Sunday, 29 July 2012

Taken - Mini Review

Taken with Liam Neeson - Movie Poster
Taken with Liam Neeson

Now I won't lie, I was very late to the party with this one. It actually took me a few years to getting round to seeing it. In all honesty I think I was put off by the original trailer when the film was first released, but I did eventually get round to watching Taken when it was broadcast on TV earlier this year.

Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA agent who has issues with his ridiculously annoying and spoiled daughter (Maggie Grace from Lost) going to Paris when she’s only 17 years old. Thankfully for us, she buggers off regardless and then spends most of the film being kidnapped meaning that we don't have to spend that long listening to her whining. That said, the film was a bit of a slow starter, but once she is ‘Taken’ it's action stations all the way.

To say that Liam Neeson plays a bit of a bad ass is putting it lightly. Let's face it, he's not a young man any more but he can still pull off being the action hero if you can suspend your disbelieve for entertainment's sake. But make no mistake, he is a big guy, you'd be a fool to mess with him.

There is lots of fun to be had here watching Liam Neeson lay enemy after enemy to waste (there do seem to be a lot of them?) I especially like the scene where he confronts the men who actually took his daughter – earlier in the film he spoke (or rather shouted down the phone) to them “I will find you, and when I do, I will kill you!” Later in the film... “You don’t remember me do you... I told you I’d find you”.

Good stuff, one for action and thriller fans and still worth coming back to even if you were late to the party like me. That said, I'm not overly excited at the prospect of seeing Taken 2, but I'll probably get round to it eventually... and I'll probably be thoroughly entertained again.

My Rating: 7/10

About the Author: Chris Russell just loves movies and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Predators - Mini Review

Predators - Movie Poster

The film literally opens with Adrien Brody awakening from a very deep sleep in mid-free-fall.   Talk about getting out of the wrong side of the bed!  His parachute opens automatically near the ground.  With absolutely no idea where he is, he wonders through the jungle where he meets up with a bunch other other guys, who also woke up in the same situation.

The characters are mostly armed with weapons and come from various backgrounds - some violent drug lords from Mexico or military folk. It seems they were going about their business when there was a bright light, next thing they know, they woke up here.

Not a lot needs to be said about the plot. They are hunted by about 3 Predators and their pet alien dog things. It's pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Predator movie, nothing more, nothing less. Overall, there could have been some better deaths, but sadly the 15 certificate ruined any chance of that so the best death was the guy who gets his spine ripped out in one swift movement. Nice.

I liked the fact that this was set on an alien world; they should have made a film like this a long time ago... in fact, they should have set the Alien Vs. Predator films here.

At the risk of giving you a mild spoiler - I'm sure you won't be surprised to see the film ending with more parachutes coming down to the planet surface, so who knows, there could be more to come; I must admit, I wouldn't mind a bit.  I'm sure they could do something interesting for Predator fans with a follow up if they took their time with it.

As a massive fan of the genre and both the Alien and Predator films, I found Predators an entertaining enough experience, but of course, non-fans of the series probably won't get so much out of it.

My Rating: 6/10

About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Mini Review

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Movie Poster
Martha Marcy May Marlene

This bleak but compelling drama with Elizabeth Olsen is not exactly a bundle of joy, so don't watch it if you're in the mood for a comedy. But it is a high quality film that is well worth your time. Olsen's breakthrough performance is quite frankly stunning.  She plays Martha - a damaged young woman who escapes a strange cult and struggles to return to a normal life living with her older sister and brother-in-law.

The film frequently flashes back to her time in the cult.  Flashbacks are seamlessly integrated and at some key points it is not immediately obvious to the audience if we are watching events in the past or the present - a deliberate attempt by the film makers to convey the confusion of the character.  Martha even asks her sister if she has ever had an experience where she wondered if it was a real memory or just a dream?

The cult Martha may or may not have spent the last two years of her life with, seem inviting and friendly at first, in fact the leader - Patrick (John Hawkes from Winter's Bone) is quite the charmer.  But of course, there is always a darker side.  This leads us to the 'compelling' nature of the film as we slowly learn more about the cult and why Martha is so damaged.

This is a very good film, but it's not going to be for everyone, it's far from being a mainstream film.  Elizabeth Olsen has fantastic potential for a great career in film and I for one will definitely be looking forward to see where she goes from here.

My Rating: 7/10

About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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How To Train Your Dragon - Mini Review

How to Train Your Dragon 3D - Movie Poster
How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is a DreamWorks animation (Shrek, Monsters vs Aliens) that is just about as good as anything Pixar have ever produced.  The animation is stunning and the sound is just plain awesome. When the biggest dragons are flying, the beat of their wings can literally be felt in your chest on a good home cinema as the sub-woofer moves the air around your room.  The flying scenes are absolutely tremendous on a big screen, resembling the best of similar scenes in James Cameron's Avatar.  The only problem with a film like this is that even a 42” TV just isn't big enough for this kind of epic content.

If I have any complaint at all, its that the Vikings have Scottish accents, but a look at the list of voice talent shows half the cast of Superbad and some other interesting names too - Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant to name just a few.

The lead character, an outcast Viking boy is seen as an embarrassment by his fellow Vikings - he’ll never kill a dragon (he doesn't want to). The story follows the ‘secret’ friendship he develops with one of the most feared breed of dragons around, and its actually quite a touching tale; testament to the power of the animators and the facial expressions they are able to create.  They really bring the characters to life, it's even easy to understand the emotions in the face of the dragon - a fictional creature.  I have nothing but respect for the people who create these kinds of movies.  I just love them.

Sadly I wasn't able to see this movie in 3D at the time, but now that I have seriously upgraded my home cinema kit I wouldn't hesitate for a second to pick this film up on 3D Blu-Ray.  I'm sure it would look amazing on my new 59" Plasma.

My Rating: 8/10

About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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Mini and Micro Movie Reviews

I have decided I will also include Mini and Micro film reviews whenever possible on this site.  Hopefully I can uploaded these more frequently than other posts to help keep things fresh.

The films featured in these mini or micro reviews will be a mixture of old and new from all genres.  They will usually (but not always) be films I have seen for the first time and may have been viewed in the cinema, via rental or even on regular TV.

By their nature these reviews will not be overly detailed, but a simple summary of what the film is basically about (spoiler free) and my brief thoughts.  You should get an idea whether or not I liked the film and hopefully you will have enough of an idea if the film will appeal to you or not too.

Bare in mind that just because I do or do not like a film, doesn't mean you will agree with my thoughts.  After all, as is the nature of any review, it is just the opinion of the author - in this case me.

So what are the differences between the types of reviews I will include on this site?

Full Movie Review

These will be single posts with a detailed in-depth film review.

Mini Movie Reviews

These mini movie review posts are quite literally, just that.  Like film reviews - only smaller.  Quick and easy to read, you should get a nice idea about the film and what I thought of it.

Micro Movie Reviews

Micro movie review posts are like tiny, tiny film reviews - usually only 1 or 2 paragraphs at most. Due to the extra small size of these reviews, these posts will consist of two or more films with a very short review for each.

About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Inception - Film Review

Inception - Movie Poster
Inception movie poster

The Dark Knight Rises is literally about to hit the big screen, and with a good bunch of it's main cast having previously appeared in Christopher Nolan's 2010 masterpiece Inception, this is as good a time as any to re-visit the film.

Sadly, my busy life has prevented me from having the chance to re-watch Inception at this time, so I won't be writing a retrospective post here just yet - I'll save that for another time.  Instead, this is a good opportunity for me to resurrect my Inception film review, which I originally wrote during the film's release.  I have updated it slightly, but its essentially written from the point of view of having just seen the film for the first time.  Enjoy.


Inception is a tricky one to review as I don't want to give away too much and want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.  Do you remember the line "No one can be told what The Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself" Inception is very much like that.  And just as The Matrix was meant for the big screen and all the surround sound that goes with it, so is Inception.  There is no doubt about it, Inception was the Movie event of the year in 2010.  Not since Avatar had a film demanded to be seen on the big screen with an audience.

It was July 2010 and the Summer blockbuster season was in full swing, the cinema was packed and for the whole two and a half hours not one person shuffled in their seat, let alone leave to go to the bathroom... Much like a good book that you cannot put down, this is one of those films where you simply cannot tear yourself away even for a second.

Writer/Director Christopher Nolan and the producers were brave enough to make a film where they actually assume that the audience has intelligence and can work out what is going on without having to stop to have a break in the action to explain everything.  Its much like Nolan's earlier film Momento in that respect, Nolan is fast earning a reputation for actually respecting his audience and treating them like grown-ups.  

Inception was the first summer blockbuster to reward the audience for paying attention since The Matrix way back in 1999.  There's no doubt about it, this is one of those movies that you don't just watch, you experience, and if you were lucky enough to see it in the theatre it almost feels as though you are taking part yourself.

Action scene in heavy rain in the movie Inception
Action scene in heavy rain in the movie Inception

Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's characters use a technique of entering into a person's dreams while they sleep, taking control of the dream environment with the intent usually to steal information from a person's mind.  It could be an idea, or a bank account - whatever.  The concept of the main plot of Inception is not so much to steal something from a person's mind but to actually place an idea there.  Its an attempt to make that person do something in the real world when they wake up.  

DiCaprio's character - Cobb is encouraged to take on the complicated and dangerous mission that forms the main plot of the film not for money, but for the freedom to return to the USA without being locked up for causing the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard).  More importantly, he will be re-united again with his children.  The mission is to plant the seed of an idea into the head of Cillian Murphy's character.  Sounds simple right?  But then that would be boring wouldn't it - and this film is far from boring.

Ellen Page is always a pleasure to watch (unless she's castrating some guy), she is bought into the team to help complete the mission. She is the architect who will essentially design the worlds where the dreams will take place.  The early part of the film consists of a recruiting and training period where Cobb assembles a team to complete the mission which also includes Tom Hardy - soon to be seen kicking Batman's ass in Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.  Michael Caine is also a welcome addition to the cast list, but his part is relatively small and he only appears in a few scenes.

Things get more complicated and interesting when the characters start entering dreams within a dream. "Who's head are we actually in now?"  Like The Matrix all those years before when Neo and Trinity go into the Matrix with "Guns, lots of Guns!" - this is where most of the action takes place.

Time slows down with each level of dream state that you go down, so 5 mins of sleep time might give you an hour in the dream world, this time increases dramatically every layer you go down (a dream within a dream).

Amazing fight scene in rotating hallway in the movie Inception
Amazing fight scene in rotating hallway in the movie Inception

In the dream worlds we get some fantastic action sequences, most notably Gordon-Levitt's fight scene in the hotel as the whole world is turning upside-down and rolling over.  The actors are bouncing off the walls and ceilings in the middle of the fight... All of this was shot for real on a rotating set, its absolutely brilliant and made all the better for Hans Zimmer's incredible music throughout the film and action sequences.

In Conclusion

Inception is an easy 9/10 and may even be upgraded to a 10 with a second viewing. Its arguably the film of 2010 and its not surprising the film was Oscar nominated (winning 4 Academy Awards).  Its no doubt thanks to the success of The Dark Knight that Chris Nolan was pretty much allowed to make whatever he wanted without the studios breathing down his neck saying "You can't do that, its too expensive, it too complicated - you need to dumb it down for audiences".

Lets hope that the success of Inception, means we get more films in the future which actually treat the audience as though they have a brain.  I'm sure that Nolan will be the man to do it, now that The Dark Knight series has all wrapped up.  I for one am definitely looking forward to seeing what he cooks up next.

By Chris Russell

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Welcome to The Movie Retrospect

This is not your standard movie news or review website or blog. Let's face it, there are enough of those already and they're all basically the same anyway.

The plan here, is to create a movie retrospective kind of site. I will mostly be writing about previously released movies, most of which I will be watching again for the purpose of this site and some I may only have only just seen for the first time myself.

I'll be taking an in-depth look at a selection of films, pulling them apart, analysing and de-constructing them. I'll be looking at important or memorable scenes or performances and discussing what it is about them that makes them so great (or bad). Bare in mind that the views expressed on this site are my own, which doesn't necessarily make them right, but where necessary I will happily research the topics I'm talking about to include all the facts I can.

I will likely be discussing some behind-the-scenes aspects of films and considering this is a 'retrospective' site about films there will inevitably spoilers - which in essence is kind of the whole point - after all, retrospective posts will generally be based on older movies where enough time has passed that we can open up a discussion and debate about a film without fear of spoiling it for the reader, since I hope the reader has already seen the film. And that is the key. That is what makes this site different to "just another movie review site". I am not simply reviewing films, I am discussing them, just as you would when you leave the movie theatre with your friends, go to the pub and talk about what you have just seen.

Don't get me wrong, I will undoubtedly leave my views on the film which you could take as a review if you wish, so if you haven't seen the films I'm discussing, there will be something for you here and hopefully I will give you enough information to help you decided if you should see the film I'm discussing before I go into SPOILER MODE. Rest assured, I will do my best to warn you about spoilers so that you can decide if you want to read on at your own risk or stop right there until you have seen the film yourself.

One thing I want to make clear is that this is an open discussion. I encourage you to join in and leave your comments, good or bad. Let me know if you agree with what I saying - it helps me to know that I'm not insane... Or if you disagree with me, then let me know, the site is free to use and free to express your own views in the comments too. But please keep it (relatively) clean and keep the insults to a minimum; if you have something you want to say, please be constructive about how you say it. Lets discuss our views just like we would over a friendly beer in the pub.

What else will I be posting?

I won't lie, I do try to go to the cinema whenever I can to see the latest movies too, I'm also a LoveFilm member so I do like to keep up with the latest releases too. With that in mind I will also be throwing up a few brief movie reviews for recent or current releases from time to time, but fear not, I will attempt to keep all spoilers from these posts and focus them to be more straightforward film reviews.

I hope you find this site fun and interesting to read. I am self-employed and very busy with work most of the time so I am planning to work on this site whenever I get any spare time, so posts will likely vary in length and/or frequency, so please bare with me and keep checking back for more posts whenever you can. If you like what you read, please share it with your friends, family and even your enemies or generally anyone you think will also enjoy it too.

Thanks for reading this far... now it's time to start watching some movies and writing some posts.

By Chris Russell

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About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.