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|201 reviews in total|
Legendary's blood soaked, fantasy fetish fueled, graphic novel style
retelling of the second Persian invasion of Greece returns. While the
brave 300 Spartans faced down Xerxes legions at Thermopylae, a second
and no less pivotal conflict was taking place. A massive naval campaign
led by the vengeful, and no less crazy, Artemesia advances on Greek
shores. Only a handful of Athenian ships, and the unconventional
strategies of general Themistocles, stands in their way.
Expanding on the story started in Zack Snyder's 300, 300 Rise of an Empire brings green screen slow motion carnage into the naval arena. Familiar themes are tackled here: of children losing their childhood in the heat of battle, of how one man's devotion to freedom and democracy helped rally a legion, and of how a small force can overcome any odds. Zack Snyder's screenplay peppers the script with a good dose of testosterone, manly howls of inspiration, and dash of innuendo, especially between rival generals Artemesia and Themistocles.
Eva Green steals the show as the manipulative and sadistic Artemesia. Magnificent screen presence, deadly like a coiled viper yet sizzling hot against the cold blue ocean backdrop. Easily one of the more memorable and charismatic comic book villains since Dark Knight's Joker. Without conscience and fueled by burning passion, she is the perfect foil to Themistocles' stereotypical superhero image.
Themistocles is a little like marvel's Captain America. He stands for justice, freedom and democracy. He had forsaken family and love for servitude to his country. His image of calm courage and steadfast control threatening to crumble under the weight of leadership; where every wrong move kills off someone's husband, father, or son. Their on screen chemistry is almost perfect despite being in actual physical proximity for 2 scenes.
Some say that backstory kills off mystique; nobody wanted to know that Michael Meyers had a screwed up childhood before he became the masked Halloween killer. Love it or hate it, 300 Rise of an Empire delves into the tragic backstory of its villains. Xerxes' tale especially lends itself to the running theme of a son taking up his fallen father's mantle and surpassing his parent. Did we really need to know how a depressed prince became the God King of Persia? Why not? Our past shapes our future, as do our mistakes. Through Xerxes' invasion, Themistocles learns the hard way that mistakes of the past will bite you back one day. And bite hard.
It is a pity that Zack Snyder merely penned the screenplay. His presence as a director is sorely missed. Director Noam Murro does his best to follow in the stylish speed tweaked vision of Snyder's. It is a good effort, but not as dynamic as his predecessor. Instead of the golden bronze and striking crimson, we have a dull blue and murky grey color palate. Where Snyder infused his battle scenes with a gruesome grace and flow, Murro's battles are messy, hectic and hastily edited. Slow motion ramping (alternating sped up and slowed down shots) originally used to zoom in on and emphasize iconic shots, are just slapped on seemingly at random.
Despite the disappointing directing, this movie is a real joy to watch. The naval clashes evoke memories of historical classics like Ben Hur; wide in scope and epic in scale. It's cast chemistry and charisma provides the pivotal centerpiece in what could have been a forgettable and unnecessary sequel.
This ain't Sparta. But this sure is almost as glorious.
The tragic legend of 300 brave Spartans against the Persian legions is
now retold in a gorgeous live action comic book form. Possibly the best
example of being faithful to a source material, 300 adapts the titular
graphic novel by the famous Frank Miller. And what an adaptation it is!
The muddy browns, ancient bronze and stunning crimson are painstakingly
replicated in the films colors, panels are recreated in full motion
shot-for-shot. Perhaps the greatest thing about this film is how it
adds additional layers to the characters that were not immediately
apparent in the graphic novel.
Our story is a epic tale of standing up for freedom, facing incredible odds for the sake of your people, and giving ones life as a symbol of hope. As the Persian empire marches through Greece, the senate is bogged down in politics and backstabbing. Unwilling to accept inaction, king Leonidas leads his 300 strong spartan army to face down the Persian troops at Thermopylae. Outnumbered at least a hundred to one, the Spartans fight on. While on the home front, Spartan queen Gorgo has to deal with Greek politics while being weary of a traitor in their midst.
As mentioned, 300 is every bit as visually stunning as it's source material. Director Zack Snyder, a self proclaimed comic book fan, brings a keen eye for action. The stylish way he alternates between fast cuts and extreme slow motion is a unique touch that mimics the experience of moving panel to panel in a comic book. Gory action, intense fights and awesome action is on full display, complemented by some fine acting from the great looking leads.
One really has to complement the actors for the tough training regime they went through to achieve the Spartans' chiseled muscular look. All of them bring their "A" game to the table, instilling their characters with passion and emotion. Of note is Gerald Butler, bellowing war cries as the Spartan King Leonidas. His performance not only elevates a rather one dimensionally written character but immortalised so many memorable lines which subsequently became internet memes.
Although the characters are not given much development, the softer moments in the script plays out a tragic story of a culture where formality and strength are law. Love, compassion, and one's emotions are suppressed in the Spartan culture as signs of weakness. Yet as we follow the Spartans, at first portrayed as misogynistic war loving maniacs, we see their tender side surface; A father who grows to respect his son as family rather than just comrade, rivals who bond in battle, and a king loves his queen much more than he shows. These softer moments as well, like the political intrigue involving queen Gorgo, adds a deeper element to the original plot; the graphic novel merely focused on the battle at Thermophylae.
This movie has received its fair share of criticism for its portrayal of the Persians. But since it is framed as a story told by a Spartan survivor, these creative liberties may just be the survivor sprinkling some exaggeration into the tale. Overall, it is a thoroughly enjoyable testosterone fueled action flick. Aside from Tyler Bates' generic soundtrack, the visuals and directing style alone is unique and breathtaking. The softer moments are intriguing and well woven into the narrative, adding layers to what could have been a shallow swords and sandals movie.
Prepare for Glory. And prepare for the sequel.
DC's "New 52". Love it or hate it, it is here to stay. So strong is
this line wide continuity reboot that it has now entered the realm of
animation in the form of JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR. Adapting the first volume
of Geoff John's and Jim Lee's graphic novel "Justice League: Origins",
WAR is a brisk animated superhero blockbuster, heavy on action and
snappy dialogue. Compared to the bleak and morally ambiguous FLASHPOINT
PARADOX, WAR returns an element of fun to DC's superheroes by crafting
a tradition, clear cut "Good versus evil" tale.
Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and more. Superpowered beings have only recently made their presence known to a suspicious world. Admired by some, but feared by most, they struggle for acceptance while fighting the good fight. A typical night on the job turns into a conflict of epic proportions when Batman and Green Lantern uncover evidence of a clandestine operation carried out by techno organic aliens. Superman gets roped in due to his alien origins and an experiment gone wrong leads to the metamorphosis of Vic Stone into a techno organic "Cyborg". All this culminates in a full scale invasion, pulling in the likes of Wonder Woman, The Flash and Shazam, who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Facing down the invasion forces the squabbling heroes to set aside their differences and work together.
Perhaps the best part of such superhero team ups is to see how the heroes play off each other. Thanks to an expertly written script and fine acting, our characters share memorable moments of dialogue punctuated with wit and a bit of humour. It feels like Marvel's AVENGERS only that the humour is more controlled, more witty, and less outright comedy.
Miraculously, with so many heroes, our script gives ample development to the characters and fleshes most of them out perfectly. Cyborg's tension with his father, Green Lantern's over confidence in his power and Wonder Woman as the stranger in a strange land are a treat to watch. All the characters are played by an excellent bunch of actors who ease right into their roles. Special mention goes to young Zach Callison who nails Billy Batson as a streetwise but insecure kid, hiding his insecurities behind a showboating little tough guy act. Little sub-plots lend meat to the story such as Cyborg and Shazam's issue with trust, Green Lantern learning some humility, and a budding romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Superman himself however is a big letdown. His simplistic dialogue, and muscle bound design makes him seem like a clueless one dimensional bruiser.
Of course, what would a good superhero movie be without action? In JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR, the action is intense and wild. Featuring a soundtrack that combines orchestral fanfare with some sinister sounding synths, essentially makes JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR sound more like the sci/fi invasion flick that it is than a traditional superhero movie. Legions of parademons storm the major cities of the world while their leader Darkseid personally confronts the heroes. Moi Animation studio brings their best to the fight scenes. The animation is smooth and dynamic, yet the level of detail remains constant. Director Jay Olivia, who also directed the superman slugfest SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY shows off some beautiful combat scenes, including a cool first-person sequence from the point of view of Wonder Woman slicing her way through a horde.
Unfortunately, the slower scenes in the movie show off some areas where the animation is lacking. With TV shows like Young Justice and Legend of Korra, the art detail in this movie is barely any better than that in the aforementioned TV series. Then there is the ubiquitous CGI used to render vehicles and parademon hordes in the background. They clash rather obviously with the 2D art, a true crime when others shows can successfully integrate cel shaded CGI into the traditional 2D animation. Some character designs are also just as iffy. While most of the characters look fantastic, with a slight Japanese anime touch, Superman looks like a dumb beefcake. Not that his simplistic dialogue helps this impression. His face is too wide, his shoulders are huge, nothing at all like the sleek and handsome Jim Lee art in the original graphic novel
And that is perhaps the greatest sin this movie commits. In touting itself as an adaptation, it makes many unnecessary changes from the original comic. Polarising your audience is never a good thing. Fans of the comic would be turned off by the changes. Not that JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR is not a good movie, it is. It succeeds in re-introducing these well known characters in a new light, and in setting up a whole new universe for subsequent animated movies to be set in. As a pilot film, not bad. But perhaps with the critical acclaim that the graphic novel got, it should not have been too much to expect more advanced animation techniques and better character designs that were closer to the comic art.
DC now has it's New animated movie universe up and running. With a slew of great stories to tap on like THRONE OF ATLANTIS, COURT OF OWLS, ROTWORLD, DEATH OF THE FAMILY etc, here's hoping DC puts a bit more love into the next one.
Robocop, the fondly remembered super violent piece of satirical science
fiction from the 80s, has been remade. While not exactly bigger, it is
debatable whether the remake is actually better.
I gave the original Robocop 10/10. It is awesome. So I'd put ROBOCOP 2014 right there at second place; just under the original, but way better than the sequels, TV series and *shudder* Prime Directives.
The 2014 remake of ROBOCOP retains many elements of the original, while updating the premise for contemporary audience. For starters it got the satire down very well, firstly in the form of extreme leftist show host Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson), then among other things, the revelation that the "all American" Robocop was made in China. Although not as dark a dark comedy as the original movie, the satire here works, as with many of the subtle changes.
The most obvious being the design of Robocop himself. The original design from the 80s, that bulletproof unstoppable machine, became painfully obsolete in this new century. Anyone with common sense to take cover and shoot accurately could take out the original plodding, stiff Robocop. Our new Robocop, played magnificently by Joel Kinnaman, changes that. If Peter Weller (the original Robocop) was a tank, our new Robocop is a Stealth Bomber. ROBOCOP 2014 shows money well spent on the special effects. He's sleek, fast, he's strong, plus he does not just stand there and get shot at. Best of all, he retains his heart and struggles with his humanity.
This is the most welcome change which is a more personalised plot centred on Alex Murphy and his family. The film deals with the consequences of being turned into a commercial product, where every change in your life is dictated by focus groups and monetary decisions. Choice is no longer your own and you are duped into the illusion of free choice. Slowly but surely, everything that made you human is slowly drained away. Then once the company decides to "pull the plug", are they just terminating an asset? Or is it attempted murder?
In focusing on the fallout on both Murphy himself and his family, something that the original films barely glossed over, it creates a more tragic angle to the Robocop mythos. In the original, it is told to us that Murphy was a loyal family man and a loving father but we never actually saw that. Here we do, moments before that ideal family life is ripped away in fire and ash. We see Murphy's bittersweet reunion with his wife and son, tragic in the fact that he can never again be the husband and father he once was. We see how the media attention on the family slowly drives the son into anxious isolation. And we see how his wife becomes a victim of biased media coverage.
These are all elements that lends much needed emotional weight to what could have been another bland sci/fi action thriller. You can be told that your body was reduced to "a couple of chunks on a coroner's table", but to actually see yourself as said chunks in all their gruesome glory...........that's heavy. Especially for a PG-13 movie. Despite the rating, ROBOCOP 2014 pushes the boundaries on PG-13 violence. You have scenes that will make you squeamish, people are blown up, shot, zapped and ripped to shreds in a hail of bullets. Or at least, it would have been pretty violent if you could see half of the action that is filmed.
Ruining the experience is director Jose Padilha and his obsession with extreme close-ups. tight angles and shaky cam. Like a graduate from the Michael Bay school of filming and the Neveldine/Tylor institute of camera-work, Director Padilha's action scenes are a jittery mess. That combined with a painfully generic soundtrack by Pedro Bromfman undermines what could have been a more epic looking and sounding movie.
Nevertheless, ROBOCOP 2014 does not disappoint. Once you can get past the shaky camera, and once you leave your prejudices of "will never be as great as the original" behind, you will appreciate this tragic new take on the classic. With excellent performances by Joel Kinnaman and veterans like Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, this is Robocop with less blood, less violence, less dark comedy, but with an equal measure of brains and a lot more heart.
JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME, came out of nowhere. There was minimal
publicity to accompany this limited release, and perhaps it was for the
better. JLA Adventures can only be described as "Justice League lite",
a step down from Warner's DC animated offerings from the last decade.
For years, Warner has given us the likes of Justice League Unlimited,
Young Justice and its critically acclaimed Direct to video Animated
movies which all viewers agree is a huge step above Marvel's animation
efforts. Those shows combined well developed characters with top notch
realistic voice acting, complex plots, a darker tone and outstanding
animation. Those were shows that could appeal to the more mature comic
book fan and stand toe to toe with the tone of summer blockbusters.
This general feel goes out the window within moments when you hear Superman doing a "G.I Joe" style roll call of the characters and ending off with "Justice League! Into Action!". One silly cheesy line after another plagues this excuse for a movie. Comedy is fine, but not when the tone is as inconsistent as here. On one hand, you have lines that are right at home in comedic shows like Batman Brave and the Bold, while the plot and acting seems to take itself seriously.
In this story, villain Lex Luthor is freed from his frozen prison in the far future and enslaves another villain called Time Trapper to send him back to the past. His plan: to reform the legion of doom and prevent Superman from growing up into the superhero he is by stealing him away when he first crash lands in Kansas as a baby. Now those are high stakes! We are talking about the very existence of the Justice League here! Into this adventures comes Dawnstar and Karate Kid (LOL), two wannabe superheroes who followed Luthor from the future and come face to face with the legendary heroes that they practically worshipped back home.
Giving life to our heroes (and villains) is a fine bunch of voice actors. Sadly, it is the writing that neuters any memorable or complex characterisation. Even Teen Titans: trouble in Tokyo felt more mature than this movie. Hampered by an indecisive script, our characters sound like one dimensional caricatures of their comic book selves. There is hardly any development as the plot progresses. It's like the early episodes of Superfriends, except that it keeps trying to be like Justice League: Doom. You got some good looking action and a couple of epic fights. But you also got badly timed comic relief like this stupid sequence of the heroes and villains playing "catch the baby" like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Then again, at barely 52 minutes long, one could not expect much.
JLA Adventures plays more like a hastily produced TV series pilot than a standalone movie. It even looks hastily produced. Animation studio DR Movie turns in some disappointing work making JLA Adventures look no better than their previous work on Justice League Unlimited more than 10 years ago. Animation is as inconsistent as the tone, with a few good sequences and the rest merely mediocre. As for the artwork, you either love Superman looking like a caricature or you do not. Designs take some getting used to but having characters go off model once too often spoils the experience.
For an audience of under 12 years old, JLA Adventures is a sufficient kid pleaser, offering a straight up battle between good end evil, zero plot complexity, simple characters and child friendly action. It may appeal to grown up fans who yearn for the old days where comics were for kids; a more innocent alternative to DC's PG-13 animated offerings. But for the more discerning viewer, even if you have not been a follower of past DC animated productions, the sub par quality of the overall production compared to other recent cartoons is a definite turn- off.
Ronin. They are masterless Samurai, cast out from their service. Free
from the bonds of servitude, some become wanderers or mercenaries. But
for 47 former samurai of the Asano clan, they continued to honor their
dead master and carried out a final heroic act to avenge his death.
This was a true story of loyalty and ancient bushido code of honor.
From this historical tale came many retellings of the 47 Ronin. One of
which was 2013's fantasy style adaptation starring Keanu Reeves.
Wait....Keanu Reeves? Yes that Keanu Reeves. He stars as Kai in Universal studio's 47 Ronin. Kai is a mysterious half Caucasian half Japanese who was found as a boy on the outskirts of a tengu demon forest. He was taken in by lord Asano and allowed to serve the clan as a worker and hunting scout. Lo and behold, the lowly half breed finds a forbidden love in the Asano's daughter, Mika, and develops a friendship/rivalry with Oishi, the leader of Asano's samurai. But wait......what does all this have to do with the 47 Ronin? Well, it seems that rival clan led by lord Kira somehow gets his bitch witch to bewitch lord Asano into attacking Kira during a visit by a royal official. Japanese code of honor dictates that rather than finding out the cause if such an outburst, lord Asano has to commit ritual suicide to spare the honor of his clan while his Samurai stand by helplessly, as their interference is forbidden by that code of honor as well. As compensation, Kira takes Mika as his bride and everything that used to belong to Asano. Rather than serve Kira, 47 of Asano's warriors leave to become Ronin and plot their revenge for this grave injustice.
Oh but what about Kai? Demon Tengu? A witch you say? Yes 47 Ronin digs deep into eastern mythology of dragons, witches, bird demons and magic to deliver something less like a historical epic and more like graphic novel. 47 Romin Feels like 3 separate stories cobbled together. The most interesting revenge plot and the development of the ronin as a cohesive team is muddled in Kai's cliché ridden romance and a whole lot of demon sorcery, monsters and special powers right out of some fan-manga. It is jarring when the tone shifts and the film switches it's focus. One moment, it is on Oishi and his quest to reunite the Ronin, the other it's on Kai and his continual pinning for the princess. Thanks to all this, we never fully realise just HOW loyal and united the 47 Ronin are other than being told so. We never delve into their group dynamic, into the spirit of brotherhood that held them together despite the crushing defeat they suffered.
Despite weak writing and clichéd scripting by FAST AND FURIOUS write Chris Morgan, the majority of the Asian cast members do a spectacular job. This is essentially an all star ensemble for anyone into Japanese movie stars. Although filmed in English, the Asian stars emote with pure professionalism bringing genuine emotion to every scene. There is chemistry between the actors. Of particular note is Kou Shibasaki whose beautiful regal presence plays of spectacularly against Rinko Kikuchi's sultry slutty witch Mizuki. Arguably, Keanu Reeves' wooden performance also plays in good contrast to the Japanese characters, only to further highlight his alien nature.
Whether he is miscast or not truly depends on what you expect for the character. But none can be as out of his element than First time director Carl Erik Rinsch. Filmed in 3D, the director schizophrenically alternates between smooth wide shots that benefit realty from the medium to tight frantic close ups that utterly wastes the 3D format. Action is passable but no where as epic as it could have been filmed. Overall, despite astounding visual effects and flawless CGI, the unremarkable directing makes the film feel neutered and generic. Generic too is the movie soundtrack by Ilan Eshkeri. Having composed with a distinct Asian touch for films like NINJA ASSASSIN, that same Asian touch is sadly missing from 47 Ronin. It is run-of-the-mill fantasy music.
47 Ronin had tremendous potential. You can see the amount of love for ancient japan, it's culture and it's mythology, that went into the production of this film. It could have followed other fantasy retellings of ancient history such as Zack Snyder's 300 or Troy. It could have been a tight ensemble film like FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING expanding on the group dynamic. Imagine how epic it could have been if it was "ancient Japanese Band of Brothers in the style of 300". Alas, we have what we got. An expensive work of a debut director that despite a powerful cast, wonderful performances and visual effects, seems written like some japanophile's fan fiction.
Hulk and Iron Man. Face it, here are the two fan favorite characters
from the Marvel cinematic universe. It is no doubt that Marvel would
see fit to milk these cash cows dry.Their answer: animation. Successful
as Marvel's live action film projects have been, their animation
projects left much to be desired. A downward spiral in quality which
left off with the dismal "Thor: Tales of Asgard" led to a stint in
visually impressive but narratively flat Japanese anime. Now, Marvel is
dabbling in feature length CGI animation. The result? This.
Seemingly a very loose adaptation of the mobile app game "Avengers Initiative", IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED sees our two titular heroes first at loggerheads then teaming up to save the world. Two H.Y.D.R.A scientists have combined Iron Man's arc reactor technology with the Hulk's gamma energy and unleashed an electrical energy creature called Zzzaxx. Standing in our heroes' way is a graveyard full of Wendigo monsters, a legion of robots and a goofy Russian accented Abomination.
A little background in the original game for starters. The game is a ripoff of "Infinity Blade" with a thin excuse for a story to tie one finger swiping fight to the next. This movie replaces that so called "story" with another that is just as thin and muddled. The original story was purely a Hulk adventure, with Iron Man only turning up at the end. The change feels forced and unnecessary, as if Marvel mandated that Iron Man be the main protagonist instead of the Hulk just because of his misplaced popularity. At least the character designs had been successfully ported over from the game, and they look awesome.
The artwork successfully combines powerful designs with a cel shaded look that replicates modern digital colouring used in the comics. Looks as if the comic panels themselves come alive. Unfortunately, visuals aside, the animation itself seems dated. The way the characters move, their facial expressions, they all feel stiff; like something made for TV from more than 10 years ago. Such lapse in quality, in this day and age of shows like Transformers Prime, is unforgivable.
The writing is no better than in TV programmes for ten year olds. Lame humour abounds (that running joke of the Hulk being hungry gets real old real fast), silly lines and childish dialogue. All of this set to mediocre acting and an Iron Man who sounds like some twenty year old fresh from university, not some veteran superhero millionaire.
With each new height set by Marvel's live action movies, there is a new low set by their animation productions. IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED is the lowest as of 2013. Either it was done on a shoestring budget or nobody involved put one bit of effort into it. The whole thing is merely riding on the brand name of Iron Man and Hulk, out to cheat money from uninformed fans.
The scariest part? Marvel seemed to darn confident that this thing would turn a big profit that they put in enough clues for a sequel.
Lightning does not strike twice with the follow up to 2011's THOR. Thor
The Dark World does not live up to the standard set by its predecessor.
Although it ups the ante with the action, it lacks that personal focus
of the first movie. Thankfully, a stellar cast and amazing chemistry
saves the movie from falling into mindless blockbuster territory.
With a combined movie universe, it begs the question of how come other heroes do not appear to intervene in the various world shattering crises that other heroes face in their individual movies. THOR: THE DARK WORLD provides just such an explanation by setting most of its action off earth. After the events of AVENGERS, Thor leads an Asgardian force to bring peace back to the 9 realms. On earth Jane Foster, Thor's love interest from the first film, stumbles on an anomalous place with portals that transports items, and herself, to another world; the so called "Dark World". There, she unwittingly bonds with an ancient weapon of tremendous power called the Aether. This alerts the evil Dark Elves, technologically advanced ancient enemies of Asgard, and their leader Malekith.
As villains go, Malekith and his Dark elves are no where as memorable as one would have hoped. Like a crossbreed of LORD OF THE RINGS's Uruk-Hai with STAR WAR's Sith Lords and Clone Troopers. They have superpowered "Kursed" warriors, who are like Berserkers on steroids, they have space age technology centered around the manipulation of gravity (and novel use of mini-black hole grenades); all these are quite cool but seem to clash with the more fantasy-tech of Asgard. Malekith himself is a one note villain who is out to destroy all realms. Zero depth, zero development. Then again, what do you expect? He is not the star of this movie.
What Thor The Dark World succeeds very much in is its world building. It crafts and expands upon the Marvel movie universe, adding much needed history and depth to the people of Asgard. This depth extends to the characters; this time focused mainly on the relationship between Thor, Loki and their parents. While Chris Hemsworth does a marvellous job as a heroic yet humble Thor, Tom Hiddelston is magnificent as Loki. He just oozes nuance in his performance, portraying the trickster as a truly tormented soul torn between the love for his mother and the hatred for his brother. You never know his true intentions or where his loyalties lie. If anything, this is more of a Loki movie than a Thor movie where your tragic villain outshines the titular character, stealing every scene he is in.
Sadly, this leads to all the problems inherent in the movie. THOR: THE DARK WORLD has a great story. Yet its execution is muddled in direction and its general look and feel. Also, its character development is almost non existent except for Loki. As it opens up the Marvel cinematic universe into the far reaches of space age science fiction, the whole thing feels very much like the "Star Wars" prequels. High speed chases in space ships accompany the ever present laser guns, cloaking technology and plasma turrets. That sequence where Thor and Loki escape a blockaded Asgard with Jane just reeks of a similar scene in STAR WARS EPISODE 1.
Then there are the romance and comedy. For most of the movie you have Thor and Jane pinning for each other like teenage love birds. Once together, they clearly look like they should be in love yet there is feeling of "fakeness" to their romance. Thankfully such scenes are few, with the focus on bigger action. In this department, the movie does not disappoint. The action is clearly of an epic scale and the stakes are high. Yet the movie sees fit to throw in as much inappropriate humor as possible into such heavy scenes. The humor just does not fit and in fact pulls us out of the moments. Moments where reality itself is crumbling and a character cracks a joke just feels like Disney at work again, killing another chance to take comic book superheroes seriously.
Alas THOR: THE DARK WORLD is not a bad movie, it is good. It is just not as good as the first THOR movie, and this is likely due to executive meddling trying to get all new Marvel movies to follow the tone of Avengers. In trying to squeeze different types of stories into a single mold (no doubt to further cement their shared universe concept), you kill what made the concept great to begin with. Gone is Patrick Doyle's unique and spirit lifting symphony replaced by Brian Tyler's disappointing rehash of his CHILDREN OF DUNE soundtrack spliced with LORD OF THE RINGS and (believe it or not) Marvel's AVENGERS.
In a similar vein, gone is what made THOR unique to begin with. It may not be a typical mindless blockbuster, but it is becoming a typical Marvel movie. Like Iron Man 3, like Avengers, and quite possible like all subsequent marvel movies; chock full of comedy, big action and cartoon style dialogue with no effort to try and take superheroes seriously or to craft a deep themed tale of costumed vigilantes gifted with awesome powers.
Three movies, a live action TV series and two cartoons later, ROBOCOP
returns with a made-for-TV miniseries "ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES". This
miniseries consisted of four movies which attempted to bring back the
gritty and darker tone of the first movie, as well as some social
satire. For all intents and purposes, what we have is an ambitious
project limited by lack of budget and inexperience of the creative
Our story begins 10 years after the first movie (ignoring the continuity of the other movies and TV series). Robocop is obsolete and weary of his years trying to bring peace to the crime ridden Delta City. The megacorporation OCP, who runs the city, is experiencing inner turmoil among the management. Due to new policies preventing use of lethal force by the police, a crime wave is sweeping the city. From Kamikaze gangs to a psycho in Halloween armour armed with machine guns and rockets, this town is going to hell. Fortunately, they have a new kick ass police commander JohnCable; a dual pistol wielding ol fashioned cowboy cop. Oh, and Robocop, the supposedly invincible enforcer of law who spends the entire miniseries getting owned.
Every character goes on about how awesome Robocop is, every criminal mentions his name in fear, you never see that. What you get is Robocop being blasted, kicked down, smashed, electrocuted and pummeled in every other combat scene. He only manages to take down people who refuse to take cover in a firefight.
This brings me the portrayal of Robocop himself played by Page Fletcher. Fletcher is a fine actor, able to convey heavy emotions with his voice and mannerism. He is not, however, I anyway suited to the role. For starters, he is short. As in really short. And the bulky oversized armour only makes him look shorter. Everyone including the old female scientist is taller than him. His Robocop is a stumbling dwarf, always marching with his fists balled up. On the flip side, with his helmet off, Robocop looks like an old man and even acts like one. Nothing is done to make him machine-like. He very visibly pants when tired, swallows hard when scared, he even sweats.
So a crappy Robocop headlines 4 made-for-TV movie length episodes of the miniseries. On the bright side, what the 4 episodes do is attempt to remake and redo some very classic elements from Robocop media history. You have a new more advanced Robocop, something Robocop 2 should have been about. You have a advanced Artificial Intelligence meant to automate the entire city, like th pilot episode of the 90s TV series. Lastly, you have a tale of a machine regaining his humanity. Throughout this story is the tale of James Murphy, son of Alex Murphy, who is now a young executive caught up in the turmoil in OCP. James must come to terms with the discovery of his father's identity as Robocop as father slowly reunites with son.
The overall story is good for its drama. The actors are spot on in their portrayals and it is generally well written with many of the themes inherent in the original films. Of particular note is the hammy Kaydick and the absolutely obnoxious Damien. A huge plus is the miniseries return to R-Rated violence rather than the kid friendly style of fighting in the TV series and Robocop 3.
Sadly the execution is less than sub-par. Director Julian Grant brings a lazy hand to the directing and seems to have this obsession with skip-frame slo mo (the kind of jerky slo mo you get when shooting something at half the usual Frames Per Second). The overall low budget look to the production is heightened by dated special effects, unremarkable camera-work and crappy costumes. The New cyber terrorist villains have the fashion sense of the Matrix characters, all tight, black and trench coats. They have cartoony electrical powers and can move at super speed with a basic blur effect. The low budget is most obvious in the Robopcop suits. During action scenes, they come apart at the seams letting you clearly see the black leotard underneath.
With this, Prime Directives sounded the death knell of the classic Robocop franchise. Perhaps in this new century of movies with fast kicking kung fu combat, high tech special effects and tighter narratives, the concept of classic Robocop as a walking tank is in itself obsolete. With this sad closure to a once remarkably original franchise, perhaps the new reboot in 2014 would be a much welcome revival of the concept.
Have you ever looked back on your life and thought "what could I have
done differently"? Have you ever wished you could re-live a wonderful
moment over and over again? Well young Tim Lake has the ability to
travel back in time, same as his father, and his grandfather. Tim is
not exactly the handsomest of men; he is an awkward, shy and slightly
introverted character. Yet with these new found abilities he tries to
make life better for himself and those he care about by altering little
events in his past. This brings him to Mary, the woman of his dreams.
When a change in the past almost erases their relationship, Tim holds
back on using time travel unless only for the most important things. As
his relationship with Mary grows from friends to family, Tim slowly
learns that sometimes one has to let go of the past in order to fully
embrace the present and work toward the future.
ABOUT TIME is possibly one of the few romance movies that subvert the "typical" romance tropes. It is not overly sappy or awkward like the Asian ones, but neither is it over sexualised or shallow as Hollywood ones. It is an earnest little fairy tale that, refreshingly, frames a love relationship into the eventual outcome of a happy marriage and a family (unlike many which just ends with the couple in bed together). This earnestness is helped by well written characters, particularly Tim who goes through a complete coming of age tale that many can relate to.
Starting from a socially inept teen with aspirations of dating the hottest girl in town, Tim soon realises that looks is not everything and settles for Mary, a woman who truly complements his character. We follow him as he grows into a confident adult and a loving father. Actor Domhall Gleason shares perfect chemistry with Rachael McAdam's Mary, making their relationship all the more "real". But the true breakout character is Tim's elderly yet charismatic father played by Bill Nighly who we find out has used his time travel abilities to relive precious moments in life, knowing that his life is soon coming to an end.
Yes the movie does skimp pass the less desirable aspects of relationship to present a very idealistic image of romance: the squabbles, the arguments, they are never present. Family life too skims over the baby crying at midnight, the smelly diaper changes, adapting one's lifestyle around the child etc. But hey, fairy tale is fairy tale, and the movie would be three times the length if one were to go into the specifics of relationship trials and family tribulations.
ABOUT TIME's only flaw is how it trips over its very own concept. At the very onset, two simple rules are set down about time travel. 1) He can't travel forward in time 2) Travelling to a time before the birth of a child will alter who that child is. Yet Tim travels back and forth in time multiple occasions, and travelling past the birth of his child only altered his child the first time. Subsequent time travels, including one back to Tim's childhood, did not cause such changes. Any newbie to science fiction can see how WRONG the whole time travel gimmick works. Does he physically travel back in time? If so, why does he not meet his past self. Does his mind travel back in time and inhabit his past body? This is true for the first half of the film where he decides to travel back to help out a friend instead of going on a date. But later on, he seems to be in many places at once when he travels to the past, being able to do what he did and do what he wanted to do.
The easiest way to deal with this is to not take the time travel aspect literally. Instead, it is merely a metaphor for a strong human tendency to revisit our past and relive precious moments.ABOUT TIME brings up many life lessons. If we change who we were, we would never be who we are. If we change what happened to us, no matter how embarrassing or how negative, we would never be where we are today. All things, good and bad, happen for a reason and that reason may not seem clear at first. Sometimes something bad has to happen for someone to learn a lesson and change for the better.
So there is no point trying to change the past. One should only cherish the present, for it is a gift. Take joy in the little things, settle the negatives and live it in such a way that in the future, one would never have the desire to change his past.
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