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Review: Total Recall (2012)

Another remake of a ‘classic‘science fiction film of the 80s what sacrilege, whatever happened to original ideas blah blah blah. To be honest this remake did intrigue me right from when I heard about it.  I really enjoy the original which did a good job Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember it for You Wholesale into a big action blockbuster. This film has just as much action and it comes at a frantic pace. It sets up a fairly intriguing future world and goes into some detail to make it look real.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is feeling unsettled. At night he dreams of a different life but wakes to a life of low income in a crap factory job making security robots on the other side of the Earth and he has to travel there every day. He has beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) but he just wants something more.

The world has been through some very hard times. Over-population has scarred the world once more with biological warfare and left most of the surface uninhabitable except for two zones, the wealthy United British Federation (UBF) that occupies the British Isles and north-western Europe, and the Colony which occupies Australasia which is much poorer, which is why Quaid has to travel though the Earth the every day to work.

This daily travel is by means of The Fall, a large capsule which free falls through a tunnel bored right through the Earth between the two regions. The Fall is powered purely by gravity and this is totally feasible if the problem of tunnelling though all that hot liquid rock can be solved.

Quaid is interested in the services of a company Recall who can implant memories of exciting lives to brighten up those who lives are dull and unsatisfactory. The technology has a sleazy reputation and Quaid’s work colleague Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) tells him a scare story about the risk of brain damage. Later on a new worker tells him Harry is talking crap because he’s used it with no damage. He gives Quaid a card for the place and tells him who to ask for.

That night Quaid goes to the Recall Lounge where he listens to the sales pitch and chooses to have the memory of a secret agent implanted. The tech McClane (John Cho) explains that they have to scan his brain because if they try to implant a memory that is true it can cause a conflict that can damage the brain. McClane is looking through his memories while other techs get him set up in the machine and the start the process. Just before it starts McClane spots a problem, Quaid actually is a spy. He halts the process immediately. A squad of armed federal agents burst in on the place and shoot all the staff dead. Quaid is frightened and confused which seems to trigger a physical memory of being a bad ass and he Jason Bournes the agents killing them all and escaping before more arrive.

Quaid goes home and tells Lori all about it. She doesn’t seem to believe him but she hugs him and tells him it will be all right. Her hug turns to an attempt to choke him to death. Lori is not his wife and he’s not Quaid and because he knows this Lori is going to kill him. She’s under orders from the leader of UBF Chancellor Cohaagen (Brian Cranston) to not kill Quaid but she has her own ideas on that subject. Quaid and Lori fight then Quaid escapes and Lori chases him. A lot. While running and escaping from Lori and the police Quaid gets rescued by rebel fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) who knows him from his real life and who helps him find out who really is and why Cohaagen wants him.

This film has so much action you barely get time t breath and it really does give you the sense that Quaid is constantly under pressure either being chase by Lori or trying to stop Cohaagen’s plans. Well, he did wish for an interesting life. The film looks really good with a lot of work done in creating a future world that looks both futuristic and decayed. I liked all the futuristic stuff like the maglev cars, the vertical cities and the 3D elevators. I can see the influence of films like Blade runner in look of the Colony and it also reminded me of the over-crowded sprawl of Williams Gibson’s future settings in stories like Neuromancer.

Colin Farrell turns in a really solid performance in this, Jessica Biel was okay as Melina and Brian Cranston was good as usual but I think Kate Beckinsale really hit this one home. Her character is a combination of two characters in the original film that were played by Michael Ironside and Sharon Stone but she is much more physical and relentless in this.

The story is interesting but it has the same plot twists as the original so if you seen that you know what’s coming even if the details have changed. It still about a man trying to discover who he was and realising that it’s who he is now that matters.The rich and powerful are still stomping on the weak and powerless and the hero has to step up and stop him. Overall its a lot of fun but it doesn’t do much more than the original.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

When Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3 was a box office hit but was slagged off by fans and critics it led to Sony choosing to reboot the series with a different director and a new Spider-man (with a hyphen). It hardly seems like any time has passed at all since Spiderman 3. Despite these thoughts I was intrigued enough by the casting and clips so I went to see it and I really enjoyed it. The cast is great, especially Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and it has a good mix of character drama and action and I think it is an improvement on Raimi’s films.

In this film we see Peter Parker as a young boy living with his parents before they have go away somewhere and they leave him with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) Right away this give Peter and his Aunt and Uncle a deeper characterisation than in the previous film. Then it’s a transition to Peter as a high school student where it establishes that he is nerd picked on by the school bully Flash Thomson (Chris Zylka) and he has a crush on a girl in his class called Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Peter finds his father’s leather briefcase in Uncle Ben’s basement where he finds a photograph of his father with another man. He learns that this man was his father’s partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and he works at Oscorp. Peter wants to know more about his parent’s deaths and he sneaks into Oscorp tower pretending to be a candidate for an internship in Dr. Connor’s lab. Unfortunately Peter’s cover gets blown when the assistant showing the candidates around turns out to be Gwen Stacy. Peter sneaks away from the group and explores the secure area of the lab. He comes to strange room where a fibre is being created and there are many spiders (uh oh). He pulls a fibre and ends up covered spiders. He brushes them off and gets out back to Gwen who is a bit pissed at him. That’s when a spider that he missed bites him and injects him with its groovy magic venom.

We know what’s going to happen but this time the film takes it time in the gradual transformation of Peter into Spider-Man. He discovers his sticky hands but can’t control it which leads to a funny action scene on a subway car where Peter also discovers his increased strength and agility but it really takes him time and practice to get used to using these new abilities.

He decides to humiliate Flash Thomson in the gym in front of his jock pals and damages the basketball backboard Uncle Ben gets called into the school and he finds Uncle Ben very disappointed in his behaviour. Later Uncle Ben gets killed in a struggle with fleeing armed thief that Peter could have stopped earlier if he wasn’t being a bitter smartass. This really hits Peter hard.

This leads to Peter using his powers to hunt down criminals who look like his uncle’s attacker. He’s not fighting crime, he’s on a vendetta and I doubt he has even considered what he would do if he caught the guy. This is when the costume forms, not all at one but in stages, mask first. Then comes the webbing which is where this really differs from the Raimi series because these are created by Peter and not some unlikely extra superpower and it drives home how smart Peter is.

Once we get our Spider-man we need a villain for him to fight. Peter went to see Connors at his home and reveals that he is Richard Parker’s son. Connor’s research has hit wall but thanks to formula discovered by Richard Parker and given to him by Peter he has a breakthrough. Dr. Connors becomes desperate when an Oscorp executive shuts him down and seizes his research because he refuses to push ahead into human testing so Connors injects himself with the formula. He regenerates his missing arm but the formula goes much further and transforms him into the Lizard, a sociopathic humanoid reptilian creature with a mad plan to transform everyone into reptiles to make the world perfect.

This film has a nice balance of character drama and action and relationship that develops between Peter and Gwen is really believable. There is a great supporting cast and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Denis Leary as Gwen’s father Captain Stacy in particular are really great. Stan Lee has a really amazing cameo right in the middle of an action sequence that I just loved. I also liked that the film showed Peter had to work to become Spider-Man. The only weakness is that Connors/the Lizard is a bit underdeveloped but this a long film and I suppose sacrifices had to made. This is really solid entertaining film and I recommend it.

Rating 8.5/10

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Adventures of Tintin – the Secret of the Unicorn

As a kid I read Tintin books and enjoyed the adventures of the young reporter and his dog Snowy so when I heard that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were making a Tintin film I was very excited. Then I heard the script was written by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Steven Moffat (Dr Who) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) and I could not see how this could be anything but brilliant

Tintin (Jamie Bell) is at a market in the town where he lives and he spots a model ship being sold at bric-à-brac stall. Just after he buys the model a gruff American tries to buy it from him but Tintin doesn’t want to sell it. The American warns him that possessing the model is dangerous and he seems genuinely scared and runs off before he can say anything else. That’s when the creepy Mr Sakharine (Daniel Craig) appears at the stall and he also tries to buy the model but Tintin insists the model is not for sale and takes it back to his flat, where it gets broken by the neighbour’s cat in a fight with Snowy, Tintin’s pet terrier and sidekick. The interest shown by the two men has Tintin intrigued so he looks into the story of the Unicorn, the ship the model was based on, a 17th century warship that was lost in a battle with pirates in the West Indies.

When Tintin gets home from his research he finds the model has been stolen. He goes to Sakharine’s home to retrieve his property and finds there that there was more than one model of the Unicorn and Sakharine is desperate to acquire all three. How desperate Tintin quickly discovers when the American that tried to buy the model from at the market gets shot to death on his doorstep while trying him about the danger he’s in. The dying man does manage to leave Tintin a clue to his killer but since the police that he reports the murder to are Thomson (Nick Frost) and Thompson (Simon Pegg) there’s little chance of them catching the killer. Thomson and Thompson are fully occupied with hunting down a pickpocket that has plagued the city which is very handy because Tintin’s wallet containing a parchment with an important to clue to the Unicorn mystery has just been stolen.

Tintin gets kidnapped and taken aboard a rusting cargo ship where Sakharine has his men search Tintin for the parchment. They fail to find it and Tintin refuses to tell them anything so they leave him for now. Fortunately Snowy comes to his rescue and they escape and find Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) kept inebriated in his cabin with a constant supply of whisky while his first mate Allan runs the ship under Sakharine’s command. Tintin, Snowy and Haddock are in a race against Sakharine and Haddock’s crew to track down the next piece of the puzzle but the last clue is locked in booze-addled memory of Haddock himself.

I just love this film and I regret that couldn’t get to see it in a cinema in 3D. The action and adventure could put Indiana Jones to shame with amazing stunts and thrilling incredible chases. The motion capture animation was just fantastic and the character designs are lifted straight from the Hergé books. I really want to see more Tintin.

Rating 8.5/10

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Surrogates

In a future world that has been created to criticise the present almost everyone lives their lives though remote control robots that go out into the word and work and live meet and interact while their human operators stay safe in their homes operating the machines. Even wars are fought by operators remotely with machines fighting machines in endless battles. Murder is now a very rare crime but we get to see two committed outside a night club when someone on a motorbike shoots two machines with a bright beam of crackling electricity that fries their eyes and their circuits. Bruce Willis is Greer a FBI agent investigating the destruction of the machines with his partner agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) and at first the cops have no reason to suspect murder until they trace the operators who were both killed by whatever destroyed their Surrogates. It is a nice touch that the operator of hot female machine was a fat slob in his underwear

The big powerful (and automatically evil) company who make the machines are very worried about the publicity of the investigation and are not very forthcoming with helpful information merely denying that it is possible for what did happen to have happened at all. Willis does manage to get information from a scientist working for the evil corporation that they had machines returned to them from the military that were fried out in the same way

They find out that the identity of the second victim is Jarid Canter who was operating an unregistered machine owned by his father Dr Lionel Canter (James Cromwell) the inventor of the Surrogate technology that he created to help paraplegics. Canter has split from the evil corporation when they started marketing his machines for everybody and changing the world as a result. Now many people never interact with the real world at all and this includes Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) who never appears in person even to her husband after their son died in a car accident several years earlier. In response to this situation there are anti-surrogate groups who follow people like the Prophet (Ving Rhames) who advocates rebellion against the unreal life of those who use Surrogates and have several Surrogate-free Dread reservations.

The FBI manages to get information out of the last memories of the Surrogates to identify the man who has the ray gun and thanks to constant remote surveillance they find out where he is. The FBI swoop on the man Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy) but he uses the ray gun to take out all the agents chasing him including the pilot of the helicopter that Greer is flying in and it crashes into the Dread reservation. Strickland has run there to get away from the FBI. Greer had avoided getting his Surrogate fried by going off-line just in time but he re-activates it and gives chase to Strickland across the reservation. This really pisses off the locals who gang up to destroy his Surrogate. Greer now has to deal with the world in person instead of through a Surrogate and at first he finds this disorienting. The political furore caused by his Surrogate being caught in the reservation means that the FBI are not wanting to take the case any further but Greer will not let it drop, especially as the death toll now includes several FBI agents.

While watching this film I enjoyed the action and the story and thought it was an interesting idea but by the end there were things that concerned me. The overall message of the film seemed oddly technophobic for a product of such a technology-dependent medium whose main form is escapist stories. The ugly scenes of the reservation mob chasing down and destroying Greer’s Surrogate did very little to endear me to their philosophy and we never get to see any good side to living a real life without a Surrogate. In the end the film did not deliver much more than a very standard action film. Bruce Willis is pretty good as Greer and he is what makes the film watchable.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Film

 

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Review: Sand Sharks

The DVD Pile

ss1srSyfylis strikes again with another cheap deliberately cheesy film that seems to have been based on the output of a brainstorming session with a group of 8-year-old boys. The problem with shark films is that sharks live in the sea and that’s been done. What if the sharks could swim through sand? Yeah just like those worms in Tremors but with sharks. Because we all know sand is just like water and there really is thing called the sand shark

The film is set on a quiet island which is big enough to not just have beach but a desert. Two dirt-bikers are killed by the shark which flashes by in blur of CGI when it attacks, probably to avoid anyone getting a good look at the thing. The local sheriff’s department is confused by the deaths since Deputy Carly (Christina Corigliano) insists the deaths look like a shark attack but her brother Sherriff John Stone (Eric Scott Woods) points to the evidence that the deaths happened on the beach not in the water. He decides call in a shark expert to help them, however the expert he wanted is dead but his daughter Sandy Powers (Brooke Hogan) is also a shark scientist so she agrees to come along instead.Also arriving on the island is Jimmy Greene (Corin Nemec) a greedy selfish idiot who is also the son of the island’s Mayor Greenburg (Edgar Allan Poe IV – very cool name by the way). He wants to organise a large party on the island’s beach based on the same idea the Sundance or Wickerman festivals of ripping off a bunch of stupid dirty hippies and ravers. He sells the idea to his father as a great way to bring money to the island but he’s mostly interested lining his own pocket and paying off his investors (more likely his moneylenders).

The film then does a shameless rip-off one of the key scenes in Jaws. At a town meeting Sherriff Stone tells them that he thinks it would be a good idea to shut the beaches until they find out what’s causing the deaths and stop it. This certainly does not go down very well with Greene who already has tens of people on their way to island for the party. It could end up costing him a couple of hundred dollars. Then a crotchety old nutcase called Angus (Robert Pike Daniel) appears and tells them than they are facing sharks that swim in the sand and he can get rid of them for a price. It seems to be very common in horror films that the ramblings of the least stable and most insane people turn out to be true.

Dr Sandy examines the remains and discovers a very large tooth in one of the bodies. She tells Sherriff Stone that she’s never seen anything like it but she has also worked out that it’s from a baby whatever it is. No-one grasps the implications of this until she has to spell it out later in the film that babies mean mommies that are usually much bigger.

This film tries too hard be funny but I got more laughs at the pathetically small group of about 50 extras that were supposed be a party of thousands. The continuous use of Jaws references only served to remind me of what it would be like to watch a decent shark film. The acting is okay but the poor direction during the party scenes and the shark attack was cringe-inducing. I don’t think I can really recommend this film. It’s not completely unwatchable but it really isn’t as funny as it thinks it is and it is rubbish.

Rating 4/10

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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Ninjas vs Vampires

When Cowboys vs Aliens got made this seems to have inspired a surge of cash-in action based on similar cross-genre titles by other studios. One approach was to re-title films they had already made so the Quick and the Undead got re-titled Cowboys vs Zombies. This film fully embraces the pure cheesiness of the concept and seems to have had this title from the start and despite having almost no budget they have produced a fun film that is worth watching.

Two friends Aaron (Jay Saunders) and Alex (Devon Marie Burt) are sitting in a park at night talking when they get attacked by group of vampires. Aaron lies helpless, watching as they go to bite Alex. Then a group of ninjas appear out of nowhere and wipe out the vampires. Aaron wakes up in his bed and remembers the incidents of the night before so he goes to check on Alex. But she has no memory of the vampire attacks or ninja rescue. Even worse Aaron discovers that she instantly forgets about them even after he tells her what happened.

Aaron tracks down ninjas and watching their house when he gets discovered and captured. The ninjas also capture Alex but her memory is still playing games and she’s unable to remember where she is and why, a side-effect of meeting the vampires. They realise that if they let them go the vampires will use them to find out where the ninjas live. The ninja team have a magical amulet used by their sorceress Ann (Melissa McConnell) as a weapon which she uses to change Aaron into a ninja, since its a better  option than killing him. The rest of the team are Lily (Carla Okouchi) a vampire who only feeds on the blood and power of other vampires, Cole (Cory Okouchi)  the leader of the group and finally there’s the wisecracking Kyle (Daniel Ross).

The vampires are led by Seth (Kurt Skarstedt) who really plays his part as the evil bad guy and giant ham pretty well. He is wealthy and well-connected but he has big plans. He offers the other vampires sanctuary in return for attacking the ninjas and bringing him the magical amulet which will make him all powerful and resistant to all attacks including sunlight. His vampires are like bunch of squabbling spoilt children who look like they dressed in a Halloween costume shop, including one called Maximilian who wears a huge helmet with a plume and a red jerkin from an old style British military uniform.

The acting in this film is at about the amateur dramatics level at best but there is a lot of self-deprecating humour in the dialogue which is what  just about saves this film. I know some people will not watch anything with this low a budget but if you can you may find yourself enjoying this film more than you expected to.

Rating 6.5

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Captain America – The First Avenger

 Steve Rogers (Chris Evans in a really weird-looking body swap CGI) is a weedy little guy who desperately wants to join his buddies in the army fighting against the Nazis during the Second World War. Unfortunately he’s just not fit enough. After trying several times and being rejected as medically unfit he is spotted by a scientist Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who is impressed by his relentlessness. He has him recruited to a special scientific division under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) in the care of sexy English agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Rogers is picked for a pioneering experiment to create a super soldier. Using a mixture of Erskine’s super-soldier serum and technology provided by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) (Iron Man Tony Stark’s father) weedy CGI Rogers turn into a big beautiful pumped-up Chris Evans.

Erskine is German but he fled from Germany when his super-soldier experiments there went badly wrong and transformed the Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) into the megalomaniacal Red Skull. Red Skull is determined to take over the world for himself and to do this he acquires the Cosmic Cube an artefact left by Norse ‘gods’ which his pet scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) uses to create weapons. He also forms his own fanatically loyal army of followers called Hydra.

To prevent the Americans destroying his advantage Red Skull sends an agent to kill Dr Erskine and destroy his experiments. He manages to kill Erskine but is too late to destroy the experiment. However without Erskine the super-soldier experiment is abandoned.

Rogers is recruited to front a publicity campaign for war bonds, touring the country with dancing-girls in a cheesy Captain America costume. But it is not enough for Rogers and he wants to get involved in the fighting. When he hears that Red Skull has captured a large number of allied troops including his childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Rogers goes behind enemy lines alone to the Hydra base and rescues almost 400 troops, including Bucky.

The story continues with Rogers being equipped with a leather Captain America costume, being given his iconic shield and hand-picking a squad of men to go around Europe wrecking Hydra’s bases and trying to stop Red Skull’s plans to dominate the world by destroying huge chunks of it.

This is film is a fine lead in to next year’s Avengers film and it really does a great job of setting up Cap’s back story. The wartime setting was pretty well done and I wouldn’t have minded seeing another Captain America film set back in that time but I doubt that will happen very soon. Red Skull was a bit of a one-note villain and his only motivation seems to be that he is mad and evil (which just like the comic-book character I suppose). It may not as good as Iron Man but it is better than Thor and the Incredible Hulk and has raised the stakes for The Avengers . After all this build up that film had better be spectacular

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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