Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne Ultimatum is the relentess and exciting conclusion to the Bourne Trilogy. Think James Bond on speed without the small talk. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) jumps from place to place without any letup, wiping the floor with deep cover enemies sent to despatch him in each exotic location. No time for Martini’s here. Bourne even takes an environmenal slant, travelling by Eurostar – not a lamborghini in sight!
The action takes us through fights and car chases in London, Madrid & Tangiers, reaching an adrenalin peak during a positively painful chase through New York City (call it a smash em’ up derby), where Bourne flips a car from an elevated carpark. The vehicle stunts really are worth the price of admission alone.
The movie is so fast, perhaps too fast, that we don’t really learn a lot more about Bourne. Originally inducted into the ‘Blackbriar’ clandestine spy program by Dr Albert Hirsh (Albert Finney), Bourne is questioning his identity and suffering frequent flashbacks to his gruelling training, conducted in a New York City office building. His identity has been exposed by a London Guardian journalist and the CIA is back on his trail.
David Strathairn plays crooked CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen, deterrmined to snuff out Bourne using all the satellite technology and assasins (‘assets’) at his fingertips, but constantly fails. His ‘egg white’ eating character looked far too fragile to me – I’m not sure if Strathairn was the best actor for this part. Joan Allen solidly reprises her role as CIA operative Pamela Landy, setting off the good cop/bad cop struggle against Strathairn.
Scott Glenn has a small role as sinister CIA Director Ezra Kramer. He’s definitely the one pulling the strings here, and while the action pumps to excess, you’re left thinking that there must be something bigger to all of this. I’m absolutely sure that the Ezra Kramer character will be revealed in full in future Bourne episodes (no need to be cynical here – but like Bond, Bourne will turn up again, you can bet on that).
Full credit must go to Paul Greengrass for his brilliant direction here. With what is essentially a simple storyline (one long chase), you soon learn to look beyond the limitations of geography or physical reality as the action leaves you completely breathless. The final scene definitely leaves the Bourne saga open for more to come. We will wait with bated breath.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 8 Out Of 10
Viewed on Screen 1, Omniplex Newry, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The 10th anniversary of the filming of Saving Private Ryan in Ireland was held in June 2007. Here is the story of my recent trip to Curracloe Beach where the first part of the movie was made. So it's time to revisit my notes from the year the movie was released. It's just a collection of thoughts, ideas & quotes rather than an actual review (of which you'll find loads right here)...
“People were saying how amazing the first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan was, and yes, it is amazing. Wait. 25 minutes? Are you sure? Because it seemed less than 10 minutes... No, it seemed way longer than 25 minutes... more like hours! How long is it gonna take one man to get off from a boat, swim a few yards, and land on a beach? Probably a matter of minutes. But hell, is it easy? By the time Tom Hanks and others barely managed to land on a beach, I was dead. I got shot about 100 times and my arms and legs were blown away, my blood was changing the color of the sea into red. How the hell can you survive? Hide in the back of the boats? Dig a hole and hide inside? They won't do it. Simple answer: you CAN'T survive.”
Date – 6th June, 1944. D-Day. The opening sequence of the film is everything you've heard, and more. Quite simply, it is possibly “one of the most devastating things ever committed to film.” “The fronts of the boats drop open, and the enemy gunfire explodes with a sickeningly dense and relentless cracking, the camera trembling as if the earth itself were coming apart.” “The carnage is so obscene it almost becomes hallucinatory. A stunned soldier calmly reaches down and picks up his severed arm, then wanders along the beach in shock. At one point (though it's hardly the focus of the shot) Hanks is pulling a wounded man towards what little cover there is, when he suddenly realizes that he's dragging only half a body. Another soldier screams in pain as he lies on the sand, calling for his mother while literally grasping his intestines in his own hands. Yes, it's hellish, and, yes, it's supremely disturbing.” “For nearly half an hour, Spielberg uses his unparalleled kinetic genius to create an excruciatingly sustained cataclysm of carnage, nausea, and death.” “The incoming tide is turned deep red with blood.” This isn't done for shock value – this was real, this happened. The hand-held camera work is outstanding. It’s shot from the perspective that you’re struggling onto the beach with the soldiers. The camera shot even bobs under water, along with the brilliant and sickening sound design that goes along with every scene in this film. Eventually, a group of soldiers gain a foothold and manage to knock out the Nazi defences. Thank God the relentless ferocity of the first half hour is over.
Now we’re introduced to the 'human' element of the story as we discover that three brothers in the same family have been killed in combat in the last few days. The mother of the brothers is due to receive all the death notices on the same afternoon. But there’s still one brother left - Private James Ryan (Matt Damon). He’s parachuted behind enemy lines in the Normandy invasion. The plan is set in place to ‘save’ Private Ryan and send him home. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) of the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division is assigned the task of locating Private Ryan. Along with a group of seven men (who survived the D-Day invasion), the story of sacrifice and honour begins. The squad consists of tough, trustworthy Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore). Pvt. Reiben (Edward Burns) is the chief griper of the group. Pvt. Caparzo (Vin Diesel) also has doubts. Sharpshooter Pvt. Jackson (Barry Pepper) places his faith in God and his gun. Pvt. Mellish (Adam Goldberg) is a Jewish soldier who has a personal stake in the war. Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) is a medic, frustrated by the hopelessness of his task during wartime. Rounding out the group is Cpl. Upham (Jeremy Davies), a meek mapmaker who's never seen combat, but speaks fluent French and German.
So there you have some ideas about Saving Private Ryan - repeated around the world on tv on a regular basis. Or you could buy it on DVD, for a much fuller experience, particularly with the incredible sound design.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 10 Out Of 10
(originally posted on in 1998)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Enemy of the State (1998)

Going to see a new movie on New Years Day (1999) is somewhat of a thing to do round my neck of the woods. Maybe it's a good way to escape a shocking hangover! Unfortunately, most of the other million or so people in my city seem to agree and consequently going to the movies is like joining a re-enactment of D-Day. In 1998, we tried to get into Alien: Resurrection with little success, ending up retiring to the couch in defeat. So this year we headed to the new 'Megaplex' at Indooroopilly to see Enemy Of The State and Rush Hour. What - 2 movies you ask? Yes, 2 movies. Today will make up for the shock of 1998. We'll beat the crowds and buy tickets in plenty of time. With the choice of 16 screens, it can't be that bad...
Ahem... (the sound of continuous pouring rain and thunder of feet)
Steve - you take position in the riot that looks like ticket lines and I'll park the car...
We did manage to get tickets, then laughed at the ineptitude of the candy bar staff, then laughed at the ineptitude of the staff trying to control the crowds! Oh what joy...
Anyway, we got good seats in Cinema 1 (I think it was sold out), and sat back to watch the first of our New Year movies...
Enemy Of The State is a slick new action thriller from the Simpson/Bruckheimer stable that brought us such movies as Armageddon, Con-Air, The Rock, etc, etc. I think you get the picture. It's a big action pic, with lots of car chases, big boys techno toys and some wonderful violence at the end. The story goes that an obstinate politician (Jason Robards) is murdered while out walking the dog by the lake. The killer is none less than National Security Agent Reynolds (Jon Voight) and his pack of young NSA thugs. That's what happens when you don't go with the flow! But, little do they know that a wildlife camera positioned on the other side of the lake has filmed every detail. That is, until they're advised that a film has been made, and the chase begins. In a flurry of action, the film is dropped into the shopping bag of lawyer Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith). From the moment the tape falls into his possession, his personal life and career start to fall apart as the NSA monitor his every movement and 'adjust' his existence (including his credit cards!) As things turn worse, he meets Brill (Gene Hackman) who eventually decides to help him and turn some of the heat back onto the NSA...
No more plot for you - or you may as well not go, which would be a shame as it's quite good really.
The very ideas that are suggested in this movie are kind of scary, but probably quite real. Basically, if you want privacy on the planet Earth, then it's time to move to Mars.bIf you like fast action movies, then you'll love this. Boys - its definitely not a 'chick' flick - please don't mistake this movie for 'You've Got Mail', which is a nice film with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, etc, etc... (and I'm not reviewing it!)
Have a blast.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 7.5 Out Of 10
(originally posted on very early in 1999)

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Good Year (2006)

My wife is a huge Russell Crowe fan. OK, maybe a Gladiator fan, to be specific. So I bought a movie on DVD called A Good Year. Now here I was thinking this was a movie about tyres, but it wasn’t. It was a movie about a spoilt stuck-up brat kid, who grew up to be a spoilt stuck-up brat adult who ran a group of stockbroking sharks (think Gordon Gecko). So this stockbroker type, who you have absolutely no affinity for, finds out he’s inherited an old house & vineyard in Provence from his old Uncle (Albert Finney). The house is full of flashback childhood memories, which are some of the nicest scenes in the movie. He visits the place (hoping to sell it), insults the locals (I think we’re supposed to be laughing through this), then finds true love and throws in the whole stockbroking thing. This film sat uncomfortably. Russell Crowe doing comedy is slightly strange, especially when the script isn’t all that funny. His character is just so annoying you wanted to punch him for being so rude (and for the script being so stupid). I could see Jude Law or any number of other English young guns playing this part. But the idea of Ridley Scott casting Russell in this role made me think the heat of the Mediterranean sun (filming Gladiator) went to his head. Ridley Scott has directed and produced a number of brilliant movies over the years. This was not one of them. I do award a few points for nice cinematography and pleasant French scenery.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 4.5 Out Of 10

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Fear and Loathing was a well and truly wacked out film. Basically, it's just one long drug trip, with incredible special effects so the movie viewer can share in the hallucinations. Although it might be fun to start with, you soon get tired of watching these two guys swallow and sniff every substance under the sun. Hunter S. Thompson wrote the famous book of the title. The main character, journalist Raoul Duke is played by Johnny Depp. His sidekick is a big Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). They're travelling to Las Vegas in an open top Cadillac to write a story about an off road car race. The movie outlines their incredible drug intake, trashing hotel rooms (like you've never seen before!), and bumping into some strange characters played by cameos such as Ellen Barkin and Gary Busey. The special effects include people turning into animals, carpets coming alive and bats attacking their open top car. How these guys ever took all this stuff and survived is beyond me (it is based on a true story). I don't really have much more to say about this movie. It does produce a good laugh here and there, but there is really little else to hold your interest in this tiresome drug crazed flick. I think my friend Steve actually dozed off a couple of times.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 2.5 Out Of 10
(originally posted on at some point in 1998!)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dark City (1998)

Well, its Friday morning, and I'm boarding a plane to Darwin. This is the first day of my holidays, and I'm continuing on from Darwin to Bali tonight. Seeing a movie is the last thing on my mind. We get "City of Angels" on the plane, and the steward walks down the aisle offering tissues at the end. So? Its sad when Meg Ryan gets squashed under that big truck. Anyway, its five hours later and I'm in Darwin. Its the middle of the day, and its hot - I mean really bloody hot. Where can I go that will be cool, like a Mars bar from the fridge? The Darwin City Cinemas are just a short stroll away (everything in Darwin is a short stroll away!), and Dark City starts in 20 minutes. The cinemas are nicely appointed and extremely well air-conditioned. 1 ticket please...
Dark City was a pretty interesting movie, although I will admit that I almost dozed off a couple of times. That was due to the long flight (yeah sure!) The movie is set in a bleak city in an imaginary future. It's always dark, thus the title of the movie. The main character, played by Rufus Sewell, wakes up to discover a prostitute murdered in his hotel room. He has no idea how she ended up there, or what he is doing in the hotel room. He can't remember much at all. A detective played by William Hurt is quickly on his trail. Experiencing continual memory flashbacks and strange periods when time seems to stop, our main character begins to question what is going on in this nightmarish city. After encounters with a weird psychologist played by Keifer Sutherland, he makes his discovery. Each night, a huge group of ugly bald headed creatures called 'strangers' congregate under the city. They have the power to literally stop time, and conduct experiments on the city by changing buildings and swapping the memories of the population. The special effects involved in this process are quite incredible. Sewell is eventually taught that he has the power to stop this process, and thus the battle begins...
The visuals in this movie are really quite amazing. Director Alex Proyas made 'The Crow', and the conceptual similarities are quite obvious. Filmed at the new Fox Studios in Sydney, this does represent somewhat of a milestone for Australian made movies. A great deal of the background scenery is computer generated, but if you look carefully, you can see scenes filmed around The Rocks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You will also get a kick out of seeing some of the Aussie actors who have small roles but are well known stars in this country.
If you like sci-fi movies, I would take a look at Dark City. The acting isn't exactly brilliant, but the visuals and FX are excellent.
The Movie Nut's Rating - 6 Out Of 10
(originally posted on sometime in 1999 I think!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Meet Joe Black (1998)

Let's crank it up with on old movie review...
So, I'm in an aircraft at 37,000 feet over Afghanistan. Oh my God, they're playing Meet Joe Black. As if airline food wasn't bad enough...
Is an aircraft the right place to see Meet Joe Black? Oh, most certainly yes. It allows you the opportunity to gently rest your head against the window and drop into a gentle doze. Sleep is considered rude in most cinemas, but not on planes.
So, who is this Joe Black bloke? Oh, you don't know? Perhaps you'd like to meet him - it could easily be arranged!
Alright, so who are the stars of this film? Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, a pretty girl who spends the entire movie gazing at Brad Pitt and a few other people. That's all you need to know.
Something tells me that you didn't like this film? Well, while we were watching the film, the earth actually started spinning the other way. Time stood still as Joe Black (aka Death, aka Brad Pitt) introduced himself to Anthony Hopkins then exchanged loving glances with his youngest daughter. The other daughter spent the entire movie organising a big garden party. Her husband was an idiot who almost cost Anthony Hopkins his seat on the board. But most of the time, the youngest daughter drooled senselessly over Brad Pitt and played hard to get NOT!
Does that really sum up the story line? Yes, of course it does.
Come on, were there any positives about this film experience? Actually yes. The airline version of Meet Joe Black is only 2 hours and 15 minutes. The cinema version was almost 3 hours long. I gained back 45 minutes of my life before my turn to Meet Joe Black.
One final question that has to be asked - do you get to see the famous 'Brad Pitt butt shot' in the airline version of Meet Joe Black? Sorry, no - airline films usually have to drop the 'money' shots!
The Movie Nut's Rating - 3 Out Of 10
(originally posted on somewhere between 1998 & 2000!)