Thursday, 14 April 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

There's a seemingly increasing interested in alien species, visiting earth lately, with Battle for LA, and Green Lantern looking like the most promising of this recurring theme. I Am Number Four is like the fat kid in the playground who tries to join in with the fitter children.

The film slowly explains the story of a seemingly 'normal' teenager played by Alex Pettyfer, attempting to live out his life as a normal American teenager would. Or at least what the classical stereotypes permit as being 'normal'.

The special effects in this movie are probably all it has going for it. And there's not a huge amount of that going on, as the plot drags on and repeats itself through the beginning and middle of the film. And I can't say much for the acting either.

It's a rather bland and disappointing representation of what could be an interesting storyline. A mystical alien race seeking refuge on earth from a rival race of Magadorians who have apparently conquered their home-planet of  Lorien.

In an absolute Twilight cliche the protagonist is love struck with his high-school sweetheart played by Dianna Agron. And he is hunted by his opposing race. The film picks up near the end with some much anticipated action. But the fight scenes are largely predictable. Although the special effects make it only just worthwhile.

I Am Number Four is dry and tasteless, but it could have been so much more, perhaps the book is a substantial improvement...


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Braveheart (1995)

"The problem with Scotland, is that it's full of Scots!"

Directed and starred by Mel Gibson, Braveheart is a film about the Scottish wars of Independence, when the King of England Edward I invades and occupies Scotland, in an attempt to control the country and absorb it under English rule.

The film immediately starts off with historical inaccuracies! Explaining that in 1280 the Scottish king Alexander III dies without an heir, and the pagan king of England Edward "longshanks" (as he is nicknamed by the Scottish for having long legs) played extremely well by Patrick McGoohan has claimed the throne of Scotland for himself.

While this is only partly true, because the Edward I did claim the throne of Scotland for himself, however he was a christian, just like many Scots at the time. And Alexander III did not die until 1286.

The first quarter of the film (which is three hours long) is about William Wallace as a child, played by James Robinson . It shows that several nobles have been betrayed and killed king Edwards men at a meeting.

Which is another inaccuracy, because when Edward I declared himself ruler of Scotland, he ordered they send troops to assist him in his war against France. The Scottish parliament (a group of 12 nobles) countered this proposal by helping France instead. This happened in 1295, not 1280, and in response Edward sent troops towards Scotland and sacked the town of Berwick. Instead of ordering the nobles hanged like the film portrays.

William, I'm your uncle... with privileges!
Shortly after that William's father and brother are killed in a skirmish against the English, which is possibly the Battle of Dunbar. William then goes and lives with his uncle played by Brian Cox. (who also played Ward Abbott in The Bourne Identity and it's sequel) With some cheesy lines he offers to teach him how to fight and use a sword.

Then Edward I's son Edward II (Peter Hanly) is crowned prince, he induces Primae Noctis, the right of the first night with the wife of any newly wedded lord or noble. Yet another historical inaccuracy as England has never induced Primae Notics on Scotland, ever.

There's no scenes of Wallace's training, and no clue about what happened to his uncle. Maybe they were deleted, as the film skips to him as an adult played by Mel Gibson. There's a ridiculous stone throwing competition between William and his burly friend Hamish played by Brendan Gleeson.
Then Primae Noctis is taken to effect, a local lord has his wife taken hostage.

Shortly after that, William meets up with  his childhood sweetheart Murron (played by Catherine McCormac, who also starred in 28 Weeks Later) they ride off together on horseback in the pouring rain in one scene, and are riding through a sunny field of dry grass the next! It's all very cheesy.

William Wallace - Level 25 Barbarian
Anyway, they run off and get married in secret. But later Murron is raped and murdered by an English garrison! And when William takes his revenge, and puts the garrison to the sword! The garrison commander is executed.
A while later Wallace has built himself a small army, and is met by a crazy Irishman called Stephen, and played brilliantly by David O'Hara. Wallace plans to fight back against the English invasion.

Halfway through the film the Battle of Stirling Bridge takes place, and it's where William makes his famous "Freeeeedom" speech. But the battle in the film, is completely unlike how the battle actually went...

Historically the Battle of Stirling Bridge happened on a narrow wooden bridge crossing the river at Stirling, the Scottish hid and waited at the opposite end of the bridge. The Scots then waited English army to cross the bridge, and ambushed them. forcing them into a retreat.
Wallace and his guild at level 60

The film doesn't show any bridge, it shows a choppy cavalry charge, as well as an amusing archer barrage, and when the infantry charge it gets sensationally bloody, Wallace hacks away at everything in sight. There are limbs being torn off and skulls being crushed, in a spectacle of slaughter, and if you can overlook the major historic faults, it's quite enjoyable.

After the battle Wallace is knighted, and wins the respect of Robert Bruce played by Angus Macfadyen, he decides to invade England in an effort to draw them into doing battle on their own turf, in doing so he sacks the city of York, which was used a staging ground for the English forces. Historically Wallace did invade England, but he didn't go anywhere near York.

Final Boss!
However after the the sneaky Edward I has sailed his army into Scotland past Wallace. And when Wallace discovers this he marches his army back and meets them at Falkirk.

The Battle of Falkirk that then takes place is also represented inaccurately Edward I being presented as an extremely cruel leader. No sheltron spear formations and unlike in history Wallace stayed to fight on.

When Wallace is betrayed and captured, he is taken to London Tower, and executed in front of a public audience. His body was cut into pieces, with his head placed on London Bridge, and his arms and legs sent to the four corners of Britain, which is possibly the only time in the entire film that it is actually true to history.

Braveheart is an extremely charismatic film. But it is let down by a complete failure to follow history, and being completely biased towards Scotland. However it is highly enjoyable, and is quite funny when not taken seriously. So still worth a watch!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Dawn of the Dead

"When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth"

Dawn of the Dead, directed by Zach Synder in 2004 (a remake of a movie by the same title in 1978), the same guy who directed 300, and Watchmen. It's your typical zombie apocalypse movie. Featuring some less scary and more amusing scenes. And your usual selection of incompetent characters.

It starts in a hospital with a nurse, and a hint of the virus initially being spread. Which by the way, there is no indication of how the virus was made, or how it eventually managed to affect hundreds of thousands of people, causing them to eventually die... and come back to life with insatiable cravings for human flesh.
The nurse is played by Sara Polley and the first section of the film involves a scene with her escaping pajama clad from her zombified husband and child, and fleeing the neighborhood as it burns up in chaos in the early hours of the morning. Although how her little girl managed to get bit in the first place is unknown, could be an affected pedophile that broke in? Who knows.

After driving far enough enough away she eventually bumps into a tree, where she meets a police officer played by Ving Rhames, who also played as Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

After realizing she's not a zombie they team up and venture forth to meet some more survivors, two guys played by Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer. And a pregnant women played by Inna Korobkina, who would obviously be a setback.
Malls. Your safest hiding spot in the event of a zombie apocalypse!

They decide to head over to a nearby shopping mall, where the run into the security guards played by Kevin Zegers, Michael Kelly and Michael Barry. Showing just how reluctant people are at getting along during an apocalypse!

It's not long before more survivors show up, including (much to my amusement) a fat woman being towed in a wheelbarrow, who is quite clearly infected. 

With thousands of zombies congregating outside, the survivors amusingly call out zombies by name, while another snipes them.

There's some funny lines in Dawn of the Dead, and the soundtrack is fitting. Character personality seem to be either dumb, cold, or over-caring, but that's usually all you can expect from this kind of film.

Even while they have a great place to hold out the survivors decide they should all pack up and grab a boat from a nearby pier to go hide on an island.

It's not long before something goes horribly wrong. And when another survivor gets infected trying to get food. The action kicks off! They jump in some armor plated trucks and head for the pier. Where there's blood and explosions right up to the end of the film! 

Dawn of the Dead is definitively one to watch, it's got action, and silliness, but if you're looking for a scare you're out of luck. It's not as good as the likes of 28 days later, but it's not as bad as most other zombie movies out there!

3.5 / 5

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

The name instantly implies a rip off from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly however I'm pleased to say this is not the case.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie I instantly thought of Japanese cyberpunk cowboys, with everything else you usually find in a Japanese movie! But much to my enjoyment the reality wasn't that at all.

With a talented cast, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is set in the 1940's in Manchuria province, China. The film starts off with three characters being given an assignment to find a map, each three characters have their own unique characteristics.

You have the good, Woo-sung Jung playing as Park Do-won. He's a bounty hunter, and he's after the reward on both the other character's heads. An excellent marksman, I don't think I seen him miss a single shot throughout the whole movie, I'd even say he was using an aimbot!

Then you have Byung-hun Lee playing as Park Chang-yi, the bad. This guy has issues, he'll kill anyone that insults him even slightly, and he gets insulted easily. He's an elite assassin, who's after revenge, he'll stab anyone in the back who get in his way.

And there's Kang-ho Song playing as the weird, Yoon Tae-goo, a slippery thief who seems to manage to find a way out of every difficult situation, and if that's either through luck or skill is debatable.

Within the first 20 minutes you're presented with a classic train robbery in true cowboy fashion, guns blazing. And there's plenty more action right through to the end.

It's an exciting and amusing adventure where each character find themselves pursued by several factions, each trying to survive, find the map, and where it leads.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, it has some incredible lines, and hilarious scenes. The action scenes are not over the top, or far fetched, and the characters remain interesting throughout the whole film.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of an action-packed giggle.

And for eggs out of 5? I give it 4.5