Monday, October 22, 2012


Synopsis: In 2007, Led Zeppelin reformed for a special concert to honour Ahmet Ertegun, the Atlantic Records founder who was instrumental in their colossal worldwide success. This is the spectacular film of that now historic performance.

Hail Hail! Rock and roll! They are the champions, my friends!

First, an undeniable fact. When it was announced that Led Zeppelin would reform (With 'Chip off the old block' son Jason deputizing for his late father, John Bonham) for a one off show, expectations were that demand for tickets would be high. Just how high staggered even the skeptics. Over 20 million fans vied for this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Zep perform for what may be the last time. The caveat was that the show was restricted to just 18,000. Those lucky few were selected by a worldwide lottery to determine who would be turning up on the night to witness history in the making. Presumably, none of the 20 million had guns to their collective heads, so you could posit the theory that interest in this group has not really abated since they last bestrode the earth as rock monsters, obliterating all in their path! Possibly only Pink Floyd getting back together might recreate the same feverish level of devotion? Come December 2007, those very lucky few from around the word got their opportunity to witness one of the most amazing 'comeback' performances in rock 'n roll history.

Judging by Robert Plant's comments since that historic date, his steadfast refusal to trade on former glories (And reunite for what would be obscenely large amounts of filthy lucre) is perhaps both understandable, but commendable at the same time. Thank the gods then, they made the fortuitous decision to take a couple of film cameras along to record this for all posterity. Now, the other 19,982,000 (Amongst the other odd fan or two) get to see what happened on that night. Oh, what a night, late December in 63... Oops, wrong song, wrong year!

What singular word can describe this experience? What word can accurately convey the many emotions that you feel when watching this event? The answer is the one that feels right for you. For me, its this one. Magic. Sheer magic. The joy of watching these masters creating musical magic is something to behold. This quartet of men (Guitarist Jimmy Page, Vocalist Robert Plant, Bass Guitarist/Keyboards John Paul Jones, Drummer Jason Bonham) operate on a level above most mortals. The other key word that's pertinent here is chemistry. Like any relationship, chemistry is a vital component that can't be denied. If you don't have it, well, the road is littered with many who've fallen by the wayside. Some combinations just work better with the participants who are in sync with each other. These legends have a lethal intensity when they work together, recreating the music that has being such a major part of their lives. It cannot be faked. It is a visceral, raw, magisterial, unique creation that is the sum of its equally important parts. Take just one component out of the equation, and it becomes the proverbial three legged dog, a mongrel that is hard to warm to for most.

For two and a half hours, Page, Plant, Jones & Bonham remind us of their electrifying talents, blazing away song after song, displaying immense ability with the tools at their disposal, guitars, drums, keyboards, vocals, all meshing to form a sound like no other - the towering colossus that is LED ZEPPELIN. From surprise opener "Good Times, Bad Times" to second encore "Rock and Roll" - and 14 songs inbetween, you (if you haven't already been converted previously - you should of! But, I'll forgive you for your oversight - if you pledge to convert to the cult of Led Zep :) get to witness 16 reasons why not just the west, but also, how the world was won over with the sheer level of brilliance these magnificent musicians created back in the 1970s.

One of the key reasons why this gig was so successful comes down to one detail that might be overlooked initially, but when you watch it for a second time, its readily apparent - is the interaction of the 3 main members who are constantly turning their backs on the audience to face Jason Bonham, who very clearly, is having the most important gig of his life. For the record, I don't think he will ever get that kind of chance again. At the very least though, he, like us, can relive it anytime by replaying the concert (Insert your format of choice here!) whenever the mood takes. He feeds off them, they are feeding off him, they all are feeding off the audience. I'd say that's a 'win-win' for all involved - even us observing from a future time and space.

At this time of writing, there is (In New Zealand) at least more than 10 cinemas throughout the country with sessions still upcoming. My advice? Duh! If you've got this far into my review, then there is only one appropriate answer! Same for anyone overseas reading this - go to this link for when its screening in your neck of the woods: Led Zeppelin: Celebration day listings. This is, without doubt, an amazing experience that really is best benefited by the largest screen possible - your local cinema. Otherwise, keep some money aside when November 19th rolls around - and buy the Blu-Ray (Not the DVD - upgrade if you have to. Trust me, it will be well worth your while!).

Magic. Pure magic.

Jamie's rating? 

J for... Jewel! (5 very big stars!)

Alex Cross

Plot Synopsis: A psycho hit-man starts popping off a few people. A detective gets involved.
 Then it gets personal! Then it gets utterly predictable!

Sigh... I love movies. I really do. They have provided me with many years of entertainment & education. I see the world differently after viewing them, gaining new perspectives & experiences that have enriched my life immeasurably.Then, there's movies like "Alex Cross". The most accurate word that sprung to mind whilst suffering for my art is this. Cliche.

Here's the movie in a nutshell...

(In no particular order btw. Doesn't make any difference anyhow...)

Wild bug-eyed shaven-head psychopathic villain? Check.
Know-it-all hero cop & junior sidekick partner? Check.
Very cute piano playing daughter? Check.
Grouchy (But right) overbearing mother? Check
Beautiful wife, who'll more than likely die? Check?
Psycho breaching impregnable fortress of an office building? Check.
Killing many, but narrowly escaping with just a mere flesh wound? Check.
Sidekicks girlfriend alone in apartment with psycho? Check.
John C McGinley as... who else but, John C McGinley! Check.
Mouthy dudes mocking psycho? Dead shortly thereafter? Check.
Musical cues to make sure you understand? Check.
Hero taking the bullet - but, natch, a smidgeon too late to save someone? Check.
Psycho taunting hero? Check.
Hero ignoring mama's best advice? Check.
Hero on personal revenge vendetta? Check.
Jean Reno as Jean Reno? Check.
Climatic fight where hero lives - psycho dies? Check.
Mr big businessman gets his comeuppance at the end? Check.
Possibility of a sequel (Regardless of whether this turkey makes any money!)? Check.
Predictable beyond belief? Check.
Uninspired direction? Check.
Poor adaptation of a book? Check.

Do I need to go on? Thought not. Check please!

PS. No, I haven't spoiled it for you with this review. You can thank me later - I've just saved you 101 minutes of your life - by not having to watch this wretched excuse for a movie! Go and see "Killing Them Softly" instead for an example of how you should adapt a book into a movie. A powerful, gritty, character driven movie - streets ahead of this wretched excuse for a film - in very single way!

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Joke!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Killing Them Softly

Synopsis: When a protected mob card game gets robbed, fingers point to the hapless Markie being the orchestrator, allowing the actual perps to get away with it. Or so they thought. Enter Jackie Cogan, the enforcer sent to sort out the mess - his way.

Should I blow - or should I go? Decisions decisions... 

This brutal character study in mob economics was adapted from George V. Higgins' 1974 novel "Cogan's Trade" but director Andrew Dominik made the wise decision to set it in the more recent future (2008), amidst the twin defining events of that year - the hope and optimism of Barack Obama's presidential campaign for change - which was buttressed by the near fatal collapse of the American monetary system with the economic meltdown instigated by careless financial institutions. This backdrop is perfect for the impending storm that Cogan will rain down on whoever is responsible for his employers misfortunes, systematically eliminating all the various problems & issues they present to deliver the only acceptable result for his employers. Total resolution of the problem, making sure it will not repeat itself. For Jackie, the only option is to act in DREDD-like fashion, as judge, jury & executioner (From a distance of course), righting the perceived wrong inflicted upon the mob. You don't steal their money - and expect no consequences. Forgiveness, they don't do.

From the outset, this movie was always going to attract attention due to the role that Brad Pitt plays with gusto, philosophical mob hitman Jackie Cogan, who has a distaste for killing up close ("They cry, they plead, they beg, they piss themselves, they cry for their mothers. It gets embarrassing. I like to kill 'em softly. From a distance"), preferring a little professional distance as it were. Pitt is in absolute career best form here, as the hitman with ethics - his unique ethics mind you. His performance is finely nuanced as he approaches the tasks needed to carry out the job. At times you're cheering him on - happy justice is being meted out, then in revulsion when he is so casually brutal and completely unemotional when executing the miserable miscreant's that invariably beg for mercy. All, with a stonefaced look of utter contempt from our cold hearted mercenary. As far as Jackie's concerned, they're rats - and a dead rat is a good rat. Very easily, in my book, one of Pitts best roles ever. Wouldn't be surprised if he got an Oscar nomination - it's that good a performance.

Not only does Pitt acquit himself, but all the other main players have excellent roles that they inhabit with full use of their own personal acting skills. The two who surprise the most with their unfamiliar turns are James Gandolfini as a bitter, washed-up hitman for hire and Ray liotta as a snivelling, cowardly but stupid mob game handler, getting caught up with his problematic past which bites him severely. Gandolfini brilliantly portrays a  weary man at the end of the road, dejected, bitter, pissed off, resigned, and very compromised with his faculties being eroded by substance abuse. It's a not a million miles from Tony Soprano, but it is Gandolfini in a very different light. Liotta usually plays a psycho, but in this movie, he is yet another revelation, behaving in very carefree manner. In doing so, puts his senior position as pretty much untenable by his employers. You know he will meet a form of justice, you don't know when its going to happen, something Liotta plays to precision. Scoot Mcnairy and Aussie Ben Mendelsohn play the two dim-witted lowlife robbers, naive to the extreme in thinking that they'll get away with this audacious heist. Mcnairy does weasely with ease, but Mendelsohn, my god - you can just about smell his vile rankness off screen! He is another revelation, method acting to the inth, completely and repulsively compelling with his drug addled lunacy, careering  him headlong into an obviously serious date with destiny which will have profound consequences for him. Its not a spoiler to say that the first time you site him onscreen, his character just screams 'loser'. And, his fate is, (In hollywood terms) pretty much inevitable. Still, you do feel sorry for his predicament. Sorta. Er, no. He gets whats coming. Richard Jenkins plays the mobs' middle man (Just referred to as 'The Driver') as he usually does in all his performances, with a weary ease. Deftly handling Jackies interrogations about the nature of the task at hand, but resolute when it comes to the financial implications for all parties involved in this unfortunate matter.

The relationship between Jackie and the driver is the most crucial aspect of this compelling film. On one side you have the employer (represented by the driver) and on the other, the employee (represented by the hitman). Both fighting for the only thing that really matters to them. The money. All other factors are mere details to be dealt with as appropriate. The movie is encapsulated by one of the most memorable one-liners this year, I won't spoil it for you however, but when its uttered, it ties in the central economic theme of this compelling film very convincingly. Maybe too, this brilliant movie underscores the exact nature of how Americans view financial opportunities in the land of hope and dreams?

Without doubt, this will make my top ten list this year. Make it a 'must see' on your list of movies to watch!

Thus, my rating is fairly easy to predict :)

Jamies Rating...

J for... Jewel!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Taken 2

Synopsis: Brian Mills has to deal with more bad guys again, in the follow up to 2008's surprise hit movie "Taken". Substituting Istanbul for Paris this time, Mills falls foul of an Albanian mob boss seeking revenge for his son & friends offed in the first installment. Not only does he need to use his 'particular set of skills' again, he also has to pass them on to his daughter... Albeit, reluctantly.

Dad! OMG! Must you shoot that gun whilst I'm trying to drive? I can't concentrate! Grrrr...

There's a theory (Well founded if you look at any statistical records) about movie sequels - and the 'Law of diminishing returns' that is highly relevant when attempting to write a review about a movie like Taken 2. Basically, don't expect anything, presume nothing - and see what you get in return. Sometimes, the payoff is good - great even on occasion. Regrettably, most fall way short of the standard set by the first film. Where does this film fit then in regards to those points? Sadly, in the 'All-too-predictable-groan-here-comes-another-action-movie-cliche' category most emphatically. Is this a good thing? Yes - and no. Good - because that's just what you're expecting, No - because you expected slightly more this time around.

Liam Neeson is again, an intense imposing presence, dispensing his specific brand of justice when the Albanian mob go after the people that matter most to him. His daughter Kim - and ex-wife Lenore. The chief baddie (Murad - played by Rade Serbedzija) is a one dimensional cartoon cutout of a mob boss. Serbedzija has acted way better in other movies. In the context of this movie, you don't need him to be memorable - he just needs to be suitably effective enough. Call it acting if you will. Certainly don't call it a performance of distinction.

The only real changes for round two are the location (Istanbul for Paris) and the fact that daughter Kim is (after a few driving lessons) now capable of stunt car driving through the crowded backstreets of Istanbul! I noted the complete lack of exterior car shots showing her actually driving the car during the chase - all the camera shots were from inside the car. Picky as, but still, an ok addition to the canon of exhilarating movie car chase scenes.

Ok, no further merit in writing detailed screeds about all the various events in this film. No matter what I say about it, you (and many others) will go and see this movie. Its very much what it says on the tin. An action thriller, where a grizzled retired CIA operative does what he does best. Kill bad people who do despicable things. Especially when they threaten his family.

At the time of writing this review, Taken 2 has already made $50 million so far. I'm gonna go out on a limb here - and state the following (My pitch for part three. It will happen - trust me on this :)

"Four years later, with Brian Mills placed in critical care, daughter Kim steps up, demonstrating the unique knowledge passed on down to her, to avert yet another impending family crisis when another batch of very bad guys steal her baby!"

Jamies rating

J for... Job!

Update 17/10/2012. Taken 2 has now grossed over $222 Million worldwide - One of the producers has unofficially confirmed that the third installment "Is a given". Lets hope (hey - I'm an eternal optomist in these kinda matters!) it's going to do something different. We can, but pray. Right?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Words

Synopsis: 'Thou Shall not Steal' is the commandment that struggling writer Rory Jansen forgets when he so desperately craves success to prove his worthiness and fulfill an unrealised potential. This comes back to haunt him when the real writer makes himself known.

The penalty for non-compliance is...

In a very tangential sense, this tale has similar pretensions to Inception. Its a tale within a tale within a tale. Confused? Let me clarify. The Words opens with author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) speaking at his book launch, reading a couple of chapters to the invited guests. He starts to tell his story about a writer (Bradley Cooper) who has an just written an acclaimed novel and his fledgling encounter with an old man who has a secret that will shatter his world once he learns of his very close association with the book. The film then shifts to Rory's world, were we learn about his beginnings, the effect of his crippling self doubt that plagues him, inhibiting any fundamental progress in attaining acclaim in the literary field. Then, after committing to marriage to his devoted girlfriend Dora (A decorative Zoe Saldana), they take a honeymoon in Paris. While in an antique shop, she spots a battered old leather writers briefcase. Bingo, perfect present for my budding writer husband to be! Back home, a few weeks later Rory picks up the case and finds something extraordinary. A manuscript of a novel, that had been left in there - by mistake? We don't know at this stage. Intrigued, Rory starts reading it. Soon, he is absolutely memerised by its contents. He knows that this story is more than good, its potential is just waiting to be untapped. Herein comes the eternal dilemma, what to do next? You know its not your words, but its too good to ignore. So, rather foolishly he decides to re-type the whole thing out - word for word - not changing a single comma, letter or word. Nothing changes, apart from the realisation of what he's just done. Rory then leaves it to one side, whilst wrestling with its potent implications and where to next. Soon, Dora picks it up and starts reading it, unaware of just what has happened. Not only does she love this new story, she urges him to take it further.

Flash forward to basking in the glow of success from this plagiarized novel, Rory is now being feted by the literary set, eager to rub shoulders with the new boy wonder, when he encounters a grizzled old man (Jeremy Irons) in Central Park who deliberately starts to reveal his true identity. And, this is where the fun begins. With the next chapter, we get the old man's story (Via flash backs) - or rather the life experiences that affected him directly. Thus laying the foundation stone for the significant events in this movie.

Considering all the various aspects mentioned so far, The Words had potential to be something very compelling, but its yet another project that isn't quite the sum of its parts. Bradley Cooper is alright in his role, but needs to do a George Clooney - and veer off into indie type movies. This would then build up a more credible resume that will make him far more versatile - rather than going for the easy road of indulging in yet another pretty boy role. Jeremy Irons is just there for the paycheck, he's done much better. Dennis Quaid just seems out of place in his role, maybe because we are unfamiliar with him playing this type of character? Zoe Saldana is fairly easy on the eye, but again, like the others, has done much better work.

All in all, The Words is a credible enough debut from first time writer/directors Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal (Childhood friends of Mr Cooper incidentally), but it just doesn't have enough of an x-factor to recommend it completely.

Still, there are worse ways to spend your time...

Jamie's rating?

J for... Job

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Synopsis: A time traveling hit-man faces the ultimate moral dilemma when assigned by his mob boss to kill his future self - by going back in time and killing him - before he becomes a problem to them . Nothing then, is what it seems as he races to find a solution to this inconvenient situation.

My interest in this time-twister was piqued when I first heard who the director was - Rian Johnson. He first came to the film worlds attention with the critically acclaimed 2005 movie "Brick". It was a film that had that special thing which made it unique. An 'X-Factor'. Although heavily set in the film noir milieu, Brick was a revelation with its unconventional approach to the form. One key factor was the fantastic use of daylight in many key scenes - an aspect which upended many traditional notions about film noir. This deviation from the norm worked superbly in the context of this movie, but it also made you aware of the fact that Johnson was going to be a talented director worthy of following for any future projects he aligned his considerable abilities to.

Alas, his follow-up film - 2008's "The Brothers Bloom" didn't strike a chord with the movie going public - disappearing quickly to rental purgatory (Or perhaps, its natural home?). Too quirky and uneven for many, it still has a legion of fans attracted by its surreal touches and sumptuous visual tone. Probably now is a good time to rediscover this forgotten gem. Movies such as these are like fine wine - they just have to bid their time before they are palatable to the masses. Maturing does not come quickly for the most part! Maybe however, Brothers Bloom's misstep was a fortuitous piece of serendipity? It allowed Johnson to go back, take stock of the things that didn't work so convincingly - and apply his new found wisdom to the next project - clear in his mind about the kind of film which would make people still believe that 'the kid has talent'. Again.

I deliberately don't want to reveal any of the story, but I will comment on the actors - and their impact on this film. Firstly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is well cast as the smug hit-man who unwittingly develops a moral conscience when confronted by his rapidly altering reality - of which he increasingly is unable to extricate himself from. From the outset, you know that he will meet the Bruce Willis version of his character at some point. So its more than amusing when he adopts some of Bruce's visual stylistic features - specifically the Willis smirk. But, in this movie, it actually works! Prosthetics help a great deal as well in making you believe that this is indeed, the younger Willis character - not as how we perceive Gordon-Levitt's onscreen persona. Willis isn't too challenged by his role, but regardless, he is eminently watchable in this movie. Jeff Daniels clearly channeled 'The Dude' (Cohen fans rejoice!) in his role as the weary mob boss. Not a stretch for a man of his talents, but clearly playing it for fun. Emily Blunt was a foul-mouthed revelation, with her convincing American accent, and her single mom character which is not her usual type of role. More of this in future roles please Em! Lastly, the kid - Cid. The young actor (Pierce Gagnon) who plays this pivotal character will be a person of great interest for whatever he turns his latent talent to in years to come. Its all in the eyes. This wunderkid has a staggering intensity which will serve him very very well. Watching him grow as an actor will be fun for any film fan.

Looper is another brilliant addition to the canyon of great science fiction. Its time twisting narrative never runs away from itself at any stage, Johnson even has the cheek to put in a very good line about time travel in which Bruce Willis conveys with just the right kind of delivery and attitude to make it work - and not seem cheesy. Bravo, indeed.

From the outset, it is abundantly clear, that Johnson has made an extremely unique movie that will not only stand up this year - its status will be assured for a very long time to come.

Jamies rating...

J for... Joy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Watch

Synopsis: Small town store manager Ben Stiller gets way more than he bargined for when he forms a neighbourhood watch team with a motley crew of misfits. Nek minute, aliens masquerading as humans are intent on taking over - starting with his town! Look out aliens! Here comes the watch!


Confession time. I love comedies, I really do. I can recommend many that are very very funny. This is not one of them! "Comedy is hard. Dying is easy" is a phrase that is both well worn, but well suited when it comes to describing just what makes any comedic piece funny - or not funny - depending on your view of the specific material presented. Some things tickle your funny bone effortlessly, others? Well, perhaps you weren't the 'target market'? Perhaps, it was only intended for a certain segement - such as 18-25 yr old males? Certainly, that target group is hugely important to Hollywood producers. This group providing a lions share of the revenue generated,  year on year. Consequently, any studio that ignores this vital statistic does so at their peril. Make it 'R' rated, and goodbye to a few squillion or more. It is the difference between making a huge profit - or tanking spectacularly. No-one wants a box office bomb. Obviously, you could draw a conclusion that if you fall outside of this demographic, then, well, you make be hard pressed (Like I was) to love this 'product'. However, if you're a young guy in this category, then hey, have I got a movie for you! Not!

Part of me feels obliged as reviewer to actually review the movie properly, i.e. go through all the various parts that make up the completed product, but as I finished watching this, I decided that it would be futile in doing so. With certain movies, you actually crave for the cliches, you want them, you get them, you feel satisfied that the movie delivered exactly what you expected because you thought that's exactly what you were going to get. A perfect example of a movie falling into this category is "The Expendables 2". C'mon, a movie with that many ego's and testerone, jam-packed into a single feature with the exact kinda dialogue you would expect from such an event is not going to ever fall into the category of "Gee, I didn't see that coming" - ever! So, from that point of view, its entirely acceptable when it is cliche ridden. No surprises then, that "The Watch" is at the opposite end of this scale. In sad fact, its the polar opposite!

That it fails on so many levels draws me to this unsurprising conclusion. Save your money. Watch anything else. I don't feel the need to go on at length about its short comings 'cause I feel I'm doing you all a favour! Hence the brief 'review'.

Who you gonna call? Not these guys :(

Jamie's Rating...

J for... JOKE! (As in - a very bad one!)