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The Wolverine (2013)
Numerous flaws spoil an otherwise entertaining movie.
If you're looking for a good flick to wile away a few summer hours with, you could certainly do worse than The Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is back in shape (both physically and mentally) as the title character; at this point in the game, it's hard to imagine any other actor taking over the role. The rest of the cast perform mostly admirably in their roles, although there are definitely occasions where Svetlana Khodchenkova seems like she was transplanted from a James Bond flick or a campy animated series. It's also nice to see a superhero film that spends more time examining its main character rather than subjecting them to repetitive action scene after action scene (looking at you, Man of Steel). However, the film suffers from a number of flaws that prevent it from being the ultimate superhero flick.
For one, although the film pays great attention to Logan, the other characters suffer in their development. Even when motivations are explained, they seem rather shallow or downright unbelievable, even considering the superhero genre. The characters also have little chemistry with each other; although I'm aware that it's present in the original comic book arc, the romantic subplot between Logan and Mariko simply bogs the movie down. It particularly seems distracting given that Jean Grey is such a huge presence in Logan's life still, as illustrated through his visions and flashbacks. Overall, despite the obvious efforts of Jackman and Okamota, the romance feels incredibly forced.
In the end, The Wolverine certainly isn't a horrible movie. Viewers who are used to more fast paced superhero movies may have a hard time enjoying the slower paced film but it's still a good popcorn flick. However, it suffers from some major flaws that prevent it from being a truly memorable film, rather than a merely decent one.
An Interesting Debut.
Off the bat, I must admit that 'body horror' films are usually not my cup of tea. However, after watching the trailer for Antiviral, I was immediately fascinated and, thankfully, the actual movie almost lived up to my expectations.
Antiviral is a meditation on the ever growing obsession with celebrity and while the world may seem bizarre to view, it already exists on our own. Locks of hair harvested from celebrities routinely end up on eBay; how different is that from paying for diseases? The world Brandon Cronenberg creates in Antiviral is not that far removed from our own and it is that knowledge that makes the whole tale even more horrifying.
Speaking of the world that is created, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. Yes, the contrast of black (or red) on white has been used many times before but it's still stunning to look at. Every shot in the film is wonderfully composed. I'm finding myself at a lack of words to describe the scenery so, to sum up: Antiviral is a gorgeous looking film and I would love to see it again, just to soak up all the visuals.
As for the acting, Caleb Landry Jones does a decent job as the anti-hero Syd March. His control over his voice is astounding; the opening scene he shares with Douglas Smith is particularly creepy, especially when considered in the context of the last scene. Speaking of the last scene, it completely changed my perspective. For the majority of the movie, I was not sure what to believe about Syd: was he just doing his job or was he really a super fan? The very last scene, where it's confirmed that he's definitely the latter, is electrifying. The supporting players all do their jobs admirably; Sarah Gadon is particular is beautiful as Hannah Geist.
However, despite these positive aspects, Antiviral definitely isn't perfect. It suffers in one essential area: the plot. The first hour of the film is wonderful, even if there is a little bit too much techno- babble being thrown around. However, once it becomes clear that the whole plot is really about a business rivalry, things seem to fall flat. There are also a few seemingly unanswered questions at the end (was Syd ever cured?) but I feel like a second viewing of the film might answer these.
Anyways, to conclude: Brandon Cronenberg is David Cronenberg's son. That fact is the elephant in the room, but what does it matter? To me, not at all. The bottom line is that Antiviral is a decent film whose astounding cinematography manages to make up for a few dangling plot threads. It's a good debut and personally, I'm very interested to see what Brandon Cronenberg comes up with next.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Decent fun, so long as you don't think too hard.
I'm going to admit right up front that I've never seen any of the G.I Joe cartoons when I was a child. I hardly know any of the history about the characters, just what I've gleaned from growing up on a steady diet of pop culture references. However, I didn't feel as if this lack of knowledge worked against me when I watched G.I Joe; indeed, I'm almost positive that I liked the movie better than I would have had I known about the characters ahead of time.
To be honest, G.I Joe isn't anything that remarkable or unique; it's in the same vein as many futuristic action thrillers and, since I had no connection to the characters ahead of time, that was how I regarded it. However, even if it doesn't bring anything new to the genre, it's certainly quite a bit of fun to watch. The cast all put in decent (or, at least passable) performances. My personal favorite was Christopher Eccleston as Destro, who I thought played the role with just a hint of camp. Indeed, many of the actors seemed to touch on the campiness with their performances, as if they themselves knew that some of the lines coming out of their mouths were rather silly.
The only aspect of the film that actually bothered me was the seemingly random inclusion of flashbacks touching on Snake Eyes' past. While I understand that this was done to give the character a back story, they interrupt the flow of the film and despite some very impressive martial arts demonstrations, they don't improve the movie.
Nonetheless, if you don't pay too much attention or think too hard, G.I Joe is certainly a good distraction before bed. The action sequences are quite fun, the story (mostly) makes sense and it's always fun to see actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a role I never would have envisioned him in. Overall, I recommend the film if you're even a casual fan of the genre but if it takes a bit more than explosions and sword fighting to grab your attention, I recommend a pass.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
Best when the guns are blazing.
Some films benefit greatly from jumping genres and styles with every other scene; Kill Bill Volume 1 and Moulin Rouge (to a lesser extent) specifically come into my mind. However, when it comes to Smokin' Aces, the attempts at genre spanning only create a massive mess of bloody shootouts, humor and an attempt at a serious plot that seems to belong to an entirely different movie.
The film is at its best when the focus is relatively simple, when the plot can really be summed up as, "Kill Buddy Israel." And the cast certainly has fun attempting to do just that, with Chris Pine putting in a hammy, campy performance as one third of a set of Neo-Nazi brothers and Common performing quite well in his first film. But with so many characters, it is all too easy to get confused or simply forget who each person is working for and what their motivation is. Quite simply, with so many assassins gunning for Buddy Israel (played to hysterics by Jeremy Piven), it gets hard to care about more than a few or, indeed, any of them.
I'm the first to admit that my guilty pleasure is 'dumb' action films and as a result, I found Smokin Aces most enjoyable when the guns were blazing. The shootouts are completely over the top, occasionally bordering on the absurd, but they are a heck of a lot of fun to watch. If the film had stuck to this formula for more of the running time, I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more. However, by the time the film ended, I was wondering if I'd accidentally switched channels half way through. With a convoluted back story and a depressing ending, the genre switch is jarring. Overall, while the film is certainly an enjoyable distraction for awhile, it tries to cover too many areas at once, making half-hearted attempts at action, drama and violence and the mixture of serious and absurd moments make for a bad aftertaste. Watch once, then move on to something else.
A Crime (2006)
Never Quite Gets Going.
I'm going to admit straight off of the bat that the only reason I watched this film was because I'm a huge Norman Reedus fan. I'm also going to immediately admit that the only reason I continued watching this film once I got past the half hour point was also because of Norman Reedus.
The plot of the film has plenty of potential and, perhaps in another director's hands, could have been a thrilling, emotional drama. What we actually receive, however, is a film sorely lacking in emotion and character development. This applies to the plot as well; the murder of Vincent's wife, which should have felt like the driving force of the story, was really more like a brief point. In addition, the entire movie seems to be lacking in motivation; many aspects that could have been explored further are left unexplained or simply ignored. I also had to suspend realism at a number of points, especially regarding Alice's seduction of Roger basically happening in one night.
Of all the characters, Alice's was most underdeveloped and it almost feels like the writers didn't even make an attempt to make her likable. Indeed, over the course of the film, the only things I truly felt towards her were anger and childish annoyance. This is a role that could have been written much, much better and that improvement alone most likely would have changed the entire film.
Every movie does have a highlight, however, and the highlight of A Crime happens to be the acting of Norman Reedus and Harvey Keitel. The latter gives a quietly menacing, slightly creepy performance as cab driver Roger and Norman, although underutilized, plays his role to the best of his ability.
Overall, if you're a Norman Reedus or Harvey Keitel fan, or are extremely bored on a weekend, give the film a try. Otherwise, there are much better 'noir' films that you could view.
Uneven, but certainly effective.
In the past, there have certainly been films that have made my stomach turn; Hostel, the Saw franchise, the mere synopsis of The Human Centipede, so on and so forth. However, outside the torture porn genre, there have been few films that have affected me so deeply that I've nearly gotten sick. Hunger was undoubtedly one of those films.
The one word I can't get out of my head regarding this film is brutal. It really is the best word to use; the presentation is simply brutal but, at the same time, not gratuitous. What emerges is indeed disgusting but realistic instead of over the top. Indeed, the presentation of the film is one of its two strongest points; nothing is shied away from but at the same time, we are not subjected to any more than hints of some of the more graphic atrocities. While on the topic of presentation, the back to back long takes about two thirds through the film are absolutely stunning.
Hunger's other strong point is the acting. Michael Fassbender puts in a subtle but powerful performance as Bobby Sands and the supporting cast also do a rather good job, even if their characters are left underdeveloped.
However, Hunger suffers from one brutality that isn't related to being beaten with batons and that regards the pacing of the film. Parts of the film are chaotic, screaming, flashing bits of violence and agony while the rest is slow, quiet and intensive. The contrast between the two is positively jarring and it interrupts the viewing process.
Overall though, Hunger is what it sets out to be: a deeply unsettling, realistic film about an event that may be little known to many in the Western World. The presentation and performances are top grade and while the pacing certainly interrupts the viewing, the film is still haunting me two days later and I'm sure it will continue to do so for weeks to come.
A Dangerous Method (2011)
There's Something Missing Here...
I must admit, going into this film, I was rather excited; I've enjoyed both of David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen's previous collaborations and my interest in both Freudian psychology/psychoanalysis and Michael Fassbender practically guaranteed that I would be seeing this film. I fear now, however, that my expectations may have been a bit too high.
I must admit, however, that I thought that Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen played their roles very well, although Mortensen definitely didn't receive as much screen time as he deserved. Vincent Cassel definitely shone in his extended cameo as Otto Gross. I did have some issues with Keira Knightly's acting, however. I feel like she may have over exaggerated her actions, particularly in the beginning scenes where she is in the midst of hysteria.
However, my real problem with this film is that, for lack of a better term, it all seems a little too shallow. Events that should be important are skimmed over and not explained; to be honest, it doesn't particularly seem like anything of real importance happens in the film. The characters have little depth; despite the fact that they are all playing rather well known persons, there simply isn't anything to them other than a name. On top of this, despite what the taglines of the film and trailer seem to suggest, the relationship between Freud and Jung is hardly explored. For the most part, their scenes involve reading letters from the other. This is hardly compelling viewing.
Overall, I feel like this film would have been better if it had been longer. If the film had a running time of even two hours, compared to one and a half, more character development could have been inserted, particularly for Freud. In addition, more focus on Jung's relationship with Freud, rather than his relationship with Spielrein, would have been nice to see.
Here's hoping that any future collaborations between Cronenberg and Mortensen pack a bit more of a punch.
I will say right off the bat that I am not a historian, by any stretch of the imagination; however, I do have a liking for films that deal with most eras of history, especially the Roman Empire. With this in mind and my liking for Michael Fassbender, I decided to give this film a try.
My overall consensus: this film was neither terrific or horrifically bad, but there were more bad aspects than good. One thing that rather grated on my nerves was the lack of character development. I understand that it is difficult to fully develop seven or so characters but having them tell their backstories in one scene seems almost like a pitiful attempt. Speaking of said scene, the only character who doesn't say anything about their past is Centurion Quintus. For being the main character, there really wasn't much of a reason to care for him.
The first forty five minutes or so of the film are certainly the best. After that, it descends into a rather formulaic chase film, where characters are killed off left and right and all we can really do is shrug. The film also features a brief romantic subplot that is never really explored and truly feels unnecessary until the end of the film.
The film wasn't without its positive aspects, however. For those who are fans of gory battle scenes, Centurion certainly delivers, featuring some good hack and slash battles with gratuitous blood involved. Michael Fassbender also does a decent enough job in his role, working with the script he had to become the only character I really cared about. Overall, if you are a fan of dubiously accurate historical films (like I am), then Centurion certainly isn't a waste of an hour and a half. If this isn't your preferred genre, then I'd recommend giving it a pass.
S. Darko (2009)
Wasn't expecting much. Didn't get much either.
Admittedly, I really wasn't expecting this film to be that good. The fact that it went straight to DVD only made me feel more skeptical and the only reason I ended up watching the film was because it was given to me. Thank God I didn't spend money on it.
This movie takes all the good bits of Donnie Darko and tries to make a new movie out of them. However, the ending result is not an excellent film but feels more like a fan made feature. This may have something to do with the fact that Chris Fisher, director of the first film, had nothing to do with the sequel but nevertheless, the film does not stand on it's own. Some sequences actually feel like you're watching a deleted scene from the original film. The plot has essentially been copied from its predecessor, complete with the world ending, wormholes, time travel and even Frank, although he's represented by a metal mask.
The acting does not redeem the film either. For most of the movie's running time, Daveigh Chase looks like she's struggling to show emotion. and for the most part, her and Brianna Evigan spend most of their time running around in skimpy dresses and shorts and alternately time travelling. They also share a line that is easily the worst in the film; it's only said two or three times but each made me wince. A hint is that it uses the word immaculate. The supporting characters are by far the most interesting, although that isn't really saying anything. Jackson Rathbone, as local science nerd Jeremy, is adorable and plays his role as the awkward geek fairly well, although he goes through a transformation at the end that is more than a little bizarre.
So, for those Donnie Darko fans out there who have been contemplating seeing the movie, save yourself the pain. S. Darko is not worthy of bearing the moniker "a Donnie Darko film." This isn't a sequel to Donnie Darko; it's a rip-off, sucking all the parts out of the original movie that made it brilliant and dumbing them down. Save yourself the one and a half hours. Just don't bother.