Reviews written by registered user
|285 reviews in total|
I liked it from the opening moment, I really liked the titles before
the movie, it was sort of a sign that this is different from the other
movies you're watching, this harks back. The short introduction after
this starts off the film nicely, and ties in much later on. It gives a
little overview of what the film is about and how luck plays through
our lives more than anything. Simply filmed and simply written, and yet
it has a great impact both then, and retrospectively.
That was it, I started to like the movie already, and then Rhys-Meyers (Wilton) began talking and I felt my face screw up involuntarily. His acting voice was stilted and seemed very nervous, it just didn't sit right at all and gave quite an unnatural performance through the first half of the movie where emotions are checked and played low. It had more effect than just an annoyance though and for much of that first half I was continually pulled out of the movie because of the performance, yet there were performances that grabbed me by the throat and pulled me right in.
Johansson (Rice) doesn't start off that strong, she gives a plain but good performance, it's really in the latter half of the film that her character turns around and becomes impassioned, giving some depth to her performance. She is undoubtedly a great actress.
Mortimer, Goode, Cox and Wilton provide the entire Hewett family which Wilton slowly becomes a part of, and they all provide such real and utterly believable performances.
Something I noticed about the entire cast, apart from Rhys-Meyers, is their natural performance and well delivered lines. For these performances just seemed so realistic that you are drawn into them and into the heart of this family without any difficulty. It's even in subtle lines and gestures made throughout the movie as the family members and friends interact with each other, the dialogue is natural and flowing with characters often talking over each other as in real life. Throughout the movie there's perhaps only one line and one scene where the feeling was dropped for me, other than Rhys-Meyers first half performance of course.
Yet when the movie progresses and the mood changes, Rhys-Meyers starts to come to life and the stilted and awkward delivery fades in favour of a confused, bored and childish man. A man filled with more emotion and passion than previously seen, and it's here where we really begin to see the driving force of the movie and where I felt myself becoming more and more impatient and anxious as to how events would turn. In fact I wouldn't be stretching to say that I felt a growing dread, particularly when the family were together.
Wilton happens into the Hewett family and becomes a part of it, entering into a rich life in all aspects of the word. He is very privileged and becomes very accustomed to it. However something is either missing from his relationship with his wife, or he's merely wanting what he doesn't have, whichever is the real reason he becomes a passionate affair which spirals out of control.
It's during this affair where I felt the writing, direction and the performances pull together superbly and gave me these particular feelings. If I was to be in an affair I can imagine that it would be exactly like this (to a point in the story obviously) and you can imagine the conversations, phonecalls, confrontations, lies and hard choices being almost exactly as they are on screen. I totally believed in what I was watching at this point. When the family met together with Winton carrying on the deceit, often swapping the role of husband with lover and moving directly to a scene of a clandestine meeting, those feelings of impatience, anxiousness and dread built within me.
Somehow I engaged with his character, despite the earlier negative feelings to the performance, and felt as trapped and panicked as he did. Then when the family were together I realised I had fallen into the bond of the family, and with the fantastic performance of Mortimer as his wife, making me feel nervous and concerned about what would happen to them and how they could be hurt if the affair was made public.
There are some other very good smaller roles here from British actors that you wouldn't have expected either. Some of these were surprising to see, and all gave very good performances, albeit briefly.
The ending is very interesting, and takes a very strange turn. Luckily there's not much notice of this and gives you a nice surprise, at which point the movie does take a different turn. It's through this ending that the opening introduction returns bringing back the notion of luck and how it might, or might not, turn against you.
A couple of scenes here nudged my belief in the character of Wilton slightly through Rhys-Meyers performance and lines, however it wasn't enough to damage the end of the movie which is decidedly different and quite bold in it's final moments.
Throughout the movie, at key points, Allen utilises arias as score and also scene transitions, and in the second half these moments really come into their own when you do start to feel you are watching an operatic tragedy. It's here where I do feel that this style came through more as a storytelling device than a background score.
Overall I would recommend this movie, despite a feeling of the first half being too long and of the negative aspects Rhys-Meyers performance, it's an engrossing and interesting movie, one which does manage to engage and affect you right till the closing scene. Performances in the film are very strong, and had me dragged right into the movie into the minds of the characters, all except Rhys-Meyers who I found struggled with his performance.
The Jacket sparked some interest for me when it came out because of the
unusual plot and the knowledge that it had filmed in Bangour Village
Hospital in Scotland. IMDb describes the plot as A military veteran
goes on a journey into the future, where he can foresee his death and
is left with questions that could save his life and those he loves.
Sounds really interesting doesn't it? It certainly did to me, and it suggested that the plot could be complex, involved and very consuming...yet it kind of failed to deliver for me.
Adrien Brody was quite good in the film, and his performance was at times very strong emotionally. Some of those scenes where he was about to be locked in the morgue drawer were quite intense, but then during other scenes he just seemed to be there and working through his lines. Now that could have been because he was supposed to be withdrawn, but that's not how it came across at all.
Keira Knightley did a similar job, she was good and not as emotionally charged as Brody, but there didn't seem to be anything for her to really get into. Jennifer Jason Leigh seemed awkward and out of place, a very stilted performance from her.
Someone who did stand out, and give me a big surprise at the same time, was Daniel Craig, the new Bond. He really did seem out of it and quite on the edge, he showed off some of his acting which I hope to see in the new Bond movie.
Now, to the story. It had a lot of potential and built itself up well, knowing that the character was going to die on a certain date and that he was racing against time to discover what was going to happen and how to prevent it, yet that journey became quite drawn out, sidetracked and was ultimately pushed to the side. This was, for me, the hook of the movie, the big question mark that would provide the quest and the thriller elements to the movie, but it was lost. As the character tried to find the answers he was sidetracked by meaningless scenes, or his questioning just stopped when he could have and would have pressed harder to find out what someone know about his death rather than saying thank you and leaving.
Some of these sidetracked story lines were good and made some sense, and one even goes on to be the ultimate message of the movie, yet he never really does seem concerned with saving himself when someone really in that situation would be. It just never quite rang true for me.
In the end the possibilities of a more complex and insightful ending are wrapped up for simplicities sake and to make the ending seem much warmer and caring. Yet it could have been so much more, something much more thoughtful.
There were many bad reviews of this movie when it came out, but I was
still attracted to its styling, the cast, and the feeling of being an
old serial movie full of gung-ho much like the Flash Gordon series. So
it remained on my list for a long time and just recently arrived.
I can't say I was disappointed for all that I expected of it, although I was disappointed by the lacklustre DVD offering, but it let itself down in just rushing too much through the story.
Movie: The effects and style were great through this movie, using Second World War feel to it and yet cramming in gadgets throughout which were far from out of place, they just seemed to fit perfectly. Once you accepted the period, then the arrival of the robots, everything else was acceptable and you were along for the ride.
The style of the filming was very cool too, although the effect was soon lost as you were pulled into the film. On one level that's great because you're concentrating on the movie, but on the other hand you wonder if the money and effort spent on that washed out effect could have been spent elsewhere on the movie.
Not that the effects needed it. There wasn't anything that looked poor in this movie, and that was partly down to the style itself which I'm sure managed to hide a few things, but also down to the entire comic serial feel to it, where almost anything would be acceptable. I mean giant robots, planes that doubled as submarines, and flying aircraft carriers? Preposterous, but they fit right in and the effects never intrude into your viewing experience. Some of these ideas were really good, and visualised very well.
The story did seem rushed, and initially very confusing. Whether this is down to poor editing or not I'm unsure, but it did have that feel of a harshly cut film. It did get better as the story moved on though, and during the travels to Asia the movie had settled into a good pace.
There were definitely shades of Indy in this movie, but in a completely different setting and light. It was fun and over the top, and quite entertaining. Yet Gwyneth Paltrow seemed to be very out of place and awkward and just didn't fit well in her part. Angelina Jolie was a different matter, her short cameo was superb fun and she looked like she was enjoying it just as much. Jude Law was good, but nothing special. It took a little getting used to him in this kind of role and initially he didn't sit well for me, but the story took over and he grew into it.
At the end there were less thrills and surprises than the journey there, in fact I seemed to have guessed them all before they actually arrived. So the enjoyment did trail towards the end.
A big mention has to go out to the use of archive footage and effects to get the superb Sir Laurence Olivier on screen as the baddie. That was superbly done, a great surprise, and perfect casting.
Picture: Presented: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic The style of the visuals was really good and something new and unique, but it made it hard to see if the picture was sharp. There was a good balance of black in the movie though, with darkness really looking dark and not some lightened grey.
Audio: Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 I was surprised to be only presented with a DD5.1 track, I would have expected a DTS for an audio and effects rich film such as this, however there was none. Yet it did manage to give me some excellent sound, well dispersed around the room and myself, and some strong effects when needed.
Overall: A very poor offering and pulling the pathetic marketing trick of releasing one version with next to nothing and waiting until sales die down enough to release a fuller version. The Collectors edition, as they call it, offers two audio commentaries, a gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes, etc. That's not Collectors, that should be the standard. This practice hits low marks for me.
Onto the movie side of the offering and we're looking at a fun romp, a slightly confused and rushed storyline initially with a rather weak performance from the female lead, but still fun. With great ideas and effects you're sure to see something quite different from the usual action\adventure romps you've seen. Yet not enough to make up for the pathetic marketing ploy of the DVD offering and the negative aspects of the film.
Obviously if you are a fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or
particularly Hero then you would be very keen to see this movie, after
all it was touted as the next in the line of these movies with great
stunts, wire work, fantastic foreign actors and the gorgeous
storytelling through these historical based Chinese epics.
So how did it fare against these two previously very strong movies, and was it as gorgeous on screen as it should have been from all accounts?
Movie: I had a bit of difficulty getting into the movie to begin with, and I'm not sure if it was the slower paced beginning, or I just wasn't in the mood, but it did take me a little while to get to the point of forgetting about the world around me and getting focused on the film, and that usually isn't too difficult for me. Once I did though, I started to enjoy it and really appreciate the opening scenes.
The opening sequence where Mei dances and then performs the routine with the drums is superb, and beautifully choreographed, and from here I was drawn into her relationship with Jin and his with Leo.
It's this triangle of relationships and uncertainty which is at the center of the film and provides for some excellent drama and surprises along the way, and it's certainly these three actors who prove themselves time and time again throughout the movie with such heartfelt performances. Perfectly natural and believable from both Takeshi Kaneshiro and Ziyi Zhang with an extremely strong and emotionally charged Andy Lau. If at any time you wondered if Asian actors can be better than Hollywood you only have to watch this movie and understand these characters.
The fight scenes are excellent and really do raise the level from the previous movies, but in doing so don't go over the top with wire work and fantasy fighting, this seems to be dropped down a little from the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and brought towards a more realistic level. Yet with every scene they just keep upping the ante. That said, there are still some wonderful visual stunts that are hard to understand how they are executed and just excite the eyes.
However there's a big let down in this movie when I watched it the first time, and that was the ending. Although filled with surprises and revelations, it seemed overly cheesy and contrived, with some incredible groan moments mixed firmly with some astonishing moments. These final sequences are quite a roller coaster ride for the audience. The first time viewing this was a huge disappointment.
Now, this is where the other however pops up. Having watched the movie a second time for the Audio Commentary, I was surprised at how much more came through the movie, and it was something that was reinforced by the Directors comments, Yimou Zhang. The understanding of the characters themselves, as well as some of the subtle turns of the Director and Writers intentions, come through and do give you another level to the movie. There's more depth to the characters and suddenly you see so much more on Lau's performance, as well as a bit more identification on the subtexts within scenes and characters emotions, I really did appreciate this.
Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Now here's where I was both disappointed and pleased the most. The picture at times is superbly sharp with some vibrant colours, particularly during the final snow sequences and also in the Bamboo forest. Yet many of the normal forest scenes seem to be filmed with a very poor white balance, in the middle of a scene the overpowering white of the sky washes out the picture and undoes all the good cinematography. Again, it's a very up and down experience.
Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS: The DTS track is a superb example of a really precise and spatially aware soundtrack. Throughout the movie you'll find the sound consuming you, weaving around the room from speaker to speaker. It starts during the opening echo game scene and continues until the very last dagger has flown during the Bamboo fighting scene, which really is a great example of how an audio track should exploit a home cinema system.Precise and delicate.
Extras Presented: Audio Commentary from Director Yimou Zhang and Actress Ziyi Zhang: I don't think I remember the last time I heard such a natural and enjoyable audio commentary, the chemistry between the Director and Actress is very much that of two friends who respect each other, and through the analysis of the movie and behind the scenes discussions there's joking and laughter. Not only is it insightful but funny and enjoyable, and in very few commentaries I've seen, it provides an extra depth to the movie.
Overall: Although there are issues with the white balance on the DVD during the forest scenes, and a modicum of cheese during the final scenes, the relationships between the three characters and the excellent action sequences are what make this movie so special. Actually it's the strength of these characters and the actors portraying them that win out through the poorer parts of the movie, and watching it a second time your view of the film does change from the first viewing.
The acting is superb, and at times beautifully restrained, and the three characters provide a myriad of emotion throughout the film. The cinematography does win through in some key scenes, and the revelations make for a superb plot. Overall, despite it's faults, I think it is an excellent film.
I loved Pitch Black (PB), it took many of the great features of the
Alien series and combined them with a hard, edgy character. much like
Ripley in Alien:Resurrection. It also pulled open the confines of the
corridors and space ships into an entire planet, populated with
insurmountable odds stacked against the useless humans.
Those features endeared me to the movie and made me love the character of Riddick. So it's somewhat disappointing to see The Chronicles of Riddick and discover that the edge has gone.
Movie The big disappointment for me is that it loses what PB was all about, and it's difficult to understand why it does this, but I think it's down to the scale of the movie. Whereas PB was small, confined by the darkness, and a few people against a multitude of the same creatures, this movie is all about the galaxy struggling against a huge race of all sorts of creatures converted to one cause. It's all a bit too big and unfocused.
Another aspect that seems to lose something in the sequel move is of the character Riddick, in this movie he just doesn't seem so threatening and so dangerous. In PB he was an unstoppable killing machine who had virtually no morality at all, yet here, he's portrayed much more as a normal guy with a heart who can fight more than the average guy. Here it really does lose the essence of the original.
That said, he does seem to be able to easily kill these guys, and that's another thing, they just look like guys in suits. This is nothing compared to the predatory killers of PB. So again not only is Riddick's cold blooded unstoppable killer status lowered, but so is the ferociousness of the enemy, where they instead rely on huge spaceships and overwhelming force.
Saying that, the scenes of the ships and conquering force appearing are visually superb, and that carries through all the effects of the movie, they are believable and highly engaging, totally immersing you in the universe. They don't stand out either, so that when you cut to a small set scene in the city streets, you aren't suddenly wrenched from one style to another. They are very well done, and combined with some of the action sequences, they make for some stunning scenes.
Yet the action sequences are also a point of contention with me, for the trend of zooming the camera into the action and performing multiple fast cuts, is getting out of hand in Hollywood and it's destroying movies with fight scenes. This is one reason why movies such as Ong Bak are working so well nowadays. It's especially prevalent in this movie, and despite the added attraction of Vin Diesel having learnt some of the moves in the art of double knife fighting (it has some specific name which I can't actually remember), yet for all that we see nothing in these fight sequences, and I really mean nothing.
The one plot aspect that really did make me wonder why was the addition of a mini-Riddick in the guise of the recast role of Jack. It seemed a poor plot device that she had grown to be just like him and that he had sacrificed his entire life to protect her. This is a huge change from his original character who would have left any of them to die in PB, had it not been for an affinity with the pilot Fry and a feeling of obligation.
However much this character has changed, Diesel is excellent as Riddick and it is a character I would like to see again, although much more in the PB style of the character. This film definitely needed more focus on that character.
Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic The picture is superb, there's no real difference to tell between the CGI aspects and the real scenes with the mood being matched well between both. The cinematography of both is excellent, although heavily let down in the fight scenes, the opening attack on the planet is quite stunning.
Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 I would have loved for a DTS track on this movie, whatever version, however the 5.1 is bold and competent. Plenty of LFE mix and base kicking in with good use of the spatial aspects of 5.1. It was very good and loud audio track.
Overall The movie is a great sci-fi \ action epic, and it's very enjoyable entertainment presented in a visually stunning style. You truly appreciate the size and scope of this movie, and it does make you want to see more of Riddick. However it doesn't stay true to the original characterisation for me, and I felt this was a poor aspect of the movie, it really did lose what Riddick was all about.
The DVD is a good package, although you really have to like the movie to sit through many of these extras. The inclusion of the game demo is a great cross marketing ploy, but also gives the viewer some extra lifetime on their purchase.
I never really thought much of this movie from the moment I saw the
opening ten minutes that the Studio posted on the Internet, the
conclusions of the main character to work through the puzzles were
completely wild and speculative, grasping at straws the audience had
even conceived, and it just made the writing seem extremely dumb.
When I saw the whole movie I wasn't far wrong, the person I watched it with actually fell asleep during the movie. So why the score you might ask, well that's down to the DVD itself. It's a superbly interactive DVD that can keep you amused for sometime, encouraging you to work through all the additional materials to figure out the clues contained within.
As for the movie...well...
Movie The opening speaks for itself. Once past the short sequence to set the scene for who the main character is and what they are searching for, you're propelled into the middle of the frozen wastes where the team finds a ship buried over two hundred years ago in snow and ice within inches of the surface of the current snowfall. Plus, the identification clue happens to be on the very part of the boat that is sticking so close to the surface, just where the character digs. Already you know this is going to be one dumb movie.
It goes on with the ease in which the character deciphers clues and his ludicrous recitement of how they are worked out. Just like reciting a script rather than fathoming out a problem, he speeds through it and the audience is left wondering what just happened and how.
Every solved problem from here is over explained and the audience hand held through the finding. The series of events is so over explained that there's no real feeling of involvement in the discoveries, apart from the attempt to reveal the map on the back of the declaration. This leaves the audience just to watch the events pass by them one by one.
What this then means is that there's no big surprise when we come to the revealing of the treasure room, or the twist just prior. There's no sense of urgency and discovery, this is nothing like an Indy treasure hunt, this is like following a satellite photo treasure map using GPS trackers. You just head there via various points and there you go.
There's a big action sequence in the middle of the film, and this is (as is always the case in Hollywood nowadays) comprised of close-ups and fast cuts, making it hard to follow.
Overall the movie is thoroughly disappointing, and the reworked ending very poor.
Picture Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic The picture is good throughout, and copes well with some very realistic lighting conditions, particularly with torches as the source light.
Audio Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1 The audio is really good on this movie. It's big with some good LFE mix. A good use of the directional sound offered with 5.1, as the sound moves around you a fair bit and then really pounds you at crucial moments, filling the room.
Extras Presented: Deleted Scenes, Various Making of Featurettes, Opening Scene Animatic, Alternate Ending, Additional information on Treasure Hunters, the Knights Templar and a Trivia Viewing of the movie. The extras are within multiple hidden areas, watching the content from one will give you the codes for the other, it takes a little while to get through, but at least this gives you the feeling of being involved if the movie didn't. Deleted Scenes - These are okay, nothing special and just two in all. Featurettes - As standard, mostly the made for TV promotions you see. Animatic Opening - This is quite interesting, seeing the computer rendered version of the opening sequence used early on in the production as a placeholder for when the final effects were completed. Alternate Ending - What's interesting is that this ending is much stronger and less Hollywood than the one actually used, and they should have used this one. However maybe that would have not held with the outlook of the rest of the film. Treasure Hunters, Knights Templar - Both these extras are very informative and educational, and are well worth a watch. These two extras are two of the best items on the DVD. Trivia Viewing - This allows you to watch the whole movie again but this time with little popups telling you some interesting and educational facts about what is actually going on in the film. Some are wildly off topic, but they are very interesting and made me watch the movie again.
Overall This movie is pretty poor. It's nice to look at, and some of the scenes are good, but overall it's hand holding and treating the audience as idiots. I'm sure it's wholesome young family fun, but definitely not for those who like something a bit more engaging in their movie experience.
What does make this package though is the DVD offering and the way it is put together. Decoding sections of the DVD in order to find the hidden content really does make you want to delve in and solve it, and therefore go through the content. For the most part it's average, but two of the featurettes and the Trivia viewing are educational, informative and actually really quite interesting. It's here that the DVD makes up some serious ground for me.
The Transporter had a great idea for a movie and a superb character to
build upon. A man who transported any type of goods for anyone, no
questions asked, followed his own set of strict rules, and could
seriously kick ass if anything got in his way. The premise was superb,
and the movie The Transporter was a seriously good fun action movie
that had some over the top and insane stunts you could hardly believe
but were superbly entertaining. Then there was Jason Statham who looked
great, sounded fantastic, and did a damn fine performance in the role.
It was what it was, a great fun action movie.
I wanted to like this film for a number of reasons, firstly that I really do like Statham and think he's so playing beneath himself, secondly I really did enjoy the first movie, and thirdly because I have exchanged emails with one of the actresses in the movie and wanted to say good things about it. I can say that the actress in question, AnnaLynne, was not only stunningly good looking, but her brief appearance was good and funny. The rest of the movie however, struggled.
Since I'm talking cast here, let me address the other strong point of this movie, Mr Statham. He's awesome, and that just cannot be said enough. He looks great on screen, acts very well, and carries this role off to perfection. He also looks like a great stunt guy, doing many of his own martial arts moves and fights, this adds a hell of a lot to a movie when the actor gets involved and puts some muscle behind the role. I really do like him as an actor, and I hope his career is not being syphoned off into a drain with such movies as Revolver, The Pink Panther (remake) (I find it hard to forgive an Englishman for appearing in this remake) and Dungeon Siege.
There are also strong performances from Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta and François Berléand. It's Berléand that also reprises his role from the first movie and provides the action hero with his comic sidekick, interestingly the two never meet until the end of the movie, but his role provides much laughter and essential points of plot development.
The opening scenes show us the Transporter back to his glory of the former film, following his rules, transporting his goods, and mixes light relief with action well. There are some excellent fight scenes when Martin is pitched against the odds with multiple baddies and multiple props, the scene with the firehose is just excellent to watch, but then things go downhill.
Even during some excellent fight scenes there are just reams of fast cuts and closeups that leave you wondering what just happened, I have to say it's not as bad as some (mainly because Statham has trained and can do these stunts so that the camera can pull out) but it's still bad.
Then there are some stunts, particularly with the car, that are so stupidly executed people laughed out loud in the cinema, and not in that funny-haha way, but in that oh lord, that's so bad it's laughable way. I would say all in all there are about five moments...no six...okay, seven moments like this throughout the movie, and they are so bad their affect is outwith the scene they are in and actually ruins the movie. Seriously, the final stunt is the daftest. It's wrong, ludicrous, preposterous, and resulted in audible groans of disapproval from the cinema.
One of the problems is that the reality aspect has been totally avoided here, sure you can crank it up a bit, but this has been ramped even past the realms of comic action, and with that they've resorted to CGI and effects and in an action movie that's not so good. As I've always said you need to show the action, pull the camera back, stop cutting and close-ups, and show the audience what's really happening, whether it be car stunts or people fighting.
Even my mate Pablo was laughing at how poor some of these scenes are and he loves dumb movies! He pointed out that the car spin in the Bond movie, Live and Let Die had a more believable car spin jump...and he's right, and the reason was it was real. That and it was actually possible! Saying that there are some really good stunts, particularly in the driving scenes, and seeing Martin in the Ferrari is just a boys moment for sure. Or the scenes in the Dentist office, or just of Martin fighting with people, these are good action scenes. The movie does has tons of style, but is just lacking in content. It is actually a boys movie, cool cars, cool dude, over the top stunts, cool guns, and superb looking ladies.
I just think think if they had cranked down the insanity level on the stunts, pulled them slightly more to reality, relied less on the Hollywood style of filming fight sequences, they could have had a much better action movie. Let me say it again, they have an excellent premise here in the guise of the Transporter himself, how can they ruin it so easily?
There's been a lot of talk of this series from Russia, much saying that
it's the country's epic to match Matrix and that kind of thing. Well
those comments really did fall on their face for me, I mean Matrix is
nothing to be compared against. What did interest me was the fact that
this was the first big movie out of Russia that I'd heard of
since...well since Bronenosets Potyomkin, and really that came about
through history not through release.
The first thing you notice about this movie is that the production is high quality, it looks like a Hollywood movie and has plenty of editing effects to make the opening scenes look really good. The opening, in quite an amusing and twisted manner, reminds me of a pivotal scene in The Matrix. However here it takes a dark turn, and I think this is where the movie excels. There are comic and supernatural moments, but it never strays from the overall bleakness of the tale, a dark undercurrent and almost accepting fatality to the whole movie.
There are three areas I really feared for this movie, one is in the effects. I assumed that these would either be poorly executed or created simply and with sleight of camera, I was incredibly wrong. The effects are bold and challenge even the Matrix. There's no real gimmick here, the stunts and effects are all part of the story, although one scene with the school bus does showcase what the Russian film effects can do, but there's no real "bullet time" to speak of.
Actually I'm going to stop for a moment and apologise for making these Matrix comparisons and stop right now. The real reason for this is the fact that this is what the Matrix should have been, you can see it all the way through. There's no huge explanations of what the characters are doing and why, there's no sequence to the movie of explanation, fight, explanation, effects, fight, and so on. The explanations are minimal and if they are there then they are part of the story and part of the scene. They are often provided visually and you often find yourself referencing back to a moment earlier in the movie for validation, or you would find yourself questioning something only for it to be answered later on. In other words, it's designed for more intelligent moviegoers than many of the spoon fed Hollywood scripts we see.
This is the next point, I thought the story would either go in the direction of Asian horror or towards a more Dog Soldiers type of horror. Neither is true. The story is very grounded and doesn't tend to leap into over the top scenes of supernatural beasts. It really does try to keep the story on the level of people, however "super" they may be, and it does this superbly well. The story builds from one man and slowly pans out to the end of the world type plot, a huge and epic tale, all done with great pacing and style. I was really surprised at how good the writing was.
The final point where I thought this movie would fall down is the acting. Having never really seen many Russian movies or actors, I thought the bar couldn't be too high. I was wrong again. The actors are very natural and seem to be quite seasoned, the lead Konstantin Khabensky is very underplayed. The character is underwhelmed and the performance is stilted and restrained for the most part, overall he's very engaging on screen. This kind of natural acting is throughout the movie, there was never any of the major roles that weren't well played.
The ending of the movie is big, although there's a huge anti-climax and you find yourself wondering what is going on with the story. The climax is fast and well written, much like the pace of the latter half of the movie and in keeping with the writing style of the whole thing. It's well placed to end this episode and being the next.
There are some holes in the story though, and the section with the cursed woman does confuse and seems somewhat shortened. There are also some disjointed scenes which are a little confusing, decisions that seem a little too easily made, and the rocket powered bus was just a little too twee for me.
One other thing I have to mention about this (apart from the amusing Buffy appearance) are the subtitles. I know that not everyone can cope with subtitles to foreign films, although for the life of me I don't understand why, but here there is something really clever done to the subtitles. They are treated as part of the movie, as part of the visuals, and have effects and a style all of their own but connected with the scenes they are in. Sure, you'll see the standard subtitles, but they'll be framed with the picture, or coloured and have effects to match the scene and mood, the vampire calling ones being the best.
Go see this movie in the cinema, it's big and very epic, and is only the beginning. - The second and third movies are in production as we write\read - The effects are superb, and it's just brimming with style. This is the great Russian trilogy, and it's another Hollywood wake up call.
Straight up though I have to say, I wasn't as impressed at this movie
as I was by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for me that movie
is still the best of the Harry Potter series, but now not by much. For
this movie is a very close second.
It is, as everyone seems to agree, much darker than the other movies and I really do like this aspect. It's a well written story, and seems to lead things well to the next instalment. The tension and suspense are built well throughout, towards a strong and fitting climax. Some have said that the ending is confusing if you haven't read the books, I do disagree although you'll obviously have had to have seen the movies.
The effects are superb, and the best of the series to date. You just have to watch the Dragons in action to understand what I mean, they are stunning creations and totally believable too. As are the effects in the underwater sequence, a sequence that is well edited and provides one of the most powerful and scariest moments of the film. This is surely where its rating comes from. Yet it's a perfect scene to provide the more adult issues facing Potter and his friends, and shows that his life is becoming more serious and more involved with events outside of his school world.
However, there are issues I have with this movie and some with the whole series itself. For instance, Potter is a wizard and he's in a wizard school, and yet you hardly ever see him casting spells and he openly says that his strong point is flying. I don't get this, and I realise there are differences in the books, but I'm talking about the movies, and in these he appears as a bottom of the class wizard. Indeed this is the first time I remember him casting successful spells. Then, with all that, he goes on to fight one of the most powerful creatures in the universe, or so we're led to believe. For me that's quite a leap in the story.
This last battle also comes to a very contrived ending which seems far too convenient, appearing as it does out of absolute nowhere. It's a "get out clause" that appears just in time and is explained later on. For me this reeks of the characters being written into a corner and a quick backdoor being created for them. I really didn't like this moment.
The entire movie seems harshly and overly edited, there was barely time to keep up as we leapt from pivotal scene to pivotal scene with rarely a breather for character development or backstory. You could tell this has been seriously cut down. Scenes seemed to begin late and end early, with characters just appearing ready to go. For me this didn't have the affect of keeping up the pace but actually harming it and racing on too fast with the story.
The acting is interesting among the younger cast in this movie, Daniel Radcliffe seems to have an awkwardness about him, and perhaps that's him playing the character, but it's apparent in most scenes where emotions are called for.
Emma Watson will have to mature some and learn to tone down her acting, for she was guilty of overacting at times. Yet I can see her becoming a big star in the future. She has the looks and you can see great performances in her.
Surprisingly it was Rupert Grint that provided the best performance from the young cast for me. He just seemed so natural in every scene, and so believable.
Overall I was impressed by the effects and the darkness of the story, yet the editing and the too pacey story meant that I didn't have time to follow the pace of the movie rather I had to race to keep up. I suspect this may take another viewing to appreciate it, or perhaps even a fuller DVD version, but for me this falls in as the second best Potter movie to date.
The reviews for Flightplan in the States were harsh. Did the critics
have it all wrong?
I surprised to find that the lead in is quite subtle and wonderfully filmed with suggestions, subtle references and cuts back and forth in time. It was really good and had me interested within a few seconds. It's when they actually get onto the plane and the flight begins that you start wondering how in the hell you're going to be entertained for the next hour or so, what can possibly go on that is going to keep you that interested and excited? The first search of the plane takes up a bit of time, and during this time your questions go out the window (so to speak) as you are drawn into the mystery and the tension builds. This is something that the movie manages to do very well and noticeably beats others in the so called thriller genre. From the moment that the child is missing you are put on edge, and all around the main character others are glancing oddly, making the odd gesture or pause in their speech, there are all these small things that help to raise your suspicions and nerves, and at no point does the movie let go before it's due to.
That really impressed me, for so many movies of late that I've seen try and build this tension and either go over the top with the misdirection or don't do enough of it. In this movie they seem to have the formula spot on.
Then when we reach the pivotal point of the movie we're treated to some more strong film making. Although it's not a huge shock moment, there is a fair amount of realisation and it happens in a few moments during a few small and inconspicuous actions. Yet it's enough for the whole movie to turn on its head, just as it has you believing one thing it turns you the other way.
One of the aspects they exploit well is that all the characters are given possible evil twitches, it might be that the pilot is played by Sean Bean and not your clean cut guy with some ambiguity, or the nervous stewardess that keeps glancing around. The fact is that all the characters all look dodgy in some way, so you just don't know.
There is one very poor moment at the start of the movie, and it's one of these Hollywood moments that screams at the audience "Hey, look at this...this will be important later on. We'll just linger on this scene for another few moments just to make sure you have it...yeah, few more moments just in case you're completely thick...few more..." Oh please, it's obvious in the first few seconds of the scene that we've caught the moment, but the camera lingers on and Jodie Foster stares at the camera as though she's just seen her career fall apart. It's a truly awful moment.
Strangely that contrasts against some really well visualised moments, for instance near the beginning the subtlety of the camera panning down the apartment to the front door, passing over the broken face of the statue outside the building. It's an odd moment that you only really understand later on, but is left in the mind lingering. Something is not quite right there, and it's not done with a big Hollywood sign.
Foster is superb, even despite the "look at this moment". During the early moments of the flight her performance slowly builds up and the character actually becomes quite grating, before long you feel as though you are sharing the angst and resentment of the rest of the passengers, and that was something that I really enjoyed feeling. You also get to see some seriously strong raw emotions, something I'm always amazed that Foster does so well. I always imagine that portraying such strong emotions on screen doesn't do yourself any good, yet she can turn it on and off so well and so believably.
Hollywood is not far from this movie though, and the ending is filmed in a hugely over sentimental style, almost sickly so, and it does grate against the rest of the film. There are two moments that made some of us groan, the smoke and the waking up...you'll know what I mean if you've seen it, very poor and unimaginative.
What I was amazed about was the portrayal of the Arabs in the movie. Interesting that it almost seems to take one moral stance and then does something amazingly embarrassing at the end. The holding of a mirror up to the audience of perceptions of Arabs is very interesting, and I felt it to a degree myself, yet later when we're treated to what should be another humbling moment and a moment of accepting, we see one of the most cringe-worthy and humiliating scenes I've ever witnessed outside of an embarrassing comedy. It wasn't only myself that caught it, there were others too.
As one of the Arabs extends a hand of friendship, they are belittled by the main character who says nothing, and the offer of handing her bag to her becomes more like the duty of a servant than a human being. The moment just falls flat on its face and I'm not one for reading political contexts into things, but we both felt that the scene reeks of the Arab being subservient to the American, it did stick out like a sore thumb and made us look aghast.
Apart from the bad points though, it was a solid thriller that really did surprise as to what it could do with such a seemingly limited and transparent plot. Foster provides us with another superb performance, and Bean delivers another strong supporting role and slightly off his usual type as well. With some good twists and strong emotive writing it's well worth a watch.
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