spen has written 10 reviews for films rated ★★ .

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

    Solo: A Star Wars Story

    ★★

    They really fluffed this one, especially in the colour grading and writing.

  • The Jackal

    The Jackal

    ★★

    Hollywood continued to spin terrorist redemption and assassin antihero yarns in the run-up to 9/11.

    Major Koslova (Venora) bemoans life as gorgeous with a barely visible scar. Jack Black explodes in a shower of blood. Mulqueen's (Gere) rancid Dublin accent poorly fits his presumed Provisional IRA profile. His boring backstory and gormless acting almost ruin the film. The Jackal himself (Willis), a hyper-prepared nut-storm, drives up the score with brutal cool and fun disguises.

    Watching this thriller did not totally constitute a waste of my time, but it runs too long, and the plot needs work.

  • The Gangster

    The Gangster

    ★★

    This high camp noir / comedy of errors stars my friend's great aunt as Starr (Belita). It lacks energy.

    Wiles' stagey direction, the cute sets and incongruous blocking resemble a one-act play. Fuch's Low Company adapts to a low-intensity psychological noir with limited action. A few slaps and the hysterical score aside, mild humour and sadness dominate the tone. The haunting eyes of Shubunka (Sullivan), morose more than threatening, provide the most memorable visual element. I enjoyed the comic comeuppance of horny Shorty (Morgan).

    We end with a fitting pair of shots for a pretty film both wet and parched.

  • The Keepers

    The Keepers

    ★★

    BBC Shakespeare blew everything on the soundtrack. No money remains for passable wigs.

    See the Siberian tundra of Eriador realised in stagey, low-budget glory, with liberal lens lubing, sideburns, static backgrounds, and reverb. Merry's feet floof conspicuously from between Old Man Willow's roots. The chad goliath Bombadil yodeled his way into my heart. No other characters outsize hobbits.

    The fun, resounding electronica and suggestive panting soundtrack will stay with me. Blink and you might miss the larpy Nazgul, lady Legolas, 'gnome' Gimli, Balrog sock puppet or naff eagle. Gandalf dies without fanfare.

    Slavicise all the sacred cows for my pleasure.

  • The World Is Not Enough

    The World Is Not Enough

    ★★

    Bond '99 digitises saw, torpedo and pipeline effects competently. Its ideas warrant better execution.

    Mr Bullion (Goldie), the Thames chase, chainsaw helicopter and 007's Dublin accent please me. Writers actually justify romance with cackling narcissist Elektra (Marceau).

    Negatives: excessive dialogue, labyrinthine plot holes (whose money did what?; 007 usually defuses nukes) and Bond repulsively haranguing Elektra for having been assaulted. A black belt pairs with brown shoes. Injuries receive poorly telegraphed payoffs. Q (Llewellyn) retires for nothing R (Cleese). M (Dench) gets a job.

    Dr Jones (Richards) convinces no less than other Bond girls. I deem it fine.

  • The Return of the King

    The Return of the King

    ★★

    Rankin & Bass's baffling adaptation expunges two books, Saruman, Faramir, Gimli, Legolas and Arwen, but adds thirty minutes of Sam abandoning Frodo to transform orcs into lemurs with the One Ring. The Hobbit's mispronunciations and irrelevant, warbling songs grate more here, except Where There's a Whip, There's a Way. A cloud kills Theoden. Aragorn shows up late.

    Lovely designs and painted backgrounds suffer expository monologues over recycled footage, and lesser animation. A splendid, gurgling, robotic Witch-king's (Stephenson, channeling Skeletor) battle with Eowyn zooms past. Gandalf retcons Neanderthals as hobbits.

    Fans may enjoy this curio. It cannot stand alone.

  • Licence to Kill

    Licence to Kill

    ★★

    As in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, stakes renew energy and revive blackamoor statuettes, at the cost of glee.

    Bond accumulates buddies. Felix (Hedison, reprising) laughs off widowhood. Sharkey (McRae) receives no setup. Lupe (Soto) looks nice. 'Strong' Pam (Lowell) languishes in neediness. Q (Llewellyn) flourishes, sneaking off to aid 007. Baddies also unnecessarily proliferate.

    A fishboy sculpture, pressurised inflation effect and Dario (del Toro) bring twisted goofiness. A tanker chase and delightfully personal villain death tense up the finale.

    Diminished camp, the drugs-'n'-revenge plot and Kamen's score construct a generic, long action movie. Dalton's edge goes underserved again.

  • A View to a Kill

    A View to a Kill

    ★★

    I wanted to love this one, but the franchise droops with fatigue.

    Nazi experiment Zorin (Walken) starts promising but plays too straight. May Day (Jones), though stiff, radiates glory but receives too little attention. Stacey (Roberts, who died the week of writing), a damselled heiress, screams at a geriatric, cum-drained 007.

    A Beach Boys board intro, forty minutes of horses, pointless Soviet antagonism side-plots, and two K-9 visual gags contribute to the poor pacing and boring second act.

    Zorin Uzis employees to entertain us. His Strangelove foster dad (Gray) amuses. The plot bumbles, then settles too late. Grace Jones rules.

  • Octopussy

    Octopussy

    ★★

    Everyone covets a big egg. Bondo the Clown defuses circus digi-bomb.

    It only thrills twice: in inciting incident (with a clown), and heart-stopping nuclear climax (with a clown). A rotating Politburo set and alligator submarine feature.

    Indians exist, but perish. Rudderless Octopussy (Adams) leads all-white cult. Women enjoy zero romance and inexplicable sex with ancient Moore. New M and Moneypenny flounder. Eon deflects contemporary anti-Soviet fervour onto absurd bellicose general Orlov (Berkoff). Goons Gobinda (Bedi) and yoyo-chainsaw boy menace but go underused, despite excessive runtime.

    Moore scrapes a nadir of Indiana Jones pandering, Tarzan vine screams and faux-feminist spandex warriors.

  • Easy A

    Easy A

    ★★

    Five 25-year-olds insist they are 17.

    Wholesome, whipsmart rapport between Olive (Stone), the dad (Tucci) and the brother (Jenkins) provides an enviable vision of warm, switched-on parenting. A ternary mega-idiot plot limps from cheap mockery of Christian fundamentalists (Bynes) to awkward emulation of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mean Girls.

    Room in my heart exists for only so many American high school romantic comedies. Though it riffs off supposed classics of the genre, and boasts above-average witticisms, this one has no life beyond its function as an Emma Stone vehicle and weekend waster. Watch the dad scenes on YouTube instead.