Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Not as bad as it could have been, but not enough effort behind it either...
I'll just get it out of the way and say that if you grew up as a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you probably should indulge this film at least once. If you're a film fan who didn't, it is pretty average to poor and offers little, even for a summer blockbuster. This has Michael Bay-isms all through it (banal scripting, video-game sheen, blatant sexism and product placement the movie is basically a Pizza Hut ad at times) and even if he didn't direct it, he might as well have. And, if you're a kid (specifically a boy aged 10-15), you should definitely lap this cgi- fest up just as Bay planned. If you fall into neither of those categories, there is no reason what so ever to watch this movie even in the context of a kids/family action film.
Even if you do fall into one of them, you cannot escape the overwhelming half- heartedness that nags the film. It leaves you wanting more especially as a fan as if the whole production is only behind it because it CAN be made, not that they really wanted to do it. Bizarrely, it cruises along at only just beyond 90 minutes. A good half hour shorter than most modern blockbusters. Perhaps an extra 30 minutes may have made it even duller, but it possibly could have given us a little more of what we wanted too. That would mainly be the Turtles themselves. Actual combat is thin and seems to take a back seat to more screen time for a miscast Megan Fox's April O'Neal. The turtles have their moments with some genuine laughs and camaraderie retained for old school fans, but then there is laughable dialogue and terrible characterizations to counter anything that was good or fun. These are the Ninja Turtles for the iPod generation and sometimes it's a little hard to swallow. A massive set piece involving a lot of things sliding down a mountain is a confusing centre piece, but exhilarating nonetheless. Shredder is here to act as bad guy, but he should be called Mecha- Shredder as he looks like he was left over from Bay's Transformers franchise, and not in a good way. It all adds up to something that looks more like Playstation 3 territory than a film.
I won't deny it, but there are a couple of moments when you're almost glad, as a fan, that this movie has been made (!) A fun sequence of their origin as told by Splinter to O'Neal and a couple of decent nods to the original film and comics come to mind. Plus I don't care what any hardcore fan or non-fans might say, I think they look great in a "let's try and re-invent the image" kinda way even if they're basically just stereotypes of all those brainless gym junkie tattooed "men" that exist today (you know the type). Raphael is way too big to the point of distraction though. How the hell does a sewer dwelling mutant turtle get as ripped as a wrestler exactly ? I'll say they got the voice cast pretty right too.
Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of Jonathan Liebesman's film seems to be the undeniable fact that when the credits roll, missed opportunity and forgettable are the first words that come to mind. I thought it might at least offer something for a guilty pleasure re-watch. Not really. Perhaps an inevitable sequel will remedy some of that. If it doesn't plan too, maybe just forget about making it as I finished it simply wanting more and I thought that was going to be the least of its problems. If they're willing to give Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim) and Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) squillions to handle such things, I just wish this one didn't cross Bay's desk and landed on someone else's of their ilk. It might have all been worth it then. As it stands, unless you're a pre-teen, or going in for purely nostalgia reasons, you won't find anything really redeemable.
The Road (2009)
A bleak, near masterpiece.
When The Road begins, with little to no explanation, the world has burned, now dying a slow death. From what we can gather, for approximately ten years until we join the film in present day. The few humans left trudge over nature's remains in search of food and mere survival. Cannibalism has become, for some, the only option. We follow nameless Man and Boy exclusively on their journey - constantly living in fear. This a world where the moral dilemmas of our protagonists are stripped down to being either "the good guys" or "the bad guys". The Road encompasses an other worldly atmosphere. A disturbing re-creation of a post apocalyptic world. Given the elements pulled together by director, cinematographer and production designer, I was blown away by the film's look. A gorgeous, moving artwork on a decaying future world.
The few "action" scenes feel perfectly placed. Not intruding on the pace, but unraveling at just the right moments to keep the main journey constantly involving. All the thriller elements in Road I thought were expertly directed. One scene in a mansion provided chilling suspense that rivals anything I have seen in modern horror in a long time. Director John Hillcoat has said his film is not a horror one, but with it's themes of cannibalism; it delves into the darkest notions of human desperation. That is an exercise in pure horror. Perhaps compared to the novel, it has been toned down, but there is no denying the territory we are in in these moments.
Kodi Smit-Mcphee's performance as the boy is possibly the only distraction unfortunately, but I think for a child actor, he does extremely well and as good as probably expected. Mainly, given the intense material too. Obviously, the connection between Man and Boy is the crux of the story and unfortunately, it seemed to lack some depth. Convincing enough, yes, but not earth shatteringly emotional. I still believed in their connection, it just did not move me as much as I'd hoped. In reality, as it is entertained in the film, they are virtually from different worlds. The boy only knowing the one of cannibalism and desperation, while The man once had that normal life. Having a connection that lacks a more predictable, typical father son level of emotion, could possibly be a more apt approach. Viggo Mortensen as The Man, unsurprisingly, excels. Outstanding in breathing life into the character, especially when you consider him in the flashbacks, then in present day as time goes on and finally as his inevitable death looms. His arc perfectly realized, his desperation was gut wrenching in some scenes. It proved to me yet again, that he remains one of the most impressive and important actors of his generation. Of the side players, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce were all excellent in their respective, brief appearances.
The Road was haunting, suspenseful and poignant. A near masterpiece of the bleak, depressing nature of loss and notion of what would you do? The idea of a post apocalyptic world is one that always brings an intriguing interest, but I felt Road transcended a mere genre tag with it's stunning set design and powerful performances. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis's score I found appropriate and unobtrusive, if not overly exceptional. Finally, though, is it too much to award a film that shows a child being taught to kill himself? Seems to be, but sometimes dwelling in such a dark place is a rewarding and necessary thing.
The Wrestler (2008)
Raises the bar for realism
"Doc, I'm a professional wrestler" is the response from Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) when after just having bypass surgery following a heart attack, he is told by his doctor that he must stop putting steroids into his system and can only perform mild exercise. The significance of that assertion to Randy's story of a once great wrestling icon, now twenty years later relegated to Community Hall matches and unsatisfying signing appearances, is cemented by it being said with such conviction and pride. He is a wrestler. That is what he does. That is what he knows. Rourke embodies Ram and all his flaws in such a sincere way; the authenticity of his colossal performance raises the bar for realism.
Unconventional director Darren Aronofsky has shaped a documentary-like film with The Wrestler, and like the central performance is unflinching, gritty and driven by severe emotion. It is debatable whether the character of Randy is a likable one, but you are not really asked to choose anyhow. We follow him through his present day-to-day life and the film's major achievement is that you cannot help but empathize with him - as if it was real life. As if The Ram is a wrestler in our world. In that sense too, the film avoids sentimentality but still manages to be profoundly affecting and at times, painful to watch.
It is clear Mickey Rourke has drawn on the parallels between his real-life erratic career and Randy's. No doubt it has helped the performance, and it's a tribute to our director for pushing the actor to dig deep. The reward is a fascinating, hugely immersive journey regardless of Ram's motives, outcomes or choices. Evan Rachael-Wood and Marisa Tomei complete the roles of Randy's estranged daughter and aging stripper cum-love interest respectively. Both shine in their emotional responsibility, but Tomei's Cassidy, whose story mirrors Randy's in many ways, is finely convincing.
The deft cutting is reminiscent of earlier Aronofsky films, Pi and Requiem for a Dream, and works well here to keep the pace brisk and break up potentially tedious dialogue-free scenes, as well as adding energy to ones such as when Randy is working behind a supermarket Deli counter. A subtle, precise acoustic score from Clint Mansell blends appropriately amongst the eighties hair metal Randy holds so dear, ultimately confirming that on a technical level, The Wrestler is scarcely flawed. The wrestling matches themselves flow with authenticity. It's a credit to both Rourke and Aronofsky for not flinching during the handful of fights shown - making them feel real was essential, and they've entirely succeeded.
Exploring a relatively uncharted world in cinema, scriptwriter Robert D. Siegel gives us material that on the surface does resemble a clichéd story, but praise must be given to the eye for detail towards the underground wrestling circuit he demonstrates. It effectively kills any chance of formula pulling us out of Randy's psyche of frustration and eventual acceptance of what he believes his life to amount too. Struggling to complete any relationship he has besides the ones he shares with his loyal fans, it's seeing Randy risking his life trying to hold on to that what makes him feel human the most, which is genuinely heart-breaking. It's also what make The Wrestler a must see film.
Host with the most? Not quite.
The Host is without doubt expertly directed and the star of the film is probably the most interesting creature creation since the Kothoga, but it never really impressed as much as the films it's being compared to, such as Jaws and The Thing. Maybe the 'hype' machine had too much influence on me, but I think because it breaks the blueprint slightly and is in essence more a drama than a creature-feature means that it doesn't quite reach such stellar company. Unfortunately it is it's own victim in that sense, because while it is a good film, it holds little to offer on repeat viewings because it won't let you settle into a specific mood. Director Bong Joon-Ho probably summed it up best himself when he said that it is less a monster movie and more a film about a kidnapping, where the kidnapper just happens to be a mutant amphibian.
Stripped to it's core, The Host is about the importance of family bond and that that bond can and does shine through during crisis. An already struggling unit, our family - the Parks - must deal with the unthinkable: The youngest and brightest spark in their clan has been taken, presumed dead, not by man, but by something that just shouldn't exist. Joon-Ho sets up this idea nicely by having the creature born from nature - and of human interference no less, as opposed to something supernatural or otherworldly. The grounding of the movie in a recognizable family reality is probably it's greatest strength. Like the Park family, you just accept what happens and deal, and in the end, it's not that much of a stretch.
Various arguments surrounding the reveal of the monster I found slightly tenuous because for all it's refreshing glee, the scene in the park - indeed, the monster itself - is merely the catalyst for the main idea and besides, when your creature design is this cool, why not show it off more? I actually praise Joon-Hu for being so subtle and almost blasé in his approach with this jaw dropping moment. It's superbly pleasing that not 20 minutes into The Host, we see a full shot of the creature diving into the river while curious gawkers scratch their heads leading into a fantastic directed sequence where our slippery beastie asserts his need for breakfast. Yes, the best bit with the monster (but certainly not the last) is done less than half an hour into the film, but like I said, this isn't Jaws or The Thing, so being patient is rewarding in different ways here.
To it's credit, The Host still belongs in the same category as the above mentioned films because like them, it's strengths lie in it's ability to create a human situation around the monster that's both compelling and interesting. It just doesn't do it as well as Spielberg or Carpenter's respective films and unfortunately suffers slightly from the same old clichés as well as being a tad too long. In the end, it's still a must see for it's striking cinematography, original creature design, interesting performances which include some great borderline slapstick comedy and a not so flattering portrayal of the US government.
The slight identity-crisis-suffering screenplay does lead you astray at times, but it's definitely above your average Hollywood blockbuster, and even though being Korean might make it cooler; it doesn't necessarily make it that much different. But then again, Cloverfield proved that being unique in the monster game, doesn't always save you from cliché either.
Keeps it's emotion under control, and succeeds
If one was to think about the technology that helped bring this affecting story to life it would be almost intimidating I'd assume. To have just about every other element of the film, technical or otherwise, bond so wonderfully that it makes you forget about how Brad Pitt's face is on that old man's body, and just see Pitt as an old man, is something that deserves praise. I hope Fincher didn't have too many sleepless nights over it though, because from the opening oddity about a backwards clock and the man who made it, we are transported into what resembles an intriguing modern fairy tale. It seems to have an aura that few films do or attempt to create anymore. Something that even if you did not enjoy it, it stays with you, but if you did, it is nothing short of utterly absorbing.
Themes of opportunity, love, growth, life and death are consistent as we follow the unambiguous linear storyline, constantly moving forward. Engaging and quirky characters interweave the film throughout, with roundly excellent performances from all involved. Beyond Pitt's effortless essay of Benjamin, Blanchett again proving she is the best female actor working today, Taraji Henson's Queenie and Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button, deserve to be mentioned. The narration used to tell and introduce is delivered as well as one could have hoped with Pitt's New Orleans's drawl finely convincing.
I recoiled initially from the chosen narrative, of the journal being read by Daisy's daughter to her on her deathbed. Beside the fact that this device brings unwanted comparisons to the vastly inferior, Forest Gump (note the same screenwriter here), a cut back to Daisy's hospital room in present day, too rue or explain her regret about a certain situation, started to grow slightly tedious and almost into muddy cliché. Luckily Fincher pulls back before it becomes a nuisance or overly sentimental. It's a close call, and I perhaps would rather have just seen the story unfold without it.
The film's sword - the one for which it lives and dies by, is that for all it's tear jerking storyline and emotional performances, it's sentimentality is trod around like on a razor but declines to tip over, despite constantly threatening to do so - especially during those hospital scenes. There is no denying it is a sentimental film, but not in a groaning or manipulative way like other Hollywood films can be so guilty of. It's a delicate boundary to dwell in, but Fincher's steady hand coupled with its uniquely mature and darkly funny script, lifts the film above any of its peers and raises the bar for anything wanting to be in its company.
If you find yourself a bit too cynical too endure the message it provides of simply enjoying life and it's never too late, it would not be so surprising, but you would be missing a wonderful experience. One that proves Fincher is someone who won't be pigeon holed and without doubt, one the most interesting directors working out of Hollywood today.
Fires on all Cylinders
Exuding class and almost effortless direction, Frost/Nixon is Ron Howard's best film in a while. But before giving him all the credit, what's worth mentioning is that the film succeeds so well mainly because Peter Morgan had already given the director a brilliant, juicy script to work with. Without it, cries of boredom may well have been heard, as let's face it, this is a film merely about a few interviews between two men. So its success definitely has more to do with the writing and the performances than the direction, but Howard does create a sleek and perfectly paced two hours - no mean feat in itself when you have such a dialog driven setup. To make it compelling, almost edge of your seat material as well, is even more of an accomplishment. Ultimately, the combination of Morgan's muscular writing and Howard's increasingly developing flair behind the camera has proved a real winner.
Within that combination is a fantastic cast from the ground up, and all you can really do when the film settles in is just sit back and be thankful. The performances after all are what makes this film so damn engrossing. Playing the titular characters, the transition from stage to screen for Michael Sheen and Frank Langella is smooth and without a doubt, performing such intense work together for so long has benefited the film adaptation. They are both outstanding, but one can't go past singling out Langella as Nixon. He inhabits the man to jaw dropping effect and by the end, the actor has all but vanished inside the former disgraced president, right down to the slouch and mumbling, gruff speech. A strong supporting cast of Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt amongst others gives weight around the two leads and everybody is on top form.
The decision to inter-cut after the fact reflections from those side players was a good move by Howard and it gives the whole thing more of a sense of an event - a historical one at that, and definitely adds to the cinematic feel Frost/Nixon has. It was a little off putting the first couple of times but overall breaking up the flow of the story like this helped tell it and fittingly gives us the point of view of everybody involved as opposed to just our two prize fighters.
In the end, the films exploration of the power of television in an era when a lot of people still probably didn't realize it the way Frost did, to Nixon's deflated arrogance towards the end when Frost lands his 'confession' and the close up - the one you can't hide from - showing a man full of self-loathing and that moment's potential impact on 45 million viewers, is drama at it's best. The scene is the crux from which the whole film and indeed, the interviews themselves, were built around and if Langella didn't pull it off, the film would have been deflated unimaginatively. Of course he does, and even though he'd had the stage play to perfect it, it's still one of the most bravura performances in a long time.
Opening with Hunter S. Thompson's written reactions to seeing 9/11 unfold on TV, Alex Gibney's Gonzo thrusts us into the idea of Hunter first as a journalist, a rebel, a successful writer, a political campaigner and finally a man, the product of all his excesses, who was loved and admired by many. In-between detailing the author's rebellion, out of control gun enthusiasm and drug use, we focus on only three major writings of his - his breakthrough novel; Hell's Angels, his most popular work, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and arguably his best work; Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.
Gibney gives us a cross section of interviewees, hearing mainly from his former wives and son, Juan Thompson, various ex-politicians including George McGovern and Jimmy Carter plus his Rolling Stone editor and contacts during his prolific 1970's period. Friends and peers are present too of course; Ralph Steadman, Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Buffet, but most notably Gibney avoids the trap of having an onslaught of celebrities reminisce about Hunter which helps to give the audience a more serious view of his importance to journalism and American politics, at the same time successfully evading or rehashing comments or ideas from Tom Thurman's 2006 documentary, Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride.
It's put together with a professional pace, combining large amounts of archival footage and photos with narration by Johnny Depp, who reads from - and is sometimes shown reading, relevant passages from Hunter's writings. The biggest coup, however, is hearing various excerpt from Hunter's own tape recorder - showcasing unique "in the moment" time capsules with the writer whilst on his wild escapades of gonzo journalism.
Ironically, the film's most clunky moment is when focusing on his most popular novel, F&L in Las Vegas. The director spends too much time showing clips from Terry Gilliam's film adaptation and not enough exploration via the interesting Depp reading device or Hunter's at the time comments - the segment certainly stamps the novels importance, but the overuse of movie footage broke up the tone a bit for me. It's a rare moment of ill judgment on Gibney's part, but the following sections on his political campaigning alongside George McGovern and his influence as a journalist on American politics during the late 60's, early 70's retain the best moments of the documentary alongside an earlier part which shows in detail Hunter's attempts to run for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. These are poignant moments and one where ex-wife, Sandi Hunter recalls it being Hunter's greatest moment, "having the passion to move people".
As the film moves onto Hunter's suicide, the tone shifts and even though his son admits "that it was no secret" his father had planned to kill himself for many years, there's a difference between that and it actually happening. Above all, the emotion is still clear on some of the interviewees during this part, recorded not three years after the event. Appropriately, we are shown the construction of the "gonzo fist" tower Hunter had organized for his funeral and we're left with the feelings of if only he'd waited, or perhaps not killed the man over the myth. A man that Tom Wolfe describes as probably being "trapped in Gonzo".
Though not definitive, Gonzo is definitely recommended for fans of Hunter Thompson, anyone with an interest in American politics or who just want to see what effect a true visionary can have on people and culture.
The Corgan Experience
While it's not really something you would watch over and over, this documentary - which follows the newly reformed Pumpkins on a series of two residencies in Chicago and San Francisco in 2007 - is a highly watch able account and insight into the mind of one Billy Corgan, the man behind the Pumpkins and indeed, it's heart and soul.
Rest assured, this is an interesting piece even for non-fans, but don't expect a big classic band reunion or a even classic songs showcase here as there is very little besides conversations regarding such times. But this is not the film's intention after all and it's far more watch able because of it. We talk with Billy (of course), current members (only), fans and few a managers and PA's along the way in-between this awkward time when the band is relishing the opportunity to grow as artists with a fresh attitude, but also dealing with what it means to the world and it's fans when you say a band like the Pumpkins is active again.
A must see for old and new fans - or anyone just interested in songwriting for that matter - this will, at the very least, give you insight into Corgan for the better or make you dislike him even more. For fans, however, the inclusion of many songs written and performed acoustic when the film was made are shown with much affection. Love or loathe though, he is one artist that can't be ignored, and this film deserves not to be either.
Ying xiong (2002)
A Good film, but Jet Li fans may be disappointed
For starters, I've heard many a rumour that a 120+ cut of this film exists, but finding this elusive cut has become hard and suffice to say that I purchased the 98min cut that supposedly will screen in US cinemas soon, as I was sick of waiting to see this epic.
Fans of Hong Kong/kung Fu flicks will flock to see this one but some (mainly American) ones of Jet Li may well be disappointed in the final product. I only say 'American' fans because he has created a big action orientated following in the US with films such as 'Kiss of the Dragon' and "Cradle to the Grave' etc. Having said that though, even fans of his HK exploits may be disappointed too. This is no 'Tai Chi Master' or 'Once Upon a Time in China' for example.
Jet is indeed 'restrained' in this film, as are ALL the players. This movie is not about crazy, OTT action scenes. It will NOT deliver for hardcore kung fu fans. It's not supposed too though, that's the point. This is a film that is amazingly stylish that plays on drama rather than action. Even though you can watch the stunningly beautiful Maggie Cheung 'duce it out' with 'ol Jet it all comes across as style over substance way too often. I think that the American advertisements are a tad misleading in the fact you're going to see see a swordsmen's epic, and besides a exciting fight involving Jet and Donnie Yen, you won't really, but fans of HK cinema must still see this movie. It has a disappointing ending for sure and it really doesn't provide what it promises. It's a great film, unfortunately, it isn't as brilliant as some (including myself) would have hoped for. It's style over substance is basically it's downfall.
It's comparsion to 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' is unfounded in my opinion. Although it is enjoyable for film lovers out there, it doesn't really come close to the quality of CTHD and audiences will definitely see that. See it for Maggie Cheung's performance and come away with what you will.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Finally, a new & original werewolf movie.
Lycanthrope lovers rejoice! With a genre that can be so hit and miss, it's refreshing to say that director, Neil Marshall, has made a film that will appeal to werewolf lovers and flat out horror lovers equally.
There certainly are a handful of nay-sayers about this low budget flick, but any true horror fan will recognise that viewed within it's genre and with it's budget constraints in mind, this is a great achievement. It's necessary to mention that a film that (so obviously) ultimately develops into a massive 'Night of the Living Dead/Evil Dead' homage is still one that has it's own 'feel' and energy enough to stamp it as a true original within the genre. That'd be the werewolf genre.
I won't go into the plot too much as that's what the synopsis here is for, but I will say that Neil Marshall (a lover of WW films judging by his comments on the DVD) has assembled a cracking cast and the script is quite easily one the best within the genre in the year of it's release. Amazingly funny at times and with the acting top level (regardless of a lack of a big name star) this really is one of those rare horror films these days that is actually one where, leaving your brain at the door is a NOT a positive thing and is populated by believable, convincing characters that you WILL get behind and are not just 'cannon fodder' so to speak.
What really nails it is the fact that (apart from the opening scene) you taken fully into the world of the 'soldier' before it establishes itself as balls-to-the-wall action/horror - which it most certainly becomes - it very effectively involves you with the initial characters and their background, and then all of a sudden your with them, fighting truly monstrous beasts.
So my final word will go to the beasts themselves, then, 'cause their look, for me, is truly an original look for a werewolf film. They're not straight up dogs (like some films), nor do they look like simple, two legged dingos. People complain they look low budget, but the effect when they finally get full screen treatment is none the less startling anyway. NOBODY has done a decent CGI werewolf yet, so until that can be done, these are really a treat for a fan.
I'd liked 'Ginger Snaps' a lot, but this I feel, is a better werewolf movie...damn these Brits, along with the very impressive '28 Days Later', they've proven, they KNOW how to make horror and are a definite pony to bet on come the future of great horror movie-making!
8 out of 10.