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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
It's Good but Not "Amazing"
Marc Webb's follow up to his rebooted Spider-Man franchise still leaves much to be desired but remains a worthy installment.
The film originates with a confused Peter Parker (Garfield) struggling with the morality of what is best to do for Gwen Stacey (Stone). Eventually deciding to stick to his promise to her deceased father (Denis Leary) of keeping her out of his business, he is soon thrust a further set of challenges when his sudden new best friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan) reveals he needs Spider-Man's blood to save his life, Jamie Foxx reeks havoc as the villainous Electro while trying to piece together his father's past.
While I commend Webb for trying, his efforts to strand all these plot points together hinders the film more than it helps. It's comparable to trying to cram twenty DVD's into a stack which hold 19, it just doesn't fit, unless you cut parts off the other DVD's to make space. This is exactly what Webb does. If you have viewed the trailers, you will realise already that many scenes did not make the final film due to the scenes being removed; this is most probably due to time restrictions on the duration. However, rather than delivering a complex and engaging story-line, Webb leaves us with numerous unfinished - some rather basic - plots and sub plots.
Expanding briefly on this point, I would like to commend Dane DeHaan's performance. An excellent young actor for sure, his lines and performance throughout gave his scenes gravitas, and were the engaging. In interviews prior to the release, he stated he "doesn't think I'll ever have a character that has this big of an arc (again)" and that Harry is "completely different" from at the beginning to what he is at the end. This is true however that character arc to me felt very rushed and not very complex at all; judging by the edited out scenes I'm guessing there was a beefier run through of his transformation which unfortunately as viewers, we were unable to witness.
Instead, Webb focuses on his hit-and-miss villain "Electro", the touching relationship between Stone and Garfield (on the screen, although maybe off also) as well as the dreary recollection of Richard Parker's past.
Let's begin with "Electro". To me, his inclusion feels like a CGI prop to be perfectly honest, for the most part, while Jamie Foxx doesn't really feel suited to the role of this flying electric ball (this is from someone who thinks he's a great actor, and loved 'Django').
The romantic scenes - as you may expect - are done remarkably well by Webb with his experience under the helm of '(300) Days of Summer' playing a key factor here. He also chose the cast for Peter and Gwen with great precision as the chemistry is clear for all to see. Both these factors deserve commending.
The sub slot however of his father and his dealings with Norman Osborn feels half baked. A James Bond style opening is followed by a rather uninteresting reflection on what makes Richard Parker such a good man.
One final qualm is the action sequences which feel labored and never particularly engaging. Battles with Electro are just an overloaded CGI frenzy while the Paul Giamatti's eagerly anticipated Rhino makes an appearance for about two minutes (in costume). Equally irritating is DeHaan's appearance as the Goblin being very short and its fair to say his transformation leading up to that was hardly detailed on the final cut.
However, having focused on the criticisms, the majority of the cast were first class and the on-screen chemistry between Stone and Garfield was a lovely touch. DeHaan steals the show with his performance as Osborn (which fills the cracks about his character development ever so slightly) whilst most importantly, I can look to the next installment with optimism. Optimism stemming from a cliffhanger ending, more DeHaan and a host of possibilities for Garfield to forefront.
'Witty' and heartfelt but this Stiller is a 'Bitty' off the mark
Ben Stiller stars and directs James Thurber's short and interesting story about a day dreamer who escapes his life through constant day- dreams composed of heroism, romance and action.
Stiller has an impressive portfolio as both an actor and director but his adaption of Thurber's tale doesn't quite excel in the way it could have done.
By no means is this a bad film. You really feel an empathy for Stiller's characterised take on Walter Smith - he does a fine job. But this film requires a little more meat, ambition and . The fact is - even though it is humorous in parts - it just doesn't feel like it should have been set up as a comedy. 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' is as its best in its most heartfelt moments and during an incredibly journey. The drawback from the latter is that its only brushed around the edges; its all very bland as feels like an unexplored journey rather than an explored one.
Stiller is part however of a very good cast which all perform amiably. I'm not sure its really worth the time and effort to view it at the cinema however you could see far worse. My suggestion is that you buy the DVD when it arrives if its something you have an urge to see.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark...Do Be Afraid of How Bad This Film Is!
My first review of a horror for a while as I caught up with Guillermo Del Toro's piece in my return to the genre which I laid to rest for a couple of months. Oh dear, what a turn off!
Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes are cast as the loved up couple trying to redecorate an old house and base camp their with Alex (Pearce) bringing Sally (Bailee Madison) - his daughter - against her will. But suddenly, Sally begins to see and hear things in the house and it soon becomes clear to Alex and his girlfriend that Sally is not living in a fantasy land.
First of all, having seen many horror flicks in my time, this is arguably the worst. Full of clichés, a laughable antagonist, questionable acting from some parties and a dreadful story-line, a director of Guillermo Del Toro stature should be tearing his hair out at participating in this drivel.
The main key to a memorable horror is for it to be first scary and second engaging - this is neither. Not once did it grasp my attention for more than a couple of minutes nor was it even in the slightest particle frightening. This was due to a non existent build up of tension, the frights being built around obvious clichés and finally, the villain(s). It really was an catastrophic, cataclysmic effort because quite frankly, I felt more intimidated by 'The Muppets!'
Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce are amiable with the script they have but in all honesty, you cannot see any other reason why they would take up the roles other than a big, fat pay packet coming their way afterwards.
One positive note, young actress Bailee Madison performed quite well and has been described as a diverse young actress. She already has quite a number of lengthy stints as an actress on the television and is a promising star of the future.
Let Him Have It (1991)
Let Us Have It
Thrilling, emotional and so superbly performed by the members of the cast this is without doubt one of the best takes on a real life scenario of all time.
This true story is one I hadn't really thought about much until I came across this film. But it is so fabulously constructed and the director Peter Madak tells this tale in such a pure and harrowing way that I found myself immediately on Google to research more on Derek Bentley (the main character) and some background information on the piece.
Bentley is performed by Christopher Eccleston in one of the star's first films. The British actor is very, very impressive as the unfortunate teenager who mixed with the wrong people at the wrong time. Equally on top form was Paul Reynolds as the disturbed Chris Craig and in fairness its an impossibility to fault any cast member on their displays in this exceptional work.
In mu honest opinion, I would probably choose to watch a number of other films than this - some with no where near the same level of ability - because the genre isn't always my favourite. I probably will not watch this film again and again because it isn't that type of film. But its one of the biggest surprises in recent memory as far as I'm concerned on a movie front.
It's utterly brilliant!
Another hidden treat from the realms of Korea
Known for the shocking violence and lengths that a stereotypical Korean film goes to, there shouldn't be too many surprises with Chan-wook Park's highly acclaimed psychological thriller...however there certainly is.
An explicit sexual scene, a number of other raunchy moments, people being battered to a pulp and the leading character yanking out the teeth of his nemesis with a hammer to name only a few. It certainly isn't for the faint hearted though you probably knew that from the outset.
'Oldboy' follows Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) - a man imprisoned for 15 years without explanation and released for five days in a bid to understand why and seek vengeance. He meets an alias in Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang), a mysterious woman who sets out to help him.
While it isn't for the weak hearted as I stated earlier, nor is it for the thick. 'Oldboy' is a film which doesn't spoon feed you too much of what's going on so you will have to have your brain switched on and interpret some key plot scenarios from earlier clues. It has a number of twists and possibilities which make it a riveting ride from start to finish.
The acting is superb with the "anti-hero" performed to a tee by Min-sik Choi (he also plays an outstanding role as the sadistic murderer in 'I Saw the Devil, six years on from this production). Ji - tae Yu is also excellent as one of the villains while the remaining cast members are all fantastic.
The main plot twist is disturbing, utterly brilliant yet at the same time disappointing. It feels all a little too unrealistic; in fact while others may argue to climatic half to the film is where its genius lies, I much preferred the opening half before everything unravelled. But that's just my opinion!
'Oldboy' focuses heavily on character and its complex narrative and the end product is very good. In the same genre, 'I Saw the Devil' (also starring Min-ski Choi) is my favourite revenge movie of that nature - it took me by storm!
'Oldboy' is more complex and much beefier in terms of what makes up the running time which is its downfall as well as its merit.
We're the Millers (2013)
'We're hilarious...but little else'
'We're the Miller's' is a terrible film but excellent comedy packed full of humour with incredibly likable characters meaning that this insensitive pile of senseless piece is actually quite entertaining and painfully funny!
Jason Sudeikis is a small time drug dealer who owes his crack pot fellow dealer Brad (Ed Helms) a heap of cash (which he has just been mugged for and lost). In desperation he is sent on a wild goose chase by Brad to get him a "smidge and a half" size of marijuana from Mexico. In order to do this he gels together a quick "family" out of a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a reckless young adult (Emma Roberts) and the innocent 18 year old (Will Poulter). On their journey they encounter a number of twists which threaten to tear this poorly patched together family apart!
Sudeikis starred in 'Horrible Bosses' with Charlie Day and Jason Bateman and in my opinion this was a great example of how modern day comedy can be funny and have an entertaining plot. While 'We're the Millers' is no doubt funny, it lacks the excitement of 'Horrible Bosses' and and is a tad inferior to Sudeikis' previous work.
Saying that - apparently Jason Bateman's recent comedy 'Identity Thief' hardly won rave reviews from the critics and when you compare this to some of Adam Sandler's stinkers and some of the drivel directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have galvanised then its pretty good.
Anniston is fabulous as Rose the stripper - in not just her acting - while Will Poulter is certainly becoming a rising star. He has shown experience in a variation of genres which make him a very versatile actor. Sudeikis is also good and Emma Roberts is sound. However, of all of the sub-cast I loved the cameo from Mark L. Young's Scotty P; for people who have watched it "you know what I'm sayin'" this for.
Please don't watch this if your are a humourless bore because you will find nothing in the film to your taste except perhaps certain characters. But if you are the opposite then get ready for 110 minutes of consistent giggling and then prepare to forget everything about the film by the end of the week.
The Wolverine (2013)
A C+ for the Australian Mutant
Ever since Hugh Jackman's debut as the Wolverine in X-Men, back in 2002, it was clear he was not just good at the performance - he was made for it. Thus, movie director Gavin Hood was hired to anchor spin off 'X-Men Origins Wolverine'; it was rather bland with boring characters but Jackman's acting was impeccable and the action sequences pleased.
Years later we have, 'The Wolverine.' A piece based on Frank Miller's graphic work, set after the events of the main X-Men trilogy. Jackman's Logan (alias to Wolverine) is a recluse, living on the edge as you may gather with his thick, bushy beard and scruffy general appearance. To his surprise a female ninja warrior (Rila Fukushima) whisks him away to Tokyo, Japan following her master's orders (Hal Yamanouchi). Her master is willing to reward Logan for originally saving his life - during a civil war in the past - by trading immortality for mortality. However, when Logan refuses, he then becomes protector to his grand daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) who is being sought by highly trained assassins.
'The Wolverine' lasts 126 minutes in duration; for approximately 90-95 minutes it had me intrigued. Action takes a back seat for story and character development which is great and when the sequences of action do arise they are excellent. One scene in particular where Logan battles with numerous Japanese assassins on a bullet train looks and feels exhilarating. The cast all perform with solidity.
By faults come in the final quarter or so of the film (90-95 minutes plus) when the story refracts off into a different direction in a pointless bid to extend the running time. It follows the villainous plots of Svetlana Khodchenkova's character Viper. Again she performs well in her role but is a pointless character which doesn't add anything to the main plot, just extends the running time.
Entailed in that final quarter is a flurry of action sequences that feel as if they have been forced in. It quickly becomes tiresome and this long, ponderous final half an hour (or so) becomes a little ridiculous, particularly with a twist many will struggle to find the logic behind.
Excellent for a larger portion than it is not, 'The Wolverine' can just about stand on its own two feet without Jackman carrying the entirety on his shoulders.
The Conjuring (2013)
'Horrifying?', 'Blood Curdling?' No...but its pretty damn good exercise
James Wan is a very impressive director in this genre of film and although his previous work 'Insidious' divided opinion, I found it particularly scary and atmospheric.
'The Conjuring' certainly feels like it has been made in the mould of Wan. He has left a clear imprint there from the way he conjures up those chilling moments almost with ease and it appears he has quite literally terrified some audiences across the globe. However, for me - it didn't quite live up to its billing.
Critics and audience members who had viewed the piece labelled it with all kinds of superlatives. Perhaps it was foolish of me to have read comments beforehand but I was expecting something so incredibly scary it would send a blood curdling shiver down my spine. It certainly didn't do that though if I chose to ignore all those acclaimed reviews it received prior to may viewing, I would tell you it was certainly an exercise in fear. Some sections of 'The Conjuring' were intensely eerie however I wouldn't say it thundered down any barriers.
A little unsettling also is the fact that Wan loosely based this piece on a true discovery by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. And on that note it gives me great pleasure to say that actors Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were truly outstanding in their performances as the married couple.
Another special mention should be awarded to Lili Taylor who took on the complex role of Carolyn Perron. Truly excellent in the films majority as the concerned mother before superbly adapting to her disturbing performance in the films latter stages.
One tip before watching the film would be to know as little as possible about the premise and NOT to watch previews or trailers of it knowingly. One of the best suspense scenes in the films entirety is more or less shown from start to finish in one official trailer.
'The Conjuring' is a highly recommended horror. While it doesn't hit the nail on the head with every attempted 'scare' it certainly ranks up their as far as films in the genre are concerned.
A tad overrated but still rather chilling and undeniably scary.
The World's End (2013)
A funny film, too extreme for children
Duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return to the big screen alongside director Edgar Wright to round off 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz' into 'The Cornetto Trilogy.'
Simon Pegg is the loud mouthed boozer who fails to have matured in his adult life. As a late teenager, he and his five childhood chums decided to have a crack at the Golden Mile (down a pint at eleven pubs before drinking the twelfth at the World's End Pub at the end of the line). After gathering the entire group together once more as middle aged adults, it is clear that they are now developed adults and don't share his ideas of fun. However, when the on - screen collaboration of Pegg, Frost, Martin Freeman and company discover their childhood town has been taken over by inhabitants from another road, they attempt to finish their drinking challenge whilst praying they make a safe exit.
'The World's End' is in truth rather funny and in that respect remains on a par with its predecessors. The first half an hour to forty five minutes use up some humorous one liners and there is a witty bitchiness between the gang of childhood friends and Pegg's deranged character Gary King. When the action side kicks in their is plenty of slapstick comedy and black humour however I would like to state this is not a children's comedy; there is a lot of violence (if unrealistic anyway), but more notably Simon Pegg takes on the role of a swear-o-holic as well as an alcoholic.
On the downside, 'The World's End' lacks the originality and freshness of 'Shaun of the Dead' and the actually intriguing plot behind 'Hot Fuzz.' Also, I feel Pegg is much stronger as the serious more sensible figure and not more ridiculous character. That role is much more suited for Nick Frost - as shown in 'Hot Fuzz.'
Still - in conclusion - the summer of 2013 doesn't really have the enormous blockbusters of 2012 and 2011; it will certainly raise spirits (no pun intended) and it frequently keeps you chuckling.
Worth a watch for that fact if little else.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Killed the critics but didn't quite kill me
In quite stereotypical Tarantino fashion, the director of 'Pulp Fiction' converged together a critically acclaimed revenge movie in which Uma Thurman would play a Bride on the rampage! To me, 'Kill Bill' never quite lived up to the hype but I certainly wouldn't discard it nonetheless.
Thurman's Bride is battered and bruised by her previous boyfriends (David Carradine) mobsters and thugs in - what was - an act of jealousy. In an act of revenge, Thurman regains her strength to kill each of Bill's (Carradine) assassins before finally taking her revenge on the man in question. This first film revolves around her attempts to murder the dangerous O - Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).
The violence that is present throughout never really appealed to me to much. Not only is it over the top but also quite unrealistic.
The story is paper thin and there are no real twists or turns in this gruesome tale. However, having also seen volume two, I can say that the plot there was much stronger despite a slower pacing.
Still, Thurman's acting is fantastic while all other cast members are also faultless in their roles.
I can't call it award worthy - even though it was - however I definitely wouldn't give it the brush off on a Friday night.