Welcome

Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Trailers that put me in a good mood and bad mood today

Today I saw the new trailer for Pixar's Brave (2012), and here it is...


Like one comes to expect from Pixar we are clearly being offered here a visual feast that boasts sharp, colourful and altogether beautiful animation. And although - like DreamWorks resort to - there are one or two cheap gags and slapstick moments this trailer depicts a powerful quest and emotionally driven characters. This film is to be Pixar's first fable and I can't wait to see what they do with it, after they did such a fantastic job with characters trying to find closure and what they want their life to settle in - Finding Nemo (2003), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010) anyone?

Within 15 minutes, however, my mood had gone down hill after seeing this trailer for Spring's 3-D rerelease of Titanic (1997)...


In my opinion this is a quite frankly sloppy trailer, which feels like a load of quick clips chucked together in what coincidentally is a mostly chronological order for the first half. As for the second half, with the exception of a couple of seconds of First Officer Murdoch giving the order for a lifeboat to lower, there's nothing of the on deck build up to the climactic final minutes of the ship's time above water; while choosing Dion's notes over James Horner's score was no doubt a bad move.
Also the slides of text don't earn any approval from me. The Most Beloved and Acclaimed Film of All Time. Funny that, because in recent years franchises such as Harry Potter (2001-11) have gained much larger fan bases, and thanks to Avatar (2009), the highest grosser ever card can't be used. And most acclaimed? A 7.5 on IMDb proves the trailer wrong for a start.
In terms of my views of the film I do admire the technical achievements Cameron reached with it and do get drawn in by the screenplay, but I do despise his disregard for historical accuracy, as he clearly disregards it for the sake of drama. Surely the full facts are dramatic enough? This comes from the fact I've kept the whole "Kirkpatricks are Historians" thing going in the last year by developing a genuine Titanic interest and now when I watch the film I'm spotting inaccuracies constantly - there's at least two in this trailer alone.
My other issue with this 3-D rerelease is that Cameron has totally sold out on his previous statements about 3-D rereleases here, and it just seems as if he is cashing in on the Titanic centenary, in what a lot of people see as an attempt to get two of his films past the $2 billion worldwide box office gross.

Thunderbirds


*

International Rescue face the biggest challenge of their lives, when The Hood (Ben Kingsley) breaks into Headquarters and takes their machines in order to rob the Bank of England. But with his father (Bill Paxton) and brothers (Philip Winchester, Dominic Colenso, Ben Torgersen) on the damaged Thunderbird 5 helping a badly injured John (Lex Shrapnel), it's up to 14-year-old Alan (Brady Corbet), Tintin (Vanessa Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to save the day.

Although the film does boast some swooping aerial shots from the perspective of the great Thunderbirds themselves, as well as some pretty explosive effects where missiles and the fiery jets of the Thunderbirds are concerned this is an altogether poor piece of film making. An underdeveloped script, which features wooden, bland characters that have very one-sided characters, used for dull running gags - Brains's (Anthony Edwards) constant stuttering and nerves. The Hood is also underwritten, being little more than a sadist, who uses his psychic abilities to manipulate and hurt people, and to be honest I can't blame Kingsley for not putting much effort into the character when one thinks of his high calibre CV - Gandhi (1982), Schindler's List (1993). If the writers can't be bothered why should he?

The screenplay generally remains consistently poor, using low calibre, unfunny slapstick comedy, which would work in a cartoon as it is effectively cartoon violence only unfunny in live action - e.g. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) - such as being kicked in the crotch and telling people to turn around when there is nothing there as another low calibre gag. As for the cast, the standard is so poor with the romance between Alan and Tintin made altogether wooden by two actors with next to no chemistry; overly exaggerated stutters from Fulton and Edwards; and some truly wooden and bland supporting stars, such as Rose Keegan as Transom.

Altogether this is a film which is quite frankly and quite simply an attempt to turn a wonderfully charming and simple TV show that used marionettes (1965-6) into a live action Hollywood blockbuster, and failed to do so both critically and commercially.


2004.
PG.
Stars:
Brady Corbet, Vanessa Hudgens, Soren Fulton, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Sophia Myles, Anthony Edwards, Lex Shrapnel, Philip Winchester, Dominic Colenso, Ben Torgersen, Ron Cook, Rose Keegan, Bhasker Patel, Deobia Oparei, Harvey Virdi.

Over the Hedge


***

Racoon RJ (Bruce Willis) gets himself in hot water when he loses bear Vincent (Nick Nolte) a season's worth of food and has only a week to replace it. However, when he finds a group of curious animals fresh from hibernation wondering why most of the forest is gone and a hedge now blocks their way, RJ takes them over the other side to steal food from the middle class humans living there. However, he doesn't bargain on finding a family in the process.

As expected with DreamWorks the film boasts bright and colourful animation, which is very eye-catching and never threatens to be a garish eyesore due to too many colours, but rather come together quite beautifully. As for creating the animals, the animation department did a very good job, bringing real texture to the various furs, as well as turtle Verne's (Garry Shandling) shell.
The film makers also did a good job when casting the various voice actors, who all do a stellar job voicing the various animals and humans, good examples being Willis as the cool and chilled RJ; William Shatner as the wonderfully melodramatic opossum Ozzie; Wanda Sykes, who brings some great attitude to skunk Stella; and Allison Janney, who is effectively psychopathic as Gladys, who becomes the ultimate antagonist as the film goes on. The film, however, is stolen by Steve Carell as squirrel Hammy, who Carell brings great amounts of energy and enthusiasm to make the overly hyperactive squirrel loveable also.

The screenplay, however, is where the film's overall standard drops. Over the Hedge, unfortunately was one of several DreamWorks Animations released between October 2004 and March 2009 which suffered from this problem thanks to an underdeveloped screenplay which churns out too many pointless pop culture references - this time so many of them being references to snack foods. The underdevelopment of characters also is a problem, as although they may look cute and have energetic voice actors, that does not give them substance. At times we get shown there is more to the character of Hammy than meets the eye but this is never developed or delved in to in detail; while Ozzie's daughter Heather (Avril Lavigne) barely gets past the stages of 'RJ's cool' and 'I love my Dad', as two examples. Plus are we really meant to believe that in a 3 month hibernation period thousands acres of forest could be bypassed and an entire suburban district built on top of it? It doesn't work. I know the film is aimed for a younger audience so should be taken with a slight pinch of salt, but some sense of what's possible and what isn't is needed.

Enjoyable, yet flawed, it is the best of the misses to come from DreamWorks to date, only just missing hit. However, it is a lovely piece of entertainment that the family will enjoy.


2006.
U.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte, Eugene Levy, Avril Lavigne, Catherine O'Hara, Allison Janney, Thomas Haden Church, Shane Baumel, Madison Davenport, Sami Kirkpatrick, Omid Djalili, Brian Stepanek.

Annie Awards: Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production (Nicolas Marlet), Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production (Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick), Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production (Gary Graham).
Annie Award nominations: Best Animated Feature (DreamWorks Animation), Best Character Animation in a Feature Production (Kristof Serand), Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production (Paul Shardlow), Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production (Thom Enriquez), Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (Wanda Sykes).

Green Zone



***

Inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2006 non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the film follows a squad of US Soldiers in Iraq in 2003, led by Miller (Matt Damon), as they hunt down a batch of weapons of mass destruction.

Featuring shaky cinematography from handheld cameras, particularly in the fight sequences the film draws in the audience in places, and said cinematography gives a feeling of what the characters feel very effectively, while the use of explosions and live ammunition results in one's attention being very hard to lose as chaos and  destruction unfold on screen. Damon also provides an authoritive and powerful leading man, depicting Miller as a born, determined leader, supported particularly by strong performances from Brendan Gleeson and Jason Isaacs.

The screenplay, however, proves to be altogether inconsistent, and while the powerful action scenes are strong, the narrative plods in between with scenes that drag thanks to poorly scripted dialogue and a generally disjointed feel. The screenplay also is disloyal to the events US soldiers went through and also depicts a government conspiracy that never existed and has rightfully caused much political controversy. Ultimately this film is more like a couple of Call of Duty levels played back to back rather than a war film, and is very disappointing when compared to previous Greengrass/Damon collaborations The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).

2010.
15.
Stars: Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Yigal Naor, Greg Kinnear, Jason Isaacs, Martin McDougall, Khalid Abdalla, Michael O'Neill, Antoni Corone, Tommy Campbell, Paul McIntosh, Sean Huze, Said Faraj, Abdul Henderson.

Central Ohio Film Critics Association nomination: Actor of the Year (Matt Damon, also for True Grit and Hereafter).

Monday, 7 November 2011

2012



***

When the end of the World begins, struggling writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) goes all out to make sure his children (Liam James, Morgan Lily), ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and her boyfriend (Thomas McCarthy) survive by heading to China in the hopes they will make it on to an Ark of safety.

As he did five and a half years earlier with The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Director Roland Emmerich shows his love for destroying the world and killing countless extras in the process. Boasting very bold visuals, the end of the World is made very gritty and explosive, with much detail gone into it so it doesn't look at all fake and rather eye-catching.
The screenplay is also well written where it concerns the people escaping the end of the World, depicting within Jackson man's natural instinct to pull out all the stops to survive; while his boss Russian billionaire Yuri (Zlatko Burić) represents selfishness, greed and corruption as he uses his wealth to get a place on the Ark with his sons (Alexandre and Philippe Haussman), and one can't help but think if this ever happened then that would be how many rich people would survive. A touching moment in the film comes when Adrian (Chiwetel Ejiofor) says goodbye to his father (Blu Mankuna) down the phone, as the actors make their characters' final conversation an emotional and heartfelt goodbye, and one does think how they would feel in a final conversation to a loved one, knowing they'll never see each other again.

Unfortunately the screenplay does tend to drag in places and become a bit repetitive, with every region Jackson and co visit/go through seeming to blow up almost immediately after they get there. As well as this the majority of characters lack substance and development, and effectively are used as props to guide the viewer through the gradual end of the world, but with the exception of the emotional moments between the loved ones there is very little emotional arc going for the majority of the characters, and with very little to work with several cast members actually seem bored as their characters move through the film's events.

The film is by no means perfect and it is a huge disappointment when compared to other big budget Emmerich blockbusters such as Independence Day (1996) and The Day After Tomorrow, although it is a big improvement on his previous Picture 10,000 BC (2008).

2009.
12.
Stars:
John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Liam James, Morgan Lily, Thomas McCarthy, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Zlatko Burić, Beatrice Rosen, Alexandre Haussmann, Philippe Haussmann, Jimi Mistry, Woody Harrelson, Chin Han, Osric Chau, Lisa Lu, Chang Tseng, John Billingsley, Ryan McDonald, Johann Urb, Blu Mankuma, George Segal.

Saturn nominations: Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Best Special Effects (Volker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike Vézina).