Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Babysitter (4 Stars)


"The Babysitter" was recently recommended to me as a must-watch film for Halloween. I checked it out and discovered that it was directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, better known as McG. It's cool having a single word name. I should know, because my name is Dancer, whatever might be written in my passport. I was very impressed by McG's first two films, "Charlie's Angels" and "Charlies's Angels: Full Throttle". After that he made a less impressive film, "Terminator: Salvation", which was nevertheless a box office success. This is only the fourth film I've seen made by him. Rather than go direct-to-video it's been released direct-to-Netflix. I doubt it will be released on disc any time soon.

12-year-old Cole Johnson has an incredibly hot babysitter. Lucky boy. If I'd had a babysitter like Samara Weaving at his age I would have been driven crazy, in the best possible way. I did have a babysitter at an earlier age, when I was 9 to 11, but she wasn't the same sort of beauty. Or maybe my male hormones weren't developed enough to appreciate her at that age. She was the wife of Raymond Morris, better known as the A34 Killer. My parents both worked and weren't at home when my sister and I got home from school each day. She would let us in, then look after us until my mother came home.

Cole's babysitter, called Bee, looks after him in the evening when his parents go out to have fun. Bee does things that my babysitter never did. She invites her friends round to perform Satanic rituals. Girls just wanna have fun. This would be harmless if Cole hadn't been selected as a virgin sacrifice.

As you can guess, the film isn't completely serious, but it has enough action and terror sequences to make it thrilling. I agree; it's a good film to watch at Halloween.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Double Date (4 Stars)


Jim is a 29-year-old virgin. He's determined to lose his virginity before he turns 30, but it's not easy when you're a shy boy who's never even kissed a girl. Never fear! Jim's best friend Alex invites him out on the evening before his 30th birthday and promises that he'll find dates for the two of them before the night is over.

Success. In a club they meet two beautiful women who aren't in the least put off by Jim's awkwardness. Even better, the women invite the two men back to a large mansion just outside London. Does it sound too good to be true? The girls are wanted for a series of murders over the last few days, and they intend the two men to be their next victims.

This is a hilarious British horror comedy. Don't watch the trailer, because it gives away the whole plot. Just go to the cinema and watch the film while it's still being shown. You won't be disappointed.

Snowden (4 Stars)


I missed this film when it was in the cinema. My thanks to Netflix UK for offering it online, so that I could watch it while on holiday in England. Netflix Germany doesn't include it in their catalogue.

Edward Snowden is a controversial figure, in America at least. In America he's divided the country down the middle. Judging by the fervent online debates a few years ago his supporters and opponents are numerically evenly matched. In the rest of the world he's almost universally considered to be a hero. The American divide isn't necessarily along party political lines. At the end of the film there are quotes from two leading Democratic politicians, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton considers Snowden a criminal who should be put on trial, whereas Sanders praises what Snowden did.

Technically, yes, Edward Snowden broke the law. He worked for the CIA, an American government agency, and he swore oaths of secrecy. He broke these oaths when he smuggled out thousands, maybe even millions of documents and gave them to representatives of the Guardian, a British newspaper. His justification is that he considered the CIA and the NSA to be acting illegally, so it was his moral duty to resist. The film draws a connection between Nazi Germany and modern America; at the Nuremberg Trials the officers were convicted as criminals because they had obeyed orders, whereas the Germans who defied the Nazi regime are now regarded as heroes. This highlights Edward Snowden's moral dilemma, but it's a poor comparison, because the Nuremberg Trials were a result of Germany losing the war. If Germany had won the Nazi officers would have been heroes, whereas the rebels would have been executed as traitors. In the case of Snowden's revelations there has been no war to prompt a black-and-white judgement of what he did. The aftermath of wars is the only time when moral ambiguities are (seemingly) eradicated, because the winners are right and the losers are wrong. Winning a war is proof that God was on our side.

Edward Snowden was and is an American patriot. He believes in the American constitution and the American way of life. What he didn't accept was the way the NSA and CIA were spying on normal citizens, uninvolved with criminal activities. The contents of Facebook, emails and everything else online was being monitored and stored. It was possible to observe people through the camera of laptops even when the laptop was turned off. I wonder if this is still possible now. Laptop manufacturers may have closed the security breach since it was revealed by Snowden. Maybe, maybe not.

As a protest I'm writing this post while sitting at my laptop completely naked. I hope Donald Trump will look at me after reading this post. I want to make him jealous. On the other hand, if there are any sexy super-spies checking my credentials, please come and visit me. You already have my address.

Since Snowden's revelations new laws have been passed in America forbidding the mass accumulation of private data. I don't take this seriously. This was already illegal, but government agencies did it anyway, and I'm certain they still do it now.

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Snowman (4 Stars)


Depending on its success, this is the first in a series of films about the Norwegian detective Harry Hole. Is that a typical Norwegian name? Up until now the author Jo Nesbo has written 11 books about him, all of which have become international bestsellers.

The film didn't take much to win me over. As soon as I saw the beautiful Norwegian scenery in the first five minutes I was in love with it. I would have given it a good rating whatever happened next. However, there were no disappointments for me, even though I'm not a big fan of murder mysteries.

Over a period of seven years women have been disappearing in different places in Norway. Sometimes their bodies were later found cut up into small pieces, sometimes they simply remained missing. Detective Harry Hole from Oslo is the first to suspect that the cases are related. They all have in common that the woman who was killed had a child from a man who wasn't her husband. A snowman was always found outside the woman's house; as we find out later in the film the snowman was built before the murder in preparation.

The film weaves through a series of surprises and fake clues, keeping the audience guessing until the end. The murderer taunts the detective, sending him clues about who his next victims will be before he kills them.

Michael Fassbender puts on an excellent performance in the lead role. The supporting characters also fill their roles well, especially Rebecca Ferguson as Harry Hole's assistant Katrine.

I've seen reviews that criticise the film for its complexity. It's impossible to please critics nowadays. Either a plot is too simple ("predictable") or too complex. I enjoyed the way the case kept heading towards a conclusion, only for something to happen at the last minute that proved the detective was wrong his assumptions. That's good storytelling.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Star Trek: Into Darkness (3 Stars)


After my disappointment with the previous Star Trek film I was reluctant to lay my money down to see "Star Trek: Into Darkness" in the cinema. It's now been available on Netflix for a while, so I finally broke down and watched it, more out of curiosity than anything else. I'm happy to say that it's better than the last film. It's quite good actually, almost worthy of a four star rating, but one thing holds me back: it's just not Star Trek.

For me it's sacrilegious for new actors to play the characters I've known and loved all my life. Zachary Quinto is relatively similar to Leonard Nimoy as Spock, but all the other actors are so distantly removed that I could weep. Chris Pine might be a good actor, but he's not James T. Kirk, not even close. I wouldn't recognise John Cho as Hikaru Sulu if his name weren't occasionally shouted. Worst of all is Zoe Saldana as Uhura, whose first name I refuse to speak or write. She's much too skinny for the role, and her personality in the film is nothing like that of the woman played by Nichelle Nichols in the original series. I still can't get over the fact that a romance is supposed to exist between Spock and Uhura. That's wrong, wrong, wrong!

Maybe I'll watch the film again one day and forget that it's supposed to be about Star Trek. Then I might give it a higher rating. Don't hold your breath while you're waiting.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

IT Chapter One (5 Stars)


This is a first for me. "IT Chapter One" is the first film that I've gone to see in the cinema three times. The first time was when it was the opening film of the Stuttgart Fantasy Film Festival, the second time was with my son Benjamin, the third time was today with my daughter Fiona. Benjamin loved the film, Fiona was less impressed. She's not a horror movie fan, but I expected her to like "IT" more. It's a classic horror film that relies on suspense, rather than excesses of gore, so I expected her to appreciate it more. My suspicion is that she was so shocked by the film's goriest scene, Georgie's arm being bitten off at the beginning, that she was turned off for the rest of the film.

I've read a few criticisms of the portrayal of Beverly Marsh in the film, claiming that she's sexualised as a young teenager in her bikini scene, and that there are hints of child abuse in her flirting with Derry's pharmacist, Mr. Keene. These criticisms obviously come from people with sexual hangups who don't get it, so I'll do my best to explain.

To put things straight, she's not wearing a bikini in her scene by the lake -- or is it the sea? -- it's her underwear. When she sees that the boys have stripped down to their underpants to dare one another to leap into the water she rips off her outer clothing and jumps first. That has nothing to do with sexualisation, it's about female empowerment. Anything boys can do girls can do better, which isn't just true for adults, it's true for 13-year-olds. Beverly pushes the boys out of the way and jumps first, forcing them to follow her and prove that they are real men.

So were the boys real men? The following scene shows that they aren't. Beverly lies by the water sunning herself while her underwear dries off. The boys sit staring at her, rigid and uncomfortable, unable to say a word. Beverly isn't innocent. She can feel the boys' eyes all over her body, and she's enjoying their discomfort. She's revelling in the power she has over them.


Boys stare. It's what they do. When I was 13 I stared at every girl who walked past. I stared at schoolgirls, and I stared at women who were twice my age. Now that I'm older the only difference is that I've learnt to stare less obviously. But sometimes I still get caught.

Concerning the scene with the pharmacist, how can anyone possibly see any child abuse in it? Isn't it obvious that Beverly is flirting with him, not the other way round? There are men who have a perverted interest in young girls. That's not who I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the normal, decent men who know what's right and wrong. When girls reach a certain age they notice boys staring at them. Boys of their own age do it so obviously that it's difficult to miss. But they also notice older boys staring, and even adult men. So what do they do? Insecure girls are embarrassed and try to cover up any flesh accidentally on display. Self-confident girls encourage the stares. What does a girl do if she's sitting in the classroom and she sees her teacher glancing at her legs? Some girls would pull the hem of their skirt down to cover themselves, while other girls would open their legs to give him a better view, gazing back at his face and hoping he will blush with embarrassment. That doesn't mean that the girl has any sexual desires for her teacher. It's merely a power game. "I can make you look at me. I can arouse you. You can't resist me".

That's what Beverly's flirting with the pharmacist is about. Power. She smiles at him, she makes compliments about his looks, she leans over the counter towards him. He's like a fish on a hook; he's trapped and he doesn't even know it. The difference between Beverly and the classroom teasers is that she's abusing him. While he's staring at Beverly he doesn't notice her friends stealing items from the store. This is a brashness that very few girls of her age would possess, but it happens. Beverly is a 13-year-old who is smart enough to be aware of her womanhood and strong enough to use it to her advantage.

The only child abuse we see in "IT" is the genuine abuse that Beverly suffers at the hands of her father. In a way he's the film's biggest monster. While the other children only have to face Pennywise, Beverly also has to battle to survive against her father. We can assume that this constant struggle is what has made her so strong.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (4 Stars)


This is a visually stunning film, clearly superior to the original. The atmosphere is so intense that it's terrifying. This film makes it clear that the world of Blade Runner is a post-apocalyptic scenario, which was only hinted at in the first film.

I went to see "Blade Runner" with the Birmingham Film Group, and we were more than 20 people. I wish the Stuttgart Cinema Meetup were as successful. When we discussed the film afterwards there were mixed opinions. Some considered it to be brilliant, whereas others considered it to be boring because it was too slow and unintelligible. Yes, the film is slow, but that's its strength. Yes, the film is difficult to understand, but when I sat at home in the evening and thought about it everything slotted into place. This is a film that needs to be watched more than once to be appreciated, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it even more next time.

Friday, 6 October 2017

General: I'm not dead


You see the skeleton in the picture? It's not me. I'm not lying. Whatever rumours might be spreading about my recent demise, I'm alive, and if that changes I'll let you know.

For the next two weeks I'll be posting less often because I'm on holiday. I'm visiting my daughter in England. Before I left home I expected to be watching films less often -- which is the case -- but I would still make occasional short posts. I wasn't prepared for what is facing me. My daughter has good quality Internet, but her computer is so slow that it's awkward for me to use. I don't know why, I haven't looked at the specs yet, but I can tell you that I wouldn't accept a computer like this for myself. For this reason I'll keep my posts to an absolute minimum for the next two weeks. Even if I want to share holiday snaps or anything like that, I'll wait to post them until I return to Germany. This post is just to let you know that I'm not dead.

I'll repeat it:

I'm not dead!


Monday, 2 October 2017

Victoria & Abdul (5 Stars)


This is a simply beautiful story that takes place from 1887 to 1901. It's a remarkable true story that was almost erased from history, until it was unearthed when a trunk full of personal correspondence were discovered in 2010.

Abdul Karim, born into a Moslem family in 1863, was a clerk who worked in a prison writing the names of the prisoners in the Agra jail as they were admitted and discharged. In 1887 he was selected to deliver Queen Victoria a gift for her golden jubilee and work as a servant at her meals. This wasn't because of any previous experiences as a servant, it was because he was the tallest Indian in Agra and considered to look imposing.

The Queen, who was 68 at the time, immediately took a liking to the young Indian. As their friendship developed she considered it inappropriate for him to remain a servant, so she gave him the title Munshi, "teacher". He taught her about Indian philosophy and Indian history, as well as teaching her how to read and write Urdu. In her last few years Victoria wrote her personal diaries in Urdu, which still exist today. The only displeasure Victoria ever had with Abdul was when she found out he was distorting Indian history to make Hindus sound evil and Moslems sound noble.

Queen Victoria's family and royal advisers were shocked by the close friendship between Victoria and Abdul. It was a mixture of racism, looking down on the lower classes and pure jealousy. Victoria didn't let herself be influenced by them. She gave Abdul many gifts and royal titles. This ended when she died in 1901. When Victoria's son Bertie became king (Edward VII) he evicted Abdul from his estate and ordered him to return to India as quickly as possible. All of the Queen's personal correspondence in Abdul's home was burnt, and all traces of Abdul in Buckingham Palace were destroyed. Only two pieces of evidence remain:

1. Queen Victoria's diaries, written in Urdu, were spared, probably because nobody knew what they were.

2. Queen Victoria wrote many letters to Abdul while he was visiting India, which were stored in an unopened trunk from his death in 1909 until 2010.

The film contains a lot of comedy, especially in the first half hour, but as it develops it becomes serious. The relationship between the Queen and her Munshi is moving, while the personal animosity that Abdul received is tragic. This is a story that sounds too bizarre to be true.

Kick-Ass (5 Stars)


In my review of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" yesterday I talked about the two Quicksilvers. Aaron Johnson has been playing Quicksilver since "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014), and Evan Peters has been playing Quicksilver since "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (also 2014). What I forgot to mention yesterday is that the two actors had already appeared together in a superhero film in 2010: "Kick-Ass".


Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a schoolboy who decides to become a superhero, even though he has no powers. Evan Peters plays Todd Haynes, one of Dave's best friends, a schoolboy who is happy being just a schoolboy. Four years later they both became Quicksilver. I wonder which one of them is faster.

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Avengers: Age of Ultron (4½ Stars)

Aaron Johnson as Quicksilver.

Fans of Marvel films have probably noticed something strange in recent films. There are two different actors who play Quicksilver, Aaron Johnson in the Avengers films and Evan Peters in the X-Men films. Their secret identities are almost the same: Pietro Maximoff in the Avengers films and Peter Maximoff in the X-Men films. In the X-Men films he's an only child and his father is Magneto. In the Avengers films he has a twin sister called Wanda and his father is unknown.

The reason for this confusion is the legal ownership of Marvel's characters by film studios. 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the X-Men, while the Avengers and most of Marvel's other characters belong to Marvel Studios. Quicksilver and his sister, known in the comics as the Scarlet Witch, are a grey zone. They were first introduced as villains in X-Men #4, but they later became members of the Avengers in Avengers #16. For that reason they can be used in both film series, although 20th Century Fox has decided not to use Wanda as a character. Magneto can't appear or even be named in the Avengers films because his character belongs exclusively to 20th Century Fox.

Evan Peters as Quicksilver.

Now the problem has been solved, temporarily at least. Quicksilver has been killed in "Avengers: Age of Ultron". Yes, that's a spoiler, but I assume my readers all know about it by now. I say "temporarily", because there's a common saying that "In Marvel comics nobody stays dead except for Ben Parker". That's not just true of the comics. Jean Grey was also killed in "X-Men: The Last Stand" but returned in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" after Wolverine changed the past. Somehow it's easier to accept that in comics than in films.

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Saturday, 30 September 2017

IT Chapter One [2017] (5 Stars)


I already watched "IT Chapter One" at Stuttgart's Fantasy Film Festival, but it's good enough to watch a second time. After all, I doubt I'll buy it on Blu-ray until both chapters are available.

Instead of writing another review I'll just post a gallery of the Loser's Club, with the details of the actors who play them.

Ben Hanscom, played by Jeremy Taylor, DOB 2 June 2003

Beverly Marsh, played by Sophia Lillis, DOB 13 February 2002

Bill Denbrough, played by Jaeden Lieberher, DOB 4 January 2003

Eddie Kaspbrak, played by Jack Grazer, DOB 3 September 2003

Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs, DOB 3 July 2001

Richie Tozier, played by Finn Wolfhard, DOB 23 December 2002

Stanley Uris, played by Wyatt Oleff, DOB 13 July 2003


Confessions Of A Sociopathic Social Climber (4 Stars)


It's been so long since I've watched this film -- six years -- that I'd forgotten how good it is.

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Katya Livingstone, a wannabe socialite and compulsive liar in San Francisco. She earns more than $100,000 a year in an advertising bureau, but she only got the job because she lied about her university degree. Don't they check things like that in America? Nevertheless, she's good at her job. Someone as shallow as her knows what appeals to other shallow people, so she's a valuable asset to her company. All her money is spent on her image to promote herself in the San Francisco party scene, whether it's clothes or jewellery, but even there she's willing to cheat. For instance, she buys expensive dresses for parties, then returns them afterwards, taking advantage of store 30 day return policies. Her best friend is a gay man, because in San Francisco it's considered chic to have a gay best friend. Supposedly gay men know best how a woman should look. Is there any truth in that?


The top socialite in the San Francisco scene is Dove Greenstein. Katya keeps close to her, feigning friendship  in order to belong to belong to the in crowd. This ploy breaks down when she's caught having sex with Dove's latest husband during the wedding reception. Even worse, she tells a local newspaper Dove's real age. A few months later there's a party as a fundraiser for Youth Aid, stylised as a Royal Ball, the biggest social event of the year. Everyone who is anyone in San Francisco will be there, but Dove Greenstein is responsible for the invitations, which she sends in the form of golden keys. Ouch! Katya devotes her whole life to getting an invitation, either stealing one or attaching herself to someone as a plus one.


Is there a moral to the story? Yes, a very shallow moral to match the life of a shallow party girl. Money can't buy you love. Or maybe it can, if you take advantage of the 30 day return policy. Katya will happily sink into the arms of any man willing to give her a golden key for the Royal Ball. Or is there more to love more than beautiful clothes and lavish parties? Katya has to find out the answer for herself.

Sketch of the Week #2


Do you like my little sketches? Let me know. If you think they look stupid tell me, I promise I won't be insulted.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Chappie (4½ Stars)


When "Chappie" was made it was intended to be the first film in a trilogy. After initial vague responses the director Neill Blomkamp has clearly stated that the sequels will never be made. His reason is that it didn't perform well enough at the box office. I don't understand that. It earned more than double its budget at the box office, which means that the film at least broke even.

Maybe Neill Blomkamp's personal cut wasn't enough to buy the new Porsche he was eyeing in the showroom. Whatever the reason, he's made up his mind, so there's no use in trying to persuade him. Maybe as time passes he'll think differently when he sees it growing in esteem as a cult film, but nothing that you or I can say will make any difference.

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Little Miss Millions (4 Stars)


"Little Miss Millions", also known as "Home For Christmas", is about a 12-year-old girl called Heather Lofton. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and she went to live with her father who remarried, rather than remaining with her mother who would have been a single mother. Her father has recently died and she can't stand her stepmother, so she decides to run away from home (in Los Angeles) to be with her mother in Denver, Colorado.

The father was a multi-millionaire and he's left his money to his daughter, so the stepmother is anxious to get her back, since she has been liberally dipping into her daughter's bank account since his death. Supposedly a parent is allowed to withdraw $5000 from an underage child's account at any time, but if the withdrawals are too frequent it has to be proved that the money is needed to be used for the child's care.

The stepmother hires a private detective called Nick Frost -- that's a good name! -- to find her daughter, offering him a reward of $500,000, but a few hours later she reports to the police that Nick has kidnapped her. This is a mean trick, but I fail to see why she did it. If she didn't want to pay the money, why couldn't she just have told the police she had run away? Maybe she expects the police to take a kidnapping more seriously than a runaway child? I don't know.


The story is about the relationship between Heather and the detective. At first she hates him because he's taking her back to her stepmother, but as the journey continues she realises he has her best interests at heart and begins to regard the seemingly heartless detective as a father figure. Nick dodges the cops, who are hilariously incompetent, in order to earn his money, but he begins to wonder if he is taking Heather back to the right place.

What's the reason for the film's alternative title? Heather runs away on December 20th.

The film is well written and competently acted, as is to be expected of all of Jim Wynorski's films. I don't know what the target audience is supposed to be. It doesn't seem suitable as a family film. Most parents would want to tell their daughters to go to the police rather than trust an older man, but "Little Miss Millions" gives the opposite advice. Obviously it's not a film intended to be watched by adults, but I'm not just any adult. I enjoy it as an alternative to Marvel blockbusters.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse (4½ Stars)


This is a film based on a Marvel villain who was first invented in 1986, when Marvel's non-canon period had begun. For that reason I'll make no attempt to reconcile Apocalypse with the comics, whether it was the Uncanny X-Men or any of the other myriad X-Men spin-off comics.

Apocalypse is said to have been the first mutant. This jars with me, because the whole premise of mutants is that they were a new arrival in the 20th Century. This is briefly mentioned and dismissed in the film: "We always assumed that mutants didn't arrive until the 20th Century, but we were wrong". So Stan Lee was wrong? I'm sad that he gave his approval to the film by appearing in a small cameo. Doesn't he realise what they're doing with his valuable creations, twisting and distorting them however they wish?

I'm not sure that "X-Men: Apocalypse" is even retaining continuity with the previous X-Men films. I shan't comment any further until I have a chance to watch all the X-Men films in release order, starting with the adult X-Men films and then continuing with the prequels.

Apocalypse is shown as the ruler of Egypt in 3600 BC. In the middle of transferring his consciousness into the body of another mutant he's betrayed, and his pyramid is destroyed. In 1980 he's awakened by the prayers of his loyal servants, who are unfortunately destroyed as he arises. He intends to destroy the world and recreate it in his own image, but first he searches for four mutants to support him, his "four horses of the Apocalypse". He selects Magneto, Psylocke, Storm and Angel, who he considers to be the world's strongest mutants. Only later does he discover Charles Xavier, who he considers to be the strongest mutant of all.

Once more the Phoenix force is shown to be part of Jean Grey's mutant powers. That annoys me every time it's said. I might not care if Apocalypse is shown differently from the comics, but Jean Grey should be portrayed accurately.

Nevertheless, this is a good film, full of action and excitement. Michael Fassbender proves once more that he's the best Magneto, giving the character even more emotional depth than in the first films.

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A Lonely Place to Die (4 Stars)


I'd change one letter in the film's title. "A Lovely Place to Die" would be fitting. With the exception of the town scenes, the film was made in the area between Glen Coe and Fort William, the most attractive scenery on Earth, in my humble opinion. Scotland's highest mountains are by the sea, giving amazing backdrops. It's true, Scotland's mountains aren't as high as the mountains in central Europe, but where else can you climb a mountain starting at zero meters above sea level?


I have holiday photos that closely match this view. The forest on the right of the picture is still the same shape as it was in the 1980's. I was probably walking across the ridge in the middle of the photo. That brings back memories. I wasn't a mountain climber, I was a hiker. The west side of Ben Nevis has a path to the peak that isn't steep and can be easily climbed by anyone with average fitness.

At first glance the film looks like the story of a mountain climbing disaster. That's what I expected when I picked up the film from the bargain bin of a store in Stuttgart. That isn't the case.

Five friends (three men, two women) are in the Scottish Highlands for mountain climbing. When they're hiking towards a peak they find Anna, an eight-year-old Serbian girl, trapped in a hole. They free her and decide to take her back to the nearest town. They have no way of communicating with her to find out why she's there. The viewers soon find out. She's the daughter of a Serbian warlord who's been kidnapped and held to ransom. She was being kept in a secure place while the kidnappers were waiting for the payment of six million Euros.

The kidnappers discover that Anna is missing and hunt down the hikers. Only two survive the journey to the town, but that isn't the end. They're caught in the middle of a battle between the kidnappers and Serbian soldiers, while the Beltane festival is being celebrated in the streets around them.


This is an exciting action film. It's slightly difficult to believe that young hikers could survive while being hunted by trained soldiers, but I can accept it in the context of fiction. Melissa George is the only actress in the film that I know, and she's as excellent as always. Other reviewers criticise the plot, and I have to agree with them, but I've given it a high rating for the scenery alone.

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Liar Liar (4 Stars)


"My Dad's a liar. He wears a suit and goes to court and talks to the judge".

That might sound like a joke, but it's the most serious statement in the film. Five-year-old Max knows exactly what his Dad is. He doesn't need to be corrected. Lying is an integral part of a lawyer's job, especially if he's a defence lawyer. I've watched court cases in recent years. I watched the Jodi Arias murder trial online. I'm certain that Jodi's lawyers knew she was guilty, but they had to present arguments to prove her innocence. Ironically, that's required by the legal systems of most countries. Anyone accused of a crime has the right to the best possible defence. Lawyers are paid to lie. It's their job.

I've mentioned a few times that I didn't become a real film fan until 2003. I'd say that my film viewing has gone through four phases:

1. While I lived with my parents I watched random films on television.

2. After leaving my parents I had no television and only occasionally went to the cinema, so I rarely watched films. Beginning in 1997 I occasionally rented films on videotape, but not often.

3. In 2003 I bought my first DVD player, which kick-started my passion for films. I began to watch films daily at home, but only rarely visited the cinema to watch new films.

4. In 2013 I joined the Birmingham Film Club and began to go to the cinema about twice a week, while still watching films daily at home.

Phase 2 lasted 25 years, 1978 to 2003, which is why I have gaps in my film knowledge. Sometimes I'm talking to friends, film fans like me, and they're amazed when they mention a film that I've not watched or maybe haven't even heard of. It wasn't until 2003 that I started discovering the big films that were made from 1980 onwards, and I still haven't completely caught up.

Why am I writing that? It's because of Jim Carrey. He's been making films since the early 1980's. His first lead role was "All in good taste", made in 1983, a film I still haven't seen. In fact, I've seen very few of his early films, and I didn't watch "Liar Liar" until 2008, ten years after it was made.


Jim Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a defence lawyer in Los Angeles. He's good at his job. He can help any crook be found innocent. But for Fletcher lying isn't just his career, it's a way of life. He lies to his colleagues, he lies to his ex-wife, and worst of all he lies to his son Max. On Max's fifth birthday he makes a wish: he wishes that his father won't tell lies for a whole day. Poof! Whichever magic fairy is responsible for answering children's wishes, it comes true. For 24 hours Fletcher has to tell the truth. This creates absolute chaos in his career.


His client on his truth day is Samantha Cole, played by the voluptuous Jennifer Tilly. Her millionaire husband is divorcing her because of her infidelity, and she wants half of his cash. Fletcher considers her to be a slut who doesn't deserve anything. Normally he would say the opposite in court, but this is his truth day.

This is a magnificent film, full of the zaniness that characterised Jim Carrey's early films. I really need to watch more of them.

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Almighty Thor (4 Stars)


Some of you might have heard that there were two films made about Thor, the God of Thunder, in 2011. One was a big budget film about the Marvel superhero that cost $150 million. The other was a made for television film, first shown on America's Syfy channel, that cost a staggering $200,000. Which was the best? I can already hear you shrieking "The Marvel film". I agree, but the difference in quality isn't as big as you might think. A review in the Guardian actually found the low budget Thor film better.

The question is, what are we comparing? Is it even fair to compare two films when one of them had a budget 750 times as big as the other? Watching "Almighty Thor" today I had to ask myself how it could possibly look so good on such a small budget. The special effects are magnificent. The cinematography is perfect. The acting is first class.

It's a modern phenomenon that low budget films look good. Digital cameras give high quality for a cheap price. Aspiring cinematographers, fresh from film school, cut their teeth on small budget films while they're hoping to get a break and work for the big studios. On the other hand, I have to point out that the director is Christopher Ray. He's one of the world's biggest experts at making good films on a tight budget.

As for the acting, I'd like to concentrate on the lead actor, Cody Deal. After playing a few minor roles he auditioned for the role of Thor in the Marvel film. He was turned down in favour of Chris Hemsworth. Shortly afterwards he was given the role of Thor in this film. After seeing him today I wonder if the correct casting choice was made by Marvel. Cody is an excellent actor who could have carried the role for Marvel Studios for years to come.

The other actors are reasonable, although none stand out as much as Cody. Richard Grieco is a competent actor as Loki, but he doesn't portray the sheer maliciousness of Tom Hiddleston. Kevin Nash looks better than Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but he's only a wrestler, so we can't expect too much of him.


The film begins with a battle between Loki and Odin. Loki wants to destroy Yggdrasil, the tree of life, in order to bring about Ragnarok. The only weapon capable of destroying Yggdrasil is a hammer that belongs to Odin. Loki kills Odin, but as he dies Odin casts the hammer into a vortex where his son Thor can find it. Thor, as hot-headed as always, wants to battle Loki immediately, but he meets a Valkyrie called Jarnsaxa, who tells him that he can't defeat Loki without the hammer. Together Thor and Jarnsaxa flee to Los Angeles, closely pursued by Loki.


Doesn't Cody Deal look perfect as a blond-haired Norse God? I'm hoping to see a lot of him in the future. He's recently appeared in two films made by Dean McKendrick, "Deadly Pickup" and "Cosmic Calendar Girls". They're not bad films, but I'm sure he has much bigger roles ahead of him.


The actress who plays Jarnsaxa looked familiar, but I couldn't remember where I'd seen her before. Thanks to IMDB I know the answer. She's Patricia Velasquez, who played Anck Su Namun in "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns". I haven't seen her since then because she's been concentrating on a career in television series. It's good to see her again.

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