Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – 7/10 science fiction fantasy action adventure movie review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Luke Skywalker has disappeared. No-one knows why. In his and all Jedi’s absence, the evil First Order has risen to be within a hair’s breadth of taking control of the galaxy. No-one knows why. At this critical stage, both the Resistance and First Order are after one thing: a map containing the location of Luke Skywalker. No-one knows why.

7/10

J.J. Abrams treads accurately in the sandy footprints of George Lucas with this fan service-packed remake of Star Wars. While it’s action is immediately forgettable due to Abrams choosing not to give it a shape or story of it’s own and suffers badly in comparison with the Death Star attack from the original (which remains one of the greatest action sequences of all time; it’s always clear what they’re trying to do and why this piece of action on screen now is helping to accomplish that while naturally building and focusing on the one critical path), Abrams has come up trumps with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and gone the extra mile with the three lead characters (the aforementioned and Harrison Ford) and villain Kylo Ren. He also oversaw a perfect trailer campaign with no story spoilers or even hints. While he doesn’t keep temporal or spatial control of his story (people can do anything in any amount of time and appear wherever they need to) and fumbles the codas, Abrams has otherwise made an efficient, furiously-paced, fun adventure. (As a side note, I don’t know why it’s 12A, PG would have been fine)

Content Summary

This movie contains violence, violent interrogation scenes

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

Cast / crew

Director, Producer and Writer: J.J. Abrams
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan
Writer: Michael Arndt
Characters Creator: George Lucas
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy
Producer: Bryan Burk
Music: John Williams
Han Solo: Harrison Ford
Luke Skywalker: Mark Hamill
Princess Leia Organa: Carrie Fisher
Kylo Ren: Adam Driver
Rey: Daisy Ridley
Finn (Star Wars): John Boyega
Poe Dameron: Oscar Isaac
Lupita Nyong’o: Maz Kanata
Supreme Leader Snoke: Andy Serkis
Domhnall Gleeson: General Hux
C-3PO: Anthony Daniels
Max von Sydow: Lor San Tekka

The Jungle Book (2016) – 7/10 adventure movie review

The Jungle Book (2016)

When Shere Khan learns of the prescence of mancub Mowgli – who has been brought up by wolves after being discovered in the jungle – he vows to kill him as soon as the current drought-enforced peace treaty ends. When the waters return, so does Khan with a terrible fury.

7/10

Slightly subdued but otherwise very nicely executed adaptation of both Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book and Walt Disney’s 1967 film The Jungle Book. Neel Sethi is great as Mowgli while the animal cast is uncharismatic (especially when compared to the 1967 film) but fine. The two songs are integrated well but performed without much life or energy. The main talking point is how wonderful the visual effects achievement is; while not perfect (Kaa is not up to the standard of the furry animals, every animal’s but especially Shere Khan’s face looks too big and his entrance has some slightly wrong animation of him dropping down ledges), it instantly suspends disbelief, the flora and fauna are completely convincing and the furry animals (especially the wolf Raksha) look stunning most of the time. I also very much liked the opening multi-plane-esque hand-drawn animated Walt Disney logo. A highly worthwhile remake which may become a touchstone for a new audience.

Content Summary

This movie contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Cast / crew

Director and Producer: Jon Favreau
Screenplay Writer: Justin Marks
Book Writer: Rudyard Kipling
Mowgli: Neel Sethi
Baloo: Bill Murray
Bagheera: Ben Kingsley
Shere Khan: Idris Elba
King Louie: Christopher Walken

Bang Bang! (2014) – 7/10 action musical romance movie review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Film) Knight and Day: Patrick O’Neill
Hrithik Roshan: Rajveer Nanda
Katrina Kaif: Harleen Sahani
Pavan Raj Malhotra: Zorawar Kalwa
Danny Denzongpa: Omar Zafar
Javed Jaffrey: Hamid Gul
Screenplay Writer: Sujoy Ghosh
Screenplay Writer: Suresh Nair
Writer (Dialogue): Abbas Tyrewala
Director: Siddarth Anand

Bang Bang! (2014)

A bank receptionist winds up on the most thrilling blind date ever with an international thief who is wanted dead by both sides of the law.

7/10

Tremendously entertaining, energetic and almost ridiculously good-looking action thriller that suffers from the same problem as Tom Cruise original Knight and Day in that the romance simply doesn’t work when the hero kills scores of dudes in the action scenes (at least they’re all baddies here). While women may like excitement and Hrithik Roshan with his shirt off (blimey), they probably aren’t amazingly thrilled when people are being shot and beaten to death right in their face or with being drugged and kidnapped. Repeatedly. (It’s also rather more violent than you might expect a 12A to be.) However, this is a film that works despite incoherence and ridiculousness. The action is fantastically cool, there’s a flyboarding action sequence which is a first, a GP2 car makes a surprise appearance, the songs are fine and look amazing and the wonderfully supple and charismatic Roshan keeps taking his shirt off and dancing to endlessly astonishing effect.

This movie contains extreme violence, bad language, sensuality

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

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Snow White and The Huntsman (2012) – 7/10 fantasy action adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Rupert Sanders
Screen Story and Screenplay Writer: Evan Daugherty
Screenplay Writer: John Lee Hancock
Screenplay Writer: Hossein Amini
Producer: Joe Roth
Producer: Sam Mercer
Snow White: Kristen Stewart
Charlize Theron: Ravenna
Chris Hemsworth: The Huntsman
Sam Claflin: William
Ian McShane: Beith
Bob Hoskins: Muir
Ray Winstone: Gort
Nick Frost: Nion
Sam Spruell: Finn

Snow White and The Huntsman (2012)

A wicked Queen usurps a kingdom’s power and rules it with an iron unfeeling fist. Her only objective is to remain ‘the fairest of them all’ and considering this is Charlize Theron we’re talking about, she does; no-one gets close. The end.

7/10

This is an engrossing, enjoyable, great-looking adventure movie that is thrilling despite badly edited action sequences typical of contemporary Hollywood. You could easily argue about faults and some incoherence but, for me, the movie captured my attention and more than kept it. The technical achievements of the production are also eye-catching with the dwarves unbelievably convincing and impressively unnecessary (dwarves exist and they will appear in your movie for a fee). I suspect one of the most glaring problems is also the film’s best actor: Charlize Theron. She is in a different class of beauty and charisma than Kristen Stewart. Theron goes full hernia-inducing insane but at no point is she not "the fairest of them all" and by some distance, too. She is photographed magnificently throughout (it is a superb-looking film overall) and, well, if you had to be stabbed during sex with anyone, Charlize Theron in full charisma and hotness mode would be at the top of the list.

This movie contains strong violence

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

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – 7/10 Ray Harryhausen fantasy adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
Sinbad: Kerwin Mathews
Kathryn Grant: Princess Parisa
Richard Eyer: The Genie
Torin Thatcher: Sokurah the Magician
Writer: Kenneth Kolb
Special Visual Effects Creator: Ray Harryhausen
Producer: Charles H. Schneer
Director: Nathan Juran

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

A sorcerer hatches a cunning plan to get Sinbad and an armed crew to go back to an island inhabited by cyclops, dragons and two-headed vultures to get his hands on a magic lamp with incredible powers.

7/10

The creatures are great, Kathryn Grant is sweet,  Torin Thatcher is treacherous but everything else is average; which makes this jolly adventure one of best films to feature Harryhausen’s incredible effects work. 7th Voyage fills the bits inbetween Ray Harryhausen’s distinctive and rather splendid FX work with humour and treachery instead of dull wooden acting. It makes a nice change to see Harryhausen’s work in an entertaining film. His special effects, while looking rather dated in the late 1990’s, are still special and are a wonderful testament to a master of the art. Too often, though, his work is the only good thing about otherwise dreadful movies. This movie is a nice exception, the bits inbetween the special effects are still reasonably entertaining and involving.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes

Le Havre (2011) – 7/10 refreshingly pleasant movie review

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Cast / crew
André Wilms: Marcel Marx
Kati Outinen: Arletty
Jean-Pierre Darroussin: Monet
Blondin Miguel: Idrissa
Elina Salo: Claire
Evelyne Didi: Yvette
Quoc-Dung Nquyen: Chang
Laika:
Director, Producer and Writer: Aki Kaurismäki

Le Havre (2011)

Marcel Marx has a happy existence as a shoe shiner thanks to good relationships with his neighbours, pub mates and beloved wife, Arletty. One day, a young African refugee, Idrissa, comes into his life and Marcel responds with kindness and generosity despite his meagre means.

7/10

Uncommonly warm-hearted drama that sees the usual backbone of the genre, conflict, replaced entirely with generosity. This positivity is something that I’ve only really experienced from master animator Hayao Miyazaki and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie. Now, Le Havre is quite captivating and paced nicely but despite the ending, there’s no magic; the movie never becomes special and it never touched me. Miyazaki and Amelie consistently engender joy, wonder and delight at their best while Le Havre just happens. That said, it is absolutely worth watching and a refreshingly pleasant experience.

This movie contains bad language

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Aces Go Places II (1983) – 7/10 action comedy movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Fattie: Eric Tsang
Screenplay Writer: Bak-Ming Wong
Sam Hui: King Kong
Karl Maka: Albert Au
Sylvia Chang: Supt. Nancy Ho
Tsui Hark: FBI

Aces Go Places II aka Mad Mission Part 2 aka Zuijia paidang daxian shentong (1983)

When King Kong gets framed for a bank robbery, the real robbers insist that he go and buy a diamond with counterfeit money from the mafia who have sent Black Glove, an American assassin and brother of White Glove (killed in the first movie), to make sure that the deal goes down and King Kong and Baldy are despatched.

7/10

A gloriously insane mess of action scenes and funny comedy hurled at the screen and quickly wiped off so that more can be thrown. Some of the action is terrific, some of it is just infectiously insane. The comedy works most of the time and some of it is hilarious thanks to largely relying on slapstick. One instance that saw Baldy literally fly across the room during the fun Valentine’s Day rumble would have caused a genuine spit-take if I’d been drinking at the time. The inclusion of Clint Eastwood lookalike (Filthy Harry) is charmingly bizarre. Look out for famed Hong Kong director Tsui Hark as FBI and it was interesting to see the half-a-car chase done here two years before everyone saw it in the Bond movie A View to a Kill. This is a fun, snappy, entertaining movie from start to finish.

This movie contains violence, bad language

Links

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.

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.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993) – 7/10 period crime detective mystery drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Anthony Horowitz
Karl Johnson: Saunders
Elizabeth Rider: Grace
Simon Shepherd: Andrew Hall
Hermione Norris: Celestine
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)

Poirot is sent to the coast for a holiday after the doctor, rather disappointingly, diagnoses him as "run down" rather than heroically enduring a life-ending malaise. While he’s there, a $300,000 pearl necklace is stolen from a locked box in a drawer in a room guarded by two people.

7/10

A lot of fun but the ingenious mystery and nature of the crime is not communicated quite well enough and feels like a lot of details have been left out. It is, in fact, the reverse. The writers have added story and details that weaken the central mystery instead of adding to it. The rest of the additions to the episode are a joy, however. Japp gets a magnificent gag with a teddy bear ("That’s for your boy?" Pregnant pause. "Yes."). Poirot gets his wonderful "am I going to die" face on for the doctor at the beginning and is a little put out to discover he’s only "run down" and he gets spectacularly miffed when he keeps getting people running up to him while on holiday saying "You’re Lucky Len and I claim my ten guineas!" This climaxes in a great scene where he finally meets Lucky Len.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – 7/10 superhero action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Anthony Russo
Director: Joe Russo
Screenplay Writer: Christopher Markus
Screenplay Writer: Stephen McFeely
Concept and Story Writer: Ed Brubaker
Writer (Original Comic Book Series): Joe Simon
Writer (Original Comic Book Series): Jack Kirby
Steve Rogers / Captain America: Chris Evans
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson
Sebastian Stan: Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
Cobie Smulders: Maria Hill
Emily VanCamp: Sharon Carter / Agent 13
Toby Jones: Arnim Zola
Jenny Agutter: World Security Council member
Robert Redford: Alexander Pierce
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Increasingly unhappy with his role as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s "furious janitor", Steve Rogers finds his unease increasing as he is clearly being left in the dark about something by Nick Fury. When Fury confides in him about Project Insight (making Rogers about the last to know after the 100,000 employees that must have been involved), his fears are confirmed and action will need to be taken.

7/10

Even though the title is never explained, this is a vastly more interesting super-hero movie than expected with the character of Captain America being forced to bring his ideals to bear when the organisation he works for demonstrates that it has failed to live up to them: he has to bring the American way of truth, justice and liberty to an America that has become the bad guy. Impressively, the character and drama of the movie is fine; what lets it down is the action. It’s all frenetic cuts just before your visual comprehension is complete and endless, meaningless, impactless super-punching (even when you’re not a superhuman). None of the action is resolved with wit (though the elevator scene shows wit before the action starts and Jenny Agutter gets a good moment), imagination or even any sense of tactics or expertise. Just super-punching. This is normal for Hollywood at this time and the action doesn’t spoil the movie; it’s more that the movie might have been a classic if the action was good instead of largely forgettable.

This movie contains extended extreme violence, extremely unpleasant scenes

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

Links

Welcome to The Space Show (2010) – 7/10 science fiction fantasy adventure anime movie review

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Cast / crew
Creator and Director: Koji Masunari
Creator and Screenplay Writer: Hideyuki Kurata
Creator: Tomonori Ochikoshi
Tomoyo Kurosawa: Natsuki Koyama
Honoka Ikezuka: Amane Suzuki
Shotaro Uzawa: Kiyoshi Sato
Tamaki Matsumoto: Noriko Nishimura
Takuto Yoshinaga: Koji Harada
Keiji Fujiwara: Pochi Rickman

Welcome to The Space Show (2010)

Summer camp is going to be a bigger adventure than anyone ever dreamed when a group of friends go in search of a rabbit they lost and find an injured dog.

7/10

Fun, happy adventure movie brimming with invention. The finalé is confusing (a bad guy’s personal shield explodes because he’s told there’s good in him?) but it feels like good is battling bad and good wins; what more do you need to know? The film connects enough emotionally that the goodbyes and final bike ride, especially, are touching and boasts enough dazzling diversions that attention is generally distracted from the rather baffling plot.

This movie contains violence

Mission: Impossible (1996) – 7/10 espionage action movie review

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Cast / crew
Ethan Hunt: Tom Cruise
Jon Voight: Jim Phelps
Emmanuelle Beart: Claire
Henry Czerny: Kittridge
Jean Reno: Krieger
Ving Rhames: Luther
Kristin Scott Thomas: Sarah Davies
Vanessa Redgrave: Max
Story Writer: David Koepp
Story Writer: Steven Zaillian
Screenplay Writer: David Koepp
Screenplay Writer: Robert Towne
Director: Brian De Palma

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Ethan Hunt is a member of an IMF, Impossible Mission Force, under the control of Jim Phelps. One night in Prague an operation goes badly wrong leaving his life in the balance. His mission, which he must accept, is to regain his pride and freedom. This plot will self-destruct in five seconds…

7/10

Action thriller that impresses, bores and excites in equal measure and boasts the impossible. Director Brian De Palma delivers three classic action sequences but the movie flags in between. He has an inate ability to make action sequences seem like ballet; his explosions and stunts look like beautifully choreographed dance sequences. He handles the wildly impossible situations with some panache and lends the film an air of authority despite the ridiculousness of some of the sequences. The opening of the movie through to the beautiful, iconic restaurant escape is essentially perfect. The second action sequence is also instantly iconic; a tense, near-silent break-in at the CIA defeating temperature, sonic and pressure sensors. The third action sequence is an astonishing visual effects masterpiece which holds up as well today nearly twenty years later as it did at the time. It, and an excellent Mission: Impossible theme remix, leaves the movie on a massive high.

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

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Life of Pi (2012) – 7/10 existential disaster movie review

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Cast / crew
Producer: Gil Netter
Director and Producer: Ang Lee
Suraj Sharma: Pi Patel
Irrfan Khan: Adult Pi Patel
Tabu: Gita Patel
Rafe Spall: Writer
Gérard Depardieu: Cook
Visual Effects Supervisor: Bill Westenhofer
Producer: David Womack
Writer: Yann Martel
Screenplay Writer Based upon the novel by Yann Martel: David Magee

Life of Pi (2012)

Pi Patel has an amazing story to tell. It eventually comes to his emigration from India to Canada and a shipwreck and a battle for survival alongside Richard Parker. Richard Parker the tiger, that is.

7/10

You are likely to be disappointed with this film; that’s the nature of it’s message. The film also promises to tell us a story that will make us believe in God which I don’t feel it does. Gérard Depardieu is only in it for a few seconds. But is it still worth seeing? Yes. It’s interesting, thought-provoking, visually impressive and boasts a genuinely magic moment when Pi pauses underwater as the ship goes down. (SPOILERS from here.) Life of Pi gives us a fantastical, eventually clearly fictional, story versus a true story and asks us ‘which one do we prefer?’ The characters in the movie choose the fictional one and the audience likely will too. I took from that the assertion that people, even scientific people, may choose and be happy to believe in God – any God; it doesn’t matter – because it is nicer or comforting or a way of avoiding science’s dispiriting conclusion that we live, we die and there is no more and no meaning.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

X-Men (2000) – 7/10 superhero action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Story Writer: Bryan Singer
Screenplay Writer: David Hayter
Story Writer: Tom DeSanto
Producer: Lauren Shuler-Donner
Producer: Ralph Winter
Executive Producer: Stan Lee
Charles Xavier: Patrick Stewart
Logan / Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Eric Lensherr: Ian McKellen
Halle Berry: Storm
Famke Janssen: Jean Grey
James Marsden: Cyclops
Bruce Davison: Senator Kelly
Raven Darkholme / Mystique: Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Ray Park: Toad
Tyler Mane: Sabretooth
Anna Paquin: Rogue

X-Men (2000)

In the not-too-distant future, mankind is on the brink of a new stage of evolution. More and more children are revealing themselves as "mutants", genetically-altered people with superhuman powers. While the US government considers passing the Mutant Registration Act, two powerful mutants consider different ways of dealing with their species’ problem. Professor Charles Xavier believes in training them – including superteam the X-Men – but his old colleague, Magneto, believes that old humankind should be eliminated.

7/10

Bryan Singer’s movie is great when dealing with the characters and slightly under-achieving when it comes to special effects spectacle. The actors and the story are the strong point. The casting of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen was a master stroke and everyone got lucky getting Australian unknown Hugh Jackman in as Wolverine. Every scene with any of these chatting is brilliant; their charisma is engrossing and their story thought-provoking. Singer messes up some critical stuff, principally in the finalé, as he doesn’t seem to have had any idea about how to make superheroes look heroic, let alone superheroic, or to make spectacle spectacular. Everywhere else, though, he does a great job. Of particular note is a superbly intense 1944 prologue and the scene in which absolutely everything comes together: the railway station stand-off. It features Stewart and McKellen in a psychological battle of wit and will, showcases some car-chucking spectacle (non-CG, tellingly) and fits perfectly with everything about the characters and story and universe. It’s an outstanding sequence and one you’ll want to remember instead of the weak finalé.

This movie contains

Argo (2012) – 7/10 epic espionage drama movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor, Director and Producer Tony Mendez: Ben Affleck
Screenplay Writer: Chris Terrio
Producer: Grant Heslov
Producer: George Clooney
Writer The Master of Disguise: Antonio J. Mendez
Writer The Wired Magazine Article “The Great Escape”: Joshuah Bearman
Bryan Cranston: Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin: Lester Siegel
John Goodman: John Chambers
Victor Garber: Ken Taylor
Tate Donovan: Bob Anders
Clea DuVall: Cora Lijek
Scoot McNairy: Joe Stafford
Rory Cochrane: Lee Schatz
Christopher Denham: Mark Lijek
Kerry Bishé: Kathy Stafford
Kyle Chandler: Hamilton Jordan
Chris Messina: Malinov

Argo (2012)

During the 1979 American Embassy hostage crisis, six embassy workers escaped and eventually took refuge in the Canadian Embassy. A plan is needed to exfiltrate them but time and circumstance means that the plan formulated is completely ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, that it might just work.

7/10

From the opening Eighties Warner Bros. logo through to the reasonably suspenseful directorial juggling of the escape, this is a high quality exclamation point to the reinvention of Ben Affleck as a top quality film director. It showcases a so-unlikely-you-couldn’t-make-it-up plot regarding the exfiltration of six Americans marooned in a Canadian embassy in Iran while their colleagues were being held hostage but so does the trailer. The movie takes two hours but doesn’t really add much atmosphere, flavour, procedure or insight to the fascinating story until, ironically, the fictional Hollywood climax at the bazaar and the airport. It’s paced and performed impeccably throughout, though, and Affleck’s next film as director will be most anticipated.

This movie contains tiresome sexual swear words (“Argo…”), mild nudity, gory and unpleasant scenes

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

Young Detective Dee: The Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013) – 7/10 fantasy martial arts action movie review

Cast / crew
Director, Producer and Writer: Tsui Hark
Writer: Chang Chia-Lu
Producer and Writer: Chen Kuo-Fu
Detective Dee Renjie: Mark Chao
Angelababy: Yin
Kun Chen:
Feng Shaofeng: Detective Yuchi
Carina Lau: Empress Wu

Young Detective Dee: The Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013)

Dee arrives in the Imperial City but his attempts to assist justice in the town are disrupted by personal jealousy, a beautiful woman, being repeatedly sentenced to death and / or imprisonment and, er, some kind of super-strong reptile man.

7/10

While the previous Detective Dee movie featured scientific explanations for apparently supernatural events (if I remember correctly), this one, well, doesn’t. It features a monster man (caused by parasites, apparently) and an honest-to-goodness giant sea monster. Yeah. There’s a notable lack of detective work, too, with Dee simply possessing a frequently derided but miraculous insight because that’s what the paper-thin story requires to move forward. Fortunately, as entertainment, it’s still fun, impressive stuff told with some consistently lovely visuals and boasting some gleeful imagination in the action scenes. I particularly enjoyed a horse crash (not sure if I’ve ever seen that before) and a dude slicing a flying bee in half but there are a generous number of sweet action moments. This is really a six-star movie but with enough moments of joy and irresistible insanity to add up to a whole other star.

This movie contains violence, torture scene, unpleasant scenes

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The Wolverine (2013) – 8/10 superhero action movie

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Cast / crew
Director: James Mangold
Screenplay Writer: Mark Bomback
Screenplay Writer: Scott Frank
Producer: Lauren Shuler-Donner
Producer: Hutch Parker
Executive Producer: Stan Lee
Logan / Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Hiroyuki Sanada: Shingen
Tao Okamoto: Mariko
Rila Fukushima: Yukio
Jean Grey / Phoenix Jean Grey: Famke Janssen
Will Yun Lee: Harada
Svetlana Khodchenkova: Viper
Haruhiko Yamanouchi: Yashida
Brian Tee: Noburo

The Wolverine (2013)

Logan saves a compassionate Japanese officer’s life during World War II. Many years later, after the death of Jean Grey, a tortured Logan receives an offer from the now-powerful, now-rich but now-dying Yashida to give him a haircut and shave. Oh, and turn him mortal.

8/10

While this is a giant improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and probably the best of the big summer movies) it has an odd quality where the plot makes sense but doesn’t feel like it. I feel it needed a tiny bit of discussion earlier about how to extract Logan’s healing ability when he doesn’t want you to. That said, it does mean that you are thinking during the final battle; attempting to grasp, as Logan is, exactly why what is going on is going on. When you consider it like that, I feel it’s a good thing. So, as I say, an odd quality. Outside of that, this is an entertaining, involving superhero movie with terrific visual effects that gives the ever excellent Hugh Jackman’s Logan / Wolverine an actual character arc to go through, doesn’t overload the movie with action and doesn’t obliterate the ability to understand the action through editing. Yet again the trailer spoils the movie significantly.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, bad language, strong violence, gory and extremely unpleasant scenes

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

Irresistible (2006) – 7/10 psychological thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Director and Writer: Ann Turner
Producer: David Parker
Producer: Tatiana Kennedy
Susan Sarandon: Sophie
Sam Neill: Craig
Emily Blunt: Mara

Irresistible (2006)

Frazzled from a lack of sleep and a looming deadline, painter Sophie Hartley starts getting a niggling feeling that someone is entering her home and taking stuff. When she is introduced to her loving husband’s beautiful new coworker, Mara, she starts to become convinced that she has found the guilty party.

7/10

Okay, first up, I have no idea why it’s called Irresistible aside from it being a good punchy title to put underneath Emily Blunt’s cleavage on the poster. Well, on second thought, I guess that is a good enough reason but it doesn’t really reflect on the film which is, for the most part, a good psychological drama with a convincing performance from Susan Sarandon which holds up even when the original plot barges back in at the end. You see, we had already judged that Sarandon was largely paranoid and were more invested in whether or how she would escape this mental prison and how her husband would cope. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when the original thriller aspect of the movie kicks down the door and sets fire to everything.

This movie contains three sexual swear words, adult dialogue, unpleasant scenes, sexuality and Susan Sarandon’s old witch hands

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

X-Men: First Class (2011) – 7/10 superhero action movie review

Cast / crew
Screenplay Writer and Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay Writer: Ashley Edward Miller
Screenplay Writer: Zack Stentz
Screenplay Writer: Jane Goldman
Writer (Story): Sheldon Turner
Story Writer and Producer: Bryan Singer
Producer: Lauren Shuler-Donner
Producer: Simon Kinberg
Producer: Gregory Goodman
Executive Producer: Stan Lee
Charles Xavier 24 Years: James McAvoy
Eric Lensherr: Michael Fassbender
Rose Byrne: Moira MacTaggert
Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence
Emma Frost: January Jones
Hank / Beast: Nicholas Hoult
Oliver Platt: Man in Black Suit
Azazel: Jason Flemyng
Alex Summers / Havoc: Lucas Till
Edi Gathegi: Darwin / Armando Munoz
Kevin Bacon: Sebastian Shaw

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Charles Xavier is an expert on genetic mutation, not only academically, but because he has a genetic mutation himself. Xavier is a powerful telepath and uses his ability to detect other mutants to gather them together to fight for good.

7/10

While certainly struggling with a couple of duff points (useless and unconvincing mutant powers including the ability to adapt, flying using sonic waves and ‘oh, I just happen to have a telepath amplifier and a supersonic, amazing-o-jet here’), X-Men: First Class remains a highly worthwhile superhero action movie with a jam-packed, interesting story centred around another charismatic superstar performance from James McAvoy and some fun villainy from Kevin Bacon. Interestingly, I found only McAvoy really sold his superpower and his is the only one that has no special effects. Any scene with McAvoy in is brilliant but while everything else is less interesting, First Class does bring in all the themes and subtext that make the story and world rich and rewarding.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, violence, sensuality

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

Roujin Z (1991) – 7/10 animated science-fiction nursing action movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Writer: Katsuhiro Otomo
Chisa Yokoyama: Haruko
Shinji Ogawa: Terada
Art Director: Satoshi Kon

Roujin Z (1991)

The Ministry of Public Welfare unveils a new high-tech bed that can take complete care of elderly patients and they get an oblivious Mr. Hasegawa to test it out. His nurse, Haruka, is extremely surprised but feels that an automated bed is not the best way to take care of him and so marches in to the grand public unveiling to make sure Hasegawa is okay.

7/10

This is a fun, agreeably over-the-top satire-cum-action mecha movie which is highly unusual through featuring a nurse’s professional relationship with her patient (and that’s not a euphemism). This is yet another Japanese animation where you can legitimately say that there’s nothing else quite like it.

This movie contains Unpleasant scenes, adult dialogue

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

Knowing (2009) – 7/10 disaster horror movie review

Cast / crew
Rose Byrne: Diana
Chandler Canterbury: Caleb Koestler
Ben Mendelsohn: Phil Beckman
Director and Producer: Alex Proyas
Nicolas Cage: John Koestler
Story and Screenplay Writer and Co-Producer: Ryne Douglas Pearson
Producer: Todd Black
Producer: Jason Blumenthal
Producer: Steve Tisch
Screenplay Writer: Juliet Snowden
Screenplay Writer: Stiles White

Knowing (2009)

Caleb Koestler receives an envelope from a fifty-year-old time capsule containing children’s pictures of the future but his envelope doesn’t contain a picture; it contains a double-sided sheet of numbers scrawled down helplessly by a young girl. He feels compelled to take it home with him where his Dad, John, becomes convinced that the numbers are prophetic.

7/10

This is significantly more interesting and moving than the doom-saying disaster epic you may think it would be. In fact, I’d say it is more of a horror film. While the plot does feel like it has a couple of problems (Why does Cage go to Manhattan? Purely to be an unneeded audience surrogate.) and I suspect one or two plot strands were brutally slashed down to a word or two (the authorities knowing and the ever-hotter weather), Knowing connects emotionally. Cage is generally on good form here (he really sells the climax) and even gets to go briefly nuts on a tree with a baseball bat. Director Alex Proyas stages things surely and delivers two impressively harrowing disaster scenes even to those of us used to seeing screen destruction. This is clearly going to be a slightly forgotten movie and it’s a shame more people don’t know about it.

This movie contains Mild swear words, harrowing scenes of disaster, scary scenes

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

The Young Master (1980) – 7/10 martial arts action movie review

Cast / crew
Producer (Presents credit): Raymond Chow Man Wai
Producer: Leonard Ho Koon-Cheung
Actor, Action Choreographer and Director Dragon: Jackie Chan aka Lung Cheng
Writer (Screenplay): Lau Tin-Chee
Writer (Screenplay): Tung Lu
Writer (Screenplay): Edward Tang
Action Choreographer: Feng Ke-An

The Young Master (1980)

On the day of a martial-arts challenge, the Red School’s star fighter is injured, and a young student has to take his place.

7/10

Martial arts showcase featuring very little in the way of coherent story but proved to be a breakthrough film for Asia’s pint-sized action god Jackie Chan. This is not a completely rounded film, it has no immediately obvious story (though you can work it out if you try and if you make up bits of your own) and the links provided to get from one fight to another are very lacking. But the fight sequences and martial arts prowess on display is simply staggering. Jackie also introduces his trademark balance between action and humour and it is this dual-pronged attack on the funny bone and any bone which raises this above most martial arts fare.

This movie contains mild swear words, adult dialogue, mild nudity, extended strong martial arts violence.

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

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Megamind (2010) – 7/10 3D animated supervillain action movie review

Cast / crew
Will Ferrell: Megamind
Tina Fey: Roxanne Ritchi
Jonah Hill: Tighten
David Cross: Minion
Brad Pitt: Metro Man
Actor and Director Lord Scott, Prison Guard: Tom McGrath
Producer: Lara Breay
Producer: Denise Nolan Cascino
Writer: Alan Schoolcraft
Writer: Brent Simons
Head Of Character Animation: Jason Schleifer
Actor and Creative Consultant Megamind’s Father: Justin Theroux
Creative Consultant: Guillermo Del Toro

Megamind (2010)

As Metro City prepares to unveil a massive monument and museum to their resident superhero, equally resident supervillain Megamind plans to do battle once more. Once he escapes from prison, of course.

7/10

In a completely different league from director Tom McGrath’s execrable Madagascar movies, this is a charming, fun super-villain movie with an abundance of nice animation and a strong plot. Even though his voice is a bit old, Will Ferrell is also top-notch as he and Megamind’s animators manage to bring heart where (giant blue) head could easily dominate. Our impressively be-caped protagonist’s insistence on presentation and persistence are entirely admirable and uncommon backbones for any movie. Commending effort is a life skill that we can all benefit from. Much, much better than the superficially similar but morally obnoxious and dreary Despicable Me.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Oblivion (2013) – 8/10 science fiction action movie review

Cast / crew
Original Graphic Novel and Screenplay Writer, Producer and Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer (Screenplay): Karl Gadjusek
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Arndt
Writer (Original Graphic Novel): Arvid Nelson
Producer: Peter Chernin
Producer: Dylan Clark
Producer: Duncan Henderson
Producer: Barry Levine
Tom Cruise: Jack
Morgan Freeman: Beech
Olga Kurylenko: Julia
Andrea Riseborough: Victoria
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Sykes
Melissa Leo: Sally

Oblivion (2013)

Jack and Victoria live on a post-alien invasion post-nuclear annihilation Earth manning Tower 49 and repairing flying gun drones that protect giant machines sucking up seawater to provide resources to humanity now living on Titan – one of Saturn’s moons – from Scavs, scattered surviving alien invaders. Unlike Victoria, Jack likes to peruse and collect some of the few 20th-century artefacts that survived the global holocaust. Life continues as normal until a beacon starts transmitting and brings Jack’s entire handle on his existence crashing down.

8/10

Visually and sonically spectacular science fiction action movie with enough intrigue to keep the interest. The movie gets off to an unnecessary start with a probably-added-at-the-last-minute opening narration that the next hour of the movie then retells us, ultimately verbatim, and Tom Cruise doesn’t quite convey the emerging emotions of his character. As with a lot of big-budget science-fiction movies with the subjects involved here, the plot doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny leaving the quality of the movie to be judged on the immediate entertainment value alone and I really enjoyed it.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, bad language, violence, nudity, sexuality.

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

Limitless (2011) – 7/10 science-fiction thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Neil Burger
Actor and Executive Producer Eddie Marra: Bradley Cooper
Abbie Cornish: Lindy
Robert De Niro: Carl Van Loon
Andrew Howard: Gennady
Anna Friel: Melissa
Johnny Whitworth: Vernon
Tomas Arana: Man in Tan Coat
Screenplay and Producer: Leslie Dixon
Producer: Scott Kroopf
Producer: Ryan Kavanaugh
Writer (Original Novel) “The Dark Fields”: Alan Glynn

Limitless (2011)

Eddie Morra is a blocked writer who is given a wonder-drug that unlocks the potential of his brain so that he can use every piece of information he has ever absorbed.

7/10

This is a movie that has an interesting core and is fine, pacy entertainment but there’s a nagging sense that it’s not fulfilling it’s potential; that it’s never quite as interesting as it should be. From the tired in media res opening onward, Limitless keeps undermining itself with worthless peril, inexplicable murders (the two in the park, especially) and a narration that too often tells us things we already know or were about to find out and what’s going through the screenwriter’s mind rather than the characters. Still, the idea that unlimited access to all information (like the Internet, perhaps) leads to attention deficit feels timely and, ooh, look! A funny cat picture.

This movie contains extremely unpleasant and violent dialogue, adult dialogue, mild sex scenes, pervasive substance abuse, strong violence, extremely gory scene, extremely unpleasant scenes.

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

True Lies (1994) – 7/10 James Cameron action movie review

Cast / crew
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Harry [Tasker]
Jamie Lee Curtis: Helen [Tasker]
Tom Arnold: Gib
Bill Paxton: Simon
Tia Carrere: Juno
Art Malik: Aziz
Eliza Dushku: Dana
Grant Heslov: Faisil
Charlton Heston: Spencer Trilby
Screenplay, Director and Producer: James Cameron
Writer (Original Screenplay): Claude Zidi
Writer (Original Screenplay): Simon Michael
Writer (Original Screenplay): Didier Kaminka
Producer: Stephanie Austin

True Lies (1994)

Harry Tasker is a computer salesman or at least that is what his wife thinks, for in reality he is a top secret agent.

7/10

It says something about James Cameron’s directorial skill that this is his worst film. And yet it still contains spectacular, iconic action underscored by interesting, recognisable themes. And yet, despite the largely majestic action, Cameron stumbles with some oddly poor technical (shoddy in-car green screen) and sequence choices (bike jump across a street which could just as easily have been to an adjacent building and a gun tumbling down stairs in excruciating slow motion) and never quite nails the pace and tone of the domestic drama (the goriest moment of the film is supposed to be funny and Arnie’s emotions and actions are at odds). But then we do get Arnie smashing rottweilers, Arnie diving under a sea of fire, Jamie Lee Curtis being plucked from a doomed limo, Arnie destroying terrorists and saving his daughter using a harrier jump jet and Bill Paxton peeing himself. Which is more-than-enough to keep us happy!

This movie contains sexual swear words, strong adult dialogue and graphic violence, extreme violence, unpleasant and gory scenes and sensuality.

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

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Safe (2012) – 7/10 Jason Statham action thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Writer and Director: Boaz Yakin
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Producer: Dana Brunetti
Jason Statham: Luke Wright
Robert John Burke: Captain Wolf
Chris Sarandon: Mayor Tramello
Anson Mount: Alex Rosen
Catherine Chan: Mei

Safe (2012)

Cage-fighter Luke Wright sees his life go very badly when he inadvertently fails to throw to rigged match. As he contemplates suicide, he sees a young Chinese girl alone and, in the flicker of eye contact, life.

7/10

Highly effective action thriller which sees Jason Statham punching all the criminals in New York before Liam Neeson can get there from Europe presumably. The action is very well done and Statham can really sell this stuff. Additionally, he also nails his character emotionally and is the anchor of Boaz Yakin’s successfully achieved vision of a seventies-style character thriller. He builds to a brilliant, highly satisfying but unexpected, battle between two super-assassins (a cool Clark Kent-looking Anson Mount).

This movie contains bad language and strong, graphic violence.

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

Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) – 7/10 Hitchcock wrong man thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Priscilla Lane: Pat
Robert Cummings: Barry
Director and Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
Otto Kruger: Tobin
Alan Baxter: Freeman
Clem Bevans: Neilson
Norman Lloyd: Fry
Alma Kruger: Mrs. Sutton
Writer (Screenplay): Peter Viertel
Writer (Screenplay): Joan Harrison
Writer (Screenplay): Dorothy Parker

Saboteur, Alfred Hitchcock’s (1942)

An aircraft factory worker is suspected of sabotage when his friend dies and the factory burns down but flees the police with the address of the man responsible.

7/10

Quality Hitchcock which delivers excitement, suspense, romance and humour with apparently no effort whatsoever.  Some of the speechifying grinds things to a halt and is clearly present for propaganda effect (the film was made in 1942, halfway through World War II). The two leads are pleasant enough without being particularly memorable (though Hitchcock’s use of Priscilla Lane means that her character being a model is not a negative point; imagine if a movie were made today where a model is the heroine, grief!) but when Hitchcock is doing what he does best, the set piece, the film is near faultless. The most famous set piece is the Statue of Liberty finalé which is superbly constructed and benefits from perfect special effects though the absence of music does seem an odd choice. There are many other superb set piece sequences including a shootout at a cinema, an inescapable charity ball, a fight inside a van, the opening aircraft factory sabotage sequence and more suspenseful scenes involving a blind man and a circus troupe. Hitchcock also uses a baby as a bullet-shield for the hero and I wonder just how many movie heroes did that!

This movie contains adult dialogue and violence, gory and unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Frankenweenie (2012) – 7/10 Tim Burton stop-motion animated childrens science-fiction horror movie review

Cast / crew
Director and Producer: Tim Burton
Writer (Screenplay): John August
Writer (Original Screenplay Adaptation): Leonard Ripps
Writer (Original Idea): Tim Burton
Catherine O’Hara: Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl, Gym Teacher
Martin Short: Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgemeister, Nassor
Martin Landau: Mr. Rzykruski
Winona Ryder: Elsa Van Helsing
Charlie Tahan: Victor Frankenstein
Producer: Allison Abbate

Frankenweenie (2012)

After Victor Frankenstein secretly brings his beloved dog Sparky back to life, when it’s discovered by classmate Edgar, it’s misinterpreted as Victor’s entry into the upcoming science fair and the other children know that they’re going to have to raise their game to beat him.

7/10

Tim Burton’s visual style remains unique but it’s his ability to extract humanity, good-naturedness and intelligence from his grotesquery that is his greatest strength. Frankenweenie has substance behind it’s style with some inventive (especially if you haven’t seen a trailer) and delightful moments, a classic speech for the wonderful Mr. Rzykruski and a consistently nice, fun tone while still providing a space for the scary and the troubles of school. The thing that stood out most to me, though, was the positive onscreen family. Firstly, it’s a complete and functional family with a mother, father and son. Secondly, the parents are considerate, responsible, authoritative, reasonable and supportive. It’s a genuinely refreshing element. However, while the movie is certainly nice and fun the tone is a bit subdued, even during the dramatic climax. It probably needed a character with a bit more life somewhere; perhaps a pint-size Beetelgeuse. Even though he’s technically dead. Well, actually dead.

This movie contains gruesome and scary scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.