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Doubt and Dilemmas
Doubt perfectly deals with major issues. The film, like the title suggests keeps you constantly in doubt as a nun (Meryl Streep) suspects a priest (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of molesting an altar boy.
She, as a woman in 1964 works by herself to try and reveal the truth, due to the over-powering of men which she knows will be on his side. She has a high job as a principal in the school, and the young students fear her strictness. She has her 'right ways' for doing things. Using traditional hymns instead of radio 'christmas tunes' which Father Flynn wants for the Christmas sermon. She is even against the use of ink pens and sugar, which Flynn also uses and has in his cup of tea, three in fact. Sister Aloysius uses these to draw her suspicions to the truth in her mind.
She gains the suspicions from a sermon Father Flynn has, and wonders what relevance does it really have if not about a feeling he has himself. She asks Sister James (Amy Adams) to keep an eye out for suspicious actives, but due to James' own naivety doesn't report anything until a week later after Aloysius fears an incident would have already happened.
The film deals with large issues in a not-so on the nose way. Such as the overpower of men over women, and also struggling black families and parents wanting the best for their child. Sister Aloysius wants Flynn out of the parish due to her high suspicion and her own 'truth' that Flynn is a paedophile, and singles out the one black boy in the school as he would be the 'special' one. Flynn on the other hand says he is helping the boy, Donald, and no foul play has occurred except for the fact that Donald took altar wine, which Aloysius believes he actually gave him.
We are in constant doubt as to who's side to be on. The sister or the father. Children should be protect in schools, and also if need be helped by a tutor. Especially one, such as in 1964 which is the only one in the school of a different skin-colour. After the sister approaches Donald's mother, she say it is "only until June" and suggests that it will not be her son's fault and hints he may be homosexual. She wants the best for her son. She wants him to go to the best school, get the best grades and get into college. And she in her own way does not care that there is a possibility of her son being molested due to she does not want her husband to find out to beat her son again. She is in a dilemma of protecting her child from wrongdoings or doing what is best for him in life. Because she cannot do both, due to the colour of their skin, and also her abusive husband and challenges that arises due to racism.
The film ends with Flynn leaving the school and at his leaving sermon he says goodbye to each individual person in the congregation. Donald cries, while another boy smiles. What was this about? The film never showed any dislike of Flynn from his boy before. Was this due to Father Flynn coming onto this boy as well as Donald? We will never know. Even sister Aloysius is in high doubt at the end, and annoyed that Flynn gets a promotion at another parish.
The film is very character driven, and has dialogue heavy scenes which are all wonderfully acted by the entire cast. Each of them deserved those Oscar nominations, if not all should have won. The visual direction and hints are great, such as the heavy wind which can be linked to Father Flynn's "gossip" sermon, which was about a woman who confesses to the church that she had a dream that God was pointing a finger at her, and due to her gossipping. The father of her church tells her to go onto her roof and cut open a pillow then come back and tell him what happened. She said feathers. He tells her to go and collect every one, and she replies she cannot due to the wind taking them everywhere. He replies that THAT is gossip, and how fast it can travel. Back to the actual wind that occurs in the film, I feel this heavy weather reflects back on the intensity of the "Did he do it? Did her not?". We will never know, but we are stuck with the dilemma, such as his own mother to should he be protected from evils in the world, or comforted to have a good future?
Roger Deakins cinematography is great once again, but one thing that I felt was off was the use of his dutch tilts in the film, that I felt did not convey or progress any more emotion in the film that was already there. They felt forced, and strange in this drama. One use of editing and his work which I quite enjoyed was a shot of Aloysius looking down, with the camera looking up at her, her powerfulness. Then it cut to a shot of Flynn in another location, looking down on him as he walks. He looks up and we see where the camera was. A window with an eye on it. She is keeping close eyes on him, and will over-power him.
Before Midnight (2013)
We start off in Greece as Jesse drops his now 13-year-old son, Hank, off at the airport who is flying back home to Chicago after spending six weeks in Greek Peloponnese peninsula with Jesse and Celine and their two twin girls.
Jesse has a great relationship with his son, but can't help but feel disconnected from his life as he lives across the ocean. He feels that he is missing out on Hank's life and at the same time of loving his life with Celine as he lives in Paris with her and their twin daughters, feels bad for missing out Hank's life. He knows if he went home instead of missing his flight he would be living a miserable life with his now ex-wife.
Over dinner with their Greek friends, each friend has a long conversation about something that is all equally interesting to us as the audience. Humours conversations as they parody each other and emotional conversations about life and love. Raised wine glasses as they toast a few times on different subject matters that we would all toast ourselves if we had our own wine glasses.
One of the friends, a young couple talk about how they met and stayed in contact even though were far apart which Jesse and Celine were interested in. They said they Skyped and talked loads over it, and even fell asleep on cam together. In other films, a popular culture reference like this would seem forced, but in this film it is relevant. Here we have 41-year-old Jesse and Celine who met in 1994 and re-met in 2003. Nine years of no contact. And then we have this young couple who because of modern technology were able to stay in contact. This reflects how times have changed and how "Before Sunrise" could only exist in the time it was made.
As Jesse and Celine walk to a hotel suite that their friends have booked for them so they can have a night off and together away from their kids, they both talk deeply about love and life, what they regret and what they do not. As they get to the hotel they start to have sex but are interrupted from a phone call from Hank as he has arrived at the airport. Jesse signals to talk to him but Celine jokingly says 'good luck with your mom before hanging up. Jesse is annoyed that she said this as he feels she shouldn't say this to him, but she says he is old enough and that they have joked before about his mom. His mom is an alcoholic and apparently verbally abusive mother and hates Jesse and Celine. Hank at the airport told Jesse that she hates Daniel more than him, who we presume is her boyfriend. Celine can't stand her and wished that they had Hank to live with them. Jesse suggests that they move to Chicago and to be near him, but will only see him every other weekend and holidays, which Celine feels like is a waste and unfair, even though Jesse was only speaking mostly hypothetically.
The couple start to argue, sometimes intense and other times humorously. With these two wonderful characters, who may be the best characters ever created. You can tell how different there are, you can predict each others next act just as they predict what the other person is going to do. You can tell Jesse will be more laid back and Celine will be argumentative while backing herself up. She is scared of change as she has said before and even said she was scared to come on this Greek holiday just in case of a new revolution.
The film almost ends on yet another highly ambiguous ending after Celine storms out of the hotel room and doesn't return. Jesse looks around the room at items they almost used. Like wine poured in glasses. A tea Celine made but didn't drink. A messed up bed sheet as they almost had sex. In the previous two films we had similar shots as it reflects on the locations in the film before it ends, I was scared it was going to end here with Jesse alone in the hotel room, I was even prepared to shout out 'oh come on!' if we were left with an open-ended and ambiguous ending like the previous two. But luckily it cuts to Jesse walking up to Celine at a café outside on a peer. He pretends to be a stranger and chats her up which she doesn't like as she predicts he is being sweet again which will then end up with them loving each other and having sex, which she previously criticised for being always the same.
While chatting up Celine, Jesse pretends to be a time traveller Jesse coming back from the future sent by Celine to tell her younger self her life will be fine. He pretends to read a letter from a napkin which she finds ridiculous at first before he tells her straight from his normal self that she pretends that life will be a fairy tale just like their daughters and life isn't like that without a few negative things, and that he loves her unconditionally and accepts every flaw of hers. She starts to cry, then mildly smiles and asks more about this letter. The camera slowly pans back as we see them get along again as Jesse reads Celine the letter from her future self.
Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel, but where is Superman?
I am split exactly between the middle with this film. A two-and-a-half hour film that is split into three obvious acts. First being destruction of Krypton, second being an awkward mix between modern day scenes and flashbacks to his childhood/teenage years and third being the almost-destruction of Earth as it morphs into a new Krypton being formed by General Zod.
The concept of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-Al being a hidden hero around the country is great as he helps save people but always disappears and him being an 'urban legend'. They focused on it briefly but not as much as they should have, the concept of this is great, and then focus on how when he is revealed to the world he struggles coping with his new found fame. Lois Lane is nosing into this and isn't particularly likable or even interesting, same actually goes for every other character. Even Superman doesn't talk much in the film, and he is way to serious. The geeky 'Clark Kent' isn't even in the film, and I was really disappointed by that. It was like watching a Spider-Man film if Peter Parker's alter ego was never in it, and just focused on him himself.
The acting is good, especially by Ayelet Zurer who plays Lara, Superman's mother who I was very impressed by in her short screen-time, even felt she over-powered Russell Crowe's acting in the film, who I felt was obviously putting on an accent. Superman is well acted by Henry Cavill, but there is no emotion in the character and when there is, he screams exactly the same way every time, like they repeated a sound-bite.
The last hour of the film probably more was all action-packed, literally. In a town in the country-side as Superman is about to battle Faora and some other dude he tells the scared people to go into the houses as it is dangerous in the streets. Then there is a huge battle that causes couple of plane crashes and the military not thinking of civilian lives and most of the town gets destroyed. It isn't said innocent people died, but how could they not have? Also later on when General Zod sends down the badly and cringe-worthy titled 'World Engine' to transform Earth into a new Krypton, he just happens to also settle one half of this machine in Metropolis, and tens of thousands of lives must have been lost. Buildings collapsed, because of the machine gravity rose up then suddenly dropped, resulting in people going up in the sky then suddenly slammed down into the ground. In one line, 'Faora' says "for every life you save, we will kill a million more", that is a bloody accurate line! Superman is terrible in this film and tons, and tons of people get killed.
Also, I was annoyed with how Superman never realised he could fly, only once he put on his suit. And I didn't like the Jor-El 'ghost' walking around, I preferred the Marlon Brando hovering head as he teaches his son.
The film is half awkward mix between modern day and flashbacks and then full blown Michael Bay (except more interesting). The camera work at times I didn't think was very good at all. And in one flashback scene as Jonathan talks to teenage Clark the camera is really shaky and hugely distracting. This could have been an emotional scene but the hugely shaky camera was terrible. If it was 50% less shaky it probably would have been fine. Also there were too many close-ups at times and you could hardly figure out what was going on in any action scenes. At the end of the film once the world has been saved Superman tells Martha, his Earth mother that he is going to 'fit in' with Humanity and has a job. Then it cuts to Lois Lane being introduced to a new young journalist called Clark Kent, but because she has already several times spoke and been right next to Superman, she knew who Superman was before she knew who Clark Kent was, so she knows that this new journalist is Superman, which takes out for me the 'love triangle' between Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trekking into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness starts off with what could be a really exciting pre-credits (or film logo in this case) mini-adventure, but in the end isn't as exciting and emotional as 2009's opening scenes, but what it does though, is re-introduces you to the characters that you love.
noel Clarke (who appeared in Doctor Who and wrote and starred in Kidulthood) appears in the next scene as a man with a dying daughter, but when John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) appears and tells him he can save his daughter, the father can't say no, but has to help Harrison first in a terrorist plot. This then leads into Starfleet starting a man-hunt to find him, and once his past is revealed the film gets a lot more interesting and as fast-paced as the previous film.
The film features references and homages, which in a way are obvious and at times feel forced, to scenes and situations from the classic series and films. There may even be so many, that new-comer fans to the Star Trek universe since the last film may not even get any of them, but fans of the series before the JJ Abrams awesome reboot/prequel/sequel may find the references tedious, forced and even cringe-worthy. I myself had a split second moments when I was like "really?", but over-all in the emotion of the movie, I forgave them and loved it.
It isn't as good or as fast-paced as the 2009 film, and after taking a little while to get into it, you do start to love it and it is a huge welcome sequel. Other things I liked, which in most if not all sequels are over-looked are minor characters that appear in the background of the first film are never seen again, but in this film the minor characters in the last film re-appear. Such as the little pixie goblin alien dwarf thing Scotty is friends with, also minor crew members on the Enterprise. Little cameos of minor characters for the geeks to be like "hey its that guy!". Abrams has tons of attention to detail, and I actually wish he didn't have to do Star Wars Episode VII in 2015, because Paramount plan to make and release the next Star Trek film in 2016, on the franchises 50th anniversary. Abrams could direct it still, but would literally have to move from Star Wars to Star Trek, and I don't think he'll be doing that. I just hope the next director they choose will carry on with Abram's style, even the lens flares!
"Star Trek Into Darkness" never goes into darkness, but does have fast-paced action scenes, amazing special effects and sets and great music. It's a welcome sequel to the previous film, but for original fans, the frequent references and homages to the previous TV-series and movies may be too much and distract them, and will either love them or hate them.
Les Misérables (2012)
Les Misérables. What to say? Quite a lot. Tom Hooper seemed to be more interested in adapting the musical than creating a movie with a coherent plot and good character development. Theatre and film is very different, and with the theatre can get away with more things.
You didn't have enough time to care for the characters, and some scenes took place in the same location for way too long and the sets sometimes actually look like film sets than real life, which made it feel more like a filmed version of the stage play than a movie. They also changed some shots you'll see in the trailer which is annoying as they were better in the trailer than the changed ones in the movie. It feels like they cut a scene short. The film doesn't deserve all the nominations it received, but Anne Hathaway does but I also feel they cut or trimmed some of her scenes or changed the shots that were used in the trailer which were frankly better and showed her acting ability a lot more.
I don't mind musicals that are sung through, don't mind them at all. But for the movie they should have changed some parts to just dialogue. They did that with the The Phantom of the Opera musical movie. The stage show is sung through after the prologue but in the movie they changed parts of songs to dialogue, because they actually don't need to be sung. And if they did this they could have added additional dialogue where there is more character development, which there currently isn't at all, just forced friendships. The film doesn't focus on the people of France much for me to care about their revolution and this is where scenes with normal talking could have helped. All of the main songs in the film that actually add to the plot could still be sung, but not every single one. It also would have made it more powerful when songs did kick in.
Javert's suicide also feels random, but I believe that he just became obsessed with hunting down Valjean over the years and kills himself so at least one of them will be free, because he knows that if he does capture him, he'll feel lost as it became his life-long obsession to arrest Valjean. I also can't help but feel that the creation of a new song for the film, which was 'Suddenly' was created just in hope for it to be up for a possible Best Original Song nomination, which it has been.
The acting, directing, cinematography and singing is brilliant, but work on the script was needed.
Dredd Done Well
Plot was very simple, but good and is exactly what you think it would be from seeing the trailer. What also made the plot cooler is that it seemed like an 'every-day' scenario for them, and even at the end it is referred to as a drug bust gone wrong, just like its a normal thing. The special effects and slow-motion scenes to show characters on drugs were pretty good and the 3D was actually good, but mostly in the slow-motion scenes. It is probably the best movie I've seen that uses slow-motion, unlike King Kong where it wasn't really necessary and especially the last Resident Evil which I'm sure the new one will too. The acting was pretty good and not as cheesy as you think it might be from the trailer. The violence is extremely graphic but well done. Some of it is even like "wow, did they just do that?". It is a fun film that doesn't take itself too seriously and is re-watchable. I was hoping though however that the death of the villain Mama would have gone on more with a sort of fight scene, and we then see she isn't as tough as she thinks she is against Dredd. When she was falling in slow motion though, the shot where we see the ground floor I was hoping to see her body splatter all over the floor just for some guilty pleasure. The budget for the film, which was $45 million just seems like 'wow', as it does seem bigger budgeted. If Hollywood can continue making $45 million movies instead of $150 to 200+ then they would save a lot of money. 8/10
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Snow White and the Darker Side of the Story
Snow White and the Huntsman. It was good. Entertaining. Nice back story to Snow White and Queen Ravenna. Makes you feel sorry for Ravenna which was good, she used to be living on the streets in a medieval slum-like place where she and her family were treated badly, she wanted to rise up and become powerful. The power over-took her. Charlize Theron's performance was quite good, believable. Kirsten Stewart is actually quite good too. Puts on a good English accent and fits Snow White much more than Bella Swan. Her performance in the later part of the film is quite strong. Chris Hemsworth is practically playing Thor again, I assume that's the reason he was cast. His back-story was an obvious tear-jerker. The first part of the film was quite slow, but the second part as soon as the 'dwarfs' are introduced, the film becomes more fast-paced and exciting and humorous. The special effects are very good in all of the film, except two points where they are really bad, both involving the Queen. The clichés and predictability mainly kick in the last couple of scenes, but mostly because we all know the Snow White story before. The film felt like a cross between Lord Of The Rings and Princess Mononoke, with even a tiny bit of Braveheart. 7.5/10
Piranha 3DD (2012)
Starts off promising, but then slowly turns into a predictable boring sequel. The first film from a few years ago was good because it parodied 80s horror films with over- the-top gore and unnecessary nudity. This one is written by the writers who wrote the worser Saw films. The camera work is terrible and obscures everything. There are too many close ups and unnecessary slow-motion and old classical music that achieves what? Humour to make the situation funny? Shock similar to what Reservoir Dogs did? I have no idea. The plot is barely there in the latter half with characters with no personalities. There are three returning actors from the first one, one is Christopher Lloyd playing a Doc Brown marine biologist and the other is Ving Rhames playing the Sheriff from the first film who is scared of water and the other is the second-assistant camera operator who was part of the porno-making crew from the first film. In the end, there is a cliffhanger that obviously will lead into a third film, which I will be surely missing. Piranha 3DD is tamer on gore, nudity, language and horror and doesn't even live up to the trailer or it's title. Funnily enough, the trailer for this film looked better than the original film. But the films in reality are the other way around. I would rather watch Jaws 3, one of the worst films in the world that Piranha 3DD in some ways steals plot from, than watch this sequel again. James Cameron, I'm sure your sequel from the 80s Piranha 2: The Spawning is a better sequel to the original than this sequel is to the 2009 remake. 5/10
The Hunger Games (2012)
The Hunger for More Games
For once a film that not only lives up to the trailer and hype, but actually surpasses it. The pacing for the film is excellent, especially for its run time of 142 minutes. The performances from Jennifer Lawrence (WINTER'S BONE, X-Men: First Class) and Josh Hutcherson (Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Kids Are Alright) were great and gave the characters of Katniss and Peeta so much depth and memorability. The directing is great and even though the camera work was a little too shaky at times, it made the violent scenes more dramatic and horrific. Not only was the film thrilling, but it is also the only film I've seen where no one in the screen spoke a word. The film didn't just engage my attention, but everyone else's too. With fast intense, edge-of-your-seat action and an emotionally filled script makes "The Hunger Games" a captivating action drama thriller. If you enjoyed the trailer, you will definitely enjoy the film. 9/10
Friends with Benefits (2011)
Movies With Benefits
8/10. Pretty good and funny. Sometime mild predictable moments but it was forgiving because of the situation. The acting and chemistry between Justin Timerlake and Mila Kunis was great. There was a good mix of drama and comedy and the film wasn't over-done with clichés apart from when the film deliberately was meant to be cliché as a joke. Highly recommended drama/comedy/romance film. If you are a guy, don't get put off with the romance aspect of the film, it's not lingered upon much and is more comedy and drama and enough to appeal to a group of friends who want to see a good comedy film at the cinema or just a adult couple who want to see something for a good laugh.