Saving Private Ryan – SMALL MOVIE WORLD


  • Tom Hanks is tremendous as Captain Miller; consistently in control, displaying determination and leadership, but not afraid to show fear and trauma to a point of breaking down. He’s so likeable and charismatic, radiating as a down-to-earth, guilt-ridden human being.
  • The squad has an excellent chemistry. Between the cheeky chit chat, the hostile arguments and the engaging night-time conversations, you get to know a little about each of them, and when push comes to shove, they are a formidably united, equal unit.
  • The storyline is powerful and enthralling. It’s so noble and heartfelt to ensure that James Ryan comes home safe so that his mother has at least one son alive in the midst of his other brothers’ deaths, and from there you are hooked and desperate to see them succeed.
  • The famous D-Day sequence is perfect; the best recreation of it ever in cinema. It efficiently captures the fear in the faces of the soldiers and the overall helplessness of the situation. They sure don’t hold back in the bloodiness, with the effects being as realistic as they get. The combo of the he guerrilla-style cinematography, intense sound design and lack of music really put you within the zone, and the immediate aftermath allows you to catch your breath as well as take in the horror that had just unfolded, giving it a measurable, palpable weight.
  • At no point does the action feel fake across the entirety of the picture. There’s such a brutal, gritty realism to it, making it easy to take seriously and have you physically wincing at the more painful, gory scenes.
  • There are a multitude of hard-hitting moments that each achieve the impact they seek: the Ryan brothers’ mother receiving the news, the recital of the Lincoln letter, the harsh twist of the wrong private Ryan being given incorrect information, and eventually the real James Ryan being told the news.
  • The excellent opening scene sets the mood impeccably; Harrison Young’s dialogue-free acting alone is powerful stuff, and it is bookended by an equally strong conclusion off the heels of an intense, suspenseful finale.
  • The spot on editing is pitch-perfect and the pace is absolutely correct, never dragging but never rushing, and because of the firm interest, the near 3 hours will fly by.
  • John Williams is beautiful and sombre, never being too grand or overblown, it’s at the right natural pitch in order to accentuate the emotional, bleak tone.
  • The variety of high calibre technicals lend themselves to the generation of this massive epic scope. This is not a small story, this is a major tale, and Spielberg’s direction helps to give it the majesty and respectable size that it deserves.

Stardust – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • Charlie Cox as Tristian is an…adequate lead at best. There’s nothing necessarily bad about him, but he’s badly overshadowed by everybody else.
  • Tristian has a couple of flawed scenes, namely when he’s suddenly ditching Yvaine to go to be with Victoria which is a d*ck move. It comes out of nowhere and for me damages his likeability.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer is great as the main villain Lamia, she’s both funny and threatening, although a tad useless at points, I lost count of how many times she relies on the help of her sisters.
  • Claire Danes is good as Yvaine and expressive as hell, Robert De Niro is bloody awesome as Captain Shakespeare, Mark Strong is memorable as the Prince Septimus, and both Ricky Gervais and Mark Williams are hilarious in their very brief spots as Ferdy and Billy respectively.
  • Although a little overburdened with multiple plot-points at once, the overall story is more or less straight forward to follow and understand.
  • The story does take a while to get going; okay in the first half but gradually gaining momentum and improving as it goes, leading into a stronger second half.
  • A lot of fantastic creativity is employed and that balances out well with the high amount of comedy.
  • There’s a decent mixture of nice scenery spanning the woods, the countryside and the mountains that results in plenty of sweeping shots.
  • The pacing is incredibly choppy, noticeably rushing through scenes at times, including moments that should have made a bigger emotional impact. For example, Tristian finally meeting his mother seems so brushed aside without a second glance.
  • The CGI is terrible, looking quite bad especially by 2007 standards, with a number of the effects looking out of date by nearly a decade.

Eyes Wide Shut – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • Tom Cruise and especially Nicole Kidman turn in committed performances, you’re sucked into their interactions and dilemmas, and they have a solid chemistry.
  • Despite a major element being the two leads’ marriage, Kidman seems to be pushed aside as the plot continues, which is a shame because her early scenes are fantastic.
  • Kidman is stellar in three specific scenes: the best friend’s party, that argument in the bedroom where she lashes out at Cruise, and when she recalls her unsettling premonition-like dream.
  • There are a few interesting side characters, such as the Hungarian gentleman at the party and the colourfully odd Mr Milich.
  • The “masked ball” sequence is extraordinarily captivating, putting you in a firm trance while Jocelyn Pook’s unbelievably haunting score sends chills through the body.
  • Kubrick does well diving into the struggles that comes with marriage, or any relationship in general, covering the likes of trust, doubt, and past mental scars.
  • Larry Smith’s cinematography is mostly great and tends to fit the current mood of the scene, although there are a couple of moments where the camera work is noticeably rough and janky, and distractingly so.
  • The music is wonderful and dignified, with the main theme being memorable, but the repeated piano verses get tiresome after a while.
  • There’s a magnetic drawing power that radiates from the story, sparking quite early on and being maintained for a long time, but unfortunately it begins to waver in the last third; everything after Nicole Kidman’s nightmare is where it struggles.
  • Ultimately the payoff is logically sound yet lackluster, with much build-up spent and headed towards very little, almost as if nothing is resolved, and it goes out on a disappointing whimper.

The Fifth Element – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • The cast is awesome, everybody stands out with their own unique, diverse identities. No matter how large or small a part, all the actors deliver in one way or another and succeed in their given roles, including Bruce Willis as the cheeky smartass, while Milla Jovovich is innocent and impressionable, Ian Holm is anxious and frustrated, Chris Tucker is delightfully over the top, and Gary Oldman is damn near unrecognisable as the amusing, confident villain.
  • Even with the umpteen threads and details thrown in, the plot is just simple and logical enough for the audience to grasp.
  • I noticed that there were story touches quite similar to The Mummy films; both the classic and the Brendan Fraser series; mainly the multiple generations of priests based in Egypt protecting the world from an evil source.
  • I think what has me enjoying The Fifth Element the most is that there’s an outlandish childlike feel to the whole thing. It’s like a mash-up of a comic strip, a Saturday morning cartoon and there’s seemingly even drips and drabs of anime. It’s basically a dumb, mindless barrel of pure, exhilarating awesomeness.
  • The comedy is consistently on top form, the action is a tonne of fun, and there’s even a couple of cool serious scenes; most notably the Diva song sequence which is genuinely lovely and even kind of spine-chilling.
  • It’s tightly edited and extremely well-paced, the film is just a constant blast that flies in. It’s never boring and never feels slow.
  • The set and production design are super ambitious and it looks insanely vibrant; the practical effects are great, and although a lot of the CGI hasn’t aged too well, credit is deserved for the considerable effort.
  • The costume work is distinct and there’s a wide variety of races and species involved.
  • The soundtrack is rocking, especially Little Light Of Love, and I admire subtle details like the cool, spiritual sound cues used when referring to the Supreme Being and the elements.
  • The dark planet is a really weak main threat. There’s not much time dedicated to it, and never at any point is it presenting worry or tension.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • The logical and creative punny title already earns a tonne of points.
  • The plot is simple enough, in fact it’s close to bare bones, with definitely more focus on the gimmick and the comedy above all else as you’d expect, which is reliant if you find it funny, and two thirds of the time it is, although a little hit and miss with not too much that busts the gut.
  • They do repeat a few beats from Stir Crazy, mainly the fact of them being framed for murder and escaping from custody, even the personality traits are similar; Pryor has the attitude, Wilder is nicer and laid back, and the pair work off familiar formulas, which is a double edged sword; they’re good in their traditions, but it’s almost not much new.
  • But with that said, Pryor and Wilder are on great form and return with their usual stellar chemistry.
  • The dialogue is great and natural with a real improvised vibe to it; the arguments especially are brilliant.
  • As for the rest of the cast: Adele’s fine, Captain Braddock is a standard angry police captain, Gatlin’s amusingly sympathetic and chilled, Eve’s alright, Kirgo stands out with a distinct accent, and the chief villain Sutherland is barely developed so there’s not much to be said about him.
  • There’s a lot of wonderful memorable moments; for starters, the interrogation scene is hilarious and Wilder’s naivety is a highlight.
  • I absolute adore the photographer in the police station, who is so over the top but so damn relatable, it’s honestly my favourite moment.
  • The time jokes; 12 o’clock, 10’o clock etc; are clever.
  • The medical conference is juicy and will please those with a seriously childish, immature sense of humour like yours truly.

Spies In Disguise – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • Will Smith as always is naturally cool and charismatic, the role of Sterling feels a little run of the mill for this point in his career, but then again that’s what makes him suit the character I suppose.
  • Tom Holland is good as Walter; similarly to Smith in his role, he’s a predictably yet natural pick as the awkward geek while carrying an infectious energy and a pure love for what he does.
  • Together, Smith and Holland, despite being basically polar opposites as actors and characters, have such a strong chemistry and their interactions are hands down the highlight of the film.
  • The side cast are just okay for me. Performance-wise they do what’s necessary but there’s not much memorable character-wise.
  • As for Killian, he is such a bland one-note villain, which is immensely disappointing to me especially because besides Vader and maybe the droid, Ben Mendelsohn was the best part of Rogue One as Director Krennic.
  • The concept is straight forward enough and the jokes in connection with it may be at times obvious but they work.
  • The plotline is incredibly standard and so by the numbers, and almost everything you can see coming a mile away with no out of nowhere twists or turns. Even at the end, there’s such a pointless bluff.
  • The design as a whole is very bright, colourful and grabbing, and the animation is slick and quick with the comedic timing on constantly good form.
  • The jokes often land well and the dialogue, especially the back and forth arguments between the two leads, is a joy, and both older and younger viewers can get a kick out of it.
  • Lastly the music isn’t half bad, with a few decent tracks that make a mark of sorts.

Grand Piano – SMALL MOVIE WORLD

  • The concept is straightforward yet effective, it’s a very classic Hitchcockian style idea that is almost timeless and really could have been made in any era of cinema
  • Elijah Wood is our star who is engaging and he nails the stage fright element, complete with the panic and anxiety, then eventually building the courage to the point of taking no more crap
  • John Cusack is solid and threatening in his voice acting
  • The remainder of the cast do quite a fine job and play their parts nicely
  • Alex Winter as the lackey I couldn’t quite take serious as evil, but his moments of sassy attitude give him personality, and it’s there where he seems natural
  • There’s a little bit of comic relief there too, and it’s surprisingly well done
  • The cinematography is incredible with so many techniques applied, it looks stunning and flows flawlessly
  • Snappy, fast editing keeps a strong pace and amplifies the intensity when it needs to
  • The actual music itself is great and the performances on that front are commendable
  • There’s a lack of suspense in the reveal of the villain because Cusack is credited up front and there’s no doubt whatsoever that it’s him, plus there’s virtually no backstory to Cusack so his arc seems empty and as a result, the ending falls flat

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS – The On-Screen Mental Breakdown Of Jeremy Irons

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DUNGEONS & DRAGONS


Have you, like me, been more than well aware of the phenomenon known as Dungeons & Dragons for eons, but have yet to dip your toe into that pool of wonder and imagination? Well, take it from me, the 2000 feature length film adaption is for sure not the ideal gateway…in fact it’s probably the worst gateway imaginable. Am I saying you should avoid it at all costs? Oh no, I still recommend giving this one a watch, because wow…just wow…it’s sure something else.

After the most bare-bones narrated introduction that does nothing to get you sucked in or fired up, we are introduced to the star of the show, Jeremy Irons as Lord Prothean, who is beautifully over the top. The way he speaks is almost as random and disjointed as the likes of Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum, not to mention he constantly looks to be on the brisk of orgasm with his facial expressions, and abruptly switches back and forth between these bizarre raspy whispers and mental top-of-his-lungs yells. I think it’s safe to say that Irons single-handedly killed the art of subtlety in this performance.

Bruce Payne as Damodar is equally silly but for different reasons, as he talks dead slowly in this borderline sexual deep voice, to the point where you can’t help but giggle. He’s so entertaining for the wrong reasons, but seriously why is he wearing blue lipstick? Why, just why?

Thora Birch, bless her, I’ve liked her in many a film, such as American Beauty, Ghost World and especially Hocus Pocus, but she’s quite stodgy here unfortunately. She’s supposed to be an empress, and we’re supposed to be on her side, but she has no sense of authority whatsoever. How am I meant to take her seriously as someone large and in charge? I can’t.

Ridley is a bland protagonist doesn’t offer much, and as for Marlon Wayans as Snails, aside from being the epitome of miscast, is annoyingly unbearable to the point of being unlikeable and unsympathetic.

Marina is also particularly bland with virtually no character development apart from a throwaway line about wanting more, the dwarf comes out of freaking nowhere and is roped in no particular reason, and the elf, while cool looking, doesn’t offer much else, although Richard O’Brien makes a brief appearance as Xilus, leader of the thieves, and is a saving grace as he’s jolly good fun in his short but sweet outing.

The visual effects look ripped right from a TV movie, and that’s being generous. There are these multiple sweeping shots of castles, but the obvious fakery ruins whatever they are going for, and the dragons are downright adorable. You’d think with all that budget in their back pocket, you’d think they could create something passable.

Even on a practical level, it’s subpar. Aside from a couple of nice looking places, a lot of the sets are dull, lifeless and cheap looking, as well as quite cramped, with not much scale to them. The average cinematography doesn’t help in that matter, resulting in a poor show for what’s supposed to be this big fantasy epic.

The writing is ludicrous and defies logic when it’s not being simply uninteresting, and the plot tends goes back forth and all about, creating a total flip-flopped mess dotted with pointless, badly executed commentary about social class and the like.

The action is disappointing; being clumsily shot and choreographed; the pacing is inconsistent, the music is okay but mostly uninspired, and there’s not much in the way of originality; the whole maze sequence is a flat out rip off of Indiana Jones. There are not even shy about hiding it, it’s so blatant.

The amount of crazy moments is off the chart too. Every two minutes, I’m asking myself what I’m watching, and that’s not even taking the more nutty acting performances into account, and the climax is a phenomenally deranged drug trip and a half.

Overall, this is a medieval trainwreck that barely resembles the source material that it’s based on, and it’s such an amateur production that wastes money which could have went into a more worthwhile project, but that’s also the beauty of it. It’s one of the ultimate so bad it’s good flicks, where you can’t help but just love and laugh at the sheer stupidity of it all, and it’s like that from start to finish, from the ridiculous acting, to the laughable effects, to the brain-numbing logic.

The Dungeons and Dragons movie is advertised as more than just a game, and they’re right, it’s a gloriously puerile experience that brings us heaps of misguided delight.

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT – Delivering Us An Unsung Masterpiece

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THE PRINCE OF EGYPT


I’m sure most of us have a certain film or films that we consider disgustingly underrated and wish more people would check out and talk about. I have a few myself, with my list including Ed Wood, Living In Oblivion, and today’s subject – The Prince Of Egypt – released by Dreamworks in 1998, which I without hesitation think highly of as one of the best animated films of the past quarter century.

It tells the story of Moses from the book of Exodus, a tale most will be at the very least aware of, told to us through a really engaging plot that’s pretty straightforward, so audiences both old and especially young; the latter being the demographic it’s targeted at; should find it easy to follow, but that’s not to say it’s basic and simplistic. On the contrary, this movie is packed with heaps of depth and detail.

Val Kilmer takes the helm of Moses, who is solid at first but quickly improves and becomes a brilliant character who goes through an arc of various stages, and Kilmer reflects each of these stages nicely; a rambunctious young man, a lost soul, a content shepherd, a leader of the people; his development is fascinating, and I’m with him all the way.

Ralph Fiennes as Ramses is very complex. Determined not to be the weak link, he shows a vast range of emotions in his internal struggle; stubbornness, ignorance, hunger for power, over confidence, disgust, vengeance; he just runs the gamut, and all of these elements really come across in both the drawings and Ralph Fiennes’ outstanding performance. It’s one of my favourite of his, and one doesn’t get enough credit for, another damn fine notch in his storied career.

There’s such a strong conflict running through Moses and Ramses. Because they grew up as brothers, they share a fierce bond and that gets in the way of both men’s actions when they meet face to face, as they evidently both wish for the past, nostalgia running wild as they reminisce the old days. All this adds an extra layer to the situation, with regretful emotional attachment playing a big factor.

The supporting cast wonderful is too, including Michelle Pfieffer, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldbum, Steve Martin and Martin Short. It’s a loaded ensemble, who all feel like meaningful choices with nobody seeming out of place.

One thing I like is that the film never feels too in your face preachy or shoved down your throat at all in regards to the religious content. It’s perfectly balanced, so no matter if you are a person of faith or not, it doesn’t overshadow anything. With or without religious context, the story is still good and that’s most important.

As for the animation? Good lord, this film is gorgeous. There’s such a vivid scale, where the team really take advantage of both 2D hand-drawn and 3D computer designs, blending them together to produce stunning set pieces featuring rich lighting, sharp shadows and intense colour contrast.

It’s just unbelievable, fitting for something of an epic calibre, and aside from a couple of moments where it can noticeably look a touch shabby, the character and camera movements are for the most part so slick and fluent.

The music is glorious too. The score composed by the one and only Han Zimmer is fittingly large, and the selection of songs are real good too, from the palpable Deliver Us to the utterly catchy Heaven’s Eyes.

The film contains so many sublime scenes that are pretty memorable, and quite a few especially stand out to me. For example, there’s the dream sequence, done in a traditional Egyptian artistic fashion, it’s very unique and looks spectacular, and they don’t do it simply to be stylish, it actually serves a purpose in showing Moses the truth about his past.

The burning bush moment is so magnetic and flooding with atmosphere that it makes the desired impact, selling it effectively through Moses’ reactions, and the accompanying music track is beautifully lush; in fact, one of my favourite instrumental pieces from a film ever.

The plagues scene is so grand and epic, but holy moly, the first born sequence is hands down one of the most fiercely spine chilling, goosebump-inducing things that I’ve ever witnessed in a film. It’s the moment that really sealed the deal for me and elevated this from really good to extraordinary, and it transitions seamlessly into When We Believe, an absolutely sweet number, and between these two moments, it’s 10-15 minutes of pure perfection.

Wow, so it’s obvious that I had a lot to say, and for good reason. Prince Of Egypt is a powerful experience, and if it’s something you’ve not watched as of yet, then you’re doing yourself a major injustice.

By a country mile, it’s best Dreamworks animated movie ever, In fact, to be brutally honest and perhaps controversial, I find it better than at least half or maybe even two thirds of all Disney animated features, and to further stoke fuel to that fire, I genuinely believe this stamps a more provoking impression than The Ten Commandments epic starring Charlton Heston.

I have very little issue with Prince Of Egypt, and it’s a real shame it doesn’t get more recognition, because in my mind it is an underestimated masterpiece, One of the best of its kind to have emerge in the last few decades, and its impact will undoubtedly stay with me for decades to come.