V for Vendetta : Cinema : 24 March 2006
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I think the main reason I went to see this was because practically everyone other than empireonline.co.uk said it was rubbish. The premise of totalitarian, fascist governments running capitalist countries such as ours played its part as well.

Written by the Wachowski brothers (of matrix trilogy fame) and based on the graphic comics of Alan Moore this is set in Britain, sometime in the nearish future. The population have been so horrified by a number of significant terrorist events that a hard line government has swept into power. The country is now predominantly fascist, with the films iconography very representative of pre WWII Germany and a doer british public straight from Billy Elliot.

The key to the whole movie is the relationship between Hugo weavings 'V' and Natalie Portmans 'Evey'. V, a product of the state and sworn enemy there of befriends Evey who has gone from being a fully paid up citizen to public enemy number 2. It is through Evey's eyes that the story is told and through which as she descends into V's world the underlying moral to this story is told.

Apart from a few moments where she seems to be confused as to whether she is Keira Knightley, Portman is accomplished, if just too beautiful to ever be considered normal. Hugo Weavings dialogue and his delivery is phenomenal although I heard a rumour that he isn't actually the guy behind the mask. There are a few quest appearances from British entertainment stalwarts including an excellent impersonation of a modern day Hitler by John Hurt and Stephen Fry basically playing himself as a TV mogul.

This was helmed by a first time feature director, James McTeigue. A quick look at IMDB though shows he is relatively accomplished, having been the first assistant on small time features such The Matrix, Star Wars Attack of the Clones, Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. He does a pretty stylish job here, mostly. There is a great deal of influence from the Wachowski brothers, its plain to see on screen and don't think that was entirely down to script. I think they just didn't want their name on a flick as directors so soon after the last two Matrix movies.

Cinematically, as I mentioned earlier the whole sometimes feels disjointed. I don't know whether this is because of editing or because the story so focuses on its ultimate message it at times loses track of how its going to get there.

You can see from the final sequences that this theme is something the Wachowski brothers have been looking at for a long time. Its basic premise of 'are the terrorists really the ones you should be scared of' matches the initial plot line of the Matrix, its finale closely matches a key cinematic in Revolutions. Its almost like they got lost in the all the hype of the last two Matrix incarnations and this is the message they really wanted to get across, but got lost along the way.

If the current state of the world, terrorism, and the reaction of our culture and governments to it is of the slightest interest to you, then you must watch this. If not then watch it anyway, it might open your eyes.


Director
James McTeigue
Writer
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Starring
Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam, Ben Miles
Studio
Warner Bros
Genre
Action, Drama, Future
Runtime
131 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
$93,996,435+
Released
2006
Underworld /Underworld Evolution : Action : DVD/Cinema : 25 & 26 January 2006
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These two movies are reviewed as one here as they are together a realisation for all the things the makers could not achieve in the original. You can literally watch them back to back; Evolution picks up seconds after Underworld finishes. Sort of.

How should you approach the viewing of these movies? Buy or rent Underworld, watch it and then immediately rush out and watch Evolution. Or if your reading this post February 2006 rent them both.

I had not seen underworld at the cinema, it was out at a time when the Matrix sequels were stomping over all our expectations, I had certainly seen my fill of trench coats come the end of Reloaded. Why the prospect of Beckinsale in latex didnt seem appealing is beyond me, but I stayed away. Underworld didnt do that bad though. $94 million world wide just sneaked it into the criteria for sequel prospect and its subsequent adoption as a genre cult movie and DVD sales got it the green light.

The basis from the get go in Underworld is that unknwon to us a war has been raging across our countries between vampires and werewolves. The werewolves are touchily called lykien in the movie but even the script just gives up roughly half way through and calls them werewolves. Anyway the war has been raging, but apprently in hiatus since the leader of the werewolves was slayed in an epic face off.

The vampires now, are occupied on the hunting down and slaying of the remaining lykien with which underworld opens as Beckinsales character; Selene prepares to do away with a couple more.

We are then treated to a goth world of stylish looks, instant death, large fangs, big guns and clean lighting reflected off willowy latex clad limbs. All is not what it seems though and gradually the somewhat naive Selene unviels events that tie her and the race of vampires to an unexpected retelling of the past!

The story is one of the strengths of Underworld, for my mind. It not only creates the fragility of the Selene character through which the enterprisingly presented but fairly stereotypical events start to unfold, but it creates a real feel for the history of these two tribes. Roughly half way through the storytellers turn things upside down and demand we pay attention, least our expectations slip into genre friday night hash fest. Very good.

Visually this was a real pleasure. There were a few weaknesses, but then this was not big budget despite its mostly polished look, and the weaknesses are small. I liked the look of the werewolves and the use of real man suits on stilts, although I didnt realise this until I watched the extras. The CGI werewolves were a little weak but they were only onscreen fleetingly. Beckinsale always looked fantastic, all costume design is lavish, each scene is framed beautifully and each frame shows the passion of the makers.

Acting was excellent I thought. Quite often you will find that the players will ham up these roles, what the hell its a vampire flick! All here throw everything into making these characters seem real and for this alone both these are watchable. The story and Beckinsale in particular, despite her slick moves gave Selene a real vulnerability as her world unfurls around her. I did get a little irritated that the Kraven character found the need to shout all his scenes but then he might have been undone by editing. There was also the small problem of taking Nighy seriously now I have seen Love Actually but he above all others went full tilt in portraying an ancient vampire elder as a believable entity.

Evolution, continues this trend. It is not quite so visually compelling and it does give up on some of the values that made Underworld stand out, noteably though this has a lot to do with the limited plot. This is simply a fulfilling of the whole story they wanted to tell in the original.

It takes place immediately after the first finishes and follows the fallout of the events that transpired in Underworld over the next day and night. This is also complimented by an extended look at the origins of Selenes character and the medieval origins of both the vampires and the werewolves.

Visually we have a similar washed out pallete but a more traditional movie framing of the scenes. The set pieces and action sequences are stunning and despite the fact we see a large proportion of Beckinsales flesh this time round, or that of her body double, who knows! I dont think I have set eyes on any women that has so taken my breath while fully clothed!

All in all, this is honest, thoroughly enjoyable enterprise that will neither waste your time or your money and will stay with you a lot longer than many of the other cinematic offerings of this time.


Director
Len Wiseman
Writer
Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
Starring
Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Robbie Gee, Wentworth Miller, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Görög
Studio
Sony/Screen Gems
Genre
Action, Vampire, werewolf
RunTime
115 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
$93,708,457
Released
2003



Director
Len Wiseman
Writer
Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
Starring
Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh, Shane Brolly, Brian Steele, Zita Görög, Scott McElroy, John Mann, Michael Sheen. Sophia Myles
Studio
Sony/Screen Gems
Genre
Action, Vampire, werewolf
RunTime
106 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
$60,692,812+
Released
2006
Serenity : Cinema : 11 October 2005
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I should probably tell you about how I came to Serenity before I start talking about the movie. Early October I was walking past a colleagues desk who was watching a quicktime trailer for a movie that in the time honoured tradition seemed to be the next greatest movie I needed to watch. Just from the trailer the framing of scenes and the dialogue seemed really cool. Having endured a summer of really slim pickings on the movie front and feeling generally disheartened with the lack of anything specifically good since the end of Rings, perhaps excluding anything with Denzel Washington in it, this looked real good.

Of course the movie wasnt out yet, but two weeks later I was in the Cinema. I cant really remember how I was, pretty excited I think. My two main sources of information; Aint it Cool had given it a rave review as had Empire, who seldomly fail me. Life has taught me though that I should not build up my expectations for they will surely be swept away like so much brittle timber under a large wave.

Serenity starts with a teaser, much in the frame as the Bond and more recently Rings movies in that there is an initial sequence before the opening credits appear on screen. By the time the opening sequence closed and those credits began to appear, while Serenity itself rolled in front of our screens to the beautiful David Newman soundtrack Joss Whedon was already plucking at the strings of my emotions like a virtuoso seated astride their favourite harpsicord. Through the movie he kept plucking, conjuring larger than life characters that you associate with immediately, making you laugh, sometimes out load, always doing the unexpected and all the while entertaining around the continued premise of strong characterisation.

By the time the credits rolled I knew I had seen a movie that would stay with me forever much as Blade Runner and Fellowship have. I went straight home and spent two hours on the net researching the movie and found that it had evolved from a TV series called FireFly that had apparently been fantastic but got cancelled by Fox because no one watched it! The series was available on DVD and I was soon an owner in waiting. Further research indicated a large following for the movie and the series. I received my DVD boxset a few days later and proceeded to watch this truly brilliant series that imbues everything amazing about the movie over a 14 hour period. Life continued safe in the knowledge that Serenity was going to make a fortune and natural order would be restored.

One month later and Serenity is out of the cinemas. World wide takings hardly even cover the cost of making the movie and the only hope is that word of mouth will make it the must have DVD. It really saddens me to think something this ingenious and inventive in a time when everything around us is so bland and unimaginative, can crash and burn. What is wrong with the people on this fucking planet, open your eyes! Wake up!

Whats about 500 times more ghauling is that the drivel Lucas served us up as a space wars adventure made enough money to feed whole continents for decades.


Director
Joss Whedon
Writer
Joss Whedon
Starring
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Studio
Universal Pictures
Genre
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Runtime
113 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
£17,151,188+
Released
2005
www.serenitymovie.com

Resident Evil: Apocolypse : DVD : 16 May 2005
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I quite enjoyed Resident Evil (2002) I have to say. It was very honest about what it was; Zombie flick with kick ass heroin in mini skirt, it never tried to be anything else and for my mind thoroughly entertained.

So when Apocolypse was released and was greeted with pretty good reviews I was very encouraged. When I eventually got to see it on DVD my expectations were exceeded.

The movie opens with some explanation of the carnage that greets Alice as she emerges from the Raccoon labs at the end of the first, along with some scene setting from the story ahead. This is the weakest part of the movie for my mind, looked like it had been filmed in a hurry at the very end for no dollars whatsoever and if I had been watching on satellite would probably have moved on.

Then we set our eyes on the amazing form of Sienna Guillory in strapless blue top, mini skirt and totting a couple of really big guns. She proceeds to see off a multitude of baddies while looking extremely good and I am sitting there thinking "How is Milla going to avoid being upstaged by this!".

Enter stage center Milla on motorbike, super fast action moves and no need to worry. Milla looks very comfortable and the two ladies work brilliantly together without ever looking like one is trying to out do the other.

There really is no story, but it really isnt needed. The rag tag group have to go from point A to point B before the city is nuked (think Escape from New York without the brooding music or Kurt Russell), all the characters just seem to work, the action is continuous and well executed and the ending leaves ample opportunity for a Resident Evil 3: Nemesis II

This movie would be worth the purchase just for the sheer delight of seeing Milla and Sienna fighting their way out of no win scenario after no win scenario, throw in the magnificent Oded Fehr (Mummy & Mummy II), a well implemented big bad Nemesis baddie, love the smock! well staged and choreographed action and an extremely polished cinematic look and you have a top evenings entertainment and a DVD that wont just gather dust after the first viewing.

A rare gem and a must have, buy the first one while your at it and be pleasantly surprised.


Director
Alexander Witt
Writer
Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring
Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Jared Harris, Sandrine Holt, Mike Epps, Zack Ward, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Sophie Vavasseur
Studio
Screen Gems
Genre
Action, Horror
Runtime
94 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
£72,469,777
Released
2004
Welcome to the Jungle AKA The Rundown : DVD: 16 April 2005
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OK, I admit, I spent the first hour of this movie wondering whether the Rock would make a good Jack Reacher, but if you havent heard of our Jack or Lee Child you probably wont have a clue what I am on about.

The Rock plays a retriever who has to fetch a mobsters son (Seann William Scott) from some south American jungle where he is on the verge of finding an ancient relic, with a back drop of local tribes people being used as cheap labour by the rather nasty Hatcher (Christopher Walken).

The movie is entertaining but has nothing to do with a plot that seems to have been plucked straight from the A-Team archives. Make no mistake, this movie rests very firmly on the very broad shoulders of the Rock and putting him in front of the camera as often as possible.

Interestingly, sure yeah, he looks good with or without his shirt on, he does action with supreme aplomb and looks so relaxed in front of the camera that you really do get some aspect of his charisma shining through the screen and actually begin to think that this guy can actually act, well I did.

This is the second action movie I have seen Seann William Scott in during the last year. The first was 'Bullet Proof Monk' where his admirable efforts were let down by the most awful movie I have seen in many years. In this he is just annoying, not sure whether he was meant to be. Walken is in auto mode and turns in a rounded but tired performance. Rosario Dawson was rather limited as the tough pretty face but did look damn good.

The production mostly looks big budget but there are several occassions when you begin to think that maybe there wasnt much money available. You certainly get a sense that what was available was on the screen in the form of quality cinematography, a small number of CGI and some quite amazing stunt work, which is a good thing I suppose.

So, the story a little tedious, but watching the A-Team once a week throughout my childhood might have had something to do with that. The Rock shines, he does strike up a descent rapore with Sean Williams and there are some genuinely funny touches throughout. The mandatory fight scenes are extremely well staged and never fail to make the lead look really good, which probably isnt that difficult.

On the surface this is your run of the mill friday night action fest, but closer inspection shows The Rock has charisma in spades and certainly makes me wonder whether he could be the action star that really could make the transition to main stream acting where others like Schwarzenegger and Stallone failed.


Director
Peter Berg
Writer
James Vanderbilt, Kario Salem
Starring
The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, Jon Gries
Studio
Universal Pictures
Genre
Action, Adventure, Comedy
Runtime
104 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
£45,318,656
Released
2003
Van Helsing : Cinema
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Stephen Sommers is the man that wrote and directed Deep Rising, Mummy I & II and this CGI laden who's who's of mythical danger figures. If you thought Mummy II was a rollercoaster then Van Helsing is a two mile free fall where the gig is someone throws the parachute out after you have jumped.

Its well crafted, combines just about every horror story monster constructed via the written word in the last century or so and is well CGI'ed in as much as you see the CGI but it mostly compliments the on screen action.

The pace of the movie is such that come the end of the first hour I was all but too exhauseted to go on and watch the second, I think the movie acknowledges this with a slow down of pace and I did hang around. Damn glad I did as well, although walking out of the cinema my mind was so busy trying to process all it had seen that I could not recall one or two particularly impressive scenes, there were so many.

Jackman was impressive as Helsing but didnt think the hat or hair suited, maybe I am just to sold on Wolf hair. Beckinsale was very decorative but sadly her action involvement seemed to die a death after an hour and spent the rest, mostly, waiting to be rescued. Richard Roxborough who I thought was fantastic in Moulin Rouge as the Duke was equally good as the Count here although I suspect not many main stream actors would have failed Sommers in this OTT role. David Wenham (fresh from an under used turn as Faramir in LOTR) was entertaining as a mediaval Q and the three very alluring ladies that played the brides of Dracula were brilliantly envisaged.

Production was of the highest quality, although as a screen writer I do sometimes think that Stephen Sommers knows what makes for good entertainment but as a director hasnt quite worked out the balance between mentally exhausting action and genuinely involving plot and character development.

All good stuff and top marks for sheer effort.


Director
Stephen Sommers
Writer
Stephen Sommers
Starring
Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Silvia Colloca, Schuler Hensley, Will Kemp, Josie Maran, Kevin J. O'Connor, David Wenham, Samuel West
Studio
Universal Pictures
Genre
Action, Horror
Runtime
125 minutes
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
£168,108,387
Released
2004
Reign of Fire : DVD
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Mnnn. I dont know why but any movie I see made in the UK always seems to me, to be low budget. I dont know whether thats a subliminal thing from watching so many low budget TV dramas during the 70's (when growing up) or whether the filmakers really did have to film on some Devon beach or iin the bleakest of scottish mountainsides because of monetary concerns.

Anyway, to the movie. I was a little disapointed that the emergence of the Dragons isnt shown in greater detail but having seen the extras unnderstand the phenominal extra cost having thousands of dragons raise london and new york to the ground would have involved. Would have been good all the same though.

So the story, and I dont think I am giving away any spoilers here starts at the extension to the London Jubilee line (tube) circa modern day, during which an old cave is discovered that contains a dorment male dragon that doesnt stay in that condition for long and hey presto, the end of mankind on this world is nigh.

20 ish years later we see small pockets of mankind scraping a crust from the dry tundra of the earth while trying to avoid the dragons, who seem to live off ash, and humans seem to give good ash!

Reading back over this, it does all seem a little giggle worthy, but somehow the production team pull it all off, its not stupid on screen at least.

Ok, the construct of the story is horribly cliched, you can almost work out the major plot points, where the story will end and who dies within the first 30 minutes, but for all this its a good entertaining romp.

Highlights include the play acted to the children near the beginning showing good and evil, the bit with the helicopter and the geezers that jump out of said copters as bait for the dragons (right up there for originality and enge of the seat tension) and the actual visualisation of the dragon to the screen when in closeup. Good stuff.

Acting right across the board is adequate, sometimes understated, othertimes overstated but at all times within the context of the movie. The only person that stands out is Izabella Scorupco as the ballsy helicopter pilot and thats mostly cos she is attractive (and female) in a mainly male movie.

Production is extremely good and probably covers a majority of sins generated by lack of budget.

Overall, quality Friday night entertainment while eating your fish and chips or chinese. Easy plot so you shouldnt be pestered by the Mrs. with such cliches as , 'what' happens next' or 'is that a bomb' as Dragons are fairly easy to spot and the story is by the numbers.

PS the dragons do look very good.

DVD Extras
There is no audio commentary which i was really disapointed with and the extras cover bits like the production of the fire effects which while probably of interest to your average arsenist, didnt float my boat. There is a half hearted interview with the director who is more noted for his XFile series and movie directing.


Director
Rob Bowman
Writer
Gregg Chabot, Matt Greenberg, Kevin Peterka
Starring
Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Gerard Butler, Izabella Scorupco, Alexander Siddig, Scott James Moutter, Doug Cockle, David Kennedy
Studio
Touchstone Pictures
Genre
Action, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Runtime
0 Mins
Boxoffice(Worldwide)
£46,009,606
Released
2002

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