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5 reviews in total 
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11 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Bad/Bad Movie, 12 December 2012

The Man with the Iron Fists is heavy-hitting contender for worst movie of 2012. Almost every element of this film has been mismanaged in some way and the result is laughable . Every single line in this script is bad. There's no other way to put it. Dialogue in this movie rivals The Room for its obvious, unimaginative and sometimes downright cringe-inducing interplay between what can only loosely be called characters. Its poorly paced, characters are one-dimensional and underdeveloped and RZA can't decide whether he wants to be the main character in his own movie. Its atrocious.

And the acting isn't much better. Most of the cast botch their poorly penned one-liners, which makes this movie even more difficult to watch. RZA doesn't take centre stage until more than halfway into the mercifully short runtime and doesn't do anything special with the material he prepared for himself. Lucy Liu looks like she wants to murder her agent (or Quentin Tarantino) for making her do this movie. The film's only saving grace comes in the form of Russell Crowe, who makes his wholly unoriginal character and tedious dialogue a little more tolerable. If there was an award for great actors doing their best with awful material, Crowe would be a nominee.

The gimmicky action sequences look cheap and the special effects rival 2008's Twilight for believability. Costumes, hair and even sets look cheap throughout. Its clumsily shot, awkwardly cut together and riddled with continuity problems. Further, the music is jarringly out of sync with the movie. Surely RZA's history with Wu-Tang should have yielded a par-for-the-course score for his directorial debut, but alas it was not to be.

This movie should be shown to film school students as a warning of the dangers of allowing yourself too much creative control of your own movie. It feels like RZA did not have enough people around him telling him 'no'. A steady, experienced hand in screen writing or cinematography guiding RZA might have yielded a watchable movie. Instead an average idea has been turned into an asinine production in the hands of an arrogant amateur filmmaker. Don't let the Quentin Tarantino tagline fool you, this movie is appalling.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Good/Good Movie, 3 December 2012

End of Watch is probably not the movie audiences are expecting. In lieu of a formulaic action/thriller from the man who penned U-571, The Fast and the Furious, Training Day and S.W.A.T audiences are treated with a sinister and intimate thriller about the day to day lives of two cops in south central L.A. Though this is well trodden path for Ayer, End of Watch feels very fresh. Its due in part to two great performances from the leads; Jake Gyllenhaal's maturity as a performer is evident here as he owns the role next to Michael Peña who plays a great second fiddle to him. A lot of the scenes are tight shots of the two as they go about the business of policing and the dialogue is executed really well. The audience quite happily sits and listens to the two friends chat about girls, completely forgetting that the next horrific crime scene is just around the corner. It's a similar dynamic to TNT's Southland and with two quality actors given time and space to own the movie, End of Watch shines. Keep your eye out for the always watchable Anna Kendrick, who is yet to put a foot wrong outside of her cinematic birth in Twilight.

But the real star of the show is cinematographer Roman Vasyanov who gambles on heavy reliance on steady cam and wins. The shooting jumps from the various hand-held camcorders held by the cops and the baddies and two chest mounted cameras on the vests of the officers, dragging the audience right into the heart of the action. Point of view shots down the barrel of a gun even get a look in, so the audience is never far away from the action. Resisting the temptation to shy away from this style of filming during the dialogue sequences really pays off as well. As close as we feel to the tension-laden explorations of rundown houses and explosive shoot outs, audience members also feel the safety and security of the bullet-proof police car. Stop/start editing allows for reaction shots in one takes during the natural flow of the dialogue. Ayer wanted this picture to feel "real" and the techniques used make this a resounding success.

Despite its technical excellence and fantastic performers, End of Watch is sometimes hampered by the script. The villains are fairly obvious and the leads don't evolve throughout the course of the movie to a satisfying extent. By the climax of the picture audience members are still watching the same two guys they met an hour and a half before. Circumstances have changed around them and there's no doubt they're likable characters, but they are static nonetheless. It's a similar movie to 2001's Training Day in many respects, but most prominently here; great actors make a standard script completely enthralling. Viewers will doubtless be divided by the ending. It's certainly not cliché but isn't wholly unexpected either, both of which are good things and should be applauded.

Overall, End of Watch is a deeply human, part bromance, part action/thriller with darkness bubbling just under the surface of the friendly, witty dialogue. It keeps you watching during the slow points and puts you on the edge of your seat when the guns come out, which is exactly what you want from a film in this genre. A fine production all round.

Total Recall (2012/I)
0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Bad/Good Movie, 3 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you've seen the trailer for this picture, you've seen the whole thing. Total Recall is an arduous movie to sit through because it's exactly the movie you're expecting to see. It does absolutely nothing outside the standard action movie dynamic, interspersing ridiculous CGI action sequences with statically shot expository dialogue scenes. It's a terribly frustrating experience as you feel the timer tick down to the next explosion while the characters bounce their clunky dialogue off each other. There are five people credited with the screenplay and story for this movie, which is far more hilarious than any comedy to come out in 2012.

The movie takes its time to get going, but this can probably be put down to the extended edition tag. It feels like the cinematic cut would have been a solid half an hour shorter. Farrell is shown to be a man working in a factory (with a very cool apartment and one of the most beautiful women in the world as a wife) who wants more for some reason. So, he goes to Rekall, which is the only real connection to the movie's name, to spice things up by getting some fake memories injected into his brain. Not only is this just a clumsy device to set up the plot of the movie, it actually never gets mentioned again. This movie could have been called one of a thousand crummy titles, but jumps on the reboot bandwagon to boost opening weekend ticket sales. The action kicks off when it turns out that Farrell doesn't need to pretend to be a spy because he is one already. From there on in it's a series of mindless CGI explosions and poorly-written dialogue scenes that advance the plot to the next action set-piece before we get to the final big fight, which the good guy wins. Absolutely no tension, significant character development or any degree of cinematic finesse.

To his credit, Farrell gives it his all and his quality as an actor shows as he brings a little bit of life to the stale script and dull action. Beckinsale does her job of looking amazing with a gun in her hand, chasing Farrell through various video game levels, but her and Biel (who looks downright plain next to Beckinsale) are never given enough time or attention to ever be more than pretty faces. Easily the most talented actors on the screen, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean), have about five minutes of screen time between them. Nighy's lines are almost obscured by the dial tone of his phoned-in performance and while Cranston gets in and out with as little fuss as possible. The acting is probably the best part of this film, but that doesn't say much.

Visually, Total Recall is pretty unspectacular. A lesser director would have filmed the whole movie on a green screen and Wiseman deserves credit for making sure there were a few sets here and there, but not much else. Overall, heavy reliance on CGI to create the sci-fi world the story takes place in robs the movie of what little humanity it had and the final sequence with Biel in the gunship on the landing pad while Farrell fights the robot is directly stolen from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not influenced by. A shameless rip-off of. Lazy direction is one thing, trying to con the audience into enjoying themselves by abducting a familiar sequence from a superior film is another.

There are certainly better ways to spend 125 million dollars, but movies like this need to be made to keep stupid people entertained and those of us who know better hungry for a movie of quality. Total Recall is only really memorable for its flaws, which there are many, and should be viewed with that in mind.

Savages (2012)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Bad/Good Movie, 3 December 2012

This movie can be summed up in one word: tensionless. Which is not a word that should come to mind in an action-thriller from the director of JFK and Platoon. The source of the movie's many problems is, as it is with most Hollywood blockbusters, the script. The screenwriters, famous for very little outside of Armageddon (1998) and Shaft (2000), have cobbled together a poorly paced and often downright shallow script which sacrifices character development and consistency for length and the opportunity for Stone to film some explosions and one too many sex scenes with Blake Lively. The audience is never given a protagonist to take the journey with, stuck between Lively who spends the first twenty minutes of the movie explaining who everybody is, and her two boyfriends. Kitsch, of Friday Night Lights fame, looks lost on the big screen and gives an underwhelming performance as the ex-soldier who is haunted by his two tours abroad. Johnson is even sorrier, receiving more screen time than Kitsch and failing completely to capture the free spirited stoner that the role called for. The audience is lead to believe that Ophelia is drawn to them because of their juxtaposition, loving Ben for his tenderness and Chon for his brutality. But the two leading men are indistinguishable halfway through the movie and its apparent that neither of them have the gravitas to carry a movie. Throughout the movie's 130 minute runtime we see both characters make decisions completely out of character and the flat performances rob moments of significant character formation and development of any memorability.

Its lucky that Benicio del Toro is as classy an actor as he is, because Savages struggles when he isn't on screen. He is calmly menacing when the heavy handed script allows him to be and Stone lets him off he leash a little. Lado is very at home in the brutality of the cartel and del Toro puts the other actors around him to shame, save perhaps Travolta who brightens up the screen in his few appearances. Hayek gives an admirable but completely forgettable performance as Elena, the head of the cartel, but it's tough to blame her for that considering how poorly the scriptwriters handle the character. What had the potential to be a deeply traumatised woman clinging to all that remained of her family while trying to hold together a drug empire has been diluted down to a few scenes in silky nighties in what is probably the movie's biggest let down.

But the movie is not all bad. Stone and cinematographer Dan Mindel (Spy Game, MI:3 and Star Trek) have put together a luxuriously shot movie, appropriately vibrant and easy to watch. Mindel even slips in a lens flare in true Star Trek tradition. Stone's direction is classy and indulgent, but not to the point of being obtuse. The shooting really is one of this movie's strengths.

It is ultimately wasted however, on a story that had a lot of potential. The final act renders the middle of the overly-long movie essentially irrelevant as the players come together for the inevitable confrontation. Flat characters acting completely unreasonably interspersed with often garish violence leaves a bad taste in the mouth at the end. We're left with Lively's voice-over telling us that the movie ends exactly how we expected it to end in the first place. The use of this technique jut serves as a jarring reminder that the screenwriters have been too lazy to show instead of tell us the story we just watched, to let he characters evolve holistically in front of us and that the actors didn't have the depth to play these one-dimensional figures we never got the chance to care about.

Lawless (2012)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Bad/Good Movie, 3 December 2012

It's not difficult to see why this movie has gotten mixed reviews. Some people love it. But some people are stupid, and there's definitely a correlation between those two groups. Lawless is a movie that should have been good but was hamstrung by the clumsy inexperience of Nick Cave's script. At no point did this movie know what it wanted to be or where it wanted to go. As a result, the final product is a mish mash of over-long expository dialogue sequences interspersed with some grizzly violence. The three brothers at the centre of the movie all appear at the beginning to be pretty cut and dry characters: Hardy is the tough guy, LaBeouf is the wimp and Jason Clarke's character is the wild card. But this only lasts a little while as LaBeouf is seen to be the ambitious, business savvy one while Hardy is actually the sensitive soul. No, there's no problem with characters evolving throughout a movie, its encouraged in fact, but it was executed in this movie with the nuance of a late night movie on cinemax. Lawless takes absolutely forever to get going and forsakes a lot of potentially interesting plot points in order to sustain the character driven story. But the characters are terribly written and poorly acted, so the movie drains the audience of its energy during the nearly two hour run time.

Hardy looks out of place in this movie, still carrying the weight from The Dark Knight Rises and leaning heavily on his Bane voice, everything about his performance is underwhelming. His character is a brute from the beginning, but becomes oddly sensitive in the presence of Jessica Castain's character, who does nothing in the movie. She has three or four scenes and a handful of lines of dialogue before the audience is forced to sit through the inevitable and totally unbelievable romance with Hardy. LaBeouf isn't much more convincing in the role of the protagonist. His character jumps around from being weak and useless to outgoing tough-guy without any sense of character development. There are no reasons for his change, it just happens. Guy Pearce's considerable talents are wasted on the hammy, sociopathic villain who is so obviously evil for no reason that his scenes become funny to watch before the end. Garry Oldman, one of the classiest actor's in Hollywood, nails his role completely and checks out, his gravitas completely wasted by John Hillcoat.

The one person on the crew who does work hard to save the movie is cinematographer Benoît Delhomme (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), because this movie is magnificently shot. If only the plot hadn't been so tedious, Lawless would have been a joy to watch. Prohibition-era greys and browns blend effortlessly with the luscious greens of rural Virginia and the sleek blacks of fancy new cars and firearms. It should also be noted that Hillcoat has done an admirable job directing. With time and money to work with, the movie is very well structured. It's easy to tell that the director got his hands dirty making this picture and it shines through, despite being hampered by the script.

And that's really what this movie comes down to. If you build anything on unstable foundations, it's bound to collapse. Cave's ham-fisted characters and lumbering plot progression weigh this movie down from the opening sequence right up to the disappointing climax and instead of being a diamond in the rough of modern movies, Lawless takes a bad script and turns it into a crummy movie to be forgotten in the miasma of other modern movies who make exactly the same mistakes.