An Iraqi army conscript is forced to become the body double of Saddam… MoreAn Iraqi army conscript is forced to become the body double of Saddam Hussein's psychotic son and finds himself losing his identity as he drowns in a sea of depravity and murder. There have already been a slew of projects based on the Iraq war and The Devil's Double is an interesting film in that it shows the other side of the conflict, to some extent at least. Dominic Cooper makes a decent fist of playing both the pampered, debauched and sadistic member of the Iraqi elite and his moral, working class impersonator who is appalled by the behaviour of those who rule. Sort of a bizarre cross between such diverse stories as The Prisoner Of Zenda, The Last King Of Scotland and Scarface, the excesses and violence of The Devil's Double are counterpointed by the even more bizarre fact that it is actually a true story. I think it would have been better for the greater context of the life of ordinary Iraqis of the time but it still makes for a shocking and brutal journey through the looking glass into Saddam's world.
A US cavalry officer is accidentally transported to Mars where he… MoreA US cavalry officer is accidentally transported to Mars where he encounters a warring civilisation who require his help to end the conquest of their world by a brutal warlord. When talking about cynical marketing campaigns, it's usual to point to terrible films that become big hits through licensing, advertising and sponsorship deals, but the other side of the coin is John Carter. To say that this film bombed at the box office would be an understatement of the highest order. Those responsible for the marketing of this film fumbled the ball on such a colossal scale that it couldn't hope to recoup the reported budget of $250,000,000 despite the fact that it really isn't all that bad. It's fair to say that you can see where the money was spent; it's a very attractive film packed with nice production design, spectacular set pieces and a quality cast. The problem with John Carter is that it doesn't really capture the imagination in the way a large scale sci-fi adventure should. The culture created in the form of Barsoom is rather charmless and there's little in the way of chemistry between what should be the big romantic leads at its centre. There are also too many supporting characters who get too little screen time on their own making it hard to care about any of the protagonists. But by far the biggest blunder is in how seriously it takes itself; a little campiness and a self-deprecating sense of humour would have gone a long way to making the film a lot more likeable. The result is a po-faced cross between Flash Gordon and Xena: Warrior Princess with a big budget but having said all that, the pacey if somewhat episodic plot and large scale battle sequences maintain the interest for the duration. As a whole it's rather too clinical and soulless but John Carter didn't deserve to sink without a trace and I'd much rather sit through it again than The Phantom Menace or Attack Of The Clones.
Killer Instinct is the story of notorious criminal Jacques Mesrine who… MoreKiller Instinct is the story of notorious criminal Jacques Mesrine who progressed from petty crime on the streets of Paris to become Canada's public enemy number one. Kind of like a Gallic Goodfellas, Mesrine is based on a real gangster and similarly spans decades of his life. Vincent Cassel puts in a quality performance as the charismatic psychopath who became a media sensation in the early 1970s and although he is hardly the most likeable protagonist, his outlandish acts are consistently both entertaining to watch and quite incredible to believe. There are some quality set pieces, the scene in which he and his partner single-handedly attack a maximum security prison in which they were both tortured is a particular highlight. It is a little episodic and it lacks the depth of characterisation that draws you fully into this kind of life story, but it is always exciting to watch and I am very much looking forward to Part Two.
Harry loses his memory after attacking Peter and their friendship is… MoreHarry loses his memory after attacking Peter and their friendship is seemingly restored leaving him free to hunt down the man truly responsible for Uncle Ben's death. However things are complicated by his transformation into The Sandman and the appearance of an alien creature that enhances Peter's negative emotions. There's actually a pretty decent sequel hidden inside the bloated, episodic mess that is Spider-man 3. Sam Raimi's presence at the helm is marred by his inability to resist the keys to the SFX toy shop but the cast are still likable, the comic relief (and JK Simmons in particular) is still funny and there's plenty of pacey action to maintain the attention. The big problem is with the script which relies far too much on contrivance and totally implausible coincidence. The most frustrating thing is that it could so easily have been corrected by the complete removal of the utterly ham-fisted and largely irrelevant Venom sub-plot. All the weakest elements of the film are tied up in it from Topher Grace's terrible performance, to the impossible to believe coincidences, to the frankly embarrassing jazz dancing emo Parker sequence. It's a shame because this wrecks the second half of the film and just detracts from some pretty decent character moments from Peter, Harry and even The Sandman himself. Yet another abject lesson that in film making, more often can mean less.
A writer and his family move in as caretakers to a secluded… MoreA writer and his family move in as caretakers to a secluded mountainside hotel for the winter, but a presence inhabiting it causes his mental disintegration leading to the urge for bloody murder. I'm not a fan of Stephen King. In fact, I'd go as far as to describe him as "a bag of cock". But what Kubrick did was to strip away the hokey nonsense of King's original novel and create a master class in haunting imagery and suspense. In fact, the supernatural elements of the story are almost irrelevant. The horror lies in the subtext of domestic violence; it's difficult to see a plaid wearing, balding middle-aged man as a terrifying monster, and Nicholson is hardly the most physically formidable presence. But in the classic scene in which he finally snaps, it is easy to see why waif-like Shelly Duvall (or anyone like her) would be incredibly intimidated. Without resorting to unnecessary gore Kubrick's visuals are disturbingly intense and complimented by one of the eeriest soundtracks ever written, the sense of unease is as creepy and atmospheric as any created. Far from being dated, compared to what passes for "horror" these days The Shining has actually improved with age. Another example of Kubrick being Jack of all trades and master of all.