Sometime in 2002 I saw Dog Soldiers. I’d never laughed that much during a horror flick, and I don’t really ‘do’ horror flicks, either I have an over-active imagination or I’m just a wuss, discuss after class. Anyway, I loved Dog Soldiers and was excited at the time to hear the British writer/director (Neil Marshall) was planning to make a trio of movies. That turned into dissapointment when I heard about The Descent, I knew that I really didn’t want to watch that one.

Then earlier this year I saw a trailer for Doomsday and thought it looked fun, and only later did I find out it’s the 3rd of the trio of movies that Neil planned, and that increased my anticipation. I didn’t manage to catch it at the cinema, but after seeing the trailer, reading one review and enjoying Dog Soldiers I bought it on DVD sure that I’d enjoy it.

I wasn’t disappointed. Doomsday is an unrepentant homage to Mad Max and Escape from LA/New York, a small twist of 28 weeks/days later and a hint of Reign of Fire thrown in for good measure. It’s not a serious movie, if you’re looking for something serious you need to look somewhere else. But it’s not a comedy either, it’s just a little bit over the top, that’s all!

In the not too distant future, Scotland is struck by a deadly virus and is quarantined and locked away behind a steel wall. Thirty years pass by, and the rest of the world assumes everyone north of the wall has died. Then the unthinkable happens and the virus returns, this time in London. There’s no choice but to send someone beyond the wall to see if there are any survivors and maybe a cure.

It’s a simple story, with some very minor twists (which are pretty obvious from the outset). The script isn’t elegant but it’s engaging, didn’t make me cringe and has some funny moments. The action sequences are superb, although some of the close quarters fighting is edited with some pretty swift cuts. It adds some style but I wonder what it was used to hide. None of the characters really stand out and step up beyond the cookie cutter description of them, but it doesn’t detract a great deal, this is never billed as a character story. There’s enough empathy with one or two of the characters to feel a bit of pain when they snuff it. I would have liked the film to be about 20 minutes longer and to show a little more interaction between some of the major players, but overall thought the pace was pretty good.

It’s a huge cliche, but it’s true to say this film won’t win any awards. It’s not as good as Dog Soldiers, but it’s hard not to enjoy the Britishness of the script and the dialog. It certainly pushes home (to me at least) how American the dialog in our regular staple of movies is (I know, obvious but I felt it was worth saying).

Overall I enjoyed the viewing experience, I had a few laughs, and the imagery in the movie was like an old friend. If you like apocolyptic sci-fi action fantasy comedy heroic action movies, you’ll like this!

No Country for Old Men

This was my first Cohen Brothers movie, yeh I know, so many ‘good’ films I’ve not seen. I’ve never claimed to be an intelligent movie watcher, I enjoy escapism in the cinema and I’m bound to select movies that offer that. It’s not that I find movies which make you think unenjoyable, it’s just that habit causes me to pick certain films over others. But, I thought I’d buy No Country for Old Men and give it a shot, not least because I love Tommy Lee Jones.

The film is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book of the same name. I’ve not read the book, but by all reports it’s a faithful adaptation, taking most (all?) of the movie dialog straight from the book. It tells the story of a Texas Sherriff (Tommy Lee Jones) trying to understand a drug-deal gone wrong, following the trail of the guy who’s running with the money (Josh Brolin) and the killer who is also chasing the cash (Javier Bardem).

It would be a mistake to think this movie is about either Brolin’s (Llewelyn Moss) character or Bardem’s (Anton Chigurh). It’s about Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, and how he is coping with a new kind of crime and a new kind of criminal since the increase in cross-border drug traffic with Mexico. Bell provides a voice over for various parts of the movie and the implication is he’s narrating the story, at least in part, and the claim therefore is that scenes in which Bell appears are presented as his view and skewed by his perception and his re-telling.

The overall pace of the movie is pretty slow, even when good guys are running from bad guys you get the feeling they’re taking their pretty littl’ time of it. Despite the pace it is gripping and every single scene moves the story forward in some way and is engaging. The dialog is first class and all the lead characters provide excellent performances. There is tension although the pace means it’s never quite edge of your seat tension, and it’s easy to empathise with Moss even if it’s not always easy to like him. Chigurh is enigmatic and obviously deadly, and every time he’s on screen you get a sense of how quietly insane he is, and how at risk anyone near him may be. Bell is understated, subtle and superb. There’s no hint of Marshal Samuel Gerard here, not even a glimpse.

And yet despite the obvious quality of everything, I was left dissapointed. In order to provide my opinion I’m going to need to spoil certain aspects of the plot, so if you’re planning to watch this movie, and don’t want the major plot elements spoiled, stop reading now.

The first three quarters of the movies focuses on a short period of time, or apparently short, during which Moss tries to evade Chigurh. Then suddenly time accelerates, and we see the death of Moss, his mother-in-law, his wife, Bell’s retirement and Chigur’s accident which must have taken place over a few weeks. Once we’re done with those, the movie ends, Bell retiring and discussing two dreams he’s had with his wife, obviously trying to cope with having lots of free time on his hands.

The actual end of the movie is abrupt and disorientating. That may be because I’m far too used to a certain style of movie ending, or it may be because I really didn’t grasp until after the end that the story is about Bell, and not in fact, about Moss and Chigurh. Perhaps I’m stupid and should have noticed it earlier, perhaps the movie is too subtle for me, maybe I’m not cut out to watch movies which don’t conform to the ‘hollywood’ standard of having some kind of end-game.

Reading online after I’d watched it revealed what I had missed, that it’s about Bell, that he’s narrating, that the scene towards the end in the motel room where Bell might or might not see Chigurh is pivotal and then the film is showing us the lie that Bell tells, that he never met Chigurh, never caught up with him. The dreams are a manifestation of this, telling us how Bell regrets he wasn’t strong enough, feels he has failed in his role, and worries how his father will view him.

I’m used to missing things in movies, subtle references, and I don’t mind having them pointed out, but when I miss what appears to be the very reason for the story to exist it’s dissapointing. I question whether I wasn’t paying enough attention, or whether I’m stupid.

However, there’s that old addage that if you have to explain a joke, maybe it was never funny. Of course, proponents of the joke would claim that some find it funny, and hence it shouldn’t need to be explained. I’m sure some people got the story on their first viewing, I’m sure others got it on their second or third, and I’m sure some people discussed it and worked it out with friends and felt satisfied. For me though, the movie watching experience is a totality of the watching period involved, I want to be satisfied at the end of it, happy that I understood, pleased with how it all turned out.

I don’t need happy endings, but I do absolutely need an ending that I understand.

No Country for Old Men is a technically briliant movie, with an amazing cast, engaging dialog and beautiful cinamatography. I might even watch it again. But I won’t look back at the time I spent watching it and think ‘that was enjoyable’ or ‘that was worth it’, just ‘that was dissapointing’. At any stage, I was on some level enjoying the watching experience, but as a total experience at the end, I was left wondering what it had been about and why.

Wing Commander

I played the Wing Commander on my ‘386 and marveled at the amazing sound and graphics. It was inevitable that I’d get the Wing Commander movie on DVD, but I never realised it was nearly 10 years old already! I started watching it 5 minutes after turning off AvP – Requiem so I was already in the right frame of mind for some dire cinema.

I have to say, Wing Commander is only ‘laughable’ rather than being terrible. The effects look older than 10 years in places, the script is moronic, the acting is cheesy and the characters are paper-thin, and yet despite all that it was still watchable. Oh I laughed at the parts that weren’t meant to be funny and I cringed at some of the interactions, but at least I could see what was happening on-screen, and it was no worse than a raft of old sci-fi movies.

Should you go and buy this? Well, probably not unless you’re a huge fan of the game, or just someone who likes watching cheesy sci-fi, but if you have a few beers and a few geeky friends around, it may just pass an hour or so and give you something to smile at.

Aliens vs Predator – Requiem

The first Alien vs Predator was pretty dire (it had its moments), but as you should know by now I’m a complete glutton for sci-fi / action punishment. I got Aliens vs Predator – Requiem on DVD and tried watching it today. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news when I had to ramp up the backlight, brightness and contrast before I could even see the predator in the first opening scenes.

Even regular scenes on earth, in the daytime, the shadows were too dark. It’s a technical nightmare, I just gave up.

I started fast forwarding through the dialog, hoping for some engaging action, but any action is in the pitch black and impossible to see. I’m sure if you stick with it you might find a character you want to empathise with (I didn’t) and worry about enough to watch through the murk, but it wasn’t for me.

I stopped watching and put another DVD in. Very poor movie, avoid at all costs.


Another DVD I purchased recently when scooping up a bunch of ‘under £5 movies’, but this time it’s a movie I’ve seen before on TV a couple of times. I guess that gives an immediate indication that I enjoy it, and feel it’s worth owning to watch again. There’s nothing individually spectacular about Ronin but together all the different elements join to make a solid, good quality, entertaining action-thriller.

De Niro’s ex-CIA character is suitably under-stated, and I love Jean Reno in just about anything anyway. Reno may play the same character every time, but I happen to like it, and I like the way he plays it, and this one is no exception. While the dialog is sparse overall, the interplay between De Niro, Reno and the other cast is what I really enjoy most about Ronin, what goes unsaid is as critical as what you do hear.

The plot is pretty simple, a collection of rag-tag guns for hire are brought together to obtain a case (contents unknown), a twist and betrayal ensue, interspersed with car chases and explosions and finally nearly all is revealed. The pace is excellent, the story continually moving along and keeping you engaged, and the performances are all good.

Watching De Niro sprinting reminds you of his age a little and drags you away from the moment, but otherwise it’s an excellent quality movie, nothing overly original, but delivered in a polished and enjoyable package.


It’s a couple of weeks since I watched this (for the first time) on DVD, but I think it’s taken that long for my opinion to fully ferment in my head. I’m not sure where I’d heard that this was ‘a great classic movie’, but I had heard it, and when I went on a reduced-price amazon dvd purchasing spree I picked this one up along the way.

It was already reasonably late, but I wanted to watch a movie to wind down before bed – and I made an obvious school boy error, I didn’t check the running time. At around three hours, this is not a movie to just drop into before you go to sleep, and I have to admit that towards the end I was willing it to finish.

Heat takes a look at a cat and mouse hunt between a top quality thief (De Niro) and a top quality cop (Pacino) and includes a look at their lives and how they live them. It’s not an action movie, although it has some action scenes but those scenes are incidental to the movie. It’s really a character movie, trying to give us an insight into how the two main characters are similar in so many ways, dedicated to what they do at the expense of their own personal relationships.

It’s entertaining, given the right amount of free time it’s worth watching, but it’s not something I enjoyed on a great level. Some scenes feel contrived (the only scene in which Pacino and De Niro are both on-screen at the same time is entirely contrived), some sections aren’t entirely believable which is essential since the movie tries to portray a real-true-to-life grit, the characters around Pacino and De Niro are flat and under-developed. The action isn’t very explosive, and the pace is slow and uneven.

Pacino’s character is so over the top that you wonder how he didn’t burst a blood vessel with all the constant shouting. De Niro’s character is the only person in the movie with whom I could empathise on any level, and that results in dissapointment during several scenes where you want the character to be more than he can ever be. However, De Niro’s character and performance makes it worth watching this movie at least once.

Overall this movie is too long and too focussed on giving Pacino and De Niro a platform to show off. All the flaws add up to a feeling of confusion because it is obviously a high quality movie, and on a technically level demonstrates that quality, but the screenplay doesn’t manage to step up to the plate.

Without a Trace ….

We’ve been Sky+ing Without a Trace for a little while now and bought the first season on DVD a while back, since we never saw it. Just finished watching the last episodes tonight (been watching them over the last week and a bit) and it’s pretty good.

Some of the episodes leave you a little unfulfilled, but that’s probably because there can’t always be a satisfactory conclusion to missing person’s cases, but there are some pretty emotional episodes and it doesn’t feel too contrived (my main complaint about a lot of ‘crime’ drama). I can recommend them, and I think I’m going to go and buy the season 2 boxed set right now 🙂


Jumper is such a shame, a movie that could have been so good, and yet turned out to be so vacant. It’s a promisingly simple concept, young kid finds he can teleport about, uses it to have fun, discovers it has consequences, meets a girl, runs from the bad guys. Usually I enjoy simple concepts done well, small casts and a tight plot.

But Jumper is vacant and flat. It’s 88 minutes of average prologue. Oh it’s reasonably exciting, and the action scenes are done well, some of them pretty nice. But the characters are underdeveloped, the story is far too short, and the small cast is both tiny and uninteresting.

Samuel L. Jackson is totally wasted, and the best performance is from Jamie Bell. There’s no serious tension and despite the amount of time spent setting things up, no real feeling of concern about whether the characters live or die. It’s essentially a prologue and setup for a sequel, which is a real shame.


I Am Legend

Short review of this one. I’d heard from a few people that the special effects let this film down, but really I didn’t find that. I feel the film was a let down, but it was the story and the structure which did that for me, there really was no obvious middle and the end appears to have been tacked on and very overly abrupt. The start is good, I really engaged quickly with Will’s character and I was really looking forward to the development of the ‘bad guy who’s getting more intelligent’.

Which is why it was such a let down for the movie to go from a thoughtful but action based story to an all-out zombie fest in the last 15 minutes.

Maybe the director needed another 30 minutes to extend the story and give us a better look at what was going on, maybe the screenplay was better before it made it to the cinema, either way I Am Legend was more disappointing than entertaining, by no means a bad movie, but no where near the quality it should have been.


I never really got involved in the original Transformers, I was aware of it, but I was either too old or just not interested (it’s too long ago to really remember). Of course I knew about Optimus and the autobots and I knew the catch phrase (Transformers! Robots in disguise) but I never had any toys and I didn’t rush home from school to catch it on the TV. However, as should be obvious from the movies I tend to watch, I’m a sci-fi / action / fantasy movie addict, so it was inevitable that I’d get the new Transformers movie on DVD.

It’s ridiculous and yet it’s also great fun. Transformers isn’t really sure if it’s targetted at kids, teenagers or adults and that identity crisis leads to the film having a different feel at different times. Some scenes are gritty and adult and others are almost naive and rose tinted. Overall it doesn’t detract from the entertainment as long as you’re able to maintain the necessary suspension of disbelief.

If you can sustain that and you can ignore some of the more cringe-inspiring dialog, this is a good, solid adrenaline inducing action movie with some amazing scenes and some very gripping moments. The performances of the human actors are acceptable, it’s not exactly stretching, and the animated sequences are pretty breath taking. The pace is pretty good, keeping you interested and tied in throughout the story, and the story itself is engaging all the way to nearly the very end. Nearly the end because what little integrity the story has is pretty much lost when the military starts taking orders from a punk kid and we find out where computers came from.

Despite the 15 minutes of ‘WTF!’ inspired by those sections, this is a good movie, it deserved to do well, and it was exciting and engaging throughout.