Cop Car

Viewed – 27 October 2015  Online rental

Every now and then a movie comes along that really surprises.  This fairly low key and under-publicised Kevin Bacon vehicle (no pun intended) follows two run-away ten year old boys who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned police squad car.  With nobody else around, the two troublesome friends decide to take it for a joy ride, unaware that shady Sherriff Kevin Bacon is not far away and hell bent on getting his transport back.


With the dusty baron wasteland of what looked like Arizona as it’s setting, this is a great idea for a simple, straight forward cat and mouse thriller.  Bacon as expected is on fine form; fresh from his excellent turn in now defunct TV series The Following, he’s lost none of that presence that has always made him so watchable.  Once again here he handles a creepy, dangerous character with ease.  The two young actors playing the boys (James Freedson-Jackson & Hays Wellford) were also convincing, despite moments of alarming stupidity (let’s play with a loaded rifle!).  It’s difficult to go into this without giving away several twists and surprises, so I’ll conclude by saying – director Jon Watts has filled this simple but effective movie with nail biting situations, solid performances and a swift pace, peppered with some well implemented dark humour.

A welcome breath of fresh air in an increasingly unimaginative medium.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Jurassic World

Viewed – 20 October 2015  Online rental

I never got around to seeing Jurassic Park 3, I think the reason why was that by the time it came out, I was pretty burnt out of my fascination with dinosaurs, and the second film, The Lost World didn’t entirely blow me away.  Although I do regard the original as a classic.  So after a long break, the prospect of a new movie in the franchise was finally appealing again, even if I missed this at the cinema.


Hot off his star-making turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt plays a former Naval officer turned park ranger at an all new, very successful and open to the public ‘Jurassic World’.  He could be what you might call a Dinosaur-whisperer, with a close bond with a pack of Velociraptors.  Lauding it over him is the park’s manager, Bryce Dallas Howard, a blunt, money-minded career woman and sort-of love interest to Pratt.  Her day to day routine is complicated however by the arrival of her nephews, just as the park is about to unveil their latest attraction – a hybrid dinosaur cloned from various different species.

JurassicI’d heard some mixed things about this, and agree it lacks some of the awe and wonder of the original.  Also Chris Pratt, so charismatic and funny in ‘Galaxy whilst still very likeable proved less fun than expected.  Yet the movie’s characters all go on a journey of sorts and develop as time passes, most notably Bryce Dallas Howard.  Initially too the nephews were like walking clichés but became much more interesting after a while.  Add to this an immediately more perilous setting with thousands of lives in danger as the (inevitable) shit hits the fan, and I was quickly transported back to the feel and the adrenaline that worked so well back in the day.  This was so much more than just another sequel and you can tell the writers and production team wanted to make a film both worthy of the name and worthwhile after such a long gap.  They succeeded.  The action is exhilarating, the new ideas bring the concept to life and when you get the dinosaur action, it’s at times shocking, intense and epic.

Familiarity does the movie a bit of a disservice in places and some attempts at humour fall flat, but with solid performances and excellent CGI (bar a couple of obvious green screen bits) this really was a lot better than it might have been.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

San Andreas

Viewed – 13 October 2015  Online rental

I can’t say I’ve been all that drawn to Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson as a movie star and was never into American Wrestling.  However this disaster action flick seemed like an easy choice for an evening’s entertainment, and hell – isn’t The Rock in everything these days?

San Andreas

He plays a Helicopter rescue officer who becomes embroiled in the search for his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and teenage daughter after a series of devastating earthquakes rumble through California.  In the grand tradition of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich this is primarily an excuse for effects wizards to really go to town as we witness mass destruction, sky scrapers toppling and the hoover dam bursting … all done with some impressive CGI and excellent set design.  It’s glossy, loud, intense and very exciting as we watch various individuals try and survive an event that is literally tearing the west coast of the united states apart.  It wasn’t hard to get caught up in the story either, with The Rock harbouring regretful memories following the collapse of his marriage, and having to watch his wife move in with another guy (a slimy Ioan Gruffudd).  Yet this is also where the story starts to get rather familiar.

San Andreas 2Yes this is pretty clichéd stuff, the troubled hero trying to piece his family back together and it takes a cataclysmic event for him to realise what he’s missing.  Also we get some awful stereotypes such as the typical Hugh Grant-like English lad who is clearly going to be a love interest for the (predictably) hot daughter.  Add to this a scientist (Paul Giamatti) who nobody listens to at first (he may as well be Jeff Goldbum), and some very predictable near-miss almost deaths and – despite plenty of energy and quality effects – I was entertained but not at all surprised.  It also get’s pretty crazy towards the end (that cruise ship bit…).    Yet although failing to re-write the disaster movie rule book, and sticking a bit too rigidly to formula … for a solid two hours entertainment – I’d still say this is worth a watch.  Oh and, The Rock wasn’t bad either.

Verdict:  3 /5

Run All Night

Viewed – 25 August 2015  Online-rental

When Liam Neeson defied expectations and proved a credible action star in the breakout hit Taken, I couldn’t wait to see what would come next.  However what we did get were a series of thrillers that all seemed to come from the same blueprint, delivering entertainment of rapidly deteriorating quality … Taken’s own sequels a prime example.


However I came to this fairly well reviewed revenge thriller with a degree of optimism because well, Neeson is still a solid screen presence and with the right script can really deliver the goods.  Sadly then this wasn’t the case here.  Neeson plays a down on his luck mobster, estranged from his son and still hanging out with his gangster friend Ed Harris.  Yet one night Ed Harris’ loose-cannon son gets in a sticky situation with some Albanian drug dealers and is soon involved in murder – that get’s witnessed by Neeson’s limousine driver son.  Neeson then has to protect his only son from this unhinged hoodlum that he’s forced to kill, which pisses off old friend Harris – and so sets forth a night of retribution and well, a lot of running.

Slightly convoluted story aside, the concept here is decent, and the performances, especially Harris and Neeson are not bad.  RoboCop remake’s Joel Kinnaman is also passable as Neeson’s clean-cut son … but the big let down here is the direction from usually commendable Jaume Collet-Serra (the underrated ‘Unknown’ and cult classic ‘Orphan’).  He chooses to shoot the whole movie like a rapidly edited pop-video that really didn’t suit the gritty, realistic tone and spoils pretty much every attempt at a good moment.  A car chase is dizzying and just not enjoyable to watch.  Shoot outs get tiresome very quickly, and even quiet character moments are awash with camera angles that don’t stay in one place for more than a second.  The writing is also pretty lazy and get’s rather silly at times just to help the plot along (leave the hit man alive?  Really??).

Some plot elements like how Neeson won’t let his son fire a gun and the father / son bonding or the friendship between Harris and Neeson, helped give the movie some depth – and in better hands, could have made for much more memorable fair (Michael Mann comes to mind, considering we get a steal of Heat’s famous coffee shop scene).  But no, this was just sloppy style for the sake of sloppy style, that took any potential and ruined it.

Verdict:  2 /5

The Gift

Viewed – 13 August 2015  Cinema

Jason Bateman for as long as he’s been around, has never really been the sort of actor that guarantees bums on seats.  He’s been known for TV sitcoms like Arrested Development and a wealth of comedy movies such as Horrible Bosses.  Yet I’ve always liked him and always look forward to seeing him in stuff.  This latest thriller has him as a successful business man who has recently moved into a nice up-market neighbourhood with his beautiful wife (Rebecca Hall).  The perfect little life, until that is an old school friend bumps into him one day and gradually starts muscling his way into their lives.  Gordo (Joel Edgerton) seems nice, normal if a little awkward and pushy, but mostly harmless – or is he?

the gift 2

Classic psychological thriller territory for sure, think The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Single White Female etc. and you’ll get the idea.  However this has a stand out performance from Bateman, who shows a depth and complexity to his character I wasn’t expecting.  Also Edgerton as Gordo (who also directs) is perfectly strange and mysterious and possibly psychotic – but balances the uncertainty well.  The GiftThe movie mostly focuses however on Hall’s character who is vulnerable and troubled, with a past hinting at something that went wrong (possibly a miscarriage) between the couple and how the new home is a new start.  I enjoyed this as it played with genre conventions, threw in a few excellent jump-scares and kept me guessing.

It’s fairly safe in it’s concept and certainly could have elaborated more on things with the odd flash back, as I came away still asking questions about these characters.  There was also potential for the story to go to much darker depths.  But these are small gripes and overall The Gift was a gripping and well written thriller that surprised and entertained in equal measure.

Verdict:  3.5 /5