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The Girl on the Train: follows a homo sapien with two X chromosomes on a track-based transport vehicle. Seriously though, blackout drunk alcoholic becomes involved in a missing person case that keeps throwing up more questions than answers. Blunt is outstanding. One of the best performances I’ve seen anyone give in a long time; complaints about her being too glamorous (duh, she is Emily Blunt!!) don’t wash with me, as she’s looked like a trainwreck for the majority of the film. The remaining cast – championed by an equally impressive Haley Bennett – are firing on all cylinders, it’s impossible to pick out a bad performance. Like the best narratives, the film is continually revealing new information that changes how we view the relationships between the main characters, and constantly shifting the focus and blame. It’s also refreshing to see a film centered on three completely different women; providing various view on motherhood, being a wife, and their strange three-way relationship, which are intelligently pleated through one another. I think the off-kilter, dark, and borderline horror tone (screechy strings, close-ups, titled cameras) will have alienated a lot of casual viewers. Critics and book snobs couldn’t beat this film down enough but as someone going in completely cold, it really impressed me: the only part I could imagine tightening up would be the lengthy introduction, but even then, it’s not too flabby. Although it was sold as “if you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this” I’d sooner watch this again. The Girl on the Train is a gripping, dark, Hitchcockian thriller where nothing is spelled out, and it’s constantly swaying and misdirecting you, through to the revelatory ending.

Score: 8/10

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Merantau Warrior: a young rural martial artist must head to Jakarta as part of his coming-of-age ritual, but when his plans fall through he soon gets caught up in some grotty business. The story takes its time to warm up, but from the first frame the it looks great, with guerrilla location use of the vivid & vibrant countryside, and the city’s graffiti, buildings, clothes etc. The film really comes to life when the fighting starts – it remains intricate, innovative and entertaining through all of the set-pieces; and nothing beats a good-old showdown in an industrial shipping container yard! Iko Uwais shines brightest when kicking and punching his way through every extra in the country, but he can also hold a scene; If there’s any justice he will be the next action mega-star in the vein of Tony Jaa / Donnie Yen. An added benefit is that Silat is such a visual fighting style, and with no-nonsense, non-shaky camerawork it’s a treat to watch. Other than the slow-start, gratuitous cheesy love angle and a sloppy undercurrent of Western people taking liberties, Merantau Warrior lands every punch. Between this and The Raid – that Gareth Evans is now 2 for 2 in my book, and with the obvious improvement between the movies, I’m super-pumped for the final installment of this trilogy.

Score: 7.5/10

Brooklyn Rules: 3 young Italian-Americans grow up in New York where their upbringing is overshadowed by the mob: rampant plagiarism ensues. First off, the acting’s terrible (PFJ as a dramatic lead… well done), as is the story, as are the accents, as is the direction – and just so the script didn’t feel left out, they made that shit too. Ultra-sloppy stock ‘gangster’ characterisation and entire characters lifted from similar movies – which makes for some boring, predictable, tosh. What’s more insulting is that despite a reasonable cast – and assumably budget – the film looks like it was filmed on VHS.

Having cringed my way through the first 50 minutes, I knew I didn’t have another 40 minutes of self-loathing / punishment in me. Wouldn’t wish this on my enemies.

Alternative plan: fired on a few episodes of Community instead.


Black Swan: when a devoted ballet dancer finally gets featured in the lead role of Swan Lake she has to deal with all the pressures that drove her predecessor crazy. To get it out of the way, nobody does ‘descending into madness’ quite like Aranofsky – and this is no different in that you genuinely have no idea if what your seeing is real, unreal, paranoia, hallucinations, fantasy, or mental illness. The second half on the film in particular has some genuinely chilling and thrilling scenes. To begin with the camerawork feels awkward and unnecessary – walking shots behind the heads – but it works surprisingly well for most of the film – particularly when it starts spinning around the dancers. The film also uses SFX outstandingly, and wiping out the cameramen in the reflections gives the viewer a strange haunting sensation. The new-age classical soundtrack is nothing short of stunning. Although I wasn’t convinced by the first 40 minutes, seeing the complex relationships (mum, teacher, peer) develop is thoroughly enjoyable, particularly because the film always keeps you guessing. Cassel and the Hershey both give show-stopping performances, although they’re overshadowed by Portman who puts everything out there, and becomes the definition of fragile, slowly and believably transforming into a woman on the brink of madness. Don’t understand the big deal around theater walk outs – it’s definitely not for the prudish, but there’s nothing offensive here. Despite everything in front of the camera being golden, the real star is the man behind it, who gets everything pitch perfect and creates an absolutely stunning finale. Ballet’s never been this sexy and dramatic.

Score: 8/10

Quantum Of Solace: we join Bond about ten minutes after Casino Royale, trying to bring his main lead – Mr White – to M for questioning. After the culprit is busted out of custody by double agents in MI6, 007 has to find out how deep the terrorist group Quantum has compromised their operations. Back to back viewings definitely aids QoS as it’s definitely not a stand-alone film.

... and here's the government worrying about texting and driving!

The movie expands and reinforces what we previously learned about 007. As before, he remains a violent (yet arguably successful) instrument, with no self constraint or controllability, and a tendency to leave a trail of destruction wherever he goes – killing off almost every potential lead. Sadly, because 007’s riding solo for much of the story, and his Russian pal is a lady of few words we don’t get much new information, other than an emphasis on his insatiable desire to avenge Vespa. Revenge hasn’t looked this good since Bittersweet Life – Bond looks very sharp; wearing stylish suits, jackets and the very best of London high-fashion!

Making sure hit kills go out with style!

The action set-pieces in this film are shockingly handed. The cuts are so short, editing so rapid, and camera movement so shaky that trying to establish what’s happening and where the people are in relation to each other – and their surroundings – is impossible. Definitely the most poorly constructed action of all the movies.

Someone's falling? Running? Rooftop? Behind the other guy? In front? WTF?!?!

The single biggest thing that Quantum of Solace has going for it is the story, carrying on from the previous film, it follows Bond’s quest for revenge, coupled with his Carmille’s similar story. These stories are tied in with the great, and scarily realistic, idea of a secret society – similar to SPECTRE but with more humble, profit-driven plans – that permeates every institution from the British secret service to the CIA and some rotten dictatorships in Latin America. Not content with slating the easy political targets, it also casts a cynical eye over the UK and US governments for the first time – with both countries stating that they’ll work with anyone that has oil, or any other desirable resources.

Corrupt businessman and corrupt politician... I miss the megalomaniacs

As with the past few movies this one harks back to some of the older adventures, although I’m not sure if these are smug and subtle self-referencial nods, or just a side-effect of the franchise having to recycle old ideas because after 22 films, there ain’t a whole lot left to work with. QoS has the classic suffocation scene from Goldfinger re-done with oil, two people one parachute and the good ol Citroen – among others.

Strawberry Fields - Bond's wondering if the carpet matches the curtains...

The lack of gadgets is also starting to get pretty uncool. I realise that the re-boot is firmly rooted in reality – and we definitely don’t need another battle suit or invisible car – but it doesn’t have to be this boring. The only remotely technological things are a normal phone and a few Minority Report style computers.

"Folks, how do we compensate for no gadgets? Ah, explosions"

Other reasons this film stands out: sandy credits (that stuff goes everywhere!), gunbarrel sequence appearing at the very end (insane!), and someone in photography having a hard-on for contemporary architecture with the Opera house, Bolivian Hotel and Desert Hotel given lots of attention. Most insulting, is the ridiculous collection of stereotypical fonts used to represent different countries. Serious London font. Stylish Italian font. Quirky Latin American fonts. ЯúSSIдN font! How dumb do they think new-age Bond fans are?!?!


As the follow up to Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is just not handled near as well, and while it’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it would be somewhat unfortunate to end a 22-film legacy with this. It it’s well photographed, has a villain, some Bond girls, a henchman and a nasty plot, but they’re all just so boring.

Score: 6/10

Felix looking like a mean-ass mo-fo!!

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: European, cool, short, hunched and limping, no talents. Booo! 3
Henchmen: Elvis – literally a secretary with a gun. Booo! 2
Babe: Sunburnt Russian girl. Ms Fields – a tasty toff. 7
Action: Car chase / Footchase / Boat chase / Aerial dogfight / Hotel fight at end (+ lift fight / bar escape). 5

With Bond 23 being kicked in to production James Bond January has done its job!

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Note: this was the very first ‘film review‘ I posted back in summer ’09!


London Boulevard: the story of an ex-con fresh out of a stretch in the joint, determined to go straight, and avoid the trap of falling back into London’s underbelly. This has two too many stories playing out, in separate dedicated chunks, that never really come together: we’ve got Farrell and Knightley’s relationship, the gangster aspect, beggar’s retribution and sister saviour – any of which could be the main plot of a normal film and would have made a solid story – rather than being side-stories all competing for prominence. As the locations flip between the streets of London and a country manor you realise that this is an outsider’s rose-tinted view. On the upside, it’s rather well shot and the acting’s pretty good: David Thewlis is indisputably the most watchable (and has the best lines, including “if it weren’t for Monica Bellucci she’d be the most raped actress in European cinema” quote of 2010 for me). Farrell‘s also pretty decent – despite regressing into a South African accent now and again. Ray Winsone‘s growing a bit tiresome, and needs to branch out or give it up – he plays the same character, with the same lines (just changing the names) in pretty much every film – the likability factor isn’t helped when these characters are outrageously racist. The final product is a Guy Ritchie imitation, but with less flare, less interesting characters and too many strands. Other than the memorable ending, the rest of London Boulevard is passable at best.

Score: 4.5/10