Jurassic World (2015)

Here we go again with the CGI dinosaurs 22 years from the first outing.  This time we have a brand new theme park that is built upon the old Jurassic Park location.  So plenty of opportunity to have the odd nod back to the original movie, complete with buildings named after the late John Hammond (Richard Attenborough).

The story is pretty much the same, the messing around with DNA has created a beast of such magnitude that no one ever predicted it was going to out of control <yawn>.   Really people, you have had 3 movies to try and figure out this stuff never ends well.

Now with all that said, the movie has a surprising fresh feel with a very modern and high tech look.  The park has a feel of DisneyWorld or Universal Studios and some nice touches that I suspect we’ll see in the real Jurassic areas in the Universal parks.   Though on that front, this movie may take the prize for the most amount of product placement.  We aren’t just talking logos or product placements.  There is one pivotal scene that has the lead actively engaged with Verizon mobile executives about the discussion of a sponsored dinosaur.

Ron Howards daughter, 

Bryce Dallas Howard, plays the female lead to 

Chris Pratt male lead.  No surprise they start off hostile, but end up getting it on at the end.  I don’t think I have given up any major plot there.

The problem here is that this is more of a nostalgic journey than a dive into a whole new story with new animals.  There is only so many chase sequences and dinosaur-sniffing-around-corners you can do.  One of the silliest parts is when the whole crew go racing through the forest chasing a pack of dinosaurs, on motorbikes and 4x4s.   Yet not one of them are bouncing around .. was there a complete tarmac road underneath all that green?

Overall a great movie to watch if the movie you were going for wasn’t available, but nothing terribly new or exciting to rush towards as your primary source of entertainment.

This 4th movie won’t be the last one, they have set it up nicely that we are definitely coming back to the island in the next few years.  Woo hoo?


Viewing Date
Saturday, 3rd October 2015


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Dirty Dancing (1987)

My 40th review in this series and we land here.  Aaah, You’ve had the time of your life, happy memories.  This dancing genre has so many casualties with way more misses than hits.  Dirty Dancing, however, can proudly be ranked up there at the top with the likes of Flashdance and Footloose.   This Oscar award winning (for the original song) movie is chock full of toe-tapping numbers that keeps what is a rather simple and predictable story line humming along without you noticing it has zero depth.

Jennifer Grey freshly off of  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off jumps into the role of Baby, the youngest daughter of a Doctor family that find themselves in a Virginian resort up in the mountains.  This is where we meet Johnny, played by ever flexible Patrick Swayze who is the local entertainment dancer who finds himself being quite the gigolo for lonely housewives on their retreat.

The age difference between these characters make for an interesting extra dynamic on screen, with Swayze 35 at the time, and Grey only 27.  She looks far younger on screen (which is good because she is meant to be a teenager) and conversely he looks far older.

So while the father is morally against this hookup due to a misunderstanding about the ethics of Johnny, he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned at what seems to be a huge age gap for his virginal daughter!

As an aside, rumor has it that Billy Zane and Sharon Stone auditioned for these parts.  I cannot begin to imagine what the movie would have looked like with those two. A reminder just how important a role the casting director has.

The soundtrack is what makes this movie, set in the early 1960s, there is many a hit of the decade thrown at this story that doesn’t at any point feel contrived, but a natural fit to the flow of the story.   Because of that, Dirty Dancing, lends itself perfectly to a movie you can throw on in the background and not pay it too much lip service, but instead enjoy the music and lookup every so often to catch some of the ironic classic lines No one puts Baby in the corner.

I first seen this movie as a young teenager and of course I was in as much love with Grey as the females at the time with Swayze.  She never repeated the success of Dirty Dancing which was the highlight of her acting career.   Swayze however went on to do many more ironic movies, including what probably is his shining glory, Sam in Ghost.

A classic movie that doesn’t suffer from aging, and while the story is horrendously weak and some of the supporting characters wooden, it still delivers a solid performance. 


Viewing Date
Sunday, 27th September 2015


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Everest (2015)

Based on the true story of the Everest disaster in 1996, when two expedition parties got into major trouble when a storm suddenly came in and 12 people in total from each group, including their leaders, were lost to the mountain.

Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, the much loved, leader of the New Zealand group, who takes up quite the varied personalities.  We have the only female of the group, a Japanese lady (Naoko Mori from Torchwood) who is hoping to complete Everest to make it 7 out of 7 of the worlds peaks.  We have a Texan, Beck Weathers, (Josh Brolin) who is fighting depression and has discovered he loves to pour his heart and soul into climbing.  Then we have Doug Hansen John Hawkes) who is a US Postal worker, who is climbing to show his children that an ordinary man can do the extraordinary, hoping to achieve the summit after failing twice.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Scott Fischer, the hippy leader of the other group who has a complete different climbing style and ethic from Rob, but ultimately they both respect one another.

The first half of the movie is spent setting up the characters, sprinkling of back stories, and generally setting the scene for why Everest is so hard and complicated – you are climbing the same height that a 747 flies when the human body is literally dying from the lack of oxygen.  The movie does a wonderful job at setting this scene and you have a new found respect and background for this huge lump of rock sticking out between Nepal and China. 


Then we move to the second half of the story where the groups being their ascent.  Now at this point in, while the scenery and sweeping landscapes are beautiful, you no longer have any real clue who is who, as they are wrapped up completely.  Small tip – keep track of each characters colour.

I am not going to spoil the story too much but even when you know most of them lose their lives it is still exciting and emotional to hold you to your seat.  Bit like watching the Titanic, you know the boat is going down, but you still manage to cry and hope they may make it.

Even though Keira Knightley (who plays Rob’s wife) filmed her scenes in only 4 days as she doesn’t physically interact with any of the characters except over a phone, the phone calls between her and Rob really pull at your heart strings.

For all the technology in the world, we still can’t make the worlds largest mountain anywhere near remotely safe.  I find that comforting as it illustrates the world has many a challenge for the human to figure out. 

If you are interested in the real people behind this story, then take some time and watch the PBS Storm Over Everest on YouTube.  It illustrates just how close this movie was to the action and the facts that were known from those that survived.   I found this added a whole new depth to the movie and to be frank, quite keen to go back to see it again to see how some of the events dramatized knowing what I know now.

This was a griping tale that opened my eyes up to not only this horrific tale, but the challenges and rigors of Everest.  If the movie grips you like it did me, you will find yourself reading and watching as much as you can after you get out.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 26th September 2015


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Road to Pedition (2002)


Sam Mendes became one of the hottest directors to take on James Bond, he cut his teeth on gritty dramas, with a sprinkling of action.  Road to Pedition is set in the early 20th century at the time crime bosses ran the cities.  The story (loosely based on the real life mobster) evolves around the inner circle of mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) whose solid right hand hit man, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) goes on the run to protect his family when his young son witnesses a hit.

Newman plays the perfect patriarch, in his last full feature role, conflicted with the business to which he runs and the moral boundaries he sets to live by, trying to walk that fine line between real family and those that have earned the right to be blood through their continued dedication and loyalty.   In the end however, real blood is thicker.

Hanks, as usual, puts in a stellar performance but this role doesn’t feel natural for him.  This is a bad man.  He does bad things.   Yet he comes home to his family in the evening and pretends everything is normal.   His wife, 

Jennifer Jason Leigh, is fully aware of his real job, but she too puts on the fact face for the sake of the children.  This is not the good-guy role that Hanks comfortably wraps himself within and it shows that this is not a natural state for him.

This movie is laced with big names, including Mr James Bond himself Daniel Craig,

Ciarán Hinds

Stanley Tucci  and a very young

Jude Law.  Though he wasn’t that young when he starred in this movie, he still looks very fresh faced playing the crime scene photographer with a sinister side (again based on a real life character).

The movie did very well in the box office, from a $80M budget taking ultimately $180M world wide.   The budget was very large for the time, considering there wasn’t that much special effects or big stunts.   However, when you just take in the beautiful sets, you can see where the money was spent recreating the 1930s.

For its fantastic cast, the movie plods along with a predictability that any seasoned movie fan will be able to spot without any effort.

Worthy of a watch if only to see how well Hanks, Craig and Newman play together in a scene.


Viewing Date
Friday, 18th September 2015


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Electric Dreams (1984)

The early 80′s was the golden time for movies to explore how a more connected world, filled with computers coming into our personal lives, was going to impact us.  This era inspired a generation to grow up and take their place in shaping this new world.  I was one of those that looked upon the likes of WarGames and the like with complete wonderment egging my humble ZX Spectrum into areas only limited by imagination.

When Richard Branson was expanding his Virgin empire into a whole manner of different industries, the film industry came in on his radar and for a short time, Virgin Films attempted to break into Hollywood.   Credited as Executive Producer Branson, gave until then, music video director (you can start to see the Virgin Music tie in’s already can’t you?) 

Steve Barron an opportunity to direct a love triangle, between two people and a PC.

Lenny von Dohlen plays Miles (or Moles as he is known by ‘Edgar’ the PC throughout the movie due to a typing error at the start – i know that feeling, I am forever to be known as Allen by Verizon – which seems to present a bigger problem to change than you would first think).  His fellow upstairs apartment dweller, Madeline, played by Virginia Madsen is the beautiful professional musician who is serenaded by Edgar over the air ducts in the building, thinking it is Miles.


On one level the movie is a wonderful trip down technology memory lane.  The setup is simple at the start, showing Miles late for a meeting and through some dialogue this isn’t the first time, so it is recommended he go and get a Casio planner.  Reluctantly Miles heads down to the nearest computer store (and set in San Francisco the heart of Silicon Valley, there are many to chose from) and he is amazed at the choice when he is up sold a full a PC.

Sales Person: Which is your preference? Apple, Hair, Wang.
Miles: Listen, I don’t know anything about computers!
Sales Person: Nobody does!

Having purchased a discounted PC because it fell from the shelf we know we have something special here.  Then we are treated to what is probably the first unboxing video as he painstakingly puts all the pieces together.  Edgar (the name we don’t learn until the last scene in the movie) is quite advanced for 1984, given it can render live video, advanced graphics (with light pen) yet still presents the user with a good old console input to type in commands.   Though this is the not the end.  

31 years ago the idea of your computer controlling your house was space age thinking, yet here we have Miles plugging in wireless devices to all the electrical outlets so Edgar can take control.   The connected home that is being much hyped today by the likes of Samsung and Google was so accurately portrayed in 1984!   It was like seeing the first tablet computer used in the 1960′s in 2001 movie.

Edgar, much like

Daryl Hannah in Splash, learns all about the modern day world through watching day time television.  Interestingly Splash was out in the same year, so maybe great minds think a like? (or fools seldom differ).

The story is a far fetched as you can take it, though no more silly than Spike Jonze’s latest Her reincarnation.  But trundle along it does at a steady pace with no major shocks or surprises.

Knowing the director mastered his craft directing 3 minute music videos, you will spot a pattern as the movie unfolds.  Especially when you add in the fact that this was a vehicle to promote a number of artists on Virgin’s music label, including Culture Club and the Human League.   There is a number of  scenes that are simply music videos inserted into a movie.   They aren’t too offensive but don’t really add much to the story line.

That said, the title track is very good and deserves at least a reminder play.

A wonderful jaunt down memory lane and while no where near as impactful as “shall we play a game?”  of WarGames it is deserving of a rewatch.


Viewing Date
Sunday, 13th September 2015


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Harry Brown (2009)

Who remembers the character, Paul Kersey, wonderfully played by Charles Bronson in the Deathwish movies from the 1970s?  Quiet man, turned

vigilante   after his limits have been pushed.  You know the story, we have to witness all the atrocities, wrong doings and darn right evil acts, so when the hero of the story finally flips you gain that wonderful sense of redemption, evening up the score.

Michael Caine is our hero in this story.  A retired army officer, who is living out his days, in a packed London concrete vertical village (council estate flats!), who goes about his daily routine without too much fuss.   The local criminal element however are slowly taking over, intimidating the residents, hassling them, mugging and generally threatening .

Mr Caine tolerates, nay, turns his eye away from this, feeling too old to actually do anything about it.   After his wife dies in hospital his best friend confides him that the local gang is harassing him so he has taken to carrying an old bayonet from his army days for self protection.  However it goes wrong on a confrontation and his friend is murdered.

The police come (Emily Mortimer) to investigate but are powerless, to actually do anything since little evidence has been found and it could be argued self-defense.   Of course this was going to be the case, because if it wasn’t then this revenge movie was going to fall short very quickly.

Caine decides enough is enough and decides to be jury, judge and executioner.

He plays this role very real.  An old man, knowing he’s past his prime, getting to grips with his violent past he had left behind when he killed for Queen and country.   His body isn’t as fast or as agile as once was.

There is a wonderful scene where he goes to buy an underground gun from a drug dealer, who himself is off his head and toying with a young girl, played excellently by Sean Harris.   Caine is disgusted he has to see this injustice and wad through this cesspool to get the tools he needs to right his world.  Naturally he can’t let this go after obtaining his desires.  Plays out great.

There are enough twists and turns to make it interesting and give the main character room to move without bumping into too many morality fences.   

How the police are portrayed in this movie is what lets this otherwise great thriller down.  There is no way they would be that powerless and stupid.   Reminds of that scene in So I Married an Axe Murderer when Alan Arkin asks he should yell as the police chief as that is the way it is done in the movies “yeah, but easy on the ethic slurs next time”.    The police in Harry Brown, is a cliched modern day Key Stone cop view.  Shame.

On the whole, a good effort Deathwish clone of a movie and well worth the 1hr 40minutes investment. 


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 8th September 2015


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