Dark Waters


Viewed – 18 July 2020 online rental

Following a series of unexplained cattle deaths on a farmer’s land in West Virginia, an attorney becomes involved in a case of chemical pollution and cover up that has him go up against a powerful and respected corporation that threatens his career and his health. Based on a shocking true story of the life-threatening chemical ‘c-8’ found in Teflon amongst other products, this follows the fifteen year battle against a seemingly untouchable industry giant.

sticking it to the man…

Mark Ruffalo, these days best know for playing Bruce Banner / The Hulk in The Avengers, is perfectly cast and delivers one of his best performances. I really got behind his character’s passion and drive and Ruffalo hammered home every emotion. He is aided by the often underrated Anne Hathaway as his wife, who proves very convincing as a woman struggling to cope with her husband’s obsession. Also on hand is Tim Robbins (remember him?) and a bizarre-sounding Bill Pullman. This was fascinating, filled with detail and investigation. As more and more was uncovered, the more powerful and heart-wrenching the movie got and as it drew to it’s conclusion I was rather affected. Yes, it seems some companies really do think they’re above the law and are too big to answer for things that they do.

Director Todd Haynes has delivered a gripping movie with several strong performances that really made this viewer think. Also, despite the magnitude of the case, it was presented in an easy to follow story that rarely got bogged down in the details. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Insterstellar


Viewed – 08 August 2015  Blu-ray

Something is wrong with our planet, the fuel or food supplies are drying up and everyone is acting like the place is doomed.  Farmer and former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lives a quiet existence on a farm with his son and daughter, until following stories of a ghost in his daughter’s bedroom, Cooper discovers a communication signal hidden in the dust and various books falling from the shelves.  The strange anomaly leads them to follow co-ordinates one night that leads them to a secret underground NASA base.  Headed by Michael Caine, that’s where Cooper is then given the opportunity to return to space on a mission that just may be the answer to mankind’s future.

Insterstellar 1

Give it to director Christopher Nolan for tackling big ideas.  No stranger to presenting bold concepts to the viewer, as we saw in the dreamscape epic Inception, and this sci-fi drama is no different.  We get black holes, deep space, other dimensions and strange new worlds.  Yes McConoughey is boldly going where no man has gone before, and I was fully along for the ride.  He is supported well by Anne Hathaway as a scientist and fellow astronaut, and the ideas at play here were particularly fascinating, borrowing to a large extent from Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey but throwing in enoughInsterstellar 2 personality and visionary-wonder to stand on it’s own.  This is a stunning looking movie, Nolan using his various locations and his love of I-Max to wonderful effect, and various scenes just swept me up in their sheer majesty (the tidal wave…the ice planet etc.).  This is helped no end of course by Hans Zimmer’s at times intense and sweeping score.  Trust me watch this on a decent sized screen in surround sound and you’ll be blown away.

I can’t say I understood it all, and it get’s rather mind-boggling towards the end – in a good way.  Yet with a strong, emotional performance from McConoughey and good turns from Caine and also Jessica Chastain who turns up half way through, I really got a kick out of this.  It’s long at over two and a half hours, but it’s profound questions on humanity, love and life needed time to breathe, and so I can’t say I was bored one bit.  One of my ‘movies of the year’ without doubt.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Dark Knight Rises


Viewed – 02 August 2012  Cinema

How does one go about reviewing the biggest movie of the year?  In a summer that has seen several comic book characters take to the big screen, you would think the return of Batman would sit happily alongside the likes of Thor, The Hulk and Spidy.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Director Christopher Nolan (Inception) has crafted a trilogy that is not only a reinvention but also something that has never been done before in a comic-book adaptation.  These movies are darker, creepier and more ‘real’ than any other Bat outing, and at first they took me by surprise, and I wasn’t sure if I liked the new approach.  But something Nolan has done, is make not only Batman relevant again, but made the super-hero movie new and fresh and dare I say it, important to cinema as a whole.

This time around Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse and Batman hasn’t appeared for six years, following taking the rap for the murder of famed politician Harvey (Two-Face) Dent in the previous movie.  Yet a new threat lurks in the sewers, that of mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) and his gang of terrorists, who plan on taking over Gotham City and bringing it to its knees.  There is also a lithe cat-burglar willing to do anything to clear her name in the shape of Seline Kyle (Ann Hathaway) who of course is Catwoman in all but name.  Can a world-weary Bruce Wayne take on this new threat, or has he hung up his cowl for good?  I think we all know the answer to that one.

Nolan’s swan-song for the franchise is every bit the gritty, real-world thriller that came before, and in Tom Hardy’s utterly disturbing Bane we have a villain to (almost) rival the late Heath Ledger’s Joker.  Hathaway’s Catwoman seems more of an after-thought in comparison with barely any back-story and very little to her other than looking great in skin-tight spandex, but her performance still nails the sexy good-girl / bad-girl of the character well.  Bale’s Wayne/Batman is probably his best performance of the character yet, with much of the deep self-reflection of Batman Begins as well as the all out action hero of The Dark Knight.  Add to this a wealth of solid, expertly shot action sequences (the new ‘bat’ plane – “this is no car!” – awesome) and this makes for the boldest entry of the entire franchise.  The writing does get a little sloppy, with a few too many ‘huh?’ moments for my liking.  There is also a theatricality to some of the acting that could be seen as a bit OTT (Michael Caine).  Yet overall Christopher Nolan proves himself once again a skilled craftsman – and this still packed one helluva punch.

Verdict:  4 /5

RIO


Viewed – 10 February 2012  DVD

It would be easy to pass off many animated movies these days as simply more of the same, and although this likable entry has the same old themes, such as believing in yourself, fish out of water etc, it has enough comedy, lush visuals and all round ‘fun’ to make it worth your while.  Blu is a rare breed Macaw, who having been captured by poachers as a baby, soon becomes the pet of a young girl.  Over fifteen years they become inseparable.  Then one day a wildlife expert spots Blu and offers to take him and his owner to Brazil where he knows about a female Macaw, and if they hit it off, it could mean the saving of the species.  That is until a band of ruthless smugglers intervene.

From the guys behind the Ice Age movies, this is a vibrant and instantly enjoyable movie.  The voice acting, whilst nothing special adds personality, with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway delivering the goods as the two Macaws.  The relationship between Blu and his owner is pretty much the same as that seen in other movies such as Bolt, and as a story, it’s fairly predictable.  Thankfully the gag factor is more hit than miss and the increasingly entertaining situations (with a memorable carnival chase) mean it never gets tiresome, and support characters like a rapping bird voiced brilliantly by The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.AM. and a salivating bulldog, brought more than a few giggles my way.  The Rio de Janeiro setting is also gorgeous and enhances the whole movie, meaning that all in all – this is one to see.

Verdict:  4 /5

Havoc


Viewed – 30 August 2010  DVD

Anne Hathaway furthermore destroys that squeaky clean image that made her famous in teen comedies like The Princess diaries with this gritty urban drama following two bored young women, rebelling against their rich, privileged surroundings.  After a drug-fueled trip into the crime filled district of East L.A. ends with Hathaway’s boyfriend almost getting shot by a gang of Latino hoodlums, Hathaway and best friend Bijou Phillips (Hostel: Part II) find the lure of the neighbourhood appealing, but soon discover their thirst for danger comes at a price. 

Freddy Rodriguez plays the leader of the Spanish gang and brings some cool attitude to proceedings (even if the home boy posturing boarders on satire at times), and director Barbara Kopple offers a warts and all viewpoint on a subject that is all too familiar and well trodden.  Hathaway surprised me, delivering much of the sincerity and range showcased in the acclaimed Rachel Getting Married, and wasn’t (like Bijou too) afraid of getting naked either.  Yet this overly-familar movie (see: Thirteen) feels like just one of a crowd, with the Latino gangs portrayed stereotypically, with few redeeming features … and it would have been better if Rodriguez showed a little more humanity than the one-note thug he is becoming type-cast as.  It also plays things too safe, having little guts to show the true consequences of the two girls actions, therefore diluting the movie’s attempt at social commentary.

For style, a pumping soundtrack and some decent acting, this passes the time – but for me it lacked the balls to really deliver.

Verdict:  3 /5