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Note-This list is done from earliest US release date, to latest. No order in preference.
-Update-I have replaced The Spectacular Now with the film Blackfish, which I recently saw. Captain Phillips has also been moved a place down
-Update 2-Desolation of Smaug has moved into the top 10, after my recent viewing of it
-Update 3-Guess what?! Another film leaped in from nowhere, and that's About Time, which I must say, is one of the best films I've ever seen.
-Update 4-Yeah, I know, it's getting old. The Wolf of Wall Street has made it's way into my top 10 with force, and I'm not afraid to admit it!
The Boy Next Door (2015)
One of the greatest movies ever made
Here's a test to see if The Boy Next Door will offend you with its blatant sexism, idiocy and technical ineptitude!
1. Are you a human?
If you answered yes to the prior question, you will be thoroughly offended by what I have just witnessed!
In all seriousness... oh my god.
I didn't know it was possible.
I didn't realise I could love something as much as this.
I've found it.
Ladies and gentleman, I have found the next cult classic. The Boy Next Door is a transcendent level of bad that should be watched and loved by all!
Such sh*t-tastic lines, including:
*"I love your mother's cookies!" *"Let me love you, Claire!" *"Go f*ck yourself." "I'd rather f*ck you."
J-Lo, unwilling to go full-on nude, awkwardly clutching blankets to her body after engaging in a soft-core romp with one of the worst actors of our generation. Beautiful!
After someone mentioned "A clean slate", I couldn't stop thinking about one of the Badman College Humor skits. I was laughing for far longer than was justified.
This film is initially both a feminist's worst nightmare and ideal dream, rolled into one: the woman is weak-willed and falls prey to a guy, but it's also a terrible, demonizing, pathological and abusive guy, so that's points to the Tumblr feminists to use against us evil men! But then it's men who save the day at the end, so it kind of balances itself out, I think...
The sound equalization gave me cancer. That is all.
If you're not part of the scoring community, you won't understand the fuss made out of the film's score's release. Varese Sarabande released the album, but in their description, they somehow call it a "historic" collaboration between composers Randy Edelman and Nathan Barr. First and foremost, if you've read my review for this hunk of sh*t of a score on my website, you'll know that this is really inaccurate. Second: now you're in on the joke! Feel included!
Character archetypes and unnecessary subplots! How fun!
The shaky-cam is really stupid. It doesn't add intensity, nor is it particularly well-handled (study any Paul Greengrass film to see how it's done).
So... many... unnecessary... insert shots...
I'm sorry. But this movie is amazing. It's hilarious. Every second of it was fun. I was legitimately in a state of ecstasy the entire time.
If you have not seen this movie, watch it. Now! It's worth every second, if only to watch Step-Up dancer #324 overact every little detail to the best of his ability!
Note: I was tempted to give this film a perfect rating. In a way, it kind of deserves it. I am also very tempted to put this on my "Favourites" list, because it's so much fun. Absolutely recommended.
After the critical mutilation Chappie received upon initial release, I was perhaps prepared for something of a magnitude of bad that had not been witnessed within film since Trolls 2. But it turns out that Chappie is not all that terrible. Instead, it's something far less remarkable: average. Whilst Blomkamp injects a visual flair and intrepid charge into his work that is undeniable and utterly palpable from the beginning to the end (and leads me to provide a mixed sentiment, instead of a negative), he can't wholly rectify the abysmal and completely blatant thematic material, which spells only recurring concepts from his previous endeavors, both films of which achieved far more in terms of successful analogies on the current state of third-world poverty and discrimination. The environments are still as lively as ever, and the visual effects are virtually perfect, but these technicalities do not fully transform this into a positive experience. Match the lacking substance with an antagonist who is as boring as he is melodramatic (two concepts which don't seem to gel together on paper, but Hugh Jackman renders the comparison plausible to say the least) keeps Chappie from achieving anything more than decent. Plus, Yolandi Visser was absolutely terrible, though her fellow member of rap group Die Antwoord, Ninja, was actually pretty good.
But Hans Zimmer... Jesus. Talk about a terrible score. Predictable methodology, themes which felt clichéd, an overbearing sentimentality and style which lacks intelligence and just provides thumping, simplistic beats, made more noticeable by their prominence in the sound mix. I knew the score was going to be terrible from the onset, but come on Blomkamp; Zimmer was never appropriate for this setting! Ryan Amon would've been a far better choice, and would have served as a great foundation to an ongoing collaboration.
All the same, Chappie is indistinct. Its commentary on racism is as blatant as any metaphor I've seen this year (when the female lead tells Chappie about the story of a Black Sheep, I genuinely laughed) and it lacks a story which proves justly compelling nor original. But hey; it's technically sufficient, Dev Patel is decent and Sharlto Copley, as was expected, kicks it out of the park.
A Reasonably Effective Conclusion To The Franchise
A few things to note before I muster up the energy to write a full-blown review.
-Legolas is a god and is absolutely hilarious in this film
-Thorin's development is initially far too sudden, but evens out as the film goes on. By the end, his arc is understandable and well done.
-Howard Shore's score is incredible; a great improvement over the far less impressive The Desolation of Smaug score
-The love story which I actually loved in the previous film is so utterly cringe-worthy that I could barely watch whenever it was brought up.
-That said, the final scene with Tauriel and Kili is incredible and beautifully constructed.
-The visual effects are not as good as they were in The Desolation of Smaug. Whereas in Desolation the visual effects shots had clear grandeur to them, Jackson and Co. dress much of Erebor up with strange pink and grey colouring, as well as distracting smog.
-That said, the character models and large-scale battle scenes are incredible. The orcs looked fantastic (particularly Azog), the interior of Erebor is vast and huge, and Smaug once again looks suitably brilliant.
-For once, an action director who is willing to hold the shot, and keep from cutting every single hit. The battles and individuals fights are sometimes slightly incoherent, but enjoyable nonetheless
-The best opening scene from a film in 2014. The destruction of Lake- Town is harrowing, brilliantly filmed and utterly breathtaking.
-Stupid comedic relief from the Lake-Town Master's deputy is stupid. Burn it with fire.
-I reiterate, because it's fantastic: Legolas is a god, and I could not for one second (nor could those who accompanied me for the screening) take him serious in battle.
-The first act builds up the characters and their arcs brilliantly. Luke Evans shines in these opening scenes.
-The second act is lacking and oft-times boring. Too many boring battle scenes that contain no peril, discussions between people that feel repetitive, and stupid character tropes.
-The third act ties into The Lord of the Rings, whilst maintaining the emotion and scope of The Hobbit films, concluding the majority of the character's stories.
-Bard doesn't get a memorable or definitive resolution. This is an issue.
-Jackson's cinematography, as always, is gorgeous. Even if you hate his use of visual effects, you can't doubt that he has gotten better with his camera-work since The Lord of the Rings, utilizing close-ups rarely and swinging his camera with purpose, instead of idly.
-Much of the comedy is fantastic, apart that from the aforementioned Lake-Town deputy.
-I have to say it once more: Legolas can not be killed.
-The performances are all exceptional, even if some of the dialogue is slightly shoddy.
-The sound design is fantastic as always, and for once, there are no Wilhelm screams! (there was one in Desolation by the way, in the Extended Edition, during the Thrain scene)
-The costumes, make-up and props are award-worthy. Brilliant work once again from all those involved.
Ultimately, Jackson brought me to another world, and made me enjoy much of my time there. I can't wait to experience this film alongside both of the other Hobbit pictures, as well as The Lord of the Rings films, as the ending literally ties into the beginning of Fellowship.
Congratulations Peter Jackson and all those who have collaborated to bring this amazing vision to the screen. A fantastic but nevertheless faulted ride.
This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
A Disappointingly Unfocused Romantic Comedy
"So this is where you say "I told you so""
Above is not only a quote from this film; one which I was greatly anticipating but highly let down by, but is also my initial reaction after viewing it in its entirety. The reviews and ratings from critics and audience members alike informed me that Shawn Levy's first R-rated directorial outing would be a disaster, or at least not nearly as funny or satisfying as what the initial trailers had promised. But alas, I still went into This Is Where I Leave You with relatively high hopes, wanting this film to reinstate my love for the romantic comedy genre, which has as of recently become diminished. Unfortunately, This Is Where I Leave You proved to me yet again that my faith in romantic comedies is unfounded most of the time, and only seeks to enrage and sadden me.
The film centres around the character of Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), who is called back to his childhood home after the death of his father, all whilst his job and marriage simultaneously break down. His mother, Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda), manages to convince Judd and the rest of his siblings, all of whom are currently experiencing employment and relationship issues, to stay at home and embrace each others company; to reminisce about their late father, and to engage in supposedly 'funny' ordeals alongside each other.
The summary above seems greatly encouraging; it seems funny and entertaining, and a good funeral comedy is always appreciated. Unfortunately, this comedy is most certainly not on the same level as something like Death at a Funeral, due to its often punishing forced sentimentality. The author of which this movie is based upon, Jonathon Tropper, was also the man to write the screenplay, and unlike recent author-turned-screenwriter Gillian Flynn's successful endeavour into the cinematic realm with Gone Girl, Tropper fails at providing a successful or entertaining film. Whilst the opening 20 minutes provide strong introductions for each of the individual characters, as well as some genuinely hilarious moments, the film tries to veer too close to emotional resonance for what it's worth, and falls flat on its face. Often scenes where a supposedly heartwarming event is occurring seems forced, artificial or partially, dare I say it, corny, reducing the viewer to cringing the vast majority of the time. It's not fun, nor entertaining, nor at all engaging.
The film also struggles at balancing its direction, as it throws itself all over the place, attempting to cover as many stories as possible. The amount of subplots that Tropper and Levy try to tackle not only convolutes the story and characters exponentially, but prevents us from becoming attached to them; the story is zipping around to so many people at any given time that it's inevitably confusing and unenthralling. The fantastic actors and actresses on offer are relegated to smaller screen times than what many of them could've had if the film hadn't have been so insistent on exploring so many different characters, themes and avenues of interest. The funny thing is that many of these avenues are rendered entirely uninteresting due to the lack of focus. With the film trying to do so much at once, many of the characters become one- dimensional pieces in a huge puzzle; they have a singular role, whether it is to be the 'bad husband', the 'desperate wife that wants a baby', or the 'crazy chick', and they often are unable to transcend these generic and boring character traits to become anything more.
That said, the performances from all involved are generally good. Jason Bateman, for the majority of the time, is a constantly comforting presence on screen, and despite his strange lack of emotion throughout a good portion of the running time, provides a solid performance. Tina Fey is absolutely exquisite in her role, however bad that role may be, providing some fantastic quips along the way. Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Jane Fonda though are the main attractions, delivering exuberant and lively performances that manage to make much of the material they've been gifted sound relatively realistic and/or funny; Driver in particular is currently on a role, participating in What If and now this, both of them films which he has managed to somewhat elevate thanks to his charisma and screen prowess. The rest of the ensemble is quite impressive, some more so than others, with few actively disappointing in their roles.
The technical components of the film are all either passable to plain atrocious; Michael Giacchino's score fitting that latter suggestion with flying colours. His basic piano thematic material, repeating constantly throughout, is absolutely infuriating and just sits in the background, doing nothing to advance the emotional or comedic chops of this film. But again, it comes back to the unrefined focus of this picture, this being the primary issue, and that leads me to the question; what exactly does This Is Where I Leave You want to be? As a romantic comedy it fails, as the characters or romances are neither engaging nor amusing enough to warrant approval. A straight-up comedy is off the cards, as the film attempts to provoke too many emotional fronts to be considered such. That, and the comedy in the film doesn't always hit where it's meant to. A family drama? That is the closest I can get to describing this odd mess of a film. So whilst there is perhaps 30 minutes of strong and entertaining material on offer within, the rest of the running time, that being a little over an hour, is a pain to sit through. It rushes around, looking for ways to make up a full length motion picture, and despite reaching the expected running time, fails to feel wholesome nor complete.
You can find more reviews at www.entjunkie.blogspot.com
A Chilling Story From Dan Gilroy
"Compassion is the basis of morality." ― Arthur Schopenhauer
That above quote, by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is one that barely reflects on Nightcrawler; a film less so about sociopathic tendencies and more so about moral ambiguity; the film is an extreme example of one who is beyond a moral compass, and thrives off the pain of others. Another recent film which echoed, to a lesser degree, a number of the same thematic principles that Nightcrawler touches upon was Damian Chazelle's astounding picture Whiplash, which also addressed the human's desire to achieve and position themselves. Nightcrawler takes the characters, their motivations and their will and ups the ante by a hundred, giving us two 'protagonists' who test the viewer's boundaries on what they perceive as entertaining, and what they perceive as flat- out disturbing.
The film centres around Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal); an incredibly diligent, hardworking man, who also happens to be a petty thief. After spotting a car wreck and investigating the damage, Lou spots two men shooting footage of the scene, and they inform him of their intent to sell it on to a news agency so that the agency can broadcast the images on television. Lou believes this a good way to make some money, and goes out, buys a camera and a police scanner, and begins to shoot crime scenes of his own, whilst forming a professional relationship with a news director (Rene Russo) who appreciates Lou's commitment, drive and work ethic.
Nightcrawler is at once both an immediately horrifying film, but one that is hard to look away from, just like the scenes that Lou and his assistant Rick are shooting to sell off to news agencies. Despite our knowledge that what we're seeing goes against our own ingrained decency, we can't help but stare in awe of the vulgar and brutal sights before us. Director Dan Gilroy takes us into the shady and highly unpleasant Los Angeles underground, and takes us on an unsettling journey with a man who is obviously deranged, but highly likable. He is addictive. His monologues are gorgeous, rivaling that of Jordan Belfort's from last years brilliant The Wolf of Wall Street. He has a charisma that we don't often see from other characters on screen. Part of this is due to Jake Gyllenhaal's performance, which is transformative, smart and entirely horrid (in the best way possible), and part of this is down the sensational writing, also provided by Gilroy, who provides a voice for this insane individual.
To maintain a semblance of normality, Lou adopts a fake smile; a persona that carries through the entirety of the film. Even at his most raw, or at his most personal, Lou still maintains that carefree, homely, almost loving smile, inviting you to join him in his car as he does unspeakable deeds. Intervening in crime scenes before the cops arrive, or even planting his own information to provide a better story; there is no ground which Lou will not cover. It's at once astonishing and yet still riveting and entertaining; the viewer cannot help but stare in admiration for this character who is doing such things. But it's not these unspeakable deeds that harrow the most vividly; as aforementioned, it's the calculated and never-failing persona that he projects to everyone around him that unsettles us the most. The first scene of the film helps to establish the real Lou, who is a man who is willing to do anything, and this allows us to see him for who he really is as the movie plods on and somewhat, in its own way, tries to convince you that Lou is an OK guy. Which you may almost believe by the end of this adrenaline rush of a film.
Despite Lou's obvious sociopathic nature, we still root for him as he rides around the streets of Los Angeles, intent on getting to a crime scene first and grabbing the best angles achievable. These scenes are exhilarating and heart-pumping primarily due to quick editing and fantastic cinematography, provided by John Gilroy and Robert Elswit respectively, who add drama and mayhem to this already fast-paced escapade. Their work is undoubtable. In terms of the cinematography, the film is absolutely outstanding; Elswit captures the gritty and dark nature of the urban Los Angeles, and embraces hand held. A vast majority of the shots seem utterly simplistic, but they add to the realism of the picture; positioned flat, focusing on the characters alone. There are few high or low angles, only when it serves a highly dramatic purpose, and so we are brought into this tale of deception, madness and drive with supposed simplicity.
The score, by James Newton Howard further engrosses, reflecting the evil and darkness that actually lies within news journalism and television news broadcasting. As the morning news is turned on by Lou at the beginning of the picture, the chirpy main themes of the programs contrast with Howard's undercurrent of low ambiance and danger. It resembles something that we do not perceive the news to generally be, and it is immediately noticeable and riveting. As a contrast, when Lou is performing heinous acts, the music is heroic, almost applauding his efforts. That's what Nightcrawler is; a film which applauds strive and drive, despite its consequences. It's entertaining, oddly funny, brilliantly acted (Russo and Gyllenhaal providing career-defining performances) and directed with pace and furious intentions. The themes are vibrant and highly interesting. This is brilliant film-making, however morally ambiguous. I can not wait to return to the shady underlyings of this version of Los Angeles.
A Competent But Highly Flawed Endeavour
"The past is obdurate." -Stephen King
Time travel is a tricky thing to handle in film. We can often lose track of how characters are interacting and playing with time and events prior to where they started. It can often become messy, convoluted, or all of the above. Some of the most entertaining time travel films of the past few years have seemingly lacked proper logic and reasoning and have managed to find themselves lost in the confines of their own laws and rules about the practice; Edge of Tomorrow and Looper immediately springing to mind. Often, time travel films have to disregard spectacle or entertainment in favour of its principle stipulations; convoluted descriptions and loaded exposition on meaning, purpose, dilation and contraction, paradox, etc. It can be quite tiresome if not executed with a semblance of vehemence, which is what so many sci-fi films indulging in the idea of time travel disappointingly fall victim to.
Predestination is a film which tries desperately hard to escape the confines of clichés, genericisms and predictability; it wants to surprise and enthrall you so desperately hard, that you almost want to pity the film for doing so. For the most part, it is possible to do as such; the final half of this film is highly engaging, full of some wonderful performances and paced with great energy. It also helps that the time travel component of this film, one which explores the meaning behind destiny and whether or not it exists, is executed very well and with logic at the forefront (or as much logic and reasoning as a time travel film is entitled to). Directors/screenwriters Peter and Michael Spierig work hard to add peril and unpredictability to the final half of the film, and for the most part, achieve such.
And yet, it's immensely disappointing to see that the other half of the film is utterly painful to sit through. The film sets up a number of key plots and stories during its initial stages with expository dialogue from Sarah Snook, none of it particularly captivating. The film is stilted for a good portion of its running time, refusing to speed up and show instead of just telling, as it does so constantly. Flash backs litter the film, providing labored and boring back story to characters who aren't overtly interesting to begin with. One almost feels shame in feeling distaste for this picture though, as it so obviously has heart and passion behind it, waiting to get out. You can clearly see the admirable ambition that the Spierig brothers most obviously possess. They have a vivid imagination, and they're certainly having fun with building wild back stories for their characters. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate as fun for us, the viewer, as everything feels like narration. It isn't involving in the slightest; the viewer feels a spectator, unengaged in all of the 'action' occurring on screen. It's infuriating!
Fortunately, the film manages to get itself back on track at the halfway mark, finally reaching the segment of the film which we've all been anxiously and desperately waiting to see; time travel. The film's exposition finally, at long last delivers what it has been building and hyping up for the past 45 minutes. The characters zip around all through time, exploring their lives (specifically Sarah Snook's character's life) and attempt to change their destinies; the key thematic concept behind the film. Is it possible to change the past? Are paradoxes not only feasible in the conceptual sense, but also feasible in the practical sense? Or will time always correct itself; are we on a set path all our lives? Perhaps time travel is part of the equation; maybe these characters were always meant to time travel? The film asks and answers these questions definitively by the end of its relatively short running time, and interestingly enough, these final 45 minutes manage to undo a good portion of the pain endured throughout the first half of the picture. The film frantically tries to recuperate a semblance of peril as it approaches its end, and I believe it accomplishes such properly. The conclusions and resolutions to each individual character are satisfying and foreshadowed properly, the film making the slow burn of exposition at the beginning somewhat worth it as the meaning behind individual events begin to waver into context. It's ultimately a very fulfilling film.
Predestination asks and answers questions we've seen and heard before countless times. It doesn't do much that is overtly new. Its final twist will be spotted by numerous individuals, and some of the foreshadowing is sloppily done. Yet still, this is a competent piece of entertainment from two relatively under-appreciated filmmakers. It has decent performances from its two leads, and its pace, whilst uneven, eventually ignites to a blissful level. This film, ultimately, is worthy of a positive rating.
One must be warned though; Predestination places its priorities on its time travel component, disregarding many of the necessities that should populate any good film. So, unfortunately, it still lacks a transcendent quality that I desire from a time travel film. Perhaps I shall encounter it one day; a film where good pacing, strong characters and an enthralling story are not sacrificed for intelligence and exposition to explain the laws and confines of the time travel element. Still, at the very least, it answered a few of my favourite questions about time itself.
Can we change time, or are we given coordinates at the start of our life; is there another version of us in another parallel universe, thinking, talking, feeling, walking the exact same as us? Are we destined to repeat his mistakes and accomplishments? Can we pave our own path, or is time a singular road; a path which contains barriers to keep us from drifting outside of the regulated zones?
Thank you Predestination, for the little but appreciated contribution you've given to my philosophy on time itself.
Raw and Invigorating; Highly Recommended
Whiplash is centered around a drummer named Andrew (Teller), a first year music student enrolled at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, who is one night, whilst practicing his drumming skills, approached by the immensely respected jazz conductor Terence Fletcher (Simmons), who later offers him a place in his jazz band; the most respected band in all of the college. Andrew and Fletcher's personalities collide as Fletcher reveals a volatile and destructive nature upon Andrew's first rehearsal with the band. From here on out, Andrew attempts to earn the respect and admiration of a man who seeks only to push and demand perfection from his highly talented students.
Released earlier this year at Sundance to universal praise from critics and audiences alike, Whiplash is one of the most adrenaline filled films of the year, despite not actually being an action or sport film. Infused with an electric quantity of energy, primarily due to the inventive, fast-paced and astounding cinematography and editing, Whiplash dazzles, punishes, challenges and ultimately rivets the audience member to their core. This is first class entertainment; a film which captures the ferocity and vehemence of an action film of the likes of Edge of Tomorrow, whilst combining it with the exploitative tendencies and emotional range of a film like Gone Girl. Strange comparisons, but accurate nevertheless.
What makes Whiplash tick though is its unflinching documentation of a man who is so driven to achieve that he resents communication and socialization with those outside his chosen craft. Even as Andrew attempts to connect and discuss with those outside his life of drumming, including his father and a romantic interest in a girl named Nicole, the film always makes these portions of his life insignificant and unimportant in contrast. Andrew, unknowing of how to properly interact with people due to his lack of social skills, seems to be acting himself as he tries to fumble his way through a break-up and through seemingly insignificant conversations. His lack of interest in anything outside of his profession is showcased most prominently towards the end, where many of the characters receive little-to-no resolution whatsoever, apart from Andrew and Fletcher; the people instrumental in developing and challenging his drumming capabilities. Everyone and everything else simply fades into the background, as to Andrew, they're unimportant.
The film is intensely personal and often riveting in the way it handles the primary protagonist, as the cinematography often reverts to close-ups and still shots, focusing solely on his speed and his efforts. As Andrew drums his way to bloody fingers and immense sweating sessions, the camera seems to block everyone else out of the shot, focusing solely on his exertions alone. The entire atmosphere of the film helps us to focus on our main protagonist, allowing us to get more in-tune with Andrew, his emotions and his drive. This is partially due to the efforts of the lighting technician for the film, Jack M. Guberman, who provides an eerie colour palette for the frame; all the drumming, rehearsal and concert scenes are shot with an orange filter, reflecting a jazz-vibe. Whilst it's at first comforting, the intensity of the lighting continues to build and build as Andrew becomes even more concerned with success and perfection; by the final concert of the film, the camera seems to visibly remark upon the intensity and power of the lighting, taking notice of it at every opportunity.
Miles Teller and JK Simmons bring the characters of Andrew and Fletcher to life, and both are equally as commanding and compelling in their respective roles; Teller is fantastic as Andrew, whilst Simmons is merciless and cold as Fletcher. For neither of them to receive nominations for Best Actor and Supporting Actor come end of year would be a travesty, for these are honestly the most vivid and highly intense performances of 2014. The two men clash at each other with power and fire, but as they slowly come to respect the other as a fantastic musician and a driven individual, their delight and enthusiasm is most evident. Teller's eyes alone tell a story of pain and ambition, his expressions and eyes often moving from saddened to angry with natural precision. His somewhat sympathetic Sutter from The Spectacular Now entirely disappears as he inhabits Andrew, a man who is oft-times morally ambiguous, but commendable and confident nevertheless. Simmons is on a-whole-nother planet, the rest of this year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar contenders coming nowhere near his level of intensity, pain, emotion and brutal honesty. His threats directed at both Andrew and his fellow students are both sublime and ethically questionable, his moments of weakness and sadness raw and desperately genuine, and his encouragement forgiving and welcome. Every single scene these two are in together stun; they bounce off each other with grace, and as their relationship strains to an eventual climax, the tension leaps to new highs.
I've had few experiences at the theatre this year be this effective, engrossing and highly entertaining, whilst also being immensely vigorous and exhausting. Leaving the theatre, I was awash with emotions. As a musician, I was moved and provoked. As a casual viewer, I was stunned and depleted. This is a cinematic experience not to be missed, whether you desire a fantastic plot which takes a number of interesting and unexpected plot twists, a drama which focuses on the desire and desperate strive to become one of the greats, or a high octane burst of energy in a crowd of films that are currently in cinemas which lack such. Damian Chazelle's direction and screenplay is masterful, and fit alongside stunning performances, tempo-driven editing from Tom Cross, stunning cinematography from Sharone Meir and a brilliant score from Justin Hurwitz, Whiplash is undoubtedly one of the year's best films, and one of the best directorial debuts I've ever seen. Watch out for Damian Chazelle, for he has all the talent to go far in this harsh and destructive business.
More film reviews at www.entjunkie.blogspot.com
Let's Be Cops (2014)
Insanely Unoriginal and Predictable
Let's Be Cops provides little more than a semblance of a chuckle every now and again within its elongated and highly awkward one hour and 49 minute long running time. Part the relatively well-formed chemistry between leads Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr, every single minute of Let's Be Cops is formed of something excruciatingly painful to sit through, whether it be generic and plain embarrassing fart or testicle- related humour, a poorly constructed romantic subplot which serves little but to supposedly provide character development for one of the protagonists, or scenes which just last far too long. It's a comedy without any comedy; an event which is painful to sit through.
Whilst not necessarily sinking to the disgustingly low level of the humour that encompasses a film like A Haunted House 2, Let's Be Cops is filled with little hilarity. Whilst the central plot and characters are initially somewhat interesting and funny, their freshness wear out quickly, and what is exposed is a highly clichéd and predictable story, filled with betrayals, discoveries and revelations which can be spotted from miles away. The protagonist's character arcs are formed of the same old, tiring direction that we've seen in countless other comedies come before. This is nothing new and innovative.
Director and co-writer Luke Greenfield has an energy and wit about him for the first 15 minutes, providing a spark of spontaneous ingenuity for the opening of this movie; he gives us hope that the film will stay briskly paced and highly funny all throughout. The central premise comes into play, and we're excited to see the primary characters take up their new found roles and exploit this new opportunity. Both Johnson and Wayans Jr handle their roles well, helping to hone what seems, at this point at least, a strong comedy. Unfortunately, after Greenfield tires out the initial concept, he continues to attempt to leech it for everything it's worth, losing the pace and wit of the film along the way. Things veer uncontrollably into boredom, and the rest of the film becomes an absolute slog to get through.
Much of the humour will appeal to a good portion of the adolescent boy crowd who appreciate the Adam Sandler-esque juvenile comedy brand, despite its constant lack of creativity. This a horrible motion picture to watch play out on screen, especially after the potential it displays within its opening segments. Greenfield has an eye for comedy, and understands how to tell an effective joke or two, but held down with a concept that provides little material after its first 15 minutes, he is unable to branch outside the clichéd branch of comedy writing. His cinematography, editing, score (by Christophe Beck), lighting; all of it is poorly handled. It contains nothing of particular value, and combined with a screenplay which features little focus and drifts off into all manners of predictability shortly after it begins, Let's Be Cops is a thoroughly disappointing venture for Greenfield; a comedy director who continues to be criticised for his needlessly silly and poorly executed comedy.
You can check out more film reviews on www.entjunkie.blogspot.com
The Babadook (2014)
An Effective and Harrowing Australian Horror
The Babadook reaffirms a few beliefs of mine that I've seemed to have lost over the past few years, namely that horror is not a lost art form; film-makers are still capable of producing material and visual artistry which infuses fear into the heart of the viewer. It also reaffirms the notion that Australia is a country which is very much capable of providing strong and intelligent writers and directors to the mainstream horror community, with Jennifer Kent's debut picture proving to be one of a very harrowing nature, and one that shall undoubtedly stick with me long into the night ahead.
Headed by one of the most insanely confronting and intense performances of the year thanks to the exceptional Essie Davis, the entire film is incredibly stylish and well constructed on a technical level, as well as being efficiently paced and building a tension that does not let up until the final few minutes, those final few minutes being but slightly anticlimactic in comparison to the sensational build-up. The build-up itself is absolutely effective, producing scares all throughout before the inevitable final confrontation, though thanks to the aforementioned Davis' performance, we are able to conjure up enough confidence, alongside the main character Amelia, to confront and battle the monster at hand.
Though interestingly enough, what propels The Babadook into a category of its own is its refusal to fit into the role of a conventional and generic monster film. Kent tries desperately hard to craft a motion picture that spreads outside its initial genre, and instead expands to a number of different ideas and messages, namely that of grief. In fact, a good way to describe The Babadook is to consider it a confrontation with grief itself, and battling the things that continue to cause us pain and suffering long after the event that has caused such has passed; when we lose a loved one or a friend, we often internalize the damage caused to us. The Babadook represents one woman's attempts to battle such, and to stand forth and tackle the issue head on. In regards to the attempts to branch outside of the horror genre, Kent excels.
The cinematography and sound design are each worthy of acclaim, as well as the score; all of these are instrumental in building one of the best atmospheres seen or felt all year. The camera often reacts based on the monster's movements by stopping a close-up as a bump goes off in the background, and this immediately adds a different tension than what we're used to; there is a certain anticipation in this sense, as the camera then continues on in its movements alongside Amelia. The sound design and score are equally as harrowing, both increasing in pitch and volume as the monster becomes more and more prominent within the film. Child-like music, filled with light piano and other innocent sounds occur as The Babadook becomes the main feature of the film, so we're already highly on edge, but the sound design turns overtly creepy as the sounds and volumes begin to heavily contrast with each other; as the monster nears, heavy and shrill instrumentation plays out to warn us of the inevitable doom, only to be stopped as the protagonist focuses on a different piece of interest. All of these components help to dramatically further the film into a tension ridden class of its own.
Unfortunately, the film falls slightly within its first 15 minutes, the picture often over-emphasizing certain events within this brief portion of time, commonly to poor effect. The aforementioned ending is also anticlimactic, and the tension is not held as well as one would imagine during the finale of the film. Nevertheless, The Babadook is captivating horror, and a film which will undoubtedly stay with me for a good while. It contains brilliant performances from all involved, whether it be the sensational Essie Davis, the captivating Noah Wiseman or the creepy Benjamin Winspear, and it contains a great quantity of technical brilliance. Ultimately though, it transcends many other horror films by using the monster as a means for a higher message and battle, one that exists on the path to the subconscious of a highly tortured woman. It's a beautifully filmed movie, and one that shall not quickly be forgotten.
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Rio 2 (2014)
A Re-Tread of the Previous Film
Rio 2 lacks the heart and emotional resonance of the first installment into the franchise, and tries to expand its horizons from the already huge Rio de Janeiro, and head outwards into the rest of Brazil. But whilst the film expands and heightens its grandeur in regards to scope and animation, the central story is entirely predictable and continues to build on the clichéd domesticated vs. wild debate that waged within the first film.
The film is saved thanks to competent voice work from Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, and the aforementioned animation is still absolutely stunning, Blue Sky Studios not disappointing in the slightest in this regard. Yet ever still, the re-use of certain villains, plot points, and the irritatingly tame inclusion of clichés will do little to impress the adult viewers dragged along to view the film with their children; though even the children may very well be bored with this cluster of predictability.
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A Colossal Achievement For All Involved
Interstellar is what I would consider one of the most ambitious films within modern cinema, as well as one of the most thoroughly affecting; an emotional onslaught, contrasted with some of the greatest visuals ever put to screen. Whilst it doesn't match the brilliance and spectacle of some of Christopher Nolan's finest films, including Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Inception, Interstellar comes dreadfully close to perfection, due to its glorious performances, brilliant sound design, immensely well-executed pacing, an emotional core that resonates with viewers of all ages, and a score from Hans Zimmer that reflects the emotion and wonder on screen with acute grandeur.
The lead performance from Matthew McConaughey is something of wonder; a pitch-perfect performance from an exquisite actor. His chemistry with his co-stars is all fantastic, from Mackenzie Foy, who plays his daughter in the film, to Michael Caine, who plays the scientist and theorist Doctor Brand, to Anne Hathaway's powerful and resonant portrayal of a character often flawed, Brand. The movie encompasses both sentimental and scientific plots and ideas, metaphors and themes, and often executes them with a grace and harmony that is not so often found with modern sci-fi films; Interstellar proves that a film of immense scope can still suitably and aptly focus on the seemingly mundane relationship between father and daughter, but execute it with heart, soul and power, to both contrast as well as work together.
The film encompasses a number of jaw-dropping moments, including a lift off sequence which I could call one of the most compelling and brilliantly shot sequences of film I've ever had the grace of viewing. The brilliant and loud sound design echoes throughout the cinema, shaking the seats and the viewers, and it allows the audience member to fully engross themselves in the current, dangerous predicament; it's thrilling and all encompassing viewing for all. As the visual effects break ground, McConaughey and Nolan remind us all that the true story that one should be enthralled within is that of the story between father and daughter, and that father's fight to not only get back to his daughter, but to save the human race from near-imminent extinction.
The film also works to build themes around the idea of time; that time is not guaranteed, but a resource that is exhausted at a certain point. One must always be careful and moderate how they spend and use up their time, as it may run out far quicker than anyone could imagine. This is especially evident in scenes where Cooper and Brand are on planets in which a single hour spent examining and rummaging about on the surface translates to seven years of time gone by on Earth. Eventually, Cooper decides that it is best to conserve time, so that he may one day see his daughter again, but not all can go so swimmingly, or as well as he can hope.
Interstellar is amassed of a number of spectacular plot twists, turning and shifting into all manner of areas, encompassing ideas and ambitions in a single cinematic fare only dreamt about before. The Nolan brothers are unafraid to spread their wings and invest their resources into the most far reaching of concepts; and whilst perhaps it doesn't always succeed, as is the case in the neatly packaged and partially unsatisfying final ten minutes of the picture, they mostly manage to triumph in their intentions.
As is customary with Nolan pictures, many of the female characters have a few inexplicably poor one liners and exposition-like pieces of dialogue here and there, bringing us out of the film. Sometimes the story just plain doesn't make sense, and realism is sacrificed for ambition. But perhaps this is something to treasure; who cares if we don't have the most realistic of films, if what we get is something undeterred from going to wherever it sees fit and justified. Interstellar reminded me of why I go to the cinemas to firsthand witness films on the big screen; it gave me an experience which I cried in, was enthralled by, and ultimately, was stunned by all throughout. A brilliant cinematic achievement.
This was a brief summary of my thoughts. Check out my elongated review on www.entjunkie.blogspot.com
Open Windows (2014)
Intuitive But Convoluted
Whilst the social commentary on our obsession with celebrities, alongside a reasonably intuitive and inspiring concept threaten to produce a relatively good product, Open Windows underwhelms in its final, climatic act, convoluting a number of well designed subplots, as well as the protagonist and antagonist's intentions and motives. Ever yet, it is a visually stimulating film, providing fantastic cinematography for a genre (that of found footage) which is so often entirely lacking in energy or originality. The story in general is also one of suspense, leaving the viewer consistently on the edge of their seat.
The performances and writing, though, are the two elements that reign in the opportunity for a purely entertaining suspense film. Whilst performances from Elijah Wood and (surprisingly) Sasha Grey are genuinely impressive, Adam Quintero and Neil Maskell give less rounded portrayals of their character, adding a flavour of melodrama to the movie. But it's the writing that truly undoes the film in the final, pivotal act; whereas much of the film is relatively easy to follow, the film's final portion drops far too many new developments on our head in a short span of time, and the final plot twist is utterly poor.
However entertaining and well edited, Open Windows still falls down due to rookie errors in relation to acting, pacing and writing. Nevertheless, it's certainly worth a watch; whether to examine Grey's first major cinematic release since her retirement from the pornographic industry, or to examine a suspense film which is willing to embark upon untouched ground, whether visually or story-wise.
This was a brief summary of my thoughts. For more in-depth reviews on films and scores, check out my website: www.entjunkie.blogspot.com
A Decent Origin Story
Robocop is a film directed by Jose Padilha, and stars Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Abbie Cornish, and is a remake of the 1987 classic, and explores the origins of Robocop, and how detective Alex Murphy came to don the suit.
To begin, Robocop has a pretty awesome ensemble. Kinnaman is fairly flat as Alex Murphy; he still gives a decent enough performance to pass though. He carries the film well enough; it's just a lot of the film, you don't even root for his character, something that isn't a good thing at all! I'd pin that on Kinnaman, as the dialog isn't that bad. The stand out performance, as expected, is Gary Oldman as the scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton. He's relatable, complex, and Oldman's performance makes him quite likable. Keaton gives a strong performance as well, playing the obligatory multimillionaire Raymond Sellars, as does Samuel L. Jackson, in a much smaller role. One of the biggest let downs, though, was Abbie Cornish as Murphy's wife, Clara. The character is annoying, stupid, and doesn't garner any empathy from yourself, which is down to both Cornish and the writers. In conclusion, for the most part, the ensemble nature of this film was executed very well, with some performances missing the mark.
This film was written by 5 guys, and that obviously posed a problem. The film jumps around in intensity, seriousness and quality, and it's not good! It's as if all the writers got a 25 minute piece of the film that they could contribute to; the problem is that the vast majority of these writer's styles never mixed together to make something truly coherent. The first 45 minutes of this film, the origin story of Robocop, was executed near flawlessly. I enjoyed it immensely, thanks to Kinnaman and Oldman's back and forth, and the pace. Whoever wrote that first portion of the film deserves a pat on the back, because it was very well done, and had me invested in the film properly. Then the film dropped off in the action and dialog department, and became a clichéd, boring action film. What did we get to watch Robocop do exactly in the second act of this film? Well, ride around on a motorcycle, and hit guys with a stun gun. The excitement! The film eventually finds itself a main plot line, one which allows Murphy redemption for what happened to him earlier in the film, which is interesting enough. But, at the beginning of the third act, the screenwriter, which ever one it is at this stage, decided to drop the plot line that had been established and concluded much too quickly for my liking, and continue onward with a new mission for Robocop that had my interest lowering by the second. Basically, the film felt, for the most part, incredibly disconnected, and the main plot line, the motivation for Robocop continually changes and modifies over the 2 hour running time; not something that should be happening!
Robocop is famous for action; lots of blood, lots of guns, and lots of one liners whilst shooting those same guns. One of the most criticized decisions surrounding this remake, is the rating; a PG 13 Robocop film?! This is madness! And whilst it's not too much of a problem, it did irritate myself. Robocop finds himself using a stun gun throughout this entire film, for crying out loud! That's right, a stun gun! For fans of the original Robocop, and it's gory, awesome action, you should stay away from this film. Whilst the action is more fast paced and exhilarating, it's not nearly as memorable, and that is a problem when it comes to such a widely known character like Robocop.
There were a few angles within the film which I certainly enjoyed, my favourite being that Murphy continually has to fight the robotic side of him. He doesn't necessarily have control over his body, his mind even, and watching him try and take control of himself, issue himself commands is interesting to watch. With a click of a button, Murphy has barely a slither of thought that translates into actual action. He can't jump around, take control of his own body, go wherever he wants. He has to adhere to this robotic side of him, which is trying to overcome the human side of him. Watching the inner dilemma that is this personal fight between himself and computer is something which I thoroughly enjoyed, and something that was quite well done.
Ultimately, Robocop is a solid watch at the theatre. It's a fun, popcorn flick which doesn't require too much thought. Yet, the plot feels simply too mismatched to pass, and I hated Abbie Cornish here. I didn't have too many hopes for this film, and I was served correct by telling myself this was to be a disappointment.
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I, Frankenstein (2014)
Bland and Dull Despite It's Premise
I, Frankenstein is a film directed by Stuart Bettie, starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Jai Courtney, and is an origin film about Frankenstein's monster, and how he came to take part in a war between heavenly gargoyles, and hellish demons.
One of the decent aspects this film boasts is it's cast. The only reason that people are really going to flock to the theatre, is to see Aaron Eckhart beat the crap out of some cruddy demons. Is Eckhart any good? Well, the lines given to him are fairly shallow, and his character isn't at all relatable or interesting, but for what the director asked of him, Eckhart provides enough. He's fine in the role; nothing extraordinary, as you'd expect. Bill Nighy, though, I found completely miscast! He plays the demon prince Naberius, who, as a demon prince, should probably have the ability to intimate others, look fearsome, etc. Unfortunately, Bill Nighy looks and sounds like a nice guy, so Naberius seems like a guy you'd want to go grab a beer with! That's certainly not the angle they were going for, and the writing didn't help to improve the character. The rest of the cast are fine in their roles, apart from the cringe inducing Jai Courtney, whom you may remember from the atrocity that was and is Die Hard 5. He's a pretty horrible actor, and this film only furthers my belief of that. Overall, the acting portion of the film was fine.
The visual effects... ugh. They're just horrible! The gargoyles look horrible, and the CGI landscapes and towers all look as artificial as they come. What kind of a budget did they really have for this film, exactly? 65 million?! This film doesn't look like a 65 million dollar kind of film. It looks bland and very dark. 90% of the shots within this film take place during night time, which kind of infuriated me. It was as if Beattie was trying to induce the feeling of darkness here, and it did not pay off! To add to the criticism, the practical effects and make up are all pretty terrible as well! Isn't Frankenstein meant to be a miss match of different pieces of skin, organ and general tissue? Didn't look so here. Eckhart takes his shirt off at one stage, and it look like he's had a nasty fall and needed a stitching. Except for a scar here and there, he looks pretty good. Not disgusting, ugly, anything of the sorts. That's a fairly major stuff-up in my opinion! The demons are also fairly pathetic when it comes to looks. I can't say whether or not it was all special effects, to make the faces look grotesque, but I will say for sure that they look pretty crap! For demons, they don't look half bad with their natural head size, shape and colour exposed!
There are certain parts of this film which I enjoyed. Those of note would be the initial origin story of Frankenstein's monster (whom I haven't mentioned yet, is actually called Adam here!) in which he kills his creator's wife, and then leads Dr. Frankenstein on a goose chase, until he falls over and dies (Dr. Frankenstein, that is). That was interesting! But that's about it, to be blatantly honest. The rest of the film was incredibly boring, badly paced and self indulgent. It also took itself way too serious! It so desperately wants to come off as a dark, modern interpretation of the classic film, but it falls so short. Some scenes come off as genuinely hilarious, because of a mixture of bad lighting, silly dialogue, and very cruddy acting. A lot of the actors here try to shout the vast majority of their dialogue, to try and create intensity, or something of the sorts. It comes off as it did in another January release, The Legend of Hercules (Note: Being compared to The Legend of Hercules is not a good thing), and that is incredibly stupid! Constant yelling does not make your character any more interesting or powerful! It makes him quite look quite dramatically silly!
I did enjoy the score to this film, I will say. It added quite a bit to the film, in the way of atmosphere, something the film so desperately needed. Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil both delivered a fairly admirable score, one that is a pleasure to listen to in the context of the film, or by itself. So it's not all bad, I admit!
In conclusion, I, Frankenstein may not be as bad as some other January releases, but it's still something you can certainly skip. It's not that entertaining; it's quite boring and dull for the vast majority of it's running time. Wait a little while for Robocop, and go spend your money on that. You'll probably enjoy that much more.
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An Incredibly Emotional Ride
Her is a film directed by Spike Jonze, and it stars the ever fantastic Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams, and centres around Phoenix's character, Theodore, who has recently come out of a long relationship. He is sad and lonely; that is until he downloads an artificial intelligence, named Samantha, that opens his eyes to the world around him that he has neglected to acknowledge whilst deep in self loathing.
The performances, to begin with. Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, as always, is absolutely fantastic. He never delivers a performance less than wonderful (in my case anyway) and this time is no exception. He's strangely relatable and lovable here. I seriously would never have guessed so, based on his previous roles. Well, never judge a book by it's cover certainly applies to this situation. He is helped along by a fantastic voice performance from Scarlett Johansson, who plays Samantha surprisingly! Who would have guessed she could've been this damned good in a voice role?! She brings a third dimension to a character which has no physical appearance, and that is something that is very awe worthy. I feel that she has been snubbed by the Oscars, not getting a nomination for her performance. It's absolutely pitch perfect. These two are accompanied by Amy Adams, in a small but pivotal role as Theodore's friend, and Rooney Mara, who plays Theodore's ex-wife. Both are very good in their small roles, and it all makes for a fantastic film, performance wise.
Ultimately, the real star of the show is the wonderful Spike Jonze. This guy has an imagination like no other. It's crazy, wild, imaginative. Here, he takes you on an emotional roller coaster, one that I have not embarked on for quite a while. Sincerely; I've not had another film from 2013 hit me in the heart like this one did. Jonze has managed to create a real, beautiful love story, one that showcases the beauty of love, and how it's affects on people can really change them, for better or worse. It's not like 500 Days of Summer; one which you can relate to perfectly. It distances itself away from that kind of genre, the one which tries to stay relatable throughout, and keep you involved simply because you can fit yourself right in the shoes of the main character. Here, you simply can't. But that doesn't matter, because you can accept this relationship, between a man and a computer, because it's delivered in such a real, honest way.
I thought about a concept around half way through this film. That is, that all the visuals are taken away. You close your eyes for the duration, or maybe you rip the audio from the film. Either way, I feel like you're going to get an experience that may not just be as good as the original, intended experience, but one that may surpass the original. This story is so centred around dialogue, that I feel pictures almost don't add that much to the film. See, I found the film shot very quietly. It is shot in a way that allows the dialogue to be the main character, not the physical person itself. The words flowing from Johansson and Phoenix's mouths are really what you need to be focusing on. An all audio experience may add to the beauty of this brilliantly told film, by allowing the dialogue to be the only form of expression. You'll have to try it out and see whether it works for you or not; I just think that it would be a good idea to try out.
Overall, Her is an absolutely fantastic film. It's not going to crack my top 10 of the year, but it's come incredibly close. It's an emotionally driven film, that will hit you to your core. I challenge you not to cry at the end of this film! Despite the lack of visual presence, this is a film which I'm certainly hoping wins Oscars.
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The Legend of Hercules (2014)
An Early Contender For Worst Movie Of The Year!
The Legend of Hercules is a film directed by Renny Harlin, and stars Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins and Gaia Weiss, and revolves around the character of Hercules, son of Zeus, who was born solely to end the life of the King of his people, and unite the lands in peace, or something like that. I didn't pay too much attention, to be honest!
This movie is horrible. It's clichéd to pieces, poorly directed, horribly acted and disastrously written. All the dialogue feels so god damned forced, and makes it incredibly difficult to latch onto any of the characters. Whenever they speak... It's like someone saw Spartacus or Game of Thrones and went "Well, now I certainly know how people of that era spoke!" and wrote a screenplay, full of fancy words and shallow speeches. You don't feel like a single word here is sincere; from Hercules speaking to his clichéd, forbidden love Hebe (Yeah, that's right; his forbidden love's name is Princess Hebe), and from the King to his son... It's all atrocious! The screenwriter also saw the speeches in Braveheart and LOTR: Return of The King and went "Well, we obviously need a battle speech!" and wrote a bunch of big speeches that were emotionless, and couldn't have been more forced. I'll move on, cause I could go on about the dialogue for days!
The acting... It's too much! The main actor, Kellan Lutz, came from Twilight... So you knew from the beginning you were in for a bad ride. He's completely emotionless, stale and you not for one second care for his character. His forbidden love, played by Gaia Weiss, is equally horrible! The only reason she was cast, obviously, is because she's pretty damned hot! Scott Adkins, though, leads the way in crappy performances! His entire performance revolves around him yelling every single word. He could be speaking to his wife in private, and still find the need to yell every word to her. It was dreadful to watch! The only decent performance was delivered by Liam McIntyre, who plays Hercules's friend and comrade. He could actually deliver the lines with a bit of power, emotion! Despite his decent performance though, the rest of the cast deserves Razzie's. I'm calling it people; every single actor and actress here will get nominated at the Golden Raspberries this year! That is not good!
The action is horrendous. Remember 300; that badass film about Spartan's kicking a bunch of Persian's asses? And remember how it used to go into awesome slow motion every once in a while during the fighting, when a sword was plunged deep into a body, or someone hit another over the head? Well, they do it here! And is it good? Hell no! They overuse it to pieces, and by the end of the film, you can't help but cringe every time it occurs. The action in general feels weak. There is never a moment in this film in which you worry for Hercules. You always know that he's going to beat his opponents, and that makes for fights that have you bored and uninterested! When the great hero Hercules lacks peril in his fight scenes, you have a problem.
The CGI here is again, horrible! All the green screen looks like it could have fit right into a 1980's action flick. For a film coming out in 2014, that's not a good sign! All the CGI aspects of this film look incredibly fake, and mixed in with the terrible live sets, it makes for a difficult experience. I'm so thankful I did not see this in 3D, I certainly wouldn't have been able to stand it all. And the extra admission price... completely criminal!
Overall, The Legend of Hercules is a pile of crap. Just please don't watch this! This film should be nominated for Razzie's, and make a minimal amount at the box office. It's one of the worst movies of all time, and certainly going to be on my top 10 worst of 2014. I need to watch 300 now, to feel good about this genre again.
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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
What A Hell Of A Ride!
The Wolf of Wall Street is a film directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie and Kyle Chandler, and revolves around the life of a man named Jordan Belfort, a charismatic stockbroker who turns his normal, everyday life into one of incredible riches, drugs and beautiful women, whilst engaging in illegal activities.
Martin Scorsese... God dammit, he's a bloody incredible director! I forget about him for a while, and then every couple of years, he pops up again with another fantastic film! The Wolf of Wall Street is one of his finest, boasting a fun and charismatic cast, a wonderful screenplay by the fabulous Terence Winter and an elaborate, irresistible story about greed, corruption and a whole heap of money!
Scorsese's direction, in my mind, is what makes this movie brilliant. In the hands of any less of a director, this film could have been an absolute mess. Thankfully, Scorsese brings life to this elaborate, smart film. The way he tells the story is captivating, with DiCaprio commonly breaking the fourth wall and delivering monologues to the audience directly. The camera never seems to cease in movement, giving this movie a life about it, and making you feel like the party, the fun, never stops at any point. Scorsese also allows a lot of long shots, which really add to the film. He gives DiCaprio time to shine as Belfort, as the camera rolls for seemingly endless periods of time without a cut. Again, with any other director, these touches to this film could have been compromised, could have made the whole picture into a disaster. But no, Scorsese delivers in every way possible.
DiCaprio gives one of the, if not his best, performances of his life. He's energetic, fun, and ultimately, becomes this character of Belfort. He completely throws himself into this absurd, strange world of rich tight asses, and holds the audiences attention for incredibly long periods of time. And surprisingly, DiCaprio is actually incredibly funny within this film! There were points where I laughed out loud thanks to DiCaprio's delivery! Jonah Hill, as well, gives a lavishly awesome performance as Belfort's right hand man, Donnie Azoff. Again, he dives in and becomes this obscene, strange character, and gives the performance of his career. Smaller roles include Margot Robbie, who plays Belfort's 2nd wife Naomi, who is perfectly cast! She's beautiful, strong and matches the role perfectly. Matthew McConaughey has another small role, but his is certainly memorable, and he performs brilliantly. There is certainly not a single role I can criticise, so I'll move on!
This film can very well be cut into thirds. The first two thirds of this film, the rise of the king that is Jordan Belfort, are easily the most entertaining, before the final third slows down and sends us on our way. The first act ushers us into this world of stockbrokers, and allows us to get our head in the game for this 3 hour long journey, before the 2nd act really picks up the partying aspect, and we get to see Belfort flaunt his sudden wealth around. It's wonderful, to be completely honest! Who the hell hasn't wanted to be rich?! Because after this fun, awesome film, I certainly do! Seeing Belfort spend his money, and even discard it without second thought is honestly one of the most exhilarating things I've seen all year, for some unknown, strange reason! Seeing a rich person just do rich things is somewhat fun! It's exactly what I wanted from The Great Gatsby, instead of a stupid sappy love story that maintained the final hour. Fortunately, The Wolf of Wall Street never makes that turn, and stays fun and exhilarating for the vast majority of it's running time.
In it's final hour, the film takes a slower route, and begins to heighten the inevitable stakes. I'm going to avoid spoiling the entire film for those who haven't seen it, but I will say that despite the fact that the film turns a dangerous corner, I still enjoyed the ending. I appreciated where Scorsese took the film, and where he sent it off. It was a surprising change of tone, but one that I felt was completely necessary and didn't subtract at all from the rest of the film.
Ultimately, The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's DiCaprio at his more daring, at his finest. Jonah Hill at his finest. Scorsese at his finest! Who would've thought a 71 year old could make such an exhilarating, ecstatic movie?! The film is funny, smart and very engrossing, and not for one second was I sucked out of the film. One of the best movies of the year, and one of the best of all time.
About Time (2013)
Smart, Witty And The Replay Value Is Off The Scales!
About Time is a film directed by Richard Curtis, and stars Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. The story centres around Gleeson's character Tim, who at the age of 21, is told by his father that all men in their family can travel back in time. Instead of looking for knowledge or wealth with his new found power, he uses it to advance his pretty well abysmal love life.
Now, like so many, I had next to no info on what this was about. I had "Time travel, love story, certainly not sappy", and for me, that sounded pretty good. When I sat down to watch this though, I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. This film really captured me from the word go with it's hilarious script and fantastic main actor, and I'm not ashamed of saying it.
The performances are all top-notch. Domhnall Gleeson works his role perfectly, as a shy but charming young British man. He's ridiculously relatable, and his character feels incredibly genuine. Rachel McAdams also gives a stellar performance, and she is really adorable in this film. Call me strange or whatnot, I don't care, because I found her incredibly cute! The rest of the ensemble is wonderful, with special mentions to Bill Nighy, who plays dad, and gives a very emotional performance, and Tom Hollander, who gives an absolutely hilarious performance as Harry, a writer who is incredibly self-centred. All in all, wonderful film on the performance level.
This is certainly not your average Rom-Com, in which you can predict every aspect possible. It makes some twists and turns which you certainly can't see coming, and ultimately, the route it takes is a route not commonly seen in romantic films. Curtis doesn't try to clog up the film with tremendously silly, clichéd issues within the relationship, as so many romantic films do. It just takes you on a ride that so many relationships undertake. Ultimately, it feels like a real relationship, except this time with time travel! And whilst I'm on the topic of time travel, I believe they used that aspect incredibly well. They didn't use it at every opportunity possible, and in a nice twist, the actually used time travel for teaching us lessons, to accept everyday as it comes, to anticipate the next and to not live in the past. Ultimately, on a sentimental level, About Time delivers a lot.
In conclusion, About Time is by far, one of the best movies I've ever seen, period. It's free flowing, smart and incredibly charming, and it begs for repeat viewings. Richard Curtis has nailed it out of the park here, and I'm sure I'll be raving about this film all into the future.
Lone Survivor (2013)
Incredibly Well Made War Film
Lone Survivor is a film directed by Peter Berg, and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster, and centres around the true story of 4 Navy SEALS who are sent on a mission to kill a notorious Taliban leader, and how the mission quickly goes from controlled to chaotic.
I'll begin with my main negative towards the film, and that has to do with tone and music. The music here, done by Explosions in the Sky, is not necessarily bad. I must say though, within the context of the film, it is used fairly poorly. At various points in the film, when gunfights are raining, and everything is as intense as ever, the music turns towards a slower, calmer tone. Now, I noticed this around 3 times within the film. It's almost as if, whilst these gunfights are going on and people are dying, Peter Berg is trying to glorify it all, or make it seem somewhat heroic, as that's how the music sounded to me. The whole film sends the message that war is horrific, horrible and should be avoided at all costs, yet at various points throughout these tremendously powerful fights, we get tonal shifts that hint at heroism, when that tone should be avoided at these specifics times very carefully. It took me out of the film, and unfortunately, it affected the overall rating as well.
As well as this problem, I felt, like a lot of reviewers, that this film didn't give enough time to character development, and it really hurt the emotional attachment to these men. I couldn't remember two of the four guys names for most of the film, actually. I'm not necessarily saying that Berg needed to take time away from the action to put towards making his characters more important to us, I'm just saying that a little more effective character development would go quite far for this film.
On the positive side, this film, for the most part, is a technical masterpiece. The film is acted to perfection, with Mark Wahlberg giving an impressively emotional performance, and Taylor Kitsch giving us something, that dare I say... is actually good?! The rest of the ensemble is well done, with special mention to Alexander Ludwig, an actor who I previously ridiculed for The Hunger Games, who gave a very solid performance.
When it comes to action, Peter Berg knows how to do it right! The action scenes here are intense, brutal and incredibly gritty. There are some real cringe moments here, and some points at which you simply can't watch. When a bullet lands on one of our main characters, you feel it, and it emotionally drains you watching these men get pinned down and beaten up. I have to say, I'd rival the first stage of the main fight with the first fight within Saving Private Ryan, a film which some would consider the best war film of all time, me included. That's a pretty heavy compliment. The gunfights are intense to the point of tears, and they will often have you at the edge of your seat. Berg has nailed the action scenes perfectly here.
Now, a lot of reviewers have made mention of the propaganda factor within this film. I personally didn't see much of it. I feel that the film is telling us, as I've mentioned before, that war is not heroic or full of glory, and honestly, we should avoid it all costs. It shows us that war is not black and white, and that everyone involved can very well suffer from it's effect. I'm going to dismiss the propaganda factor as a whole, because I've said, I just don't see it that way.
Overall, Lone Survivor is a powerful film, that whilst often tonally inconsistent, will leave you feeling emotionally drained. Peter Berg has a wonderful direction, and his cast helps him in achieving a balanced, centred film. Props to the makeup department as well, who really nailed it with all the blood and injuries. Ultimately, I'm not going to watch this film again, but I do feel that it is a brilliant film. I'm fairly sure it will be on my top 10 of 2014, at least at this stage!
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
A Pleasure Watching
Saving Mr. Banks is a film directed by John Lee Hancock, and stars Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Paul Giamatti, and centres around the author P.L. Travers, who created the book Mary Poppins. We watch as she goes to Los Angeles to have talks with Walt Disney, who wants to adapt her book into a film. During all this, she reflects on her hard childhood, and how it influenced Mary Poppins later on in her life.
To begin with, the performances. Emma Thompson is wonderful in this film. She brings a lot of energy to a character which almost refuses to get up and have some fun, which in my mind, is quite the achievement. Thompson really steals the show, despite Tom Hanks giving a fantastic performance as well, as Walt Disney. I must say, he nails the moustache! The rest of the ensemble, including Paul Giamatti and the surprisingly powerful Colin Firth, give top-notch performances. Ultimately, in the acting category, there is nothing to criticise.
The film is cut into two halves; one half, where she is in talks with Mr. Disney, and the other being her childhood. I felt that the talks with Mr. Disney, and the arguments she had with the screenwriters and music composers were easily the best parts of the film. They're full of energy, clashing personalities and some wonderful music. When it came to the second half though, her childhood, I found that these flashbacks seemed slightly bloated, or went on for a little too long. For the most part, they did explain important, key events which helped shaped her future. There were a few flashbacks in which I found seemed to drag on a little, and couldn't hold my interest for very long. These flashbacks, I found, were a little more common than I originally anticipated coming into the film, and ultimately, they did negatively impact the film for me.
Ultimately, I can't really criticise this film any more. It's very well acted, well paced for the most part, and the plot is consistent and quite accurate to the real story. This film will win awards, undeniably, and I'm not going to be annoyed by this, as I can understand why. For the most part, it's a very well done film, that should serve as a must watch for everyone!
Bad Grandpa (2013)
Why Did I Like This So Much?!
Bad Grandpa is a film I certainly wasn't anticipating. Unlike a lot of people my age, I don't support Jackass, or enjoy any of their films. They just seem a little too over the top for my liking. But despite this, surprisingly, I adored Bad Grandpa!
I'm going to keep this short and to the point. Johnny Knoxville is fantastic as Irving, an incredibly raunchy and hilarious 86 year old man. Thrown into real life prank situations, he steals the show, pranking people in some bizarre and incredible ways that I just couldn't stop laughing at! His grandson within the film, Billy, played by Jackson Nicoll, is awesome as well, managing to create some fantastic scenarios which will leave you in stitches. I'm really surprised that I didn't mind this child actor, as I normally have a problem against their type. Nicoll though, killed it as Billy.
Despite the fact that a lot of these jokes presented are incredibly over the top, I really enjoyed the comedy here. It had me laughing the majority of the way through, and I honestly couldn't believe what they were doing in public. Jackass knows how to make pranks work, and here is easily their best work.
I didn't have expectations for Bad Grandpa; none good at least. I was pleasantly surprised though! Whilst not nearly the best comedy released in 2013, this is surely the funniest. If you love pranks, or Jackass, or both, you'll adore this film!
Another Awesome Addition To Jackson's Middle Earth!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a film directed by Peter Jackson, and stars Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen and Benedict Cumberbatch. The film picks up from where the previous installment, An Unexpected Journey, left off, with Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarfs venturing to Erebor. Along the way, they meet elves, orcs and eventually, a great dragon, in one hell of an adventure!
I wasn't a big fan of An Unexpected Journey. It didn't, to me at least, feel like a Lord of the Rings film. It certainly wasn't bad; it just didn't compare to the trilogy that we saw beforehands. I gave it a 6.8. An admirable, but disappointing score for a film so hyped. Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, feels like a proper Jackson Middle-Earth film. It's grand, emotional, epic and ultimately, a bliss to watch. We finally get into a rhythm which I enjoy, and this time, we don't have to sit through half an hour of Shire to get to the good stuff. We can dive in from the word go!
Performance wise, this film does really well. Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo Baggins, although he doesn't get nearly as much time to himself on screen as he did in Unexpected Journey, to my disappointment. It's not too much of a problem, fortunately, because the rest of the cast performs pretty damn well! Ian McKellen as Gandalf never fails! He's amazing as an old, but certainly badass wizard, who actually gets to do some badass action scenes here, unlike Unexpected Journey! And Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield... He was formidable and awesome in the previous installment, but here, he really stands out as the leader. The rest of the dwarfs do well, as well as the rest of the ensemble. Performance wise, I think this is a really awesome film!
The score... Something I have mixed feelings about. As a solo listen, it's not fantastic. Not nearly as good as Unexpected Journey or any of the Lord of the Rings scores, although it does fairly well within the film. It conveys dread, which is a real theme within the film, so on that count, Howard Shore has excelled. The post credits song, I See Fire by Ed Sheeran is something I truly adore! I think Peter Jackson made the right call on getting Sheeran to give us a song which wrapped up the film in spectacular fashion!
I love where the story goes here. Desolation feels a little like Two Towers, for me. They just get straight into the thick of it from the beginning, run with it, and send you off on some really awesome notes, leaving you anticipating the next film. I loved seeing Bilbo become a popular figure in this group in which he originally was a complete outcast from. From saving the group in a fight, to figuring out a puzzle, to, you know, running into a mountain in which an incredibly dangerous, gigantic, powerful dragon lays, Bilbo helps the group out and gets his hands dirty, which was good to see. I certainly liked the pacing, as well. I feel like Jackson can make long, drawn out scenes work very well, and this film is a perfect display of that. From beginning to end, this film keeps you invested, interested, and ultimately, incredibly entertained!
I do have some specific positives and negatives that I feel I really do need to talk about. Smaug the dragon. Honestly... One of the coolest things in general, I've seen from a film in 2013. Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon was a stroke of genius, and to be honest, it made the character so much more menacing than he should've been. When Smaug crawls out from under his pits of gold, it literally takes your breath away. Smaug is huge, terrifying and quite mesmerising. He easily sold the show for me. To add to this, I also found the action so much more better than the action in the previous installment. Whilst this film does defy logic and physics a few times, it does turn a little grittier than An Unexpected Journey, which refused to cut off a single head! How dare Jackson! Fortunately, we get some brutal, awesome action here, that remedies the lack of brutality An Unexpected Journey had. On the negative side, I do have a problem with the character of Tauriel. As we all know, Jackson added her in despite the fact that she wasn't included in the source material. Was that a good move? I don't think so, unfortunately. Yes, she was formidable and she was slightly interesting, but when she suddenly falls for a dwarf, I just couldn't take it seriously! It was a bad story telling decision, and one that really didn't need to happen! As well as my hate towards Tauriel, I do have a problem with a little of the CGI. WETA seem to have stuffed up various shots, and there were a few CGI characters which felt so disconnected to this world that Jackson had created. Fortunately, WETA did very well for the majority of the running time. It was just a few stuff ups here and there that bugged me a little.
In conclusion, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a powerful, awesome addition to the Peter Jackson Middle Earth film collection. The film advances all the characters, includes some awesome action and gives us one of the best CGI monsters I've ever seen in Smaug. Jackson may have stuffed up at few points, and they aren't all forgettable; nonetheless, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Desolation of Smaug is a wonderful film, and one of the best films of 2013!
A Real Eye-Opener
Blackfish is a film directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and centres around Killer Whale (Orca) Tilikum, who was responsible for the death of 3 people. The film explores the idea about how these deaths caused by Tilikum aren't necessarily random events where the Orca loses control and turns aggressive against his trainer, but events in which could have been predicted quite easily.
Blackfish certainly reminds me of a recent documentary, The Cove, that covers the Japanese mistreatment, slaughter of innocent dolphins. Both films have, sort of, the same message; these animals we're keeping and hurting, they are intelligent beings and they deserve to roam the wild oceans in peace. Blackfish accomplishes this message, and much more, to create a difficult but very satisfying watch.
I should start with the footage. It's incredible what Gabriela Cowperthwaite has managed to gather. Footage that dates back to 1983, that is in great quality, really took my breath away. A lot of this footage is really spectacular, showing both wild Orcas roaming, and the desperate, captive Orcas. Not only do we have montages of these animals performing and swimming, but we also get to witness many of the attacks that took place, by not only Tilikum, but by a range of different Orcas. It really does take you by surprise when you get to witness first hand, the attacks that very well ended people's lives.
Blackfish is certainly uncomfortable, and not an average watch. This is something that will open your eyes to the corporate world, and hopefully change your opinion on whether or not wild, large, beautiful animals should be kept in captivity for our entertainment. Some may call this propaganda; I feel that they are mistaken. Blackfish is a really brilliant documentary that should be a must watch for anyone, and everyone.
The Disney Magic Is Here!
Frozen is a Disney animation, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, and stars Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. Frozen centres around Anna, a princess whose sister has powers over ice that are unknown to the rest of the kingdom, until at her coronation to become Queen, her powers are revealed. Anna sets off to find her sister after the disaster, and help her fix her mistakes.
Frozen is certainly one of the best Disney films in recent years. It's incredibly touching, funny, and brilliantly animated. Every single frame was a beauty to behold in the way of animation, and everything looked it's finest. All the characters are impeccably designed, and all of them have real qualities to them, something that has become rare in Disney princess animations.
The film is a musical, which I fortunately knew about before entering the cinema. For my brother, this was a complete surprise. Despite his less than enthusiastic wonder for musicals, my brother, as well as myself, was incredibly impressed by the quality of the songs. Every one of them was sung to perfection, and we got a couple of sure to be Disney classics here. The already Golden Globe nominated song Let It Go, sung by Idina Menzel, is absolutely wonderful, and certainly deserves the nomination for best original song. I'm already humming the rhythms to at least 3 of the songs in the film, which is a testament to their brilliance.
The score is also a wonderful aspect of the film. Christophe Beck is well known in the score world, and he delivers a fairly awesome score, that fits perfectly with the tone of the film. For the most part, it's very delicate, and it can be quite heroic at certain moments. In terms for a Disney princess film, this score is certainly one to marvel at, and I can see myself listening to this many times in the near future.
All the voice actors give wonderful performances, and all are cast well, except for Idina Menzel, unfortunately. Whilst her singing voice is incredible and she gives a great performance, she didn't fit the role of Anna's sister Esla, a young, scared, innocent woman very well. Despite this, the rest of the cast does very well. Kristen Bell is perfectly cast as Anna, as is Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, and Santino Fontana as the true love of Anna, Hans. All in all, the cast does pretty damn well, in every individual role.
Frozen does well not to turn itself into a typical Disney princess film, with unpredictable but reasonable plot points. Certain characters had sudden changes in motive that really did surprise me, something that is certainly a good thing. The film does have a few pacing problems, towards the beginning, in my opinion, though. The film progresses a little too quickly to begin with, as do certain characters relationships with each other. These problems are dealt with later on in the film, to my delight, so it's not too much of a problem. For the most part, Frozen is well paced, unpredictable and intelligent, which is a change from most of the recent animations we've been getting.
In summary, Frozen is one of the best films of the year, by far. All cast members gives their best performances possible, the writing is wonderful, and the animators deserve awards for their great work. Whether you're bringing kids or not, you should love Frozen, despite it's minimal flaws. It's certainly broke into my top 10 of the year, that's for sure!
The Great Gatsby (2013)
The Great Gatsby is a film directed by Baz Luhrmann, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. It centres around the character of Nick Carraway(Maguire), a man who has moved to New York to take up a job as a bond salesman. He finds himself neighbour to a man known as Jay Gatsby(DiCaprio), who holds extravagant, wonderful parties every weekend. Carraway becomes friends with Gatsby, and is asked by the man to fulfill a set of tasks to help him with his love life.
Baz Luhrmann is no stranger to extravagance. Moulin Rouge is a perfect example of this. He loves to make energetic, wonderful films, which are certainly exaggerated to the maximum. The Great Gatsby is no exception. Luhrmann delivers us a film which adheres to all of his traits, and brings lots of colour to the screen. He certainly creates a visually pleasing film here. The parties that take place within this film are all wild, huge and colourful. Talk about stylistic! Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy all the visual effects that he implemented, and wish that maybe the film could have been toned down slightly. The whole scale of it makes it hard for you to absorb yourself in these characters and their motivations, which makes for a less than rounded film experience.
The performances are all fairly decent. DiCaprio certainly steals the show, as he has a subtle energy about him which contrasts against the loud and obnoxious characters that surround him. Whilst his character isn't written very well, I found that I enjoyed watching him on screen. Tobey Maguire gave a more neutral performance. I personally can't stand him doing voice overs as his voice is just too... boring! He stays consistently uninteresting for the majority of the film, as does Carey Mulligan. Her character is written poorly, and her performance doesn't help. She's incredibly one dimensional, sappy, predictable and plain annoying. I just couldn't help but cringe every time she was on screen. The ensemble, on the other hand, is fairly good. Joel Edgerton gives a wonderful performance, as does Isla Fisher. For the most part, the performances won't disappoint you.
The whole pace of the film is incredibly slow. The film starts off energetically, with Maguire's character getting into the details of his story quickly and efficiently. It's from there that the film goes from fast and fun, to slow and sappy. The love story that emerges was so silly and boring that I just couldn't help but lose interest. By the end of the film, none of these characters had me engaged. The Great Gatsby starts off incredibly promising, but slowly turns into a predictable, unexciting, at times corny film.
In summary, I was certainly disappointed by the result of this film. I enjoyed the first half immensely. It was Baz Luhrmann at his finest, and it showed promise for the rest of the running time. But the final half of the film really lost my interest, and had me cringing at multiple points in time. Whilst the performances were acceptable, the writing was not. I haven't read the book, and based on this, I'm not going to be any time soon. It's a basic, stupid love story, which could've been so much more. It's not one of the worst of the year, but it's certainly over-hyped.