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jnatsis-1

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148 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Mysteries of the Orient., 24 May 2014
7/10

An adaptation of the two hundred year old French novel of the same name, director Jin-ho Hur's Dangerous Liaisons remains fairly faithful to the book, with the noticeable exception of landing the story in 1930s China.

In a world where power is as metaphysical as it is monetary, the sensual and conniving Miss Mo (Cecilia Cheung) enlists the allure of notorious playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) to help her toy with the relationships of unsuspecting acquaintances. When the cruel pair makes a bet that Yifan has no hope of seducing the prim and proper Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi)- a wager neither party has even considered losing- matters begin to spiral out of control as young lovers Beibei and Dai are thrown into the mix and the human element rears its ugly head.

The film looks fantastic. The overall camera-work is inspired and dynamic, while the interior cinematography is tinged with a golden hue that gives each scene a unique and stunning richness. Exterior shots are almost Snyder-esque, making modest use of computer-generated imagery to recreate post-WW1 Shanghai in all its splendour.

But aesthetic appeal aside, the strength of this film rests on its characters. Here the audience is presented with a couple of individuals who have achieved great success in their own lives by blocking out their natural human states and manipulating 'weaker-minded' counterparts for their own amusement. As a result, the film accommodates a lot of intrigue when these raw emotions inevitably boil over and consume them.

Unfortunately, Hur's ambition in attempting to weave a multitude of arcs together during the third act gets the better of him, as a need to neatly wrap up the holistic plot overwhelms the emotional investment placed in each solitary character. As the closing credits roll, it becomes apparent that Dangerous Liaisons lacked the urgency and genuine thrill demanded, or at least permitted, by the subject matter.

It is bittersweet, then, to assert that the film stumbles at the final hurdle when everything leading up to that point is actually quite fascinating. No character is omitted from the story for any extended time, motifs in the form of letters, mirrors and closed doors intelligently hint at the exclusive, secluded world these people live in and the epilogue is rare in that it is both cathartic and memorable in the way that many others are not.

At its core, Dangerous Liaisons is an atypical and worthwhile tragic love story; Shakespearean in enterprise despite lacking in execution.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be inspired to update your resume., 24 May 2014
8/10

Only a couple of years into the syndication of his two most famous projects, Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, comedian Mike Judge tackled live-action laughs with Office Space, one of the most endearing and relevant comedies of the 1990s.

We follow mindless office drone Peter (Ron Livingston), who gets by each day by doing the bare minimum at his tedious job while thinking up ways to patch things up with his estranged wife. When the couple's hypnotherapy session goes awry courtesy of the therapist dying of a heart attack, Peter is left in a state of eternal calm. Realising it's time to get one over on his insufferable boss, he recruits gangster rap loving white boy Michael (David Herman) and easily-angered foreigner Samir (Ajay Naidu) to teach the IniTech brass that greed isn't always good.

The film hits the perfect note between comedic exaggeration and grounded reality, as things may start to feel a little too real for anyone stuck in the same dead-end job as Peter. Creeping around in the background of almost every scene are the tiny idiosyncrasies that make the typical workplace that little less bearable on an everyday basis. The rhythmic ringing of phones, monosyllabic conversations around the water cooler and endless amounts of menial tasks give Office Space a true sense of, well, space, and make our connections with its poor inhabitants all the easier.

Most of the comedy may come from just how real everything feels, but don't underestimate the bit parts played along the way. Surrounding Peter's trio are a host of funny but fleshed-out side characters, including Peter's love interest Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), unfortunate office punching bag Milton (Stephen Root), world-weary and naturally cynical Tom (Richard Reihle) and passive-aggressive, scene-stealing boss Lumbergh (Gary Cole). Simply put, Office Space has something for everyone. And who knows, you might just hate your job a little less when it's over.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Do you believe in Bay?, 22 May 2014
3/10

"My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness." So begins the latest Michael Bay trashfest in the most Michael Bay way possible: jacked on glistening testosterone, violent camera-work and glorious slo-mo. It's a sign of things to come in Pain & Gain and, in a strange sort of way, the crazed director's stubbornness in blocking out the haters and sticking with a winning formula is almost admirable. But anyone who feels that Hollywood lost its last shred of cinematic integrity a long time ago doesn't need any further convincing from this self-indulgent garbage.

Based on a true story (no, really), we follow ambitious bodybuilder Daniel (Wahlberg), who feels like life has cut him a tough break and that he deserves his slice of the warped American dream. While working as a personal trainer for the wealthy and arrogant Victor (Tony Shalhoub), Daniel hatches a foolproof plan – with the help of fellow musclemen Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) – to kidnap and extort Victor. The execution half goes to plan, until Victor enlists the help of a retired PI (Ed Harris) to track down the trio, who have since fallen deep into the abyss of criminal excess.

The film is not slow, per se, but it simply rambles on care of some borderline schizophrenic storytelling. Everyone who's anyone gets their own tacky voice-over narration, the character arcs traverse into ludicrous territory, and the two hour runtime feels much like the final superset of an all-day workout: it can't come fast enough. By the end of a mentally – and even somewhat physically – exhausting watch, the film feels like a dream sequence; you roll with the punches while it's happening, but once you've regained consciousness and spent two minutes thinking about it, it's clear that absolutely nothing made sense.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is the butchering of the subject matter. The true story is an absorbing one; a tale of high stakes investigation packed with real-life twists. There is nothing wrong with rehashing the facts and moving in a more comedic direction, but the whole experience eventually degrades into a point-and-laugh session directed towards the 'roid-head culture. Wahlberg's Lugo is the definition of an antihero: a man who does bad things but with good intentions. After taking what he wants from Victor, he's content to spend the rest of his life organising neighbourhood watches and pick-up basketball games, but the allure of one more job is too tempting – all of which is merely glossed over.

Australia's Rebel Wilson contributes nothing in a thankless and unfunny role, but the leading team's natural chemistry does draw a handful of laughs amidst the chaos. These moments of clarity are few and far between, though, drowned out by the incessant noise demanded by a project more concerned with panoramic beach sweeps and mind-boggling amounts of ass shots. His name is Michael Bay, and he doesn't believe in subtlety.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Django & Jenko vs. Commie Nazi Terrorists., 22 May 2014
6/10

Having already blown up the Presidential Palace once in Independence Day, and returning to crash an aircraft carrier into it in 2012, blockbuster maestro Roland Emmerich takes his political sensibilities to the edge with White House Down, a cheese-coated gun-fest that gets by on good looks alone.

Aspiring secret serviceman John Cale (Channing Tatum, with a performance somewhere between 21 Jump Street tongue-in-cheek and G.I. Joe action hero) has brought his politically-obsessed daughter Emily (a baby-faced but often impressive Joey King) to the White House for a tour while he tries to secure a job as the President's top protector. But when a crack team of motive-lacking terrorists compromises the compound, Cale must escort President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, climbing the corporate ladder from gun-toting slave to wise-cracking POTUS in six months) through the devastation and, well, save his nation.

Anyone familiar with Emmerich's work should know exactly what's coming, but that doesn't make the flat moments any more bearable. The labyrinthine interior of the White House almost feels like a character in itself and, despite a disastrous script, Tatum and Foxx manage to haul the film on their natural chemistry. Serving up a counterpunch to our buddy-buddy heroes is Aussie Jason Clarke (coming off a strong turn as Jay Gatsby's assassin), who makes for a truly detestable villain, along with an equally menacing big name, who turns to the dark side when his personal agenda gets in the way of worldwide supremacy.

The film never gets convoluted, but does suffer from trying to squeeze too many arcs into a popcorn feature. Evidence of this is everywhere, but it's best exemplified with an ending straight out of Scooby-Doo. The crime has been solved, the swamp monster caught and everyone is safe – until it turns out the amusement park owner was trying to scare off his customers all along. When Maggie Gyllenhall's US agent tells Cale that "it's not over yet," the realisation that the story hasn't stopped trying to dig itself out of a predictable hole makes for a truly deflating experience.

The action is bloodless and choppily edited, and the film is so saturated in blind patriotism that one might expect one of the baddies to be pecked to death by a flock of bald eagles at a moment's notice, but White House Down, in a sort of watered-down delivery of the high-energy fun that was sister film Olympus Has Fallen, just barely manages an entertaining product in spite of its cringe-worthy flaws.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

This quintessential gateway to movie fandom hasn't aged a day in 75 years., 22 May 2014
9/10

If the ultimate mark of deciding the greatest film of all time is the sheer number of people who have seen it, then a strong case could be made for The Wizard of Oz being the most enduring achievement in Hollywood history. Beloved by everyone from eight to eighty, the musical has entertained countless generations since its spellbinding release in 1939. It remains one of the first cinematic memories entrenched in the minds of many a self-respecting cinephile and now, on the eve of its 75th anniversary, the film has been re-released (in 3D, naturally), in all its visually arresting glory.

When bloodthirsty farmgirl Dorothy Gale (a fresh-faced and stunning Judy Garland, in the role that launched her towards unabashed superstardom) is transported to the surreal landscape of Oz, she kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers (Ray Bolger, Jack Haley & Bert Lahr) to kill again. Okay, maybe writer Rick Polito's famous synopsis is a little deceiving, but this is truly a film that needs no introduction.

It's hard to forget just how gargantuan a legacy the film has left on the world of cinema and, indeed, the pop culture landscape. A delightful screenplay brimming with quotable material from co-writers Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, and a range of eclectic musical numbers work in perfect harmony, from Garland's spine-tingling rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow and the Tin Man's touching If I only had a Heart to more upbeat diddies like Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead! And We're Off to See the Wizard.

Although seasoned with an innumerable amount of on-set dramas and ludicrous urban legends, the film hasn't lost a touch of respectability in any department three-quarters of a century later. Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch is just as traumatising; the pulsing aesthetics of Oz just as mesmerising; the virginal Dorothy's realisation that "there's no place like home" just as sympathising. The whole experience is a product of a simpler time, so rich in history and innocence that even youngsters will somehow find themselves reminiscing about remote 1930s Kansas and its bone-deep, home-cooked morals.

The 3D gives the film a little extra pop in places, but much like other conversions, it falls into the background after a while, likely to be all but forgotten by the time we get our first technicolour glimpse of Munchkinland. Of course, this is no major gripe, existing only as a small bonus on top of what is a near-unbeatable big screen experience.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Not your typical Greek tragedy., 22 May 2014
7/10

Based on the kid's novel by Rick Riordan and directed by tween-friendly filmmaker Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hotel For Dogs), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters picks up from 2010's origin story and introduces us to a new world of half-bloods: products of their mum or dad doing the nasty in the pasty with a Greek god. Seen as outcasts in the normal world, these children have taken refuge at Camp Half-Blood, where they live in harmony under the protection of Zeus' magic dome. But when evil forces find a way to penetrate the barrier, the ambush stinks of an inside job, forcing Percy and friends to recover the mystical Golden Fleece and restore peace.

The franchise loses some star power in the sequel (Sean Bean's Zeus, Steve Coogan's Hades and Uma Thurman's Medusa are all gone), but it compensates with cheeky cameos from Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci, on top of an unfair amount of impossibly good-looking young thespians. Tucci is particularly fun, hamming it up as Dionysus, connoisseur of fine wine/borderline alcoholic, and reluctant caretaker of Camp Half-Blood. His running feud with Zeus – who keeps using his powers to turn wine into water – delivers cheap laughs, none more so than when Dionysus threatens to turn to Christianity because "their guy can do that in reverse."

The film isn't all cartoons and comedy, because when the series of events actually kick into gear, it develops into a pleasantly absorbing adventure. Pieced together on a spare change budget of $95 million, a series of thrilling set pieces allow the SFX department to flex their muscles. The bloodless, PG action and truckloads of CGI can only take the experience so far, but the film never feels like it's cutting corners, instead showing a del Toro-esque patience to wow the crowd while deftly keeping the novelty from wearing off.

Consideration is also given to weaving in some of the finer points of Greek mythology. Anyone familiar with the quasi-religion knows it plays out as some sort of ancient Jersey Shore; a rich tapestry of backstabbing, double-crossing and one-night-stands, all arguably stemming from Zeus' inability to keep it in his pants. Again, things aren't quite that graphic, but family films have traditionally manufactured lamer villains than one who gains strength from eating his own children.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters proves a surprisingly enjoyable romp, delivering a story naturally tailored to an established audience, but doing just enough to keep things fresh and exciting for big kids too.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Machete kills it in this rip-roaring sequel., 21 May 2014
8/10

Three years ago, we all learnt that Machete don't text. In the blasting, blistering sequel, Machete Kills, everyone's favourite renegade federale informs us that he don't tweet, fail or, apparently, do things by halves. Again teaming up with Mexploitation master Robert Rodriguez, unlikely leading man Denny Trejo – and an eclectic cast that reads like a guest list of Hollywood's most debaucherous house party – have created an inexplicably enjoyable summer romp; a film that plays by its own rules and never alienates the audience despite an increasingly ridiculous plot line.

After earning his green card for his previous heroism, Machete is recruited by the US government to take down one of the world's most wanted criminal masterminds, Mendez the Madman (Demian Bichir). Along the way, he is ensnared by the seductive but sinister Madame Desdemona (Sofia Vergara), who blames Machete for the death of her daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) at the hands of Mendez's cartel. The plot thickens when the mysterious arms dealer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) threatens to launch his piece de resistance into space. It's up to Machete to stop him, provided he can outrun the ruthless bounty hunter La Chameleon (Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walton Goggins all contribute as the master of disguise).

Yeah, there's quite a bit going on in this one. While some might argue – perhaps with good reason – that Rodriguez could've used someone on set to tell him "no" every once in a while, the end result is a rampantly good time buoyed by the intentional goofiness of each character.

Lady Gaga holds her own in her feature film debut, Charlie Sheen/Carlos Estevez earns votes as a drinking, swearing, whoring, blackmailing President, and the rest of the big names ham it up as needed, with the only speedbump being Vergara's somewhat tiresome Austin Powers-inspired femme fatale, complete with dominatrix whip and standard issue nipple-guns. The star, however, might just be the lesser-known Bichir. Nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2011's A Better Life, he steals the show as a drug lord with a severe case of split personality; his jumpy and unpredictable demeanour making for big laughs when he shares the screen with the no- nonsense Trejo.

Rodriguez has put himself in the best possible position as a filmmaker facing potential scrutiny here. Any moments of brilliant action or cracking dialogue (and there are plenty of them) can be chalked up to his talents, while cheesy character arcs and gaping plot holes (which aren't exactly lacking either) are overlooked because, well, that's just grindhouse. But put simply, Machete Kills just doesn't care, in the best possible way. It throws all conventions of typical action movie-making out, or rather, through, the window, and never fails to ensure pure, unadulterated fun is its top priority.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

2 Guns (2013)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
2 Boring., 21 May 2014
5/10

A bit of a letdown in ways that might not be expected, 2 Guns is not exactly a sign of what's wrong with Hollywood as a whole, but is rather a by-the-book exhibit of the kind of stockstandard product that whimpers into Aussie cinemas around this time of year, unceremoniously wedged between the kid-friendly fare of the school holidays and the early entrants of statuette season. High on star power and little else, the film barely gets by on its quality cast alone, churning out a mid-level blockbuster that simply tries too hard too often.

Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) and Michael Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) are a pair of undercover agents from two different departments, assigned to the same task of taking down a ruthless drug cartel headed by Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). When their mission fails, the two are forced to go on the run, learning that each man thought the other was a criminal, and that they both have a sinister personal agenda at hand.

If you like needlessly convoluted movies poorly disguised as gripping political thrillers, look no further. What starts off as a mindless but easily digestible comedy gets messy faster than a coke deal gone wrong, developing arcs involving the navy stealing from the US banking sector, the CIA supposedly in cahoots with Mexican drug traffickers, and the small matter of a missing $43 million in dirty cash pursued by every man and his bull, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World-style.

It's impossible to keep up with the number of fake-outs and double-crossings that pollute almost every scene in 2 Guns, so much so that it almost feels like some characters switch allegiances twice or more in under two hours, completely nuking the line between good and evil. Ironically, it is the film's anticipated strong suit – that is, a simple story tailored to a fun Sunday afternoon in the cinema – that proves its rapid undoing, while an expectedly poor screenplay actually manages to pepper in its fair share of laughs, helped in no small part by Washington and Wahlberg's seen-a-thousand-times-but-still-funny buddy cop routine.

Elsewhere, reliable veterans Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton (as a twisted CIA kingpin with a penchant for his own unique brand of Russian roulette) give rounded turns that are, quite frankly, too good for a film that does nothing for their respective characters. A flavourless slice of immemorable action, 2 Guns offers no answers, and will leave you asking all the wrong questions.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Deceptively…mediocre., 21 May 2014
6/10

Aussie director Brian Trenchard-Smith's reputation for squeezing every penny while delivering action mixed with a somewhat warped sense of humour is on scant display in his latest project, Absolute Deception. Queensland's sun-drenched Gold Coast is the perfect backdrop for a high- stakes game of cat and mouse, and the film makes for a mostly tolerable experience, but lacks any point of difference amidst the stunted landscape of action-thrillers.

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a no-nonsense FBI agent who witnesses the murder of Miles, a man about to placed in witness protection. In giving the bad news to the victim's wife (the stunning Emmanuelle Vaugier), we learn that Miles faked his death two years prior, setting up a web of lies that seem to tie in with Miles' shady second wife and Murdoch-esque media mogul Mr. Osterberg.

Gooding and Vaugier display solid chemistry as the reluctant tag team, and their snappy interplay forms the highlight of the film. Unfortunately, outside of these fleeting moments of creativity, there is little else to stimulate the senses script-wise. Even more surprisingly, it is actually Vaugier, as the nosy and fearless reporter Rebecca Scott, who drives most of the plot. Meanwhile, Gooding feels more like a bit player despite his top billing, leaving much to be desired considering he is infinitely the more interesting character.

Although highly revered by a man who built an empire on cinematic thrills in Quentin Tarantino, Trenchard-Smith fails to impose his will on the film's direction. This isn't without giving it a decent shake-up in the process, but every time Absolute Deception looks primed for a step into the big leagues it grounds out in a blaze of unfettered predictability; a matinée shell of something that could've been a ton of fun.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Ill Manors (2012)
Plan B goes Pulp Fiction - with mixed results., 21 May 2014
6/10

The debut feature from Ben Drew (better known as rapper Plan B) makes some interesting inroads as a gritty gangster film bent on uncovering the many flaws of David Cameron's broken Britain. But, at an ill-advised two-hour plus runtime and an ill-managed script that very quickly degenerates into a nonsensical shamble of f-bombs, c-bombs, 'innits' and 'bruvvas', Ill Manors looks more like an unassuming eight-year-old with a painted gold chain and counterfeit snapback: he thinks he's tough, but he's the only one.

The effort made to blend the six stories surrounding the film's doomed night crawlers – four drug dealers and a pair of prostitutes – is a respectable one. However, lost in the apparent coolness of overlapping one twisted life with another is the expectation that these stories will eventually lead to something – which they don't.

There is still some to like about Drew's ambling adventure, though. Ahmed is believable as a conflicted soul trying to help, and each character is introduced via an original rap song sung by the director. But because the basics of filmmaking deflate these otherwise creative moments, one gets the impression the whole project would've worked better as a storytelling album (a la Pink Floyd's The Wall or Kanye's College Dropout), not a feature film.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on jnatsis@iprimus.com.au and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*


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