Review Roundup - I, Robot


I'm always glad to see at least one low budget science fiction success each year, and 2015 doesn't disappoint. While Alex Garland is best know as a writer he takes the director's chair for the first time in this tale of robotics and artificial intelligence. I've enjoyed his films in the past and although Sunshine and 28 Days Later get some flack for the third act violence it's never something I found to be hugely problematic. This time around they with go in a direction which is a lot more subtle, so perhaps he got all that out of his system with the gloriously bloody Dredd. Which isn't to say this doesn't feature it's fair share of alarming sequences but they take a lot of time getting there, and it feels appropriate for the material. It's strange to see Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson jumping from this to mega franchise Star Wars but as usual they are great choices for a slower, small scale story and seem able to easily jump between camp blockbuster characters and the nuanced performances required here. Don't expect any fast paced action, this is slow and unsettling all the way.

Review Roundup - New Order


So Star Wars is back, as you might have noticed. It's unlikely you've been able to avoid an advertising bombardment of this magnitude. There will be practical effects and real locations, there will be actual characters and feelings. Or so they say. Running, yelling and panicking are also sure to be included, after all this is a J.J. Abrams movie. Though it's a decade since the last major release in  this series, the film makers faced the minor issue of delivering something that followed films from much longer ago than 2005 - picking up from 1983 rather than continuing in the vein of the... problematic prequel series.

Besides the fact that many of the original writers, editors and cast members had been absent, the tone and style were quite different to say the very least. Of course getting one of the original writers on board along with director of the Star Trek reboot were logical if commercially safe decisions, which isn't a surprise to anyone; after all the sale of Lucasfilm to the Disney corporation was big news with a big price tag. However Abram's sequel to his Kirk and Spock reboot was something which magnified the issues I have with the original and Lawrence Kasdan hadn't written a classic feature in a long time. But... they do have TIE Fighters, and muppets, and Han Solo. With my concerns set aside is this simply a fun adventure and a good time or a worthwhile expansion of the classic trilogy?

Review Roundup - A Night At The Opera


Brian De Palma's revival of the 60s TV series feels like a long time ago, and well that's because it was. Nearly two decades later this franchise is still going, and somehow they've managed to really pick up the pace with the last two instalments giving it all renewed energy. The 1996 feature remains a class act, and in a lot of ways it's one of those 'better than you remember' type films even if the plot has always been a little convoluted. It remains a slick action thriller with plenty of memorable set pieces and stylish direction. 20 years later... a lot has changed. It's bigger and louder, and the shifts in tone veer into comic relief a lot more frequently. And yet the double crosses, ticking clocks, high tech facility break ins and those Lalo Schifrin chords are all still here. They are still reinventing that burglary on a wire scene in new ways. Luckily the mixture of old and new creates something that really works despite them saying 'disavowed' far too often and failing to avoid the same old plot about agents on the run from their own agency. Considering this is the forth sequel, this is definitely in realm of 'better than you expected'.