Film Reviews by Alphaville

Welcome to Alphaville film reviews page. Alphaville has written 351 reviews and rated 298 films.

So unfunny it’s a joke

This third outing in the “franchise” has an attractive sheen of old Bond movies about it, with gorgeous Mediterranean locations and a lush score, but Rowan Atkinson’s clowning and gurning is even more spectacularly unfunny than ever. Every joke is telegraphed a mile in advance, with obvious set-ups and lame pay-offs. In its favour, the fast-moving plot does keep you watching in astonishment at its amateurish attempts at humour. The French do spy spoofs better (try OSS 117: Lost in Rio).

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Lame and laughable

Lisbeth Salander has become a female icon, but this latest film in the franchise, with yet another different actress, fails to convince. Clare Foy makes a good fist of it but can’t quite reach the level of brooding intensity required for the character. The main problem, however, is the plot. Salander has evolved into a superwoman with unbelievable IT and escape abilities, to say nothing of clairvoyance. In the opening scene, for example, her rapist victim obligingly stands on the exact spot where she has placed a lasso on the floor to hoist him up by his feet. And if you think that’s contrived, wait till you see the ridiculous climax, like something out of Johnny English Strikes Again.

What Hitchcock used to call the McGuffin that everyone is after to fuel the plot is in this case top-secret software, but who cares? The film is moody and downbeat, dampening scenes that should be exciting. The incessant Tom & Jerry orchestral score is even more wearing, matching every action. Even walking across a room seems to require the string section to scratch away forebodingly.

Perhaps it all worked better in the book.

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Borefest

Called Bullet Head in the US. Three unappealing robbers hole up in an abandoned factory, where a nasty big dog lies in wait. Each time it runs after them, they just manage to close the door in time. Phew! In-between, they bicker and have boring flashbacks. Scenes involving the dog are filmed in short bursts to make it look like its attacking, and there are a lot of dog’s eye-view shots. The result? An atrocious screenplay poorly executed by writer/director Paul Solet. What are Brody and Malkovich doing in rubbish like this?

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Unwatchable teenage morons

Gird your loins for pure adolescent moron overkill, stuffed with idiot teenagers that are painful to watch. Expect lots of sexting, swearing and partying to forgettable pop muzak, with an inane voiceover to make it seem even worse.

The plot involves someone revealing people’s hidden secrets over the web. The four high school girls at the centre of the film are so intensely grating that when violence erupts it’s them you want to be eradicated. The DVD out-takes worryingly show them being equally moronic in real life.

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Excellent war film diminished by horror elements

The film begins with a bunch of US paras involved in the invasion of Europe in 1944. The chaotic scenes aboard the plane during aerial bombardment are brilliantly realised and the excitement continues on the ground as our band of brothers fight for survival. The fact that Germans and French speak in their own languages rather than in accented English adds to the sense of realism.

Then it’s all change. You’ll know from previews and promotions that there’s something very strange going on the Nazi compound, and this is where the film gets much less interesting. We’re soon into genre horror elements with the standard gross-out shock-horror tropes. The upshot? What could have been a brilliant war film turns into an unpalatable horror film. It’s supposed to be fun, but only irredeemable horror fans will find it so. It ends with a great tracking shot that shows what the film could have been. Pity.

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Post-earthquake soap

If you watch this 2010 Chinese film for some disaster-movie action, you’re going to be disappointed. The 1976 Tangshan quake only lasts 5 minutes then there’s 2hr of soapy drama to sit through. The clue is in the film’s title. It’s competently acted and directed and it means well, but the factual ending at the 2008 memorial to the 240,000 who lost their lives is more affecting than anything in the fictional film itself. It follows various characters over the decades following the quake and is pure soapy melodrama.

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Terminally dull character study

Based on her previous soporific character study films, Lynne Ramsay is a peculiar choice of writer/director for a film based on a thriller. She even admitted in interview that she doesn’t know how to direct action. So when the plot requires action, she mostly ignores it and merely films the aftermath, deliberately avoiding excitement. For her one attempt at filming a fight scene, she simply waves the camera around maniacally.

When a plot kicks in after the confused opening, it’s about a grizzled Joaquin Phoenix searching for missing girls. Not that the plot matters. This is mostly about following Phoenix around as he interacts with his aged mother, goes shopping, shambles this way, shambles that way... ‘How’s Janice?” asks his mother. “Who’s Janice?” he says. If only Janice from Friends would turn up to enliven matters. Get on with it!

If you’ve seen previous Ramsay character studies you’ll know what to expect. It’s dismal stuff. Dialogue is delivered oh-so-slowly and deliberately, static silent head shots are held to the point of tedium, poor shot choices are everywhere. Like many others, this reviewer eventually ran out of patience and zapped to the final scene, which was clichéd as well as dismal.

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An insult to the audience

Don’t be fooled by the posters featuring Bruce Willis and Adrien Brody. Willis makes a few brief appearances as a training officer and blink and you’ll miss Brody’s cameo. This is a Chinese film with 90% Chinese dialogue about the 1930s war with Japan. As in an old Cowboys and Indians film, all the Chinese are heroes while all the Japanese are demons. The acting is awful, the direction is staid and the cgi aerial battles are so precisely perfect it’s like watching a cartoon. An overused effect is debris flying at the camera as if it’s 3D. You’ll hate this film, especially if you’ve been fooled into watching it by the plugging of American star involvement. The whole project is a cynical disgrace.

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Boar Online DVD Rental

Fun horror-thriller

Well-made Aussie movie about a nasty big pig. It’s generic stuff but well above average, with effective characters and a well-drawn bush community in peril. In tone it’s more akin to Tremors than an out-and-out horror movie. The boar itself is a suitably gruesome B-feature monster. Using humour as well as drama, writer/director Chris Sun gets you involved with the ensemble cast and keeps you guessing about which of the likeable characters is going to be gored next.

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Enjoyable mystery thriller

This 2007 light thriller is based on a promising original idea but it never reaches any great heights and was overlooked at the time. Nevertheless it’s a classy production that’s worth a look. Samuel L. Jackson, playing against type as an ordinary Joe, runs a company that cleans up the bodily mess left behind when someone dies. Then one day he has to clean a messy murder scene at the house of a missing politician… Given a good plot, director Renny Harlin can usually be relied upon to get the most out of it, and he does so here. It’s a thriller with virtually no action and a disappointing ending, but it bowls along interestingly enough for its 86-minute run time.

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Fun with Jean-Luc Godard

If you’re into film, you have to be into Godard. This reviewer rates his Alphaville as one of the best films ever made (hence my CP nickname). Redoubtable is an irreverent, unsympathetic but humorous take on him at the time of the 1968 Paris riots, when he was beginning to give up mainstream cinema for something more political and radical. Even his fellow revolutionaries want him to go back to making films like his old ones.

It’s based on the books by Anne Wiazemsky, his then wife and muse, so she is inevitably the more sympathetic character. The French title Le Redoubtable is more apt because the film draws parallels between Godard and the revolutionary submarine of that name that was launched at the time.

The American title Godard Mon Amour is perhaps meant to be ironic but it suits the film’s tone, which is surprisingly light and humorous throughout. It even plays the bloody Paris riots to a jaunty score. Godard is shown as a buffoon, with a recurring theme of him getting his glasses broken in various confrontations with the police. Louis Garrel plays the part perfectly, as does Stacy Martin As Anne Wiazemsky.

The most fun for Jean-Luc fans comes from the way director Michel Hazavinicius uses Godardian visual flourishes to tell the story, such as the b/w nude poses of La Femme Mariée and the talking to camera of Masculin Féminine. The funniest scene has a full-frontal naked Jean-Luc saying there’s never a justification for nudity in films.

The film’s subject matter will hold little appeal to a multiplex superhero audience, but it’s lively, colourful, imaginative and a must for Jean-Luc fans. If you can get past the anti-Godard bias, it’s a reminder of how inventive cinema can be.

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Sleazy and boring mess

James Franco tries his hand at a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-type movie, directing himself as a motor bike pack leader with bad teeth, and the result is equally bad. The plot, in which a prince from The Oasis tries to reach Paradise Beach with a female robot for medicine to save his dying mum is ridiculous. None of it makes any sense. There are slo-mo druggie scenes, Lesbian scenes, sleazy brothel topless dancer scenes and too many close-ups of Franco’s teeth.

Most of the 84 minute film features Franco and his mates riding their bikes aimlessly across the desert landscape. The Sonoran Desert of Southern California is beautifully filmed with a smoothly tracking camera, but it soon feels like watching an endless motocross documentary.

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Dreadful rehash

This is trashy bargain basement filmmaking from director Shane Black. It does no justice at all to one of the better sci-fi franchises. Our heroes are a clichéd bunch of macho military morons. The unique Predator visual effects are minimal. It’s all just swearing and running around with big guns. “Can I interest you in getting’ the f--- out of here?” asks one. “Getting ’ the f--- out of here is my middle name,” replies another. That’s the moronic level of the dialogue. As the plot and characters are ludicrous, there’s so little drama that the action becomes tedious. The hip-hop ditty playing over the trailer is another example of the incompetence shown in the whole project.

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Well-paced submarine thriller

Do we really need another cold war submarine movie? The film is based on a 2012 book and adds nothing new to the genre. This time Gerard Butler is the captain, there’s skulduggery beneath the Arctic waves and his sub is sent in to find out what’s going on. You’ll get a laugh after five minutes when he’s hunting with bow and arrow in the high Bulgarian mountains and the caption says he’s in Scotland. All the usual tropes and chain-of-command technical dialogue is present and correct, as are the usual cgi shots of the sub skimming past the camera through murky waters. Will the Russian torpedoes sink Gerard? You get one guess.

A second even less interesting strand of plot has Gary Oldman playing a warmongering politician in Pentagon discussions about what to do. Two clichéd plots in one film not enough? Okay, let’s add in a rogue Russian general with weapons at his disposal. To say nothing of some happy-clapping at the end.

That said, this is a well-paced and never-boring film. Even the clichéd stuff has a cosy familiarity. If only Gerard wasn’t cooped up in his control room with nothing to do to flex his muscles, because there’s a third strand of plot involving a Black Ops raid on the general’s base, and this one does pack some excitement. Brit Toby Stephens is the leader but it should have been Gerard. As he’s also the film’s producer it was maybe too much for him. As he says on the DVD Xtras, that’s the part you’d expect him to play.

Overall the film gives a two-hour easy watch and the DVD Xtras are also worth catching. Gerard is always an enthusiastic interviewee and director Donovan Marsh delivers an interesting commentary for cinema buffs telling us how it was all done.

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Hero Wanted Online DVD Rental

Revenge thriller with a difference

This revenge actioner begins brilliantly and becomes increasingly engrossing as it progresses. Cuba Gooding is the accidental hero who saves a child from a car accident before falling foul of a bunch of bank robbers. His nicely understated performance is a welcome antidote to the usual macho character out for revenge. The elliptical post-Pulp-Fiction plot constantly surprises and the climactic confrontation with Derek the nasty Scotsman and his gang is both exciting and poignant.

Director Brian Smrz made his name as a stunt director and this 2008 film is his first as director. His second – 24 Hours to Live – is even better and well worth checking out. He’s a director in total command of his medium. See if you can work out how the masterful opening tracking shot was done. He does a fine line in ambivalent baddies and creates characters that have real emotional depth. Hero Wanted is as much about loss and grief as about revenge. Smrz is one of the few action directors with heart. He’s worth catching. The DVD has a fascinating feature commentary by him, Gooding and one of the writers.

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