Sunday, 30 April 2017

Mini-review: Doctor Who - Thin Ice.

Enjoyable and thrilling adventure that had some wonderful character interactions between Bill and the Doctor.  It wasn't a complex or original plot but it played to the strengths of setting, cast and the BBC's capabilities in costume dramas.  Good to see it tackle issues like racism without being too heavy handed.

Mini-review: V for Vendetta

When is a superhero not a superhero? When he's an anarchic terrorist in a near future fascist Britain dressed as a modern/retro fusion of Guy Fawkes whose vocabulary mostly consisted of the V section of the dictionary. Portman excels as V's vulnerable and tortured companion somehow caught up in the craziness of this thought-provoking action thriller.

Mini-review: Terminator - Genisys

The fifth entry in the Terminator series is a bit of a greatest hits as it revisits much of the franchise's own past and puts its own twist on it.  Arnie is back and grabs most of the best lines. Both Clarkes put in solid performances but Courtney offers little.  It's interesting to speculate where the proposed trilogy would have gone from here as it looks doubtful that it'll continue.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Mini-review: The Giver

Another in the seemingly endless stream of teen coming of age stories set in futuristic dystopias - where the lead character turns out to be the special one who has to fulfil some kind of destiny.

Usually, they are a bit of a grab bag of various elements from Orwell, Campbell and Huxley - and this one is no different (it adds a touch of Logan's run for good measure).  But it does have some visual tricks up its sleeve, doesn't over stay its welcome, and the cast do a competent job. If you had to see one of these type of films, you could do worse. It is better than The Hunger Games, for example, the category definer for this genre.

Mini-review: Skyfall

50th anniversary Bond which unashamedly draws upon many of the tropes and icons of its long history. It's a hugely satisfying entry to the series. The near silent fight scene within a skyscraper featuring Bond and an assassin wrestling in silhouette is quite stunning.    Craig is now my favourite Bond, and I hope he has another film or two in him.

Mini-review: Zero Dark Thirty

Epic and intimate story of the hunt for bin Laden. Chastain is superb as the investigator doggedly pursuing leads and rumours to drawout his key connections while sacrificing and compromising parts of her self.  I particularly appreciated the process of deduction used to determine the location of his hideout - a real life case of the dog at nighttime, with an absence of evidence indicating bin Laden's presence.  Director Bigelow never fails to remind us that even the bad guys are humans, and have families that care about them - and the result is a conclusion which feels suitably muted rather than triumphant.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Mini-review: Life of Pi

Boldly imaginative and visually stunning adaptation of the best-selling book. Sharma is excellent given this is largely a one-hander and also his debut.  And Parker? Richard Parker is Richard Parker - a fantastically realised cgi creation.

Mini-review: I Robot

Will Smith charms as a quietly cynical cop (aren't they all?) in this robovision of the future. Back at the time of its release, it seemed incredibly sci-fi - now it feels like we are well and truly on the trajectory. With the advent of Alex, Google Now et al - voice activated everything is already here as are electric self driving cars. It is, of course, the little details they get wrong.  Few wear bluetooth ear sets and a society this high tech would not need staff to identify themselves - buildings would simply know.

The story itself raids some of the best of Asimov's robot stories. The only surprise is that there was never a sequel as I'd have liked to have seen more of Moynahan's Calvin. She plays her slightly softer than the books indicate, but together with Smith they make a good investigative pairing.

A final note on the blu-ray release. It looks absolutely stunning. Not quite up there detail  wise with the best of modern films, but pretty good all in all.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Mini-review: Doctor Who - Smile

asBill's first proper adventure in the TARDIS combines a stunning location with a Black Mirror vibe. Add in surprisingly graphic deaths and themes which draw upon books like Superintelligence and you have the makings of a minor classic.

 As for the Doctor and asBill, this feels like a rediscovery of what Who is all about turning up at a place, figuring something is wrong and fixing it. This story could have featured almost any Doctor and companion combination - particularly the earlier ones and Tom Baker's. To complete the picture, all we really needed as the Doctor and Bill to quietly disappear without saying goodbyes/getting roped in to rebuild something.

 Mackie & Capaldi work really well together. I like that she's constantly questioning and receiving reactions and answers that feel fresh even to this jaded Who fan.

Mini-review: Inception

What if you could manipulate dreams? is the premise of this thoughtful and at times visually outstanding sci-fi.  I was often struck how simple scenes and locations were made fantastical by the framing device and earnest straightforward performances.

Mini-review: True Grit

Despite being surrounded by scene chewing heavy weights like Bridges and Damon, it is Steinfield who is the star as the tenacious and witty Mattie Ross.  The Coen Brothers have gone slightly against type to deliver a straight well crafted western.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Mini-review: The Day After Tomorrow

Plotwise, it's a by the numbers disaster movie, but visually striking especially for its time. The helicopter sequence over Scotland and final scenes of New York are particularly memorable.  Also there's some nice character interaction - Ian Holm's team stand out - which makes you feel invested in their fates.  The blu-ray doesn't look bad considering the film's age, but it's nothing outstanding.

Day After Tomorrow at Amazon

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Mini-review: Fast and Furious 6

Probably should caveat this review with the fact this is the first and only movie I've seen in this series.  Picked up cheaply as the missus is a massive Dwayne Johnson fan.  The good news is that you can pretty much enjoy this as a standalone film, the bad news is that it's not a very good film. It feels like a cheap knock off of Mission impossible combined with Top Gear and a heavy sprinkling of teenage boy fantasies. The action is only OK and sometimes edited to incoherence, some of the script highly cliched,  the acting dreadful to mediocre and surprisingly you never get see that much of the cars.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Mini-review: Quantum of Solace

Enjoyable and economical follow up to Casino Royale. Bold and stylish editing lifts it above the average Bond fare while the main villain's ultimate fate continues Craig's portrayal's tendency to dark, cynical but ultimately unshowy show downs.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Mini-review: Doctor Who - The Pilot

This is the introductory episode Capaldi should have had at the beginning of his tenure. We're introduced to various aspects of his Doctor's character, he gets to lay down his manifesto as does the new companion.

Mackie is real find. The characterisation of Bill is a bit uneven to start with, but lovely, sweet and real by the end. I hope she stays that way. A bit thin plot wise, but a better creepier reboot than Rose. Hopefully, we've done the obligatory Dalek bit now. I rather like Nardole as well. He's obviously the reassuring comic relief for the little 'uns.

What a shame it looks like coming together in Capaldi's last season. A very good for me. You may never like Moffat's work, but you can't fault him for keep trying new ways to make the show better.

Mini review: Prometheus

Scott returns to the Alien well to give his take on how it all began. The result is a darkly monstrous, but a tad muddled, beauty. I can't fault his creative vision which is at least strong and rich as ever, but I can't help thinking it would have been better to start afresh.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Mini-review: GATTACA

The austere beauty and economy of this film never fails to move me deeply. I like writer/director, Niccol's other work - but this remains my favourite. A plausible tale of the near future.

Mini-review: A Street Cat Named Bob

The feline is of course the star but the human cast do a decent job against it's obvious charisma in this real life Whittington like tale of rags to riches in London. Objectively the film and story are only average, but you'd have to be pretty hard hearted not to have it melted at least a little.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Mini review:Kong: Skull Island

Enjoyably daft actioner with considerable directorial flair and invention lifting it above many of the same ilk. Cast are mostly there as monster fodder, but a surprising number manage to make you care about them with often just a few lines. Good period detail adds realism. The post credits sequence is worth waiting for - and is rather naughty and fun. Kong has probably never looked better and the scale from sequence to sequence seemed mostly right for a change too.

Mini review: Casino Royale

I tend to find Bond is bit like drinking a can of Coke - the anticipation is better than the experience. Craig's first outing is a notable exception and in my view one of the best as a result. Hard to put my finger exactly why as all of the essential Bond elements are there, but perhaps just dialled down a little and it given a tad more grittiness, realism and sophistication.  I like his subsequent outings - with the exception of Spectre which felt hollowed out and ultimately anticlimactic.