Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Man of Steel (2013) PG-13 143 Mins


UK Release Date: 6/14/2013
US Release Date: 6/14/2013

Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Let me get something straight from the very beginning: I like Zack Snyder. He’s one of the most visually interesting directors working today. He’s a filmmaker who embraces technology and not only loves doing what he does, but loves to share in detail why he does it. (his Maximum Movie Experiences on the Watchmen and Sucker Punch Bluray’s are mind blowing) Here’s the rub. Every movie he’s made to date is eye candy of the highest order and … very little else. I’ll admit it. Watchman was lost on me. It’s stylish and well constructed but…. Ummm? Ummm? Yeah. I need to watch it again. Sucker Punch I wanted to love. I really, really wanted to, but… Ummm? Ummm? Now, you remember I said I liked Zack, right? I stand by that. I just never really connect with his films on a level other than the visual. A good film though, is made up of story and character. (Yes, disgruntled Watchmen fans I’ve said I’ll watch it again) If only Zack could find some material to apply his visuals to.

When Warner Bothers decided it was time to reboot the Superman franchise, two things excited me. First, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas were on board as producers. They could reinvigorate the Man of Steel from the ground up just as they had with the Caped Crusader. Second, they chose Zack Snyder to direct. If you’d put those cards down at a Black Jack table, I’d be the first to scream “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Over the next few months the other players fell into place. Amy Adams as Louis Lane. Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Ma & Pa Kent. Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White and Michel Shannon as General Zod. Oh, and before I forget, British actor Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel. Cor, blimey Gov! Winner, winner, chicken dinner, matey! After seeing the first teaser on July 22nd 2012, June 14th 2013 could not come fast enough.

The planet Krypton is dying. Chief scientist Jor-El knows that all hope is lost. Jor-El sends a craft carrying his only son, Kal-El to Earth as he knows it is the only way to save his race. General Zod has other ideas, and murders Joel-El just as the craft leaves. For the crime, Zod and his followers are sent to the Phantom Zone but, as Krypton dies they manage to escape, heading in the same direction as Kal-El. When exposed to Earth’s sun, it gives Kal-El superhuman powers. He doesn’t know how or why, but he knows he is not one of us. Kal-El always seems to be at the scene of danger, saving lives in ways that a human could not possibly do. Daily Planet reporter Louis Lane is on to the story.  Kal-El’s adoptive parents reveal to him  that he was found in a craft that fell to earth, and urge him to keep this superhuman side a secret as the world might not be ready to accept him. When Zod arrives on Earth threatening to destroy the planet unless Kal-El surrenders` within 24 hours, there’s only one thing to do.

This month, I’ll turn 35. On December 15th, Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie will also turn 35. You know you’re getting old when they’re remaking movies that were released when you were a kid. It also makes any critique of a newer version of a film that was a big part of your childhood unfair. Snyder has big shoes to fill, and it’s not his fault. It was the same 6 years ago when Bryan Singer had big shoes to fill with Superman Returns. As much as I try not to compare, Donner’s movie was always in the back of my head. It’s a classic, but we can talk about that another time. When Man of Steel gets it right, it does so with flare and lots of it. When it doesn’t, oh dear, it really doesn’t.

First, the good. Everybody from Cavill, right through to the supporting cast is pitch perfect. No one is trying to be a replica of something from a previous version. That’s the way it should be. There are also a lot of nice touches in the way that Snyder show’s young Kal-El’s point of view. The struggle of dealing with ultra sharp senses is great, and exploring the limits of his power set a great tone.  The chronology is interesting too. It’s not linear, and it mixes things up in an interesting way, as we go back and forth between child Kal-El and Kal-El the young man.

Here’s the bad, or to be fair, the not so good. If you remember that this is an origin the not so good may pass you by. With Nolan’s involvement, it’s easy to see it as a Superman Begins. Still, the key to making superheroes human has always been being able to relate, in some way at least. Although Clark Kent is certainly part of the story, he’s not used as a device to keep the characters wondering who Superman is. If you loose that, you loose the connection to Louis Lane. There is a love interest between the two but its not as electric as it needs to be.  There are also some questionable plot choices.  No spoilers here, you’ll see them.

For me, the biggest issue is Snyder’s urge to go for the throat every single time in every single way. Every action sequence lasts 20 minutes, to the point where I tuned out each time. These sequences, if tightened, could have left room for much needed plot and character development. Instead, we get dizzying images that are so crammed with visual effects that there is no room to breathe.  I remember when a 2 and a half hour movie meant that something was going to happen. Now it just feels like they bloat movies to choking point.

Simply put, all the individual pieces seemed right, but all in the same place amounted to a bland experience. Of course, with the weight of the hype machine in full swing, it  will be the summer’s biggest movie. There will be a sequel, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Here’s the thing about Man of Steel. It’s not a bad movie but it’s not a good one either. It’s just there.

Is this lime worth your time? Meh. 5/10


Overnight (2003) R 82 Mins


UK Release Date: 7/8/2005
Troy Duffy, Jeffery Baxter

“We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams”
From the 1874 poem “Ode” by English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy
(Although first heard by this film geek in 1971′s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”)

Hollywood is a dream factory – that’s why we love it. It might seem hard to believe, but the charm of Hollywood back in its Golden Age was that you didn’t know how those 5 or 6 reels of celluloid became a finished film. They didn’t want to tell us and we didn’t want to know. Times have changed. Part of a movie package today is the hankering for hours of behind the scenes footage, commentaries, and publicity material. I will tell you proudly with hand on heart I am one of those who looks forward to the supplements as much of the film. In a few rare cases, the struggle to get the film to the screen is just as good (and sometimes better) than the movie itself. Overnight, a documentary chronicling the rise and fall of Troy Duffy, writer/director of The Boondock Saints, is such an example.

It was the stuff that dreams are made of. Miramax Films Co-founder Harvey Weinstein offers bouncer/bartender Troy Duffy $1 million to write and direct his screenplay The Boondock Saints. To sweeten the deal, Weinstein offers to buy the bar where Duffy works so he can run it. If that wasn’t enough, he agrees to allow Duffy’s band to write and produce the soundtrack for the film. Oh, Troy. aren’t you a lucky boy! Don’t mess this up now. Every film buff who sat up late at night writing and dreaming is counting on you. You’re one of us, right?

Overnight is a descent into madness as Duffy becomes far too big for his britches far too fast. Hollywood is a place of egos for sure. Without ego you’ll be eaten alive, but Duffy seems to think that he is the only ego that counts. Even when the rug has been pulled from under him repeatedly, he seems oblivious that he might be part of, if not the whole problem. There’s 101 things you don’t do or say as a first time director in Hollywood and over the course of 82 minutes, he’ll cross them off one by one. Even after The Boondock Saints is in the can, and is in need of a buyer to distribute the movie, Duffy still seems to be the only one around who is clueless to the fact that a little humility may serve him better. Documentaries are subjective by nature. I always watch them with a tiny pinch of salt. Documentations are film-makers too. Never forget that facts can be manipulated with creative editing. A carefully placed reaction shot can change the way lines sound. The more Overnight progresses, the faster the pinch of salt dissolves into nothingness. Duffy knows there’s a camera on him, and seems content to big it up at every opportunity.

My wife had one eye on the film while I was watching it. She’s a big fan of Christopher Guest movies like Best In Show and Spinal Tap. I turned to her mid way though and said, “I don’t even know if I buy this anymore. Christopher Guest would be proud.” Duffy is so biting that it almost becomes farce. It makes you want to laugh at his arrogance, but cry as you can see his dream project crumble under the weight of his bullsh*t. When all is said and done, is The Boondock Saints a good movie? Yes it is, but that’s not the point here. If there was a reason why it took 10 years for the dismal sequel to materialize, it’s all found in this documentary. With whispers of a third visit to the Boondocks, I can only hope that cameras are rolling to capture Duffy’s every move.

Overnight is a fascinating insight into how ego can implode a dream. If you love movies, watch it for how not to do things. For the casual viewer, sit back and enjoy the comedy. Sorry Troy, we’re not laughing with you, we’re, well, you know. . .

 Is this lime worth your time? 6/10

The Hangover Part III (2013) R 100 mins


UK Release Date :5/24/2013
US Release Date 5/23/2013
Bradly Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis

I love a Sleeper Hit. A film that has no expectations but by the end of its run, it’s the film that everyone is talking about. Everything in Hollywood though, comes at a price. A sequel will always follow, but wont be so sleepy. The hype machine is kicked into full swing with all hopes pinned on a Memorial Day opening weekend. Here’s the thing: A studio has your money before you are even allowed to cross the threshold of your local multiplex, so a $194 million worldwide weekend doesn’t mean the sequel is any good, it just means a lot of people hoped it would be. After you come down from the high of seeing those familiar faces you connected with so well in the original movie, you realise the sequel wasn’t really any good, was it? Ending things at a sequel sounds half finished, right? So along comes the inevitable threequel. Everybody has taken a deep breath after the sequel and thinks “Okay, we got their money for the sequel but they might stay away from this one. We have to do better.” But do they?

I wish I wasn’t describing the life cycle of 2009′s “The Hangover” but alas. The original film was laugh out load funny, original and fresh. The idea of a hangover, and a get-me-to-the-church-on-time movie isn’t new. What set it apart is the fact that the characters are on the same page as the audience every step of the way. Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug were people we’ve met before in real life to varying degrees, and we’ve all had a night that is probably best left in the recesses of the subconscious. We can all relate to that.

Two years later, a sequel arrived. The cast was there, the jokes were bigger, the locale was more exotic, but the heart of the original was nowhere to be found. In comedy, the jokes that passed you by on first viewing sometimes offer the biggest laugh. In a sequel where the audience knows what’s coming, subtlety takes a back seat and slapstick (more appropriately slap-hammer) takes center stage.

So what does the third and (do they mean it when they say) final film in the Hangover have to offer? Alan’s antics have taken their toll on his parents, literally driving his father to his grave. An intervention seems in order, and everyone knows that it has more chance of success if all members of the Wolf-pack are there to drive Alan to therapy. With his support system on the road with him, its a two day drive to the facility. What could possibly go wrong? The boys are run of the road by wiseguy Marshall (John Goodman) who is desperate to find Mr. Chow, who has made off with $21 million worth of gold bars. Marshall believes the Wolf Pack are the best chance he has of finding him. He takes Doug as collateral, and they have 72 hours to return with Chow – or, well, you know.

The Hangover Part III is a predicable farce that is only a little better than Part II. The cast looks tired and the only way they seem to be able to up the ante is by screaming their lines rather than delivering them. Ken Jeong’s Mr Chow is tedious and overused. Thinking about it, he reminds me of Jar Jar Binks in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The filmmakers believe that a supporting character can carry the picture but the audience wish he’d just bugger off and leave us alone.

The biggest problem with The Hangover Part III is it’s lack of hangover. Literally. It plays out like a straight road movie. There are laughs, but only extensions of what we’ve seen in the trailer. The funniest scene plays over the end credits. Alan gets a nice send off, but by the time it comes we’re spent. So what? Who cares? It’s a sad end, but don’t let it sour the greatness of the original. Invite the members of your own Wolf Pack to your place. Open a few beers, fire up the Blu-Ray player, and send yourself back to 2009. That one’s a classic.

Is this lime worth your time? 5/10 (or 2.5 out of 5)


Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) PG-13 132 mins


UK Release Date: 5/9/2013
US Release Date: 5/15/2013
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

J.J Abrams came out of nowhere for me. It seems like he hit the ground running with the Alias TV series, yet if you look back at his credits, he’s been around longer than we think. Three films come to mind that you might not know he had a hand in. Back in 1990, he penned the screenplay for the James Belushi comedy “Filofax”. If you have trouble finding that one on Netflix, look under the American title of “Taking Care Of Business”. Then there’s the Mel Gibson Sci-fi Romance “Forever Young” from 1992 (in 1992, Mel was a credible romantic lead – oh how the mighty fallen). Last, and some would say least, there’s Michael Bay’s Armageddon. I’ll admit it. I like Armageddon. (Request a LimeRant if you dare!) Yes, J. J has always been there, quietly plugging away with some modest successes.

The J.J Abrams we know as the creator of “Lost” (or as I like to call it, “The Island Everyone Wanted To Escape From But Missed It When They Did”), seems to be a completely different man in style and confidence. His films are always the best kept secrets in Hollywood, and very rarely do they disappoint. That’s why this review is difficult for me to write because there’s so much I could tell about Star Trek Into Darkness. Here’s the thing: I don’t want to tell you anything about Star Trek Into Darkness. So we have a bit of a quandary on my hands, don’t we? Hmmm. What do we do?

Writers, whether they be journalists, reviewers, screenwriters, or novelists, are protective and narcissistic creatures when it comes to their words. You’d better be careful if you use the words of someone else in your writing. In this case I need to break that rule. A friend of mine sent me a text last night before I’d seen the movie:


Well, French Fry, I hope I’m not letting you down. Your comments gave me the perfect jumping off point. Star Trek Into Darkness is indeed epic. The film opens with a great action sequence that is both visually stunning, and perfectly paced. With Spock playing by the rules and Kirk breaking them, things go awry and of course, its a smack on the wrist with demotion for James T, and Spock is sent to a different ship. Back in London, (yes you did just read that, a futuristic London that would surpass even Boris Johnson’s wildest dreams) a child is dying of a terminal illness. A mysterious stranger approaches the child’s father and assures he can save her. Of course, for a price. The price, in the form of an act of terrorism on a Star Fleet Archive is paid, and its up to Star Fleet to track the man responsible.

Here is where I draw the line. One plot point would lead to another and before you know it, everything that makes Star Trek, Into Darkness a fun ride would be lost. The internet is the place for spoilers, but you wont find them in a LimeFlix review. The LimeRant page is the place to look for movies that have reached a point where people have most likely seen them. I want you to experience the Star Trek sequel with the same level of surprise as I did. So what can we talk about to help you make the decision to see the movie. Here goes:

The cast of Star Trek Into Darkness shows such respect for Rodenberry’s universe. Everyone reprises their roles with the same level of enthusiasm and yet they are not caricatures of the original shows performers. Chris Pine’s Kirk is his own, and Qunto’s Spock is never an afterthought of the legendary Lenard Nimoy. The same goes for the supporting cast, who seem to have bottled the essence of those before, without drowning in it. That’s not easy and yet it looks effortless. Benedict Cumberbach is indeed phenomenal. (and indeed English). His bad guy is complex, his motivations solid. You just buy it. Anyone that’s watched a movie in the last 40 years know that if us Brits are good for anything, its being a villain. Terence Stamp as General Zod in “Superman”, Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” and of course Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lector in “The Silence Of The Lambs”. We’re bastards, us Limey’s. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask my wife!

All aspects of the movies design shine too. Michael Giacchino’s score is rich and energetic, containing a lot of homages to Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek series theme. Interestingly, the screenplay borrows a lot from the 1982 Star Trek sequel – I’m trying so hard not to spoil I dare not speak its full title. Even so, this is not a replica, but an weave of interesting ideas. One question I had going in was can J.J pull off both a Star Trek movie and a Star Wars movie? Given the timeline, it doesn’t look like there will be anything between this movie and our return to A Galaxy Far, Far Away… My opinion after seeing this is yes. Absolutely. His direction is tight but always on the right side of seriousness. The effects are handled smoothly, and his use of the frame in the IMAX sequences is great. This is a film that demands to be seen in IMAX 3D. The image literally jumps off the screen. Star Trek fan or not, this is a movie that all with a taste for action and good ole corn poppin’ fun will enjoy. Gene would be proud.

Is this lime worth your time? 9/10 (or 4/5)

Here’s a small post script LimeRant.

Whatever you think of this review, or indeed the film itself, there’s something you should know about J.J. Abrams. Back in December, I read a story on line that moved me. Paramount released a 9 minute IMAX preview to be screened before the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy. Dan Croft, a Star Trek fan who was diagnosed with terminal cancer was on a mission to catch that trailer as it would be his only chance to see any of the movie before he passed away. Compilations with Dan’s illness meant he couldn’t go as planned, and when he came out of hospital the trailer had been removed from theaters. After the story was posted on Reddit, it found its way to J.J. who granted Dan a private screening of a rough cut of the film back in January 2013. Dan died a few days after seeing the film. That was an amazing thing you did, Mr Abrams. I salute you!

The Guilt Trip – (2012) PG-13 95 mins

Guilt Trip

UK Release Date 3/8/2013
US Release Date 12/19/2012
Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen

The road movie. Two unlikely travel companions hit the road for simple journey. Sometimes they know each other, sometimes they are forced together against their will. How can these two possibly co-exist? Sound familiar? Inventor Andy (Seth Rogen) is heading on a trip across the country to sell his revolutionary cleaning product. He stops at his mothers house before heading out, and ends up taking mummy dearest (Barbara Streisand) along for the ride. Hilarity is bound to ensue, right? Well….

Do you ever watch a movie and about midway through you think, “Oh, I know I’d rather be watching…?” I call it the Casino effect. Casino is a fine film. It’s visually stunning. The performances are universally excellent, and Scorsese’s direction is running at 99.9% But… at around the 45 minute mark something happens. I don’t know why, but I find myself reaching for the remote and saying, “Okay, I know I’d rather be watching Goodfellas” and within minutes, “Rages to Riches” by Tony Bennett begins to play as Ray Liota declares, “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The Guilt Trip a sweet enough comedy, with Rogen and Streisand trading playful blows back and forth. Rogen wears his everyman persona like a glove. In The Guilt Trip, he delivers dialogue in a way that reminded me of a young Woody Allen. It’s natural and so subtle you really have to listen or you’ll miss a good line. Streisand does motherly guilt very well, and manages to give as good as gets. At about 35 minutes though, the film suffers from a massive case of the Casino effect. “Oh, I wish I was watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (I’ll remember that when an American takes a stab at my accent. To be fair, most are better than Dick Van Dykes turn in “Mary Poppins”) Wherever you are John Hughes, I hope you’re feeling the flattery. The Guilt Trip owes so much to Planes, Trains and Automobiles and yet the characters seem very two dimensional. Sure there are comedic moments, but the screenwriter seems to think that by having Rogen and Streisand say the words, they’ll make them funnier. Its not the case I’m afraid. The lowest moment for me, was a scene where Streisand goes into a bar and is enticed into a steak eating contest. – Casino effect #2. – Oh, I wish I was watching The Great Outdoors. John Candy, I hope you’re feeling the flattery, wherever  you are.

To be fair, The Guilt Trip will appeal to more than a few people. It’s resolution is heartfelt and genuine, and might just reduce your mother or your grandmother to tears. If they start to falter around the 35 minute mark, cue up Planes, Trains and Automobiles. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Goodfellas.

Is this lime worth your time? 5/10 (or for anyone who wants marks out of 5:  2.5/5)

Iron Man 3 (2013) PG-13 130 mins




UK Release Date: 4/25/2013
US Release Date: 5/3/2013
Robert Downey Jr, Gweneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pierce, Ben Kingsley

One of the things a movie loving Limey loves the most about living in the USA is phoning his movie loving friends in England to brag. “I’ve seen the latest summer blockbuster before you!” I’m not one to complement Michael Bay without good reason. No, there are many Vitoria Secret models lining up to do that. To his credit though, he made sure that the first Transformers movie was released on July 2nd 2007 while I was visiting the US. Brits had to wait 3 and a half weeks to see it. Brag? Of course. Although after seeing it, some Brits were of the opinion that wasn’t long enough. Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 was released in the UK last week (huh?) and my phone hasn’t rung yet. Does it mean that its not worth bragging about? Not quite.

Tony Stark is a man with a lot on his mind. Still exhausted from the alien invasion of The Avengers, he can’t sleep. The Iron Man suit has been given over to Uncle Sam and rebranded the Iron Patriot, leaving Stark with nothing to do but tinker with his Iron Man suits. A series of terrorist bombings spearheaded by the evil Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) are tearing the city apart, and it becomes clear that the President is at the top of the hit list. When Stark’s friend Happy Hogan almost loses his life in an attack, Stark invites the Mandarin to come and face him, placing love of his life Pepper Potts in danger.Stark has no choice but to face his demons. If he can’t, he might just loose everything.

Where Iron Man 3 gets interesting has nothing to do with the device of Iron Man itself. Stark’s doubt and anxiety about his place in the scheme of things makes the film succeed in ways that other Marvel movies haven’t. Looking beyond appearances, things not being what they seem and shifts in perception are at the heart of the film. Plots and subplots play out in comic book grandeur but if you think about it for a second, its not that different from what unfolds on the nightly news broadcast on your network of choice. Ironically, your network of choice might slant your perception.

As an action movie, we know what’s going to happen. We know that the beats are, and we go through them one by one. That’s not a bad thing, its formula summer blockbuster stuff. Action sequence, quip quip, action sequence, quip. That’s fine. It’s Downey’s effortless Tony Stark that lifts it out of being mundane. He relishes the spoiled billionaire and who wouldn’t? It’s nice to see Paltrow taking part in the action rather just waiting to be saved. It makes for a nice showdown in the third act. For me, it takes a little long to get there. The effects are top notch but… Effects artists seem to forget that just because they have a big frame to fill, they don’t have to fill every inch. If you do, its a mix of fast moving colour and no detail.

I’m always curious when a director sits in for two installments and then ducks out for the third. As a Brit, my first experience of Jon Favreau was as Big Pete Becker in season 3 of “Friends”. Elf is now a Christmas classic, but I couldn’t see the him as the ideal director of the first Iron Man movie. I was wrong. See? Brits can admit it from time to time.) The third Iron Man is in the hands of Shane Black. (Screenwriter of “Lethal Weapon”, director of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) I feel a little bad for him. It looks great, and sounds great, but lets face it, it’s a franchise movie. Why don’t we see Steven Spielberg or John Landis directing a Bond movie? They would make a great Bond for sure. Like Bond, Iron Man is a brand. The powers at Marvel know what they need, so individual vision doesn’t matter. That’s the thing. It’s an Iron Man movie – it does what it says on the tin.

Did I like Iron Man 3? Yes. Is it anything new? No. Is that a bad thing? No. There are enough laughs between the action and in the end, well. I’ll leave that for you to enjoy.

Is this lime worth your time? 7/10