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Absolutely worth seeing, despite slightly ropey story.
It is very difficult to start a review of this film without mentioning the obvious greatest thing about it. Graphically, stylistically, and technically, I am struggling to find a single flaw. It has without doubt been made with unusual care, and rigorous attention to the most minute of details.
It uses the very best we have so far in terms of 3D technology in the film, and breaks new ground in the way that 3D work interacts with the audience. Yes, I saw it with the little glasses, and it was all the better for it - 3D has indeed come a long way since the red and green filters idea.
The film did achieve another big winning goal in that I did emotionally connect to it on at least one occasion, though I was only moved to tears by the sheer level of breathtaking beauty in it, and not by any scenes of great emotional character turmoil. Those are there, and are not done badly, or acted dishonestly, but they lack 'something' which will probably come to me when my head has stopped spinning from the glorious visuals. I will say nothing more about the look of it - me and a few thousand others have already got that covered. Oh no - one more thing. This is the second film to (almost) truly nail CGI facial expressions. LOTR and Gollum was pretty damn good, and this is comparable, though not necessarily better. OK, perhaps fractionally better.
Heads and thumbs up to Richard Taylor and crew for design work to rival Lord of the Rings - creatures and machines are particularly well executed and have an extra sense of credulity to them because they are both based on evolution of one kind or another. Likewise, in another area - the various spiritual beliefs of the na'vi are backed up (albeit rather cursorily) by at least a reference to 'scientific verification', so not just the total mystical sh1t we so often see.
So it all comes down to the story, and whether you like it or not. I don't think I did, on the whole, because I really despise the way that humans just dive in to anything new they encounter and try and exploit it, and this film does make you think about that quite a lot. I hated the American 'gung-ho' self-righteous thing, as usual, but was impressed that Cameron dealt with it as well as he did - it certainly wasn't played up to nauseating levels, as it sometimes can be, and the later part of the storyline gets better in that respect, as the tale unfolds...
I suspect the storyline we see has more to do with making sure all the 'winning movie' standard bases were covered, than being led entirely by itself. I would have liked to have seen a more imaginative way of getting action in there than what they did (principally a massive battle scene or 3), but can equally see why they made the choices they did.
All in all, it's epically lovely, and you should go and see it. It was certainly one of the most entertaining and jaw-dropping films I have ever seen. Well done Mr Cameron and friends...
I went to see 2012, expecting it to be nothing more than a simple distraction - a 'shock-and-awe' style FX fest... to my surprise it turned out to be somewhat more...
Indeed there is little in this film that isn't handled well, and few bits that were not didn't really matter. Here's the basics: The visual design work on show here is truly spectacular on every level, and was largely what I paid to see it for, so full points there. Cinematographically this really is a treat, with endless shots of assorted landscapes falling to bits, blowing up, and making life in general quite difficult for people. Equally well-designed are the camera placements amid the carnage, which is showcased in what I never found not to be a massively impressive way.
But the film really is much more than that. I dislike lack of credulity in films, and aside from the slightly ridiculous thing about the Mayan Calendar at the beginning, I was largely convinced that things were plausible. This even extended to the numerous 'flight-from-peril' sequences, which manage to walk exactly on the line of 'feasible' and 'unpredictable' most enjoyably. More than once I genuinely wondered if the current hero of the moment was going to make it.
Acting is solid and believable throughout, and I found myself genuinely sympathetic with most of the characters in it. As a result, during the numerous moments of tearful goodbyes between relatives I was rather glassy-eyed myself, and felt connected with their plight.
What IS nice is that the sentimentality-factor is not overplayed, as is so often the case. Warm, heart-felt and touching do not often lapse into simpering and nauseating, and although the 'Hero America' factor is still very much in evidence, it's not massively horrible.
'Bad people getting their just deserts' is also present and correct, though surprisingly not often in the ubiquitous 'awful death' type way, and often there are twists in situations that reverse things, making bad people do good things, and vice-versa.
Lastly, it's all put together well, and skillful editing ensures we all know what's going on most of the time, even as we concurrently follow a number of characters in their own struggles.
Scored dramatically, acted well, and hugely lovely in the 3D department, anything I could find wrong it was rendered (no pun intended) unimportant. Worth a see in a cinema if you can, or at least on a massive screen.
David Yates - a man responsible for single-handedly ruining Harry Potter.
David Yates has had at his disposal for this film a gargantuan budget, a selection of fine British actors, an amazing story to work with, and some of the best and most inspired technicians and creative minds working in film today. How then he has managed to produce 'this' defies belief.
Anyone who has read the books will feel consistently let down, all over again. If you thought he did an appalling job of OOTP, he really outdoes himself here. A quite staggering lack of understanding about what is important in this instalment will leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and angry that so much misjudgement has gone on, and been allowed to do so by people that really should know better.
The cinematography is stunning, and the VFX equally so, but Yates has once again chosen to focus this creative brilliance on the most irrelevant and unimportant parts of the book, disregarding some of the most crucial scenes and setups for future storyline for reasons best known to himself. He has once again played up the small comedic elements found in the books, and so much so in this instalment that it could almost be a Rom-com about Ron and Lavender. Like Phoenix, again we see Yates's tragic misunderstanding of what the book is about. Once again, I am forced to ask myself why someone with such a failure to grasp the essential storyline has been put in charge of so much of it.
Acting-wise, we all know what to expect from the main trio (not much), and subtle improvements do find their way in somehow (mainly Radcliffe), but you don't have much time to notice - you are too busy wondering where your favourite scenes from the book went. The best actors in it, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and (to a lesser extent) Alan Rickman are again under-used, and reduced to sideline periphery, as is the central plot about horcruxes. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore seems slightly improved from the hopelessly inappropriate performance he gave in OOTP, but it is still maddeningly obvious that he hasn't actually read any of the books, and has little or no understanding of his character, its history or motivations. Very very disappointing. And of course Yates is in no position to tell him how to do it - he clearly doesn't know either.
And so to the biggest, and most criminally disappointing aspect of the film, the woefully poor ending. An absolute departure from what should happen, and for no good reason that I can see, Yates has seen fit to butcher this out of all recognition. This is a lesson in how to turn what should be a highly emotionally-charged and tense, exciting moment into a horrible pastiche that gives you little more than the general gist, explains nothing, and features not one jot of the pathos and emotional resonance of the book's proper ending. He has simply done his own thing, and his own thing is a p*ss-poor imitation of the original.
This is an epic failure on most levels. It is saved to some degree by its visual impressiveness but ultimately, so much of the book has been ignored, rewritten or just made up as he went along, that anyone who has read the books cannot come away from this feeling anything but disappointment, frustration, and like they have wasted their money.
David Yates, in my opinion, has wasted everyone's money. Again. 2 films done, and 2 films ruined, and now they're going to let him ruin the last 2 as well. It's really not looking good is it ? David Yates - the man who ruined Harry Potter.
Mum & Dad (2008)
Dark, gritty and bleak, but well made, and nicely produced...
I don't particularly enjoy films like this, and found myself watching it rather by accident. Within 1 minute it was clear that this was not going to be a rewarding and enjoyable cinematic experience, but in the interests of watching a new British horror film and expanding my filmic horizons slightly, I elected to watch until the end.
Other reviews here have mentioned the levels of blood and gore, and general unpleasantness that occurs liberally throughout the film, but it was not these specific scenes I found as disturbing as I did the whole morbid atmosphere of the piece, which is very claustrophobic, dark, and bleak. The black humour was rather more black than it was humorous for me, I have to admit, but the little of it there is does a small amount to offset the sometimes horrendous things that are going on at the same time. But only a small amount.
It works very well, because the little budget they had has been deployed with expertise and thought - the acting is consistently believable, and also somewhat unpolished, which actually helps it along nicely. Perry Benson, Dido Miles, and Olga Fedori do a particularly superb job, but none of the actors showcased here are bad.
Cinematography is generally good, with imaginative, and unobvious shot choices and composition that further reinforces the pervading sense of hopelessness at all times. The colour palette is darkly attractive too, and several times I was impressed by the physical beauty (and in some cases deliberate ugliness) of scenes, and camera / light placement in them.
Sound-wise, there is some music, but it is used sparingly, often tailing off completely to leave a very effective foley track that is instrumental in revealing what particular 'delights' might be going on mercifully off-screen. The consistent plane fly-overs also add to the sterile and isolated sense of foreboding that lingers throughout the film, even at the end, where the action moves outside the house - you still feel a million miles away from safety even though it all takes place so close to other people.
The ending is as you'd hope and expect, and the producers do well by keeping you guessing as to just what her chances of getting away might be, right to the end.
Enjoyable isn't the word I'd apply to my overall impression of the film, but for me, this was a job well done, and worth a watch despite the horrific subject matter. Just don't expect to feel all uplifted and joyous afterwards.
4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Simpering, vacuous cliché-fest. Best watched with bemused incredulity. Or when very drunk.
Well this was truly dreadful. Starting with the positive, the VFX were of average standard, and imaginatively realised in places. The score created the brief moments of atmosphere there were. But there is no rescuing this horribly over-sentimental and (surely?) badly adapted film.
I had always thought Ioan Gruffudd a reasonable actor from his several appearances in British drama, but I stand corrected by his god-awful performance here. However, standing as it does next to the feeble acting abilities of the other leads, it sets a standards you wish the others would aspire to.
Alas, they don't. They are not helped, of course, by the revoltingly clichéd screenplay, with its ham-fisted wise-cracking 'humour' (provided mostly, and relentlessly, by the daft rock-based thing), and the constant preaching of all-American family values. Then there is the absence of any coherent story, riddled as it is with numerous plot-holes, inconsistencies, and characters being SO stereotyped (Army general, anyone?)that one can only laugh at the seriousness with which they woodenly phone in their hackneyed and predictable dialogue. It really is painful to watch in places.
And deeply, though unintentionally funny in others. The ridiculously named villain, 'Victor Von Doom' hands in a performance that is as threatening and intimidating as a tossed salad, and every line he perfunctorily regurgitates raises a smile for all the wrong reasons. I might venture that he 'just looks a tit'.
This is a horrible film in almost every way. I could tell you the plot, but it's rubbish, so I won't waste your time. I haven't read the comic, and almost certainly won't if this was anything approaching an accurate testament to it. I sincerely hope it wasn't, and that comic fans feel equally let down.
The VFX team and the composer should leave the room and head for the pub, feeling, I'd hope, that they have contributed the only redeeming features of this unrewarding film, but everyone else involved should hang their heads in shame, and aim to do better next time.
The most disappointing movie of the series so far...
The good bits: Cinematography, lighting and set design is generally excellent, editing is snappy and effective, and Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman continue to put in strong(ish) performances, given the weak and dumbed-down script they are forced to work with.
Effects-wise, it lives up to its huge budget, but fireworks and fight scenes don't go on nearly long enough, and many opportunities have been missed for creating that all important Hogwarts and ministry atmosphere. Overhead castle fly-throughs are few and far between.
The less than good bits: This is not a good film, if you are a fan of the books. Some plot lines have been altered, changed, or dispensed with altogether. The film possesses very little of the books intricacies, detail, and charm that make it the phenomenal story it is.
With a few exceptions, the acting is more or less appalling throughout. This we might expect and forgive from actors of little to no experience, and perhaps some of the younger cast, but there is simply no excuse for some seriously 'phoned in' performances from Gambon, Staunton and Fiennes, none of whom appear to have even read the book in passing, and all demonstrate their almost complete lack of understanding about the roles they are playing again and again throughout the film.
Gambon, especially, puts in SUCH an inappropriate and intrinsically weak performance as Dumbledore that I am surprised he was ever asked back for more than one film. He gets successively worse in each one released. I would happily exchange a sense of continuity for using an actor that actually gave a damn about the performance they were giving.
Kreacher was also handled badly, though not in animation or rendering, both of which are excellent, but in voicing, and mannerisms, and the sheer tiny amount of screen time in which he features. Key plot points that should have centred round him are glossed over, ignored, and replaced by other events, and the film loses a great deal because of this.
Likewise, the centaur confrontation is delivered with almost no explanation for what is occurring, no dialogue, and consequently, their featuring in the film is another pointless excuse for a reasonable effects shot, and not much more. Likewise with Grawp, and Hagrid, both of whom are on screen so fleetingly that we wonder why they bothered.
Both Umbridge and Bellatrix are presented with far too much leaning towards comedy, when in fact both of these characters are dangerous psychotics who, in the books, are real and present threats to Harry's life and happiness and who should terrify, rather than amuse and divert.
Of course Dobby should have been there, so should Quidditch, The Quibbler article, and Kreachers deception, among other things, but all these are missed out, and the films re-hashing of the true plot makes it up as it goes along to fill these vital gaps. All very disappointing.
It also makes crucial mistakes like the guard party flying low over the Thames (as if this wouldn't attract Muggle attention and break the very same laws as those Harry is being hauled over hot coals by the ministry for)...
My advice is 'borrow the DVD from a friend when it comes out - it IS worth a look, though only for editing, lighting, sets and cinematography - for all else, read the book, which is an altogether more complete and enjoyable experience'. It also contains the actual plot, which is far superior to the 'vaguely related' screenplay we see here. Or better still - buy the audio books, in which Stephen Fry's 170+ vocal characterisations consistently surpass, if not entirely blow away the 'acting' we have on offer here.
I am afraid I must 'confess myself disappointed' that David Yates has already signed to do 'Half Blood Prince'. I rather dread what he might do, or leave out, with that.
Laughable yet laudable attempt to entertain the masses, despite obvious but unimportant flaws...
Dick Van Dyke always seems to play the universal stereotype of the 'good guy' in every role he takes, and this particular role - that of Dr Mark Sloan, is one of the best examples of this principal in action. like Quincy before him, this man lives to be a raging force majeure for the side of all that is good, righteous, and wonderful. Except Sloan is vaguely more likable than Quincy, who's nosey do-gooding antics only made you want to hit him.
The success of the show for me is in its comedy value, and it has attained subsequent cult status here in the UK. This is perhaps because we view it largely as a comedy instead of the drama it seems to think it is. We laugh out loud every time Barry Van Dyke arrives on scene to deliver woodenly his 10 lines of script, that are mostly the same as he said last week. And if i had a pound for every time him, and the police department were on hand at the end of an episode to save the day at the last minute, I'd be very rich. It is great source of amusement also that in every episode Sgt Steve (the son) is made to look a total incompetent by his dad, who manages to do both their jobs at the same time, while Barry stands around and looks wistfully into middle distance.
His hair alone makes every episode he's in worthwhile.
DVD himself is undoubtedly the star tho, and presents his 'do good at all costs all the time' style with the sort of aplomb that suggests not only has he been doing it for the entirety of his acting career, but probably in real life as well.
Sometimes infuriatingly tacky, simpering, and nauseatingly self- righteous, with unfailingly high morals all round from the main characters, the bad dudes have no chance at all. And with the Quincy-style concept that Sloan is a doctor who just can't do quite enough good every day by saving lives, and who's boss understands that he must leave the hospital, and his day-job for 80% of the time he's meant to be there, while he flits around garden parties and crime scenes looking for clues, its a winner.
It did deserve 8 series in my opinion, and they did very well to string what was essentially the same storyline out as long as they did. I found it a bit of a disappointment when it ended, but not for any reasons the producers would like - purely that the unintentionally hilarious acting / plots / concept never failed to entertain, and once you can accept that virtually every episode will start, and end the same, and what happens in the middle is largely irrelevant, none of this matters...
Oh - and the music from series 4 on was fantastic, for exactly the same reasons as the programme itself was...
Long live DVD, and all that good he did :)