City Under Siege aka Chun sing gai bei (2010) – 6/10 mutant superhero action film review

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Cast / crew
Producer: Chiu Suet Ying
Aaron Kwok: Sunny
Shu Qi: Angel
Collin Chou: Zhang Dachu
Wu Jing:
Zhang Jingchu: Cheng Xiuhua
Editor: Benny Chan
Screenplay Writer: Benny Chan
Screenplay Writer: Ling Chi Man
Screenplay Writer: Carson Lau
Producer: Benny Chan
Director: Benny Chan

City Under Siege aka Chun sing gai bei (2010)

After being infected with a WWII bio-chemical weapon, some former members of a circus troupe go bad and cause violence and mayhem but, after swallowing his own body weight in sea water and a good bout of diarrhoea, Sunny isn’t affected as badly and retains his humanity along with superhuman speed and strength.

6/10

As I was expecting some sort of crime thriller (I was only watching this as it was a Benny Chan film and I hadn’t seen anything else about it), it came as something of a surprise to find out it was a mutated-human monster movie. As such, it’s watchable and entertaining for the most part though it does go past deliberately goofy, straight through serious, pushes through spoof and bursts out the other side into mildly glorious over-the-top cheese-tastic insanity. Whether that’s good or not, well, I watched it happily until the end and enjoyed a particularly good chuckle at the bad guys demise.

This movie contains mild swear words, extreme violence, gory and unpleasant scenes

Appleseed Alpha (2014) – 6/10 post-apocalyptic mecha action anime movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Storyboard Artist: Shinji Aramaki
Screenplay Writer: Marianne Krawczyk
Story Writer: Masamune Shirow
Producer: Joseph Chou
CGI Director and Storyboard Artist: Masaru Matsumoto
Deunan: Luci Christian
Briareos: David Matranga
Wendel Calvert: Two Horns
Chris Hutchinson: Matthews
Adam Gibbs: Olson
Actress and Motion Capture Performer Iris: Brina Palencia
Josh Sheltz: Talos
Elizabeth Bunch: Nyx
Actor and Motion Capture Performer Briareos: David Matranga
Motion Capture Performer Deunan: Alissa Simmons

Appleseed Alpha (2014)

Deunan and Briareos are struggling to get by as mercenaries following World War Three and are currently indentured to Two Horns, a gangster who has taken over the remains of New York City. He sends them out on a simple droid-clearing assignment but they run into Olsen and a mysterious girl and find new meaning to their lives.

6/10

Entertaining and good-looking action movie which isn’t as successful at capturing the audience’s emotions as it is trying to be. Fortunately, it isn’t grasping too hard and so you don’t find the emotional beats funny. This is not a negative review but the action likewise doesn’t break out of adequate; a lack of imagination and logic means that there are some reasonably exciting scenes which end when their time is up, not because a character or plot point or logical action caused it to end. None of the action in the Appleseed CG movies has ever been close to the heights of the opening scene of the first one.  With these faults noted, though, I still enjoyed the movie, I liked the characters enough and was never remotely bored. Villain Two Horns is an unexpected highlight but some of the visuals are clearly the talking point; the environments and explosions are photo-realistic and the characters are highly convincing without using the anime-style of previous outings or descending into the distracting uncanny valley.

This movie contains strong violence, adult dialogue

The Croods (2013) – 7/10 CG animated adventure movie

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Cast / crew
Actor, Director and Writer Belt: Chris Sanders
Director and Writer: Kirk De Micco
Nicolas Cage: Grug
Emma Stone: Eep
Ryan Reynolds: Guy

The Croods (2013)

Grug Crood’s world is about to come crashing down around him. His teenage daughter, Eep, is gaining her independence and questioning some of his rules against new things and curiosity. On top of that, the world is about to come crashing down around him. Literally.

7/10

Chris Sanders, with this and How to Train Your Dragon (he also did Lilo & Stitch for Disney which had promise and style but big tonal problems), has moved himself into the list of directors it is certainly worth paying attention to. There are a good number of very funny moments and a generally nice tone. Nicolas Cage provides another great piece of voice work (after Astro Boy). But the title! The title is just awful. I don’t want to see a crude film on the big screen, especially not one marketed at children. This is absolutely not crude at all. (Surprising, given that it is a Dreamworks Animation project.) That said, it’s certainly not without plot or character problems. It promotes rebelliousness and disrespect for your father and the idea that they are less wise and insightful than their children; a bafflingly common Hollywood theme. You can become an independent adult without arguing and fighting and being impertinent and disrespectful but you never get that message from Hollywood. And the parting message seems to be "Follow the sun" which, I shouldn’t have to say, is remarkably nonsensical advice. Anyway, while The Croods is blighted by typical Hollywood morals and a dreadful title, it’s easy to look past that and see a fun, funny, warm-hearted film.

This movie contains comic violence

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Basil: The Great Mouse Detective (1986) – 5/10 Disney animated crime detective movie review

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Cast / crew
Vincent Price: Professor Ratigan
Barrie Ingham: Basil
Val Bettin: Dawson
Susanne Pollatschek: Olivia
Candy Candido: Fidget
Diana Chesney: Mrs. Judson
Eve Brenner: The Mouse Queen
Alan Young: Flaversham
Music: Henry Mancini
Director, Producer and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Burny Mattinson
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: John Musker
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: David Michener
Director and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Ron Clements
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Pete Young
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Vance Gerry
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Steve Hulett
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Bruce M. Morris
Character Animator and Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Matthew O’Callaghan
Story Adaptor Based on the “Basil of Baker Street” book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone: Melvin Shaw
Original Book Series Writer Basil of Baker Street: Eve Titus
Original Book Series Writer Basil of Baker Street: Paul Galdone
Supervising Animator: Mark Henn
Supervising Animator: Glen Keane
Supervising Animator: Rob Minkoff
Supervising Animator: Hendel Butoy
Animation Consultant: Eric Larson

Basil: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Basil takes on the case of Olivia Flaversham whose toymaker father has been kidnapped by archenemy Ratigan.

5/10

Minor Disney animation which makes up for some slow moving and uninteresting segments with a decent climax inside Big Ben and a couple of good songs ("Let Me Be Good to You" and "Goodbye, So Soon"). It’s also probably the only animated Disney movie where the hero smokes and a character offers to take off all her clothes for you. The Big Ben sequence also boasts Disney’s first blending of CGI with character animation; Ratigan’s run through the gears of Big Ben’s clock mechanisms remains superb to this day. Apart from this final section, though, the animation is merely adequate. Disney animations are generally famed for their smoothness, fluidity and convincing weight and movement. It certainly looks like corners were cut in the frame rate, especially with the Queen automaton.

This movie contains violence

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

Rise of the Guardians (2012) – 6/10 animated fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Burgess Pedestrian #2: Peter Ramsey
Producer: Christina Steinberg
Producer: Nancy Bernstein
Executive Producer, Original Book Series Writer and Original Short Film Director Book series “Guardians of Childhood” and Reel FX short film “The Man in the Moon”: William Joyce
Screenplay Writer Based on “Guardians of Childhood” the Book Series by William Joyce and “The Man in the Moon” A Reel FX short film Directed by William Joyce: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jack Frost: Chris Pine
Alec Baldwin: North
Jude Law: Pitch
Isla Fisher: Tooth
Hugh Jackman: Bunny
Animation Supervisor: Antony Gray
Animation Supervisor: Steven “Shaggy” Hornby
Animation Supervisor: Philippe Le Brun
Animation Supervisor: David Pate
Animation Supervisor: Pierre Perifel

Rise of The Guardians (2012)

North, Tooth, Sandy and Bunny are Guardians of children’s dreams; that’s a job now. Nevertheless, they are surprised when the Man in the Moon (keep up) announces that a new Guardian is to be appointed, Jack Frost, but Jack is less than thrilled at the honour and more interested in having endless fun just as he has been for the last *double-checks* three-hundred years.

6/10

This is an expertly crafted movie with good voice work and animation and it is frequently engrossing through pure movie-making technique. The problem comes from the concept which sounds cool (and a similar idea certainly worked in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) but never quite gels. I suspect that if this had foregone the Hollywood tradition of having a bad guy and made the story work with apathy, commercialism and indifference providing the reason for children not believing in Santa – excuse me, North – et al, we would have had a more convincing and interesting movie. Bafflingly, the movie ends with a technically superb scene (the editing, staging and music are all top-notch) with what might be the stupidest piece of advice ever given by one human being to another: "When the moon tells you something, believe it." Huh?

This movie contains scary scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

World War Z (2013) – 7/10 action horror movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Executive Producer: Marc Forster
Actor and Producer Gerry Lane: Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos: Karin Lane
Daniella Kertesz: Segen
James Badge Dale: Captain Speke
David Morse: Ex-CIA Agent
Producer: Dede Gardner
Producer: Jeremy Kleiner
Producer: Ian Bryce
Writer (Original Novel): Max Brooks
Screen Story and Screenplay Writer Based on the Novel by Max Brooks: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Screen Story Writer Based on the Novel by Max Brooks: J. Michael Straczynski
Screenplay Writer: Drew Goddard
Screenplay Writer: Damon Lindelof

World War Z (2013)

An outbreak of something causes people to turn into zombies. Former UN Investigator Gerry Lane is plucked to safety and reinstated to find patient zero but the ferocity of the situation is unprecedented.

7/10

Intense, eye-catching action horror movie which turns zombies into a genuine threat. World War Z‘s monsters are a remarkable achievement both in threat design (they are extremely fast and overwhelming) and in special visual effects. There is no thought crossing your mind of the technical achievements on screen, just that there is an extremely dangerous threat to Brad Pitt on screen and that is the magic tipping point for a visual effect. If it’s enough that you are in the moment of the story-telling and not, even subconsciously, dismissing it because it hasn’t convinced or engaged you, the technical achievement has been a resounding success. I hate even the concept of zombie movies (I don’t understand the popularity of raping, thieving, murdering pirates either) and the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense but I really enjoyed being swept along by this.

This movie contains strong, sometimes graphic, but not gratuitous (given the genre) violence, one extremely gory and unpleasant amputation scene and other gory and unpleasant scenes

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Hitchcock (2012) – 6/10 biographical movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Screenplay Writer Based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello: John J. McLaughlin
Writer (Book) Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho: Stephen Rebello
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Producer: Tom Pollock
Producer: Joe Medjuck
Producer: Tom Thayer
Producer: Alan Barnette
Alfred Hitchcock: Anthony Hopkins
Alma Reville: Helen Mirren
Janet Leigh: Scarlett Johansson
Toni Collette: Peggy
Danny Huston: Whitfield Cook
Vera Miles: Jessica Biel
Michael Stuhlbarg: Lew Wasserman
Anthony Perkins: James D’Arcy
Ed Gein: Michael Wincott
Kurtwood Smith: Geoffrey Shurlock
Richard Portnow: Barney Balaban

Hitchcock (2012)

Craving a creative renaissance after the success of North by Northwest, feted director Alfred Hitchcock settles upon a lurid little horror story inspired by the life and crimes of notorious serial killer Ed Gein: Psycho. However, his movie-making partners are mortified at his descent into the world of meaningless B-movie exploitation and Hitch will need to call upon all his reserves of self-confidence and the support of his wife and constant creative partner Alma Reville.

6/10

Gentle down-to-earth, rather fictional and unofficial biopic looking at the time surrounding the production and release of Psycho and the important role that Alma Reville, Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock, played in his life and art. Viewers are likely unaware of her importance and, even though he perhaps didn’t always treat her as well as he should, Hitchcock himself knew how critical she was; his AFI Lifetime Achievement speech contains a nice eulogy and they remained, reportedly happily, married for 50-odd years.

This movie contains adult dialogue, sexuality, unpleasant scenes, brief violence

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

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