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Whiplash follows a first year music student who is talent spotted by
the school's most fearsome teachers. Now one of the drummers in his
class, Andrew (Miles Teller) is under pressure to become the best he
can be, and more.
Making a film solely about drumming at least somewhat interesting can be a difficult task because it is such a niche interest. Whiplash manages to make a fantastic film about drumming. Please do not be put off by this film's subject; even if you know nothing about music or drumming, this is still a thoroughly entertaining film to watch and enjoy.
One of the reasons this film works so well is that the performances are all great. J.K. Simmons obviously steals the show as the terrifying Fletcher, whose rants are appallingly personal to the extent where you eventually start cringing at every drum solo, just waiting for him to stop the music and begin his bullying once more. Miles Teller also gives a great performance, although his hasn't received awards recognition, it is still a solid performance that proves he can do more than comedies.
Of course, it is not just the acting in Whiplash that makes it so successful; the direction of this is so effective that you can literally be on the edge of your seat during some of the drum solos. The only way to describe these scenes is as being almost like action scenes. The camera work at these moments is so fast-paced it creates a fantastically tense atmosphere. These are the aspects of the film that make it so great, it is difficult to convince most people to go see a film about drumming but hopefully people will give Whiplash a chance.
'Prisoners' tells the tough story of two young girls who are kidnapped
on Thanksgiving. Both sets of parents struggle to cope as they are left
helpless and have to rely on Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) to work
on finding their missing daughters.
The story starts off a little too rosy and 'happy families.' This is soon over and the atmosphere and tension build up as the families realise their children are missing, presumed kidnapped. The film has a very bleak tone and is initially quite gritty. However, the story soon turns into a Hollywood tale rather than a heart breaking story.
'Prisoners' is really a film of two parts; the first is following rule-breaking Detective Loki as he tries to find the girls. His side is quite interesting and doesn't really have any negative aspects to it - it simply is what it is, an investigation. Hugh Jackman plays the father of one of the missing girls; he is understandably frustrated after the suspected kidnapper is let go due to a lack of evidence. He takes the drastic step of kidnapping the suspect and chaining him to a sink in an abandoned house to torture him. This is obviously to make the audience ask themselves the question 'what would I do in that situation?' As the film progresses, things get more and more extreme. It gets to the point where you realise no one in real life would ever do something like this and that is when 'Prisoners' looses its audience. Things just get too silly and unrealistic.
Hugh Jackman gives a really good performance but his character's actions become too bizarre. Terrence Howard is really bad which is surprising. He plays the other father and has to cry and be upset in numerous points of the film. He just does not look like he cares at all though - his crying scenes look incredibly forced and unnatural. The two mothers are shown to be useless which is a little disappointing and slightly offensive; Viola Davis could have gave a fantastic and powerful performance here but all her character does is stare into space. Maria Bello lies in bed the whole time because her character becomes depressed but doesn't really revive from it - it would have been good to see her beat the illness. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an admirable performance - although it is quite similar to that in the brilliant 'Zodiac,' he plays an investigator who has never failed to solve a case with his brash approach and his 'f**k-it' attitude. He is the only character in the entire film who isn't one-dimensional. Paul Dano also gives a great performance; he somehow manages to be creepy and seem so innocent at the same time.
The film could have focused more on the slow yet inevitable breakdown of the families rather than the endless - and ultimately pointless - scenes of torture. It was briefly mentioned in the beginning that Hugh Jackman's family are struggling financially - this is never mentioned again and it is fairly evidence that Terrence Howard's family are very wealthy. It seemed like such an obvious foreshadow that the two families would end up arguing at some point but they don't.
A lot of reviews have questioned the ending, many have found it annoying or weird. It is a strange way to end the film but, in context it is the most positive ending possible.
Overall, 'Prisoners' is quite disappointing; the story is unnecessarily complicated and becomes ridiculous. Most of the performances are good - particularly the leads. For a film like this you would expect there to be some really harrowing points - there were hardly any.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Call' is a drama/ action film starring Halle Berry who plays a 911
operator. She goes through a traumatic day at work after failing to
save a young girl from being kidnapped and brutally murdered. Six
months on, she finds herself in that situation again and is determined
to save the killer's next victim.
A lot of films now take the 'everything approach' - where the story involves an entire city under siege or a full country in peril. 'The Call' does not do this; it has a very niche story which really only revolves around three characters - the victim, the serial killer and the call operator. Despite the small scale, it proves to be gripping. The opening act where we see Jordan (Halle Berry) try her best to protect a teenage girl from the killer intruding her home is tense and becomes quite scary. Because the audience goes through this ordeal with her, they can understand why she has been left so shaken and doubting her own ability.
Six months later she is training new recruits and finds herself taking a call from yet another terrified teenage girl who has been kidnapped. Suddenly, she is thrown back into her old job and has to try to make sure history does not repeat itself. Most of the film is the phone call between Jordan and Casey (Abigail Breslin) who is trapped in the boot of the killer's car. Having over an hour of exchanges via phones can make a boring movie but 'The Call' keeps you interested every step of the way as you see the pair think of new ways to draw attention to the car.
Halle Berry gives a good performance; with most of the screen time dedicated to her it would have been easy for her to become boring. She portrays her character in a very realistic manner for most of the film unlike the rest of her workplace. Her colleges are overly friendly, strange people who do not appear to do anything else but watch Jordan with pride, all misty-eyed. Her 'hard-ass' boss doesn't actually act like a hard-ass at all! In fact, she is very understanding and helpful! Abigail Breslin gave a decent performance - all her character did was cry and scream but if a person was stuck in the boot of a car, all they could do is scream and cry anyway. The serial killer does not really get enough time to cover his back story; the audience gets brief flashes of a shrine in his office for his dead sister and there are also a few possible hints of incest. He just looks like a normal guy you could walk past on the street. His performance starts off pretty restrained and creepy but slowly develops into more of a maniac in a horror B-movie.
Unfortunately, 'The Call' takes a turn for the worst; the final act jumps off realism and dives down into the depths of stupidity. It becomes less gripping and more befuddling to the audience as we see Jordan take matters into her own hands and set out to find Casey herself. When we see the killer's lair (which literally looks like every other killing room in movie history) the audience gains a better understanding of his motive. There is a terrifying sequence where he prepares his victim and we realise he was more than one murder under his belt. Despite being given some more information about the killer, a lot is left out and by the end the audience still does not fully understand his reasoning.
The final act is quite generic and boring and sends the film spiraling downhill as a result. It is very reminiscent of the finale of 'Silence of the Lambs' as it turns out Buffalo Bill and this killer are not so different. The last 20 minutes are not all bad; there are some scenes thrown in to really creep the audience out and bring back the suspense and tension. 'The Call' is a thriller with an ending better suited to a 'Saw' film - it does not fit with the tone of the film and it does not seem like something the characters would do. Without giving too much away, it is a dumb and lazy ending that appears to have been written up in the last minute. It is quite deflating because it doesn't quite give the audience a satisfying conclusion or give them any further information about the killer's motives.
Overall, 'The Call' had a fantastic and promising start that was dampened by its lazy ending. The story was simple but executed well and just needed a simple, positive ending to make it succeed. Unfortunately, it would appear the director and writer thought the film would be a bit too bland and tried to mix things up by adding an ending that just did not fit.
Pain & Gain is Michael Bay's attempt at a smaller, story-based film.
The movie follows three dirt-poor bodybuilders who decide to live a
life of crime in order to fulfil their vision of the American Dream.
Michael Bay's films tend to be action-packed, explosion-filled blockbusters with very little intelligence needed to understand them. Pain & Gain was supposed to be the film that would leave critics astonished and amazed at how he really could make a decent film. Critics were indeed astonished but not in the intended way. The film has proved that Michael Bay simply cannot make an intelligent film.
The story itself is interesting and could have made a decent movie. Three men resort to torture, violence, drugs and murder to live expensive lifestyles. The men believe they are not doing anything wrong they are simply doing what they can to achieve their warped view of the American Dream. There have been plenty of films outlining the basic modern-day flaws of the American Dream but Pain & Gain could have taken a different angle. A bizarre decision was made to make this film into a comedy. Whether or not it is supposed to be a black comedy is anyone's guess since the plot is all over the place tonally. One minute there's some light-hearted banter, next there's an apparently hysterical scene involving a man explaining why his toe has been shot off (stealing money to fuel his Cocaine habit) then, before you know it, two people have been murdered and the laughs keep on coming...
The audience is reminded of the fact that this is indeed a true story. The film is even paused for a moment so a caption can pop up saying 'Yes, this is still a true story.' This was actually a good idea to highlight just how odd the story is and perhaps shows that Michael Bay was trying to provoke incredulity rather than laughter. He failed in both of these aspects, unfortunately. The main mistake is that the director is clearly trying to ridicule these characters for having such shallow personalities (all they want is drugs, girls and booze). However, the film is laced with half-naked women standing in provocative positions for the audience's amusement, showing that the director also likes this. Why does he ridicule the characters yet also use these aspects as gimmicks in the film?
It is difficult to gage performances in this film simply because almost every aspect of it is chaotic and messy. Mark Wahlberg is a great actor who is incredibly talented yet still makes some shocking career moves. Every actor has a bad film under their belt but he has more than a few. Luckily, he has managed to survive so far. One of his best performances is his tiny role in The Departed, which is so good he is the one you remember at the end instead of acting heavyweights like Leonardo Dicaprio and Jack Nicholson. There are only so many mistakes an actor can make however who is looking forward to Transformers 4? Anyone? Dwayne Johnson has a promising start in Pain & Gain, playing the born-again Christian who is determined to live out his life as a good person. His character is soon dragged down to the low depths of stealing, murder and drug addiction. Surprisingly, he gives the best performance in this film. Rebel Wilson is typically able to make any one laugh as she is a very talented comedy actor but, all of her jokes fall flat here to the point where it becomes incredibly awkward for the audience. Trying to work out her purpose in this film is tricky; she gets married to one of the criminal bodybuilders but her entire dialogue is penis jokes and dirty talk. Her character isn't realistic and doesn't really serve any great purpose.
Fans of Michael Bay may enjoy this film, but they may be the only ones. It is a surprisingly boring film that appears to have taken tips from independent, smaller action films on appearance only. The film looks very good but its content is just disastrous. Pain & Gain is a shallow, boring and moronic film which hopefully will soon be forgotten. It is a poorly edited, clumsy mess filled with unnecessary slow motion, naked women for the audience and director to leer at and bizarre comical violence. All of this is included in a story that is supposed to be true. It simply does not work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
World War Z has been talked about in critics' circles for over a year
now; it was widely publicised that the project went through development
hell, there were several re-writes and re-shoots of the ending. All of
this, plus the fact that it was given a mere 15 age rating, meant that
most zombie horror fans and fans of the book were worried.
Max Brooks' novel is in a format that would be almost impossible to convert into a faithful film adaptation. It was always going to be tough but World War Z is an adaptation in name only; there is hardly anything derived from the book included here with exception to some film locations and the decision to just call the zombies 'zombies' rather than walkers, biters or any other name that films and TV shows have done. The political satire has been left out (it is hinted that the virus began in South Korea rather than in China) and the film takes place at the beginning of the war rather than ten years after it. These decisions have been made with the best intentions, to make the film more entertaining. This is a good idea but, as with any book adaptation, it will anger fans of the source material. The movie chose to jump right into the chaos so there was no suspicious news reports of riots in distant towns, and Brad Pitt and his family were completely surprised when they found ordinary people trying to have a chomp at them.
The fact that World War Z is not an 18 is a very poor studio decision; the main terrifying feature of a zombie is their ability to tear people to shreds, the result of this would obviously be a lot of blood and gore. There are several scenes of people being bitten, people being shot and even one scene where someone has their hand amputated to prevent the spread of infection none of these scenes contain a drop of blood. Luckily, the zombies are still quite creepy; the sound of their teeth snapping at people is really unsettling and the way they twitch is just ghastly. These are seen in the final act, which is where you get a chance to properly look at the zombies. Before this, all action scenes are either in the dark or are so fast paced and quickly edited that you have no idea what is going on. The first action scene will remind people of director Marc Forster's previous editing misadventure Quantum of Solace.
The opening act began quite well; Brad Pitt has shown he is great at playing the average family man he and Mireille Enos build up a believable family setting. A not-so-wise decision was made to make their children behave significantly younger that their actual ages they look about 13 and nine but both act about four years old! Brad Pitt's performance becomes more and more laborious and doesn't quite look as effortless as it did in the beginning. It is actually quite surprising to see him act in a film that you can tell he just doesn't care about any more you can tell that in some scenes these were filmed just as the production was running into problems.
The supporting characters were all very disappointing; there were some fairly big actors who got hardly any screen time and their characters were severely under-developed. James Badge Dale makes an appearance for five minutes and in that tiny amount of time we are supposed to care about him and what happens to him, this was impossible. Even the brilliant Peter Capaldi features but his talent is wasted on a basic character that is not even given a name!
Aside from this, most of the action was well-paced but the computer generated zombies make the massive action scenes less realistic and therefore less scary. There are some genuinely tense moments that make you want to hide behind your chair the plane scene is definitely where the film peaks.
The film gets better as it continues but the ending is very deflating; there is a 15-minute long tense sequence where people are sneaking around an abandoned laboratory which is teaming with 'dormant' zombies. All of this leads up to the controversial decision to introduce a solution to the zombie apocalypse (one of the horrifying aspects of the book was that there was no real solution apart from building bigger forts and killing the infected one by one). When Brad Pitt makes this discovery, the film ends after a few minutes of cheesy family reunion with 'our war has just begun.' This is sadly nothing more than a reason to create a sequel and you are left at the end thinking 'is that it?'
Overall, World War Z was the best possible zombie movie you could make with such a low age rating. It was fast paced, tense, thrilling and riddled with jump scares. Brad Pitt starts out promisingly but his performance becomes more tiresome as the film goes on. The film is not very recommendable, simply because the ending is so lazy it ruins the little sparks of talent that it had.
'The Great Gatsby' is the latest film adaptation of F. Scott
Fitzgerald's novel. It follows Nick Carraway as he meets a new crowd in
illustrious 1920s New York City.
The novel is a classic in American literature and it is seen as an unfilmable book due to its subtlety. Unfortunately, this means that there is no way everyone who read the book will be happy, simply because the characters are so interesting and everyone has their own different opinion on them. The book could be portrayed as quite dull but thankfully 'dull' isn't exactly Baz Luhrmann's style; the ultra-glossy look of the film works really well in portraying the time period. The costumes are beautiful and the soundtrack is bizarre yet it somehow works. A major problem was the CGI; there were some points where it was glaringly obvious and drew you out of the story. Gatsby's house, the ocean and some parts of New York City looked really cheaply made because of this (this may not be quite as noticeable if it is seen in 3D). Another technical problem I noticed throughout was with audio synchronisation; there were lots of moments where the words you were hearing were clearly not being said by the actors, it was poorly dubbed in this case. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it had only happened a few times but there were definitely more than ten occasions where I noticed this. The decision to show this in 3D is really odd; yes, with Baz Lurhmann his direction is highly visual but when you go to see and American classic novel adapted for film, do you really want a silly gimmick distracting you?
This is one of the few films where there were no disappointments whatsoever in the acting. Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Gatsby brilliantly and it is one of his best performances. It now seems obvious that he was the perfect choice for this role. Tobey Maguire also gives a great performance and managed to make me like him as an actor for a change! Carey Mulligan played Daisy well but her character was written to evoke sympathy from the audience, she wasn't as selfish and vapid as she was in the novel. Joel Edgerton was quite entertaining as Tom and really portrayed the character well. Initially, I was quite worried about Isla Fisher playing Myrtle but she did very well despite only being in the film for about five minutes.
Overall, this is a very faithful adaptation; nothing major has been left out and the majority of characters were portrayed as they were in the book. However, almost everyone has a different perception of the novel so this may not be the case for other people. If you haven't read the book, this is still a very enjoyable film with some really heart- breaking moments as well as some comical moments too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Star Trek: Into Darkness' is the follow-up to J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek'
in 2009. It follows the crew as they face a deadly ex-member of their
own organisation who is out for vengeance.
The story isn't very different from the previous instalment; the relationship between Spock and Kirk is slightly different and of course there is a different villain. The dialogue between the characters was a lot better in this film however, it was very funny but it was also very dark as well.
The darkness is brought by Benedict Cumberbatch with a creepy voice and outbursts of extreme violence all of this hidden under a façade of courteous English manners. He definitely steals the show here and it would be great to see more of him in sequels. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg are all back and do a great job here; they all work really well together.
Like the first one, the film works for both fans of 'Star Trek' and those who have never seen it there's lots of little references to the series and films and a few major ones as well that fans will enjoy. Aside from this, there is a great amount of action, great funny scenes and this film is very entertaining overall ease up on those lens flares though, they make some of the action scenes a bit difficult to follow.
'21 & over' is the latest buddy comedy inspired by 'The Hangover.' It
has a similar story to 'The Hangover' except the drinking rampage is
the story rather than the morning after.
This film was surprisingly good! I think the last film I saw was 'Movie 43' and that made me lose faith in laughter and happiness Anyway, '21 & over' certainly isn't the funniest comedy ever but there are a decent amount of laughs and cringe moments. Of course, towards the end the story does go totally over the top. This is a modern classic aspect of American comedies these days so I guess it is just something we will have to get used to. Thankfully, it doesn't really send the film into a downward spiral as it is still redeemable.
The characters in this film are all pretty funny in their own way and the characters you are supposed to like are genuinely likable. The story deals with a lot of important issues in a bizarrely light-hearted manner which is quite odd. A lot of the supporting characters are really funny so you're glad to see them each time they pop up throughout the film. I anticipated a lot of rubbish, cheap racist Asian jokes to be dotted all over the script but only a few did and they were from a character that seemed like the kind of person who would say those kinds of jokes. This was quite relieving, the film did its best to make jokes and references that people of a similar age would recognise and find funny.
Overall, this film is nonsense but the people who created it know this and don't try to pretend it's anything else. This is a good film to watch with your friends and I imagine, once it is released on DVD, will be a popular film for drinking games. Beer Pong anyone?
'Olympus Has Fallen' stars Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. North Korea
infiltrates the White House and takes several hostages including the
It's not difficult to see where people have made the connection between this film and Die Hard. Some things here almost mimic it! From scenes where Mike Banning (Butler) and Kang are exchanging threats via remote or the scene where Mike is hurt and talking to the stand-in President (Freeman) telling him that he is alright. These scenes provide some unintentional comic relief as do the vomit inducing patriotic scenes which I like to refer to as 'Americuuh! F**k yeah' scenes.
The action is really what saves this film. It is thoroughly entertaining, quite violent and sometimes shocking. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed that the CGI is quite cheap looking; the jets, helicopters and large guns look almost cartoon-like. I don't think this film was released in 3D at any point and the film looks like it would have a fairly large budget so I don't understand why the CGI was so bad but it was quite distracting. When it comes to acting, Gerard Butler should definitely stick to action films; it's where he is best. Aaron Eckhart gives a decent performance as the President and actually suits the role really well.
Overall, the plot is pretty dumb; it's sometimes too stupid to even comprehend and it is of course extremely far-fetched but the action is pretty good and really entertaining. It won't become a modern classic like Die Hard but it is a good film to watch with friends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Evil Dead' is a remake of 'THE Evil Dead,' it follows five teenagers
who unintentionally revive a demon who attempts to possess them so he
The original Evil Dead never really had a story; it is considered a cult classic because of this, there's a paper-thin story but the excessive amounts of cheap looking gore make up for this (the cheap gore simply added to the overall charm of the film). This new film also has this going for it, okay the gore isn't obviously fake or cheap and looks a lot more realistic, but it was still excessive and over the top. You don't see many wide release gore films today; the past decade is thought to be known for increasing the popularity of 'torture porn' but even those films tend to not contain spectacular amounts of blood and guts. This is certainly the goriest film in the last five years since Paranormal Activity, most wide release horrors have been supernatural thrillers filled with tedious jump scares. The Evil Dead was part of the 'video nasty' phase in film which is undoubtedly where torture porn stemmed from. The violence in this film is so over the top you cannot help but laugh sometimes and realise how much you have missed this type of horror.
As remakes go, this is one of the better ones. You can tell Fede Alvarez (director) really did admire the original but has taken the brave step of trying to take the film/story in a new direction. I wouldn't say he is completely successful in this however since the story overall is pretty much the same. There were some interesting new touches though; the girl goes to the cabin to quit her drug addiction, the fact that the main protagonist was a woman, the brief story behind previous events in the cabin these are all interesting additions but none are really explored thoroughly. It would have been nice to see some more references to the girl's drug habit, particularly towards the end.
I did like the new plot point where certain things had to happen before the demon could rise; skin had to be burned with boiling water, faces had to be cut off etc. it was interesting and it meant that not all of the violence was completely nonsensical. There were undoubtedly some creepy scenes dotted throughout the film and some not-so-subtle references to the original though if the producers of a remake are the director and star of the original then this is bound to happen. The director did try his best to make us care for the characters but there was no way that was going to happen; character developments were left suspended I thought there was some angry tension between Olivia and *insert blonde girl here* but nothing ever happened with that and some characters got next to no dialogue at all.
Overall, 'Evil Dead' is a pretty good film. If you're paying to see gore then it will be money well spent. The characters are basic, the story tries to be not so basic and the overall experience isn't terrifying but it is worthwhile. I don't really see the need for a sequel however, you won't be routing for Mia quite as much as you would for Ash.
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