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Mike Wilder brings you movie reviews. Each week a Selection of reviews for new releases and older films plus movie comparisons.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Review of Seeking Justice (2011) by Mike

Title: Seeking Justice (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 18th November 2011

Original US Release Date: 16th March 2012

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: R

Director: Roger Donaldson

Genre: Thriller

Plot: After his wife is raped, Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is approached by a stranger who tells him that for a favour at a later date he will “take care” of the attacker. When the time comes for him to repay the favour he has second thoughts and his life spirals out of control.

Mike's Review

            This film is about a group of vigilantes that find you after a crime has been committed against you or your family. They offer to kill the offender in exchange for a future favour from you. The favour turns out to be you killing someone that is guilty of a nasty crime.

            I am a fan of Nicolas Cage. He has starred in some great films but he has also been in his fair share of bad ones. After seeing the trailer for this I had high hopes for another great one. Including him there is a great cast including Guy Pearce, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter, Harold Perrineau & Xander Berkeley this combined with an interesting premise gave the film a good chance to be something great.

            However the makers of the film seemed to forget all the good things they had to work with and ended up making a standard throwaway film. Jennifer Carpenter who is great in the series Dexter and the films Quarantine and Faster is hardly used. The same goes for Xander Berkeley and Harold Perrineau they pop up a couple of times but none of them are used to their full potential. Guy Pearce plays the “baddie” in the film but he needed to be more menacing. Nicolas Cage is in pretty much every scene and it is very much his film. Fortunately he plays a character that he has played many times and it is a formula that works for him. The confused hero that is out of his league and has to overcome great adversity to survive. It is one of his better performances and together with January Jones they really save the film.

            The film needed to have more of a feeling of threat and danger for the main characters, the chase scenes are over before they seem to have begun, and the climax to the film seemed to be rushed and lacks the danger you expect.

            However this is still a good film as long as your expectations aren’t too high. It is enjoyable and as I said Nicolas Cage is good in this. This is a very watchable film. The direction in this is good but I would expect no less from Rodger Donaldson who directed The Bounty (1984), Cocktail (1988), Dante’s Peak (1997) & The Recruit (2003).

            Give it a go if you are a Nicolas Cage fan, if not then this may not be the film for you.

7 out of 10

Additional Information


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Review of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) by Mike

Title: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Original UK Release Date: 16th July 1999

Original US Release Date: 19th May 1999

UK Rating: U

US Rating: PG

Director: George Lucas

Genre: Sci-Fi

Plot: Two Jedi Knights travel to the planet Naboo to mediate a trade dispute. Whilst there, they discover a threat that will have grave consequences for the whole galaxy.

Mike's Review (There are minor spoilers in this review)

            I’m a huge Star Wars fan. By huge I mean verging on obsession. I grew up with the original trilogy and had pretty much all the available toys when I was younger (Still have them!). When a new trilogy was announced it was like all my Christmases coming at once. I avoided as much of the publicity as I could, only watching the trailer and skipping any magazine articles on the subject. I wanted to enjoy the film and have nothing influencing it. I knew who was in it but that was about it. However it was hard to avoid all the negative information that was spreading. As much as I tried I knew that this film was largely not well liked. This didn’t bother me after all it was Star Wars, how bad could it be?

I went to the cinema in anticipation and sat down. Then it started. STAR WARS came upon the screen and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This was it. The yellow text started scrolling up the screen and I couldn’t help but smile. The smile of a true fan.

            The film starts out with two Jedi Knights arriving on the planet Naboo. Once there they are soon fighting for their lives. When they flee the planet they take with them the Naboo Queen, her guard and a native of the planet Jar Jar Binks. During the film we are introduced to a variety of characters and plenty of mystery. The end of the film is a showdown between the Jedi Knights and a mysterious alien that pushes them to their limits. The new 3D conversion is good although maybe unnecessary. It adds a new dimension to the film and on the huge cinema screen draws you in even more.

            The film looks amazing, as only a Star Wars film can. Using modern filmmaking techniques George Lucas creates a film like you have never seen before just like he did with the original films. Once again he uses a mixture of established actors including Liam Neeson, Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Samuel L. Jackson, & Ian McDiarmid and up and coming stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ray Park, Dominic West & Keira Knightley. George Lucas has a talent for finding the perfect person for the role. The cast is excellent and make the best of their parts. What George Lucas isn’t known for is his script writing. Once again, just like the first Star Wars film it doesn’t make much sense at first but this is what all the haters of this film fail to see. This isn’t a single film, it is the first of three films. When viewed as a trilogy it all falls into place. There is a reason for everything. Yes, the character of Jar Jar Binks is annoying, but he eventually serves to be the downfall of the galaxy. Many people were too busy hating him and ignoring his appearance in the following films to grasp this. Also yes, Ewan McGregor appears to be terrible in this, but he was meant to be that way. He is playing a character that is still finding his way in the universe and relies on his master for guidance. View the character in the following film and you will see the maturity and wisdom of the character all through the brilliant acting skills of Ewan McGregor, the stand out performance of the film.

            Some films shouldn’t be over analysed and just enjoyed and this is one of those. This film is Star Wars like no one had ever experienced it before. The light sabre battles are incredible, the space battle spectacular and the use of CGI is second to none. I don’t know what everyone else who saw this expected but it was exactly what I wanted.

The original film is known as a master piece in film making using techniques never seen before. It is also know for bad acting, terrible script and bad direction. But so is this one. It used effects never seen before and it also has all the flaws of the original film. But it is hated! Look at the original film now as if you have never seen it before. It is bad. But it is bad in a good way and put with the next two films it all falls into place to make a great story. This is also true of the prequel films. Individually they all have flaws, together the flaws don’t matter. This is Star Wars! When you first saw them some of you were probably children. You got lost in the experience and they blew your mind. You saw the new ones as a cynical grown up with your lives full of responsibility and maturity and the experience was wasted on you. Bet your kids loved the new ones though!?

This is Star Wars and I bloody loved it!!

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi


Review of Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) by Mike

Title: Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: 27th February 1987

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Howard Deutch

Genre: Drama

Plot: Taking a chance, Keith (Eric Stoltz) asks out the most popular girl in school, to get back at her now ex-boyfriend she accepts. As he plans the perfect date, her ex plans his revenge.

Mike's Review

            This is a film written by the late John Hughes. He has always had a talent for writing realistic and engaging characters as shown in many of his other films including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, & Uncle Buck. All great films and with this one he pulls it off again.

            The story follows Keith (Eric Stoltz) as he tries to discover his place in the world dealing with his overbearing father who is desperate for him to go to college. Keith is infatuated by popular girl Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) and he invites her on a date, she accepts and Keith along with help from his best friend, a tomboy called Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), plan the most amazing date.

            The cast including Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton & Elias Koteas is great and all bring something great to each character. The story is basic but it draws you in and doesn’t let go. The scenes are beautifully shot and the soundtrack brings the film come to life.

            This is a really fun film with some great twists and fun characters. The standout character is the skinhead Duncan played by Elias Koteas who steals every scene he is in.

            John Hughes has created another under rated masterpiece. It is not as well known as Ferris Bueller's Day Off & Home Alone, but due to the more serious tone of the film, this is better.

            This is a great film, perfectly made and flawless. It’s one I can watch time and time again.

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Elias Koteas as Duncan


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Review of Super 8 (2011) by Mike

Title: Super 8 (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 5th August 2011

Original US Release Date: 10th June 2011

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: J.J. Abrams

Genre: Sci-Fi

Plot: A group of young amateur film makers witness a train crash. After the crash something escapes from one of the carriages.

Mike's Review

            There was a lot of anticipation for this film following the success of J.J. Abrams previous monster movie Cloverfield (2008). I really enjoyed Cloverfield and was looking forward to this and fortunately it didn’t disappoint.

            The film is set in 1979 and starts out by introducing a group of kids making a zombie movie. Late at night they go to a train station to film some scenes in time with when a train passes. A few seconds later there is one of the best train crashes ever put to film. A creature escapes and the children realise that there is a cover up going on.

            Using a cast of young unknown actors works really well for this film. It gives the film a feel similar to Goonies (1985) and Stand By Me (1986). The young actors are great in this, come to think about it everyone is great in this. It is hard to find a stand out performance. I was torn between Elle Fanning as Alice Dainhard and Joel Courtney as Joen Lamb. I decided to go with Joel Courtney as it is his first acting role and acts like a veteran.

            The effects in this are as you would expect, incredible. It is a CGI heavy film but you hardly notice as the effects blend seamlessly with real life.

            This has a brilliant cast, amazing effects and a good story. But for some reason I felt something was missing. I feel the story was what let it down. As I said it is a good story but not a great one. It gets a little predictable and cliché. When the film ended I wanted more, not for the film to keep going but more story. There are so many small stories in this that it seems cramped. This is a Sci-Fi/Thriller but there was a lot of drama added into the film and for me it felt too much. I would have loved to see a film with the young actors just focusing on them. They have a great story without the monster and I found myself more interested in their lives and then the monster would arrive on screen and change the pace of the film. During these parts there was nothing that you haven’t seen before in monster movies.

             This is a good film and it is very enjoyable to watch. Keep watching the end credits as you get to see the kids zombie movie.

8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Joel Courtney as Joen Lamb

Special Mention: Ryan Lee as the Zombie!


Review of Footloose (2011) by Mike

Title: Footloose (2011)
Original UK Release Date: 14th October 2011

Original US Release Date: 14th October 2011

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Craig Brewer

Genre: Musical/Drama/Romance

Plot: After the death of his Mother, Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from the city to a small town to live with his Aunt and Uncle. He finds out the hard way that loud music and dancing is against the law here and sets out to change things.

Mike's Review

            I have always tried to fill my reviews with honesty, so let’s continue in this style. I am a big fan of the original Footloose Film! There I admitted it. It is a guilty pleasure of mine. A great uplifting film with a cool soundtrack.

            A few years ago I found out that a remake of this great film was announced. My first thought was “really bad idea”. The film is a classic with one of the best theme songs of all time. This wasn’t going to be a reimagining of the film in the style of The Karate Kid (2010), but a remake of the original. These rarely end up as a good idea and never equal or better the

original. How could the new version possibly live up to my expectations?

            Before I watched the remake I listened to the soundtrack, and by listen I mean played a few seconds of all the new versions of the classic songs, and by played I mean skipped to the next song in disgust at what I was hearing with every song. It was bad. This cemented my feelings that I was going to hate the new film. With trepidation and a lot of negative thoughts I sat down to watch my new most hated movie.

            The film follows the same story of the big city kid having to move in with family in a small town where religion plays a big part of everyday life. After the death of a group of teenagers killed in a road accident while travelling back from a night out drinking and dancing, the town led by the local preacher declares music and dance are bad and they ban them from public use anywhere in the town. The city kid clashes with the authority and attempts to change the towns views.

            The new version started off well with the classic Oscar nominated song playing over the opening credits. Once it ended I expected the film to go downhill fast. But I found myself enjoying it! Not just thinking it was ok but really enjoying the film. The characters were good, the story updated and changes from the original worked well. While listening to the soundtrack and hating the new versions of the songs, hearing them in the film they fit and make sense.

            The new actors in the film were for the most part as good the original cast. You have veteran actors Dennis Quaid as Rev. Shaw Moore and Andie MacDowell as his wife Vi Moore, they are just as good as John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest in the original. Taking over the lead roles from Kevin Bacon as Ren MacCormack and Lori Singer as Ariel Moore are new comers Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough. They are really good and make the roles their own. The film comes to life because of these actors. However the characters of Willard previously played by the late great Chris Penn now played by Miles Teller and Rusty originally Sarah Jessica Parker now Ziah Colon, don’t live up to the original. This is not to say they aren’t good in the film they are, but the original actors seemed to shine and stand out more. This made the characters a lot more memorable.

            The film adds a new introduction and shows us the back story of the accident. This is something the original was missing and it improves the story. There are also a few tributes to the 1984 version. The best is at the end when Ren and Ariel are wearing the same outfits as characters wear in the ending to the original and the same final dance routine is used.

            I wanted to really hate this but I couldn’t. I liked it almost as much as the original. It really is a fun film that succeeds in modernising the story. I almost rated it 9/10, however right at the very end it went wrong. The final dance routine used a new version of the song Footloose. The song is a timeless classic and the new version just doesn’t hit the mark. The film makers should have used the new version in the opening credits and stuck with the original for the films climax. For this reason I give the film 8/10

8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Julianne Hough as Ariel Moore


Monday, 13 February 2012

Review of The Three Musketeers (2011) by Mike

Title: The Three Musketeers (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 12th October 2011

Original US Release Date: 21st October 2011

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Genre: Adventure

Plot: D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) travels to Paris to become a Musketeer but gets caught up in treachery and deception which could plunge France and England into war.

Mike's Review

This is an updated version of the classic story written by Alexandre Dumas père. There have been many film adaptations of the story and this is the latest.

The film follows D’Artagnan as he tries to join the legendary Musketeers. He meets up with the famous three Musketeers and assists them in preventing war between France and England.

This film tries a few new things with the story and introduces flying ships! By flying ships I mean they get a ship and attach an airship to it and you now have flying ships. The other change they give us is less action and less sword fights. I couldn’t help compare the two other modern adaptations of this story, The Three Musketeers (1993) and The Musketeer (2001). I really hoped that the makers of this would combine the great elements of these films, the great cast and the fun and adventure of the 1993 version and the spectacular fight scenes of the 2001 version to produce something great. But it doesn’t. It often comes close with the action with the use of slow motion but that is it. For the most part the characters are forgetful, the fight scenes are standard and the script is basic. If you look at the 1993 version made by Disney, you have a great cast, a great script, awesome villain and fun, exciting action scenes. This missed a great opportunity to do something amazing with a classic story, using modern film making. The use of the flying ships could have been so good but it was underutilized.

However all is not lost, the film has Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham. He steals every scene he is in as the cocky and arrogant Duke. You look forward to his scenes and wish he could have played a more prominent role in the film. He is by far the best character in the film. It almost seems that he knew that this film needed some fun injected into it and made it his mission to steal every moment he was on screen.

I really love the 1993 version of the film and maybe this is why I was disappointed with this one. I guess I expected too much. If you haven’t seen the 1993 film please watch this updated one, you should enjoy it. Then watch the 1993 version and see what this one could have been.

6 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham


Friday, 10 February 2012

Review of Armageddon: Directors Cut (1998) by Mike

Title: Armageddon: Directors Cut (1998)

Original UK Release Date: 26th March 1999

Original US Release Date: 30th October 1998

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Michael Bay

Genre: Sci-Fi/Disaster

Plot: When a giant asteroid is detected on a collision course with Earth, a team of oil drillers is sent to place a nuclear warhead in the hope that it will destroy it and save humanity.

Mike's Review

An asteroid the size of Texas is detected heading for Earth. It will wipe out all life on the planet if it hits. NASA decides that the only course of action is to plant a nuclear warhead deep into the asteroid to split it in two hoping it will safely pass Earth. They send a team of oil drillers led by Bruce Willis to drill the hole and save the Earth.

This is a great disaster movie utilising the directing skills of Michael Bay, a great action movie director and when teamed with producer Jerry Bruckheimer they create some of the best action films around. The effects in this film are incredible with an out of this world storyline and a cast of greats that includes Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, William Fichtner & Will Patton. All great actors and all bring so much to the film, but the greatest performance is by Steve Buscemi who steals every scene he is in playing the character of Rockhound.

This is an effects heavy film, but it works. The film is about chaos and destruction and the effects are relentless in the portrayal of the destruction. The spectacle of smaller asteroids crashing down to Earth is amazing to watch. Many people were put off with the effects of chaos and mayhem, but the film wouldn’t have worked without it.  However this film manages something most sci-fi films fail in. It manages to get you emotionally involved. I know many people that got teary eyed at the end of the film and that is something rare in a sci-fi/action film.

This is a big budget blockbuster and it succeeds in every way. If you are a fan of action or sci-fi films then this is truly one not to miss out on. If you feel that with effects less is more, then this may be the wrong film for you. Try a rom-com!

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Steve Buscemi as Rockhound


Review of The Crow (1994) by Mike

Title: The Crow (1994)

Original UK Release Date: 10th June 1994

Original US Release Date: 11th May 1994

UK Rating: 18

US Rating: R

Director: Alex Proyas

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

Plot: After he is brutally murdered and his girlfriend raped, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) returns from the dead for revenge.

Mike's Review

I followed the making of this film quite closely after the lead star Brandon Lee was tragically killed during the making of the film. It happened when a gun used to fire live rounds was then used to fire blanks during a scene with Brandon Lee. The gun wasn’t cleaned and checked correctly and it was discovered that a round that had been previously fired had failed to fire correctly.  The bullet lodged in the barrel and remained there until the gun was used with blank rounds. The force of the blank firing was enough to propel the bullet out of the barrel and fatally wounded Brandon Lee. This led to many changes in the use of firearms on set, sadly however these changes were too late and the movie world lost a truly great rising star.

The film is ironically about the murder of the character played by Brandon Lee. He then comes back from the grave to avenge his death and the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend Shelly by a gang.

The film is a masterpiece and visually stunning. It is a very dark film and the visuals portray this extremely well. The cast includes Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson & Michael Wincott. The acting is great from most of the cast with very over the top performances by the gang members and a near perfect stand out performance by Brandon Lee. Having only seen him in action martial arts movies prior to this his acting ability really stands out here and shows what potential he had.

This is a really good film and knowing the background into the death of the lead actor helps to bring a sense of reality to it. However without the tragic accident this is still a great film. More fantasy than horror it has a great story that really draws you in and doesn’t let go until the end.

Unfortunately someone decided the film needed some very poor sequels! However a short lived TV series was made using the original characters and it was actually quite good.

If you have never seen this please give it a go, it’s a great film but give the follow ups a miss!

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Brandon Lee as Eric Draven


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Review of Rage (2010) By Mike

Title: Rage (2010)

Original UK Release Date: N/A

Original US Release Date: N/A

UK Rating: N/A

US Rating: N/A

Director: Chris Witherspoon

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Plot: Stalked by an anonymous biker, Dennis (Rick Crawford) is pushed to the limit trying to evade and understand what is happening to him.

Mike's Review

            I started out making a blog for movie reviews a short while ago for the purpose of making reviews for fans. However, I didn’t expect to be sent films to review so soon. I was put in touch with film maker Chris Witherspoon, he is promoting an independent film that he wrote, produced, directed and starred in called Rage. He sent me a copy and asked if I would review it for him. Happily I accepted. This is what being a film critic and reviewer is all about. Then I started to think, an independent film? There are a lot of them around and a lot of them are made by people that believe they possess the talent and ability to make a film, but in reality they fall far short of the mark. To get a good and unbiased opinion of the film I only watched the trailer for it, I left all the promotional material I received alone. The film arrived and with a fair amount of trepidation I put it on.

            The film is about Dennis, a struggling writer with a loving wife Crystal (Audrey Walker) and a mistress Dana (Anna Lodej). Heading out one day he encounters a figure on a motorcycle in a car park. Pushing the encounter to one side he meets up with Dana. During the meeting he tells her that he loves his wife and breaks off the affair. She doesn’t take it all that well. Once back in his car he encounters the biker again and this time the biker scratches his car and rides off. This leads to a game of cat and mouse, where at first Dennis hunts the biker down but the confrontations escalate and Dennis is soon in fear for his life. He now believes that the biker is a former boyfriend of his now ex-lover out for revenge. The biker arrives at Dennis’s home and things turn deadly.

            I went into this with a very open mind. I knew this was an independent film and I didn’t expect too much from it. I find this is the best way to view new films. The film started off well with good introductions to the main characters but by the time the second encounter with the biker happened I found myself drawn in to the film. I forgot all about reviewing the film and got engrossed into the story. The film finished and not for a single moment did I feel bored.  The pacing of the film is great, the story progresses well and the characters are well written and acted. The biker is menacing and all the more so because you don’t really know his motives. The direction is professional and makes good use of lighting and colouring. The effects are very well utilised during the films climax. But the best thing about the movie was the way the story kept you guessing. I thought I had the plot figured out about 5 different times but each time I was wrong. That’s what makes a good thriller/horror. There is one particular scene that was emotionally hard to watch but its place in the film drives the story and the terror forward to a new level.

            You can see with this film that Chris Witherspoon is a very talented film maker. I wish him luck and hope this film has the desired effect and someone takes a chance on his abilities. I would love to see what he could to with a studio backing him. After all Spielberg started out with a movie called Duel about a truck pursuing and terrorising someone.

            If you get the chance to see this film you really should take the chance. If you do you will see the start of hopefully a very successful film maker.

8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Chris Witherspoon as The Biker