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They are in no order, just written as them come to my head.
What are you most looking forward to in 2014? Have I missed out any great films? I'd love to know your thoughts!
follow me on Mubi :) http://mubi.com/users/267799
or tumblr http://adamhowardcross.tumblr.com
They are in no order, just written as them come to my head.
What are you most looking forward to in 2012? Have I missed out any great films? I'd love to know your thoughts!
follow me on Mubi :) http://mubi.com/users/267799
or tumblr http://toallthings.tumblr.com
Ex Machina (2014)
Not What I Was Expecting
I was really looking forward to seeing this. Everything leading up to the film, it's marketing; the posters, the trailers, word of mouth, I even know some people that worked on it. All the signs said I should really like this film. It has a wonderful setting, it's beautifully shot (I particularly love the use of extreme wide angles) and of course the subject matter is a sci-fi standard that I love dearly.
The cast are all fantastic, the exchanges between Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander are delectable and Oscar Isaac plays the cliché mad scientist/inventor very well. But, overall, the film is actually quite disappointing. The classic, problematic use of fembots and seemingly obligatory sex toy play-thing aspect is extremely tiresome. The exoctification of Asian women in western films continues to annoy, I'm just going to assume that Alex Garland really likes Ghost In The Shell?
Anyway, the question of humanity's obsoletism in the face of conscious AI is always an interesting one, and the film eventually gives us something new in the very final third. It's just a shame that the rest of the film exists purely for that final realisation. It's a fresh ending, one I almost felt redeemed the films lack of je ne sais quoi, but the ending is not one that this film is worthy of.
I enjoyed the lesser known 2013 film The Machine by Caradog W. James more than this, and I really wasn't expecting that to happen at all.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Jupiter Ascending could've been truly excellent.
This film was not completely terrible; the Wachowskis have created yet another fantastic world with great visuals and an inspiring musical score. But, the story is so unfortunately rushed, the action so quickly cut and dialogue so sparse that the film is emotionally lifeless and it's difficult to feel any connection to the characters and their story when given so little.
Jupiter had the chance to become a fantastic sci-fi character, but the lack of emotional attachment just stops you from routing for her, from willing her on. This also isn't helped by the fact that, despite her being the central focus of the film, she does often feel very much like a back seat passenger. She is, for the most part, along for the ride with us as we discover what on Earth (or off Earth, as the case may be) is going on and from a narrative perspective I can understand how the Wachowskis would've wanted that. I do like how we are thrust into the story exactly as she is, without a clue, though I don't think it works 100% successfully thanks to the lack of depth and poor pacing in the story. Because of how her characters journey has been laid out Jupiter is sadly damseled multiple times, which becomes increasingly annoying, but she does eventually claim some agency in that she decides her own fate instead of the fate attempted upon her by others throughout the length of the film (pause for applause!).
As for the cast Mila Kunis is a perfectly fine lead but she isn't given much to work with and comes across as quite bland. Eddie Redmayne is impressively creepy and for once I didn't completely hate Channing Tatum. Oh, and Sean Bean doesn't die! (hooray!).
I desperately wanted to know more about this world and it's inhabitants than what was offered in 2 hours. There is so much to see, so much to learn and discover in the film yet we are like a stone skipping endlessly across a pond never destined to drop below the surface. Perhaps another trilogy from the Wachowskis was in order? the pacing of The Matrix trilogy really gave you time to soak in every aspect of that world, Jupiter Ascending is lacking all of that. There was no time to breathe, no time to take in any of what we we are given.
It's all such a shame, this film could've been truly excellent.
A slightly twisted, supernatural companion piece to Before Sunrise? maybe, maybe not.
This turned out to be much sweeter, much more touching than I had first anticipated. Though the film takes a good half an hour to get into its stride it really is worth the slight uneasy feeling you may have when Evan first gets to Italy and you're wondering if it's going to turn into something akin to the Hostel series, but thankfully this is as far away from that kind of horror as possible.
At it's core the film is a dark, fairy-tale like horror romance but it keeps itself grounded in ways that are really satisfying and could only be possible in the world of independent cinema because if someone else, other than Benson & Moorhead, had made the film it could've easily turned into one of those slick, Hollywood style fantasy movies with lots of leather, low-key lighting, vivid colours and fast editing. The film does have very dark moments, horrifying moments, but they're handled with a certain amount of grace and elegance that I wasn't expecting and you will enjoy this film more than you think you might.
The lead actors are great. Lou Taylor Pucci's portrayal of Evan is wholly convincing, his character could've run the risk of being entirely forgettable but he's sweet and charming and highly likable. Nadia Hilker has been working in German television for about 5 years, this is her first feature film, and I have to say I'm a little bit in love with her. The personality she gives to a character that could easily have fallen into the realms of utter cliché is really, really refreshing.
A slightly twisted, supernatural companion piece to Before Sunrise? maybe, maybe not. But definitely something different, at least.
Marco Polo (2014)
Falls very flat and sadly disappointing
The show is called Marco Polo, though you wouldn't think so given how little we actually see of our supposed lead character, he is almost useless and could be replaced by anyone of relevant ethnicity to the plot. Why do we need some vacuous white man as a reason to engage a worldwide audience in a piece of Mongolian and Chinese history? There are many, many stories and events from that region and period of history that could be told but I suppose we have to go for one that might have involved a European?
This show is, of course, historically inaccurate. The events are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated completely. Marco Polo's involvement in anything at all during this period is extremely minimal and skeptical at best! And with regards to the show's climax; Polo is championed as the one to bring the trebuchet to Kublai Khan's attention at the expense of Muslim engineers Ismail and Al al-Din, the actual men to help in this endeavour, who aren't mentioned at all. All to sell the silly idea of the great explorer Marco Polo. There are those who argue that Polo never even went to China and that he wrote his stories down after hearing tales from Persian travellers he met in Persia.
Anyway, despite being the 2nd most expensive show on TV at the moment (roughly $9million per episode) Marco Polo suffers from a severe lack of budget and lacklustre action sequences, particularly toward the season's climax, it would've been better to commit a few more millions of dollars towards the climax than the rest of the season where, let's be honest, very little happens. Though, I will say that individual fight scene choreography is very good.
The show is full of tiresome, pointless nudity. Do producers really think nudity is all we need to keep watching shows these days? Game of Thrones is equally repugnant in this regard. I just don't understand the need for it other than to keep the attention of those who aren't all that taken in by history and drama. There is some slightly engaging bouts of drama scattered throughout the show but nothing that would suggest they were really interested in telling a story from this particular time period because, as i've mentioned, whenever something becomes engaging there will be random, useless nude scene following it. We get it, Kublai Khan has a harem of women, do we really need to see them naked, having sex, or being humiliated in almost every episode? And a naked woman fighting off and killing 3 soldiers wuxia-style? come on.
Oh, and the show is almost entirely in English; whenever people speak Mongolian, Mandarin, Farsi, Arabic, Italian or any other language apart from English it's not subtitled, so we're left oddly perplexed. Even the available subtitles for the show simple states "Speaks in Chinese/etc" when someone isn't speaking English.
But! fear not, there are some positives about the show (yes, really). There are Asian actors playing Asian characters! however mixed up and wrong the ethnicities may be (Chinese actors playing Mongolians etc) it's clear that some effort was made for at least an ounce of authenticity, it's not nearly as bad and racist as John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in the 1956 film The Conqueror. Benedict Wong has a very commanding presence on screen as Kublai Khan, as does Joan Chen who plays the Empress Chabi but other than those two I find everyone else quite forgettable, even the great Chin Han is a little unimpressive as Jia Sidao.
The actors are draped in fantastic costume, surround by stunning set design and locations; the music is excellent and the script isn't particularly terrible either. But, when you boil it down to the bare bones this show doesn't really amount to much. I finished the season feeling very disappointed. Even the tiniest hint at the possibility of a second season teased for us in the closing seconds doesn't really have me excited to watch a second season should one arrive.
2nd most expensive show on TV? oh dear.
La vie d'Adèle (2013)
Preposterously Self Indulgent
To put it in as simple terms as possible, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a story about Adèle, a high school student who finds herself confused and troubled with her sexual identity. After passing a blue-haired girl on the street who catches her eye and an even more confusing, spontaneous and upsetting encounter with a classmate she finds it all to curious and enticing when a close, male friend takes her to a gay bar, she follows some girls to another bar nearby where she sees the blue- haired girl again. A short conversation sparks a relationship that carries us through the rest of the film.
Well, where to start?
To start with, this film is exhaustingly long. 3 hours is too much for so much useless, meandering exposition. It serves nothing other than to keep us away from a plot that is so thin you could go make yourself a cup of tea and come back 20 minutes later and nothing would've happened to push the story along. I'm sure there is an excellent 90 minute film in there somewhere if the editors had been more ruthless in their cutting and the director wasn't so preposterously self indulgent.
The sex scenes are unavoidable, exploitative and sickening within the context of the films creation. The major sex scene that everyone talks about took a gruelling 10 days to shoot and was only the actors 2nd shot on-set together, they literally didn't know each other and were suddenly put together to perform these scenes for an imposing, frustrated director.
Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos have both stated that the 3 hour film doesn't really show how much they shot, that the director would do hundreds of takes of even the most simple scenes, extend scenes and shoot for extremely long periods of time and would become enraged if they laughed even once out of one hundred takes.
Knowing how the actors felt about it (thankfully they have been vocal in interviews about how horrible and unpleasant the experience was) how uncomfortable they were with unchoreographed sex scenes; sex scenes are almost always choreographed, shots and various angles kept to minimal length so that actors are more comfortable and that the experience is as desexualised as possible. They have spoken about how they felt powerless to say anything about it because "The director has all the power. When you're an actor on a film in France and you sign the contract, you have to give yourself, and in a way you're trapped." "In America, we'd all be in jail." Léa Seydoux
This is perversion and abuse of power in the truest sense. The fact that Kechiche wrote the adaptation, produced and directed the film, apparently even financed some of it himself tells me all I need to know about his intentions. Even Manohla Dargis of The New York Times has written that it "feels far more about Mr. Kechiche's desires than anything else".
I feel awful for Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos for having to endure this "horrible" 6 month shoot and for having to work with this director, of whom they have said they would never work with again. They deserved better than this because their performances are incredible given the situation that they had to work in.
And finally, I also feel bad for the characters Adèle and Emma, their story deserved so much better than this.
Tolkien Geek Review + *SPOILERS*
CONTAINS HUGE PLOT SPOILERS REGARDING THE HOBBIT, LOTR & MIDDLE EARTH UNIVERSE
I love Tolkien, I love Middle Earth, I love The Lord of The Rings and I love The Hobbit BUT, that doesn't mean that I've blinded myself when it comes to the film adaptations. The Lord of The Rings adaptations were absolute masterpieces and though many complained about things missing and things added etc I found that these were all for the better and I find them absolutely flawless as a trilogy and arguably the greatest trilogy in the history of cinema.
Now, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is, so far, a stand-alone film in a trilogy that doesn't exist yet so it will be different once all 3 movies can be enjoyed in one sitting but I know for sure that The Hobbit is a far from flawless film; I say this as the biggest advocate of directors cuts and the LoTR extended trilogy is amongst my most precious possessions but I really do think that, for a theatrical release, Peter Jackson has crammed far too much into The Hobbit.
I love that he wants to use the appendices at the end of Return of The King to pad out The Hobbit and make for more immersive and as rich an experience as possible before we all exit the world of Middle Earth for good (we all know that The Silmarillion is never going to be adapted to film) but there really are some things in this film that were just not needed at all. The fabrication of the Azog story arc for starters; SPOILERS this story is nowhere in Tolkien's writings as Azog was killed at the Battle of Azanulbizar by Dáin. It's obvious that the fabrication of the "White Orc" story arc in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was used to "hollywood-ise" the movie and I think the movie would be much more streamlined without it and certain events that Azog is involved with throughout the film could remain faithful to the book instead of involving him when he should've died years before.*
Still, remaining faithful to the book is all well and good but I've already stated that I didn't mind at all the changes made to The Lord of The Rings trilogy and as far as Radagast The Brown is concerned I actually quite like his expanded involvement in The Hobbit movie, even though he was completely omitted in the LoTR films, because how he travels to Dol Guldur and discovers the Necromancer (which isn't quite true, it was actually Gandalf that discovered the Necromancer) will helpfully coincide with the included story of how Gandalf aids in the second attack on Dol Guldur. (deep breath, SPOILERS) The first attack on Dol Guldur was before the events in LoTR and The Hobbit after Gandalf discovered the Necromancer there to be Sauron, after suffering defeat Sauron fled to mordor and returned to Dol Guldor many years later imprisoning Thráin son of Thror after taking from him one of the last 7 dwarven rings of power. Gandalf discovered Thráin upon another mission to the fortress where Thráin gave him the map and key, which Gandalf gives to Thorin in The Hobbit, before dying.
SO, I know that the 2nd and 3rd Hobbit movies are going to be fantastically exciting and may even include some more history of Dol Guldur and of Gandalf's visits there but I'm getting ahead of myself The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is about 30-45mins too long due to the inclusion of Azog and his expanded storyline throughout the film and back story included at the start of the film and I also think that maybe some of the goblin battles under the mountain go on for much longer than they needed to.
I still think the film is fantastic but it's just much too long and stuffed with sub-plots that just aren't needed for it's first theatrical release. A theatrical cut should be around the 2 hour mark max, not closer to 3 hours.
There is nothing special about this film
The only way I can describe this film is "paint by numbers".
There is nothing special about this film, I know its based on true events so it's never going to be spectacular but I was seriously expecting more! The only part which was good was how they contextualised the film during the beginning so you knew, if you didn't know what had happened or were too young to remember, everything that happens is the United States and Britain's fault otherwise it would've been a film that was basically full of screaming, angry Iranians and white people looking scared and hiding.
bad stuff happens, they come up with a plan, America saves the Americans and gives them unworthy honours. congrats. the end.
This is easily Ben Affleck's worst film to date, and I just don't understand how this film got any award nominations but as usual America likes to blow it's own horn or pat itself on the back to back itself feel better after the terrible stuff they've done.
Oh, and the only other good thing about the film? Alan Arkin.
it is something to be felt and to be enjoyed
I thoroughly enjoyed Ralph Fiennes directorial debut, this modernisation of Shakespeare's great tragedy is so powerful I hardly have words to describe it without coming across half-hearted and feeble but not only is his directorial debut a visceral study on the individual's internal struggle with pride and sense of self within the context of a modern, conflict-ridden society he stays true to the original text without any attempt to modernise it ,as some might, in an attempt to connect with today's, somewhat, literately-detached youth (I, of course, include myself in that group).
As Luhrmann has done before him Fiennes manages a modern re-telling without alienating the Shakespearian elite, without ridiculing or making a mockery of the text. Within his own performance and direction he has shown not only his 27 or so years experience in theatre but has shown his excellent ability to command the actors around him to push that extra ounce of emotion from their souls and into the performance, imitating those actions of his character during various battle scenes throughout the film. This is by far once of Fiennes' greatest performances.
The rest of the cast, as I've pertained to, were very good; Gerard Butler puts in a good performance as Aufidius though I found it a rather forgettable. Vanessa Redgrave plays the part of Volumnia, Coriolanus's mother, and her performance is something to marvel at, to be be seen with the eye and listened to with the ear for it is, again, not something I can idly describe here. I was utterly spellbound by her mere presence on screen and as she begins to speak I was left in awe. Jessica Chastain impresses as Coriolanus's wife Virgilia. I haven't had much opportunity to see her films, other than her performance in Malick's The Tree of Life which I adored, but there was a great vigour in her performance here which I had yet to see from her and she reads the archaic script as though it were all she has ever known.
I would, obviously, suggest that you watch this film. Do not try too hard to understand what is being said. Listen to the words, the rhythms, the poetry and feel the emotion and that unique power that only a Shakespeare play possesses. Shakespeare is not always something to be understood, it is something to be felt and to be enjoyed.
A little self-indulgent
After watching this film for the second time I have concurred with my original opinion that this film is quite excellent, at least as much as the first film, but the only thing I dislike about this film is the scene after they break out of the weapons factory (the part where they run through the forest whilst being fired at). All of Guy Ritchie's usual devices are in play here: the slow-mo, the fantastic editing, the wonderful sound and music yet it completely destroys the momentum of the film at this point. We have been lead on a merry chase up until this point and then it dies, slowly into a pool of bullets slicing through trees and it is completely self-indulgent on the part of the director and a terrible way to lead us into the final act. oh well. Robert Downey Jr's Holmes is quite possibly one of my most favourite interpretations, he is simply faultless and is quite clearly at home working with Jude Law; they are utterly wonderful together. I do hope that Guy Ritchie teams up with Michele & Kieran Mulroney (and indeed the writers of the first film) for another instalment of Sherlock Holmes
The Grey (2011)
something with a little intelligence rather than a blood bath
I just finished watching The Grey and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I thought it was going to be a tacky film that was going to blindly follow similar types of movies through the snow to a similar end and I would be disappointed but this was not the case. Of course the film is far from perfect or realistic, I'm not exactly an expert on wolves but I'm not sure that this film is based on any kind of typical wolf behaviour. The wolves themselves sadly looked more like their beefy Twilight cousins rather than real wolves which is a shame but I am glad that the film was more about the men and their relationship to each other and how they were going to get through their situation than simply a movie about Liam Neeson killing wolves (which is what the trailer would have you believe) so well done Joe Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers for writing and adapting something with a little intelligence rather than a blood bath. 3/5