The Siege of Jadotville Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the Netflix original ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ with links below if you want to find out more.

tsoj

Quick Summary

Based on the true story of a band of Irish UN soldiers who were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission in 1961 and found themselves outnumbered and besieged by a mercenary force trying to assert the authority of a recent military coup at a time when world peace rested on a knife’s edge. A backdrop of tense global politics occasionally punctuates the action, but there are probably more explosions than dialogue. However, the tale is told pretty faithfully from what I can gather (and needed telling), so it’s hard to argue with true events.

Laughs: 2/5

The banter between the Irish squaddies gives this film the charm it needs to carry you through the relentless explosions that make up ¾ of the screen time.

As the situation unfolds, the humour is used by the troops to keep grounded, and I imagine it is probably a good reflection of how the real soldiers would have reacted at the time.

Tears: 2/5

There’s a valid reason as to why this film doesn’t score highly on the tears chart that I can’t reveal due to spoilers. However, people do die, and war is sad, but the events aren’t treated in a way to emotionally manipulate us, and are bound by the real-life events. If you are Irish and particularly patriotic you might score it higher.

Cheese: -1/-5

I’m giving a small deduction for characters occasionally info-dumping context, i.e. “Hey, you’re new to the Congo? Check out our Uranium mines which are a source of international conflict due their use in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. Bye!”.

But generally, the filmmakers appear to have resisted any attempt to pull out exaggerated or invented subplots and characters, which feels respectful to the events.

Cheers: 3/5

It’s funny how war films can turn you into an armchair murderer. Before long, given the right priming, you’re cheering with delight as poor local villagers, probably drafted into the militia against their will, are blown up in their droves. But this is a siege film, and as our ‘heroes’ were not the aggressors (or at least didn’t know they were), there is a point to it all, kind of.

Fears: 0/5

The fears category is for horror, but I would award points to war films that filled me with dread in an empathic way. This doesn’t really do that. It’s not like watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and thinking ‘that could have been me’ when you see the drafted soldiers crying for their lives in the landing boats. This film could have made choices to do that, but it didn’t, opting for the bravery and comradery angle instead.

Bonus Category: Shhh! -2

I got a text from my wife (who was in bed) when I was watching this film that simply read ‘Shhh!’. There is, naturally, a lot of shooting and explosions, with odd cutaways to Mark Strong looking anxious and confused as he tries to unpick the escalating political crisis behind the scenes. However, I don’t think they got the balance right and could have showed more of the breaths between the waves of attack. It didn’t feel like the 4-day siege it was meant to be – more like one long afternoon with lots of shooting and explosions.

Given the concentrated nature of the setting, the palette needed to be broader either with more personal stories developed, or a more epic wide angle of the greater things at stake. It just needed something else, but hats off to Netflix who are very new to the movie game and chose an interesting tale to tell.

Total: 4

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Siege_of_Jadotville_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3922798/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

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The Girl with All the Gifts Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for British zombie-flick ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’, with links below if you want to find out more.

the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_poster

Quick Summary

I’ve been looking forward to watching this, both because of my general love of ‘serious’ Zombie movies, and because a large part of it was filmed just a few miles up the road from me in my home City of Stoke-on-Trent. Although it falls a little short of being a classic in the genre, it is entertaining, and showcases the ambition of British cinema.

Laughs: 0/5

I like my Zombie movies serious, and by that I mean not goofy. So, it’s kind of a good thing that there is nothing to laugh about, but it could have lightened the tone a little in places to help develop the sense of bonding between the characters.

Tears: 2/5

All good zombie films find a unique route through the genre. In this case we follow the story of a young girl who is, well, different. Her charm and innocence contrast with the brutal life she has been born into, making the viewer sympathetic to her cause, mainly thanks to a very sweet and occasionally chilling performance from the young star Sennia Nanua.

The rest of the characters were a little too stereotypical to care much about, although Gemma Arterton’s ‘Helen’ came the closest.

Cheese: -1/-5

To avoid spoilers, all I will say is that at one point it goes a bit ‘Lord of the Flies’ meets George A. Romero, and I don’t think it quite pulls it off in the way that I think they probably imagined on the storyboard, or in the original book (that I have not read, so I don’t know…)

Cheers: 1/5

I’ve been a bit stingy with the ‘cheers’ category because while I enjoyed the film, it never quite reaches the heights of drama or depth of character done so well before in ’28 Days Later’, which you naturally compare it to, being a British ‘big-ish’ budget zombie movie. As such, the finale doesn’t have the impact or the sense of scale that is implied by the plot.

Fears: 2/5

There are some good, tense moments of tip-toeing through herds of ‘sleeping’ zombies that could spring into life at a loud sound or fast movement. But it is inconsistent, and soon overcome in ways I shall not mention. Also, a lot of the action takes place in relatively well-lit areas, which is rarely the bed-fellow of nail-biting horror and sometimes showed up the zombies for what they really were: a load of extras in make-up. I find it hard to be scared at extras in make-up, especially when I may well know some of them because it was filmed in the bus station I used to visit as a spotty teenager.

Bonus Category: Up ‘Anley Duck +3

I’m unashamedly going to award a whopping 3 bonus points for being both a British film, and because a large part of the filming took place in my home city of Stoke-on-Trent.

We occasionally get the odd film crew up here in Staffordshire, but not often, and I think a lot of local people were used as extras. Presumably it also brought some money in somewhere along the line, but mainly, it’s always good when the industry breaks out of London and remembers the rest of us (even though the film was set in London, I will always know it was actually the old Hanley bus station, which, to be fair, already looked like a dystopian nightmare before it was closed).

Total: 7

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_with_All_the_Gifts_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4547056/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page.

And if you enjoy my reviews, please like/share this page link, and consider taking a look at my original science fiction books advertised in the side bar! Thanks for reading.

Westworld (1973) Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the 1973 movie ‘Westworld’ that inspired the recent series on HBO of the same name, with links below if you want to find out more.

westworld

Quick Summary

This is one of those films I knew I’d seen at some point in my teen years, probably late night on Channel 4 one night on my grainy portable TV I used to have in my room. With the recent HBO reboot (of which I’ve only seen the first few episodes so far, but liked what I saw), I fancied a revisit, and as luck would have it, up it popped on Amazon Prime. Not as complex as I was expecting, but with some straightforward yet effective tech-thriller moments that mark it out as ahead of its time, and well worth a refresher.

Laughs: 1/5

I was surprised, and a little disappointed, to find that there is a comic relief character thrown into the mix, all be it briefly, in the form of an elderly, stout tourist who fancies himself as a bit of a gunslinger and has a few slapstick moments. It lightens the tone of the film that I always remembered as being wonderfully dark, but isn’t overdone. Apart from that, the portrayal of consumer-mad American tourists is generally comical, but that is more of a social comment I think, and works well.

Tears: 0/5

Perhaps the few episodes of the HBO series I watched primed me too much, as this film has pretty much zero character development or back-story concerning the guests or the architects of the park itself. Therefore, there isn’t really much to grasp onto when it comes to emotional attachment.

Cheese: -1/-5

It’s hard to mark this when it was made in a decade that can’t but help sometimes to be cheesy. However, as I mentioned in the ‘laughs’ section, the comic relief was a bit too slapstick and even for its time, I’m sure the filmmakers could have cut it out.

Cheers: 2/5

I didn’t realise when I originally watched this how much of a blueprint it was for things to come. Pretty much one big chase scene between crazed killer robot and man, you get the same feeling of tension and climax that was to appear a decade later in ‘The Terminator’, and I can’t imagine this wasn’t a direct influence on that and many others. Add to that the fact that it was written and directed by the work-horse Michael Crichton, who would go on to hone his amusement-park-gone-mad concept into the timeless Jurassic Park series, making this a film that puts the viewer in the chase, and feeling each gasp and triumph along the way.

Fears: 3/5

With very creative use of the visual fx available at the time, and a chillingly soulless performance from Yul Brenner as ‘The Gunslinger’, this is the original terminator: a relentless technological force that drives the film and the human survivor deeper into danger with every infra-red scanned step. This is straight-up cat and mouse, but the cat happens to be a dead-eyed, psychotic robot gunslinger. Who can argue with that?!

Bonus Category: Classic Crichton +1

I’m going to use this an opportunity to award a bonus point purely for being the work of the unbelievably eclectic Michael Crichton. This guy produced a great deal of what we know as popular culture today, and was an unbelievably productive writer and producer. Just check out his Wikipedia (linked below) to see what I mean.

Total: 6

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Michael Crichton Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton

Wikipedia (Movie): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westworld_(film)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070909/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the upcoming ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page…

David Brent: Life on the Road Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for David Brent: Life on the Road, with links below if you want to find out more.

brentlifeontheroad

Quick Summary

I can’t imagine that anyone who isn’t already a fan of Ricky Gervais and his seminal David Brent character will have their mind changed by this movie, and fans will recognise a lot of the hit-points done before (and better) from ‘The Office’. Still, despite feeling like a TV special it is a diverting enough way to revisit Brent for a low-key road trip.

Laughs: 2/5

I am a fan of Gervais’ sitcoms, but I rarely find that they make me guffaw heartily. It’s more like coming home from work with a funny story about something that happened to somebody else, but you didn’t laugh at the time due to embarrassment, awkwardness, shame, or all three.

This film is much the same, with the odd pun thrown in for those who were perhaps new to the Gervais brand. But even as a fan, it never tops the hit-parade of classic moments from ‘The Office’, which does leave you wondering what he hoped to achieve with this resurrection. That said, it doesn’t fail to be funny, it just doesn’t make the top-ten ‘Brent’ at any point.

Tears: 1/5

I will never forgive Gervais for what he did to my tear-ducts with his last sitcom series ‘Derek’. I blubbed every episode and I don’t mind admitting it. In David Brent LOTR I barely sniffed, mainly because there wasn’t a great deal to sniff at, and what there was, had been done better in ‘The Office’ (once again) with maybe one slightly touching exception. Maybe he was pitching it for a new audience who aren’t aware of the TV phenomenon that went before, but that seems unlikely.

Cheese: -1/-5

Perhaps the reason that the laughs and tears didn’t flow so much was because he had to introduce a whole set of new characters who, while strangely familiar in their architypes, were not the faces we were used to. We had time to get to know and love the ensemble from ‘The Office’ who were just as big a part of the success as David Brent, but here it seems a little forced and formulaic with the supporting cast of his new workplace (when he’s not out on the road that is…).

Cheers: 1/5

In many ways, it’s good that the film doesn’t ever get too big or overblown and make you jump ‘n holler: it wouldn’t have been befitting of the style or legacy, and the fact is feels like a long TV special reflects that. However, he does manage a little ‘go on Brent!’ type feeling, but nothing like the last episode of Series 2 when he finally tells Finch to F-off.

Fears: 0/5

No scares here, unless you’re phobic to Premier Inn’s.

Bonus Category: Thank you for the music +2

We all know that Gervais himself was a wannabe rock-star in the 80s (don’t we?), and even when he’s playing them for laughs, I still fancy you can hear a little longing in his voice for someone to tell him how good he is. Well, it’s unlikely he will ever read this, but he is a good musician, and singer. The band in the film and soundtrack are good too, as is rapper Doc Brown, and as a musician myself, it’s good to hear the effort going in, even when it’s just for a funny little film (well, funny-ish).

Total: 5

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

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Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Brent:_Life_on_the_Road

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3137630/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the upcoming ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page…

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the tense and unexpected ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, with links below if you want to find out more.

10_cloverfield_lane

Quick Summary

Seemingly emerging out of nowhere, JJ Abrams-produced ‘spiritual successor’ to monster movie ‘Cloverfield’ (2008) is an assured thriller that morphs in scope and genre expertly and showcases the range and scale of cinema magnificently. With this review being spoiler-free, all I can say is don’t go into this expecting one thing or the other specifically, but most definitely, do find out for yourselves.

Laughs: 1/5

With only three characters forming the central cast, the first act of this film establishes relationships under duress, including suspicion, jealously and humour. The humour is light, realistic and just enough to endear us to the plight of all concerned. But this is not, and does not set out to be, a ‘funny’ film.

Tears: 1/5

If there was time to dwell perhaps the tears would have flowed, but as we are bound to the increasingly urgent plight of Michelle, like her we are too busy holding our breath to think about it. As with the humour, however, what we lose in reflection, we gain in nail-biting anticipation.

Cheese: 0/-5

Not here.

Cheers: 3/5

It is hard to write a spoiler-free description of why and how the cheers come, but as you can guess with suspense, the pressure must blow at some point, and Abrams pitches it in waves of jaw dropping jeopardy and revelation.

Fears: 3/5

It’s a sure sign of good film-making when the fear comes mainly from nothing that is shown on screen and instead from empathy with the characters. The performances of the excellent cast seem to be magnified in intensity by the claustrophobic setting of the bunker in which the majority of the film takes place.

Bonus Category: Big trouble in little Movie +3

I’m going to have to be vague here, but I’ve rarely seen a film so expertly blend genres and not just get away with it, but make the resulting hybrid its own.

Total: 11

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10_Cloverfield_Lane

IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179933/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the upcoming ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page…

Transformers: The Movie (1986) Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my spoiler-free review for the essential ‘Transformers: The Movie’ (1986), with links below if you want to find out more.

transformers-movieposter-west

Quick Summary:

It’s hard for me to separate this movie from my upbringing. Released when I was just 5 years old, and a constant companion even now in my mid-thirties, I genuinely believe this to be a masterpiece. Geek-love aside, it is exquisitely animated in the Manga style, has an awesome score and soundtrack, and I think, a rip-roaring story for all to enjoy, even if transforming alien robots isn’t ‘your thing’.

Laughs: 2/5

This movie is serious business for the most part, with an epic plot to unfold and a lot of action to get through. As fans will know, the story is predominately skewed more towards the dramatic than it is the comedic. However, jokes and japes are there, with some of the best coming from the young upstart Autobot Hot Rod (Judd Nelson), such as his aside when surrounded by an army of metal-munching robot sharks on a planet ran by murderous robot judges that ‘we have got to get a new travel agent’…

Tears: 4/5

It’s hard to believe that anyone who may read this won’t have seen it already, but just in case, I won’t give away a death (one of many) that scarred me and a generation forever. Somehow you feel for these robots, you really do…

Cheese: 0/-5

Just to be clear, when I mark down movies for cheese, it’s because it was bad cheesy, not, and I repeat not, Stan Bush ‘You got the touch’, Optimus Prime flying through the air shooting baddies, one-will-stand one-will-fall, awesome cheesiness. If I could give plus points in this category, I would.

Cheers: 5/5

There is so much to cheer for, with each fist pump timed perfectly to the stunning visuals, the cock-rock soundtrack and the expertly crafted character arcs and realisation of one of the most epic showdown’s in Movie history, against the biggest, and baddest foe of all time.

Bonus Category: When all are one… + 2

This is a movie of convergence: The right time, cast, animation studio, music and audience, all occurring perfectly and showing perhaps for the first time that tie-in franchise productions could, and should, stand on their own two feet. My opinion may be forever tainted by the role this film played in my early life, but even being as objective as I can be and acknowledging that others may not be as invested in the characters as I was and am, it is a visual and audio masterpiece if nothing else.

Total: 13

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transformers:_The_Movie

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092106/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the upcoming ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page…

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Using my Laughs, tears, cheese and cheers rating system, here is my mostly spoiler-free review for the unnecessary ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’, with links below if you want to find out more.

independence-day-2-poster

Quick Summary

This movie is so bad it actually travels back through time and taints the original classic by association, unfortunately. With a faint spark of originality towards the end, it’s not enough to save this cheese board of a good idea gone bad.

Laughs: 0/5

I’m never a big fan of the ‘comic relief’ character, plonked two-dimensionally into a film to fill the gaps with quippy quips and catchphrases or slap-stick cowardice. This film, however, attempts at least three of such characters, and, like the helicopter that carries the first lady in the original movie, none of the gags land well.

Tears: 0/5 (slight spoiler)

It’s not that they don’t attempt it. Apart from the fact that Will Smith is dead before it even begins (which is almost enough reason to cry when you meet the next generation of wooden character replacements), there is a high-profile character death thrown in here for no good reason. But thanks to the glut of new and old characters we need to get through before this happens, the impact is minimal (unlike the helicopter that carries the first lady in the original movie…).

Cheese: -5/-5

I never thought the original was a cheesy film, because it was a blockbuster disaster flick done well, and in that context cheese is usually a key ingredient. When like this, the film isn’t done well, the cheese is exceptionally whiffy (probably like the first lady from the original movie is by now).

Cheers: 2/5

Without giving anything away, the last act suddenly explodes to life with a new take on the familiar aliens that hints at bigger, better and braver shenanigans. By that point though, it is paradoxically too little, too late, and splutters to a deadly halt before it really gets going (like the helicopter from… you get the idea.)

Bonus Category: The Next Generation -1

A little like suicide squad (which I also didn’t like – check the leader board), ID:R spends too much time trying to introduce us to a cast of young hopefuls, ready to pick up the mantle of a blooming, reinvigorated franchise, and in doing so, forgets to make them interesting, believable (in any sense), funny or endearing. This delusional nod towards a new generation of stars is linked with a ‘to-be-continued’ style plot device that arrives from nowhere, and, most probably will never be seen again (like the first lady in the original movie).

Total: -4

(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day:_Resurgence

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528/

Agree / Disagree with my assessment? Leave a comment to let me know or submit your own scores for this or any other film listed in the leader board below to be aggregated into the upcoming ‘readers choice’ table on the main rating page…