Blog – Movie Reviews

    Review: The Great Wall

    Its pretty obvious from the millions of pictures of it online that China’s ‘Great Wall’ remains standing. The answer of how much remains, or even how long it once was depends very much on who you ask, but what we do know is that neglect, and a lack of effective conservation means that its slowly disintegrating. However, it remains that there is still thousands of miles of wall for modern visitors to choose from.

    Given that there are clearly some issues around the lack of funds being spent on the wall, and absolutely miles of wall to choose from, its interesting that 2016 monster film ‘The Great Wall’ seems to have been made with an entirely CGI wall. Surely, even with some embellishment in the CG studio, filming just a couple of scenes on an actual, pre-built, historically accurate wall might have been a smart starting point for this movie. An added bonus could have been a little contribution to the upkeep of the wall, and given that you can, apparently, go on a day trip to the wall from Quigdao (where most of the film was made) it doesn’t even seem like a big ask.

    This would have made sense, but like everything else in the movie, things that make sense are apparently not a part of the process. Matt Damons insane accent opens the film, because someone decided for no discernible reason that he should be Irish, or perhaps American…or maybe Spanish/English. Then there is the guy who does all the cooking in full armour. Then there is the really effective weapon that is only deployed momentarily in the second battle (after lots of people died in the first one). Then there is all the female warriors (great!) who are ostensibly only there because they are lighter than male warriors (not so great!). In fact, there is really nothing in this movie that makes any sense at all, every scene is plagued with strange and incomprehensible decisions.

    Forgive it perhaps, as an epic spectacle, then retract this as you realise that no matter how many giant monsters come at the protagonists, you don’t really care whether they live or die at all, because at a (thankfully) short 101 minutes long there isn’t time to explain why anyone does what they do anyway, let alone spend some time fostering a connection with the audience.

    Anyway, as we watch Matt Damon (a white guy) come and save some Chinese people from some monsters they have apparently been fighting off successfully for over 600 years, its worth remembering that whoever made this film didn’t even take five minutes to consider whether it might be a good idea to shoot some film at the wall they were making a film about, so all of the other egregious decisions really are just part of whatever special process was used to make this mess.

    Review: Bridge to Terabithia

    Last night I decided to watch Bridge to Terabithia. It was a confusing experience. I will be first to accept that I am probably not ‘who this was made for’, an adaptation of a literary work for and about younger people than me wrapped up in Disney fuzziness. The film follows Peeta Mellark and his far too chirpy next door neighbour as they deal with their respective emotional/familial issues by imagining a childlike world of wonder. Here the more ethereal dangers that plague the young protagonists lives, such as bullying and a perceived lack of parental attention, manifest as trolls, flying gopher type things, and a mysterious shadow guy. By becoming solid they can be tackled head on, and as they do so Mellark and his not-girlfriend become happier.

    However what I imagine in the book resolves as a beautiful commentary on escapism and the role of imagination in how we deal with the less manageable aspects of our lives, translates into the realness of film as a sort of shared schizophrenic episode. I have not read the book, but Wikipedia says it is one of the most frequently challenged books around. The film makes it obvious why, the lives of the people in the film are messy and their relationships are complicated in ways we are unused to in fiction for this audience. In this respect it should be great, it doesn’t wrap everything up in comfortable little packages because it believes its audience isn’t sophisticated enough to deal with what it is showing.

    The problem is that in many ways the characters issues are caricatured and more problematic than they reasonably need to be. Mellarks father loves his sisters more than he loves him; we know this because whilst his sisters get sweet goodnights, Mellark is left with a gruff ‘lights out’. We never learn why this is. Some might argue that it is in fact not the case, there is a scene later in the film where the father does tenderly tuck the boy into bed, the problem is, the boy isn’t awake, in the world of the film his father still doesn’t love him as much as his siblings. This is just one of a plethora of similar problems, the film argues that bullying as revenge is a legitimate activity, it has a barely present mother whose attitude to her child is also not explained, and if you read the literal painting of a wall with gold as saying something about wealth, it says that money makes families happier.

    These things might all be true, they might even be interesting in the hands of another film for a different audience, perhaps one that is prepared to think about how these things might have come about, but here the broad stroke caricatures of characters make them into a series of problematic events portrayed by characters with little or no motivation. Am I supposed to hate the father because of his nepotism? I do not know because I do not know why it exists. The film’s final moments ‘probably’ see the dark mysterious shadow person of the forest resolve into Mellarks father, who, rather than harming him catches him in an embrace – in doing so the film teaches us that the path to resolution can lay in the imaginary worlds it depicts, implicitly rejecting the ‘get your head out of the clouds’ attitude the film’s most divisive character (the father) adopts in response to his son. The problem is, the issues the film depicts, including a death, could be resolved by doing just that.

    Review: Super 8


    I was going to say that I spent the first half hour of Super 8 wondering if I had watched it before, but the reality is, I spent the whole film thinking this. I hadn’t, but a combination of wilful appropriation of about a million genre clichés and blatantly obvious plot lines made it rather seem like I had. It is not a terrible thing, because it’s a very well made film, and clichés are clichés for a reason (they work) but it rather takes you out of the movie when you can’t help but notice that Speilbergs standard mode of transport for young people is the BMX. Speilbergo is some sort of executive producer on the film, but I think what I think the credit should have said is ‘young person transport organisation’. This probably wouldn’t have had the same sort of pulling power on the cover of the DVD, but a well known name is well known name in the marketing game.

    What the film is though, is a film about film making, which I think speaks to the fact that the people making it are so completely detached from the real world that they no longer have any frame of reference that is not celluloid based. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future it becomes apparent that the dialogue for Super 8 was mashed up from a couple of hundred classic movies, just a line or two from each so it’s not incredibly noticeable, but I would not have been at all surprised if someone had come out with a ‘they drew first blood’ or ‘you lookin at me?’ at any point. Again, not a bad film, the master film makers involved can’t help but call on years of experience to get you emotionally invested, its just pretending you don’t notice the undercurrent of every other film you have watched that is the difficult part.

    Review: Tokyo Raiders

    Tokyo Raiders is brilliantly good fun. The plot is a little convoluted, there are some bad guys and some good guys and some bad guys who become good guys and good guys who might be bad because they told a lie, but then are good because the lie was actually for a good reason. It is the kind of reluctant buddy movie everyone likes, but with the additional fun element of those buddies having to protect a pretty lady, and having loads of other pretty ladies to help them whenever they need it.

    You know from the first fight though, when unidentified man number one glues his opponents shoes to the ground in order to beat him senseless, that this film isn’t taking itself too seriously. All of the pretty ladies, just by virtue of them being pretty, has a hint of sexism about it, but it’s all played rather knowingly, whenever anyone gets in trouble, it’s a pretty lady who gets them out of it again. There is also some weird stuff going on with nationalities. Everyone sort of ends up having to announce where they are from, where they were born and if they speak the language of the country they happen to be in at the precise moment – the film is set in China, Japan and the USA. There may be some cultural subtleties going that I am not picking up on, but I am pretty sure the film would have worked just as well if it had just been set in one place. Anyway, in spite of these idiosyncrasies, it’s a good fun film, speeds along nicely, and will make you smile most of the way though. Did I mention it has a bmx/skateboard chase, which is possibly the most brilliant action movie chase I have ever seen.

    Review: Bodyguards and Assassins

    Bodyguards and Assassins is a sort of historical epic/ ridiculous fightin movie. Set in the long time ago times (1900 or thereabouts), the revolution in China to overthrow the Qing Dynasty is in its fledgling stages. A group of unlikely allies come together to defend Sun Yat-sen on his short but dangerous trip to Hong Kong to meet the leaders of groups that will go on to become some of the revolutions key players.

    Everyone has different motivations, which means that as much as the film is about the sacrifice of the revolutionaries it is equally about love, honour and friendship. In all its silly depictions of outrageous combat, it’s absolutely unflinching in its portrayal of these themes, if someone has to die to get the notion of sacrifice across, then you can be damn sure they are going to die. This makes it all intensely sad, but rather beautiful at the same time, and the nice thing is that all of this still works perfectly alongside lighter moments.

    I would say it’s a pot boiler, simmering tension releasing in a masterful cavalcade of brilliance at the end, but the reality is that it reaches its peak about fifty minutes before curtains down, and maintains a frenetic pace for that whole time – I am not saying you’ll be exhausted at the end, but you’ll have felt something, and this makes Bodyguards and Assassins one of the best films I have seen in a while.

    Review: Gyo : Tokyo Fish Attack

    Gyo : Tokyo Fish Attack is certainly one of those films that you get to the end of and think ‘well…that happened’. There is an awful lot of weird stuff going on here. I mean, aside from the fish growing metal legs and invading all the major cities of Earth. I mean, it might be a treatise on the global issue of overfishing, but then again, it might be about the dangers of genetic modification, it might all be Americas fault, but then, maybe it is saying war is terrible. One thing is for certain though, as with most good horror movies, having sex is a cardinal sin and no one can blame your friends for abandoning you to your fishy grave when you engage in carnal pleasures. Or can they? 

    The basic premise here is fish, and…octopuses (octopi?) have somehow spouted legs and are invading the land. They obviously want to eat all the humans, or this film would just be about how awesome post invasion sushi became, but more than this, they infect anyone they touch with a terrible virus that condemns them to a big ‘ugly mess’ death. The dominant themes are friendship, love and our moral obligations to each other in the face of a giant fish invasion. But to be honest everything is so unresolved and weird that it could mean anything really. Watch it for the badass sharks eating stuff on dry land then spend a good hour trying to work out what it all meant.

    Review: Some Guy Who Kills People

    A return to business as usual with a review of slasher horror porn movie Some Guy Who Kills People. Hurrah! Except, even with that name, this film isn’t really your archetypal slasher movie, and it certainly isn’t slasher horror porn. I just put that in so people googling the word porn ended up here and improved my website traffic. Thats the kind of thing you have to think about when you want people to read your film reviews on the internet.

    Anway, the film follows a kind of introverted, but basically nice ice cream store worker played by (almost) universally brilliant Kevin Corrigan. He has some issues which stem from some awful things that went down when he was younger, that now seem to be culminating in gruesome, and pretty amusing murders. The cops provide some of the best lines in the movie and Barry Bostwick is absolutely brilliant as the police chief. I don’t usually include actors names on FIHR, but basically everyone in this movie does such a great job it seems a shame not to mention them. Bostwicks acting though, it walks a careful and brilliant line that means you can’t quite work out if he is thick as shit or the most intelligent man in the world.

    Anyway, into this slightly wonky milieu of a killer and some less than great cops walks a young girl who will change everything. More than that would be spoilers, but I would definitely recommend the movie for a downbeat but super feel good feeling, with awesome crime scenes.

    Pirates of Langkasuka

    Pirates of Langkasuka is a rather schizophrenic movie. You’ll have to watch for a good half hour before it makes much sense who is who and who is supposed to hate who, and who is going where. Once you have it worked out though its actually relatively simple, there is a bad pirate, and he wants to destroy a big fort where the Queen lives. Everyone helps either defend the fort or attack it, apart from one guy who does both because he is two people and magic. Following? Good, the fish are on the good guys side, and there is two good guys but they don’t ever meet. There is a princess because I said I was only reviewing movies with princesses in now. Also there is a man who makes big cannons, he is British or American or something. You get the picture, its a bloody confusing film! Its good though, not especially pirate heavy, given the name, and its more about mystic fish powers than swashbuckling. The characters are likeable though and despite the storyline being just as silly as all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the acting is actually rather good. There is an entirely believable love story stuck in the middle of all the silliness. You know love stories are important because of the new girly direction of the site yeah? Check out Pirates of Langkasuka in the same way you read grown up books when you are young, its not all going to make sense, but you’ll get to the end and feel pretty satisfied all the same.

    Brave

    Well, this might be it, two princess based movies in as many weeks. Finally EFIHR has gone all girly and put down the guns and knives and things. It was inevitable I guess, call it mellowing with age, or perhaps there is something in the water, who knows. What I do know is that the site will soon have an appropriate re-design to light pink with kawaii emojo overloaded reviews of nothing but the most girl orientated movies. Brave is all about a princess who doesn’t want to be very girly, she wants to shoot arrows and ride a horse. She also doesn’t like her mother very much because, although she seems quite reasonable and relatively nice, her mother does not want her to shoot arrows and ride a horse. Cue overly dramatic metaphor and your movie synopsis is done. It is OK I suppose, but it just lacks something, call it, scope maybe. A magical beautiful world inhabited by interesting characters derailed for a claustrophobic exploration of a girls relationship with her mum. For sure, not a bad story in itself, but something of a waste when crowbarred into a scenario which could have been so much more. Add in overly long ‘running around the castle’ scenes and the film becomes a slight bore-fest at around the half way point. If only someone had a gun or something to liven things up…