Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part of the First.

Posted in Harry Potter, review by Tony C on December 29, 2010

As the books got longer so did the movies, so much so the last film in the Harry Potter series comes in two parts.  One we have now, the other we’ll have to wait for until next year.  The question of course is will it be worth it? 

Many reviews haven’t been kind, claiming that like the book it’s the not just the weakest of the series but also plain dull; my expectations were then set accordingly.  I’m rather glad they were as I enjoyed it, yes at over two hours it could have done with a bit of a trim but I never felt any particular scene over stayed it’s welcome.  There is a lot of running and hiding then wizard based explosions, then more running, hiding and wizard based explosion as the trio try and track down the remaining bits of Voldermort, he’s carelessly left lying around, whilst trying to find (in true Dungeons and Dragons style) the three parts of the Deathly Hallows which will be handy in the ‘final battle’.  Hermione looks wind swept, Ron looks like he’s just finished a weekend bender and Harry as if he’d joined Ron but changed his mind.  It’s also very dark as we see a number of favourite characters take one for the team, including a large number of the wizarding community in general.

For Potter fans a must see, for everyone else it’s close retelling of the first half of the final book might be a little slow and far too long.

Reach for the prequel

Posted in Halo, review, Xbox by Tony C on October 4, 2010

Halo Reach

Often when a franchise runs out of ideas rather than look forward it’s creators look backwards, not always with great results.  I’m looking at you Mr LucasBungie however I’m happy to say haven’t fallen into the vanity trap that snared the aforementioned George and have created a masterpiece as a final hurrah as they pass the Halo mantle to 343 Industries.

I’m not going to give the plot away as you can find the details on lots of other websites and as you might suspect the usual sci-fi clichés are all here but without the clumsiest you often see in this genre.  It looks beautiful and I kept having mini flashbacks recalling how it felt the first when I played the original Halo: Combat Evolved, I even paused almost every time Noble 6 went outside just to take in the view.  There’s just enough new stuff to keep you interested and of course all the familiar Halo stuff to make you feel at home, although I did miss dual weld (unless of course I missed it).

It’s enough to say I have a severe case of Attention Deficient Disorder when it comes to games and unless compelled I rarely finish them, the Halo series is the exception.  Thank you Bungie!

Robin Hood: Prince of Accents

Posted in movie, review, Robin Hood by Tony C on September 27, 2010

Robin Hood

For someone who may not have even existed Robin Hood has remained a popular subject for Hollywood and with the success of Gladiator behind them surely Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe should nail it?  Not quite.  It’s a shame really as the premise they use is rather good but as we all know the story and the script are very different things, so whilst the story is actually not bad the script seems to have had far too many cooks resulting in a bit of cinematic mess, not helped by Mr Crowe who seems a bit confused as to what part of England Robin comes from.  Why he didn’t just stick with his Jack Aubrey or Maximus is a mystery.

Historically it’s not too far off the mark, often Richard I is shown returning to England but here he dies in France after being stuck by a crossbow bolt so in one sense it was off to a good start and the fictitious Robin is portrayed as a rather more ambiguous character than the traditional ‘rob from the rich to give to the poor’ archetype.  What’s apparent almost straight away is that they filmed a significantly longer movie which they then hoped to edit into a something the multiplexes would be happy with…however far to much was lost in the cut.  A good example is the Sherriff of Nottingham who is nothing more than a shabby cameo, however it’s obvious that originally Matthew MacFadyen had a much bigger role which thanks to some over zealous editing ended up not making a sense at all.  You can all see the joins where successive script writers, there had to be more that those credited, tried to bolt each others sections together making a part Gladiator, part Lord of the Rings, part Knights Tale chimera that hints at what a great movie it could have been had the term ‘production hell’ not been muttered.

The charisma Crowe has shown in other outings was missing too and Robin comes across as miserable so and so,  but then maybe being on the crusades for ten years would make someone slightly grouchy, in essence though I think the Antipodean was just wrong for the part; Sean Bean kept springing to mind and he’d have not struggled with the accent.

The Dark Knight is no Joke(r)

Posted in Batman, movie, review by Tony C on August 19, 2008

In a recent episode of Common Sense with Dan Carlin the ebullient host asked why do American directors often seem get American comic and superhero movies so wrong whilst the foreigners more often than not seem to get them right?  He used the post Tim Burton Batman movies as an example,  not even Alicia Silverstone in tight rubber could save George Clooney’s outing as the Caped Crusader, and compared it to how well Christopher Nolan has portrayed the Dark Knight.  As usual Carlin is spot on as once again Nolan proves not only does he understand the American superhero genre but also that Batman is not a franchise you lighten in anyway.  If in doubt go dark.

And dark it is too, a full on one hundred and fifty two minutes of darkness, it rarely flags although I think one set piece could have been cut and you’d never notice.  It’s not quite the assault on the senses one or two reviewers have claimed but neither is there too much introspection on the part of any of the characters to punctuate the action.  Christian Bale I think is excellent as Bruce Wayne and with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine along for company how could he not?  Gary Oldman makes the oft forgotten Commissioner Gordon worth watching too.

The hype surrounding this movie has obviously been centred on the performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker and his unfortunate death not long after filming, and whilst he does a great job of redefining The Joker I’m not sure it’s the Oscar winner many claim.  It’s full on psychotic madman to be sure but there’s no subtlety or any reason as to ‘why’, that is of course the point of the character but also why The Joker is one or two dimensional at best.  Don’t get me wrong he is very, very good but as Mrs C and I discussed on the way back from the cinema Ledger’s Oscar winning performance was of course Brokeback Mountain which The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences missed.

I’m guessing by now anyone who is interested in the movie has already been to see it. But if by some bizarre coincident you haven’t, maybe you’re still waiting for that promised delivery from Argos or for the summer to actually start and can’t believe it’s August, I reckon you need to see it on the big screen as even the largest of TVs won’t do it justice.

Reaper: End of term report

Posted in Reaper, review, TV by Tony C on June 6, 2008

It started out with both me and Mrs C thinking maybe it wouldn’t have legs but the first series of Reaper is over and it’s proven to be a cracker.  If you’ve not seen it I won’t give too much away so when the DVD’s surface borrow, rent or purchase ’em.  The main plot follows Sam whose parents have sold his soul to the devil in return for saving the father from a fatal illness, ‘Ol Nick then uses Sam as a sort of Bounty Hunter whose job is return escaped souls back to hell whilst he tries to keep job at the local DIY centre.  If they had stuck to this template as a weekly formula it would run out of puff pretty quickly but they’ve fleshed out the back story and given Sam has some brilliant support from ‘Sock’ and Ben…oh and Ray Wise does a quite genius turn as the Dark Lord himself, all perma-tan and gleaming white smile.  Plus a ton of other stuff that would as I mentioned just give the game away.  A funny, sharply written, doesn’t have a huge special effects budget but it doesn’t matter gem of a series. 

Indiana Jones and the Curates Egg

Posted in Indiana Jones, movie, review by Tony C on May 24, 2008

If you haven’t yet seen Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal skull you probably don’t want to read on as I’m going to give the whole plot away here. 

It’s been almost twenty years since Dr Henry Jones Jr showed that archeology is really about running around the world looking for strange artifacts and fighting the Nazis.  And with such a long hiatus the expectations were always going to be high…maybe too high.   The movie has all the right components, Jones, some bad guys, some ancient ruins in the South American Jungle and the all important powerful object that is key to the whole thing.  Plus of course there’s Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg…what could possibly go wrong? 

OK…I really wanted this to be another ‘Raiders’ or ‘Last Crusade’ but in reality it’s more ‘Temple of Doom’, don’t get me wrong there is some classic Indy stuff here but it can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to be.  So let’s do the good stuff first.  Now a lot has been made of Harrison Ford’s age but you needn’t worry, as Jones says in the first movie “It’s not the age it’s the mileage”.  Cate Blanchett who I didn’t recognise from the movie poster plays a great baddie as only a serious thespian can and the first part of the movie held great promise as the Russians, standing in as no Nazis were available, break into the famous warehouse seen at the end of the first movie.  But somewhere along the line Spielberg and Lucas decide the movie was going to contain aliens and here ladies and gents is the first of my issues, OK it’s the late 1950’s and Roswell related goings on are tempting to include but somebody should have had a word with them.  Particularly regards the cliche flying saucer at the end…perlease!!!  Mrs C almost walked out at that point and she is a diehard Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford fan.  Then there’s a handful of characters which had me wondering…’why?’  What was Mac for?  The great Ray Winstone reduced to clunky plot device, John Hurt got to quote a fair bit on Milton but again his part was unnecessary and the plot flagging he got to cover could have been done elsewhere.  It was good to see Karen Allen return as Marion Ravenwood but where was the women who could drink whole village under the table?  Now she’s just…well…your mum and I don’t want to see my mum in an Indiana Jones movie.  And if the idea is the pass the fedora to Mr LeBeouf it’ll be Star Wars prequels all over again.

So what do we have?  Well it is the classic Curate Egg.  It’s good in parts, not as bad as some reviews have suggested but not the movie we expected and from Steven Spielberg probably deserve.  Bloody aliens in an Indiana Jones movie…I ask you?

The Ironman cometh

Posted in Ironman, movie, review by Tony C on May 10, 2008

The latest of Marvel’s supers to get an outing Ironman does a great job of taking the original material and ‘modding’ in light of modern events.  Gone are the Chinese Communists who capture industrialist Tony Stark replaced by Afghan Terrorists, and if you know the back story to Ironman there’s plenty here, even down to the final battle with Obadiah Stane.  They even throw a bit of life imitating art, or might be the other way around, as both Tony Stark the character and Robert Downey Jr the actor have had alcohol problems.  And of course Stan Lee gets a cameo doing a respectable impersonation of Hugh Hefner.  

I heard a few people say if the best superhero movie they’ve seen, and the reviews seem to suggest that, but when I asked Mrs C what she thought she replied that whilst is was a fine example of the genre it was a bit ‘lumpy’…and I tend to agree.  In a few places it seems to slow down unnecessarily and maybe the odd nip and tuck in the editing suite could have smoothed those ‘lumps’ out.  Don’t get me wrong as superhero films go it’s a cracker, the flying sequences are wonderful, but I never really connected with Ironman in the same way I did with say Spiderman and the every so slightly superior XMen.  There I said it…XMen is the best superhero movie ever made. 

Who was the Last King of Scotland?

Posted in McAvoy, movie, review, Whitaker by Tony C on April 27, 2008

Been using my LoveFilm membership to catch up with movies missed at the cinema, the latest being The Last King of Scotland starring James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker and I wish I’d seen it on the big screen as it’s very, very good indeed. 

Based on the Giles Foden novel of the same name, published in 1998, it’s a fictional account of an idealistic young doctor who becomes the Ugandan leader’s personal physician.  Both Whitaker and McAvoy are sterling in the lead roles and Whitaker undoubtedly deserved his 2006 Oscar, he’s frightening, childlike, charismatic, amiable and brutal…sometimes seemingly all at once.  I won’t give anymore away but if you haven’t seen it rent it or buy it as it’s a cracking movie. 

The podcast gets a review and a ‘big up’

Posted in BTHP, History, podcast, review by Tony C on February 25, 2008

I never thought for a moment that the Binge Thinking History Podcast would have taken off quite as well as it has.  OK…it’s not getting monster downloads like my mate Pete Cogle does with his fantastic Dub Zone, but for a history podcast it holds it’s own and bubbles under or on occasion breaks into the top 20 or 25 on iTunes both in the US and UK. 

Now it gets it’s first, or that may be second review by history blogger and podcast reviewer Anne Frid De Vries

And a must listen from Dan Brown.  Surely not that Dan Brown.