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Michael Bay brought us the excellent Bad Boys and The Rock. He followed these with the weaker but still entertaining Armageddon. So what went wrong with Pearl Harbor? Well let's start at the beginning it's 1923 and the first World War is over. A young Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker are happy playing in their Southern fields and pretending to be fighter pilots, dreaming of someday flying a real plane. The skip on to 1941 and Europe is at war, and Rafe and Danny have fulfilled their dreams to become pilots in the US Navy. But not just any pilots, these guys are the best of the best. Rafe (Ben Affleck) voulunteers for a post in the British 'Flying Eagles' and has to leave Danny (Josh Hartnett) and his new-found love Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) behind, and that is all of the story I shall reveal. Because a) you can probably guess the rest or b) I don't want to spoil what little plot there is for you. This film could have been very good under the eye of a good editor, but sadly it's overlong and laborious 3 hours just leave you feeling tired and somewhat......bored. Bay makes action films (until now) and he does it reasonably well, unfortunately he doesn't do so well in making love stories. However we can't place all the blame on Bay's shoulders as the screenwriter (Randall Wallace) must also take some heat. What we end up with is an action flick sandwiched between two romance films. Our first dollop of romance is passable at best. The scripting is weak and clichéd and the directing is somewhat unimaginative. Which is a shame as for the first 5 minutes or so things don't seem too bad then for the next hour things just go downhill. I know it's a bad sign when I have to look at my watch 3 times in the first hour of any film. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not just a 'bloke' moaning about mushy romance, I have no objection to a good romantic film. Only this isn't. <br>Our second hour consists largely of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. A frenzy of special effects. Explosions and sinking ships galore, and very impressive it is two. As with all special effects films there's one scene which fails to convince at all, but overall very nice. But, alas, all is not well here either. Jon Voight as President Roosevelt is forced into spouting some of the most ridiculous things I've heard, and the Japanese? Well the Japanese waffle on like they're from some cheap sci-fi film, with their commander coming across a bit like Ming the Merciless, and with similar lines. They carefully lay out their plans for us and are even so kind as to show us using model ships and a small paddling pool (?!?). To it's credit though the attack sequence does suceed in it's ultimate aim. It's downright impressive, and at times moving with Bay finally showing us that he has at least a modicum of talent. When all is quiet again and things have settled once more it's time for President Roosevelt to stand up and tell us what he thinks of the Japanese for being so deceptive. Unfortunately his rallying war cry of contempt and aggression towards the Japanese comes across as merely a little annoyance and doesn't really get you thinking 'Go get 'em!' so much as 'Why bother?' We are then treated(?) to almost an hour of US reprisal/love story. Which turns out to be just more of the same badly written mush. Our leading stars are in general acceptable in their performances. Ben Affleck mainly stands around trying to look attractive (and I'm told succeeding) and spouting his lines with as little emotion as possible. Josh Hartnett puts in a marginally better performance as Danny but is again fairly weak. Kate Beckinsale is almost convincing as Nurse Evelyn (and looks great) but the lack of any real chemistry between the 3 makes the illusions of love even harder to swallow. To be fair th ey're not given the best material to work with but still...... As I've already mentioned Michael Bay should stick to what he knows. The action scenes in this film are great, largely well shot and convincing, and impressive on the grandest scale. The dogfights are fast and furious and the explosions big and fiery, much as you'd expect. Unfortunately it all doesn't sit well together. I can't help but feel that with an hour or so chopped out to tone down the weak love story and shift the emphasis onto the attack itself while removing the retaliation sequence this film could have been infinitely better. Hence my editing comment earlier. I really wanted to enjoy this film, and I guess I did to a point. However, I felt somewhat cheated when I left the cinema as I could see so much more potential. In summary, go and see this film but either arrive late, or better still leave early. Or both.
Shrek is an ogre. And an ugly one at that. He's big, green, smelly and spends his spare time in a swamp putting up signs to scare the villagers away. Donkey is.....well......a donkey. But not just any donkey, he's a talking donkey of the most irritating and hilarious kind. And then there's Lord Farquaard (far-kwa-rd) and he's the most perfect ruler of the most perfect land in all the world. Well almost... And here the story begins. 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most perfect ruler, of them all?' 'Well....um....er......' Well, it could be Lord Farquaard, but not quite. He's missing one thing. Having banished all the fairy tale creatures he now has the perfect kingdom over which to rule, but he has no Queen. What use is a King without a Queen? I hear you cry. Well....exactly. (Now hold that thought) Meanwhile, Shrek, our green, 'scary' and ever so slightly hygenically challenged ogre is trying hard to get on with his life. He's happy in his swamp and like's his peace and quiet. Now, remember those fairy tale creatures I mentioned? Guess where they've been banished to. You've got it. Shrek's swamp, and Shrek ain't too happy about it so of fhe plods to have words with Lord Farquaard. Well, to cut a short story shorter Lord Farquaard agrees to give Shrek back his swamp if, and only if, Shrek rescues the beautiful Princess Fiona. But, as in all good stories there's a catch. Princess Fiona is being held in a old castle surrounded by a moat of Lava and a nasty fire-breathing dragon. And the rest you'll have to go and see for yourself. First off this is easily the funniest thing I've seen since 'The Emporers New Groove' which was really very funny. Mike Myers lends his vocal talents to Shrek and despite the worlds worst Scottish accent is hilariously funny. Donkey could only really have been pulled off by one man, Eddie Murphy, it's as if the part was written for him, fast and whitty. The voice matches the character perfectly and is again incredibly funny. Diaz and Lithgow round up the main cast again both putting in excellent performances. In terms of comedy don't be fooled into thinking this film was written for children. Of course, children will love it, the characters and storyline alone will almost guarantee that, but there is so much subtle and not-so-subtle adult humour in this film as well. It'll have all ages laughing from start to end. This isn't a Disney film but it does draw on the classic Disney formula. An oddball hero, a beautiful princess(-type-person), and a good dose of morals. Then it rips that formula apart in hilarious fashion, inserting characters from popular stories and ideas from recent films and turning them into genuinely funny scenes. Just wait for those Merry Men..... The only very slight niggle is the 'something -for-everyone' and 'hollywood' parts of the film means that towards the end things do slow slightly for a while before picking up again for the big ending. Fortunately though this is over quick enough for it not to be a real problem and leaves the film pretty much intact as a laugh-fest. Buut before I finish I must say a word or two about the animation in this film. If you were impressed by Toy Story, or A Bugs Life, you ain't seen nothin' yet as the old saying goes. Stunning is the only real way of describing it. I've never seen such detail or realism in animation. The fur of Donkey is detailed and colourful and moves with an ease and natural feel that is incredible. But the crowning glory is the beautiful Princess Fiona (Lara Croft? Pah!). Cameron Diaz's character is simply amazing, with a frame and a movement that is quite simply breathtaking in it's accuracy of real humans. And her hair, her hair is again Wow! In summary, if you l ove animation. Go see it. If you love comedy. Go see it. If you love Eddie Murphy. Go see it. If you got even half a brain. Go see it. I think you get my point...... For a sample of the animation vist here: http://www.shrek.com/igallery/large_images/1024x768/Fiona1.jpg
Get over it is yet another of those now all-too-common teen romance flicks, where a group of young Americans fall in and out of Love and life is all too complex. Berke Landers (Ben Foster) is happy. He's with the best girl in school and life is great. 'Till she dumps him that is. From then on we're treated to the story of how Berke struggles to regain the affections of Allison (Melissa Sagemiller) with the help of his best friends sister Kelly (Kirsten Dunst). And I think we can all see where this is going.... First off this is a 'teen romance' film, not a romantic comedy so expect more '10 Things I Hate About You' than say 'You've Got Mail' and you'll be in the right mind-set. As this type of film goes I've seen far worse and Get Over It succeeds in being a mildly amusing and generally entertaining Eighty-something minutes, although the true comedy moments are fairly few and far between when they come they will at least bring a smile to your face. The film quickly drops you into a fued between Berke and Striker (Shane West), over the affections of Berke's ex-girlfriend, using the school production of 'A Midsummmer Night's Dream' as their tool. The musical/play is produced by Dr. Desmond Forrest-Oates played by the humourous Martin Short, who's somewhat bizarre character adds most of the humour to the story with extra touches added by Cisqo in the role of Berke's friend Dennis. From this point on Striker becomes more and more annoying to the point where you want to hit him and Berke simply plods along without really convincing us that he really wants Allison back. These problems with two of the lead characters are really what lets this film down. Had West played his character a little more normal (and lost the ridiculous Anglo-Australian-cross accent) and had Foster been a little more empassioned the whole feel of the film would have been lifted. However, what we are left with is a straight-forward and predictable film, with mediocre dialogue and some humourous moments. If you really love the teen romance thing or if you love looking at beautiful people then go see it, you'll probably love it. Otherwise for a much better example of this genre go and rent '10 Things I Hate About You' or save your money and go and see Shrek.
I was fortunate enough to see a free preview of this film last night and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable. It had a blend of sarcasm, slapstick, and 'cartoon' comedy that just appealed directly to my sense of humour. Okay the story is basically very simple. The Emporer Kuzco (David Spade) has been turned into a Llama and carried from the palace to a small village, where he meets Pacha (John Goodman) a poncho wearing peasant. We then get treated to some great comic antics as Kuzco and Pacha try to return to the palace before Kuzco's (Cruella de Ville-esque) assistant, Yzma (Eartha Kill), and her sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton) take over the Empire. The vocal talents used in this film, particularly from David Spade and John Goodman, are excellent. They fit the characters well and play out the comedy beautifully. There is a lot of sarcasm and one-line jokes in this film and it's all delivered very well, but the real comedy lies in those classic events that would only ever be funny in an animated feature. Animation is in a style similar to - I think - Disneys Hercules. With angular characters and bright solid colour, it's very different to the likes of Tarzan but works well in this film. The single biggest strength of this film though is it's characters. They are all simply engaging. Kronk is hilariously funny if slightly short on brain-cells, Yzma is like the great aunt you love to hate, Kuzco is arrogant in the extreme but this just adds to his charm, and Pacha is a burly but gentle man who simply loves his Llamas. Add to this some great extra characters (such as tap-dancing guards, and Pachas small family) and you get one of the most entertaining Disneys films I've seen for a while. Admittedly if you're not a cartoon fan this sort of humour may not appeal to you. But if you do, or your children do, then go see this. You'll enjoy it, they'll love the talking Llama and ever yone will be happy.
Pitch black has been described as a cross between 'Alien and Mad Max' so being a fan of both sets of films I thought this would appeal. I was right. This film has all the elements of the classic sci-fi, a big ship, a tough crew, and nasty aliens. Pilot Carolyn Fry is in trouble. She's just been woken from cryosleep to find her ship, with 40 paying customers on board is going down and there's little she can do to stop it. By the time everythings calmed down the larger part of the ship has been jetisoned and most of the passengers are dead. Fry and eight other survivors emerge to find a scorching hot moon with 3 suns and no night. At first the largest problem appears to be the serial killer they were transporting back for imprisonment. Soon though they get to meet the locals, a vicious breed with a serious aversion to light. 'No problem' is hear you say. 'It's always daytime' you cry. Yes. And no. It would seem that every 22 years a planet sticks itself between our moon and its so important suns plunging the moon into complete darkness. Then the fun really starts.... One of the first things that hit me from this film is that I recognised almost none of the cast, which was nice. This film - with a $20million budget - has no big name stars and this makes it very refreshing to watch. You don't find yourself constantly thinking 'He was better in....' or 'She's better than she was in...' and you can actually concentrate on the film. All of the leading cast put in solid performances, creating characters I generally cared about. This is vital when the next hour is about these people fighting for their lives, you have to want them to stay alive. I even found myself looking out for that evil serial killer I mentioned. Visually this film can be split in two halves. The first part of the film is set in bright light under the blazing sun in a dessert landscape. There is then a transition to darkness as the planet rises up to block-out the sun(s). This sequence is stunning, I really enjoyed it, the ringed planet looks great and believable. As darkness comes out so do the aliens and although we don't see a great deal of them there are several scenes of giant 'flocks' of them flying out into the darkening sky. These scenes are again stunning. Once the darkness finally closes in the mood of the film changes somewhat. David Twohy (the director) does well to create some real tension and keep your interest throughout. The darkness also cleverly reduces the need for any great detail on the aliens. There is little in the way of music in Pitch Black, but plenty of atmospheric noise which helps to build tension and puts you right there in the thick of things. The result of this is a film which is thoroughly enjoyable and captivating. The script is not exactly outstanding, but in this kind of film it doesn't need to be, and the plot remains plausible. Obviously space ships landing on strange moons with nasty aliens doesn't actually happen, but Pitch Black manages to avoid descending into silliness. The characters are never 'super-human' and the aliens don't stay away for no apparent reason. If you enjoy sci-fi this film isn't the best ever but it is well up there. Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the £5 I paid for the ticket.
Claire Spencer is living happily in Vermont with her perfect husband, Norman, a noted genticist who is desperate to fill his fathers shoes. However after Claire drops off her daughter at college things start to go horribly wrong. Without saying too much more the plot develops from here at a nice pace and, while not complicated by any stretch of the imagination, it does require some thinking. Despite many reasons not to I really enjoyed this film. Firstly I felt Michelle Pfeifer took a long time to get going, at the start of the film she just didn't seem at all believable and reels off her lines with little emotion. However, she does eventually get into her character as the storyline takes off, and eventually reaches a good if not outstanding performance. Harrison Ford is also not at his best, and I'm uncertain as to whether or not he's suited to this role. I'm used to seeing him in more action oriented films and perhaps that's why I didn't find him to great. Having said this both actors manage to pull it off and create interesting characters. The directing from Robert Zemeckis is of good standard. In all his films I've seen I always think at some stage 'How did they do that shot?' He has a nack of slotting in very clever camera shots every now and again. Most of this film is set in the Spencer house, with a few scenes out of doors and one or two in other houses. Zemeckis works well in this tight area. This film is genuinely scary in places, and you'll almost certainly jump several times as the tension rises. The music that accompanies these tense moments is typical 'scary film' music and is nothing special but is effective. All in all this film is very enjoyable, although it could be much better.
Bruges is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I have been twice now and its still lovely. The medieval town centre is the place to be, you'll find cobbled street and some of the most incredible churches and buildings ever. The Belfry is one of the first things that hits you. This tower sits at the end of a large courtyard and its size alone is impressive. But the churches are what I love, if you like old churches I thoroughly recommend visiting Bruges. Firstly it has loads, secondly they are all beautiful. If you can, visit The Church of Our Lady, its only open for a few hours on certain days but in there you'll find an absolute gem. The church is home to the only piece of Michaelangelo's work to leave Italy during his lifetime, a statue of the Madonna and Child. Another place well worth a visit is the Basillica of The Holy Blood. In this small building which is quite plain outside, aside from some small gold statues, is a small vial which is said to contain some of the blood of Christ, whether this is true or not I don't know. The building in which it's contained is incredibly peaceful, the vial itself is stored behind a tabernacle of gold and silver, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Beneath the Basillica is an area where local people go to pray, this contains various pieces of art. Bruges at night is something incredible. During the day the arcitechture is splendid and grand, and at night all the prominent buildings are lit. The whole town takes on another feel at Bruges at night is even more beautiful and romantic than during the day. Walks along the canals, just admiring the buildings and the peace can easily last for hours. I would recommend that if you have any interest in this period of history or in old building, or if you just want a short romantic break go to Bruges.
In a word I found this book facinating. The book is set in the future where then net is far bigger than now, the sort of thing everyone's talking about but we don't actually have. Full live TV, completley intereactive shows and locations full virtual reality allowing people to be totally submerged in the net, through harnesses and suits or even through a direct connection to then brain. The brother of Renie, a young South African woman, falls into a coma which she believes was caused by something on the net. So the book, the first of four, tracks her progress as she and her friend Xabbu try to find out what causing these problems. I'll say no more read it to find out what happens. Tad Williams has created characters in this book I can genuinely care about and leaves me wanting to know what happens to them. The basic setting of the book has been seen before but Williams adds a new depth and detail that is just excellent. Each 'adventure' in Renie's investigations is interesting and entertaining and the desire to turn the page is kept high. For a book of this length the end comes very quickly which leads on to one possible downside. This is not light reading, although Williams' style is great the book is some 900 pages and there are three more to follow before we'll finally know everything. This could put some people off, happily though this book does have an ending in a way so could be read on its own. But chances are you'll have so many questions you'll rush out and buy the next one.
Even if you haven't seen this film this soundtrack is well worth a listen. Hans Zimmer has created music which not only fits the film perfectly but also is very relaxing and uplifting to listen too. I like orchestral music that is bold and aggresive and this is, you won't find flutes and violins playing solo in here much. It runs alongside lots of action in the film and that is the sort of music you get. If you imagine Mars from Holsts Planets suite, you're in for similarly 'beefy' music, with plenty of bass and deep sounds going on. One thing I have noticed is some similarities with other pieces from other films, every now and again I catch a bar or two that sounds much like something I've heard before, but it's probably just my imagination. As a soundtrack behind a film Zimmers score was excellent, and in my opinion it's almost as good on it's own. Play it loud.
I find when watching a film that having a good soundrack makes a mssive difference and this soundtrack, for me, lifted the film to another level. One of the best things about this disc is the variety of styles it offers. With artists from Pulp to Shania Twain and Ronan Keating to Elvis Costello. The CD contains some track which you may consider pop, but even if you're not a pop fan I think you'll like these. Another Levels 'From the Heart' and Ronans 'When you say nothing at all' are examples of the respective artists better songs. And there must be few people who don't like Elvis Costello's version of 'She' and the excellent 'Ain't no Sunshine' (I love this track, although apparently it's not actually in the film). Having said ealier that this disc offers variety, and I does with regards to artists, it is quite heavily weighted towards love ballad type songs. It's all very mellow, which may not be to some peoples tastes. If you like the film and enjoy love songs this soundtrack is well worth buying.
The Lecson DVD-900 DVD player comes in a pleasant Champagne coloured casing. It's a little boxy but I like its fairly simple styling. In terms of functionality this player does everything you would expect it to. On top of the DVD playback it also plays VCD's and SVCDs, and will also read MP3s from CD. It is compatible with CD-Rs and CD-RWs. DVD picture quality is excellent for a player at this price. The colour isn't quite as vibrant as you might get on a more expensive machine but the difference is slight and I only noticed it on the likes of Tarzan with its colourful opening sequences. The palyer can send dts or Dolby Digital signals through either Coaxial or Optical links. Or the on board decoder can be used to output the 6 Dolby Digital channels. Unfortunately it doesn't decode dts but it does only cost £199. The sound is good and the player works well with CD audio also. Only one niggle is that it put a 2 second or so gap between each audio track which can be annoying when you are listening to music which continues across several tracks. Connectivity is good with two SCARTS an S-Video out and 2 composite video outs. It can also be set to output as PAL, NTSC, PAL60 or PAL60R. Which is useful for playing NTSC formatted discs. The region lock can be removed with a simple remote control sequence. Another niggle is the remote control which isn't the greatest design. It's functional but little more, and will take a while to learn your way around. If you are after a cheap way into DVD then this player is great. It obviously can't compete with the £300-400 players but in the market it is aimed this player is great.