Film Reviews by Alphaville

Welcome to Alphaville's film reviews page. Alphaville has written 573 reviews and rated 525 films.

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Fast and Furious 9

Car crash of a film No 9

(Edit) 26/10/2021

It opens with a car crash followed by a cloying family scene. Yep, it’s the same old story. There’s a new mission afoot, but Vin doesn’t want to do it. Who’d have thought? But wait a minute – drum roll – he’s changed his mind! What a relief, otherwise there’d be no No. 9.

With plot and dialogue as pathetic as ever, FF through it all and cut to the car chases. The first is the best. Bog-standard crashes and explosions of course, but it’s filmed in Thailand with some sweeping drone shots and even a new stunt. Yay! The second chase is set in a mythical Hollywood version of Edinburgh that will at least amuse anyone who knows the city. The third and final chase is filmed in Georgia and is a real anti-climax. Everything in this film is by-the-numbers, but cut to the chases and you might grab half-an-hour of stupid fun.

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Alpha

Gorgeous and gripping

(Edit) 26/10/2021

It’s 20,000 years ago. Our hero is tossed off a cliff by a bison onto an unreachable ledge and is left to perish in the wilderness. Avoid the tell-all trailer. Avoid spoiler reviews. You don’t need to know any more to get the most out of it as one amazing scene follows another. It’s both a thing of beauty and an exciting thriller. A film to wallow in.

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Freaky

Body-swap fun with Vince Vaughn playing a girl

(Edit) 23/10/2021

Body-swap comedy horror with all the usual tropes is given a twist by swapping a high-school girl with a serial killer. The 10min pre-credit sequence is a pointless gross-out bore and the plot takes a while to get going, but in the second half there’s fun to be had watching Vince Vaughn play a teenage girl.

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Occupation: Rainfall

Abysmal Australian space opera

(Edit) 23/10/2021

A Star Wars-type shoot-em-up space opera with humans, aliens (men in funny masks) and lots of cgi explosions. With zero-depth plot and characterisation, and soldier-types shouting “Go, go, go!”, it’s as sleep-inducing as watching flames on a fire. The inter-battle speechifying, shot in claustrophobic interiors, is as boring as in TV series such as Battleship Galactica. In fact the overriding feature of the whole enterprise is its lack of imagination. It’s a sequel to a lower-budget original, but it’s no improvement so let’s hope there’s no more. Written and directed by Luke Sparke. Remember that name.

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Free Guy

Wearing cgi action comedy

(Edit) 17/10/2021

Ryan Reynolds, as stylised as ever, plays a background character in a shoot-em-up video game who ups his level so he can do more stuff. So its cgi all the way. Admittedly the cgi is more imaginative than in superhero fare, but interest wears as plot and character become sillier and sillier and the jaunty muzak score palls.

Taking up too much screen time, meanwhile, is the real world of game production, with lots of discussions and explanations about gaming and coding to sit through. Presumably this is 5-star manna from heaven for addicted gamers. Not so much for other viewers. Taika Waititi, still thinking he’s playing Hitler in JoJo Rabbit, is excruciatingly awful as the comedy villain programming boss. When the worst thing he can do is ‘destroy the servers’, you know a script’s struggling to find dramatic interest. For once, the cgi is the main reason to keep watching.

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The Swordsman

Dull plot interspersed with exciting swordfights

(Edit) 10/10/2021

Too much of this film is boring palace politicking between Mings and Qings (it’ll help to bone up on Korean history beforehand). Our silent half-blind floppy-haired hero spends half the film living a dull life on a mountainside with his daughter. Given that you’ll be drawn to this film for its action scenes, you’ll have to wait an hour for him to pick up his sword and fully engage with the baddies. It’s ridiculous, of course, but his floppy-haired battle with hordes of baddies, including one lot with rifles, is beautifully choreographed and shot, so much so that the final fight with the chief baddie is something of an anti-climax. Apart from those two fights, the movie has little to offer.

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Hidden Figures

Engrossing drama

(Edit) 10/10/2021

Inspiring and heart-warming drama, based on a true story, about three intelligent black women struggling against casual racism and misogyny while working at NASA on the 60s space programme. It’s crowd-pleasingly manipulative at the expense of truth, but it does do justice to its real-life protagonists and will have you rooting for them all the way.

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The Banishing

Ponderous bore

(Edit) 06/10/2021

A disappointingly ponderous shaggy-dog haunted house story. Christopher Smith is one of the UK’s most stylish directors, but he can do nothing with this hoary old nonsense. There’s nothing in it we haven’t seen a thousand times before. Yep, things go bump in the night and our heroine goes exploring in the darkness with a torch.

Unlike the trailer, which revs things up with fast edits and exciting music, the film drags from one dull scene to another with barely a score for most of its length. Scary? No, just a drag from beginning to end. For Christopher Smith completists only.

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Plan-A

Solid thought-provoking drama/thriller

(Edit) 03/10/2021

Straightforward retelling of how groups of Jewish survivors turned the tables on Nazis at the end of the Second World War. Despite unflashy direction and an uncharismatic leading man, it’s nevertheless a great story that holds the attention throughout. It explicitly asks the viewer: what would you do if your whole family had been butchered? Our hero, ironically, has to stop one group that’s planning to poison 6 million people, which would turn the superpowers against the formation of Israel, but where do his loyalties lie? Cue an exciting and poignant climax.

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Monster Hunter

Imaginative visual spectacle

(Edit) 01/10/2021

After the cgi bores of the Marvel franchise, it’s refreshing to see a monster movie in which only the monsters are cgi. The South African scenery is fantastical, from the Namibian desert to the rock domes and caves of the Cederberg mountains. Real landscapes make the monsters seem more realistic and director Paul WS Anderson films the vistas with a sweeping camera that’s a joy to watch. When a film opens with a ship sailing through sand dunes, you know you’re in for something interesting. It’s based on a video game, but for once that’s irrelevant.

Bad-ass Milla Jovovich leads a team of expendable soldiers, Tony Jaa executes his trademark wire-free stunts and it’s all-action with no dull talking-head scenes. In an echo of Hell in the Pacific and Enemy Mine, the two leads don’t even speak the same language. Cue a treat of a crunching fight. As an east-west collaboration, there’s also some Chinese fantasy elements thrown in for good measure. Add to that a pulsating electronic score instead of boring orchestral muzak.

The result is a smorgasbord of sets and action that never dips for a minute. The crew came to call it “Lawrence of Arabia with monster hunters”. It won’t suit anyone who prefers indoor character-driven conversational scenes populated by luvvies (as certain reviewers seem to want), but if you want to see a proper movie and loved Starship Troopers look no further.

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Black Widow

Another dumb Marvel movie

(Edit) 26/09/2021

Unless you follow the comic fare of the so-called ‘Marvel universe’, this film will leave you comatose. Grown-ups will feel like it’s walking into a movie half-way through. None of it makes any sense. Of course, that’s not important if all you want to see is cgi fights, but even they are very poorly done. Apart from a couple of brief imaginative sequences and some exotic locations, it’s the usual bish-bash, shot with shaky cam and over-edited into oblivion. Even die-hard cgi nerds will surely find the endless scenes of dull dialogue boring. And why is it that baddies in these films are never taught how to shoot straight?

The music is equally atrocious, beginning with a funereal cover of Smells like Teen Spirit over the opening credits. The ten-minute pre-credit sequence is the best part of the 2hr film, showing the childhood of Black Widow before the main stars appear on screen. As for the bore of the usual cgi cartoon ending, the less said the better.

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Let Him Go

Slow beginning, thrilling end

(Edit) 19/09/2021

This is a real slow burn that builds into a shocking climax. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (both excellent) search North Dakota for their young grandson. The scenery’s fine but they move slow and talk slow to plinky-plonk piano music. It can get a tad wearisome, but if you stick with it you may find yourself getting drawn into the cosy home-on-the-range vibe and becoming increasingly concerned for them. Their meetings with the throwbacks that have their grandson crackle with tension and prefigure a brutal and exciting climax that carries a real emotional punch.

Is it family drama? Gothic western? Redemptive thriller? Maybe all of these. Worth a look to find out. As usual, the trailer gives away the ending so avoid if possible.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Exciting action thriller

(Edit) 18/09/2021

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River) has previously had problems keeping a story going, but his best film yet grows into an action-packed thriller that will keep you hooked. Unlike most action movies, the good guys have emotional depth and the bad guys are not just ruthless but so relentless and resourceful that you might even end up rooting for them!

What could have been a silly story about a smokejumper (Angelina Jolie) and a boy on the run from gunmen in the forests of the Rocky Mountains becomes something more involving. Add an encroaching forest fire and you have plenty of opportunities for tension, excitement and some scenes that are even quite moving.

It’s a film that’s never going to win awards but, as Angelina says on the Making Of featurette, it’s got both grit and soul and revels in all the excitement you want in an action thriller.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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A Quiet Place: Part II

Better-than-average sequel

(Edit) 15/09/2021

On the minus side, this sequel is a bit of a retread that lacks novelty and surprise, with lots of creeping around waiting for a creature to pounce. Eventually the film just stops, presumably to set up a possible third film in some deteriorating franchise. On the plus side it’s as well acted and directed as the original and has some tense and exciting creature scenes. Like most sequels, it’s not as good as the original, but it’s intelligent, well made, better than your average creature feature and remains very watchable from beginning to end.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Promising Young Woman

Bland drama of talking heads

(Edit) 10/09/2021

A Sky-backed visually-impaired film for the small-screen generation, more a play than a film. Expect long drawn-out dialogue scenes of talking heads. Any good reviews it has received all talk about the concept, as if it’s conceptual art, where lack of skill in execution is irrelevant. The concept, to attract punters, is a feminist revenge thriller. Thrills? If only. The trailer uses fast edits and exciting music to lure you in. Don’t be fooled.

Naturally all the men are stupid, sexist and pitiable, ripe to be put in their place. On its own the script has some good dialogue and might work on stage, but anyone who loves a good movie is in for a long haul to get through this. Something does happen near the end. Ho-hum.

As with her last film, the equally staid Vita and Virginia, director Emerald Fennell has no idea what to do with a camera so just plonks it down and wrings the life out of every scene. She should stick to writing. To see how to make an enthralling feminist film with real characters and big-screen skill, check out Mimi Leder’s On the Basis of Sex.

3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
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