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|363 reviews in total|
This live-action Disney effort is nothing if not ambitious. Not only because of its grand aspirations from a story and visual perspective, but due to its firm targeting of a demographic rarely catered to specifically. Aimed at children who are outgrowing animated kiddie flicks and yet to progress to (the increasingly dark) mainstream blockbusters, Tomorrowland could be your child's first foray into intelligent, thought-provoking sci-fi. Big ideas wrapped up in a mystery-driven plot wrapped up in a fun chase movie, all delivered without pandering or condescending; the pre-teen audience fully respected in the process. A sense of wonder, of nervous excitement when venturing into the unknown, is captured superbly by director Brad Bird, and will no doubt allow those stuck-in-the-middle cinema-goers to connect on every level. But what about the rest of us? Unfortunately, those outside the key demographic are likely to experience a whole lot less wonder and excitement, but more eye-rolling and yawning. Narratively flawed, structurally tiresome and at least 30 minutes too long thanks to an inflated prologue and dragged out finale, it doesn't land the same punch for fully formed sci-fi enthusiasts. All, however, should delight in the numerous set pieces on display, not least a booby-trapped house sequence that is essentially Home Alone with lasers, as well as a toy store melee with a spot-the-Disney-reference bonus game. Tomorrowland will mean different things to different people, but my suggestion: see it with a family member aged between 8 and 12 (best guess, could be broader) and just watch their eyes fill up with amazement.
Midway through the opening sequence I knew I was going to face an uphill battle to find enjoyment in this disaster flick. Full of limp action, woeful CGI and dialogue determined to make your ears bleed, the pre-credits scene is, sadly, indicative of the entire movie. As each set piece gets bigger and louder, yet less exciting thanks to Brad Peyton's bland direction, the narrative stupidity increases to a level that's extreme even for this inherently bombastic blockbuster genre. Not helping is the complete lack of tension despite the apparent high stakes; so dull are most of the action sequences that it becomes more fun to pick out the plethora of errors, plot-centric or otherwise. It also boggles the mind, considering the film's reported $110m budget and the fact that photo-realistic CGI has been around for years, at how the computer effects can be so poor. The ridiculously charismatic Dwayne Johnson injects energy wherever possible and Carla Gugino sharing an unexpectedly good chemistry with Johnson is dependably solid, whilst Ioan Gruffudd gets shafted with a laughable, about-turn role and Alexandra Daddario fails to impress. As for why thespian legend Paul Giamatti is in this at all? Well, everybody has to pay the bills. Notwithstanding the admirable efforts of a few key cast members, there's very little to praise in this over-scored, over-edited and overblown mess. Ultimately though, the biggest fault of San Andreas is being excruciatingly boring.
Melissa McCarthy has one of the most impressive potty mouths in cinema. The gloriously self-deprecating comedienne fires off f-bombs that would make Samuel L. Jackson jealous. McCarthy's acerbic dialogue, coupled with her innate knack for physical comedy, ensures this espionage spoof is nothing short of enjoyable, if not memorable. The carefree plot is irrelevant and lacks the biting commentary on spy flicks that the superior Kingsman provided, yet it capably achieves its aim of propelling McCarthy from one gag to the next. Paul Feig yet again delivers a bloated runtime (see Bridesmaids and The Heat), although generates enough laugh-out-loud humour in his script to largely make up for it. But this film really belongs to the on-song cast, with the rib-tickling McCarthy receiving excellent support. Rose Byrne nails it as the condescendingly caustic villain, Jude Law admirably takes the mickey out of himself, and Jason Statham who snares the movie's best moment with an uproariously macho monologue is downright hilarious as an obnoxious agent. Spy has its share of filmic flaws and jokes that fall flat, but when it's funny it's really funny; which, thanks to its marvellous cast, is more often than not.
It has been nearly 24 hours since I saw Fury Road, and I'm still trying
to recover. It is the sort of film you forget to breathe through, much
like Gravity or Captain Phillips, but for an altogether different
reason. Unrelenting from beginning to end, this post-apocalyptic saga
is virtually one, long, explosive chase sequence, albeit one which
seemingly has new ideas on tap. The action (i.e. the whole film) is
utterly bonkers, conceptually and in execution. That writer-director
George Miller and his team concocted such ferocious set pieces is
impressive enough, but being able to pull it off with extraordinarily
daring stunt work augmented by gritty CGI is simply awe-inspiring.
Visually it is vivid and spectacular; the searing desert landscape offering a dirt-filled grime so tangible your throat will dry up within seconds, whilst the vehicles are creative and wonderfully preposterous. The heart-pounding score by Junkie XL, in which he blends orchestral and heavy metal music, accompanies Miller's on screen splendour to create a visceral experience for both the eyes and the ears. The vehicular carnage may be the drawcard, but the committed cast elevate the overall product. Tom Hardy is savage as Max, Charlize Theron is compelling as Imperator Furiosa and Nicholas Hoult is gonzo as Nux, whilst a plethora of recognisable Aussies show up in deranged cameos.
There's an intensity here you just don't find in majority of the big-budgeted blockbusters; an inventiveness in all elements that drives this movie from great to mesmerizing. Miller hasn't played in the Mad Max world since the dreadful Beyond Thunderdome back in 1985, but by God he has redeemed himself, and then some. Fury Road is a rollicking ride that carves out a piece of cinematic history all for itself. In short: it is a grungy masterpiece.
Expectations couldn't have been higher for this mega-sequel. The first
Avengers was absolutely amazing and the steady line of Marvel flicks up
to this point, culminating in the glorious Guardians of the Galaxy, has
been rock-solid. With so little wiggle room in its margin of error,
it's not surprising that Age of Ultron doesn't quite reach the popcorn
perfection it aims for. Without the near-unachievable comparisons
weighing it down, however, this has everything you could ask for in a
two-hour plus blockbuster (take note Transformers).
Packed to the rafters with action, director Joss Whedon and his team concoct a wide array of thrilling and inventive set pieces that are the undeniable drawcard for the movie. The enormous budget gives Whedon the licence to go crazy with his imagination and, with flawless CGI and judicious 3D effects, he leaves nothing in the tank. Opening with a Bond-esque, pre-title snowy assault that boasts a long, uncut shot featuring each Avenger getting their kickass on, Whedon rarely lets the pace slip for the remainder of the movie. Wisely though, he changes the focal characters of each skirmish, meaning we get increased Hawkeye and Black Widow action in addition to newbies Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver.
Speaking of fresh faces because by now you know exactly what you get from the established players the new kids on the blocks are a mixed bag. As tormented siblings Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver, Elisabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are excellent, adding a dark and arrogant spark to their havoc reeking. The titular psycho-robot Ultron is conceptually brilliant and voiced with demented glee by James Spader, but is relatively one-note and can't fill the Loki-sized hole in the villainous department. Then there's a character (name withheld to avoid spoiling) introduced in the final act who is so silly and visually ill conceived it is mind-boggling he made the cut at all.
Narratively there are a few stumbling blocks as well, with Whedon's script feeling flimsy and like it's solely in service of propelling the Avengers to their next battle. Although he has absolutely nailed the irreverent humour yet again, sharing the comedy around with all and sundry. Stark is his normal, lovable arsehole (Quicksilver also edging into that domain), and Cap and Thor are the centre of some amusing out-of-time and out-of-place gags, yet the wise-cracking Hawkeye and the ultra-condescending Ultron are unexpected recipients of Whedon's most hilarious dialogue.
It might sit a few places down the Marvel Cinematic Universe totem pole thanks to a subpar plot and a truly awful new character, but Age of Ultron fires on all action and comedy cylinders required to make it a hugely entertaining superhero flick.
When a ragtag bunch of British and Russian submariners go hunting for a long lost Nazi U-boat supposedly filled with gold, things unsurprisingly go awry. Because in movie land, being on a submarine is never smooth sailing. The premise of Kevin Macdonald's underwater thriller is not particularly fresh; the characters are familiar, the twists and turns are occasionally predictable, and the plot is run-of-the-mill for this sub-genre. Yet it still generates high levels of tension and thrills due to Macdonald's meticulous direction, Christopher Ross' claustrophobic cinematography, and a wonderfully immersive sound design. As the grizzled captain, Jude Law impressively anchors the film in a role that requires he lose his usual self-awareness and charm, whilst gaining some pudge and a thick Scottish accent. Surrounding Law is a who's who of recognisable faces: Michael Smiley brings the humour, Scoot McNairy oozes with slime, Konstantin Khabensky offers some quirk, and Australia's own Ben Mendelsohn provides the grubbiness like only he can. On the surface this appears to be a clichéd, stock-standard submarine flick, but go down deeper and this is an intense, grimy potboiler with an array of superb set pieces and measured performances.
Let's be honest, the Fast & Furious franchise is dumb. The plots are nothing short of ludicrous, the acting is often laughable and the dialogue is frequently atrocious. But I fricken love it. There's an unbridled exuberance throughout the series especially since the fourth instalment that is infectious, and F&F7 carries that torch capably. The stunts are obviously numero uno on everybody's list, both crew and audience alike, and they don't disappoint, despite being increasingly reliant on CGI. Pushing the limits even further in a cinematic universe where silly things like real-world physics are gleefully disregarded, the set pieces flow with amazing frequency, leaving you breathless for a sizable chunk of the movie. Since The Rock's inclusion in the fifth chapter the amount of fights have grown as well, and here we are treated to numerous entertaining fisticuffs that sees The Rock vs The Stath, Big Vin vs The Stath, and a whole army vs The Stath, to name only three. Speaking of The Stath (Jason Statham for those playing at home), his smooth yet ruthless killer is easily the best villain this series has seen, and he's treated to an appropriately fantastic entrance via a clever opening credits sequence. The other new players are more of a mixed bag though. Kurt Russell is delightful as a scenery-chewing Government official and Nathalie Emmanuel slots into Vin's gang with ease, but Djimon Hounsou and Ronda Rousey are completely wasted with underdeveloped and boring roles. The old crew Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludicrous and The Rock offer much of the same stuff that has made them so well liked over the years, because, you know, if it ain't broke don't fix it. Which brings us to the late Paul Walker. After dying in a horrific car crash whilst filming was on a hiatus, the filmmakers have employed every trick in the book, including body doubles, CGI, and use of stock footage, to successfully deliver a well-rounded farewell to Walker. Signs of franchise fatigue are nowhere to be found in this seventh entry and, despite losing one of its beloved members, will undoubtedly be back for episode eight. And nine. And ten.
Tracking a young British soldier who fights for his life after being stranded by his unit on the vicious streets of Belfast, this 1971-set thriller is as grubby, tense and frenetic as the Northern Ireland conflict itself. Debutant Yann Demange does a sterling job in the director's chair, bringing a Paul Greengrass-esque urgency to the action with a combination of regular close-up shots and (not-too-shaky) hand-held camera work. Demange wisely opts for a quality over quantity approach to the brutal violence too, resulting in a few impactful events of savagery and gore that enhance the tension and dread rather than exploit it. Occurring over one night only, Demange working from Gregory Burke's sparing, taut script wrings suspense from moments as small as an uncomfortable conversation in a bar, and as big as a cat-and-mouse set piece in an apartment complex or the dazed aftermath of an explosion. It's not all smooth sailing though. The relatively unexplained bookending scenes are a tad cheesy and add little, whilst the bulk of the supporting characters are rarely more than stereotypes, albeit played with gusto. But this movie unmistakably belongs to lead actor, and recent BAFTA Rising Star winner, Jack O'Connell. His Private Gary Hook is resilient yet fragile, strong-willed yet frightened, making him a relatable everyman who will do anything to stay alive. It's not a film you could call "fun", but it's a riveting watch that rewards those willing to be immersed in its gritty and uncompromising survival story.
There's nothing particularly new or fancy about Dreamworks' latest animated affair. There are no breathtaking action sequences like in their How To Train Your Dragon and Kung-Fu Panda franchises. Nor is there the amount of laughs you'll find in their classics Megamind or, again, the Kung-Fu Panda films. Yet there's something so utterly sweet and innocent about Home that it zooms by with an enchanting charm. When people tell you to calm down by going to your happy place, it probably looks something like this. It's arguably the most child-centric movie Dreamworks have produced for a few years too. The adult-targeted humour is kept to a minimum and the physical comedy is amped up to levels that is normally irritating but here works an absolute treat. Its success can be attributed, in a big way, to the lovable alien Oh (Jim Parsons). A clumsy go-getter with endearing optimism, cuddly colour-changing looks, and amusing speech patterns, Oh steals the spotlight whenever he is on screen, which is about 95% of the time. As his plucky partner in adventure, Tip, Rihanna's precocious human child is fairly stock standard, whilst Steve Martin's dim-witted leader of Oh's Boov race lands a few hilarious moments among some dull ones. Vibrant, energetic and with an unexpected tear-jerking finale, Home falls on the right side of simple.
With his amazing debut movie District 9, South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp announced himself as a unique and ambitious player in the sci-fi arena. After hiccupping with sophomore effort Elysium, Blomkamp is back to his (almost) best with this endearing and singularly cool AI-centric tale. Revolving around the eponymous robot that is gifted with a rapid-developing consciousness, but dubiously raised by thieving gangsters, Chappie is emotionally and intellectually strong despite some plot-based weaknesses. Some will find the not-so-subtle moral metaphors follow your heart, it's who you are on the inside that counts, etc to be clunky and corny, however get past these and there's real meat to chew on. It's also nice to see a director wear his sentimentality proudly on his sleeve, not eschewing moments of heartbreak or affection to avoid ridicule from the lowest common denominator within the audience. There is a surprisingly large amount of unconventional, and occasionally dark, humour littered throughout too. A scene in which Chappie is taught how to be "gangsta cool" and another in which he steals cars with ignorant glee are laugh-out-loud funny, even if you feel slightly wrong for laughing immediately afterwards. From a visual standpoint, Blomkamp and his regular cinematographer Trent Opaloch again nail the grimy, quasi-apocalyptic-future look, the Johannesburg setting a welcome departure from the usual action-flick locations. Boasting cleverly staged set pieces, the judicious placement of graphic violence and some magnificent slow motion sequences, the hyper-stylised action is executed with aplomb. Sharlto Copley delivers an impressive motion-capture performance as the childlike protagonist (who is flawlessly animated with photorealistic CGI), whilst Dev Patel gets back to his Slumdog Millionaire best after a few rocky career choices saw his stocks plummet. Full of bluster and bravado, strangely magnetic co-leads Ninja and Yolinda real life rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, who also contribute to the sensational soundtrack are forces of nature in their meta-roles; their characters are unlike anything you have ever seen, or will see, in a Hollywood blockbuster. On the other hand, Hugh Jackman is sorely miscast as a jealous ex-soldier-turned-engineer who is threatened by Chappie's existence, and Sigourney Weaver appears for another one-note cameo that rivals her brief work in Exodus as the bigger waste of time. Grand ambitions, a big heart and slick visuals, not to mention Blomkamp's admirable pursuance of original properties, elevate Chappie above its faults to sit comfortably in the higher echelon of sci-fi films.
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