Film Reviews by BG

Welcome to BG's film reviews page. BG has written 32 reviews and rated 411 films.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A very good sequel to an excellent family movie

(Edit) 02/08/2020

'Jumanji - The Next Level' brings back the main cast from 'Welcome to the Jungle' and reunites them in a manner that's almost as clever and inventive as before. This time, the big shake-up is that the teens don't end up in the same characters, and two of their avatars (played by Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart) end up 'inhabited' by Spencer's elderly grandfather (Danny Devito) and his old friend/business partner (Danny Glover). This provides a whole new angle of absurdity and comedy, as Johnson and Hart have to mimic the accents, body language and behaviours of these two very distinctive older characters, while helping their fellow gamers trying to survive challenges that are just as extreme and entertaining as in the first film.

This time we get killer ostriches, water that does some interesting things to the characters, 'Game of Thrones' Rory McCann as 'Jurgen the Brutal', and a host of other interesting characters, including a return from Nick Jonas and a brilliant performance from Awkwafina.

The animal effects remain just a fun and dramatic as before, the jokes are regular and very often amusing, and the character dialogue is a lot of fun. In between all of this, we get peril, emotion, danger, and in-jokes about computer gaming.

If you're a fan of the recent 'Jumanji - Welcome to The Jungle', the good news is that this is very close to the level of that film, and while maybe not being quite as surprising and exciting, it's certainly not far off. It also plays some brilliant and very knowing jokes based on the characters that inhabit the avatars.

Flashy, funny and constantly inventive fun that's enjoyable for the family.

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Ready or Not

Brilliantly fun horror-comedy

(Edit) 22/06/2020

Ready or Not tackles the minefield of tongue-in-cheek horror which can be so tricky to get right.

Luckily, it nails the tone dead-on, coming across somewhere between the 'trapped in a house' killer thrills of 'You're Next' and the sardonic wit of Daniel Craig mystery 'Knives Out'.

Samara Weaving is terrific as the lead ('Grace') who is dropped in at the deep end on her wedding night, when the game that she has to play in order to be accepted by her new In-Laws' turns out to be a life-or-death game of hide and seek.

Thankfully by this stage the sharp comical tone, edginess, and suspension of disbelief have been set up very nicely by an array of fine performances, and little dialogue ticks, habits among the family and little bickering arguments continue to crop up to golden effect at perfect moments, thoroughly enriching proceedings.

The family mansion has a lovely 'old murder-mystery' character about it, and the family are a collection of amusingly differing personalities.

Weaving is charismatic throughout, and gets great mileage out of her leading role. Adam Brody is great as the groom's deeply conflicted and messed-up brother, and although Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny are great fun as the in-laws, Nicky Guadagni constantly threatens to steal the show as a crazed and fanatical aunt with a shock of white hair and a killer stare.

The gore is occasional but blood-soaked and cringe-inducing, the comedy is dry and knowing, and the dialogue is deliciously barbed and amusing. There is also a nice bit of back-story to make sense of the absurd game of life and death, which helps to reinforce the reasons behind the craziness.

Directorially, 'Radio Silence' (the directing team previously best known for 'Southbound' and part of 'V/H/S') shoot the film brilliantly, capturing the comedy and the violence with equal aplomb, and creating an array of shots which vary from gorgeous to look at, tension-inducing, and just plain gorgeously colourful. It's no wonder that they've been given 'Scream 5' for their next big gig, and on the evidence of this, I'm a lot more hopeful that I would have been before.

If you like horror with a frequent scattering of humour, grown-up barbed dialogue and lots of gore, there's no 'Not' about it; you're 'Ready' for this.

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Gemini Man

4K 60fps version Review

(Edit) 20/05/2020

Gemini Man was one of Ang Lee's recent passion projects - a continuation of his attempts to film in a higher frames-per-second format after 'Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk'.

Although 'normal' cinematic frame rates apply to the Blu-Rays of this and 'Billy Lynn's...', this 4K is the 'experimental' version, filmed at 120fps, but released on 4K Blu-Ray at 60fps.

Initially, it looks disconcerting, as if you're watching a very clear and sharp TV travel programme that just happens to include Will Smith and some extreme violence...but then after a while you disappear into the film, with the unusual visuals only reminding you of their presence again during sequences that would normally look super 'cinematic' now looking and feeling strikingly real. A motorbike chase/fight sequence gains a very impactful and visceral feel due to being so clear and 'realistic' in appearance, and a later gun battle with some heavy-duty hardware causing sparks to fly off cars looks and feels terrifying.

The plot has been hanging around Hollywood waiting to get made for so long that it no longer really feels fresh - but in a nutshell, Will Smith's ageing assassin ('Henry') decides to throw in the towel, only to find himself pursued by a younger and faster version of himself ('Junior')...

Because the plot has such a belief-stretching element, Lee wisely grounds the beginning in character elements, with Smith chatting to his handler and then engaging in accusation/flirtation with Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character 'Danny'. Winstead has a choice role in this movie, and it's immensely gratifying to see her stretch her acting legs with a character who is so confident and so hugely capable in the combat/action sequences.

Clive Owen veers between feeling a touch hammy as villain 'Clay', and then a surprisingly effective impression of trying to be a caring and affectionate father figure to cloned human 'Junior'.

The elephant in the room is Junior; how has the film handled the effects? Does Junior convince on-screen?

The good news is that most of the time, Junior is convincing, and great fun to watch. The first fight very effectively introduces him as a terrifyingly effective assailant - the Energiser Bunny version of Henry, faster, more resilient, more aggressive.

Unfortunately, whether it's due to the frame-rate or a conscious decision to try to 'amp-up' the speed of his performance, there are moments in the movie where CGI character movement seems to have been sped-up too much, and it takes you out of the action for a few seconds - mainly in the initial confrontation, and then again towards the end. Although mostly very good indeed, his face isn't always convincing, with moments of slight "uncanny-valley" oddness that caused a few furrowed brows as we watched - especially towards the end when one scene in particular seemed to vary wildly in facial quality and texture from shot to shot. However - the tech has now become so good that given enough budget and time, it must only be 2 or 3 years before they've got those final niggles nailed, as they're only a hair's breadth from it throughout most of Gemini Man.

The film is fast moving, enjoyably written and packed with flashy action sequences, and the 60fps experience is an enjoyable novelty for cinema tech fans.

I'm not sure if it will catch on properly (it's mostly been used in films that only do 'pretty well' at the box office, no mega-hits), but if you want a more traditional version there's always the Blu-Ray version instead.

Will Smith is fun, Winstead is great, and it's flashy and entertaining. If you're looking for an action movie, you can do a LOT worse than Gemini Man.

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Ad Astra

A slow character study, with impressive images

(Edit) 10/05/2020

If you're looking for something consistently exciting and pacy, I can strongly advise you to look elsewhere.

Ad Astra is a slow, deliberate character study of a difficult man. Brad Pitt's character is an astronaut whose laid-back veneer (his superiors note his pulse rate never goes above 80bpm) hides a lifetime of iron-willed self-control and emotional repression. Emotionally distant, dedicated solely to the mission of the moment, he is the perfect astronaut and a shell of a human being.

The film takes great pains to soak us into his routine, with slow and deliberate repetition over the course of the film's running time.

This is effective to some degree, because when a deviation occurs, it has more impact because of the approach. However, it's also going to make the movie quite boring for viewers seeking a more propulsive experience.

Story-wise, it's slender but effective; powerful electromagnetic bursts have begun to hit Earth, and Pitt's 'Roy' is sent on a mission to see if they're originating from the long lost mission that claimed his father decades earlier.

To go further into the plot would be fruitless for two reasons: there isn't much more to go into, and the few emotional and visceral punches the script pulls off depend on going in without excessive knowledge.

Director James Gray manages some very impressive visuals in a great many scenes. The space travel and lunar surface scenes etc are all extremely well designed and executed (with some tongue in cheek comments on commercialisation which seem very likely to prove accurate if humanity ever does manage to fund such expensive endeavours), and they look fantastic. There are also weird and psychedelic visual moments that are powerfully reminiscent of Kubrick's '2001', and nice nightmarish touches such as constant psychological evaluations and 'calming' rooms that seem anything but calming...

If you're in the mood for something slow-burn, immersive and visually very impressive, Ad Astra may be right for you. Personally I found it a bit of a drag, but I couldn't help regularly admiring its visuals, ideas or performances.

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Happy Death Day 2U

A very lively and amusing sequel

(Edit) 22/04/2020

Happy Death Day 2U does a few things very right straight away: - it leans into the utter absurdity of the original concept, keeping the level of snarky dialogue and comedy high.

It also makes much more use of Phi Vu's 'Ryan' - last seen only as a slacker roommate with a talent for embarrassing questions, but now given a fleshed out role as a slacker brainiac which makes full use of his comic timing. Indeed, refreshingly for a world in which diversity has been lacking in movies, the talented Vu is the one who starts the movie front and centre as the character in the grip of a time loop.

Jessica Rothe is back as 'Tree', and soon resumes a very enjoyable kind of 'lead' role amidst the ensemble, ably accompanied by the highly likeable Israel Broussard as 'Carter'.

To discuss the bonkers plot would spoil it, so I'll simply say that the inventiveness of the original movie is stepped up a notch, and the gruesome deaths and comedy increase too, giving us a pacy high-stakes plot that is immensely good value and highly entertaining.

It's hard to say whether this is a sequel that betters the original, but it certainly presses all of the right buttons for an enjoyable experience.

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The Hurricane Heist

Daffy entertainment, not to be taken too seriously

(Edit) 22/04/2020

You know what you're getting with this film; The Hurricane Heist lays its cards on the table with its 'Ronseal' name. It's an action movie about a heist during a hurricane, directed by Rob Cohen.

He's a guy you may have run across before - the director of a great many flashy but lightweight action movies with slightly barmy concepts, like Dragonheart (talking dragon teams up with Dragon-slayer), Stealth (talking smart-plane goes rogue), and his highest profile hit, The Fast and the Furious (talking Vin Diesel teams up with...you get the picture).

They're all films choc-full of likeable characters with paper-thin back stories, mildly forgettable villains, and enjoyable action that takes centre-stage and is often augmented by good effects/CGI.

This movie is the same.

'Will' ruins his older brother 'Breeze's (no, seriously) life as a kid by making it plain that a blatantly imminent bad event will be all his fault if it happens. Said bad event obviously happens. We jump to many years later, and Will (Toby Kebbell) is now a professional storm chaser and has basically been given a tank by the US Government. Breeze (Ryan Kwanten) is an alcoholic mechanic who they decided would be the best person to have on speed-dial for the local Treasury facility. Maggie Grace is 'Casey', the maverick but brilliant Treasury agent responsible for the $600 Million in used notes that has to sit in the Treasury until the hurricane has passed and the shredder is working again. (Seriously - you couldn't make this stuff up! Oh, wait, somebody did...)

Naturally the incredibly obvious Bad Guy decides he wants to rob the place, with the aid of another Incredibly Obvious Bad Guy and a pair of hackers. We know one is a hacker because he has a clipped English accent and a neck tattoo. We know his girlfriend is a hacker because she's alluring and has every accent in the world at some stage, but rarely for two consecutive scenes. It doesn't seem to matter. It's that kind of movie...

The drama hits the fan, hostages get taken, and Casey and Will end up running around town getting shot at during the worst storm on record, while bad guys get clouted by scenery, bullets, and over-elaborate escape plans.

Naturally for one of Cohen's movie, the effects are a lot of fun. They decide to eschew the normal look of an approaching hurricane (just lots of boring rain and mist whipped up by wind) and go for an ominous 'walls of clouds rushing across the ground' effect that would be more in keeping with something like the movie Twister crossed with the alien arrival scenes of Independence Day. It's daffy, but it works and it looks very dramatic. Similarly, while the plot and physics of the rest of the movie both beg a LOT of disbelief, the stunts and CGI remain exciting, and this ends up (like most of this guy's movies) just a little better than you expect.

If you're after an undemanding but exciting time and are happy to leave your expectations of realism and consistency at the door, try Hurricane Heist. You'll have a blast. (Sorry).

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Flatliners

A slightly empty remake that loses emotion but brings some new angles

(Edit) 18/07/2018

You can imagine why someone would want to reinvent 'Flatliners'. The Kiefer Sutherland original is now 28 years old as I write this in 2018 (yep fellow 80s kids, it's been that long, lol) so its ripe ideas might be missed by a new generation who might not want to troll back through quarter of a century of movie history looking for supernatural thrills.

The idea of young doctors wanting to experiment with seeing what happens when you die, and ending up haunted by their sins, is a potent one. It's ripe with possibilities. The original only mined some of those possibilities, and often descended into cheese (despite being very enjoyable).

2017's version has an equally talented cast, including Ellen Page, James Norton (currently rumoured as a Bond candidate) and Diego Luna (Rogue One).

Despite attempts to round everyone out, only Luna's smarter, quieter professional seems like a rounded human being, and Kiefer Sutherland brings a welcome nostalgic touch as well as a fearsome bite as an impatient superior. Page feels like a blank slate with 'movie character grief issues', Dobrev's 'Marlo' simply seems insecure, Norton's 'Jamie' feels like he should have 'I'm the wild one' stencilled on his forehead, and Kiersey Clemons' 'Sophia' is appallingly written, for reasons I'll mention in a moment.

The film follows the original's template by suggesting that something supernatural has been irked by the gang's experiments, and they must set about trying to make sense of the eerie visions and disturbances that start to plague them.

To its credit, it pulls some shocking surprises that I don't recall being in the original, and introduces an alluring reason to keep attempting the experiment. But some of the fixes for the characters' woes feel too easy - like they haven't been earned. One in particular feels completely conflicted and self-serving. Sophia is repeatedly shown as an easily cowed victim of emotional abuse, meaning that her sin feels unlikely and hugely out of character. It's also done for an astoundingly selfish reason, and her apology feels equally self-serving and insincere - surely something that the forces in play wouldn't accept?

Problematic writing like this plagues the remake. The actors are high quality but their roles feel cold and remote. You never invest in them as strongly as you did with the 90's cast.

The tension isn't always up to scratch either. Some sequences carry a frisson of fear, but others feel slack or illogical.

It's interesting to see what they did with it, but Flatliners is one of those sequels that are about as necessary as a light-up kettle. It's flashy and expensive, but there's already an older version that does the job just fine.

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Alien: Covenant

An ambitious sci-fi that's too cold to live up to the franchise

(Edit) 18/07/2018

Every time I watch Covenant, I get more divided about it.

In the cinema, I was enthused and excited.

Reading the novel, I was struck by how antiseptic some of it feels. Now, re-watching it on 4K, that feeling persists.

The 'Alien' is about something primal; the fear of a hideous and possibly prolonged death at the hands of something invasive and unknowable.

David, the android protagonist of Prometheus, and one of the antagonists here, is about cold detachment. A superior intellect. Something chilly and remote.

Unfortunately, Scott has declared publicly in words that he's bored with the alien and only interested in the AI threat, and that's something he conveys here with the imagery. After a beautiful space chapter, Covenant is a film of browns and greys. Derelict structures, empty woodland and deserted floodplains.

It comes briefly and sometimes powerfully alive with the characters' fight to survive - and a standout sequence based around the first emergence of a threat shows that Scott still has ferocious horror chops when he chooses to bring them; however, despite some delicious character interplay and elegant dialogue, much of the rest of the movie takes pains to be cruel, remote and cold.

It also commits the cardinal sin in horror of demystifying the beast at its core.

For decades, Jaws and Alien have been held up at the monster-movie templates; Jaws largely because of technical malfunctions that forced Spielberg to reimagine his villain into a rarely glimpsed threat, and 'Alien' because of a startlingly unnerving design that only gets deployed in brief, horrifying moments.

Now, the man who brought us one of those templates chooses to not only spell out exactly where it came from, but to show it as subordinate to a threat that some viewers find less interesting. It's akin to saying "Oh this? It's not that interesting really. And it's almost just a pet..."

It might be one of the most damaging moments in the franchise, and with Scott's declaration that he wants to sideline the Alien even further, a strong indication that the studio should have ditched him and stayed with the mooted (and braver) 'Alien 5'.

For those after chilly intellectual thrills, Covenant does deliver on some levels, and Scott might still be able to bring us a decent closing chapter if he can control his influences - but it's an antiseptic beast next to the emotion and terror of 'Alien'.

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Jigsaw

A glossy enjoyable excuse for more nasty thrills

(Edit) 18/07/2018

The idea behind Jigsaw is as ludicrous as ever: how is there a Jigsaw killer operating when Jigsaw is long dead? Is it a copycat? Or has Jigsaw somehow survived?

For those who sat through all of the previous movies, I have good news: the quality dip of the final few Saw movies has been jettisoned in favour of a well directed, slightly more expensive looking (if utterly barmy) effort. The acting is largely above average, the effects are suitably gruesome and nasty, and the traps are inventive.

There is also a decently paced sense that's there's an urgent puzzle to be solved; something parts 4 and 5 were sorely missing with their bored ennui and feeling of 'get to the next death'.

The cast are enjoyable to watch as well. The cops get some good dialogue and fun interrogations, and the mortuary staff enliven events with snappy interplay (although one of them seems to be pretty makeup heavy for a morgue - a hazard of this kind of movie).

The plot is rarely sensible, and often absurd, but manages to suspend disbelief just long enough to sweep you along. It's only in the brief pauses that your brain kicks in to start saying "Hang on a minute, that makes no se-" before another chain starts clanking or a buzz-saw starts up.

The final twist was particularly enjoyable, and although it didn't help make the plot any more believable it did add the sense that they'd made more effort than usual. However, much as this might have temporarily revived the franchise, I think it's time to put the saw back in the garage and move on.

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The Snowman

An enjoyable, undemanding thriller

(Edit) 18/07/2018

After the critical kicking it received, I expected The Snowman to be a horrific mess of biblical proportions. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to find it largely on a par with much of Hollywood's thriller output.

It's easy to see where the flaws are; there are confusingly juxtaposed scenes with Val Kilmer's alcoholic detective (miscast), and a frankly laughably 90's plot device that sees Fassbender's 'Harry Hole' keep waking up drunk in different places.

However, the story itself has enough meat on its bones and enough nastiness in its tank to keep the average thriller fan happy. The basic thread is that people are going missing, and they may or may not be connected to a strange threat Hole has received, signed with an image of a snowman.

The scenery is gorgeous and mysterious, and adds a huge boost to the allure of the film. Icy lakes and thick snowdrifts fill the frame constantly, and the change of location away from America is more than welcome.

Fergusson is fun and jagged as Hole's driven colleague (although could possibly have been given more to do), and the supporting cast largely help to round out a feeling of misdirection and suspicion.

Like all good murder mystery thrillers, it's a warped tale of psychological harm, and if you can overlook the holes you'll find more than enough here to enjoy.

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Surprisingly boring, even for a series fan.

(Edit) 18/09/2017

I've been into the Resi films from the beginning, and although they're not Oscar-winning stuff, each movie's usually good for some daft unpretentious fun. Movies are escapism, and there's nothing wrong with that. Although the quality of the writing and characterisation (except 'Alice') has gradually fallen, each of the movies has also tended to have one or two stand-out scenes that stay with you. Scenes like the killer dogs in part 1. The reveal of Nemesis in part 2. The killer crows in part 3, or the shower battle with the massive Axeman in part 4.

It's telling that I can't remember anything like that in this episode.

It's not that I'm tired of the series - Jovovich remains brilliant fun as series hero Alice, and the visuals and stunts remain terrific. However the series seems bored of itself. The episode is shot in such a frenetic, choppy style that it's frequently hard to see what just happened in action scenes. It also becomes very uncomfortable in 3D, which doesn't react well to extended bursts of stark lighting and rapid-fire camera cuts - a marked difference from the terrific 3D of the fifth film.

The directing relies massively on slow-mo...but worse, relies so heavily on tricks from earlier in the movie series that the entire film becomes drudgingly predictable. A trap with a motorbike feels heavily reminiscent of 'Extinction', and then merges into Daniel Craig's inverted gunfight from Quantum of Solace. Some characters come back to life so many times that it becomes boringly ridiculous. Events from the second film 'Apocalypse' are directly referenced, but then pivotal characters from that film are ignored so the series can make a whole new person the inventor of the T-Virus.

The Red Queen is now a completely different little girl - not just in terms of actress - the film wants us to accept a totally different character, based on a different little girl...within the SAME timeline.

I don't mind a few daft changes, but if a series can't even be bothered to respect its own plot, it's hard to get excited. The film even steals a trick from Guy Ritchie's second Sherlock Holmes movie about characters pre-visualising fights (which was pretty boring in the Holmes film to start with) - and then conveniently forgets it five minutes later when a character needs to get beaten up.

The list of 'can't be bothered with continuity or respecting the audience' goes on and on and on. The last films took a few inches. This takes miles. More miles than the runway in Fast & Furious 7.

Worse? Wesker's back. The weakest character from the last few movies gets even more screen time, and continues to be a Matrix clone so blatant I'm amazed they haven't sued.

And the fights go on and on and rely so much on the same tricks of flips and slow motion and kicks to the face that it starts to feel as repetitive as watching Michael Bay do slow-motion robots diving over people in the Transformers movies. I've never been genuinely bored in a Resi action scene before. Here it set in about 40 mins into the film.

So why 2 stars, not 1? There is some good stuff.

An attack by an intimidating quantity of gnarly-looking hounds is nicely tense.

Alice's memory gap is explained in a fun way.

And the visuals remain eyecatching.

There is enough here to just get you to the finish line. But this NEEDS to be the final episode. This is a film series that has now ceased to be Alice, and has become the zombies: - utterly brain dead and without purpose, but still moving.

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Sniper

In it's British (incomplete) version, this is like rating a book with the ending torn off.

(Edit) 28/01/2017

Luis Llosa's 'Sniper' was a cheesy 'anti-buddy' action flick with bravura action scenes and a silly but tense ending.

As a steely experienced marksman, Berenger has to guide a flaky new shooter to an assassination job and ensure the mission goes off without a hitch. Unfortunately his new charge (Billy Zane) has major issues with killing a real human being, and it becomes a battle of egos, mental strength and survival as things go badly off course and they have to run for their lives from determined adversaries.

This British edit strips out the flashy 'bullet-path' special effects that gave the original release added punch, and, as the worst of several snips, completely amputates the ending, removing an entire final confrontation scene. As a result this is rather like getting to the last ten pages of a book and finding them missing. It's a lamer, less impressive movie all around as a result. Don't even bother. If your player can handle Region A, try to get the more complete U.S. edition.

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Turbulence

A film that veers between daft and frightening but remains worth watching

(Edit) 02/09/2016

Turbulence isn't a subtle movie. Almost everything about it slightly stretches belief. If you're after a credible, serious thriller, this isn't for you - think halfway between 'The Silence of The Lambs' and 'Snakes on A Plane' and you have the amusing, faintly camp tone that's struck here.

When Lonely Hearts killer Ray Liotta is captured, law enforcement decides to fly him across the US for trial with Brendan Gleeson's foul-mouthed bank robber and a handful of government agents. The jumbo jet involved is almost deserted (11 passengers) due to the Christmas holiday and it should be a quiet flight...until a burst of quite nasty violence results in freedom for the unsavoury criminals who are now free to terrorise stewardess Lauren Holly and her crew...

The setting is fun and looks great - how many times have you seen a 747 with the insides adorned in twinkling lights and decorations?

Holly gives her character sweetness and steel at the same time, and makes for a good heroine. Her fellow crew are all pretty good and Gleeson surprises with his snarly hick lack of manners and foul comments.

Liotta is initially very good, introducing a genuine note of doubt - has he been framed as he claims? He seems to sweet, so well mannered and genuine...

However as the film goes on, everything becomes more absurd, from the stunts (convincing but daft), Liotta's behaviour (wild-eyed maniac) and all the typical terrorists on an airplane clichés. If you've seen it happen on a plane, it probably happens here.

The climax is quite nerve-wracking, and while very over-the-top it's a lot of fun. An abundance of silly moments balance out the occasionally nasty violence and tension, and they at least try to make the process of people flying a 747 seem frighteningly complex and semi-automated (far more than 'Snakes on a Plane' which ridiculously had someone land one because they were good at PlayStation...). In the end it's a film that succeeds almost because of its flaws rather than in spite of them. Yes, Holly's stewardess makes some stupid decisions, but it feels believable because of her compassionate character. The silliness also balances out the violence and the concept, which otherwise might have seemed too dark (murderous rapist loose on a plane with female stewardesses? That could've gone badly wrong in tone). As it is, Turbulence has about as much chance of an Oscar as I have at walking on Mars, but it's a fun, silly way to spend an evening.

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Shark Attack

The sharks are the smartest things in this dim-witted dtv miss

(Edit) 02/09/2016

Casper Van Dien's had a disappointing career, but most of his films after Starship Troopers seem to suggest why; - while the more established actors were acting hammy and over-earnest to fit the satirical tone, that was Van Dien at the top of his game. Here he brings more of the same as a scientist who's up against diabolical bad guys (with evil laughs), angry natives and a rash of mystery shark attacks. The fishermen are angry, there's a mysterious scientific facility that everyone wants to blame, and Van Dien has to unravel the mystery and save the day.

Unfortunately, as this is a cheap movie with a lazy plot, that means lots of pointless conversations loaded with pseudo science in cheap concrete labs, mystery thugs chasing people, blonde scientist women frowning into microscopes, and narrow escapes from angry fish. Make no mistake, the plot and the dialogue only exist as an excuse for a few near-miss shark attacks. Much as I wanted this to be good, it's clear that when Van Dien and his co-stars are being chased by sharks, the beasts are the smartest thing in the water. This feels the same quality level as a cheap Central-European-filmed Seagal movie, and even the shark attacks are poor, with low tension and a mixture of quality levels in the footage and effects.

Utterly predictable and as exciting as an over 60's yoga session.

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Graveyard Shift

A patchy but fun monster movie.

(Edit) 02/09/2016

When dealing with King adaptations it's best to go in with low expectations. Few directors know how to handle the material just right. When they do (The Mist/Christine/Carrie) it makes for film alchemy. More often than not, you end up with a confused film that's largely a mess until the killing starts.

That about sums up Graveyard Shift. It wants to be a serious horror, but the plotting is too weak, the characters too juvenile and thinly drawn, and the effects too hit and miss to give a consistently exciting movie. What we get are the usual King tropes - a worn-down hero (David Andrews) takes on a tough job at a similarly worn down textile mill in a poverty stricken town. There he meets a girl (Kelly Wolf - feisty enough to be interesting) and angers the corrupt and dangerous manager (Stephen Macht, playing bad guy Warwick with an odd accent, a blend of cunning and violence, and looking confusingly like actor Fred Ward).

The mill is utterly infested with rats, and in a rush to avoid being shut down, Warwick cajoles some of his least liked employees into cleaning out the cavernous and biblically filthy basement over a sweltering holiday weekend.

It's then that they realise something nastier than Warwick lives on the premises...

With Andrew Divoff and Brad Dourif (as a quirky exterminator) rounding out the cast this could have been an astounding film. Unfortunately at this time studios viewed King's back catalogue as a gold mine for turning out quick cheap direct-to-video buck-makers, and this is treated no differently.

That said, the basement and the tunnels beneath it are revoltingly squalid and intimidating, and the creature is good quality and looks disgusting (although my other half felt the goo dripping off it was excessive - as if being used to hid bad special effects).

You get to see a decent amount of the monster, and the final portion of the film is an extended hunt and escape scenario with a decent amount of tension. Some of the effects are clearly matte-paintings etc, but that was common for the era and they're pretty impressive in their own right.

In conclusion, if you're a Stephen King completist, this is a must-view. It's flawed but entertaining, and well worth your time.

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