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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.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Review for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) by Mike

Title: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 26th December 2011

Original US Release Date: 21st December 2011

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Brad Bird

Genre: Action

Plot: When Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is framed for the bombing of the Kremlin, his team must go rogue to clear their names and prevent a nuclear war.

Mike's Review

I really enjoyed the Mission: Impossible films. I was looking forward to this one when it was announced. The only thing that troubled me was the director Brad Bird. Until this film he had never directed a live action film. He directed the Pixar films The Incredibles (2004) & Ratatouille (2007). These are both great animated films, but live action is completely different. I really hoped he was up to the task. All of the Mission: Impossible films have had a different director, and each director brought something new to the series. What could Brad Bird bring to the table?

The film follows the same formula of the series, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) given the mission to prevent a terrorist from starting a global nuclear war. His team are on their own this time after the Kremlin is bombed and they are blamed for it. They take matters into their own hands and have to overcome the odds to succeed.

The film stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Josh Holloway, Tom Wilkinson,  & Anil Kapoor. The cast is great and work well together. Tom Cruise is naturally perfect in this, after all it’s his fourth outing as Ethan Hunt and he has really made the role his own. The introduction of Jeremy Renner is a deliberate casting and the character is being groomed as a replacement if Tom Cruise decides not to return to the successful franchise. Renner really fits in well and the series will be in good hands if he takes over the lead role. Simon Pegg adds the comedic element to the film and it is perfect. The comedy is just the right amount to compliment the action scenes without being too over the top. His character is now a field agent on his first assignment and he steals every scene he is in with a standout performance.

One other person of note is Josh Holloway as IMF Agent Trevor Hanaway. Only knowing him from the Lost TV series, I was pleasantly surprised. He turned a small part into a memorable character. It is a shame they overlooked him for the part played by Renner. Whilst Renner was good I wasn’t sold on him as a “super” agent. He seemed like a cheap copy of Tom Cruise. However Josh Holloway bought something fresh to the film. It felt like he could have been a great agent who did things a little different.

So back to my previous question. What could Brad Bird bring to the table? With Tom Cruise & J.J. Abrams producing, utilising their experience with the third film in the series Brad Bird does an excellent job at directing. The film is visually spectacular and along with the fearlessness of Tom Cruise doing his own amazing stunts it really is a treat to watch. The well publicised stunt he pulls atop of the world’s tallest building is incredible. Knowing it really was him on the building makes it all the more impressive.

This film really lives up to all the expectations and it was great to watch. It also links into the previous film nicely. This series gets better with each instalment and I hope, if there is a fifth one, it continues the trend. This was one of the best films I have seen this year.

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Review of St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) By Mike

Title: St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: 28th June 1985

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: R

Director: Joel Schumacher

Genre: Drama

Plot: Seven friends and recent graduates from University find out the hard way that life in the real world isn’t as easy as they had hoped.

Mike's Review

            In the mid 80’s there were a group of young actors known as the “Brat Pack”. It was made up of up and coming talented actors, many of them starred in a number of films together, St. Elmo’s Fire being one of them.

            The film is about seven University friends and the changes they find themselves going through once they graduate and try to make it as adults. Some thrive and others can’t handle the new responsibilities that come with adulthood.

            The cast is incredible made of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, & Andie MacDowell. All of them bring a special charm to the characters they play. Every actor is great in this film, their friendships seem genuine and come across well. The emotions each character goes through are portrayed exceptionally well. There really isn’t a stand out performance of any of the main cast. They are all perfect performances.

            The characters go through every possible emotion a person can go through, you will be able to empathise with most if not all the situations from debt, love, death, marriage, break ups and infatuation to name a few of them. Even with all seven characters having their own individual stories, the film isn’t overloaded. There is a perfect balance between the each one. Each character has their hardships and each finds a resolution in their own way.

            This is another great one of the great underrated and often overlooked 80’s movies, with a great cast, engaging story and a perfect soundtrack. This is watchable time and time again.

             For a perfect Sunday afternoon film it doesn’t get much better than this.

10 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Everyone.


Review of Ice Quake (2010) By Mike

Title: Ice Quake (2010)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: 11th December 2010

UK Rating: Unknown

US Rating: PG

Director: Paul Ziller

Genre: TV Movie/Thriller

Plot: Unexplained earthquakes start to appear in the Alaskan mountains.

Mike's Review

            Two names in the film industry are known for creating bad movies, really bad movies and movies so bad they’re good. The first is Asylum pictures, they are responsible for movies including Mega Piranha (2010), Titanic II (2010) and Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009). These movies are often shown on the SyFy channel. The second is the SyFy channel itself. They make and distribute TV Movies such as Sharktopus (2010) and Collision Earth (2011). However both of these film companies sometimes deliver the goods. They are known to cast well known actors, many of them may be only doing the film for an easy pay check but they often put in a great over the top performance. A good example is the great Michael Madsen in Piranhaconda (2011).

Ice Quake is a SyFy movie so instantly I didn’t have great expectations for this. But every now and then when watching a film you have to “slum” it. You can’t watch blockbusters all the time, sometimes you need a cheesy movie night!

            As I said, I had no expectations for a great movie and I was fully expecting very dodgy effects and terrible acting, however this one didn’t turn out too bad.

            The film starts off with two geologists investigating unexplained earth tremors on a mountain. Suddenly a crack appears and a strange gas escapes from the ground instantly freezing anything that touches it. It turns out to be liquid methane and if it escapes it will destroy all life on earth! May sound farfetched but from SyFy, the company behind Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010), this movie is very tame.

            The film stars Brendan Fehr as Michael Webster, a geologist and Holly Elissa as his wife Emily. Jodelle Ferland & Ryan Grantham play their children. The cast also includes Victor Garber, Rob LaBelle, Marsha Regis, Sharon Taylor & Kurt Max Runte. All have quite impressive film resumes and you will probably have seen most of them on something else. All the actors in this do an above average job for a TV movie, but I don’t think this will be the highlight of their careers!

            The setting of the film is great with the impressive scenery of the Alaskan mountains used to great effect. Speaking of effects these were some of the better ones used in the movies made by SyFy. However I guess they didn’t have to spend the effect budget on crazy monsters like in Dinoshark  (2010), so they had a little more to play with here. The only really dodgy effect was the supposed satellite image of the underground methane.

There are many plot holes in this but after all it is a TV Movie not a big blockbuster. These films are made to entertain you when you can’t decide on anything else to watch. This one manages that, just. It is a throwaway movie but there are far worse ones out there. If it is on and you can’t decide on anything else to watch, this will pass an hour and a half of your time.

As I said before, this is one of the better SyFy films. I think it is too much to hope that they will keep getting better. But with their future film “Jersey Shore Shark Attack coming this June, who knows!?

6 out of 10

Additional Information





Review for The Puzzle (2008) & The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010) by Mike

Title: The Puzzle (2008) & The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

Director: Davide Melini

Genre: Short Film

Plot: The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010): In order to forget about a heated discussion with his girlfriend, Mark decides to get in the car and go far away. But a little mistake will change his reality forever...

       The Puzzle (2008): After an argument with her son, a woman decides to relax and forget her troubles with her favourite pastime: making puzzles.

Mike's Review

            Once again a film director has requested that I review some of his short films. Naturally I agreed.

            Not knowing what to expect from these films I sat down to watch two films from Italian filmmaker David Melini. The first of the films was a very short one titled The Puzzle this was shot in 2008 in one day with a budget of just 300 Euros. It is a very well made short film about a woman who has a vision whilst doing a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a shame that the film is so short as it kinds of ends just as it gets going. But this is the sign of a good film maker when their creations leave you wanting more. The talent of David Melini is evident in the few minutes of the film. You can see he has a talent with suspense films and I really hope there will be a full length production from him.

            Then it was time to check out The Sweet Hand of the White Rose. This film is completely different to The Puzzle. A man getting away from his girlfriend and a young girl returning home find their lives entwined in an unexpected way.  For the first ¾ of the film I had no idea what was happening. Usually this is a bad thing for a film but with this one when it all falls together it wrenched at my heart then I found myself gasping in horror at what was happening. The twist and the ending is very powerful and I can only assume that the director/writer has some experience with the subject of the film and my heart goes out to him. This is a film with a message and it is a powerful one, very well executed and delivered with passion. The director manages to bring us into the story with a sudden jolt and leaves you with a lot to think about.

            This is a talented film maker and I will look out for more from him.
7 out of 10

Additional Information

View the films here.
The Puzzle http://vimeo.com/15390584
The Sweet Hand of the White Rose http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPWcqEmSkq8

Review of Simone (2010) & Date Night (2011) by Mike

Title: Simone (2010) & Date Night (2011)

Director: Jason "Joops" Fragale

Genre: Short Film

Plot: Simone (2010) After a night of hard partying, Simone awakes unsure of the events that took place. The mystery deepens as her focus becomes clear, leading to a chilling discovery.

        Date Night (2011) An unexpected night offers the truth about the perfect dream date in this black comedy short.

Mike's Review

            The director of these films sent me an email to ask if I would review them for him and after the great independent films I have seen and reviewed lately I happily agreed.

Both films are directed by the same person, the plots involve dating, both star Erin Cline & both have great twists. But here the similarity ends. Simone is the story of a girl who wakes up with no recollection of the previous nights events and a dead girl in the bathroom and Date Night is about a single girl who stays home while her friends go out and she finds a man in her apartment.

You can see the advancement of the director’s skills from one film to the next. The start of Simone was a little shaky in the opening, but that could be due to the equipment used. The main part of the film has flash backs and these are very well done, giving you small clues to what is going on. With Date Night the director shows his skill is progressing in the field with a well directed film. The cuts are smooth and the story flows along a little better. With both films, the director has a great way of drawing you into the story then messing with your mind. I can only imagine the dates he must have gone on to draw inspiration for these films!

The cast of the films is small but each person is great in the roles. The cast of Simone is made up of Jennifer Ward & Erin Cline. Erin Cline returns for Date night and takes the lead role alongside David Fuit. The films are clever and fun to watch with great twists, however I must say that I guessed the twist in Simone but Date Night eluded me.

            These are really good films, well made and fun to watch. Once again the independent film scene has produced something great and the future of film making looks bright.

Simone 7 out of 10

Date Night 8 out of 10

Additional Information



Jason "Joops" Fragale www.imdb.com/name/nm1241309

SIMONE / Run Time 16:50 / 2010
Film Link:
Trailer Link:

DATE NIGHT / Run Time 14:54 / 2011
Film Link:
Trailer Link:

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Review of Evidence (2011) by Mike

Title: Evidence (2011)

Original UK Release Date: Unknown

Original US Release Date: Unknown

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: Unknown

Director: Howie Askins

Genre: Horror

Plot: An amateur film maker is making a documentary about camping with three of his friends, during the filming they realise that there is a strange creature out there with them.

Mike's Review

            This is a film made in the style of “found footage”. The whole film is made from the perspective of whoever is filming at the time. The style was made famous with The Blair Witch Project and perfected in Cloverfield. I saw the trailer for this and thought it could be good. After trying to track down the film I discovered it had just been released here. So I got hold of a copy and sat back.

            The film is about a group of friends Ryan (Ryan McCoy), Brett (Brett Rosenberg), Abi (Abigail Richie) & Ashley (Ashley Bracken) who are out camping and making a documentary about the experience. They discover a strange creature and the trip quickly turns deadly. Soon they are on the run from strange creatures and anonymous military personnel intent on stopping the creatures.

            You may have noticed in the above paragraph that the characters all have the same names as the actor playing them. This was either due to a very lazy writer, or as the writer was also Ryan McCoy one of the actors, an attempt to make the film feel more real and the friendships believable. I feel that the latter is the case as the group comes off as good friends. They interact with each other in a very realistic and genuine way. Especially the female stars. They manage to portray a wide range of emotions from playful happiness to pissed off and then terrified. The opening scenes are very well done. With most “found footage” films, the introduction to the characters and the plot are usually badly done, they are kind of a mess trying to get all the information out to the viewer. However this film is the exception to the rule. It’s very well put together and the script and the pacing of the characters introductions are very good. The story starts of as a pretty standard you meet the characters, they go camping then the twist, they are not alone out there. The twist is where these type of films usually fail. But Evidence manages to succeed big time. You see a creature in the distance then during the night all hell lets loose. From this moment on the film is pure tension. I have not seen a film where for the whole last hour I was on edge. I was expecting something to happen at any moment. And it happens in so many different ways and at random times leaving you unable to let your guard down. Unlike many films in this genre, not even the camera operator is safe as the camera gets passed around for various reasons. The other great thing that I found was there was also a good reason to have the camera still on while they were running for their lives. Usually this is overlooked and we are meant to ignore that but here the reason is good and helps to make the film believable.

            However with all the shocks and surprises, the film makers fail in trying to do too much. Towards the end the characters encounter many different types of creatures and I felt this was a little over the top. If they had kept to one or two different creatures it would have made a little more sense. As it was you are left very confused at the end with little or no answers as to what was going on. It worked with Cloverfield but here it missed the mark. Not by much and the film as a whole more than makes up for it.

            There are a few plot holes but most can be explained away. However this is still a great addition to the “found film” genre. There have been many attempts to recreate these types of films and many fail. However people will continue to try and sometimes out of all the attempts you find something a little different, one that stands out from the rest. That one is called Evidence.

8 out of 10

Additional Information


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Review of The Descendants (2011) by Mike

Title: The Descendants (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 27th January 2012

Original US Release Date: 9th December 2011

UK Rating: 15

US Rating: R

Director: Alexander Payne

Genre: Drama

Plot: A land owner has to take care of his two daughters after his wife is in a boating accident.

Mike's Review

I wanted to see this mainly to see if George Clooney was truly deserving of the best actor nomination. I’m a fan of his but he usually always plays the same kind of characters, a flawed and/or ruthless person who has an experience and realises the error of his ways. And this is no different.

George Clooney plays Matt King who along with his family owns a large piece of land on a Hawaiian island. His wife is in a boating accident and is left in a coma. Matt has to put his professional life on hold to take care of his two daughters. He also discovers his wife was seeing another man and wanted to leave him.

This is a good film with every cast member, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer, doing an excellent job. But it is the performance of Nick Krause as Sid who steals the scene every time he speaks. He adds a needed element of comedy in an otherwise serious film.

So does George Clooney’s performance deserve the Oscar nomination and the Golden Globe win? Having not yet watched all the nominated films I can’t say. But he is great in this film. He is better than usual showing more emotion and vulnerability than he normally does. But it is the cast as a whole that makes this film work so well. Even though he is in pretty much every scene and it is his story, the cast brings this film to life and helps give his character added dimension.

The film itself is one of those that doesn’t really go anywhere. It tells the story that takes place over a few days well. There is no need for character development and no one really learns a life lesson. But the story is good and the characters realistic and interesting.

This is a good film and I enjoyed watching it. It’s a good movie for a quiet afternoon.

8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Nick Krause as Sid


Review of Tower Heist (2011) by Mike

Title: Tower Heist (2011)

Original UK Release Date: 4th November 2011

Original US Release Date: 24th October 2011

UK Rating: 12

US Rating: PG-13

Director: Brett Ratner

Genre: Comedy/Crime

Plot: When staff at The Tower, a luxurious apartment block in New York, lose their pension fund after an investor swindles them, the building manager of The Tower schemes to get revenge.

Mike's Review

            This seems like the perfect recipe for a film. Take a few comedy greats, some Academy Award nominated actors and a great director and you have the makings of a classic comedy film. However something went wrong. That’s not to say this film isn’t good it is, but it isn’t close to what it could have been.

            The film is about a robbery in a very secure building with the latest security and the best staff that money can buy. The staff have invested their own personal savings and their pension fund with one of the tenants, a financer Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). However he is arrested for fraud and they find out that he has lost all their money.

The cast including Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, and Juan Carlos Hernández is good. They work well together and they all have great moments. Gabourey Sidibe steals every moment she is on screen and she could have a great future in comedy.

This film should have been great. It was originally going to be in the style of Ocean’s 11 but somewhere along the way it changed into this. You have comedy greats Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller and Ferris Buller. I say Ferris Buller because it feels like Matthew Broderick is playing that character after he has lost everything. The film felt like it should have been full of big comedy moments, but I couldn’t find them. There are some very funny scenes but not many. As for the hi-tech building security mentioned a few times in the film, it doesn’t materialise, all you are shown are a few cameras that are quickly disabled with a smiley face sticker!

I was really looking forward to this, mainly in the hope that Eddie Murphy would give a performance worthy of his comedy legacy. I loved his films from the 80’s. His films of the 90’s were hit or miss until his performance in Bowfinger, one of his best performances. Apart from his role in the Shrek films there was nothing great about any of his roles since then. So what would he be like in this? Fortunately he is good. Not as great as the Eddie Murphy back in his reckless care free roles, but better than 90% of the last two decades of his films. The reason he is so good in Bowfinger is what makes this role work. It is because he isn’t in the lead role. Take the pressure away from having to carry the whole film and he shines.

            I was disappointed with the lack of great comedy moments and the lack of risk for the characters, but it is a good film, just don’t watch this expecting a comedy classic as you will be disappointed.

8 out of 10

Additional Information

Stand out performance: Gabourey Sidibe as Odessa


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Review of Familiar (2012) by Mike

Title: Familiar (2012)

Director: Richard Powell

Genre: Short Film/Horror

Plot: A middle aged man listens to the voice in his head and acts on it but soon realises that the voice may be something more sinister.

Mike's Review

            I was contacted by the executive producer of this film, Zach Green, asking if I would review this for him. I immediately agreed. This is great, being contacted and asked to review someone’s film feels like an honour. I set about checking out the film first just to get an idea about it. It looked interesting and I was looking forward to seeing it. I clicked on the link, sat back and watched.

            The film is about John Dodd (Robert Nolan), a middle aged man who is looking for more out of life than work, his wife and his daughter. He hears a voice in his head and believes it is his thoughts. He begins to act on what it is telling him, and then to his horror, discovers that the voice isn’t his.

            This film is a work of movie mastery. It is incredibly well shot, the visuals are great and is what you would expect in a mainstream movie. Far better than any “B” movie or TV film. There are only three characters and they are acted perfectly. However almost all the scenes are completely focused upon John Dodd. The pain and anguish each one goes through comes across in a very realistic way. It is especially good when you realise that the majority of all the words spoken are really just the voice John Dodd hears. There are hardly any conversations between the characters.

            What I found at the end of the film was it felt like it was longer. Not saying it dragged on forever, but that the story was told in such a way that it felt like a full length movie. I was surprised it was only 20 minutes long. The film takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You empathise with the characters, and then their actions completely shock you until finally you feel yourself squirming in your seat in horror.

            This is a great film and it was a treat to watch. It left me wanting to see more of the filmmakers work. I would love to see what they could do with a full length movie. I have a new respect for independent movies after viewing this and Rage (2010). I will definitely be on the lookout for more.

8 out of 10

Additional Information