Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…
While the plot of Starship Troopers is basically Melrose Place in space with giant bugs added (and what’s not to like about that?) starring a cast of good-looking yet overall vapid actors in the protagonist roles, what really stands out to me is the world-building at work in the movie. Paul Verhoven has always done a good job of creating believable, albeit ridiculous and over-the-top, science fiction worlds, and frankly, I think Starship Troopers is some of his best work in this respect. The fascist world of the film feels well thought-out, and it’s clear that there are answers to every question the viewer might have about how the society (a blatant satire of American values) functions. Beyond the world-building, which is definitely the most praise-worthy aspect of the movie, Starship Troopers also features special effects that, surprisingly, aren’t totally dated even though the movie was made over a decade ago, and the CGI bugs still look pretty damn cool. Toss in supporting turns from the likes of Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, and a post-Doogie Howser/pre-Harold and Kumar Neil Patrick Harris, and you’ve got a campy, mindless war/soap opera that’s a good way to kill a couple of hours. If they script had been better, I’d be giving this movie a higher rating, but as it stands, Starship Troopers is a great example of Paul Verhoven’s hamfisted, big-budget sci-fi action flair. It’s dumb, but it’s fun. I guess you could say that about a lot of Verhoven’s work.
3 out of 5
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Simply put, if you liked the first Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes movie, then you’ll like the second one, too. This is more of the same stuff that made the first instalment enjoyable (to me, anyway). The Ritchie interpretation of Holmes is a bit of a self-parody, exaggerating all the aspects of the character that were just throwaway details in the Conan Doyle stories. Doyle’s Holmes was a boxer, so here he’s a kung fu fighter. Doyle’s Holmes experimented with drugs, so here he’ll just drink, smoke or inject anything for a laugh. Holmes puritans might get a bit up in arms about these changes, but Robert Downey Jr. has the charisma to pull off this interpretation of the character, and Jude Law as Watson plays off him well, too. The believable comradery between Holmes and Watson is what keeps this movie together, but the real stars of this film are Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes and Jared Harris as Moriarty. Both actors steal every scene they’re in, and for them alone, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is worth watching. I should also give special mention to Noomi Rapace, whose gypsy fortune teller character is a far more interesting female lead than Rachel McAdams in the first Holmes film. One final note is that the plot seems a bit oddly paced in that it seems to lack a first act and have two third acts. I don’t want to spoil the film by going into details about this, but you’ll see what I mean if you watch it. Also, the ending may or may not make sense, but in a sort of smart-yet-mindless movie like this one, it probably doesn’t matter.
3.5 out of 5
A Lonely Place to Die
Here’s a perfect example of how to make a story unique, interesting and thrilling without having to resort to loads of special effects. A Lonely Place to Die follows a group of mountain climbers as they trek through the wilderness looking for the next peak to scale, when they come upon a compartment buried in the ground and containing a young girl. She’s being held captive, but we don’t know by whom or for what purpose…and that’s where the intrigue begins! A Lonely Place to Die is packed with thrills throughout, and there’s more than one tense scene involving people hanging off the side of a sheer rock face. The villains, when they’re eventually revealed, are sinister and creepy, and the fact that the heroes are played by a cast of unknowns (with the exception being Triangle‘s Melissa George) means that nobody’s safe – anybody could die at any moment. I feel as though the script for A Lonely Place to Die is padded a bit in places, as sometimes scenes drag on just a little too long, but this doesn’t hamper the movie in the slightest, and is easily made up for by the fact that the filmmakers destroy your expectations very early on. If there’s one thing that A Lonely Place to Die deserves loads of praise for, it’s the fact that it isn’t predictable! It surprised me, and for someone who’s seen as many movies as I have, that’s a real rarity.
3.75 out of 5
See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!