The Raid / Dark Shadows

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsOnce again courtesy of a lovely grandmother, we managed to escape for a couple of hours cinema time. Two films coincided well timewise so we decided to cram them in.

The Raid: Redemption


Plot-in-a-nutshell: Who cares?

See it if you like: Lots and lots of lovely bloody violence

OK, so there is a plot. 20 Indonesian police storm a block of flats under the control of a drug baron and experience far more resistance than they anticipated… and no way out.

However, the plot’s wrapped up in some of the most intense and bloody violence I’ve seen in a film of this ilk. Imagine something like Die Hard meets Hostel starring Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa. Only it’s not them who are in it, it’s a bunch of incredibly talented Indonesian martial artists and actors.

Unusually, from my point of view anyway, the director (and writer) Gareth Evans is Welsh. How he ended up making this film on the other side of the world is beyond me, but I’m glad he did. It’s dark, gritty, bloody, edge-of-the seat action magnificence. At times right after some of the combat scenes I – with no exaggeration –  found myself wanting to applaud. I settled, for the most part, with cackling with sadistic glee.

I’m glad to see that reviews have been overwhelmingly positive for The Raid, and it’s great to see a moderately low-budget Indonesian film with subtitles getting a wide release across the UK. Certainly Momentum Pictures are doing a better job than Revolver Entertainment are with their farcical plans for Iron Sky… Just a heads-up there for other indie film companies!

Iko Uwais and the rest of the cast will be pretty much unknown in the UK, I would expect. After The Raid, I hope they go on to be better recognised and with luck we might see some more of their work. Simply breathtaking athleticism, top notch make-up and effects, a taught script and a pace that pauses for breath only fleetingly over its course.

If you like action films then this is without a doubt the 2012 definition of “must see”.

Dark Shadows

“Welcome home, Barnabas Collins.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: spurned witch turns her eye candy into a vampire and buries him for 196 years. He awakes in the 1970’s…

See it if you like: quirky comedy horrors with excellent effects and cheesy humour

I was aware of the old TV show when I heard of this film, but as far as I know it’s never been released in the UK. I gather the original was a lot darker than this update, but having nothing to compare it with I can only comment on what I thought of the 2012 version.

Tim Burton is known for his weirdness – and also for casting Johnny Depp. Both are present here, Depp taking the lead role of involuntary vampire Barnabas Collins. Cursed for breaking the heart of Angelique (Eva Green), he escapes from buried imprisonment in 1972 and finds his mansion home in disrepair, populated by what little remains of his descended family.

Discovering that Angelique is also immortal and currently head honcho in the town, he vows to bring her down and revive his family’s fortunes.

Most of the laughs in this film come from Barnabas’ unfamiliarity with the world he is living in and his unwanted attraction to his nemesis. There is a dollop of erotic humour, but the majority is just nice and silly with a small amount of slapstick thrown in for giggles.

Visually, it’s a treat with some lovely effects, costumes and sets. The acting’s as good as you would expect from the cast, and the story’s OK if a little “by the numbers” and over-long by about 15 minutes.

Enough laughs to keep most people going, though I gather the reviews are not overly favourable. A shame as it’s simply just a good, fun movie.


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Rum Diary / In Time

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsTwo films for the first time in a while. It should have been three, but despite battling traffic (and a slightly dodgy sat-nav) to get to the cinema in time I arrived to find out that the performance of Tintin I had aimed for wasn’t on. Not for the first time has Cineworld’s web site lied to me. Boo. So, McDonald’s for dinner and then back across the car park for the first of two films.

The Rum Diary

“We’re out of rum.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Alcoholic writer arrives in Puerto Rico, gets involved in local (dodgy) politics. Weirdness and mild amusement ensues.

See it if you like: Slightly weird, off-kilter dramas and/or Johnny Depp.

If you know of Hunter S. Thomson then you’ll know what to expect. Slightly off-centre characters, a touch of illegal drugs and a vat of alcohol form the basis of this entertaining story. Set in 1950’s Puerto Rico, Depp plays Kemp – a reporter brought in from the US to work for the slowly dying local rag.

Disillusioned and drunk, Kemp wants to write about what’s wrong with Puerto Rico. His editor, on the other hand, wants fluffy pieces about bowling alleys and sandy beaches. Unwittingly, Kemp ends up embroiled in one of the very corrupt escapades he despises.

Buddied up with a completely brain-fried Swede (Moburg played by Giovanni Ribisi) and a burnt-out photographer (Sala – Michael Rispoli), he soaks up the island, gets arrested, meets the girl of his dreams, annoys an underworld boss and rails against the bringing-down of the newspaper he was brought in to work for.

There are a handful of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, and sadly the funniest of these is in the trailer. Other than that, it’s just continually amusing. Largely this is due to the performances from the cast as a whole. The dialogue is poetic and insightful in places, while quick-witted in others. A genuinely nice mix.

It is also, however, a little slow going and the last act does feel a bit “cludged together” just to get the story done.

I did enjoy it, but I don’t think it’s the rolloer-coaster ride of hilarity the trailer made it out to be.

In Time

“Don’t waste my time”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Time is now currency. Run out and you die. Have loads and you’re effectively immortal.

See it if you like: Sci fi thrillers with a twist, and not having to use your brain too much

I love the premise for this film. When you reach 25 years of age, a little clock kicks in on your arm giving you a year to live. Every second on that clock is currency which can be used to buy things. On the downside when it hits zero, your heart stops. In the meantime, your body doesn’t age.

But how is this currency controlled? What happens when people realise they’re running low, or if they manage to amass a fortune? In Time gives its answers to these questions along with a story of what happens if one man, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), tries to level the playing field a little.

This isn’t a brain-bender along the lines of Total Recall or Inception. It’s a far simpler and the premise isn’t explored beyond the fact that the world simply is like that. No history, no major twists. The overall theme would likely appeal to all those 99% protesters – isn’t it a little unfair that so many people struggle and suffer while a small percentage have the vast majority of the wealth?

Salas, living in the ghetto just getting by day to day as his job tops up his time, finds himself the beneficiary of a windfall. A hundred years. He decides to use it to get into the more exclusive districts and find out who’s controlling all this time. After all, someone’s making a profit from people “timing out”.

He ends up paired up with excessively-skinny waif Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried – seriously, could get legs be any thinner and still carry her weight?) while being chased by Time Keeper Leon (Cillian Murphy) as he fights to expose the high-end corruption that’s costing ordinary people their lives.

It’s a nice enough popcorn movie with some decent action sequences and, as I said, a great premise. It’ll never be a classic but I don’t think it’s trying to be.

Certainly not  waste of time.

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Pirates of the Caribbean 4 / Blitz

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIf I see films on different nights I usually give them different posts, but I wanted to ensure these two were compared. We saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on the Friday after the Tigertailz gig (see separate post), and fortunately found ourselves available to see a film the night after. This allowed us to wash away the lingering scent of cine-shit with a far superior film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

“Did everyone see that? Because I will *not* be doing it again.” (I wish this were the case, but I gather there’s at least one more film being made)

See if if you like: watching franchises take not one, but two steps too far and disappear up their own arseholes. Also if you really think that Johnny Depp deserves a new wing on his house in exchange for buggering about on a movie screen without even bothering to make it look like he’s trying.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not sure. Fell asleep. Something to do with mermaids.

Good grief, this was awful. Really awful. “Watched two different couple leave before the halfway mark and considered following them” awful. “Fell asleep shortly afterwards and woke to the end credits” awful.

I was looking forward to the film, especially as there was a 2D version so at least I wasn’t forced to pay extra for the privilege of wearing sunglasses and squinting for over two hours. However, I’d happily have worn a pair of Joo-Janta 500 Peril Sensitive sunglasses for this monstrosity.

I’ve read reviews that claim the relationship between Depp and co-start Penelope Cruz “sizzles” on screen, and I’d love to know what version of the film those people saw. It wasn’t a patch on the “will they / won’t they” scenes with Kiera Knightley in the first film. Mind you, this sums up the whole film. Damp squibiness abounds.

I gather Johnny Depp is a nice guy – popping into a local school in full pirate dress for a surprise, and blowing $65,000 on raincoats for the crew. However, it doesn’t excuse a completely lacklustre display of a character well-known for his flamboyance. It just doesn’t look like he’s trying.

The story is apparently based on a book from 1988 with the same title, a book which also influenced LucasArt’s excellent The Secret of Monkey Island game. For your money, I’d say get hold of a copy of that and play it instead. It’s far more entertaining.


“Do I look like I carry a pencil?”

See if if you like: really, gritty, violent thrillers chock full of violence.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a psycho nutter starts going around London killing police officers. A copper with a dodgy reputation for having slightly violent tendencies is out to get him.

The entire budget for this film would probably just about cover Depp’s laundry bill for POTC4. In exchange you get a movie that’s countless times better, with a taught story, good acting, at least as many amusing quips and far more blood and gore. Plus, there’s no sodding 3D version.

Blitz is also based on a book, also filmed in London – but gifted with a good story, although I did think it ran just a little too long. It kicks of very swiftly, brings you up to speed with the characters and gets quite violent very early on.

The characters are a little “off the shelf” (the good, but violent cop (Jason Statham); the high-ranker nobody else likes (Paddy Considine); the vulnerable female (Zawe Ashton)…) but they fit together well to make a drama that could have been spread over a few weeks by BBC1 in hour-long episodes. Well – it could if the Beeb were OK with the word “cunt” being used less then two minutes into the first act.

What makes this film a little different from most is that the “whodunnit” aspect is done away with very early on. “Blitz” (Aidan Gillen) is unmasked fairly early on so that we can witness his increasingly brutal murders. And they are brutal. Not Saw or Hostel brutal, but personal, close-up and bloody. The woman next to me was visibly shaken by one in particular.

The film then follows the chase and the attempt to build a case up against someone the police are already sure of, while a reporter gets involved and Blitz is still out there.

It’s not often Gillian and I agree on a film so much. Less so that we agree about two on the trot. Be both thought POTC4 was a yawn-fest and we both thoroughly enjoyed Blitz.

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Another cinema trip with the kids, so a rare munchkin-friendly outing with Industrial Light & Magic‘s new showcase piece.


“Stay in school, eat your veggies, and burn all the books that ain’t Shakespeare.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A domesticated lizard finds himself lost in the desert and sheriff of a small frontier town.

ILM haven’t made a full length animated feature before. They’re better known for being one of the world’s premier special effects companies with more films to their credit than I’ve ever likely seen. They’ve gone all out with the technology and casting to make this impressive start (possibly) to a new wing of their business.

With Johnny Depp in the title rôle, it’s off to a good start. Add in the likes of Bill Nighy as an outlaw rattlesnake, Alfred Molina as an armadillo with a death-defying desire to cross the road, Ray Winstone as a cigar-chomping… something and Isla Fisher as the love interest and there’s been no skimping on the vocal talent. Hell, they’ve got Gore Verbinski (all the Pirates of the Caribbean films) to direct.

Depp rarely sounds like himself in this (does he ever?) but you can picture him playing the part in some scenes that seem written for his usual slightly off-kilter self. Rango himself is a strange character. Flung from a car in the opening minutes, he acts his way through the movie taking each event as a challenge and bluffing his way through. More by luck than judgement he ends up being a bit of a hero.

Now, I enjoyed the film although I thought it a teeny bit slow in places. Gill also enjoyed it. The two kids, however, weren’t so keen. It’s dark – not the bright, colourful explosion that appeals to most youngsters. The humour was quick and clever, but way over the heads with very little slapstick. The dialogue, also, was hard to follow in places. Very well acted, but the accents made it tricky for me in places. Younger audience members would surely struggle.

Visually, it’s superb. Absolutely on a plane of its own. The detail and movement make Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within look like a flip-book drawn in crayon. OK, that’s unfair on FF, but the whole look of the film really is incredible. You can tell a bunch of people with incredible mathematical brains have designed this film to show off their fluid dynamics and ray-tracing skills. Every bit of glass reflects and bends light, every grain of sand flows and drifts as realistically as it would in real life. Best of all, none of this takes away from the overall look of the film.

Definitely recommended for those who like their cartoon humour a little more subtle, and who appreciate when a lot of effort has been put into a production. Just hold out for the likes of Rio and that turtle film if  you’re going to be taking nippers with you.

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