02/03/2015

THE JUDGE - REVIEW


Robert Downey Jr. tries his hand at a more serious, low-key drama in The Judge, a film in which the actor plays a lawyer having to go back to the town he grew up in following the death of his mother only to find himself defending his father (Robert Duvall) in a court battle.

Based on a true story, The Judge is both about a cocky dude coming to terms with his past and himself and about a father fighting for his honour despite it potentially costing him his freedom. As a character study of both characters, the film does a great job making us feel for both even with their obvious shortcomings and keeping us interested in this court case which could easily go either way. We also learn more about the truth bit by bit so you're kept suspicious throughout. The performances are very strong with Downey Jr. showing a wider range of emotion recent comic-book movies have allowed him to portray and Duvall giving a courageous, quietly affecting, layered performance which earned him an Oscar nomination. It's definitely his best in a while and it should, at least, cancel out his dubious effort in The 6th Day back in 2000. Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton also co-star.

While the court case is what drives the plot forward, a lot of time is taken to develop the relationships between the characters and, though films like A Good Year have attempted something similar, The Judge wisely steers clear of the more whimsical stuff. It is, however, much too long for the story it's telling which doesn't exactly feel like it needs to be two hours and a half long but, that said, it remains surprisingly watchable considering. The film is funny in parts, surprisingly harsh in other parts but it mostly goes for the heartstrings and it definitely pulls those in the right places. Had the film been shot and the story been told in a more unique way, The Judge would have stood out as a must-watch but, as it stands, everything from Thomas Newman's score to the cinematography is pretty standard. If you go back and watch something like Moonlight Mile or even Garden State, it's that same kind of post-funeral movie with a little courtroom drama thrown in.

The Judge is a solid movie with strong performances and for that alone it's worth checking out. It may not be the most stand-out movie you'll ever see and whether you'll remember it a year from now is debatable but you'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Court's adjourned.

28/02/2015

LEONARD NIMOY (1931-2015)


As the world mourns the sad passing of film and TV icon Leonard Nimoy, I would like to express my personal thanks to the man who brought Star Trek's Mr Spock to life for giving me and millions of others so many classic moments in entertainment for so many years.

Here are some of my favourite Leonard Nimoy performances, in no particular order:

Star Trek: The Original Series





Columbo


Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan


 Star Trek III: The Search For Spock


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


Fringe


Futurama


The Simpsons



The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins Song



Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


Transformers: The Movie


Star Trek: The Animated Series


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers


 In Search Of


The Big Bang Theory


A Brave New World


Star Trek (2009)


The Story Behind The Vulcan Greeting


The list goes on.

My deepest condolences go to Mr Nimoy's family.

26/02/2015

GOTHAMIZED: LOVE IN THE TIME OF FISH - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this 16th episode, we discuss the 12th and 13th episodes of Gotham, Aquaman and George Carlin.

(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

BERNIE - REVIEW


Based on a surprising true story, Bernie is a dark comedy starring Jack Black, directed by Richard Linklater, which kinda passed by nearly unnoticed despite the talent involved and the intriguing premise at its heart.

Though he was nominated for a Golden Globe, that Jack Black was ignored for an Oscar nomination just goes to show the Academy Awards' reluctance to acknowledge comedy as a legitimate genre worthy of recompense. The actor goes completely against-type as the mild-mannered, multi-talented Bernie Tiede who one day, out of nowhere, shot an 81 year-old millionairess after a lifetime of not doing anything remotely violent or suspicious. The film makes full use of Black's versatility and he rises up to the challenge like a pro, delivering one memorable, quietly hilarious performance. Linklater tells this tale through a variety of talking heads which build up every scene and although this technique rarely works when it's not used in a documentary, here it helps give you a good idea of how Bernie was perceived by his community and how popularity can almost absolve you of any wrong doing. The man remains a bit of a mystery to us from start to finish, which is one of the film's biggest strengths.

Should we like this guy as much as we do?

Is his whole life just an act?

Who knows.

Matthew McConaughey plays the local district attorney Danny Buck Davidson, probably the only person in town who doesn't fall for Bernie's charms, and he is clearly having a good time throughout. The older woman Bernie befriends is played by Shirley MacLaine and she also has a ball being consistently and inexplicably horrible to him, eventually treating him like a prisoner. The film is very funny, pretty dark and fascinating as a character study. Bernie is such a weird little man you want to believe every single rumour about him but, for all we know, none of it is true. This is one of those low-key movies which used to do really well on home video and it's likely it'll gain a cult status through Netflix, good word-of-mouth and Linklater's recent success with Boyhood and deservedly so: this is an underrated, bizarre comedy with a lot going for it.

All in all, I highly recommend Bernie as it boasts one of Jack Black's most layered, memorable performances and tells a pretty gripping story which sucks you in instantly. While not a typically Richard Linklater flick, you can tell he had fun bringing Bernie's tale to life and, ultimately, you'll have fun watching it come to life.

An underrated gem.

25/02/2015

LET'S PLAY DUKE NUKEM 3D - EPISODE 1, LEVEL 3 (2/2)


I continue my journey through the classic Duke Nukem 3D with the final part of the "Entering Death Row" level.


For the first three parts of the Let's Play, see below.


THE EQUALIZER - REVIEW


Loosely (very loosely) based on the 80's TV series, The Equalizer really is yet another excuse to have Denzel Washington pretending to be a real everyday guy with a boring life while simultaneously being a one-man-army prone to killing bad guys in badass ways.

In a weird way, this works more like a prequel to the series as Washington comes to realise, through what happens in this movie, that he can use his talents and his CIA contacts to solve seemingly unsolvable problems random people are faced with. In this instance, he takes it upon himself to protect a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) from some Russian mobsters. The man's life, which consists of working at Home Depot, reading classic novels, taking tea very seriously, motivating people to lose weight in order to become security guards, all the good stuff, goes from a dullfest to... basically him becoming Batman and taking people out in various creative ways. For one thing, he times the fights he gets into, as if he's competing against himself, constantly trying to beat his own record. He's also never shy about killing dudes in surprisingly gory fashion, whether it's knifing them through the jaw, shoving something pointy through their eyes or impaling them using whatever tools happen to be nearby, anything goes.

Even Batman wouldn't go that far.

Though the film was sold as an action thriller, the action itself doesn't start until a good half hour into it. Luckily, when it does it's legitimately fun. Ridiculous, granted, but fun nonetheless. A main villain is soon introduced and although Marton Csokas always does a good job when trying to look intimidating, it's soon quite clear he's no match for Denzel Washington and he fails to be convincing as a genuine threat to the main character. The film itself is pretty by-numbers as The Equalizer's cool unique premise is barely there at all and we're left with just another run-of-the-mill action thriller in the vein of whatever Liam Neeson's been up to over the past few years. The movie is also let down by an ending more akin to Home Alone than anything else as our kickass super-man somehow finds the time in between punch-outs to rig a DIY supermarket with all sorts of death traps. The few slo-mo moments we get are used to absurd effect and don't exactly help the film sustain that serious, moody tone it's going for.

While the film itself is hardly anything special, The Equalizer boasts some solid performances, entertaining action sequences and random flashes of violence and gore. It's an enjoyable throwaway movie with some good moments and some very silly ones as well.

Likeable but forgettable.

24/02/2015

LET'S PLAY DUKE NUKEM 3D - EPISODE 1, LEVEL 3 (1/2)


I continue my journey through the classic Duke Nukem 3D with the first part of the "Entering Death Row" level.


For the first two parts, see below.


THE BIG REWIND: EPISODE 51 - PODCAST


In this 51st episode, Adam (aka The RetroCritic) and fellow film buff Jamie discuss movie news, the Oscars 2015 and talk retro stuff.


Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

Oh and you can also find us on iTunes and now Stitcher where you can subscribe to the podcast and download every episode thusfar!

@TheRetroCritic
#TheBigRewind
retrocriticblog.blogspot.com

23/02/2015

SAVING MR. BANKS - REVIEW


There's biopics and then there's sort-of-biopics which don't exactly go through a person's entire life's work but which instead focus on one specific, iconic event. Think Capote, Hitchcock or, more recently, Saving Mr. Banks: a look at how Walt Disney obtained the rights to Mary Poppins from the story's writer P. L. Travers.

This one isn't even really a making-of movie as we see none of the filming for Mary Poppins or (wisely) meet any weird Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke lookalikes. Saving Mr. Banks limits itself to a few recording sessions with Travers (Emma Thompson) and The Sherman Brothers, who came up with all of the film's catchy songs, intercut with flashbacks depicting some of the writer's early life and conversations she had with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) as well as Paul Giamatti's chatty driver. Finding out why Travers resisted Disney's offers to buy the movie rights to Poppins for so long and why Disney was this insistent makes for an interesting premise. Mary Poppins being a very personal story for both but for slightly different reasons. It's also pretty fun to see The Sherman Brothers at work coming up with the hugely memorable melodies and choruses for the likes of "A Spoonful Of Sugar" or "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", even if many of those tunes haven't aged all that well.

That "I Love To Laugh" track is brutal.

Don't worry: this movie thankfully ignores it.

The cast is charming and the film definitely has its moments. The ending, for example, is appropriately moving and should leave you wanting to not only read Travers' original novel but re-watch the film AND book some tickets for Disneyland. Unfortunately, the film loses some credibility by being much too whimsical and forced in places. The performances in the film aren't exactly subtle as the actors try maybe a little too hard to be cute at times and the script can get a bit heavy-handed with those flashbacks. The main problem, really, is that the film doesn't go beyond showing us that both Disney and Travers had daddy issues. By the end, it's still unclear why Mary Poppins exists as a character and how parts of the musical fit into both Disney and Travers' lives. It doesn't help that the flashback scenes, in which Colin Farrell plays Travers' father, feel so melodramatic and overdone.

All that said, Saving Mr. Banks remains an entertaining, harmless and likeable watch which Disney fans should appreciate. Its heart's in the right place even if its spoonful of cheese makes the medicine hard to go down at times.

Sweet if underwritten.

09/02/2015

THE BIG REWIND: EPISODE 50 - PODCAST


In this Gaming Special 50th episode, Adam (aka The RetroCritic), fellow gaming buff Jamie with special guest host Dale (@Silent_Consumer) discuss game news and predictions, review Destiny and talk retro games.


Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

Oh and you can also find us on iTunes and now Stitcher where you can subscribe to the podcast and download every episode thusfar!

@TheRetroCritic
@Silent_Consumer
#TheBigRewind
retrocriticblog.blogspot.com

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