Tag Archives: film

Watson Reviews “300: Rise of an Empire”

Director: Noam Murro Writers: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad Studios: Legendary Pictures, Cruel and Unusual Films Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro Release Date (UK): 7 March 2014 Certificate: 15 Runtime: 102 min

Buff, baby-oiled beefcakes prance about in bulging leather underpants, letting out roars of pure testosterone and swinging their mighty swords as various bodily fluids spurt all around. As we journey for a second time through hyper-stylised, Zack Snyder-ified Ancient Greece in “300: Rise of an Empire,” it’s nigh impossible not to feel the flaming homoeroticism once again scorching the Athenian air. If anything, the homoeroticism has been knowingly amped up since Snyder’s 2006 comic-book hit: in an early scene of the Noam Murro-directed side-quel, one testy Athenian senator tells another to “shut [his] cock hole;” later, encountering General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) watching tussling Spartan soldiers, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) wryly remarks, “You’ve come a long way to stroke your cock while watching real men train;” having emerged from a pool of liquid gold, the bejewelled Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) walks away strutting his golden arse back and forth; and as if history had a sense of humour, the final clash is called the Battle of Salamis, for crying out loud. (CONTINUE READING…)

HotDog5(Five Outta Ten)

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Talking Nerdy, Ep. 83.5 “Alex and Charlie Do The Oscars”

In this special half episode of Talking Nerdy, Alex Gross and Charlie Lightning have an intimate Oscar Party, go crazy with Tweets, and talk drunk and nerdy about the Academy Awards. Charlie Lightning challenges Alex in past Oscar Winners, and we reveal the winners and losers on our Oscar bets!

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Watson’s Review of “Man of Steel”

Director: Zack Snyder Writer: David S. Goyer Studio: Warner Bros. Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane Release Date (UK): 14 June 2013 Certificate: 12A Runtime: 143 min

A common criticism of “Superman Returns,” director Bryan Singer’s spiritual 2006 follow-up to Richard Donner’s triumphant 1980 comic-book sequel “Superman II,” is that at no point during the film’s sizable 154-minute length does Brandon Routh’s titular superhero get to throw a punch. Instead, he’s far too busy lifting a series of increasingly heavy objects: he starts, ambitiously, with a free falling jumbo jet and slowly but surely works his way up to an entire island made of solid Kryptonite. All impressive feats of physical strength, I’m sure you’ll agree, but viewers were left dissatisfied with the film’s disappointing lack of blood-pumping action: where’s the excitement, the summer crowd cawed, and where exactly is the punching?

It’s a complaint that cannot and will not be launched against “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder’s bombastic, $225 million blockbuster which acts as a reboot of both the three-decades-old film franchise and the iconic DC Comics character who has prevailed for three quarters of a century. In it, Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer retell Supe’s well-known origin story — an alien infant from the dying planet Krypton is sent to live on Earth, where he grows up to become the colourfully costumed protector of mankind — with the straight face of Christopher Nolan’s masterfully handled “The Dark Knight” trilogy (Nolan serves as producer here) and the grandiose, pumped-up stylisation of Snyder’s previous two comic-book adaptations: those being his blood-splattered big-screen renditions of Frank Miller’s “300” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” (Continue Reading…)

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Watson’s Review of “Life of Pi”

It is as remarkable a culture clash as I can recall. In a small, wooden lifeboat straddling the waves of the vast Pacific Ocean sits an Indian teenage boy named Pi and a fully-grown Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Victims of a shipwreck, they sit at opposite ends of the 27-foot boat, watching the horizon in search of land, food and rescue. Together as man and beast, they drift across the deep blue sea for 227 days, embarking on a death-defying voyage so magnificent and so moving its telling is said to have made many believe in God. While “Life of Pi” did nothing to alter my faith (or lack thereof), it did much to confirm my beliefs in the power of cinema and the miraculous possibilities of storytelling.

The director is Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning Taiwanese filmmaker who gave us the ground-breaking “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000 and the heart-wrenching “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005. It is based on the worldwide bestseller by Yann Martel, published to much acclaim in 2001 and arguably something of a modern classic. With its countless metaphysical elements and physical near-impossibilities, Martel’s spiritually rich novel was, like “Watchmen” and “Cloud Atlas,” popularly deemed “unfilmable.” But when one sees the story unfolding on-screen with such fluidity and grandness under the firm grasp of Lee, one struggles to recall why a faithful and elegant transition from page to screen was considered so unassailable and unthinkable. (Continue Reading…)

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Watson’s Review of “Skyfall”

In a breathtaking, action-drenched prologue that boosts the heart rate and then brings it to a sudden, chilling halt, James Bond adventure “Skyfall” triumphantly vanquishes the bitter aftertaste left behind by the enduring M16 agent’s previous escapade, the chronically arse-numbing “Quantum of Solace,” and boldly promises that great things are to come. It’s an audaciously extravagant opening, rivalling the Madagascar-set parkour chase from “Casino Royale” for thrills and energy, as Daniel Craig’s 007 pursues a mercenary who has stolen a precious computer hard drive from a field agent in Istanbul.

It’s a complex pursuit: it begins on foot, moves onto a motorbike, onto a speeding train and then finally inside a digger on top of that train. As the chase nears its conclusion, Bond’s accompanying, deliberately unnamed agent (Naomi Harris, “28 Days Later”), who watches from afar through a rifle lens, finds herself faced with a dilemma: either she risk losing the hard drive or risk losing Bond. I shan’t say what she chooses, but her decision packs a hard-hitting punch and provides a sumptuous set-up for a riveting tale of vengeance and betrayal. This is Bond at his brilliant best, and indeed, “Skyfall” is arguably the best of all the Bond films. (Continue Reading…)

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Watson’s Review of “Alex Cross”

Detective Alex Cross must be some kind of superhuman. He waltzes into a homicide scene, informed only of the basic details of the situation, and instantly knows all that has occurred. He knows how many were involved in the killing. He knows if the victim was drugged and whether or not they screamed. He knows who shot who and the order in which they died. He knows the killer’s personality, mindset and work history: “He’s ex-military, a stimulus-seeking, sociopathic narcissist,” he correctly calculates after just one brief glance at the villain of his latest investigation. Heck, he probably knows what the killer had for breakfast last Tuesday morning.

His skills aren’t limited to crime scenes. As he stands at the centre of a city block placed on lockdown to prevent a predicted assassination, Cross suddenly, inexplicably figures out that the killer’s master plan is to fire a bazooka from a passing elevated subway train. Sure enough, seconds later a rocket comes blasting out from the open door of a speeding carriage (and quite remarkably hits its target). Which leads to one important question: just how exactly does Cross know these things? Perhaps he has a Sherlockian eye for detail. Perhaps he has psychic abilities. Perhaps he read the script. But then here’s another question: if he can figure all of this out in an instant, and do so with stunningly little effort, how has he not found out that his dear, beloved wife is three months pregnant? (Continue Reading…)

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Watson’s review of ‘Total Recall’

Few will disagree that Paul Verhoeven’s planet-hopping, ultraviolent sci-fi classic “Total Recall” is utterly bonkers — those who do disagree need to order it on Netflix or buy the DVD/Blu-ray and watch it again, this time more closely. Loosely sprung from Philip K. Dick’s mind-boggling, reality-bending short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” the wildly successful 1990 action blockbuster contains scenes, characters and ideas so intoxicatingly, head-spinningly bizarre that there are times it achieves the kind of blunt surreality that can be found in the stranger sequences of a David Cronenberg or David Lynch movie.

Take one memorable moment that sees Arnold Schwarzenegger, the muscle-bound star, hiding within the mechanical body of a middle-aged lady whose detachable head is then used as an explosive device. An earlier scene has Schwarzenegger yanking a tracking device from the depths of his nasal cavity, in spite of the fact that the bug is three times the size of his nostril. One supporting character is a man with a clairvoyant conjoined twin who protrudes from his brother’s belly like a young kangaroo poking out from its mother’s pouch. And then there’s that famous Martian prostitute, the one whose bountiful bosom boldly challenges that age-old saying, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

And now, in the summer of 2012, we have been given a needless, if perfectly harmless remake (from a studio named Original Films, no less), directed by “Underworld” helmer Len Wiseman. Fans will be pleased to know that this new-and-unimproved “Total Recall” boasts some of the more absurd elements of Verhoeven’s film, but this time they are notably tamer in presentation. For example, instead of encasing himself inside a human exoskeleton, leading man Colin Farrell disguises his appearance with a handy gizmo that projects a holographic image of another person’s head around his. The tracking device once lodged up Schwarzenegger’s nose is now in the inside of Farrell’s hand, removed with the aid of a shard of glass. As the presence of Martian mutants is done away with in this Earth-bound redo, the psychic Siamese twin is sadly nowhere to be seen. However, the triple-breasted hooker is here, even if the three amigos are held at bay by a thin leather strap. Oh how the nerds howl in disappointment. (Continue Reading…)

(6 outta 10)

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Watson’s Review of The Dark Knight Rises

“The Dark Knight Rises” opens not with a whimper but with an ominous crack of heart-stopping thunder. In the clouded skies looming large over a desolate landscape in central Asia, a CIA plane manned by a cocky agent and three handcuffed mercenaries is hijacked by its prisoners, suspended nose-down in mid-air from a second, much larger plane that swoops in from above, torn apart piece by piece and finally sent hurtling down towards the grassy hills standing miles below. There are two survivors of the crash, one of whom is the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy, “Warrior”), who, with a blubbering captive in tow, hangs from a wire attached to the second plane, which soars off into the horizon, where Gotham City lies unprepared for what is hotly approaching. As Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman warns our costumed hero in a later scene, “There’s a storm coming, Mr Wayne.” What a stirring and destructive storm it is.

This sequence, like so many in “The Dark Knight Rises,” is a stunning, dizzying and goose bump-inducing watch. It’s like something out of a James Bond movie, but on a larger scale. It boldly displays director Christopher Nolan’s preference for practical effects and stunt-work over computer-generated jiggery pokery, along with Hans Zimmer’s booming score and of course Wally Pfister’s staggering cinematography. It introduces terrorist Bane as a fearsome, hulking figure of brute force and cunning tactic. As played with startling physicality by Hardy, Bane is a sinister presence, his face obscured behind a respiratory mask that pumps his lungs full of life-sustaining anaesthetic and muffles his British-accented voice. This opening set-piece, when previewed to select audiences last December, was the recipient of widespread complaints regarding the incomprehensibility of Hardy’s wheezy line delivery. Rest assured that Bane’s voice has been altered and fixed, and much of his speech approaches crystal clarity, with the odd garbled line here and there. (Continue Reading…)

(Ten outta Ten)

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Watson’s Review of TED

I doubt we will see a funnier character on the big screen this year than Ted, the eponymous secondary protagonist of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s feature-length debut. This is at first surprising for the same reason it becomes so obvious: Ted is a stuffed teddy bear, the kind you can make at a Build-A-Bear workshop and give to a five-year-old as as birthday present. But Ted is no ordinary teddy bear, for he can walk and talk and sing and smoke pot and engage in casual sex with Grammy award-winning singer-songwriters. That last one is very true, in spite of Ted’s visible lack of genitalia. “I’ve written a lot of complaints to Hasbro about that,” he gripes. I’m sure Hasbro would receive many more complaints if the case were otherwise.

Ted is voiced and motion-captured by MacFarlane, who provides him with a thick-as-blood Bostonian accent that instantly calls to mind Peter Griffin, another MacFarlane-voiced animated character. He is, as far as I could tell, a wholly computer-generated creation, and he interacts well with the film’s live-action setting, much more so than Scooby-Doo ever did in his live-action adventures. In a deceptively treacly opening sequence narrated by (who else?) Patrick Stewart, we witness the magical origins of Ted. In the suburbs of Boston on Christmas Day in 1985, a crushingly unpopular eight-year-old boy named John Bennett (Bretton Manley) receives a teddy bear from his loving parents. This bear is inanimate and is given the name Ted. (Continue Reading…)

(Eight outta Ten)

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Watson Reviews “The Amazing Spider-Man”

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is a reboot of a blockbusting franchise that got off to a good start with “Spider-Man” in 2002, web-slung to towering new heights with “Spider-Man 2” in 2004, and lost its footing with “Spider-Man 3” in 2007. While each of those films were helmed by horror maestro Sam Raimi, this redo is directed by indie newbie Marc Webb, who may or may not have been hired for his eerily appropriate surname. Webb was a good choice: he displays a deft hand at directing drama, romance and action in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and balances them with profound ease and impressive skill. Once again, a “Spider-Man” franchise gets off to a good start. I look forward to its inevitable sequel and look warily upon its probable threequel.

The Peter Parker, and indeed Spider-Man, of Raimi’s trilogy was played by Tobey Maguire, who was 27 years of age when he first played the super-powered high-schooler. In Webb’s film, Peter is played by Andrew Garfield, who is now 28 years old. In spite of the one-year advantage Maguire had over Garfield in playing a teen, I found Garfield more convincing in the role: the L.A.-born English actor, utterly enchanting as Eduardo Saverin in David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” has one of those faces that looks perpetually young or, more specifically, adolescent. Teenage girls could take him home to show daddy, and daddy wouldn’t bat an eyelid. (Continue Reading…)
(Eight Outta Ten)

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