Leave No Trace

Viewed – 23 January 2019  online-rental

I’d only heard about this movie as being worth a watch after watching a top ten of 2018 run down by respected British movie critic Mark Kermode, and as I often like many of the movies he recommends, I thought I’d give it a shot.  This gently-paced father and daughter drama follows a troubled man (the often brilliant Ben Foster) as he attempts to live in the wilderness of a vast national park with his young daughter (newcomer Tomasin McKenzie).  However soon the authorities intervene and attempt to re-intricate them back into normal society, raising questions regarding the young girl’s welfare.

Leave No Trace

Immediately this is a very convincing depiction and I quickly began to care for the two principle leads and wanted them to be allowed to live however they wished.  After all they seemed happy in each other’s company and caring for each other’s wellbeing. However as the movie progressed  I learnt more and began to also question how they were living, and that had me glued to see how things might turn out.  Director Debra Granik has delivered a story (based on a book) that is both moving and heart-breaking primarily down to very believable performances.  I’d also hazard a guess that other characters in the movie were played by real people as themselves for that added authenticity … and it works very well indeed.  I should also mention that the cinematography on show, whilst not flashy and more documentary-style is at times beautiful.

Yes, I’d have liked for a few more things to happen; a bit more danger or repercussions and that pace is tough at times … but as a movie that gets you thinking and questioning your principles, I have to recommend this one.

Verdict:  4 /5

Hell or High Water

Viewed – 24 January 2016  online rental

Toby and Jake, two brothers join forces to commit a series of robberies on the same branch of banks foreclosing on their family’s land, in the wake of their mother’s death.  Along the way the robbers attract the attention of a world-weary, near-retirement Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges).


I’ve always been a fan of bank robbery movies, crooks on the run etc. and this confident and eye-catching thriller certainty appealed.  Add to this Jeff Bridges, one of my all time favourites and we have a recipe for success, right?  Well with a trio of solid turns this fun escapade thriller certainly entertained.  Ben Foster, one of those actors you know from several movies but may not know his name plays Jake, the more unhinged of the brothers whilst Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine is the more kindly Toby, estranged from his kids but trying to seek out a better future for them … yeah by robbing banks.  Despite first impressions, he’s no angel either (but damn do women swoon after him!).  For the most part this ticks all the necessary boxes; a likable due of criminals, a seasoned, wise-cracking Ranger and the backdrop of the Texas outback complete with sun-drenched vistas and oddball locales (the steak lady).  I was especially surprised by the often fun banter between the brothers and the Ranger and his partner which made for more human characters than I was expecting.  Oh and how many Breaking Bad actors can you spot?

Jeff BridgesHowever, I did get a feeling of déjà vu whilst watching this, which is no bad thing really … but the movie is clearly a homage to such movies like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which only caused the plot to get predictable rather quickly.  It also doesn’t help that Bridge’s increasing inability to form easy-to-understand dialogue rears it’s head often making each scene he’s in a little distracting.  Thankfully Pine & Foster are on brilliant form with Foster especially stealing the show with perfect, bad-boy elder brother charisma throughout.

It may not do anything all that clever, perhaps wearing it’s cliches with honour.  Despite such things though, I still had a ball with this and reckon you might also.

Verdict:  4 /5


The Beginning

Viewed – 18 October 2016  Online-rental

I went into this fairly blind, other than seeing the trailer a couple of times and thinking … hmm, looks fun.  You see, I never played the long-running MMORPG PC game on which this takes it’s inspiration, and well sitting down to it I was presented with a colourful if unremarkable fantasy adventure movie.  The story has a race of Orcs who travel from their world which is apparently dying into the human world of Aseroth after their powerful wizard opens up a doorway powered by, it seems the souls of innocents.  At the same time we meet a conflicted Orc and his pregnant wife who don’t seem totally in approval of the wizard’s ways but follow him anyway.  Once in Aseroth the Orc race start attacking the humans in a bid to take over, which brings forth seasoned warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a reluctant mage and a powerful warlock ‘Medivh’ (Ben Foster) who must figure out a way of saving their world.


Adaptations of video games (or even computer games) have rarely gone well, with a couple of exceptions (Silent Hill, Tomb Raider?).  In the hand’s of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) however I was hoping for more.  Sadly we don’t get that.  This avalanche of hit-and-miss CGI and surprisingly wooden performances is only marginally helped by some exciting battle sequences and vaguely interesting character development especially from the conflicted Orc and a half-human, half-Orc female.  Yet this fails to really hold it’s head either alongside or above similar fair like The Hobbit or even Game of Thrones and is a little too pretty and safe.  Hardly any blood is shed for that family friendly rating and it really grates especially when the movie would have benefited from some gritty violence.  The final act does liven up proceedings, what with a magically animated ogre and some fun effects and tense showdowns.  However that can’t help a very weak story, a world I was left knowing very little about (it begs for an explanatory prologue) and characters only had a fleeting interest in.

Perhaps fans of the game will be spotting references and nods throughout for added fun, but anyone else should get their fantasy-adventure fix elsewhere.

Verdict:  2 /5

The Mechanic

Viewed – 03 February 2011  Cinema

Jason Statham has quickly become the go-to actor for tough guy action roles.  He was arguably the best thing in The Expendables and his The Transporter and Crank franchises are a great deal of fun – and he oozes charisma and screen presence.  So now we have him, not exactly playing against type as a seasoned hard-as-nails hitman who finds himself taking a young hoodlum under his wing and training him to be a professional killer like himself, in this remake of the little known Charles Bronson film.

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Viewed – 04 April 2010  Blu-ray

An astronaut wakes up after extended hyper-sleep only to discover he has no memory of who he is or where he is apart from a name on his sleep pod.  He soon awakens a fellow astronaut and together they come to the conclusion that whatever mission they were on, they’ll only find out by powering up the reactor and getting onto the bridge.  One problem though … as the ship is in a low power state, they’re only choice is to navigate air ducts and search the rest of the ship – but guess what?  It has become overrun by blood thirsty monsters, and soon a battle for survival is on.

This atmospheric if somewhat derivative sci-fi horror borrows heavily from better movies such as Alien and Event Horizon, but still has a few ideas and some quality action set pieces to be worthy of your time.  The cast including Dennis Quaid, a token sci-fi female bad-ass (Antje Traue) and an everyman likable lead (Ben Foster), amongst others are all credible and  interesting if under developed, and the monsters reminded me of a cross between the cave creatures from The Descent and the aliens in PS3 game Resistence: Fall Of Man.  Although the movie is called Pandorum, the central idea of paranoia and cabin-fever causing hallucinations and people turning against each other is only lightly explored, which is a shame, as I feel beyond the generic monster movie trappings, this could have been something a whole lot more interesting and more importantly scary – something a few jump scars don’t quite accomplish.  Also for the most part the movie is in dark and dreary cookie-cutter locations and lacks much of the eerie personality and set-design of the aforementioned Event Horizon – a movie this most closely resembles, if only to make you want to see that again instead.

Verdict:  3 /5