Monday, 16 September 2013

Film Round-Up #2

I've talked here before (probably lots of times) about the wonder that is Netflix. Some moan about the 'poor range' of films and TV shows available to stream but I suspect these people are looking a specific show or few shows that don't happen to be available (yet). For me, it's fantastic - user friendly, near faultless service (I would've left out the 'near' but an episode of Battlestar Galactica I tried to watch recently didn't have sound - it was okay after a couple of days), no advertising anywhere, and more films and TV shows than I've got time to watch, all for a miraculously generous price of £6 per month!

There is of course a downside to this, at least if you're married as I am. That is, of course, when the 'other half' wants to watch something as mine often does! Occasionally one of her choices turns out to be great but more often they are average or even head-explodingly bad. Nonetheless, I figured I might as well mention such titles here, whether for good or for ill. Of course, most aren't worthy of a full review, so, to that end, here is the first of my Netflix Round-Ups!

Stick It (2006)

When this title was selected during one of partner's many extensive searches, I shuddered and feared for the worst. It comes from the same writer as 'Bring It On' and I was duly expecting one of those annoying teen high-school-based dancing films but actually it's none of those things. Well, it is a teen film and stars Missy Peregrym as talented but rebellious former gymnast 'with an attitude', Haley, who's forced to return to the sport by a judge after a brush with the law so she can gain some structure and discipline. She is sent to a gymnastics academy run by legendary coach, Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), where she is greeted with hostility by the other gymnasts while training for an upcoming competition. So yes, it's all pretty girly stuff, but the gymnastics action is very convincing (at least to my untrained eyes), and Peregrym and Bridges are superb value (especially the former) as the film heads for its not-wholly-predictable climax. Hardly a 'must see' but not as bad as I feared... 6/10

The Last Airbender (2010)

I had already smelt the stink this film had been creating for the last few years and had been avoiding it accordingly, but then it was selected by some guests we had over Christmas. They are big anime fans and so may have selected it since it's based on the popular anime-style show which stars Aang, a 'Bender' (snigger) who can manipulate the four elements of fire, water, earth, and air. Here he's played by a young whipper-snapper named Noah Ringer and, as the last Bender (snigger) capable of bending all four elements, he's roped into ending a war started by the evil 'Fire Nation', who want to conquer the world, naturally. Besides some poor casting (which brought with it accusations of racism), the acting is also generally poor - few of the bland characters are convincing and, to be blunt, I just couldn't give a damn about any of them or their plight. The story is full of holes and nonsensical plot twists, too, when it isn't 'dazzling' us with over-the-top CGI. There's so much badness here that it's physically painful to watch. Stick to the cartoon... 3/10

The Man in the Moon (1991)

I'd never heard of this one prior to my beloved selecting it but it turns out it was actually the film début of a certain Reese Witherspoon. She plays 14-year-old Dani who, during the summer of 1957, spends her days frolicking in the fields that surround her house and spends her evenings daydreaming with her big sister, Maureen (Emily Warfield). It's while skinny-dipping in a local lake that she meets Court (Jason London), a 17-year-old neighbour, and they soon become friends. However, when he meets Maureen the two of them have an instant connection. So yes, it's another slightly girly drama. It's easy to see how Ms. Witherspoon moved on to greater things based on her strong performance here though, and the other acting is good too. It struck me as the kind of film I might stumble upon while flicking through channels on a boring Sunday afternoon, then lingering on it 'for a few minutes', only to end up watching it to its conclusion. Not really the sort of film I'd usually watch but oddly compelling... 6/10

Never Back Down (2008)

This one was actually one of my choices and, while I didn't expect greatness, I was at least hoping for some decent arse-kicking action. As with most such movies, the producers haven't really put too much effort into the plot which features Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) as the 'new kid' in school after having moved from Iowa to Florida. It doesn't take long before he's mixed up with resident 'bad boy' and school fighting champion, Ryan (Cam Gigandet), with the two butting heads early on, and not for the last time, obviously. We also have the obligatory flirtatious hottie, Baja (Amber Heard); it's all pretty typical rich-kid teen high-school nonsense (although I don't recall having a 'fighting champion' at my school) and most of the resultant clichés are present and correct. The fight scenes aren't bad though, and there's still something watchable about it including a welcome turn from the always-splendid Djimon Hounsou as an MMA fighter and trainer. Worth a watch for fans of this kind of thing... 6/10

Manny & Lo (1996)

Nowadays this film is known more for the fact that it featured Scarlett Johansson's first starring role than for anything else (she was 12 at the time of release) and it was quite a début for her since she, along with fellow débutante, Aleksa Palladino, occupy a vast majority of the screentime, much of it by themselves, as Amanda (or 'Manny') and Laurel (or 'Lo'), two sisters who've gone on the run from their foster home after the latter foolishly became pregnant. Rather than returning home or seeking help from the authorities, however, they instead decide the most prudent course of action is to kidnap the clerk from a baby supply store they happen upon, who is then held captive in an empty house they've found in the middle of nowhere (seemingly) and forced to help them! This unlikely premise makes for a very enjoyable film though, with plenty of drama and comedy alike from the small cast who all put in some great performances. Maybe not to everyone's taste but I liked this one... 7/10

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