Gemini Man


Viewed – 10 March 2020 online rental

When a movie revolves around a technology gimmick I usually approach with caution and even in this age of amazing CGI I can still tell, especially with the currently in-vogue de-ageing tech as seen in Captain Marvel and The Irishman. Will Smith plays an assassin who yearns for retirement. However on the day he gets his wish a team of contract killers start hunting him down, and one of them bares an uncanny resemblance to his younger self.

When you’re your own worst enemy

Director Ang Lee throws together an action thriller that uses the technology well and mostly makes for a fun time. The story is fairly cliched but helped by charismatic turns from Smith and also the always likeable Mary Elizabeth Winstead. A motorbike chase early on is particularly exhilarating but mostly this focuses on character, with an interesting exploration of identity and morality. Clive Owen is also decent as Smith’s former mentor. Gimmicks like the hyped 60fps passed me by as I wasn’t sure if this rental was supporting it, and the de-aged Smith effect is about 50/50 when it comes to convincing and weird looking.

You may have come to this for Smith or the tech, but I was most impressed by the cinematography with several breath-taking locations that gave this a globe trotting Bond movie feel. However, with a lack of big set pieces, the movie couldn’t fall back on its story which lacks depth and feels a bit familiar. I’ve also seen such actor-in-a-scene-with-himself done better in movies like Dead Ringers over 30 years ago. Overall entertaining, occasionally thrilling and still another enjoyable turn from Smith in what appears to be his come back period.

Verdict: Good

Birds of Prey


Viewed – 18 February 2019

… and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Some of my favourite movies are pleasant surprises. I went into this with not very high expectations and you know what? I really enjoyed it. It’s a simple movie at heart; a diamond falls into the wrong hands, a pick pocket kid steals it causing bad guys to go hunting for her, whilst at the same time anti-hero Harley Quinn fresh off a break up with former boyfriend The Joker finds herself the target of cops and crooks.

The alternative Avengers?

Yeah I wasn’t here for the story either, but when you consider Margot Robbie’s Quinn was the only redeeming aspect of the mostly forgettable Suicide Squad, another crack of the whip with this off-kilter character I was certainly up for. She doesn’t disappoint, narrating and carrying the movie in a whirlwind showcase of the actress’s screen magnetism and comic timing. Add to this decent support from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an avenging assassin and especially Ewan McGregor having a ball as villain Black Mask, and with several stand out fights and action scenes … I was thoroughly entertained. For a mostly female lead vehicle it didn’t shove some feminist agenda down one’s throat either.

It’s plot and structure are a little messy, but the movie wisely plays with this as a representation of how Harley Quinn thinks. Rosie Perez seems a bit out of place though, and characterisation other than the lead is fairly basic. Yet with enjoyable dialogue, a goofy sense of humour and a memorable villain, this was far from the disaster some critics (and that disappointing box office) would have you believe.

Verdict: Recommended

10 Cloverfield Lane


Viewed – 16 August 2016  Online rental

I really liked Cloverfield, one of those hand-held shaky cam movies that are like marmite to some people … it was a tense, thrilling take on ye-old alien invasion plot and the prospect of a sequel although not something I expected, certainly appealed.  Then I was to learn that this movie bares very little resemblance or connection to that movie other than the word Cloverfield. So I suppose I went into this not really knowing what to expect.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) plays a woman seemingly running out on her boyfriend, but on route to wherever, is involved in a car crash – and soon wakes up in an underground bunker under the watchful eye of John Goodman’s ‘Howard’.  Howard’s a bit creepy though and fears she’s been kidnapped come immediately to mind until he starts saying the world has become contaminated and some sort of incident has occurred on the surface.

I liked this set up.  Claustrophobic, with just these characters for company.  Helped then that we get some strong performances, especially Goodman who drifts unnervingly between creepy, likeable and psychotic, leaving this viewer constantly trying to figure out his agenda.  Winstead is also very good and rather resourceful as a woman who clearly knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  However the movie stumbles a little in it’s characterisation … it deliberately vague about who these characters are which proves frustrating, especially as with Goodman you never know what to believe.  Also where the movie ends up going is particularly predictable even if the final scene proves quite thrilling.

Overall I had a good time with this.  It threw in some surprises (especially a bit involving a barrel), I enjoyed watching things play out and the tension was pretty thick at times.  I still have no clue what’s the significance of the word Cloverfield is though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Good Movie Remakes


Generally movie remakes have a bad name despite Hollywood’s insistence on making them.  However in my experience there are a few that while not always improving on the original, at least do a good enough job to be worth seeing, without insulting the memory of a classic.  Find below a few I personally have enjoyed.

Little Shop Of Horrors

littleshopofhorrors

Although not familiar with the Roger Corman original, this Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, John Candy starring musical is a riot … very memorable tunes and great practical effects.  I really need to watch this again… soon!

Evil Dead

evildead

Was really expecting this to just not get what made the original so good – but it ramped up the gore and violence to epic proportions, had a great cast and was scary … maybe not as tongue-in-cheek as the series is famous for, but still felt like an Evil Dead movie.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

texaschainsawmassacre

Am I alone in thinking this version rocks?  Tons of gore (which the original lacked, even though I know that wasn’t the entire point) a perfectly mad performance by R. Lee Ermey and a twenty something bunch of ‘victims’ you don’t immediately hate.

Miracle On 34th Street

miracle

Charming with a great performance by Richard Attenborough.  A star making turn by the where is she now Mara Wilson (see also Mathilda).  Haven’t seen original but this was a perfect Christmas treat.

Heat

heat

Am I cheating by including this?  A deserved genre classic with a (possible) career best from both Pacino and DeNiro, and yes it’s a remake of TV movie L.A. Takedown.

The Assassin (aka Point of No Return)

theassassin

Perhaps sacrilege to remake Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, and another I think I’m alone in loving.  I had a major crush on Bridget Fonda in this… but its a competent thriller with several decent performances, including a cameo by Harvey Keitel that’s worth seeing!

Piranha 3D

piranha3d

Breasts and naked skinny-dipping porn stars aside, this has gore by the bucket and a fast energetic pace that makes for one of the most fun horror movies in a long while.  Director Alexandre Aja cements his reputation as the go to guy for horror remakes!  (see also: The Hills Have Eyes).

Scarface

Scarface

Easy one this.  Not seen the original but with a powerhouse performance by Al Pacino and that line ‘say hello to my little fiend’ this took a basic blue print and seriously went to town with it!

The Thing

thething

This shouldn’t have worked, but with a strong lead by the mouth-watering Mary Elizabeth Winstead  and half decent and freaky CGI, as well as all the atmosphere the original had (ok this is technically a prequel…but it still counts…I think), this really surprised me.

I am starting to think that although they get the worst press, horror remakes have got it right a fair few times going by the list above.  That’s just my opinion though and you may differ.  So what would your choices be?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


Viewed – 19 January 2013 Blu-ray

OK, this is immediately a bizarre concept, but stick with me.  A young Abraham Lincoln witnesses his mother get killed by a local businessman who turns out to be a vampire.  Abe vows revenge and as he grows into an adult, befriends a vampire hunter whilst at the same time building his reputation as a politician – which I’m sure you’ll have grasped, leads him to The White House.

abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter-13428-1920x1200

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) this is a very stylish and highly entertaining vampire action-horror. As should be expected by a movie from the Russian visionary, the action is incredibly imaginative, adrenaline fuelled and at times utterly bonkers – but realism isn’t the point here, and despite clever implementation of historical events such as the battle of Gettysburg, this remained pure escapist cinema of the highest order.  Title star Benjamin Walker handles the material well despite lacking much charisma or screen presence beyond the Lincoln attire, and the gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead is as likable as always even when in aged make-up. Rufus Sewell also makes for a credible, creepy villain.

Yes it gets a bit mad at times, with Bekmambetov’s ideas threatening to overwhelm (a horse stampede parkour sequence??), and its an idea that really shouldn’t work. Yet if you cast your rational thinking and knowledge of American history aside – it just does … and then some. A firm recommendation.

Verdict: 4 /5