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|327 reviews in total|
Coming after their brilliant Coraline and fun filled ParaNorman, the latest Claymation flick from Laika Entertainment doesn't quite reach the heights of its ancestors. As always, the meticulous stop motion animation is wondrous to watch and, for the cineastes in the audience, appreciating the painstaking effort is a pleasure in its own right. Yet there's a spark missing from The Boxtrolls that stops it transitioning from appreciated art to an outright enjoyable movie. The story the harmless, underground-dwelling creatures of the title are being ruthlessly exterminated, causing the boy they raised from birth to stand up for them just doesn't have the legs necessary for a 90 minute outing, nor does it offer up enough laughs for what is meant to be a dark comedy. Another problem is that the preposterously stereotypical characters all act the exact way you would expect (Ben Kingsley's sneering, oily scoundrel Archibald Snatcher is particularly uninteresting), leaving no room for surprise or genuine affection. Hence all the heavy lifting is left to the superb stop motion animation, a few choice chase sequences and cheeky visual references; enough to keep you impressed but only intermittently entertained.
Reteaming 13 years after their Oscar-winning Training Day, director Antoine Fuqua and star Denzel Washington deliver another guilty pleasure with this murky revenge flick. Washington plays Robert McCall, a man with a dark past trying to eke out a quiet life until he feels compelled to help a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz truly horrible) who is beaten to a pulp by her Russian pimp. Trouble is this particular pimp is part of the Russian Mafia's American contingent, so a simple chat over coffee and cake won't do the trick. So after an excruciatingly slow opening 30 minutes, Washington is unleashed in a tense and ultimately bloody confrontation that results in the Russian mob sending over more minions (led by Marton Csokas' sinister sociopath) to be slaughtered in slow motion awesomeness. If the plot sounds a bit clichéd hooker with a heart of gold, evil Ruskis, one last job, ridiculously inept and indispensable henchmen that's because it is. Fuqua attempts to imbue his film with dramatic heft, yet he shouldn't have bothered. When delving into character motives, moral choices and grand, thought-provoking themes, the movie stutters and splutters; thankfully the numerous action sequences are of an extremely high calibre. The finale is especially epic, with Mauro Fiore's cinematography and Harry Gregson-Williams' score combining with Fuqua's flair behind the camera to dish out an appropriately hard core climax. More of a rainy-Sunday-arvo-on-the-couch type of film, but if you're a die-hard Denzel fan then you'll likely appreciate this on the big screen.
A tightly wound crime drama that oozes class, this Sydney-set motion picture follows on from These Final Hours and Predestination to continue the stellar run for Australian movies in 2014. With an intelligent and slow burning screenplay by Joel Edgerton, Felony deals with one morally murky question: what price should a good person pay for making one bad mistake? Those hoping for a whodunit will be disappointed; the tension is built through a very precise pace and layered character development rather than a complex plot or shock-factor twists and turns. That the characters are so intriguing and engrossing can be equally attributed to the splendid actors on show. Edgerton leads the way as the respected detective, family man and all round top bloke who is forced to deal with a personally complicated situation, and he delivers an almighty performance with nuance and gravitas. He's not the only one though: Jai Courtney takes a break from hard-arse supporting gigs (Jack Reacher, A Good Day to Die Hard) to bring heft and subtlety to his new cop on the block role, whilst veteran Tom Wilkinson relishes his chance to portray the experienced department head who has misplaced old-school values. A special mention also needs to go out to Bryony Marks, whose moody score is utterly sensational and brings emotion all on its own. Due to a limited release it's unlikely you will be able to catch this on the big screen, but to the top of you 'to see' DVD list this should go.
It's hard to believe that Sin City was released nine years ago. A
trailblazer in the gritty, shadowy and gleefully violent subgenre of
comic book adaptations, Robert Rodriguez's imaginative take on Frank
Miller's source material was astonishing, and a sequel was thoroughly
deserved. Alas, A Dame to Kill For is about 5-6 years too late and what
was once ground breaking and edgy is now standard and soft. Repetitive,
uninventive and a tad stale in parts, this follow-up is essentially a
carbon copy that can't reach the glorious heights of the original. Yet,
if judged on its own, there's enough B-grade joy on offer to ensure
it's a passable popcorn flick if you have a couple of hours to waste.
The noir-ish visuals are still beautifully gloomy although the increased injection of colour is to its detriment and the hyper-violence is fantastically excessive as expected. The cast are uniformly decent, with Eva Green particularly amazing as a scintillating femme fatale whilst Powers Boothe commands attention as the sneering, ferocious big bad and Mickey Rourke's Marv is again a darkly humorous highlight. Employing the same narrative formula of three separate stories rolled into one, the focus on Nancy's (Jessica Alba) revenge plot is misplaced and should have given way to Josh Brolin and Eva Green's dangerous liaison, which is criminally ended around the 70 minute mark. There is, however, a nice streak of pitch black comedy throughout the movie that lands a few nervous laughs, which Rodriguez/Miller deserve credit for. Inarguably a huge let down when placed by the side of its predecessor, but if pulpy, unhinged and stylishly gory flicks are your cup of tea, then this is worth a peek nevertheless.
Nowhere near as bad as the widespread panning it has received since its early August release in the States would suggest, this Michael Bay produced remake is equal measures stupid and fun. Lets get the major negatives out of the way first: the tone is muddled (it's unnecessarily dark in places), the Turtles are voiced by adults (and is overly gruff for Leo and Raph), the humour is hit and miss at best, and there are plot holes big enough to drive multiple Turtle-wagons through. Now for the good news. The action set pieces are crazily choreographed and full of energy, if a tad over-edited, and director Jonathan Liebesman unleashes his stylistic flair with aplomb. Whether you like the modernized, pumped-up look of the awesome foursome is a matter of personal taste (I'll give them a pass, just), however the special effects are fairly solid and they thankfully hold up in the frenetic fight scenes. Megan Fox does her best which, lets face it, isn't even as good as Meryl Streep's worse as tough journo April O'Neil, Will Arnett provides a few laughs as quirky sidekick Vernon Fenick and William Fichtner is always watchable when in wicked villain mode. Oh, and Shredder looks completely badass too. It's hard to recommend without some caveats, such as, lower your expectations way, way down, switch your brain off before viewing, and take an 8 year old whose own enthusiasm can rub off on you.
Twisty, turny and mind-bending, one viewing won't be enough for this time travelling head scratcher. Two plots one revolving around Ethan Hawke's temporal agent seeking to stop a terrorist, the other following the life of a precocious orphan who isn't quite like everybody else are intricately and intelligently woven together to not only build tension but to explore provocative themes to spoiler-y to mention here. In fact, Predestination is one of those movies its hard to say much of anything about. It's such a meticulously drip-fed thriller slowly and superbly unravelling as each and every minute of the runtime ticks on that the real joy here is unwrapping and grasping (or attempting to any rate) what it is you're actually witnessing. In his second collaboration with Aussie filmmakers the Spierig Brothers, Hawke is in career-best form as the veteran time traveller on the brink of burning out, whilst relative newcomer Sarah Snook (born and bred South Australian) is outstanding in a complex and demanding role that has rightly grabbed the attention of Hollywood. The Spierig's also demonstrate their diversity in both the writing and directing departments, going from the enjoyable but tonally lightweight splatter-fest Daybreakers to this altogether more mature, thematically heavy and narratively elaborate sci-fi saga that still manages to maintain a high excitement level. This year's Looper or Inception.
Quite possibly the weirdest film stacked with A-listers that you'll see in 2014, Korean auteur Bon Joon-ho's Enlish language debut is a crazy ride emotionally, narratively and visually. Set aboard a futuristic train circulating an Earth completely frozen over (why isn't important), we follow the plebeian passengers, led by Chris Evans' Curtis, as they make their way from the tail end of the train through to the luxurious front carriages, seeking revenge for their inhumane treatment. With the story more concerned about offering a division-of-class allegory than ensuring airtight logic, it would be exceptionally simple to pull apart the plot with snarky glee; but in doing so would be to miss the point entirely. A more relevant criticism, however, is that in his quest to generate a scathing indictment of the increasing class divide we're seeing in the real world, Joon-ho allows his overwhelmingly loquacious finale to drag on for an eternity, thus lessening it's gut-punch impact. Where big points are scored though is with the kinetic fight sequences; an ultra-violent skirmish with dozens of people bearing axes, spears, knives and mallets, is an awe-inspiring sight and more than holds its own against other, bigger budgeted contenders for melee of the year. With its wackily dark sense of humour Tilda Swinton's obnoxious official a source of nervous laughter throughout and confronting subplots (largely exposed as twists in the final act), Snowpiercer is not going to be everybody's cup of tea. If you enjoy ambiguity, evocative themes and a touch of the surreal, then you should seek this out immediately.
The degree of enjoyment you get from a movie like this comes down to one thing: how far does your nostalgia go in forgiving the horrendous acting (Stallone in particular), the lousy dialogue and the cringe worthy attempts at humour? For me, alas, not quite far enough. This threequel is essentially the geri-actioner equivalent to the Transformers series. Both have become louder, bigger and more explosion-y, whilst also being stupider, unnecessarily longer and featuring Kelsey Grammar looking tired and disinterested. Grammar's not the only fresh big name addition to the already chockers cast, with Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas (both good) adding some much needed spark whilst Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes (both not so good) ham it up to eye-rolling levels. There's also a clan of new youngsters on board (including UFC's Ronda Rousey), but they are so one dimensional and lacking in charisma they're hardly worth mentioning. The bombastic set pieces are relatively exciting mind you, and when they're not augmented with distractingly bad CGI (thankfully infrequent) they manage to get the heart racing. In fact, if it just focused on capturing the hard-hitting action of its stars' crowning achievements from the 80s and 90s, instead of pumping out crummy self-referential gags with a permanent smirk, this film along with the whole underwhelming franchise could have been a far superior old-school blockbuster.
With a group of heroes consisting of a raccoon, a tree, a green-skinned
assassin, a red- tattooed warrior and a man stuck squarely in the 80's,
GotG was always going to be the weirdest entry into the Marvel
Cinematic Universe. That it's now up there with The Avengers as
Marvel's best is testament to director James Gunn's vision, execution
and utterly perfect casting. After a backstory-building scene with a
young Peter Quill we jump ahead 20 years to witness Quill, aka Star
Lord (Chris Pratt a superstar in the making), in a dank cave dancing
around to Redbone's 1974 hit "Come and Get Your Love", and the movie
never looks back. It's not long before we meet the show-stealing Rocket
Raccoon (voiced to perfection by Bradley Cooper), a cocky, smart-arsed
bounty hunter with a penchant for bombs and machine guns, and his
bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a regenerating tree-like
creature whose vocabulary consists only of "I am Groot". Throw in Zoe
Saldana's sexy but badass Gamora, adopted daughter of genocidal maniac
Thanos who is searching for redemption, and Dave Bautista's
grief-stricken man mountain Drax, whose race of people take everything
literally, and you have a ragtag bunch ready to save the galaxy from
Lee Pace's indefatigable revenge- seeker (and awesome looking) Ronan
If the success of these eclectic characters is the driving force behind the film's triumph, then Gunn, on both screen writing and directing duties, deserves the lion's share of the plaudits. His script delivers some of the year's best lines ("if we had a black light, it would look like a Jackson Pollock painting") with a consistency that puts most modern comedies to shame, whilst there are also some genuinely touching moments that reveal a deeper emotional level then initially noticeable. The climax poses as a small weakness from a narrative standpoint, but with an otherwise outstanding story leading up to it this is a minor quibble. As with all Marvel flicks, the action sequences are damn impressive, however this outing gets bonus points for dishing them out with increased originality and a wicked sense of humour. A prison break set piece, with the inclusion of a hilarious mechanical leg gag (you'll have to see it to understand it), is just one of the many technically astounding, inventively choreographed and giddily enjoyable action-packed sections of the movie. Forgiving a couple of undercooked side characters Benicio del Toro's The Collector and Karen Gillan's Nebula and a finale that can't match the magnificence of the preceding 100 minutes, GotG offers the most unbridled, unconventional fun of 2014.
Marketed as an end-of-days thriller, this Aussie production is better described as a sombre, thought- provoking drama that just so happens to precede an impending apocalypse. Nathan Phillips plays a self-obsessed man intent on spending his remaining time on Earth under the influence of cocaine, alcohol and self-pity. After he saves a young girl (Angourie Rice amazing) from an unspeakable act, though, he reluctantly allows her to tag along and his journey takes a new shape. Played as a two hander between Phillips and Rice, who share remarkable chemistry together, These Final Hours is outstanding. Their unique partnership is built so carefully, intelligently and organically over the course of the movie that when their affecting and poignant climactic moment arrives, it is completely earned. Writer-director Zak Hilditch errs with his supporting players though, particularly in the middle act where we're introduced to three outlandish, imbecilic and downright aggravating characters, all of which are overplayed to the hilt by local actors. That this sequence is at least 20 minutes long is a huge misstep from Hilditch, but thankfully it doesn't spoil the overall progression of the central relationship. Bonnie Elliott's cinematography deserves a special mention too; her Perth is searing, grimy and harsh, yet somehow entirely beautiful at the same time. A flawed but worthy film that deserves to be on your 'to see' list.
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