Category Archives: 5

Movies that score 5/10.

Review: Modern Times

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1936
Score: 5/10

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

Hugely disappointing not-quite-but-almost silent film from Charlie Chaplin, inexplicably one of his most acclaimed.

It really didn’t work for me; I appreciated the obvious commentary on the ills of the modern industrialised world, and the ending – though abrupt – was quite nice, but the actual comedy largely fell flat.

Maybe I’m just not a fan of simplistic physical comedy? That would explain why most of the bits I laugh at in Marx Brothers movies are clever wordplay rather than slapstick humour. Speaking of which, it’s somewhat amusing that Modern Times has 100% more duck-related comedy than Duck Soup does.

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Guest Review: The Woman in Black

Director: James Watkins
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

I’m a huge fan of The Woman in Black. I’ve been scared by the theatre production and chilled by the book, so I was over the moon to hear that it was coming to film. As I expectantly sat down with my popcorn and my bottle of cider, I was hoping to see the story taken to terrifying new levels. Unfortunately, the only frightening thing about this film is Daniel Radcliffe’s acting.

It follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer mourning the death of his wife and caring for his son who takes up the job of sorting through the effects of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow at the dark and overbearing Eel Marsh House. Whilst there he finds himself pursued by the film’s namesake, and embarks on a journey to try and solve her mystery before she tears him and the village apart. The story, whilst not true to Susan Hill’s original, is still reasonably strong, and there are a couple of occasional strong horror moments which do capture the isolated terror for which the plot is renowned. Sadly however these moments are few and far between, instead opting for the lazy and disappointing jumpiness that horror films resort to when they run out of inspiration. It’s a shame as there’s nothing worse than building to a crescendo of uneasiness and dread, only to have it spoiled by the boogie man jumping out and shrieking at you in a jumpy but ultimately unsatisfying manner.

The real disappointment however is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Arthur Kipps. He turns in a display which could be described as wooden at best and distracting at worst. You know that thing where you’re watching a film and all of a sudden Christopher Walken comes on and you go “oh look! It’s Christopher Walken”? It’s a bit like that, but you’re thinking “Oh look! It’s Daniel Radcliffe and he’s really not doing a very good job is he?” It’s one of those distractingly bad performances usually reserved for Nicolas Cage.

I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take a trip to the theatre and see The Woman in Black; it’s bloody brilliant. The film sadly does not live up to expectations, and is as forgettable as it is disappointing.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Miracle on 34th Street

Director: George Seaton
Year: 1947
Score: 5/10

Is it just me, or does young Natalie Wood look a lot like Mackenzie Rosman, the girl who played Ruthie in that awful TV series 7th Heaven?

Is it just me, or does young Natalie Wood look a lot like Mackenzie Rosman, the girl who played Ruthie in that awful TV series 7th Heaven?

Tedious Christmas fantasy in which the real Santa Claus becomes the store Santa at Macy’s, fixes a woman and her daughter who lack imagination, and is put on trial for being crazy. Edmund Gwenn is great as Santa, conveying just the right amount of warmth and wisdom. There are also a few nice ideas and scenes. However, mostly it’s quite disappointing and predictable. It’s hard to care much about Mrs Walker and Susan’s plight, let alone the barely-explored relationship between Mrs Walker and Mr Gailey. Also, Mrs Walker’s sudden change from hard-headed pragmatist to open-minded fantasist is not explained well and is therefore unconvincing. I was amused by Santa’s line “That’s what I’ve been fighting against for years: the way they commercialise Christmas”, given that the movie is effectively one big ad for Macy’s. And turning even further to trivialities, I learned two things by pausing when fake newspapers were shown on-screen and then using my friend Google: firstly, that the bizarre headline ‘Earth Forces Laid to Cosmic Impulse’ was a real headline used in The New York Times in 1933 and subsequently shown in this movie as well as Reefer Madness (1936) and Decoy (1946); and secondly, that the word ‘alienist’ is an archaic term for a psychiatrist or psychologist. Now you know too!

Guest Review: Alex Cross

Director: Rob Cohen
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Seriously, don't look – there's a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Seriously, don’t look – there’s a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Where Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls bravely went first, Alex Cross stumbles clumsily behind. Gone are the days of Morgan Freeman’s deep and atmosphere-creating character as the piercing sunlight of Tyler Perry’s new hard-man character glares painfully into the hungover eyes of the detective thriller genre.

This is a reasonably entertaining thriller, rescued from the depths of cinematic obscurity by a frankly superb performance from a steroid-pumped former Lost cry baby Matthew Fox as the crazed bad guy Picasso. There is actually a fairly strong roster of acting talent; John C. McGinley (of Scrubs’ Dr. Cox fame) and Jean Reno both take reasonably large roles but unfortunately both fail to sparkle to the extent that we’ve seen so many times before.

The problem for Alex Cross is the film’s namesake’s association with the character’s previous outings, and not least because of the change of actor. There’s a change of pace to the film from its predecessors, leaving behind clinical and calculating detective work and embracing a new world of cage fighting and rocket launchers. Were this film called Tommy Knox: Detective Badass then it would be enjoyable in its own right, however sadly for most it will be forever cast into the bargain bin labelled ‘difficult third album’.

As with all ‘film of the books’, Alex Cross is at the behest of the plot laid out before in another medium. Sadly it hasn’t made the transition as effortlessly as many others have, but Rob Cohen’s new vision of the character is still worth a watch.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: +1

Director: Dennis Iliadis
Year: 2013
Score: 5/10

Definitely the only movie I've seen in which a naked Asian woman (her crotch modestly covered by a leaf) is used as a human buffet table, gets bitten by a black guy, and gets revenge with a flying kick.

Definitely the only movie I’ve seen in which a naked Asian woman (her crotch modestly covered by a leaf) is used as a human buffet table, gets bitten by a black guy, and gets revenge with a flying kick.

Sci-fi thriller mashed up with teen sex comedy, all set at an almost Project X-ish party. It has a promising premise involving doppelgängers and time jumping but the execution is uneven, especially as things ramp up in the second half, and the premise doesn’t lead to any of the interesting places you might hope. At first I thought this was a skilled bunch of actors I’d never seen before; by the end I was less impressed by them. There’s also one subplot that comes across as simplistic fantasy fulfilment; I suppose it isn’t that different to the Nadia/Jim relationship in American Pie, but somehow it made me more uncomfortable. I think the ideas and genres involved could well have made for a smart, entertaining movie; this just isn’t it.

Review: JCVD

Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Year: 2008
Score: 5/10

It sounded like a great premise: Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a fictionalised version of himself who gets caught up in a post office heist gone wrong. Unfortunately the execution is fairly muddled and it doesn’t do anything interesting with the situation or with Van Damme. Oh, what might have been.

Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

Director: Werner Herzog
Year: 2009
Score: 5/10

I’d seen the original Bad Lieutenant (a 1992 Abel Ferrara film anchored by a gutsy lead performance from Harvey Keitel) and heard good things about this Werner Herzog remake. Unfortunately it didn’t really work for me. Nicolas Cage dominates in the title role, but I couldn’t stop thinking that these days, rather than genuinely acting, he’s basically just doing a passable and slightly exaggerated Nicolas Cage impression. Like his performance, much of this movie is over the top to the point of silliness.

Review: Hall Pass

Directors: Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Year: 2011
Score: 5/10

Mediocre comedy with two-dimensional characters (surprising in a movie from the Farrelly brothers, I know!) and a fairly repugnant premise. I really don’t see the appeal of Jason Sudeikis. Still, there were a couple of laughs – one involving poo and a g-string was particularly memorable. The always reliable Richard Jenkins steals a couple of scenes playing against type. Also good to see Stephen Merchant and J.B. Smoove in supporting roles, though for the most part both are wasted. The post-credits sequence featuring Merchant is worth waiting for.

Review: The Jewel of the Nile

Director: Lewis Teague
Year: 1985
Score: 5/10

Twerking apparently originated in Africa in 1985.

Twerking apparently originated in Africa in 1985.

What charm Romancing the Stone had seems to evaporate in the African heat. Kathleen Turner still edges out Michael Douglas but neither of them seem especially committed to the material. Danny DeVito is shoe-horned in rather clumsily, partly as middling comic relief and partly for consistency with the first movie. Once again there’s an overreliance on coincidence. Perhaps the silliest and least believable part is when Douglas – no pilot – drives a plane around as though it’s a car. I think the depiction of Omar’s climactic address to his people, with stadium lights and pyrotechnics and Hollywood production values, is supposed to be satirising something, but I couldn’t discern what. There’s a slight veneer of racism too. Skip it.

Review: Nosferatu the Vampyre

Director: Werner Herzog
Year: 1979
Score: 5/10

Disappointing Herzog remake of the 1922 classic. The problem wasn’t that it was slow, though it certainly was that; the problem was that Klaus Kinski’s Dracula wasn’t scary or even menacing. Some nice scenery, and interesting use of Wagner’s Das Rheingold (a piece of music I associate with my favourite movie, The New World (2005), in which Malick opens with it) and rats.

Review: The Hangover Part III

Director: Todd Phillips
Year: 2013
Score: 5/10

I can understand why John Goodman signed up for this. I imagine the pitch went something like, "How would you like to have Dr Ken Jeong mime ejaculating on you?".

I can understand why John Goodman signed up for this. I imagine the pitch went something like, “How would you like to have Dr Ken Jeong mime ejaculating on you?”.

A movie I watched solely for the sake of completism. It’s marginally better than Part II, but only because it doesn’t recreate the original movie beat-for-beat. There’s still very little new, fresh or exciting. However, I did find myself laughing quite regularly at Zach Galafianakis; he seems funnier this time than in the previous movies. I believe I literally got only one laugh out of anything else the whole way through. The attempt to throw in some sentimentality toward the end doesn’t really work, and the epilogue is pretty lame. All in all, I’m glad this is (apparently) the end of the series.

Review: Heaven’s Gate

Director: Michael Cimino
Year: 1980
Score: 5/10

One of Hollywood’s most famous flops, this is a movie every film buff should watch (together, if possible, with the documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate), even though ultimately it’s quite bad. There’s so much promise: an interesting subject (the Johnson County War), a cast studded with top-notch performers (including Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif, etc.), lavish period detail in the costuming and set design, and some big action set-pieces. But there’s so much that doesn’t work: it’s bloated (I watched the full 217 minute version) and largely boring, it has no characters worth investing in, there’s no story momentum, the villains are entirely one-dimensional, and the ending is stupid. It works best as a lesson in film history, knowing the context of its production and the impact it had on the industry (not to mention director Michael Cimino’s reputation and career).