Total Recall is one of those action, science fiction movies that just don’t get made anymore. It blends the hardcore action of the 80’s with the smart ideas of a science fiction novel. Funnily enough it was based on a short story which leads the action pieces to filled by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, an every day middle class construction worker living out his days on Earth. However he keeps having dreams about Mars and another woman each night and is unsatisfied with the way things are going.
After seeing an Advert for a company which can plant artificial memories, he decides to be implanted with the memory of a secret agent who saves mars. However before this can be completed he freaks out and ends up a fugitive being chased by The Agency and ends up wrapped up in a conspiracy on said planet.
What I love mainly about this movie is the wonderful practical effects. Real gore, real miniatures, amazing sets and great stop motion that is so subtle that some might not even notice it. The movie’s look just screams 80s science fiction and I wish movies still looked like this instead of the lifeless green screen and CGI fests that modern audiences like.
The whole thing starts to become a little silly around the point in which he gets to Mars but this is kind of the point. It helps you start to question whether this is actually real or just the memory he wanted implanted. There are hints to both sides of the debate which I think will become even more apparent on further watches.
Arnold does a great job in the role. His dellivery can be a little bit wooden but he does what you expect him to do and you really do care about this character wanting him to discover more as his perception of reality becomes more and more blurred.
I have a couple of criticisms about the movie such as some of the twists not making much sense and the comedic relief; who I swear is the only black guy on mars. Another thing that I didn’t like was the final shootout. It mainly comes down to the set choice. It’s kind of bland and uninteresting which is a stark contrast to some of the sets that we see throughout the film.
Despite all this I had a lot of fun with this movie and would recommend it to all if you can stand a bit of blood. It’s nothing too extreme but again the lifeless action movies where there doesn’t seem to be any impact to somebody being shot it is quite a shock.
A lot of people regard RoboCop as Paul Verhoeven’s best work but I’d definitely say this is my favorite so far. Pick up this movie if you fancy an intelligent science fiction flick or you’re an appreciator of practical effects.
Moon is a science fiction thriller directed by David Bowie’s son (forgotten his name). It stars Sam Rockwell in the leading role of Sam who works for an energy corporation on one of their bases on the moon. He is alone and his only companion is Gerdy, a robot who’s voiced by the fantastic Kevin Spacey. He also receives video logs from his wife. With only 2 weeks left before he can return home; Sam starts to suspect that something else is going on and that he might be being set up.
If that premise sounds up your street then you should definitely give this movie a go. However if you’re expecting any kind of action then you should get that right out of your head. This is an incredibly slow movie, with a lot of build up and characterization before the plot starts moving but this is in its favor. The film puts the audience in Sam’s shoes and we start to understand the tedium that he goes through on this base. This helps all the better when we start to wonder whether he’s actually all there.
The movie has some great twists and turns and it goes somewhere in the second act which I wasn’t expecting at all. I wasn’t sure of this change at first as I did prefer the psychological, ambiguous tone of the first act but I quickly got used to it and felt comfortable again.
This change also makes the ending all the more heart breaking and the final 15/ 20 minutes can really make you feel gutted but at the same time questioning why. I don’t want to go into details but if you see the movie then you might have the same experience as me.
Another thing I loved was the look of the movie. I don’t know when it’s meant to be set but by the looks of things it doesn’t look like it can be far into the future. The base had a realistic look to it and you can almost imagine moon bases looking like that when they’re eventually built. Some of the design of the interior reminded me of an aeroplane with the plastic panels and painted on logos. I also loved the design of Gerdy with his cheap little screen and a crude smiley face.
The only criticism I’d really have of this movie is that I think the pacing of the ending could have been a little quicker but it really didn’t make it anymore satisfying so I might not have the same problem on a re-watch.
If you’re a fan of suspense thrillers/ science fiction then you should definitely give Moon a try. It may be too slow for some people but if you turned this off due to the slow start then you really missed out on a proper gem. This is exactly the kind of science fiction I love and I hope to see more of this standard in the future.
(Films I reviewed are linked and in italic)
Wreck It Ralph
The Fantastic Mr Fox
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower
Lars and The Real Girl
A Single Man
Film of The Month: American Beauty
American Beauty has basically everything I love in a movie. I can’t exactly pin point exactly what those things are but every element in this movie ties together into a neat little package. If I had to pick one thing that I loved the most then it would be the characters. Every character in this movie has depth to them. They all have an arc, and you understand their motivations. Even when they do questionable things you can see it from their point of view and almost empathise with them. Everybody should see this movie especially if they want to see more Kevin Spacey movies like I did.
52. Casino Royale
Casino Royale is the first of the Daniel Craig bond trilogy and in my opinion the best. When it comes to Casino Royale I think it’s been criminally under rated by Bond fans. The pacing is a little slow with one of the biggest parts of the movie taking place at a poker game. The fans weren’t expecting this and don’t often hold it as a bond film.
I was the same when I first saw it. Iv owned it on DVD for a number of years but I never really got the genius and subtleties of this movie. Over the years my knowledge of film making and taste has expanded meaning that the last time I watched this I started to really see what an amazing movie this is.
Every action scene is there for a reason. There’s never a moment where something contrived happens just so the audience doesn’t get bored. Each of them move the plot forward and have consequences for the main characters. Which brings me to my next point, not a minute is wasted. There is no pointless filler to pad out time, no unnecessary sub plots which add nothing.
Everything that happens in this movie has a tiny bit of set up. Like us seeing the defibrillator when Bond first gets his Aston Martin. Or the minor detail of Vesper not knowing anything about poker in her first conversation with Bond. This meant that Mathis can tell Vesper/ the audience about what’s happening in the poker game without it coming off as blatant exposition.
Craig gives an incredibly performance as our lead. Adding many layers of depth to the character. You can really see how changed he is by the end of the film which isn’t done with much dialogue but more with subtle facial expressions. Eva Green is probably my favorite Bond girl as she’s actually a character and isn’t there for the sake of ticking a box.
The only minor gripe I have is when James realizes that Mafis is a traitor. After seeing the movie at least 5 times I still don’t know. I’m sure it must be explained somewhere as there’s no way they’d leave such a blatant plot hole.
If you want to see an excellent action movie then you should see this film. If you’ve seen it before and didn’t really dig it as it didn’t meet your expectations then i’d give it another shot, you might just be as surprised as I was.
(Films I reviewed are linked and in italic)
Laputa: Castle In The Sky
Film of The Month: The Matrix
I would have to go with The Matrix. Despite saying i’ll never watch it for years and years I eventually gave it a chance. I always protested that it won’t have aged well and that everybody praising it was simply blinded by nostalgia. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Matrix is a brilliant sci fi movie with a really cool concept. Ignoring the silly leather trench coats and shades this has aged brilliantly with even some of the special effects still looking impressive.
51. The Matrix
There are plenty of films that basically every man and his dog has seen. They expect you to have seen them and when you awkwardly tell them you haven’t they look at you like you’ve just told them you’re a holocaust denier. The Matrix is one of those movies.
Back when this came out this was a huge deal. It was a big milestone for action movies, special effects and changed cinema in countless ways. With this in mind I finally bit the bullet and decided to watch it. I didn’t have the highest expectations as I didn’t think it would have aged well and most people that I know who saw this would have been less than 10 when it came out.
So I was surprised to discover that I actually really liked this movie. The concept is top notch for starters and really is an interesting idea. By now we all think about the old what if everything is a dream theory but the film really does a good job of it. It has some stellar direction, great visuals, some brilliant action set pieces and probably my favorite part of the movie. A fantastic villain.
I was always aware of Agent Smith as he’s become quite a pop cultural icon but Id never seen him in action properly. Hugo Weaving does an excellent job in the role and really adds a layer of menace that you probably wouldn’t get by just straight up reading the script. All of the other actors do fine jobs and there isn’t really a bad performance in the bunch. Even Keanu, who is infamous for his wooden performances does a fine job as the main character.
I didn’t really have any huge problems with the movie. There were a couple of moments that were unintentionally funny like the lightning constantly striking every time Morpheus said something in the pill scene that was just taken straight out of a bad horror movie. Neo being saved by the power of love towards the end. It’s also a little hard to take some scenes seriously with how silly they all look in the leather and stupid ass shades.
As I’d already said, every man and his dog has seen this movie but if you are like me and missed out on this back in the day then I couldn’t recommend this any more.
5. 50/50 - 2011
50/50 is one of those rare movies that can make you laugh one minute and cry the next. It tackles the serious issue of cancer and manages to put a comedic spin on the life of a patient. I think that this was the second movie I watched last year and I knew that this would be on the list. Most people have seen it by now due to it gaining a cult following on this site but if you haven’t then you can check it out. It’s like 3 quid in HMV due to them going out of buisness so i’d snatch up a copy on the cheap while you can.
4. Pan’s Labyrinth - 2006
Iv seen many fantasy films in my 20 years on this earth but Pan’s Labyrinth has to be the closest that feels like a fairytale. It really nails that feeling of old children’s cautionary tales with a dark twist. I’v only seen one other Guillermo Del Toro movie and I must get around to watching a couple more because I love his style. I knew about this for many years hearing it was a damn good film. The cover always looked so mysterious to me and I’m so glad that I finally gave it a chance. Some may be put off by the subtitles but you haven’t seen anything like this and it’s definitely worth a look.
3. Black Dynamite - 2009
When I was first showed this film during the summer I was told that if I didn’t like it then I’m a film snob with no soul. Luckily they weren’t correct with this assumption as I loved every minute of this. It’s a parody of the Blacksploitation movies of the 70s with so many gags in every scene. Iv watched it 3 times now and I notice something new every time I watch it. Out of all the the films in this top 5, Black Dynamite probably has the most mainstream appeal. Everybody needs to experience this gem.
2. Lost In Translation - 2001
Following up from the movie that has the most mainstream appeal here’s a movie which has the least mainstream appeal. Not to say it’s a bad movie, it’s on my number two slot for crying out loud. No this movie just has a very slow pace to it. A lot of it is told in atmosphere and visuals and you can feel disconnected from the movie at times. That’s kind of the point though. This is a beautiful movie with so much to say about love and relationships. Yeah my number two spot is kind of a romantic film. I’m not a huge fan of the genre but this has to be the best example of the genre that I’v seen so far. Give this a watch if you’re looking for something that’s challenging and a little bit different.
1. Spirited Away - 2001
I think I must have watched this movie at least 6 or 7 times last year. This is simply one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s a masterpiece. I couldn’t recommend this movie anymore. The art of this Ghibli movie is stunning and i’v talked about this movie so much throughout the year. If I was hard pressed to pick my definitive top 10 movies of all time then this would definitely be on there. I must have showed it to about 7 people last year, none of them are anime fans and one of them really hates anime. All of them were just as blown away as I was. This movie’s perfect and everybody owes it to themselves to experience it.
I went into Hugo hearing it had problems so I wasn’t expecting greatness going into it. Iv come out of satisfied and it’s a pretty decent family movie. The really tragedy of it all is that this could have been one of my all time favorite movies but there is a lot holding it back.
The first problem is the structure and the focus of the movie. This movie is two hours long with a story which is a lot shorter. There is so much going on in this movie and a lot of it just distracts you. It doesn’t need to be in there and I wish that the movie was cut down a bit as the pacing would have been so much better for it.
There’s nothing wrong with a long movie or a movie with multiple plots but Hugo just didn’t need to be that kind of movie. I don’t mind that the first 40 minutes are used building up this mystery. I already knew where the plot was going because I’d already read about it but it was done really well and is one of the movies greatest merrits.
It did not however need Sacha Baron Cohen or his character at all really. I know this is a kids movie and I guess they needed a antagonist but he has no real bearing on the plot. He stops being the antagonist halfway through the movie just for him to remember he’s the bad guy for the final act so we can have some forced tension. Baron Cohen doesn’t do a bad job but he’s so distracting and he was terribly miscast for the movie. I guess if you don’t know who he is then it wouldn’t be as big of a problem.
That brings me onto my next point. The cast is full of stars that you recognize from other movies. I know this sounds like a weird criticism, it’s hard to explain but I found them really distracting. I didn’t see these people as characters more as actors.
Not to say the acting is bad by any means. The main cast do a great job and really sell you on their roles. It’s more the pointless side characters, which again could have been solved by cutting them out of the movie.
The main thing I like about the movie is that it’s basically a history lesson on Georges Méliès who was a great silent film director. You also get a couple of other nods to that era with the famous Harold Llyod clock skit and Charlie Chaplin.
It sounds really pretentious but I think this movie would have been better as an independent film. It would have had a lot more focus and without all the distractions. It may have been a longer movie but they may have found a better way to fill that time.
The CGI in this movie is kind of poor but it makes up for it with some astounding practical effects like the clockwork man (I know that’s not what it’s really called).
All in all this is a solid family film. I can’t really fault it too much because a lot of heart went into it and it’s much better than the studio cash grab, garbage that a lot of kids getting given nowadays. I’d recommend it if you can get past some of the kiddie moments as it’s an interesting movie at the very least.
(Films I reviewed are linked and in italic)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Funny Games (original)
Film(s) of The Month: Princess Mononoke and Django Unchained
I can’t decide between the last two I saw this month so Im going to cop out and pick both. Both are perfectly well made pieces of art which are incredibly different. Both will be in my DVD collection as soon as possible and both will stick with me for a number of years.
I’m thinking about getting a proper film blog set up with a number of people contributing reviews to it. I’m hoping that I can get a few people I know on board and maybe even some people on here.