponder them instead.  Not taken with one of them? Simply move onto the next.

There's quite a bit of repetition, or at least variations on a theme. Some like the opening story, really make you think - others feel like the denouement of a Twilight Zone episode. 

Verdict: Mind Candy.