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GCSE grade boundaries are here - GO> 23-08-2016

    One Missed Call (Eric Valette, 2008)

    I commend One Missed Call for managing to survive an entire six minutes in my retina before I began to lose interest. Given the negative publicity, I expected worse (albeit not much worse), yet that is not to give much credit this film - it is, without doubt, complete schlock, and even as the first release of 2008, is a weighty contender for the worst film of the year (although Meet the Spartans may provide some deft competition).

    Of the few things that the film does right, it starts slaying the attractive teenagers and moving the hokey plot forward pretty quickly. The plot? People begin receiving strange phone calls, they then witness stranger things occurring around them (such as people’s faces becoming contorted), and then later, they are killed, and a strange red sweet is left in their mouth. Subsequently, the phone is used to pass the strange “spirit”, curse, or quite whatever this is, on to the next poor sap.

    The plot is essentially an amalgam of The Ring and Final Destination, yet given the lack of emotional depth on the part of Sossamon and her cohorts, it is not a tenth as entertaining, taut or well-acted as either of those films. We are talking zero range from anyone involved, and even by contemporary horror standards, it is soul-destroyingly poor, through and through. Furthermore, what is one of the film's more cardinal sins is that even gore hounds will be left yawning. One death involves a girl being eviscerated by a train, and in another, a man is impaled with a pole, yet neither are shown in any great detail; blood is largely not sprayed, and so One Missed Call, as it happens, has little going for it, and not in the "so bad it's good" way, either.

    What screenwriter Andrew Klavan appears to have understood from Screenwriting 101 better than anything else is how to move a plot along. The usual "we are all linked somehow" shtick is introduced about twenty minutes into the film, and whilst it takes a fair while longer to actually materalise, at least these characters aren't entire caricatures of the idiotic youngsters cinema has hurled at us for years. Instead, they are victims of improbable, incorporeal incidents of which they have little to no control. Still, in that respect, the deaths are even more convoluted than those in the Final Destination series.

    One Missed Call is worse than a simply poorly-constructed film, pigeon-holed with plot mistakes - instead, it seems so insistent on inundating the viewer with the most clichéd attempts at horror imaginable. In one instance, Sossamon’s character walks into a cupboard, and a doll flings out, with a loud crescendo blasting out; it's more laughable than scary, and even then, it's not that funny.

    The real tragedy of this film is that Ray Wise of Twin Peaks fame is anywhere near it. The one actor worth a damn in the production outshines everyone by a country mile, yet it is a shame that he is so starved for work to stoop to this, or perhaps more tragically, that productions such as this actually pay enough money to convince competent actors to sign on.

    It is about the time that an exorcism is attempted on a mobile phone that the film well and truly hits the bottom of the well. It is laughable, but not so much that it removes at all from the absurd idiocy of the scene. I should add that once Laura Harring appeared in an incongruent flashback, I was just about ready to break down and lament for all the talented, starving actors out there. One Missed Call is an exhausting watch, and if you're still half-way conscious by the hour mark, I don't know whether to commend you, fear you, or laugh at you.

    There are shameless plot divergences which just pile on the confusion, although if you were actually able to sit through and pay attention to this dreck, they might make just a tad more sense. Unfortunately, not a single frame of this mess inspires us to care, and by the half-way mark, all I wished for was it to end. As with far too many horror films, the plot is over-complicated, when the greatest and most profound scares of cinema have always derived from tales of the utmost simplicity. If those involved in this film really believe the narrative to resemble a guise of intellect, then Hollywood horror is well and truly brain dead.

    Am I being harsh on One Missed Call? When you have seen as much horror schlock as I, and have become as disenfranchised with the horror garb that generally hits cinemas in the “graveyard months” of January and February, this review is, in fact, considerably forgiving. One Missed Call is a near-useless mix of bump-in-the-night clichés, bland, flat characters, and dialogue that is in no way memorable. The film even ends on an unsatisfactory, frustrating note, bungling together deus-ex-machina along with a laughable sense of dread that establishes the inevitable sequel. Director Eric Valette reportedly has not seen the original Japanese film, and urged the rest of the cast not to. Thus, the joyless, soulless, scareless bore that he created was an inevitable, foregone conclusion.

    Rating: 3/10

    (Original post by asdasta)
    One Missed Call (Eric Valette, 2008)

    I commend One Missed Call for managing to survive an entire six minutes in my retina before I began to lose interest....
    Rating: 3/10
    Would be good to add that it is a re-make of a japanese horror film called Chakushin ari. It'd explain the bad quality of it. I have not yet watched the remake but it'd be a reason why its quality is not so good.

    (Original post by blahbloo)
    Would be good to add that it is a re-make of a japanese horror film called Chakushin ari. It'd explain the bad quality of it. I have not yet watched the remake but it'd be a reason why its quality is not so good.
    Barely an excuse at all :p: Good remakes:

    The Departed
    The Magnificent Seven
    A Fistful of Dollars
    Ocean's Eleven
    Dawn of the Dead

    And that's off the top of my sleep-addled brain. Could name a few more if I could be bothered to do the research

    Uh, I don't agree with the Departed actually. It was such a poor film I thought, I didn't enjoy it as much as the original of Infernal Affairs. Departed just spoon-fed you the plot while Infernal Affairs purposely attempted to confuse, which it did very well.

    (Original post by blahbloo)
    Uh, I don't agree with the Departed actually. It was such a poor film I thought, I didn't enjoy it as much as the original of Infernal Affairs. Departed just spoon-fed you the plot while Infernal Affairs purposely attempted to confuse, which it did very well.
    Fair enough. Didn't stop it from getting a slew of Best Picture awards and generally being critically lauded...

    (Original post by blahbloo)
    Would be good to add that it is a re-make of a japanese horror film called Chakushin ari. It'd explain the bad quality of it. I have not yet watched the remake but it'd be a reason why its quality is not so good.
    Well, my final paragraph did note that it was a remake

    I have to entirely disagree on The Departed front - I thought it was considerably more entertaining than Infernal Affairs. Better performances, better music, funnier, sharper script, etc. By far the best remake I have ever seen.

    (Original post by asdasta)
    I have to entirely disagree on The Departed front - I thought it was considerably more entertaining than Infernal Affairs. Better performances, better music, funnier, sharper script, etc. By far the best remake I have ever seen.
    Hear hear!

    Name of Film: Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2008, Colin and Greg Strause)

    You know you’re in trouble when a pair of special effects supervisors take the helm of a movie and then – rather pretentiously –dub themselves ‘The Brothers Strause’. It’s, unfortunately, simple fact. In recent memory, how many SFX supervisors turned directors have actually produced a good film? Struggling for an answer, aren’t you? And no, James McTeigue does not count. He was a Second Unit Director, y’see.

    Okay, so I’ll man up and admit that I was maybe a tiny bit excited about the new AvP. The simple fact that Paul WS Anderson made such a bloody hash of the first one (no gore? In a movie that pits brutal, gory killer versus brutal, gory killer? Nice decision, numbnuts) meant that the franchise had more or less nowhere to go but up. Or so I thought. Oh how wrong I was.

    First thing’s first, let’s get the meaningless criticisms aside. After all, no-one’s expecting a true, subtle masterwork of Citizen Kane proportions. The acting is puerile, the script weak as cream crackers, the characters underdeveloped and total clichés, and the driving force behind the plot so contrived that it’s probably able to tongue its own arse.

    The story - such as it is - follows straight on from the previous movie. The predalien that we saw being birthed chews its way through a shipful of predators, causing it to crash land in Unamedsville, America. The predators, being a wiley bunch, send another of their number to control the infestation. It's brainless, full of plot holes - if they keep aliens on board their ship, why did they need to have them frozen under the Arctic circle? - and rather insulting to anyone's intelligence. That and it undermines the essence predators. Meant to be the ultimate hunters, these ones simply lack any brains whatsoever, and so how are we supposed to be convinced that these guys can clean up the mess? Especially when they only send one predator to sort it out. Seriously, what the ****?

    That out the way, we come to my major beef with the film – the direction. If there could’ve been one single saving grace, it would’ve been some flashily directed action and some interesting set pieces. Surprise, surprise, Colin and Greg, bless them, fail magnificently at anything even vaguely resembling intelligent direction. The films signature tussle – a rooftop battle between the Predator and the newly created Predalien – is little more than a prolonged poking match between two men in bad rubber costumes.

    Oh, and they’re also a pair of misogynistic morons. I hate throwing that word around – because it seems inherently sexist to me, seeing as it’s okay to kill and maim men, but do it to women and suddenly you’re a bad person… - but there is very little else to describe what’s going on here. Most of the brutal killings happen to the female characters – including a particularly twisted ‘birth’ scene that was just so brainless and sickening that I honestly felt like walking out of the cinema – and their pathetic attempt to make up for it with the stereotypical ‘army chick’ – of which Reiko Aylseworth should be ****ing ashamed – does nothing but emphasise the whole issue.

    It’s such a shame, because video games have proven that this little battle of the extra terrestrials can be done with intelligence, class and a little bit of humour. What remains is something of a cinematic turd. Of course, it’ll have its fans, but they’re clearly either as brainless as the Strauses, or their SFX chums. The morons.

    Rating Out of 10: 3

    Name of Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2008, Tim Burton)

    Tim Burton. Johnny Depp. Dark, gothic atmosphere. Eh…musical? If that set of descriptors doesn’t make a tingle of fancy arise in the back of your skull, then there could well be nothing in the skull at all. Either that or you could just not be a fan, which is fair enough. Still, the tingle did come a-knocking for me.

    Apparently in a moment of rather epic disappointment, I haven’t seen the Steven Sondheim musical upon which the movie is based – although if it would seem that this would’ve shifted my perspective of the movie somewhat, if the reactions of those who have seen the musical are anything to go by. So I stepped into Sweeney Todd with a somewhat uninitiated view of the proceedings – and with a girl whose last name is Todd, which was rather amusing seeing as mine is Sweeney…irony of ironies, no?

    I have to say, I was rather impressed. I generally love Tim Burton movies – yes, even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; although I’ll give a miss to Planet of the Apes – mainly for the dark, slightly disturbing streak that he infuses into his films – yes, even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; although I’ll give a miss to Planet of the Apes. It’s interesting, because it’s almost invariably juxtaposed with what could be construed as rather light subject material. A recluse who likes to cut hedges; aliens invading earth; a man who tells tall tales. And now, a musical about a barber…who just so happens to rather enjoy a good arterial spray.

    Burton wonderfully continues with tradition, and here the juxtaposition is between the dark, slightly creepy atmosphere of the London he’s created – every bit the ****hole that Depp’s Sweeney Todd insists it is – with the relatively upbeat bounces of the musical numbers. The place is deliciously macabre in almost every respect, from the dark, overpowering presence of the buildings towering overhead, to the splashes of claret that speckle the floors when Sweeney does start on his rampage.

    The script – apparently tweaked from the Broadway production for the silver screen – is tight and drives the story along at a pleasing pace, revealing just enough back story whist never getting distracted from the main happenings. It’s also oddly convincing – even with people bursting into song rather erratically – and frequently, albeit blackly, amusing. Sometimes, an old guy getting his throat nonchalantly slashed with a straight razor can’t do anything but bring a rather twisted grin to your lips.

    Depp once again shines – if he keeps doing it, he could well be named one of the greatest actors ever – bringing a gravitas to Sweeney, peering out from behind eyes surrounded by dark circles, hating everything he sees and consumed by his quest for vengeance. It’s not just in the spoken parts either, he brings this quality to the songs too, his dark, gravely singing voice dripping with hidden meaning. Helena Bonham Carter too puts in another fantastic turn as Mrs Lovett, Sweeney’s partner in crime and someone who just so happens to be falling madly in love with the man. It’s slightly surreal, yet – again – strangely plausible, mostly thanks to Depp’s charisma shining through, and her interestingly innocent characterisation.

    The supporting cast, too, shine wonderfully. Alan Rickman as the antagonist Judge Turpin is suitably evil, yet he somehow brings a mote of dignity to the role; this is a man who was consumed by jealousy, and simply didn’t know what else to do. Timothy Spall could actually be considered as a primary villain, hamming it up delightfully as Turpin’s crony Beadle Bamford. Then there’s a brilliantly silly more-or-less cameo appearance from Sacha Baron Cohen as an ‘Italian’ barber who claims to have given the pope the closest shave ever, and whom Sweeney expertly defeats in one of the more surreal penis-measuring contests you’ll see for a while.

    Be warned, however, this is a full blooded 18 certificate. Whilst I could take most of it, there’s one scene towards the end that is a cut above the rest in its gory, rather disturbing nature, and it did have me squirming. Though annoyingly, the credits rolled not a minute later, and thus I was left unsure as to whether or not I actually truly enjoyed the film. But it’s bloody funny, bloody dark and bloody…bloody – and it all adds up to one of the most entertaining films for a while now, and it’ll certainly rank among Burton’s best.

    Rating Out of 10: 8

    Untraceable (2008, Gregory Hoblit)

    Gregory Hoblit is a man of considerable talents, and few will dispute this; even last year’s Fracture, flaws and all, was an intelligent, well-meaning thriller. The trailer for his new film, Untraceable, did not suggest the makings of a good film in any sense, yet with Hoblit at the helm, one could pray for more. As it turns out, Untraceable is as smart as a glass of water, and half as useful.

    For those able to accept the incongruent use of technology, parts of the film may be tolerable, yet for anyone even mildly schooled in the use of computers, in a picture where government computers are not even equipped with popup blockers, you will be left laughing, incredibly frustrated, or a bit of both.

    The lunacy does not stop there. Through and through, the script makes passive-aggressive attacks at cyber criminals; early on, those among us who illegally download MP3s are rapped on the knuckles, in a scene that makes a preposterous, misguided commentary, and is so simplistic in its technological explanation that it will likely insult most cinemagoers.

    The eye-rolling family interludes begin to suffocate the picture little more than ten minutes in, and you don't have to have seen the trailer to know that this strand will return later. I already had ideas in my mind about where the plot was going, and who the killer would be, and I wanted to edge closer to those answers, yet we are shown our protagonist, FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane), taking her child to school, and the ubiquity of technology in her life is made abundantly clear.

    Soon enough, the FBI flag a website called "killwithme.com", and a local cat is the first poor victim of the serial killer's "terrifying" rampage. Soon enough, the psychopath kidnaps a human and begins torturing them live over the internet (via webcam). The twist? The more that the public log on, the quicker the person is killed, and people are logging on at an exponential rate. Our (at this point) faceless killer rinses and repeats this several times, whilst the FBI attempts to track our clever villain down.

    The film is at least smart enough to posture the idea that the website is simply a "snuff film", rather than diving in with all guns blazing from the outset, but it serves as little more than an aside, and had this been the big film's "twist", Untraceable may have been a satisfying film, providing a satisfying commentary, when it instead provides the opposite on both counts.

    Our ridiculously versatile killer soon bans all non-US IP addresses, so that only Americans can log on, and it further cements the film’s key idea, that we are all blood-hounds, but it, for some reason, centralises the idea to the US, which is pretty alienating to non-Americans, and pretty insulting to Americans.

    Lane’s character declares the viewers are "not fans, they're accomplices", which is a rather hokey idea, and pretty insulting to the viewer. The film’s high concept transparently allegorises reality in an entirely unsuitable manner, considering the realities of the film's murders are not realistic and certainly not achievable with present technology. Even in the future, I expect that this film will be insulting. Yes, we as humans possess a natural curiosity about death, and yes, with the thriving "shock site” fan base, we sate that curiosity, but does that make us culpable, even in this film's context? Certainly not; it is part of the human condition.

    The film’s most hilarious, and simultaneously eye-rolling scene, occurs as Detective Box (Billy Burke) seizes a set of pirate DVDs from a suspect. The FBI warning that appears on DVDs is displayed in the film, and I was left wondering why the screenwriters felt the need to slot this entirely incongruent scene in? Do they think that their savoury message will stop a 15-year old from downloading Dodgeball, let alone anyone else?

    One of the few refreshing things about the film is that the killer is not kept behind smoke and mirrors for long, and the identity of the villain is not who you may expect. The "random psychopath" approach is far more accommodating for this type of film, although to never deal with the killer as a person, despite showing us his face, is, among many, one of the film's major flaws.

    One of the film's dumber elements involves how the FBI obtain their first lead; it relies on nothing but the sheer idiocy of the killer, which would seem to conflict with his seeming intellect up to this point. It is as though the screenwriters wrote themselves into a corner, and this is the best that they could come up with. Naturally, the killer's intellect resumes as soon as it is suitable for the narrative, but such compromises to the film’s integrity are sigh-inducing.

    Given the film’s “18” rating, one would not expect Hoblit to skirt around contentious issues. There is a very mild suggestion that our killer is a paedophile or sexual deviant of some sort, yet this is teased in such a coy, tiresome manner that it would have been best left alone entirely.

    The killer is as sanctimonious as he is inconsistent, and similarly to Jigsaw from the Saw series, proclaims that he does not kill people, yet Hoblit, in some amazing fashion, has found a killer whose philosophy is even more tenuous and repugnant than that one.

    In establishing the third act, the contrivances well and truly pile on; technological impossibilities stack up, and by this point, I just wanted Diane Lane to do what she was clearly going to anyway, and catch the perp.

    There was one instance of fair tragedy in the third act, yet it is so glossed with convolution and accompanied by the killer's pontificating viewpoint that it barely remains above surface. Perhaps the only thing close to remarkable about this film is Diane Lane's performance, which whilst far from her best, nevertheless trumps everything else about this film.

    The manner in which leads are obtained ranges from barely believable to brainlessly unreal, underneath the guise of esoteric, unrecognisable codes, which Lane just so happens to decode. The killer's motive, as hokey as it is, makes such contrivances mildly more tolerable, and forces one to consider the psychology of the situation, given how the killer has left rather deliberate clues on his home page. However, this minor intrigue is ruined when the killer begins to belittle the FBI, decrying personal freedom and again, it insults the audience.

    The killer's emphatic statement about the savagery of the modern man, the future of technology and "televised murder" is ridiculous, and the phrase "they won't have trouble finding sponsors" is preposterous. Are we that far gone? I think the killer doesn't give the human race enough credit. Even considering the killer as a mentally disturbed individual, the sour taste ostensibly remains.

    The film's end has a chance to be bold, and mildly redeem a pretty classless endeavour, yet again; it is comfortable in its generic, tiresome mediocrity. The only thing authentic about Untraceable is the “text speak” used in the chat rooms, which is pretty much the most intriguing aspect of the film; most films, even films considerably better than this, get this wrong.

    Untraceable is a career low for Gregory Hoblit; it takes the idea of the savagery of human curiosity to the lengths of parody, and insults not only the viewer's intelligence, but perhaps their belief system also. Untraceable is devoid of any insight, intelligence or worthwhile performances; if you do decide to see Untraceable, I implore you to leave your cerebrum at the door.

    Rating: 3/10

    In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007, Uwe Boll)

    The first thing that one must ask about In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, the latest offering from the infamous Uwe Boll, is simply, why is Ray Liotta anywhere close to this project? Shortly after, you’d be quite right to ask why John Rhys-Davies has anything to do with it also.

    As poor a film as Dungeon Siege is (as well as a pretty disgraceful adaptation of a lauded computer game), credit must be dealt where it is due; Boll's film is at least visually accomplished, even if it is otherwise preposterous, laughable, and worthless. By the time Jason Statham (whose character is inventively named “Farmer”) is unearthing turnips and Ron Perlman and the lovely Claire Forlani show up, I was spent, and this was only four minutes into Boll's latest production.

    The film begins with meeting Farmer’s family, continues with token goof Matthew Lillard slovenly snacking on chicken, and further proceeds with Statham and Perlman laying waste to a rabble of man-in-suit monsters; a hilarious debacle, reminiscent of a well-budgetted Power Rangers episode. The film is at its best during ridiculous fight scenes such as these, where it is marginally enjoyable trash, because the script is nothing short of abominable.

    Something vaguely resembling a plot eventually kicks in when Statham encounters a personal tragedy, and he embarks on a quest to vanquish the evil Gallian (Liotta). The worst moments of the film are those where anyone is called upon to act; I have seen less ham in a delicatessen, particularly in relation to Lillard, who is laughable in his role.

    There are few actors comfortable in their roles, yet Boll regular Kristanna Loken, as well as Leelee Sobiesky, are the two palatable screen presences of the film. Burt Reynolds is tolerable as the ailing King, despite his absolutely ridiculous get-up.

    There is a major fight in the film's second half, which would have been mildly impressive, had the poor production values not shone through so strikingly. For all of the lush landscapes and decent CGI, the latex suits are all too distracting, and the moment at which one goon is used as a human fireball is the point at which the film falls apart entirely into a tragicomedy; an exploration of a man who is clearly aspiring to become the next Ed Wood. With a budget this huge (yes, Dungeon Siege is an astounding, $60m abortion of a film), one would assume that Boll would be able to afford suits that didn’t look like they were bought at a charity shop, with money left over for his precious CGI and unfortunate, surely desperate cast.

    One of the later battle scenes is in the dark and shrouded in rain, whereby the latex is less visible, yet the clumsy, amateur direction and laughable plastic boulders in no way aid the film in remaining convincing, and this scene, ambitious though it is, is ultimately as plastic and as cheesy as the rest of this sorry production.

    Things reach an apex, whereby it seems that things can get no worse, yet the final battle trumps all else seen previously. The final battle between Gallian and Farmer is a clunky mess resembling something even more audacious than the Smith and Neo “superbrawl” battle at the conclusion of The Matrix Revolutions. The only exciting thing about this final fight is that it signifies that the picture is drawing to a close.

    Dungeon Siege runs in at a painful 120 minutes, yet Boll’s Director's Cut of the film is purported to chime in at 165 minutes. It is surprise enough if many people survived the original cut intact, yet to think that Boll is as confident in his “abilities” as to render a 45-minute extension to this dreck is as remarkably sad and terrifying as it is laughable. Dungeon Siege has a decent visual palette, yet it is not substantial enough to transform a dire film into one that is anything less than mediocre. How Boll secures actors who have nailed iconic roles such as Henry Hill, Gimli, and The Bandit is beyond all cognition. Heck, even Billy from Scream is too good for this. Dungeon Siege may not be Boll’s worst film, but it lacks the glorious crapola quality of House of the Dead, and thus, is simply unintelligible, schlocky garbage.

    Rating: 3/10

    Jumper (2008, Doug Liman)

    Doug Liman, director of Jumper, is no stranger to action, and serves well to throw the viewer straight into the film’s high concept. It is not, however, without flashbacks; it promptly diverts to show a young David Rice in the most clichéd of scenarios, where he is humiliated by the stereotypical bully whilst defending the honour of the doting love of his life. Soon enough, the lad finds that he possesses the power to somehow teleport anywhere, although we have no idea why or how; we are as dumbfounded as our young protagonist.

    Jumper's hark through the back story is perhaps slightly cumbersome, although the film is by no means a redundant effort. Jumper paints David (Hayden Christensen) as something of an immature hedonist; he teleports to other countries to surf, he goes to London to pick up women, and he is met with opposition by Samuel L Jackson; a Terminator-like G-man psychopath, who goes about killing every "jumper", driven by some sort of divine complex.

    The film breaks convention in having these two confront early into the picture; a welcome change from the ordinary. The fight is inventive, and Jackson, with his white hair and over-the-top get up, fits in well as a comic book-esque villain.

    What makes Jumper more interesting than similar attempts, and even some comic book films, is that Hayden's immaturity gets the better of him on several occasions; he is hot-headed, he is vindictive, and thus, his characterisation is authentic of many young men of his age. He owes little to Peter Parker, but more to the likes of The Punisher.

    David reacquaints himself with his old flame, Millie (the lovely Rachel Bilson), although reaffirming their rapport so quickly seems rather forced for the sake of the narrative, and the speed with which they jet off to Rome is only less ridiculous than the speed with which they remove their clothes and rekindle their love. Warning; you may wish to place your fingers in your ears at this point in the film, for the soundtrack at this point declines into a dire, saccharine, bubble-gum pop effort.

    The film does spend too long indulging in David’s fancies with Millie, yet it eventually slams into gear as Griffin (Jamie Bell), a fellow jumper, shows up as Hayden's unwilling sidekick. Unfortunately, once he is introduced, Liman throws us headlong into another caper, in which David must extricate himself and Millie from another scrape, a scrape caused by nothing more than David’s own romantic stupidity. Flawed characters are welcome, but at this stage, David is something of a boob. Furthermore, Bilson's character, whilst eye-pleasing, serves as little more than a means of filling the gaps of silence. She is another obstacle in moving the plot forward, and her moments of drama with Christensen are among the film's worst.
    Jumper is not exactly an insult to the viewer's intelligence, but it goes through a number of unnecessary motions that, from the trailer alone, if not because of its predictability, we know are acts of misdirection. At least in one instance, the misdirection is fortunately brief, yet the globetrotting, investigative aspect of the film is nowhere near as exciting as Liman would like it to be.

    Things eventually come to a head, yet the issue of how the baddies can constantly catch up to the Jumpers is not even suggested until it is required to drive the plot forward towards the final battle, and thus feels pretty convoluted. The finale, however, is an appropriately overblown endeavour, with insane thrills and spills, yet Liman feels the need to intercut it with the emotional dramas of our protagonist, which most viewers simply won't care about, and likely be irritated by. Characters dart about with the frenetic pace of a computer game, yet I must wonder whether too much time is spent considering the struggle between good and good, rather than good and evil.

    For a villain, Jackson‘s screen time is frustratingly limited. Christensen’s character spends about as much time fighting his supposed ally as he does Jackson, although watching the film, you'd never guess that Bell and Christensen are in league.

    As frantic as the final battle is; it is all too brief, and things end in an unsatisfactory manner; little is resolved, much is left unanswered, and nothing about its close is inventive. Jumper had a novel concept; it had the traction to become a superior superhero film, and whilst it was helmed by the man who set the foundations of the Bourne series, and the director of Go, it also came from the man who brought us Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and it is about as decidedly average as that film. Jumper is by no means a bad film; it is decent, it is even well-performed by the uniformly bland Christensen, yet Jackson is never used to his full potential, nor is the entire concept upon which the film is based.

    Rating: 5/10

    The Air I Breathe (2007, Jieho Lee)

    In what is one of the lower key releases of 2008, The Air I Breathe, the feature length debut of Jieho Lee, breaks life down into four cornerstones; happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love, with an actor and their scenario representing each.

    The Air I Breathe is an art film by all standards, and more importantly, it is a materially strange outing. Its feel is very much that of something that goes direct-to-DVD or TV, although its star power (rather than its quality of performances, which is surprisingly bland) elevates it above that. Quite naturally, some (this critic included) will find its supposedly thoughtful, meditative approach alienating, overbearing, or even pretentious; yes, its opening quote is over-complex, yet the main plot strands are anything but complex. The four scenarios are exceedingly simple on a superficial level; the characters are cut-outs, and none more than Garcia's gangster character, but the picture is less concerned with the depth of its characters and more with what they symbolise. It appears that the film paints its narrative in narrow, simplistic strokes; the stories are simple, but only to allow the viewer to concentrate on what they mean, and what meditations the film is forming, although quite what they are is anyone’s guess.

    Simple the stories are, although that in no way restricts their scale; the opening story, “Happiness” (performed by Forest Whittaker), quickly descends into an overblown, surreal venture that never quite convinces, and doesn't seem to make much of a point at all. At this point, there is always the hope that the dots would connect as the film progresses, but even if this were to be true (and it is not), can it justify sitting through what are essentially four films protracted into diluted, rushed 20-minute segments? The speed at which the opening narrative changes from a man down on his luck to the same man embroiled in a police chase whilst riding a pizza bike is not only ridiculous, but overstated. Subtlety is overrated, but in this instance, in a meditation, it is preferable, if not necessary.

    If "Happiness" is Falling Down-lite, then "Pleasure", starring Brendan Frasier, is Final Destination-lite mated it with Eastern Promises-lite. Frasier's character has the curious ability to see the future, and quite what it has to do with pleasure is never made in the least bit clear. It is as the second proverb finds its resolution that the film begins to lose its credibility; one character undergoes an unconvincing, life-changing personality transplant that feels entirely forced.

    The third story, “Sorrow”, personified by Sarah Michelle Gellar, makes considerably greater sense than the ones that preceded it; the character’s existence quite clearly befits her name, and whilst the opening scene in which she is interviewed is well thought out, the part all too-quickly diverges to a violent, compromising flashback, returning the picture to the overwrought tone of the previous facets. As with the previous parts, it relies too much on conventional, and more to its detriment, soap opera-esque plot threads which, even if the film were to contain something thoughtful within it, degrade the film's integrity nevertheless.

    This third chapter suffers from the same disorientating editing, Saw-esque style as the previous portions, yet the subject matter of this portion is a considerably more mature and disturbing exploration of the human condition than the previous two, and thus, is infinitely more watchable. The third chapter's closing moments are so rudimentary, however, that one is driven to consider whether The Air I Breathe is, in fact, a film with its tongue rooted firmly in its cheek. Even if the film could be considered more parody then serious consideration, the film is still a slew of unashamedly, unnecessarily brash and mean-spirited moments. I would never normally decry violence or swearing, yet when a film seems to say as little as The Air I Breathe, all of its melodrama just seems to provide an excuse for the film's cast to shout, swear, screw, and kill.

    The film's final entry, “Love” (characterised by Kevin Bacon), is the most worthy of the four simply because of its frenzied performance from Bacon. He immerses himself in the melodrama of the situation, and is accompanied along the way by a brief appearance by the wonderful Julie Delpy. The final installment asserts that The Air I Breathe is, without doubt, entirely tongue-in-cheek; it simply is not possible that someone could craft something this melodramatic with the intention of being serious. The conclusion of the final chapter is only mildly more tolerable in that it isn't so nihilistic and downbeat, yet it still relies on certain conventions that are entirely unnecessary and ancillary to the narrative, such as attempting to link the four stories together. If anything, "Love" presents to us the one thoroughly likeable character in the entire film (Bacon's character), yet otherwise, falls victim to the same trappings as the other segments.

    The Air I Breathe had extreme promise, with a competent cast and the intrigue of a rich, thoughtful premise. However, it is instead is one of the rare examples of the "bad art film"; it is a confused film with muddled direction (in both senses); it is also overwrought and melodramatic to the point of lunacy, and simply as a film, is seemingly pointless as food for thought, or even as mere entertainment. For a superior film of similar ilk, watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, or Paul Haggis’ Crash.

    Rating: 4/10


    Sorry for the delay.

    Oh, I forgive you, LPK.

    Talk about a thread kill...anyways...

    Name of Film: The Orphanage (2008, Juan Antonio Bayona)

    When I say The Orphanage is one of the creepiest films that you'll see for a while, allow me to qualify it by filling you in. I'm not easily scared - in fact, it's been absolutely ages since I've been properly scared by a film. Truth be told, the last film that truly had me creeped out was Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone. So it would be appropriate that The Orphanage has Del Toro's grubby little fingerprints all over it.

    So what you have here is a ghost story - note, not horror film – about a woman, Laura, who returns to the now abandoned orphanage that she spent her childhood in, planning to re-open it to the world. But when her son Simón starts playing with seemingly all-to-real imaginary friends, he vanishes not too long afterwards. Laura, in her desperate bid to find her son, is then pitted against the orphanage itself, and its might-be-real-might-not-be inhabitant. There are other nuances to the story, but to go into them would spoil the experience somewhat. Suffice to say, it’s an absolutely fantastic story, and importantly, it’s never sacrificed in favour of churning out scary or gruesome moments.

    Not that it doesn’t lack scary moments; in fact, it’s positively teeming with scary imagery and incredibly creepy bits that will have you pressed against the back of your seat. It’s all excellently moderated by director Juan Antonio Bayona, holding together his debut feature film with a veteran’s steady hand. From one sequence which sees no visual scares, but rather opts for some spine-tingling audio as a medium wanders about the rooms of the orphanage, to another that bears the dubious honour of being the movie’s sole piece of viscera, it’s all beautifully shot, wonderfully scary, and yet somehow never lets you forget what’s going on in the story.

    Interestingly, there’s very sparse use of CGI – with the focus being more on physical effects over the digital. Just like its use of proper scares instead of buckets of gore, this lack of CGI is incredibly refreshing in this genre, almost like it’s trying to hark back to the days of great, truly chilling horror films that stuck with you for days. What it does is serve to ground the film in reality, and that makes it all the more scary.

    The film is grounded further by some startlingly good performances, not just by the core cast, but also by the supporting players. Belen Rueda brings a sort of angular urgency to her role as Laura, making it seem all the more real, with the looks of fear on her craggy, infinitely expressive face managing to transplant some of her terror onto the audience. Roger Princep is also fantastic, bringing a real child-like glee to the doomed – in more ways than one – Simón; his expressive eyes telling tales that some veteran actors fail to even think about putting across. The supporting performance than springs almost instantly to mind is that of Geraldine Chaplin – playing the aforementioned medium in the film’s most chilling sequence; her performance laden with gravity that transcends the language barrier until you actually not only start to see why Laura believes what she says, but almost start believe it yourself.

    What’s more, there’s no true happy ending to this film, and that is a testament to not only Del Toro’s involvement, but also to the lack of any Hollywood studio execs intervening under the delusion that people want a bunnies and flowers happy ending. Instead, it finishes on a beautifully tragic note, and even I – being somewhat stalwart when it comes to movies and crying – had a tear rolling down my cheek. If it fails to affect you, you almost certainly left your soul in the cinema foyer.

    The Orphanage – or El Orfanato, if we’re getting pretentious – is an absolutely extraordinary film, defying today’s horror conventions to create a film that will chill you to the very core, yet somehow leave you feeling bizarrely uplifted by the absolutely wonderfully told story and the gorgeously sad ending. See it, shake off the chills, then see it again.

    Rating Out of 10: 9

    Heya! Can I please join?!?!
    Finally people who actually want to talk about more than lame acting or the superb sideburn the lead actor has!! :rolleyes:

    Thanks! Really appreciate it! :tsr2:

    Name of Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008, Steven Spielberg)

    So, 2008 has rolled around, and 18 years after the last one, a brand, spanking new Indy film arrives at our cinema screens. What a wait, and totally worth it - more or less...

    To summarise the story would probably be to tell you everything you've already read online - but let's go over it any way, mainly to get my word count up! Indy's been shot forward in real time, and it's the late 1950's. World War II's been and gone, and the cold war is now well under way. Unfortunately, Indy's neck deep in it, having been captured by the Soviets and smuggled into a secret location, where they attempt to force him to help in their schemes.

    From the get go, it's immediately obvious that there's going to be at least some divergence from the standard Indy formula. Most obviously - and actually, it's the sole divergence - is it's general theme. Whist previous Indy films have taken a more semi-religious fantasy approach, this one seems content to take a vaguely sci-fi one, although there are still semi-religious overtones to it that keep it in line with the first three movies.

    Not that this is a bad thing. The story fits in rather well with the over-arching theme of increasingly ridiculous plots as the saga moves forward. Although to be quite honest, the plots passed and waved goodbye to ridiculous a long time ago - that's part of what makes them entertaining, they're pure escapism. It does devolve into deus ex machina towards the end of the movie, but this doesn't detract from the whole experience.

    Harrison Ford is once again fantastic as Indy, who - a few creaky acting moments at the beginning of the film aside - is still the hero we know and love. But at the same time, Ford and screenwriter David Koepp subtly change him - he's older, wiser, and unfortunately, a little slower than he used to be. Doesn't stop him from applying a spade to someone's face, but it's still there and it makes for an interesting experience. This is a hero who's past his glory day - think Batman in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns - but still has a few cracks of the whip left in him. Ironically, this is also literally true, the trusty bullwhip only seeing use twice at the start of the film, and then languishing on Indy's hip for the rest of it like an over-paid extra.

    Shia LaBoeuf is solid as the young buck that Indy's newfound oldness plays off - with LaBoeuf displaying the easy comedy that made him a fantastic foil for Michael Bay's Hulking Robots™. The references that his character Mutt bring to light - namely to today's pop culture references to the 1950's - is a particularly inspired piece of meta-surrealism. Particularly welcome, though, is Karen Allen, reprising her role of Marion Ravenwood from Raider's of the Lost Ark; and she too is older and wiser. Again, Allen takes a little while to warm up - and considering how late in the film she is introduced, this is something of a hindrance to the pacing - but once her and Ford are bantering back and forth as they're tied up in the back of a speeding Russian truck, you can't help but smile with unbridled joy.

    Other famous faces pop up - Cate Blanchet chews, crunches and spits out scenery left right and centre as the primary antagonist. Ray Winstone is Indy's mate from the second Great War and delivers a trademark performance that, whilst good, still doesn't feel like much more than a way to make Indy's journey that much trickier. Criminally under-used, however, is John Hurt - his dry wit and watery voice more or less wasted on the bat-**** bonkers Harold Oxley; although he still brings a few moments of genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy to the character.

    But the thing that I enjoyed most about Indy 4 is that Steven Spielberg has remembered exactly how to make an Indiana Jones movie. To say that they were my favourite movies growing up would be a massive understatement - and an even larger cliché - so the fact that this is the case is particularly pleasing. Everything from the wit and charm of the dialogue to the over-the-top sound effects, slightly shoddy special effects and the absolutely bonkers stunts - everything simply rings true of the first three movies. He's remembered that the Indy films are B-movies that are pretending to be A-list - that they're just pure entertainment and nothing more, and what's here is a truly magnificent achievement: a movie that is truly worthy of your attention.

    Rating Out of 10: 8

    Ok, four months without a review. Here we go; exams and essays done, results are awesome, time to get back to it (and update my review site *cough*pluginsignature*cough*).

    Pathology (2008)

    The opening scene of Marc Schoelermann’s Pathology evidently sets the tone for the film’s 92 remaining minutes – a pantomime acted by cadavers is juxtaposed with a reminder of the Hippocratic oath, in a grisly thriller best described as a cross between Flatliners and Saw.

    Pathology’s protagonist is brilliant young resident doctor Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia), who enrols in one of America’s most prestigious pathology programs, where he meets a band of similarly deft residents. However, the leader of the pack, Dr. Jake Gallo (Michael Weston), soon ensnares him in a deadly game, in which the doctors attempt to construct the perfect murder technique, testing their hypotheses on the contents of the hospital’s morgue cabinet.

    Ventimiglia’s character is sorely undeveloped from the outset, yet tension still manages to effectively build around him. The other doctors in the gang are of incredibly prickly dispositions, and even though we know what’s coming, the tease before the fall is both fun and welcome. Moreover, these characters merely serve to animate the screen, yet their demeanours never allow us to get comfortable, even if their “bond” with Grey is skimmed over at considerable pace.

    Through his own drunken follies (although ones which should have been escapable), Grey becomes trapped by Gallo, and is forced to aid him in attempting to create a murder with a modus operandi undetectable by even the greatest young medical minds. Gallo is the most developed of the film’s ancillary characters, yet even at the film’s end, little is concrete about him – he makes the occasional moral consideration (that those he kills are purportedly not going to be missed), but largely appears to be motivated by little more than indulgent over-curiosity.

    Once the “game” is instigated, the film’s plot moves forward rather swimmingly, although it does feel slightly rushed (thanks largely to the short running time). There aren’t as many confrontations throughout as one may expect, which causes the gravity of Grey’s situation to never fully cement with the viewer. I found myself wondering why Grey didn’t alert the authorities at the first instance (even despite the fact that Gallo has a body of evidence held over him), and so his conformity is not wholly convincing.

    As the game truly takes hold, the film transforms from a simply creepy and intriguing little tale, to an orgiastic, drug-addled affair. The challenges become more complex, and naturally the suspicion begins to pile on, no more than from Grey’s long-distance girlfriend, Gwen (Alyssa Milano), leading to a brutal climax with its fair share of surprises.

    The characterisation in Pathology is a real curiosity – it is difficult to place Ventimiglia’s character among the film’s moral stratum (ranging from depraved to less-depraved), and it is rather difficult to either like or sympathise with him, given his own willing indulgence in much of the extra-curricular behaviour. His colleagues are similar paradoxes, although the fact that they often pontificate and wax moral before returning to their sadistic status quos suggests that sheer insanity is the most likely cause.

    The net gets extremely tight as the film progresses, although as above, it is difficult to empathise at all with a man with the title “Dr.” who makes so many asinine mistakes. The intrigue and quiet excitement of the first act returns in the third, with an explosive change of tides. One event in particular is rather preposterous and overblown (you’ll know it when you see it), yet it is an acceptable diversion given the devastating events that follow. There is, regrettably, one shoddily acted scene of faux emotion, which is fortunately followed by the most sincerely emotional scene to feature viscera that you’ll ever see in a film.

    The film’s climax is certainly satisfying – it is, again, entirely over-the-top, and Pathology’s close is jarringly abrupt, yet the former appeals to the film’s gritty sensibilities, and the latter befits the film’s clinical, close-edged nature. Pathology feels B-movie-esque in the most delightful way – it is a messy affair with cartoon characters, although lacks an identifiable protagonist (which is no fault of Ventimiglia, who turns in a decent performance). The film may as well be a gore-soaked duel between Ventimiglia and Weston, because the film’s other characters are of little consequence, yet pad out the narrative appropriately.

    Pathology is a comfortable medium between the relentless blood-letting of Saw and the reserve of studio-constrained thrillers. It is at least superficially intelligent, and stands a comfortable distance from being labelled “torture porn”, yet has enough disembowelment to satisfy fans of blood and guts.

    Rating: 7/10


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