Friday 23 October 2009

Film: Orphan

As a rule I just can’t take “scary kid” films seriously but there are exceptions to every rule and Orphan proves to be just that.

Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt after they lose their third child to miscarriage.

Enter Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a nine year old from Russia who seems like a very intelligent and caring little girl. Esther’s own agenda is slowly revealed through a fantastic and disturbing performance by Fuhrman who along with Farmiga rise well above the usual standard of acting in this type of film.

This is more of a thriller than a horror and is recommended if you enjoy your “scary” films with some thought behind them.

Rick’s Rating: 74%

Thursday 22 October 2009

Film: Couples Retreat

Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau team up again to write and star in this comedy of four couples on a dream holiday that, unfortunately for three of them, includes mandatory Couples Skill Building therapy sessions.

Anyone expecting a movie similar to Dodgeball or The Wedding Crashers will be disappointed as the comedy here is not slapstick, it is more akin to Made and Swingers, Vaughn and Favreau’s previous writing collaborations.

In my opinion both excel when working with their own material as the on screen chemistry of the two has not diminished over the years and their argumentative rants at each other are the high point of the film.

There are some crude gags thrown in so if that’s not your scene then give it a miss but it’s recommended to anyone who enjoyed the aforementioned Made, Swingers and maybe even The Break Up.

Rick’s Rating: 68%

Saturday 17 October 2009

Music: James McMurtry, Live in Edinburgh

Back in 1996 when Country Music Television was on air in the UK I often tuned in to catch “Rebel Country” a nightly hour of the edgier side of Nashville.
One such night I happened across a video featuring a shaggy haired, bearded, bespectacled character I hadn’t saw before. His name was James McMurtry and the song was Levelland.
My taste in music was forever changed.
Imagine a combination of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty and you’d be somewhere in the vicinity of McMurtry’s sound.
Thirteen years later I got to meet the man himself (see picture) and see him perform live at The Bongo Club in Edinburgh. It was worth the wait.
Featuring mostly songs from his last studio album Just Us Kids the gig was tremendous and McMurtry was equally at ease performing solo as he was with the backing band, The Heartless Bastards.
Highlights were the title track Just Us Kids and performances of older songs like No More Buffalo and Too Long In The Wasteland.
Had he performed my old favourite Levelland (as some fans beckoned) he would have scored a perfect 100%. A small nitpick at an otherwise excellent performance.
Hurry back James.

Rick’s Rating: 95%

Thursday 8 October 2009

DVD: The Haunting In Connecticut

Disappointing cross between The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist.
Struggling to cope with their teenage Son’s cancer Virginia Madsen (Candyman) and Martin Donovan (Insomnia) rent a house “with a history” that is near the hospital and going cheap.
A haunted house story ensues but it’s all been done better before.
Spirits in limbo, nightmares and reflections that aren’t really there all add up to not very much and it’s only because of some half decent performances that this one is watchable at all.
Kyle Gallner excels as the cancer stricken Matt and both Madsen and Donovan are competent in their parents at the end of their tether roles. Elias Koteas turns up as a sickly Reverend and steals a few scenes in the process.
This is easy viewing and probably suits the teenage market that it’s aimed at.

Rick's Rating: 34%

Monday 5 October 2009

Film: Surrogates

In a world where people live their lives via robots that look like an enhanced version of themselves (Surrogates), Bruce Willis (Hudson Hawk, Moonlighting) plays a cop attempting to track down a weapon powerful enough to kill the Surrogates and their human “operators”.
All the humans are older and uglier than the Surrogates that take their place in society and they exist in their houses strapped into a kind of virtual reality world.
All a metaphor for people spending too much time on-line of course.
James Cromwell (Babe, LA Confidential) plays the inventor of the Surrogates and his son is the first victim of the killer who puts the super weapon to use.
The robot version of Bruce Willis is a bit creepy to look at but Rhada Mitchell (Pitch Black) as his partner is easier on the eye and competent in her robotic role.
Human Bruce Willis soon steps in to sort it all out and it takes him a bit of time to get used to being out in the world again as he recovers from a personal tragedy while leading the investigation and also attempting to re-connect with his wife.
Reasonably enjoyable without being fantastic, this is recommended for fans of I,Robot.

Rick’s Rating: 50%

Sunday 4 October 2009

Film: The Taking Of Pelham 123

Hollywood big hitters Denzel Washington (Ricochet, Virtuosity) and John Travolta (Look Who’s Talking, Wild Hogs) star in this remake.
Travolta and his gang take control of a train and hold the passengers hostage while negotiating the terms with train dispatcher Washington.
That’s it.
Hard to see who this film is aimed at as the two stars are knocking on a bit to appeal to youngsters. It’s not intelligent enough to appeal to adults and there isn’t enough action in it to appeal to action fans.
The result is a film that will appeal to pretty much nobody apart from obsessive Travolta and Washington devotees.
Both look like they’d rather be elsewhere and their characters do not have the on screen chemistry that you would hope for. Aside from the stars, the story itself lacks decent character development so you don’t care about anything that takes place.
Director Tony Scott (True Romance) seems to have concentrated on NYPD Blue type jerky camera shots rather than the story or performances.
Don’t waste your time on this one, I wish I hadn’t.
Rick’s Rating: 21%

Friday 2 October 2009

Films: Top Films of 2005

As this is a new blog I'll include some retrospective lists so here is the first.
2005 was a pretty good year for films and here are my top picks.
They are in order of merit and should all be available cheap on DVD.
Each one is a worthy addition to any collection.

Adrian Brody in this highly original psychological thriller.

Stephen Chow’s excellent martial arts mayhem movie.

A rare thing nowadays. A horror film that’s actually scary.

Ensemble piece dealing with racial tension.

Russell Crowe gives another powerhouse performance as boxer Jim Braddock.

Thomas Jane plays the real life cop turned criminal.

Excellent showcase for the amazing skills of Tony Jaa as he sets out to retrieve a stolen ancient statue.

5 X 2
French film about the breakdown of a marriage. Told in reverse.

Dark comic adaptation starring Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen.

Very funny comedy about a late developer.