The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013) Review

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The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Based on The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (duh. just read the book instead of watching this.)

Starring:
Ian McKellen
Martin Freeman
Richard Armitage
Benedict Cumberbatch
Evangeline Lilly
Lee Pace
Luke Evans
Ken Stott
James Nesbitt
Orlando Bloom

Running time: 11161 minutes. Oops – 161 minutes. Typo.

Plot Synopsis:
The second unnecessarily long movie of three unnecessarily long movies. Based on an awesome short book, The Desolation Of Smaug is not awesome and not short.

But this is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The Desolation of Smaug is set in Middle-earth sixty years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, and portions of the film are adapted from the appendices to Tolkien’s The Return of the King. The wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) investigates a growing evil at Dol Guldur, while Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his quest with thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

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My Opinion:

What on (middle) Earth did I just watch? I’ve never looked at my watch so many times during a film. This was one of the most unpleasant movie-going experiences I’ve had in a long time. What I’m trying to say is this: I really didn’t enjoy The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (that’s the last time I’m typing that entire title).

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A brief history on my Hobbit/Lord Of The Rings knowledge: I loved the books. A lot. Then I loved The Lord Of The Rings movies. A lot. Then The Hobbit movies started and the first one was… Meh. A bit better than some of the critics were saying but it was certainly no Lord Of The Rings film (those were fantastic). Although I loved the books, I only read them all once & don’t obsess over them or have the greatest memory of every detail. I don’t get too bothered about adaptations being 100% faithful as long as they’re at least… Respectful? I don’t remember The Hobbit book well enough to go into discussing how faithful these two films have been so far. I don’t care anyway. I disliked this film not because of the story or the acting (that was all “good enough”). I HATED how it looked and how that look made it feel!

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I’m not going to spend too long on this review. I was just very disappointed. The things I care about when it comes to a movie are a good story & great characters. It’s great when a film looks good too but I’m not someone who cares too much about things like 3D and I hate dodgy looking CGI. I choose to watch films in 2D (the only film to get 3D right so far is Gravity). Unfortunately, I watched this one in 3D (it was the only time I could go to it). Awful! The blurriness I can’t stand with 3D when it comes to things in the background was worse than ever & all the layers in scenes like when Bilbo is in the leaves at the top of the trees were just distracting & weird. Although I don’t think it was just the 3D – I think it’s the way it was filmed overall and my 2D experience probably wouldn’t have been much better (my hubby spent ages trying to explain things like high frame rate to me when we spent almost this entire movie just discussing how awful it looked). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I know NOTHING about filmmaking. I just love watching movies. All I know is that this film didn’t look right to the point that I was SO distracted for at least the first half of the movie that I couldn’t concentrate on the things I care about (story and characters) and actually couldn’t wait for the film to finish.

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Now before everyone tells me that this film looks amazing I should explain what I mean by the film looking “awful” and I know that not everyone will agree. It’s also very hard to put into words. It looks too REAL. The daylight scenes were the worst – it felt like I was actually watching a play (with a very high budget) and that the actors were standing on a stage in front of me. It had the look & feel of a National Geographic documentary or a BBC drama (which are things that are fine if that’s the sort of thing you want to watch). The Hobbit is an epic fantasy – I don’t want it to feel REAL. I want to lose myself in this magical world – I go to movies as an escape from the real world, especially when it comes to an actual fantasy film. It took the fantasy element away by being filmed in this way. It wasn’t as bad during darker scenes – I found myself cringing every time there was another scene in bright daylight. Luckily, the last half of the film is dark and I finally started to get into the story a bit more when they go to Lake-town. But this is over halfway into the film – I was too annoyed by this point to really care.

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Summary:

I’ve spent no time discussing what should really matter in a movie – the story & the characters. The film picks up once they reach Lake-town and was a lot more enjoyable than the first half, I think Freeman is very good, I adore Ian McKellen but he’s very underused in this one, I liked Bard, I thought Smaug looked really good and liked the scene where he starts moving underneath all that gold. Hell, I even didn’t mind that romance they threw in there which most people probably hate. But, unfortunately, none of this really mattered as the look of the film was so distracting that it ruined the entire experience for me. So for the first time EVER, my rating is largely influenced by this instead of just being based on the story & characters. I’m very very disappointed and am considering skipping the last one in order to not end up having it lessen my love for The Lord Of The Rings films.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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** And to think I was waiting until I’d seen this to do my 2013 Top Ten Movies list. I’ll probably post that tomorrow. Spoiler: This movie doesn’t even come close to making it. 😉

Man On A Ledge (2012) Review

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Man On A Ledge (2012)

Directed by Asger Leth

Starring:
Sam Worthington
Elizabeth Banks
Jamie Bell
Anthony Mackie
Génesis Rodríguez
Ed Harris

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Ex-con Nick (Sam Worthington) crawls onto the ledge of a tall building & threatens to jump. Police psychologist Lydia (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk Nick down. But we soon learn that there’s much more to Nick’s story and blah blah blah there’s a diamond heist going on and this plot sounded quite promising but the movie is just BLAH.

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My Opinion:

This movie sounded like it would be a bit of popcorn munching, “turn off your brain for 102 minutes” fun. Well, the “turn off your brain” bit was certainly accurate. Don’t expect some deep & meaningful plot here. Not that every movie has to have that but there just wasn’t enough “fun” in this movie to really make up for the shallow plot.

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Sam Worthington. Meh. I still never recognize this guy whenever he’s in a movie. I’m always like “Who’s that guy again? Oh, Avatar dude”. And he has weird hair in this. Elizabeth Banks. Hmm. I kind of really like Elizabeth Banks as a person. I don’t know why. She kind of reminds me of me in some weird way so I’ve always been able to identify with her – she seems like a fun person (not that I’m a fun person. I’m boring as hell). She was fine in this but I just really don’t see her as a “police psychologist”. At all. Jamie Bell as Nick’s brother. Meh. Didn’t like his character. But hated the character of his girlfriend the most. Annoying as hell. Ed Harris as… Ed Harris, phoning in the “generic bad guy” role.

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Bloody hell – I’m currently looking through the cast on IMDB & people like Edward Burns, Kyra Sedgwick, The Man in Black from Lost, and other actors I’ve heard of were in this but I can’t for the life of me even remember them in this forgettable movie. Oh, and William Sadler – I do remember him in this. Love him. “Alexandre Dumbass!” “Best two out of three!” (I love anyone who knows what I’m on about with those quotes).

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Enough about the actors – Let’s move onto the plot. Er… You know what? Screw it. The plot is stupid. The idea was a good one but they could have done so much more with it. Just too silly & unbelievable with not enough fun or action to make up for it. Certainly not the worst movie ever but also not very good. These are the hardest movies to review. Just… Meh. Wasted opportunity.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Dog Soldiers (2002) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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Dog Soldiers (2002)

Directed by Neil Marshall

Starring:
Kevin McKidd
Sean Pertwee
Emma Cleasby
Liam Cunningham
Darren Morfitt
Chris Robson
Leslie Simpson
Thomas Lockyer

Running time: 105 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Werewolves.

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My Opinion:

This is another film I watched for my Halloween Horror Fest. See a great review of it from vinnieh HERE.

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The above review is much better than mine will be. It’s now Halloween and I have to crank out three reviews still. Oops! Dog Soldiers, Berberian Sound Studio, and Grabbers. I really liked Grabbers so will spend a bit more time on that one but I don’t have a clue what to say about the other two!

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As I watched The Descent for the first time for this horror fest and I liked it a lot, it was worth also checking out the same director’s (Neil Marshall) first effort with Dog Soldiers. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one very much.

I love a good werewolf movie but this is certainly no American Werewolf In London. I did think it started out pretty good and felt like a pretty standard werewolf flick. The characters were fairly believable and they were out in the lonely wilderness and all that. It did have a great feel. At first…

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Where it fell apart for me a bit was when they got to the house and the battle then started. Oh, and also when one of them had his intestines hanging out but was then able to run around and fight werewolves after he was bandaged up a bit. It was like that Prometheus abortion! And, okay – I have to admit that I fell asleep in the middle of all this. I’m guessing I missed between 15 to 30 minutes but I didn’t care enough to rewind (if you still call it that on a DVD). And, I’m sorry but the werewolves didn’t look that great.

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Oh well. You can’t love ’em all! I don’t think I exactly *hated* this movie. I’ve certainly seen worse and, like I said, it started out quite strong. And I liked that that Trainspotting guy was in it but I just kept thinking “Why did they have to cancel his Journeyman TV show just as it was getting really good?”. Anyway. To be honest, I can see how Neil Marshall went on to make the (far superior) The Descent. Dog Soldiers is definitely a strong debut film and I’ll just shut up now as it’s not like I’ve ever made a movie. Plus I now have to go write that Berberian Sound Studio review – trust me, that review will suck even more than this one because I have no clue what was going on in that film.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Pitch Black (2000) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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Pitch Black (2000)

Directed by David Twohy

Starring:
Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David

Running time: 110 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A bunch of hateful people crash land their spaceship on a planet filled with aliens who, luckily, attack them thanks to the fact that they’ve landed on this planet at the worst possible time.

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Halloween Horror Fest:

I’ve watched most of the films now for my Halloween Horror Fest and just have to finish writing up the rest of the reviews. I’ve loved a couple and hated a couple. I didn’t love Pitch Black… Here’s the list of films I’ve watched so far:

From Beyond (6/10)

The Descent (8/10)

ParaNorman (7.5/10)

Pitch Black

Insidious

Dog Soldiers

Grabbers

The Innkeepers

Nosferatu (1922)

Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)

Still to watch:

Berberian Sound Studio

High Tension (maybe…)

There was a lot of talk about Pitch Black as whatever number Riddick sequel thingy was out recently so I decided to finally check out Pitch Black after reading the following reviews for both of them: Pitch Black reviewed by MovieRob HERE and by Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews HERE plus a Riddick review from Gregory Moss at Mossfilm HERE.

I hold none of these people responsible for making me watch Pitch Black. It was entirely my decision to watch a Vin Diesel movie! 😉

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My Opinion on Pitch Black:

The most positive thing I can say about it is that it definitely had potential. It COULD have been a pretty good film. And some of it LOOKED pretty cool, at least. One of my all-time favorite movies is Aliens (and Alien). I’m not going to be able to help but compare Pitch Black to Aliens throughout this review as it’s basically Aliens but shit. Take out all the things about Aliens that make it such an awesome film and you get Pitch Black.

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Characters:

The characters in Pitch Black were, for me, the film’s biggest weakness. I didn’t care about them at ALL. I don’t know who the hell they even were or why they were on this ship. But I’ll come back to all that later…

Okay, the characters of Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) & Jack (Rhiana Griffith) weren’t TOO bad – they were the only ones I maybe (kind of sort of) wanted to survive. Jack is the only somewhat likeable character and Fry would be if it wasn’t for something that happens at the beginning of the film (But it’s pretty important when it comes to what happens at the end of the film so I didn’t have a problem with that. In fact, this little bit of story was the only thing that gave one of the characters a bit of depth whereas none of the others had any at all).

And RIDDICK? What a horrible movie character. And the sequels are all about him? Um, no thanks – I’ll be skipping those. You see, he’s a “prisoner”. I have no idea what the hell he did or why the hell he’s on this spaceship. I don’t know if he’s a bad guy who’s actually kind of a good guy. I don’t know what he says half the time because I can’t understand him. I don’t know anything about him at the start of the film and still don’t know anything at the end of the film. What’s the point? Are we meant to like him? Are we meant to hate him? Are we meant to identify with him in any sort of way? Are we meant to think he’s cool because he has muscles and mumbles a lot and has freaky eyes because he paid someone to give him eyes that could see in the dark since he was going to spend his life in a dark prison? (Did I get that right?). Oh how convenient that he was on this spaceship with those eyes! But I’ll come back to that later too…

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So here comes my main comparison to Aliens: You can argue that Aliens also has some pretty one-dimensional & cliché characters as well. A lot of sci-fi does, which is unfortunate as I’d have to say sci-fi is probably my favorite genre when it comes to movies if I was forced to choose just one. But Ripley is pretty complex and has a backstory and KICKS ASS so Radha Mitchell’s Fry has nothing on her. Say what you want about Newt but I loved the Ripley/Newt relationship. Pitch Black makes a small, pathetic attempt to give us a similar sort of relationship between Radha & Jack. Meh. Who Cares.

Riddick is a combination of several characters from Aliens, I suppose, but Hudson is the first one to come to mind. The prick. Hudson is SO cliché but, honestly, who doesn’t actually love that character?! I actually know more about all the lesser characters in Aliens who you KNOW from the start have been put into the film just to die than I do about Riddick or anyone else in Pitch Black. I can even name all the characters who are “just there to die” in Aliens but I had to look up everyone’s name in Pitch Black immediately after seeing it (other than Riddick’s and I mainly knew that thanks to the sequels being named after him)! My long winded point is this: The characters in Aliens, although pretty cliché, just WORK. They don’t in Pitch Black. Is it REALLY that hard to give a movie some decent characters?? It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

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The Story (SPOILERS!!!):

I know Hollywood scripts are full of things that are WAY too convenient sometimes but, holy hell, Pitch Black really takes the cake! I admit that I was confused throughout this movie (probably because I didn’t care). I’ve even read the whole plot online now, though, and nothing is explained so maybe it wasn’t just a case of me not paying attention. Here’s what I don’t get:

– Who the hell are these people and why are they on this spaceship and where the hell are they going? It’s such an odd assortment of people! And why oh why is a prisoner also onboard and all chained up? And why is there a young kid also there with no apparent family?

– So while on autopilot, the debris from a comet damages the ship and (um, luckily?) the second-in-command, Fry, is awakened (from, um, hypersleep?) after debris kills the sleeping captain (convenient). Okay. I can buy the comet causing the ship to crash. Shit happens. This is necessary for the movie.

– So Fry manages to land the ship on some strange planet. Okay. This planet has three suns or some such shit, meaning it’s ALWAYS daylight. Okay. Fine.

– This planet has creatures/aliens that can’t stand light and are actually hurt by any sort of light so they have to live underground in caves (how sucky for them to have to live on this three-sun planet, then). But… Wait!

– This planet has a year-long eclipse every 22 years, allowing the creatures to come out & play! And guess what? The ship just happened to crash land on this planet JUST as this eclipse is about to start! Convenient.

– Vin Diesel/Riddick/the mysterious prisoner reveals that he had some operation or whatever to give him eyes that can see in the dark. Oh! VERY convenient!

– These special eyes can not only see in the dark, they can also tell that the young boy who is so obviously being played by a girl is actually a girl AND she’s having her period, drawing the creatures to them all. Wow, those are some pretty amazing eyes! Convenient. And stupid!

– Blah blah. Most of them die. Except Riddick, obviously. And I had to Google his final line because I couldn’t even understand what he’d said.

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I’m sorry – this “review” is actually just me bitching. I was going to say a couple nice things but I’m sure everyone has stopped reading by now. 😉

I’ll just give you my rating, which isn’t as low as you’d think after all my bitching. Because the film DID have potential but that annoys me even more than when a movie is just 100% bad. I love sci-fi and the alien creatures in this aren’t too bad and the whole look of the film was interesting. Shame about the characters…

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013) Review

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Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013)

Directed by Manuel Sicilia

Starring Voice Actors:
Freddie Highmore
Antonio Banderas
James Cosmo
Charles Dance
Tamsin Egerton
Rupert Everett
Barry Humphries
Alfred Molina
Mark Strong
David Walliams
Julie Walters
Olivia Williams
Saoirse Ronan

Running time: 96 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Justin (Freddie Highmore) lives in a kingdom where bureaucrats rule and knights have been ousted. His dream is to be become one of the Knights of Valour, like his grandfather was, but his father Reginald (Alfred Molina), the chief counsel to the Queen (Olivia Williams), wants his son to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.

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My Opinion:

I’ll make this quick & simple: This isn’t exactly a great film but, hey, it’s for kids. It’s not actually THAT bad, though, considering it wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney or even the inferior (well, what I see as inferior) Dreamworks.

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I think kids will enjoy this one. I myself actually enjoyed it a bit more than this year’s Epic, which looked prettier but had a story that was somewhat too complex for the younger kids and had forgettable characters. Justin of course has lessons to teach the audience, just like most kids’ films: Work hard, stand up for what you believe in, and bitchy self-absorbed girls never get the knight in shining armor (well, it would be nice if that last bit were true in real life as well).

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Oh! And you must have a knight who looks like Sean Connery if you’re going to make a movie about knights.

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Boys will probably like this one more than girls (especially if they liked How To Train Your Dragon) because of all the knights and a little bit of fighting with some baddies and Justin going through training to become a knight (the training with the elder knights was by far the best bit of the film). But there’s also a good, feisty female character that girls (and their mothers) will approve of. (You don’t think she’ll actually hook up with Justin by any chance, do you?!) 😉

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So, anyway – Justin And The Knights Of Valour isn’t going to change the world but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever have to sit through with your kid. It has a solid enough story and few strong characters and the usual “teaching of values” with a bit of silly comic relief. Whatever. It’s better than I was expecting, at least.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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I just wanted to get this quickie review out of the way so that I can focus on finishing my review for Rush in the next couple days. Because that film was fantastic!!! 🙂

Planes (2013) Review

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Planes (2013)

Directed by Klay Hall

Story by:
John Lasseter
Klay Hall
Jeffrey M. Howard

Starring Voice Actors:
Dane Cook
Stacy Keach
Priyanka Chopra
Brad Garrett
Cedric the Entertainer
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Roger Craig Smith
John Cleese
Carlos Alazraqui

Studio:
Walt Disney Pictures
DisneyToon Studios

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a cropduster plane who dreams of being a racer in the upcoming Wings Across The World race. He qualifies for the race, surprising everyone. Can Dusty overcome the odds and win the race and, perhaps more importantly, the respect of his fellow racers?

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My Opinion:

Planes isn’t great but it isn’t BAD. It’s certainly no Pixar film but I’d say it’s at least better than Cars 2. This wasn’t made by Pixar but is set in the same world as Cars, which will probably make a lot of people assume it’s a Pixar film due to it having the same look as Cars. I’m still not sure why they’ve chosen to do a spin-off of Pixar’s weakest set of films? I suppose it’s down to all the money that has been made from the Cars toys & merchandising.

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I went in with very low expectations so I ended up enjoying it more than I assumed I would as I’m not a fan of the Cars films (although the first Cars is still a better film than Planes). Unlike the majority of Pixar films, which most adults love just as much as their children do, Planes is definitely for the kids. In this way, it feels more like the stuff we get from studios like Dreamworks – I see those as decent enough kids’ films but would never consider any of them to be actual all-time favorite films of MINE, like I do with things like WALL-E & Toy Story.

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Planes has the usual kind of feel good story with a moral that you always get from a Disney film (believe in yourself, be kind to others, yada yada). It’s simple & predictable but your kids will be kept entertained. They’ll root for Dusty and his two likeable friends that stick by him as he tries to compete in the famous race.

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The friends are a forklift/mechanic named Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher) and a fuel truck named Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett). And an old war plane named Skipper Riley (voiced by Stacy Keach) helps Dusty to train for the race (think “Gill” in Finding Nemo as it’s pretty much the exact same character but a plane instead of a fish). Then there’s a bit of a love interest and some double crossing from a nasty race rival – You know, all the usual stuff in a kids’ film… There’s nothing exactly groundbreaking here! Which isn’t what kids want from a movie anyway. I think us adults have just been spoiled by some excellent animated films in recent years so it’s hard to not expect a little more from them. But they can’t all be Monsters Inc, I guess.

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Summary:

Predictable feel good Disney film that will keep your kids entertained. This one really is for the kids, though, so don’t expect Pixar-levels of fun for the entire family. This isn’t made by Pixar nor is it even as good as their weakest offering, Cars (of which Planes is a spin-off). If your kids like Cars, give this one a go. I’m sure they’ll like it but you’ll probably be a little bored. It’s not bad – It just comes nowhere near some of the all-time classics we’ve had from Disney and Pixar in the past.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Vinyl (2012) Review

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Vinyl is based on the 2004 true story hoax of Mike Peters, frontman for Welsh band The Alarm, hiring a young new band to lip-sync an Alarm song as the music industry has no interest in musicians past a certain age. They scored a minor hit with it so I guess he sort of proved a point about the youth-obsessed music industry. I’ve made it sound like a much more deep and meaningful movie than it actually is…

This movie stars Phil Daniels (of Quadrophenia – I should watch that all the way through sometime), Keith Allen (you know – Lily’s dad), and young hottie Jamie Blackley (for the younger girls as I’m old enough to be his mother).

I thought this movie was fine. A harmless bit of fluff. It did feel a bit like a made for TV movie, though, and maybe should have just been that. It’s far from Oscar-worthy but that doesn’t always matter. I was slightly entertained for 85 minutes and that’s good enough sometimes (depending on my mood). It was a bit like School Of Rock. But set in Wales. And, um, not near as good (I love School Of Rock).

Really could have been much better as the true story sounds fairly interesting. May have worked better as a documentary exploring our youth-obsessed culture? Or not. I’ve lost interest in typing now. Check it out just for Jamie Blackley, really.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Jamie Blackley:

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