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A pitch perfect crime drama
Lawless is based on the true story of the three Bondurant brothers from Franklin County, Virginia, who ran an illegal moonshine business during the times of prohibition in America. Tom Hardy stars as the alpha male lead brother, Forrest Bondurant, and brings an incredible, yet subtle performance compared to his more recent roles. Forrest is a strong character who is not afraid to throw his weight around, for example when he crushes a bad guy's larynx with a single punch, but still carries a sense of humanity in his character when falling for Maggie (Jessica Chastain) and when caring for his two brothers. Hardy's little grunts also provide many a comedic point throughout the film, which had the audience in fits of laughter on many occasions. Shia LaBeouf stars as the central character, Jack Bondurant, bringing a great performance to the screen, finally starting to break free of the stereotype he seems to have dug himself into with the Transformers series. Guy Pearce's villain, Charlie Rakes, is a federal agent with little morals or boundaries. Pearce looks incredibly creepy without eyebrows, for whatever reason this is it's not made clear, but it looks freakin' sinister. Eyebrows aside, Pearce's performance is noteworthy and he covers up his Aussie accent incredibly well. Come to think of it, the cast came from various countries Pearce from Australia, Hardy and Gary Oldman both from England and they cover up their accents well with the ye'olden Virginian accent. The story is superbly written by Nick Cave, whom I had no idea was a screenwriter, with fantastic action sequences, most notably the scene where Rakes (Peace), raids the Bondurants' stills, blowing them to kingdom come with an almighty explosion. This action is intertwined with great dialogue and some real heart to the central characters. The musical score, also done by Nick Cave, was marvellous and hit every note perfectly. I haven't heard a score which affected me so deeply for quite some time.
Overall Lawless was a fantastic film, leaving little to be desired when leaving the cinema.
To see the original review and much more, go to http://joshwahr.com/
Taken 2 (2012)
Disappointed, but expected.
Let's get this out of the way now. Taken is my favourite film. Ever. So I went into Taken 2 to with expectations; they'd have to up the ante, and not destroy the brand.
Taken 2 sits somewhere in the middle of that. The first half of the film tries to build on the characters of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), estranged wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). This half of the film really works, investing you in the characters, even if there are few holes here and there. It really gets you feeling for the characters when the action gets going. Sadly when the action does kick in, it doesn't deliver. New director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3, Colombiana), who has taken over from the brilliant Pierre Morel, directs with the subtlety of a brick thrown at a glass window. From poorly executed shots, to overly shaky camera work & way too many cuts, the violence and shock of these actions seen in Taken 1 is lost in this film. This also probably has to do with the producers' choice to lower the rating from MA15+ to M15 (or PG13 in America). Their reason for this is to "broaden the audience", but seeing as the first one is so violent and how you need to see the first one to understand what the hell is going on in Taken 2, this is a stupid move as the kids watching won't be allowed to see the first! Another thing which really bugged me was the colour grading; when Bryan was with his family it was nice and bright, but when we were with the villain (Rade Serbedgia), the film had this overly dark grey look to it which just said "HE'S A GOOD GUY AND HE'S A BAD GUY!!!"
I wasn't expecting much from director Olivier Megaton, whose only other films, The Transporter 3 and Colombiana, both of which are pretty average. But I was expecting a lot more from Luc Besson as producer and writer. I enjoyed the first half of the film, it showed love for the original and really built on the characters, perhaps too much. But sadly I was incredibly disappointed with the second half which was poorly executed and left me thinking "Really? Is that it?"
A great thriller, an average ending
Brake is a new thriller released on DVD in June starring Stephen Dorff. The plot follows a Secret Service Agent who is held captive in the trunk of a car and endures mental and physical torture as terrorists attempt to extract information for their plot against the President of the United States.
OK so the synopsis makes it sound like a pretty standard "save the president" kind of film, but thankfully looks can be deceiving. The entire film is set in a plastic box 'prison' in the boot of a car where agent Jeremy Reins (Stephen Dorff) is held captive. The film doesn't deviate from this location right up until the last ten minutes of the film, providing the viewer with a feeling of claustrophobia.
The cinematography in the film is awesome, there are only so many shots that you can get in the trunk of a car, but the DOP and director really nailed the camera work, meaning you never get bored of being in the same location for the entirety of the film. Unfortunately I watched the film on DVD, so I didn't get to have the privilege of watching it in full HD; which is saddening because the movie was shot with the RED Digital Cinema cameras, and I would've loved to have seen what the camera was really capable of! The acting by Stephen Dorff is fantastic, whilst considered a "b-grade" actor by many, he really brings his best to the table in Brake and I couldn't think of a better actor for the role.
I really liked Brake. I really did. Right up until the last ten minutes of the film. I won't spoil the ending much, but what I will say is that it was a real let down. The whole film had me on the edge of my seat, and then the last ten minutes was a real anti-climax. He should've saved the president, not have the "It was all a training exercise" excuse for the poor ending! I did like the very end though, very clever twist right before the end credits. Yes I saw it coming from a mile away, but it was quite a clever twist none the less!
As such I'm giving Brake two ratings; one for the majority of the film, the second due to the terrible final ten minutes.
Film: 7.5/10 Film with last ten minutes: 6/10
See the full review at :http://joshwahr.com/?p=169
A Film Obsessive's Review of "Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol"
Let's start this off by saying that I'm reviewing "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" with my fan-boy goggles firmly on. I went and saw it at the advanced screening on Wednesday the 14th of December 2011 at Hoyts cinemas, Frankston in their EXTREME Screen. I am a huge fan of the Mission: Impossible franchise, except for MI2... Let's just pretend that John Woo never tainted the series with his over-stylized, horribly geographically incorrect and bordering on racist film.
But MI2 is not the reason why we're here! After the series reclaimed it's original panache with J.J. Abrams' MI3, we're now treated with "Mission: Impossible (4) - Ghost Protocol." I put the number four in brackets because whilst this is the fourth film in the series, they've decided to go against the numbering in the film titles and give it a flashy new name with "Ghost Protocol."
The latest adventure see's Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) in his biggest and nigh-on impossible mission to date. The film kicks off with Agent Hanaway (Josh Holloway from "Lost") murdered by an attractive assassin named Sabine Moreau (Lea Sydoux) for a document containing Russian nuclear missile codes, which she intends to sell to a terrorist known only as "Cobalt" (Michael Nyqvist from "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series).
Hunt and his team are sent into the Kremlin to retrieve files identifying Cobalt and this ensues in a very cool, but tense scene in which Hunt and Benjy Dunn (Simon Pegg) hide behind a cloaking sheet as they infiltrate the Kremlin archives. But alas Cobalt was there already and he sets off a bomb in the Kremlin, framing Hunt and his team as the perpetrators. To the Russians, this is an undeclared act of war by the United States and the IMF is shut down and "Ghost Protocol" is initiated, which basically means the entire agency is disavowed.
From here on in, Hunt and his team are tasked with catching Cobalt, stopping his plans of world destruction and clearing their names. All in a day's work for Ethan Hunt!
They travel from Russia, to India, to Dubai where Hunt must perform a death defying climb on the outside of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. Tom Cruise actually did this crazy stunt! He does all his own stunts and he's nearly 50 years old!!! Actors of today need to take a lesson or two from Mr. Cruise, no need for CGI just go out there and do it for real! It looks much more authentic and real if you actually do a stunt, rather than jump in front of a green screen. Hence why director Brad Bird chose to shoot the film in IMAX, not 3D on Tom Cruise's insistence. Bird says "It truly immerses the audience. It's really bright, it's really sharp. Big, bright images: they are worth a lot. If your star is going to climb up the outside of a building for real, then I kinda feel as a director, you have a duty to show it."
Ghost Protocol is Brad Bird's live action directorial debut, with his previous films being animations (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant & Ratatouille). And I must say, he did a bloody fantastic job! I love my movies big and stylish, and Bird delivered on both these fronts. The action is big and stylish, but not stupidly over the top like in John Woo's films. Yet still realistic, but not destroyed by shaky camera like in a Paul Greengrass film. This is a beautiful movie, the cinematography is utterly gorgeous, adding to the slick and stylish nature of the film.
My only two criticisms of Ghost Protocol are;
Whilst the film has a bad guy, he isn't really an arch-enemy for Hunt like Phillip Seymore- Hoffman was in MI3. Michael Nyqvist is a brilliant actor, and the writers could've done so much more with his character, instead of killing him off, he could've returned in another Mission film to make life even more difficult for Tom Cruise. But I guess that wouldn't have worked as each film is directed by a different director who brings their own style to the series, so it could've impeded too much on the next director's choices in how he directs the film (If there is a next one, that is...).
The second is the nuclear missile which Ethan Hunt stops moments before it crashes into San Francisco. It would've exploded before it got to where it was when Hunt hit the disarm button. Typically, nuclear missiles are air-burst weapons, which means they actually explode in the air above the target. This is to increase the effectiveness of the explosion and push the nuclear blast further so that it is not obstructed by things such as large, heavy buildings. And come on, the missile is moments from collision! Talk about last minute much?
To sum up, Ghost Protocol has made me remember why I go to the cinemas to see movies and why I want to be a director. Movies are about entertainment and escapism, and if you can keep an audience captivated for 133 minutes you've done your job. And that is exactly what Brad Bird has done with "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol". He transported me for 133 minutes into the world of Ethan Hunt and his team, where the mission is bigger than ever, and the stakes are higher than ever! I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would go and see it again and again and again!
My rating for "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is: 9.5/10
The link below is to my blog where the original review can be found: http://joshwahr.blogspot.com
Sucker Punch (2011)
An escapist's dream
As a Zack Snyder fan I was excited to see that he had finally released an original piece of work, rather than another adaptation such as Watchmen etc.
I watched this film in the cinemas twice. So instantly you'll be able to tell this is a rather positive review of the movie and I enjoyed it greatly.
Babydoll played by Emily Browning is thrown into a mental asylum by her evil stepfather after her mother and sister's death. She is scheduled for a shady lobotomy by her stepfather in five days to hide the truth about her sister's death. To cope with her horrible reality, Babydoll envisions that the asylum is a brothel where the girls dance for the men. Babydoll plans to escape the mental asylum and enlists the help of her fellow inmates in acquiring items to aid their escape. Whilst the girls are stealing the various items, Babydoll dances to distract the men and while she is dancing she envisions different battles (from giant mecha samurais, to steam punk world war 1 zombie Germans, to a castle battle with monsters and dragons, to robot gunmen on a train) that depict the girls acquiring the specific items.
This film is beautiful! As you would come to expect from Zack Snyder, the cinematography is gorgeous and stylized; it really captures Snyder's vision and scope of the film. The different battles are amazing, my favourite by far being the giant mecha samurais battling against the tiny Emily Browning.
Many people have said that Sucker Punch is a sexist film. It is far from that and many of the lead actresses will say the same thing. OK so yes, the costumes are a tad raunchy, but that's what makes the film what it is! You couldn't just have the girls battling in alternate realities in boring old 60′s clothes.
The music is by far a stand out in the film. The way Snyder has used music with the vision gives it a very video game/music video feel and this works exceptionally well. A stand out track would definitely have to be Emily Browning's haunting version of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) which was used at the start of the movie behind the slow motion action of Babydoll's past. Actually, all of Emily Browning's songs are great! She has an beautiful voice which I never knew she had before this film.
One thing I hate more than anything, is people comparing films to other films. And Sucker Punch has copped these comparisons left right and centre. NO this is NOT Inception, NO this is NOT the Matrix and NO this is NOT Kill Bill or anything else you can think of. It is an original piece of work with an original story line. And even though it showed obvious influences from anime and other films, it is completely original! Sucker Punch has an awesome story and message of hope, friendship and self discovery. The movie is not over complicated, but a lot of people might not understand exactly what's going on; for instance the guys I saw it with didn't fully understand the transformation of the asylum into a brothel. The message it tries to convey isn't overly complicated and if you go into the film thinking you'll gain some greater understanding of life, or go in thinking it'll be something it isn't, you'll be sorely disappointed.
In essence, Sucker Punch is an escapism film, designed to transport the audience into the stylized world of Zack Snyder's characters.
The movie had several twists and turns that will hit you like a "Sucker Punch" (sorry for the overly bad pun). You won't expect some things and I won't ruin the ending, but you don't see it coming at all.
To conclude, I loved Sucker Punch! This is by far Zack Snyder's best film yet and had strong performances from all actors, but especially Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac.
Do yourself a favour and go and see Sucker Punch while it's still in the cinemas!
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
The Kansas City Shuffle
Let me get this out of the way first. Wow! I mean this movie blew my mind!
The Wrong Man (if you live in Australia), or Lucky Number Slevin (if you live in the states) is a thriller starring Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Lucy Liu and Stanley Tucci. Directed by Paul McGuigan, The Wrong Man was released in 2006 and seemed to miss Australian cinemas all together and came here direct to DVD. Now normally, that indicates that the film will be a bit of a waste of time. But in actual fact, this is far from the truth. With an all star cast and well known director, The Wrong Man is one to definitely watch.
The story revolves around "The Kansas City Shuffle", explained by Bruce Willis' character, which is "When everybody looks right, you go left." The story is a well crafted thriller, that provides a breath of fresh air from most Hollywood films as the writer didn't presume that his audience is stupid. This film makes you think and just when you think you have the story figured out, the story takes a sharp twist and sucker punches you where you least expected it to. The story is a Kansas City Shuffle in itself.
The Wrong Man is a real credit to the screenwriter's talent, Paul McGuigan's ability to direct films and the cast's ability to act unlike most others in Hollywood can.
To say that this film is awesome doesn't even begin to explain it.
When you're next at your local video rental store and can't find anything to watch, I strongly recommend that you go to the Thriller section and hire The Wrong Man/Lucky Number Slevin.
Find the review and more at:
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
The end is nigh
The Day After Tomorrow, released in 2004 and starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal is a natural disaster apocalypse film from the director of Independence Day; Roland Emmerich.
This CGI packed action adventure gives the audience everything they could hope for and much more. The lead roles played by Quaid and Gyllenhaal are superbly acted, especially when Quaid's character must choose to trek through the fast approaching ice age to save his son (Gyllenhaal) at any cost.
The story is immaculately written and portrayed on screen, delivering a message that will stick with you long after watching this film.
When given the choice between more recent apocalyptic film 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, I would pick the latter every single time. They are both excellent films, but The Day After Tomorrow brings a sense of realism and believability with both it's scenario and story line. I came away from watching The Day After Tomorrow actually scared that something of a similar nature could very well happen.
This isn't just another "Inconvenient Truth" styled documentary film, but a fictional story based on events that could possibly happen.
The Day After Tomorrow is a film definitely worth watching!
Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)
Tomorrow, when the invasion began
After reading the entire Tomorrow series as a kid and being one of my favourite books of all time, I was greatly excited to hear that they had make it into a film. But when I heard the words "made in Australia" I became very skeptical, because even though I'm an Aussie we have a reputation of having pretty poor films made over here.
But, as soon as the film started all my skepticism was taken away. This is an awesome movie.
Based on the original novel by John Marsden, the screenplay is written by Stuart Beattie, the man responsible for writing Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrow When the War Began is also Beattie's directorial debut. He keeps very close to the original story line from the novels, which would satisfy all purists.
The film hosts a relatively unknown cast starring Caitlin Stasey, Rachael Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Ashleigh Cummings and Andrew Ryan. The young Australian cast are remarkably good, portraying each of the characters almost exactly how I imagined them in the books.
Now, I wouldn't class this as just an action film, it's not Die Hard. I think it sits in it's own category of Action-Drama. So don't expect it to be all killing and maiming, there are plenty of explosions and chases throughout the film, but they are interwoven with complex emotions and how the teenage characters deal with their situation.
In my opinion, Tomorrow When the War Began is the best film of 2010. Definitely a must watch.
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Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
The girl with the thrills, kills and disturbing rape scenes
Based on the best selling novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first film adaptation from the Millennium Trilogy starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapice. I haven't read any of the novels, but after watching this movie, I am going out to purchase them and read them.
The characters played by Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapice are superbly acted and were very believable. I was incredibly impressed by their talent and how they were able to portray their characters throughout the film. They definitely deserve an award for their performances.
This film was superbly shot, with beautiful cinematography that captures the beauty and desolateness of the island where the film is set. But at the same time, switches dramatically to capture the violent happenings in the film.
The violence and horror of the rape and the murder scenes sent chills up my spine, and I found myself sitting in front of the screen without blinking for long periods throughout the movie (something not many movies are able to do).
I will be very interested to see the Hollywood remake that is scheduled to be released during 2011 and whether they mutilate a brilliant movie, or if they do it justice.
The film is a fast paced thriller and is definitely not for the feint of heart. If you are a fan of the crime/thriller genre, this is a definite must watch!
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True Grit (2010)
True Grit: A true western classic
True Grit is a Coen Brothers remake of the original John Wayne film by the same name (a film which I haven't seen). It brings a breath of fresh air to the wild West, reviving the gunslinging genre in which we recently haven't seen many films.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Steinfeld, a girl of only 14 years old, holds her own with her co-stars. She really shows that she has a lot of talent and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of her to come in future.
The cinematography in this film is beautiful, with shots reminiscent of Once Upon a Time in the West obviously paying homage to the great Western films. The story is superbly written, as you would expect from the Coen brothers and likewise the directing is superb. The one criticism is there were a couple of continuity errors, but these probably wouldn't have been picked up by normal movie-goers
This is a fantastic film, but not for everyone. A bit slow in pace, the guy I saw it with got bored of it and fell asleep in one part. But this would be because he prefers more fast paced, up beat films.
All in all True Grit is a superb film, once again showing that Joel & Ethan Coen are the best in the business.
Find the full review and many more at: