The Hunger Games Catching Fire: A Quick Capsule Review

The Hunger Games Catching Fire: A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
The Hunger Games failed to excite me first time out, it’s Young Adult take on Battle Royale ended up being more Royale With Cheese. But oddly the sequel makes a much better job of it.  From it’s engaging characters, fantastic production design and larger than life performances, Catching Fire delivered where The Hunger Games failed.  Well worth a watch. 

Best Bit: The production design is amazing

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Rent

If you liked this try: Harry Potter Films (7/10); Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (5/10); Hunger Games (4/10)

Enders Game: A Quick Capsule Review

Enders Game: A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Sadly Enders Game promises a lot but delivers very little.  Except one moment. One moment that makes the WHOLE film worthwhile.  But aside from that it’s avareg performances, Harrison Ford mumbling and some nice effects which sadly a great film do not make.  It’s not terrible are there are worse ways to spend two hours but with Netflix’s at only £6.99 a month sadly they will always be something else better instead.

Best Bit: The twist

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Stream

If you liked this try: Thor 2 (8/10); Hungers Games 2 (7/10); The Day The Earth Stood Still 2008 (4/10)

Review: Riddick (DVD/BR)

Review: Riddick (DVD/BR)

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The Review: In 2000, a rather splendid sci fi film was released called Pitch Black,  made on a low budget, directed by David Twohy and featuring a then virtually unknown Vin Diesel, it  went on to become a sizable sleeper hit, spawning an animated spin off, a computer game and in 2004 – a sequel called The Chronicles of Riddick –  again featuring the gravel voiced Diesel and directed by David Twohy.

Now as far as the 2nd film goes  I must be one of the only people that really liked it, its a bit of an oddity to be sure, featuring baddies called Necromongers,  Judy Dench  as a transparent being called an Ethereal and some weirdness about a place called Underverse. Chronicles  played like a cross between Star Wars and Firefly, it was inventive, original, well made and action packed –but despite this , it was a critical and commercial disappointment and as a result the franchise looked dead and buried  –   however strong dvd sales and an on-going cult following, resulted in a third chapter getting the green light.

Released theatrically last year to relatively good box office, Riddick made its bow on dvd/blu ray last month and I’m happy to say that its not bad at all.

Plot wise – it picks up with Riddick being  double crossed by the Necromongers  and abandoned on a desolate backwater planet. Having no way to escape, he sends out a distress signal, which results in two teams of mercenaries arriving in the hope of capturing him and claiming the hefty bounty that is on his head. However, things soon take a rapid turn for the worst when Riddick and the mercenaries find them selves surrounded by a horde of fanged flesh eating creatures and have to concoct a desperate plan to get off the planet before they all end up on the menu.

Going back to basics, Riddick is a very much akin to Pitch Black, Diesel and Twohy seemingly abandoning the expanded universe of the 2nd film and focussing more on the man vs monsters theme that made the original so enjoyable.

Despite the low budget, the visual effects are impressive, the action is very well handled, there’s bags of blood, violence and swearing, and Diesel is once again suitably bad ass as the film’s seemingly indestructible Snake Plissken alike anti hero. On the negative side  – the plot bears far too much resemblance to Pitch Black and it has a somewhat sexist macho streak running through it that some may be offended by.

Diesel has recently stated on his Facebook page that, due the success of the film both at the cinema and on dvd, Universal have approached him to make a 4th entry in the series  – of this I would advise caution  as there is a danger of going to the well far too often  – the Riddick trilogy has certainly been popular – however its never done Star Wars levels of box office, and the 2nd film was seen by some as extremely silly an a bit of an epic failure when it was 1st released, plus one gets the feeling that the studio may well be indulging big Vin  so as to keep him signing on for more lucrative Fast and Furious sequels.

In my opinion this franchise  would be better served continuing on the small screen – more and more we are seeing big stars like Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi, Kevin Spacey and even Matthew McConaughey, making highly acclaimed top quality TV series – and there is no reason that their success cannot be replicated by Twohy and Diesel with the Riddick character, – as we have seen with the updated  Battlestar Galactica – good writing, interesting characters and fast paced action is a sure fire recipe for success – not only that  -apart from Doctor Who – there are no new space set TV series on the horizon at the moment  – so there is definitely a gap in the market.

So overall, I would certainly recommend Riddick –a bit daft but a good  solid Friday nights entertainment best enjoyed with a six pack and a takeaway.

 

Reviewed By: Will Strong 

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Review: The Colony (DVD/BR)

Review: The Colony (DVD/BR)

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The Review: The Colony is a surprisingly little sci-fi chiller that manages to step outside it’s budgetary limitations, ably assisted by a great central premiss and a top notch cast.

The story: Forced underground by the next ice age, a struggling outpost of survivors must fight to preserve humanity against a threat even more savage than nature.

Starring Laurence Fishburne and Biull Paxton, this movie is a mix between The Warriors, Mad Max, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. And lets face it, if your going to borrow from any movies they aren’t the worst ones by a long shot.  Okay so in being similar to these films does mean that for the most part the movie doesn’t have that many great original ideas BUT actually that B-Movie familiarity just adds to the enjoyment.

What it lacks in original ideas, it makes up for in the films scope and look.  The post apocalyptic frozen wasteland is superbly realised (bringing back memories of computer game Lost Planet) , with good convincing CGI for the films budget level.  When the action kicks in it’s well handled and overall, whilst the script does run out of steam in the third act, you are left fully satisfied.  It’s obvious that director Jeff Renfroe, who is usually conifer to smaller TV show budgets, enjoys the extra budget at play here and manages to ensure it all ends up on screen.

So overall, The Colony was actually one of my  surprises for 2013 (I caught it at a Festival last year) , a year which promised so much and mostly delivered very little.

Action packed,  scary & visually stunning… The Colony comes highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Phil Hobden

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Big Ass Spider: A Quick Capsule Review

Big Ass Spider: A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Not often do you get a film that so brilliant ‘does what it says on the tin’.  Welcoem then to Big Ass Spider a film about… well I think you can guess.  So cheesy dialogue, poor FX, Lloyd Kaufman cameo, mostly TV cast… it’s all here.  But you know what? It’s bloody good fun despite all that. Or maybe because of? Regardless this is a fun way to spend 90 mins.  It’s won’t linger much past the end credits but that’s not always a bad thing.

Best Bit: The opening. Actually quite brilliant.

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Stream

IMDB Rating: 

If you liked this try: Snakes On A Plane (7/10); Sharknado (6/10); Megladon (4/10)

Review: Doctor Who – Day Of The Doctor (TV)

Review: Doctor Who – Day Of The Doctor (TV)

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The Review: It’s fair to say that I haven’t been the greatest fan of modern Doctor Who. From a confidant start under the stewardship of Russell Davis and Christopher Eccleston, the show slowly fell under an odd spell of inconsistency, slipping from genius (Blink) to terrible ( River song). In fact I’ve given up on the show twice, only to be tempted back by the promise of greatest. But after the second half of season 7 I’d officially given up.

Then along came the trailer for 50th anniversary episode The Day Of The Doctor. It looked epic. It looked clever. It looked like the Doctor Who I enjoyed all those years ago. Then came short film The Night Of The Doctor…. retuning Paul McGann to the Tardis, adding that missing link between old and new Who and sending expectations through the roof. Surely The Day Of The Doctor couldn’t deliver… We’ll actually yes. In spades.

It stated shaky. A stupid stunt hanging Smith from the Tardis over Trafalgar Square had me reaching for the remote, as thoughts from all the worst bits of the Moffat era came flooding back  but remembering all Dalek  action in the trailer I stuck with it.  Glad I did.

The story involves a mystery at London’s National Gallery in the present day, as well as “a murderous plot” in Elizabethan England in 1562 and a look back at events that shaped the Doctor as we know him today.  Written by Executive producer and Head Writer Stephen Moffat, the episode teams up two of the three new Doctors (sorry captain grump Christopher Eccleston is absent)

The Day Of The Doctor is a rollicking good adventure. Not perfect by any measure, but with it’s mix of epic adventure and humour that has typified the best episodes of New Who it’s certainly up there with some of the best episodes.  At the heart of the episode is, of course, said teaming up of said Doctors and, as you would expect, this worked very well. Tennant and Smith sparkle on screen together, their bickering being a highlight of the show. But it’s the genius casting of Hurt that makes this episode a winner. Damaged & broken, Hurt brings the expected gravitas but when needed shows he can be just as witty as his younger counterparts.

After years of promise events of the oft mentioned Time War are finally addressed, which means lots of Gallifreyans, lots of Daleks and lots of explosions.  Which was rather nice. Alongside the return of the Rubber suited Zygon’s, and the need to celebrate a rather key milestone the danger was this episode could have been far too many nods back to the 50 years preceding in lieu of an actual story.  Thankfully, Moffat avoids that and throws in a more than a few twists and turns to boot.  And just a few nods back to the rich history of the show (not least a cameo from a very familiar face from the past as well as one that come Christmas we’ll get to see rather a lot of).  Even better we had no Jack Sparrow.  No Catherine Tate.  And no River Song.

Initial cynicism and low expectations aside, this is truly British pulp at it’s best.  Entertaining, silly and epic whilst managing to maintain a sense of fun and adventure.  For me this is the Best Who episode since Blink, certainly Smiths bets outing in the role, and one that (for now at least) has restored by rather dwindling faith in this classic of British institutions.

Well down Doctor Who.  Well done Mr Moffat.  Well done BBC.  Now.  Please.  Try not to fuck this up…

 

Reviewed By: Phil Hobden

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Review: Oblivion (Cinema)

Review: Oblivion (Cinema)

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Who’s a pretty bore, then? Joseph Krosinki, who wrote the seminal masterpiece Tron: Legacy writes and directs Oblivion – based, allegedly, off the source material of the same name. We learn during the end credits that this was a graphic novel.

And fittingly, Oblivion is what I would describe life as being if every film in the cinema till the end of time was written and directed by Kosinski.

It’s 2075, or something, about fifty years after a war that ended in nukes being deployed and levelling the Earth to rid ourselves of an attack by an alien force. A lot of what we know has now been submerged big time under a bunch of rubble, and only the tops of buildings now indicate where we are. We live in giant apartment blocks suspended in the sky – but most of us have sodded off to one of Saturn’s moons to live. Because we all know how that place has breathable atmosphere and stuff. Jack and his partner, Victoria, are a double-team partnership; she sits behind a giant iPad masquerading as a coffee table, directing Jack as he ventures to the Earth’s surface to repair drones. Or flying ED-209s, as I comically referred to them as during the film to my wife.

Turns out things are not as they seem: Jack has visions of his life pre mandatory memory wipe. Anyone who’s ever seen a film before knows something’s rotten in Denmark, and then Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman enter the film acting, as they do, as the film’s Morpheus and Trinity respectively.

I remember someone jokingly referring to this film as “live action WALL-E” (I forget who you are, sorry) but that’s a true statement. Instead of a robot cleaning up junk, we have Tom Cruise repairing ED209s. There’s no-one around. Until there are others around, and then it becomes even more excruciating.

Needless to say, the special and visual effects are ball-achingly good. Korsinski can shoot visual elements quite well. He needs to work on the story and script.
As I was sat there watching scene after scene of Cruise talking into his wrist or earpiece, and shortly after the midway point passed, I looked down at my phone – only fifty minutes had passed. Yeah, this is one of those films; where time runs slowly on screen than in real life.

Here’s the biggest issue I have with the film: you may recall a movie starring Audrey Tatou called “Coco Before Chanel” which, for all intents and purposes was the foreign language drama equivalent of “Transformers Before the Robots”. I sat there, again with my wife, bored out of my cranium. On the way out she asked me what I thought – and I remember saying “What’s the point of showing us Coco before she became Chanel? The movie stopped before the good stuff started!”. Same thing is happening to Oblivion. Could we not have seen the fight that wiped out most of mankind? You can bet your bottom dollar that the first half an hour would have been more thematic had Krosinski hired Roland Emmerich to direct this.

It’s more a case of “Post Oblivion” – the Oblivion has already happened, some time ago. What unfurls on screen here is significantly less interesting. Tom Cruise narrates the set-up to the tune of ten minutes worth of screen time, and everything he’s saying seems like it would have been a blast to sit through.

What remains is awkward, but admittedly pretty, waffle. And it’s nearly two hours long. And way too confusing, unnecessarily. And what’s all this about Andrea “The Only Way is Essex” Riseborough being everywhere these days? She’s the real find in the film – after the awful Welcome to the Donkey Punch, she plays her co-lead for all its worth and is reasonably convincing.

Goddamit this film is an insufferable bore. I can’t think of a funny epilogue or sarcastic quip right now, it’s getting late so I’ll do the film a favour – I’ll put as much work into the final moments of my review as the film did with its ending; go see Olympus Has Fallen instead

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Review by: Andrew MacKay

OBLIVION… is out at Cinemas now. Join the debate on our Facebook group… http://www.facebook.com/groups/filmsploitationpodcast/