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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's over folks. This is the death of the Die Hard franchise. Please.
Die Hard has been a guilty pleasure for nearly 20 years, but there's no pleasure in this latest offering.
Loud, unbearably stupid, cartoonishly unbelievable, this movie has the emotional impact of an episode of Thunderbirds, but without the clever plot.
In a nutshell (which is big enough for this plot, with room to spare) Bruce Willis as John McClean tracks down his errant son to Moscow in the usual Hollywood bid to 'reconnect'. There he finds him working as a CIA operative trying to smuggle a vague dissident out of the country. Bruce joins in - as you do. They would have got away, too, if it wasn't for that pesky dissident getting out of the safety of the car and virtually thumbing his nose at the bad guys to make them chase him. There follows a car chase that's so long and stupid that I considered going to get an ice cream. I could have had a three course meal and they'd still have been there, demolition derbying through rush hour. During this chase, a transit van roars through dense traffic jams like a knife through butter, while the armoured car chasing it is forced to bulldoze its way through walls and over cars to keep up, and an RPG rocket is launched at Bruce with the velocity of someone throwing a tennis ball for a dog, giving him plenty of time to steer around it.
Then after many more bullets are dodged - even really fast ones from an Apache helicopter - the pair are captured by a bad guy and about to be executed. Having just slaughtered about two hundred people in half an hour of mindless violence, in this scene the bad guy suddenly slows down and takes time to eat a carrot and emote about a career he might have had in tap dancing, just long enough so that Bruce and Bruce Jr can break free and overwhelm half a dozen heavily armed men with only their distracting giggling and a small knife.
As usual in Die Hard, Bruce remains remains virtually unmarked and limp-free throughout, although his regulation white singlet does get grubbier every time he's blown up/shot at/beaten/thrown off a building/falls through a window. So that, at least, is realistic.
Everything else is not.
Stupid action, stupid dialogue, stupid baddies, stupid plot twists and stupid science. Did you know that radiation that's been 'pooling in here (Chernobyl) for years' can be easily eradicated by a quick squirt of weapons grade Domestos and an iPad? Nor me. Lucky for Bruce, though, as he rushes into the defunct nuclear plant with only his stubble for protection.
Oh, and did I tell you? All this happens in one day - from Bruce's arrival in Moscow, through the mayhem and explosions and the nuclear waste and the drive to Chernobyl, which is apparently in a suburb of Moscow. Oh, and that the drive is made in a car they steal that just happens to have a small arsenal in the boot? Lucky again.
None of it matters, because - surprise surprise - Bruce Jr forgives Bruce for years of neglect and calls him Dad for the first time, and they fly home as heroes in a sunset glow. The fact that they leave Moscow smoking behind them, littered with corpses of innocent bystanders and disappointed film-fans is neither here nor there.
There's a running 'joke' where Bruce keeps yelling 'I'm on vacation!' One can only hope it's a long one.
I'm not an all-out fan, but I've defended Tom Cruise for years on the
basis of great acting in movies like Magnolia and Rain Man, so I was
prepared to suspend disbelief while he acted six foot five.
Unfortunately, for the first time ever, his height bothered me. And the fact that it must have bothered him might explain why Jack Reacher pulls its punches on the the smart/funny front and descends predictably into a shoot-em-up. A more secure - oh let's face it, a TALLER - actor could have pulled off the Man of Mystery thing, but Tom Cruise JUST CAN'T. He has the look of a well-scrubbed, well-fed farm boy who's been working out in the barn, not a dangerous lone-wolf drifter, appearing from the mist to solve crime with his intellect and his fists.
Without that definitive central characterisation, Jack Reacher could only have saved itself with a cracking plot and sparkling humour - making Cruise taller with knowing wit. There are a few stabs at it, but Tom Cruise is out of his depth here and he's not even in the deep end. Instead he flails for the lifesaver of fast cars and big guns, while the plot is only workmanlike. His skills as an actor are redundant, and in their absence, he's exposed in the spotlight and found wanting by ten inches.
Everything else about the movie is standard fare. Rosamund Pike does her usual deer-caught-in-the headlights thing. To keep Cruise seeming sexy in the absence of sex, she's required to be a lawyer but with a very low neckline. More headlights-caught-in-the-headlights. It's distracting to everyone but Cruise, who's not tall enough to look down her cleavage.
I don't know how Lee Child handled the plot, but it's spoilt here by having the reveal right up front, which is an unusual technique when you then have Jack Reacher take 50 minutes to reveal what you already knew.
The action is generally poor, with Cruise looking dumber and dumber as the film goes on. He walks backwards out of doors into crowbars and chooses the loudest possible method of sneaking up on villains. More than once his well laid plans depend on slapstick crooks and trained killers who can't shoot straight.
Werner Herzog is a comic-book baddie who chewed off his own fingers to stay alive in a gulag. Not sure quite how he got into construction after that, but this part of the plot/motivation is so weak it's more like an afterthought and doesn't matter.
In smarter hands, even Tom Cruise could have made us believe he was Jack Reacher, by embracing his lack of height and making it work in his favour. But the flashy attempts to distract us from his stature only makes us think about it constantly.
The trailer-makers knew what the film should have been - a roller-coaster of thrills and laughs and original, quirky moments. Sadly, it's more like the teacups.
For me, Margin Call has more tension and drama than many action
thrillers. Despite a small cast, minimal locations, 12-hour timeframe
and potentially dry subject matter (the start of the global financial
crisis) Margin Call turns its limitations into opportunities and
becomes a compelling, fast-moving film with the thrum of a violin
string. The casting is superb throughout, with Paul Bettany outstanding
and Zachary Quinto outgrowing Spock to make for compulsive watching as
the two young traders who start to realize there's something rotten in
the kingdom of New York. Honesty in writing and performance only adds
to the horror that you feel unfolding on screen.
I imagine this started life as a play - or will finish it that way - but in the interim, Margin Call has defied even that humble restriction to become THE definitive Wall Street movie.
I like a lot of French films but this one is dreadful. A lifeless,
ugly, horribly miscast piece of tedia that has all the hallmarks of a
first film - a first STUDENT film. Utterly lacking coherence or
tension, it dawdles aimlessly between mystery and 'comedy' without ever
achieving either. Scenes are choppy, dialogue is stilted and flashbacks
are particularly irritating, denoted as they are by giving the lead
actor a laughable haircut. However, he is unlikeable in any timeframe
Quite apart from the dire content, the film looks as though it's been shot on tape by a bunch of refugees from a Human League video. Truly awful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't read Life of Pi, and feel that being too faithful to the book
may have been where screenwriter David Magee went wrong.
At its heart it seems to be a simple story - an allegory about a boy and a tiger that masks an horrific experience on board a drifting lifeboat. However, the structure of the piece means that when the truth is finally relayed in the film, all its impact is lost in the confusion of what has gone before. Instead of shock, I felt only irritation that the two-hour allegory had been so unambiguous and had given no hints to the truth which - for maximum effect - should have immediately become apparent in the telling of the second story. So instead of feeling illuminated by the end, I felt cheated and disappointed.
Visually it's gorgeous, the acting is first rate, the CGI seamless and the 3D is nice enough, but the movie drags in several places (the mangrove island is just pretty padding) and although the animals portrayed are CGI versions, they are so realistic that I was more upset by the scenes of their slaughter than I was when that was related to the deaths of real people. I would not take a child to see this movie without considering the scenes of animal suffering. Just because they are CGI animals does not make it less traumatic.
All in all, a disappointing trip to the movies, where I felt the writer and director lost sight of the most important emotional arc and thereby diminished any impact at the end which would have made up for a rather slow - if beautiful - film.
I'm not a great fan of Ben Affleck as an actor OR as a director. Plus,
the publicity pix for this movie makes it look like yet another
dull/ridiculous Ben Affleck spy/cop thriller.
Not so. Argo is a really well written, well directed, gripping movie, that spins easily between high drama and sharp wit. The fact that it's based on a true story is an added bonus.
Not only is the movie very enjoyable and tightly produced, but it's shot like one of those great 70s thrillers, like The China Syndrome or The Taking of Pelham 123. From the film stock to the production design, Affleck really covers every possible base in making a great looking period piece set in 1979 Iran.
Alan Arkin is glorious as the producer and there are some good laughs amid the tension, but in the scenes in Iran, it was easy to forget I was watching a movie, because it felt so authentic.
I came out feeling smarter. Is there any higher praise?
Before I gush, let me say - hand on heart - that I have NO connection
with this film or its makers. I just went along to see it because
documentaries nowadays are increasingly more interesting than 'real'
Ping Pong is no exception to that rule. It's the antidote to the X Factor - the story of eight pensioners from around the world competing in the World Ping Pong Championships in China. Each competitor is interviewed at home about their lives and participation in the sport, and we watch them prepare (or not!) before setting off.
Their stories are funny, admirable, affecting and astonishing; their characters diverse as the nations they represent. My own favourite was Inge, the German woman who was saved from what sounds like dementia by ping pong. I found myself laughing and filling up in turn as these feisty old folk set off for the contest with a range of ambitions and emotional baggage.
The entire film is uplifting and gently gripping, sucking you in to the lives and backgrounds of these people. It would be the perfect film to show schoolchildren, as it reveals old age in all its wonderful, terrible incarnations.
If only most screenwriters could capture one tenth of the emotional impact of Ping Pong, the film industry would be something to behold.
For a film littered with violence, this is painfully dull.
Writer/Director Andrew Dominik wants to be Tarantino. He wants to be
Scorcese. He is neither. The characters are unappealing, un-smart and
un-funny. The dialogue has all the meandering of Tarantino's, and not
one ounce of its wit or drive. The violence is in-your-face and
lovingly shot, but has no visceral impact because of the aforementioned
unattractiveness of the characters. The soundtrack is hip but jars,
instead of enhancing the action.
Several scenes are ripe for witty or gritty dialogue (the robbery scene, the beating scene) but instead opt either for violence or silence.
The acting is good, as you'd expect, but it quickly becomes obvious that stars of the calibre of Gandofini and Pitt have been attracted by sheer screen time, rather than quality. There are long tedious shots of talking heads, saying nothing interesting, and a few monologues that peter out lamely, as if they have been ad libbed.
There are possibly three laughs in the film, but they don't make up for the rest of the dirge.
To add insult to injury, the movie has ideas well above its station. Not content with being a lousy Tarantino rip-off, it is intercut with hopeful Obama election campaign speeches pouring from every electrical appliance, which is somehow meant to highlight just how cutthroat the world of these lowlifes is. Tell us something we don't know. It's a very immature piece of political paradox.
I would have been happy to walk out, but I'd taken my boyfriend for his birthday. Afterwards he said he'd hated it too, leaving us both filled with the double regret of having chosen to see it in the first place - and then felt compelled to stay put by the niceties of social convention.
A very poor effort all round.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Prometheus is the story of a trillion-dollar mission to discover the
origins of human life on a distant planet. Basically, this is supposed
to be the greatest exploration undertaken in the history of mankind.
So who do they send? A gaggle of fractious goons whose collective scientific nous is rivalled only by that of the Three Stooges. Within minutes of touching down (conveniently beside the only 'man-made' structures on the planet, a'la 1960s Star Trek) the 'scientists' are yanking off their helmets, on the basis of 'it seems fine to me', dipping their fingers into strange organic ooze, and lugging a severed alien head back to an unquarantined spaceship in a sandwich bag.
Once there, they speedily discover the meaning of life. Then, while one of them gets a bit drunk, his two female companions decide it would be useful to stimulate the head electrically to reanimate it. They don't say why. They give it a bit too much juice, then too little,then dither over too much or too little like a couple of schoolgirls fiddling with a dicky bunsen burner, while the most important scientific discovery in human history waggles its ears and rolls its eyes - before eventually blowing up like a frog in a microwave.
Are the scientists abashed? Is the man angry? Do they all calm down and remember they have degrees in clever things, not diplomas in macramé? Do they heck.
The WHOLE MOVIE is a litany of ludicrous so-called science, schoolboy errors, and pseudo-profundity about the origin of species. Ironic really, when none of the crew would have a chance in hell in any sort of contest governed by Darwinian rules.
Crass stupidity is rampant in every department. Hi-tech helmets record every heartbeat - apparently until anything worth recording happens; stranded crewmates are abandoned to their fate in favour of a quick shag, and the spaceship door is opened to anyone who comes a-knocking. Although, after hitting the 'welcome' button, Idris Alba does do a double take and go 'Hold on a second!' but that might have just been an involuntary ad lib at his own character's baffling idiocy.
There is spectacular cinematography and effects, but not one iota of originality has been squandered on plot, subtext, tension or characters - which are as shallow as the Prometheus's muddy little gene pool.
Ridley Scott is a hero of mine, but Prometheus is not the intelligent, emotionally satisfying prequel that Alien deserves. It's a derisory, empty experience - and anyone who loved Alien is surely too old and too smart to be fobbed off with something this bad just because it's shiny.
Despite the dreadful title, Moonrise Kingdom is simply wonderful.
Since his flying start with Bottle Rocket and the triumph of Rushmore, I felt that Wes Anderson had rather tottered off a true path. The Royal Tenenbaums was hit and miss, The Darjeeling Limited was too twee, and The Life Aquatic was simply AWFUL. I take against ANY film that wastes Bill Murray.
Moonrise Kingdom doesn't repeat that error. Despite covering ground Anderson's already visited to an extent in Rushmore, MK looks at a teenage crush with fresh eyes, and surrounds it with a fantastic cast of oddballs and misfits. Unlike his films where the characters are irritatingly quirky for the sake of it, these oddballs seem organic to their strange island home. Star among them is Ed Norton as Scout Master Ward, who looks as if he's having the time of his life in shorts and woggles, in charge of a troop described as 'beige lunatics'.
Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Bill Murray all play their parts but never feel as though they're elbowing for the spotlight, which keeps the mood kind, befitting the hearts of all involved in the search for runaway scout, Sam, and his pen-pal, Suzy.
Visually, it's a feast of saturated colour and fabulous design, but - as with the best of Wes Anderson - the devil's always in the detail. The laughs come from minutely observed accessories (keep an eye on the scouts' badges!) and from throwaway truths. And the soundtrack is a great mix of wistful Western and classical pieces. Definitely buyable.
Anderson flirts with surrealism, but never gets Burtonesque, controlling his story with a firmer hand and to better effect. His situations might be bizarre, but the people in them are always painfully, wonderfully human. It's also a rare film - one you could watch with your grandmother or your grandchildren, with only a couple of moments where young eyes would have to be covered, and no real violence or swearing.
There is an overwhelming feeling of innocence and good will throughout.
I loved it from the opening frames, and it only got better from there.
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