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.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Look at 2011's Box Office to date

Less than seven hours away from 2012 I look at the 2011 box office and I put my Geek cap on as I work out why the 10 highest grossers are the 10 highest grossers...

The year's top grosser is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at $1.3281 billion.


Second is Transformers: Dark of the Moon at $1.1237 billion.


Third is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at $1.0439 billion.


Fourth is Kung Fu Panda 2 at $665.7 million.


Fifth is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 at $654.4 million and still going.

                                                 

Sixth is Fast Five at $626.1 million.


Seventh is The Hangover: Part II at $581.5 million.


Eighth is The Smurfs at $562.5 million


Ninth is Cars 2 at $551.9 million

                                                

Tenth is Rio at $484.6 million.

                                               

Geek time now. Why did each of these films do so well?
1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: the conclusion of the most successful franchise (2001-11) to date, this is the epic conclusion the entire world had waited for so viewers in their tens of millions poured to cinemas in the opening weekend.
2) Transformers: Dark of the Moon: a high grossing franchise (2007-11) since Day 1, popular with teenagers especially (action and beautiful women sexualised as much as possible for a 12 rated franchise, a.k.a. tight dresses, towels, leather, et cetera). This was also the last chance people would get to see a big budget Transformers film on the big screen, so why waste the opportunity?
3) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Four years since Captain Jack last appeared on the big screen, forget the poor quality of the previous sequels (2006/7), the world couldn't wait to see the loveable rogue on screen again, particularly under 30s.
4) Kung Fu Panda 2: after the strong original (2008), the franchise had gained a huge fan base, and a good trailer only increased anticipation, so families, critics, teenagers who like kung fu and numerous other people had a good time seeing this at the cinema.
5) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1: the franchise (2008-12) is not good quality, but popularity with the viewers, particularly the teenage audience the films are aimed at ensured that this film grossed big money fast.
6) Fast Five: after the below par fourth film (2009) this was a very nice surprise - a slick exciting action thriller. Word of mouth spread of the quality of this film, which surpasses all of its predecessors (2001/3/6/9) so millions headed for cinemas.
7) The Hangover: Part II: a disappointing film indeed, but the 2009 original has had a huge fan base since it was first released, so it's only natural millions bought tickets to see the Wolf Pack on screen again.
8) The Smurfs: unlike Cars 2 the trailer didn't suggest violent or scary, and countless parents will remember seeing The Smurfs on TV when they were kids, so regardless of quality this became the film parents took their young children to see during the summer.
9) Cars 2: gaining a big fan base and making $8 billion from merchandise, a sequel was inevitable, and became Pixar's worst film to date. Fans of the original went to see it, and although it isn't official, a lot of potential young viewers were lost thanks to a trailer suggesting violence and scary scenes. Parents don't want their kids getting upset, it's a fact of life.
10) Rio: the film was guaranteed more profit being an Easter film than had it been released in the summer blockbuster season with Harry Potter, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kung Fu Panda, The Smurfs and Cars. A fun film for all the family, this was the main film for the Easter holidays, which parents and children alike enjoyed.

So that's the box office Top 10 for another year, with only ranked films 1, 4 and 6 being worthy of four stars. It's not guaranteed but I'm predicting that in 2012 The Dark Knight Rises, Brave, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted will reach the Top 10.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder



**

Leo Wong (Billy West) is building his own moneymakers, including a giant golf course, and is destroying life forms and civilizations in the process, and with the men of Planet Express on Leo's side Leela (Katey Sagal) tries to show them Leo's plan is evil, and soon the whole crew are fighting to save the Violet Dwarf Star

Bright, colourful and very detailed the fourth Futurama direct-to-DVD feature in 18 months is visually wonderful as a cartoon. The screenplay, however, is the main drawback. While it features some amusing jokes around Fry's (West) stupidity and misfortune, as well as Leela's and Amy's (Lauren Tom) naturally tough personalities, in entertaining cases of cartoon violence and slapstick, it gives us a slow moving narrative, featuring a slow moving introduction and a number of scenes which plod along while cracking unamusing gags. Said scenes dedicate little time to character development and emotional arcs, while also providing us with an unengaing and frankly irritating antagonist in the form of Leo. A disappointing film, the ending however opened up for the first season (2010-11) of the revival.

2009.
12.
Stars:
Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Dawnn Lewis, David Herman, Phil Hendrie.

Annie Award: Best Home Entertainment Production (The Curiosity Company and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment).

Futurama: Bender's Game


***

The third of four direct-to-DVD features (2007-9) sees the crew of Planet Express thrown into a Dungeons and Dragons universe, where they must take on Mom (Tress MacNeille) and her armies to prevent her anti-backward crystal and Farnsworth's (Billy West) from coming together and rendering Dark Matter useless.

Beautifully designed this is a very detailed piece of animation, bright, vibrant and creating a wonderful futuristic feel as ever to the 31st Century, and a wonderful fantasy design to the alternate Universe, which, like the witty and regularly clever screenplay, successfully parodies the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-83) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-3) in places. There are some lovely verbal and physical gags that rely on misunderstandings and slapstick in the screenplay, although in some places the jokes fall slightly flat, which is partly because the film's screenplay does rush slightly to get through the entire narrative.

Regardless of this, it is a fun film and has some interesting emotional arcs for the characters, most especially Fry (West) - who parodies The Lord of the Rings's Gollum in the alternate Universe; Farnsworth and Mom's dumbest son Igner (John DiMaggio) as shock revelations are revealed for them both.

2008.
12.
Stars: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, Kath Soucie, David Herman, Frank Welker.

Golden Reel nomination: Best Sound Editing - Direct to Video (Travis Powers, Paul D. Calder, Scott Schirle).

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

**

Fifty years ago Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy) crashed on to the Moon's Dark Side. Now awoken, he betrays Optimus (Peter Cullen) and joins Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and the Decepticons to destroy the Earth and return life to Cyberton.

A pretty good first film (2007), followed by a poor sequel (2009), the franchise has closed with this big budget robot sci-fi. Like its predecessors the film features brilliantly bold and powerful visual effects created by wonderful, but expensive, CGI, which makes the transformations from robot to car as ever slick, impressive and intricately detailed, while making the Decepticon attacks and the climactic final battle boldly explosive.

The screenplay is one of the film's main drawbacks though. Potentially deep and powerful themes such as love and loyalty crop up regularly, but get little development, remaining as simple as Sam (Shia LaBeouf) having difficulty opening up to Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), or Sam and Bumblebee yearning to see more of each other. The dialogue is poorly written, particularly Sam and Carly's relationship (worsened by the major lack of chemistry between LaBeouf and Huntington-Whiteley), while the final battle (although visually bold and explosive) is very repetitive and ends on a slight anti-climax.

As a possible result of the poor screenplay we are also offered a generally poor quality cast.While LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson put some emotion into their performances, Huntington-Whiteley is quite wooden as her poorly written character goes from sexual object to damsel in distress. Most disappointingly though is John Malkovich as Sam's irritating boss, who joins the ranks of John Turturro, Kevin Dunn and Julie White as one of those quickly irritating cast members, that gets under one's skin.

Exciting in places, and visually powerful throughout, the film falls short in deep and emotional parts, and while superior to its predecessor, it is a below par conclusion to a below par franchise.

2011.
12.
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Jess Harnell, Charlie Adler, Robert Foxworth, James Remar, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Lester Speight, Alan Tudyk, Glenn Morshower, Buzz Aldrin, George Coe, Francesco Quinn, Tom Kenny, Reno Wilson,  Frank Welker, John DiMaggio, Ron Bottitta, Keith Szarabajka, Ken Jeong.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Puss in Boots

****

Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) first appeared in Shrek 2 (2004), and now, seven years on, he gets his very own film in this prequel to the Shrek franchise (2001-11). With childhood best friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), fugitive Puss is pitted against murderous outlaws Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) in a quest to find magic beans, which are said to lead to a golden goose, and great fortune.

Puss in Boots, like all the most recent DreamWorks films features absolutely fantastic computer animation which brings together a multitude of colours together perfectly to make a beautiful final product. The design team clearly worked very hard as they captured wonderfully the rustic feel of older Spanish villages, and as well as this they created a wonderful amount of texture for Puss's and Kitty's fur.

Accompanying the animation is an altogether charming screenplay, witty in places, particularly in the duologues between characters such as Puss and Kitty, as well as Humpty's views on life as an egg, while also creating some quite emotional drama, particularly Puss's backstory told in a flashback which has the occasional comical scene, while also tugging on the heartstrings as we are told of the problems and emotional moments of Puss's life. Drama also comes in the film's climax in large portions as life and death situations are faced.
The screenplay also features wonderfully written characters who the cast voice with passion and emotion. The characters are very cleverly written, and a testimony to the writing skills of David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Brian Lynch. It would have been so easy to make Puss and Kitty the most humanesque anthropomorphic cats possible, however, the pair are believably cats. They lap up milk with their tongues, they hiss, they get distracted by lights and balls of wool. As for Jack and Jill, they are hugely dominant antagonists, the passionate rage by Thornton and Sedaris making them very bold and attention grabbing, while their on screen presence, which includes killing a stranger so they can sleep in an inn for the night, often dominates their scenes while capturing the murderous outlaw stereotype.

Altogether this film is a fitting conclusion to the Shrek franchise (2001-11), even if it does not centre on the grumpy green ogre, and has continued the recent DreamWorks string of hits, which started with Monsters vs. Aliens (2009).

2011.
PG.
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Zach Galifianakis, Salma Hayek, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro, Zeus Mendoza, Bob Joles, Mike Mitchell, Robert Persichetti Jr.

Oscar nomination: Best Animated Feature (Chris Miller).

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Hangover: Part II


**

Remember how 19 years ago Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) mimicked the whole of the 1990 original, only set in a totally different location? Well that is what The Hangover: Part II does. Two years after their adventures in Vegas, the Wolf Pack fly out to Thailand for Stu's (Ed Helms) wedding. However, a night in Bangkok sees them lose his teenage brother-in-law to be (Mason Lee). In a dangerous foreign city with no memory of the night before it is a race against time to find Teddy before the wedding.

The film features some fairly comical moments, whichsimilarly to the original are created in the on-screen love-hate relationshipand exchange of words that Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper createin Stu, Alan and Phil with Galifianakis believably stupid still as Alan andcreates the most laughs out of the three with a childlike persona, however thefilm focuses more on a needle in a haystack search of Bangkok, and little screenplayis dedicated to their emotional arcs or character development.

Throughout the film is far too formulaic and tries to topthe laugh factor of the 2009 original with the result being very crude andraunchy humour that raises more cringes than laughs. Everyone enjoys the oddcrude joke but the film pushes it way too far, with the sex/prostitute humourgoing especially far. The film is simply predictable, and one can tell roughly whatshall happen as the narrative progresses using the same formula as theoriginal. However it is all on a much larger, more frantic and crude scale thatfails to keep one engaged, and results in bland humour which struggles to raisea chuckle.

What we get in the end is an absurd piece of comedy that istrying and failing to be funny, partly also through combining the genre ofcrime with comedy in a subplot involving Chow (Ken Jeong), who is underused anddoesn’t display his talent for comedy at all in this film. Anotherdisappointment is that Justin Bartha is underused as Doug. One forgives hislack of presence in the original as the narrative centres around the Wolf Packtrying to find him. However, when a whole new character is lost one wants tosee the Wolf Pack joined by Doug so that he is a more visible presence, ratherthan his phone contact with them to find out whether they will make it to thewedding.

It was always a longshot for Director Todd Phillips, who hada lot of pressure to recreate the carefully knitted genius of the original, andthis longshot flopped royally. A huge disappointment is what I felt I waswatching, and I just hope the excellent box office figures don’t persuadePhillips or Warner Brothers in green lighting The Hangover: Part III (hopefully never to be made).

2011.
15.
Stars: Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Mason Lee, Ken Jeong, Jamie Chung, Justin Bartha, Paul Giamatti, Nirut Sirijanya, Sasha Barrese, Bryan Callen, Gillian Vigman, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, Yasmin Lee.

People's Choice Award nominations: Favorite Comedy Movie, Favorite Ensemble Movie Cast, Favorite Comedic Movie Star (Bradley Cooper).

Three Trailers

Firstly is the trailer for Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012)...


Originally planned as a prequel to Alien (1979) Scott insists now that it is its own mythology. However, it still looks as if it is part of the franchise, which Scott refers to as "sharing strands of Alien's DNA." Although it could potentially be a slick and powerful piece of sci-fi it has the potential to be another disappointment from Scott as Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Robin Hood (2010) were, and looks like a cash in on a franchise that has had huge success.

Secondly is the trailer for Men in Black III (2012)...


Another disappointing sequel is what I expect based on this trailer. The 1997 original was a well-written comedy about two very different agents trying to stop one particularly nasty alien and was a very good piece of film making, only to be followed by a poorly written sequel five years on. Although some slick scenes look potentially present, this looks set to be another substance lacking sequel.

Third and finally is the trailer for Lady and the Tramp (1955)'s Blu-ray release next year...


Cheesetastic or what? Although it is Disney aiming their advertising for a younger audience, one needs to remember that Lady and the Tramp like most Disney is a family film, not a kid's film, and the film has its serious moments that adults can be grabbed by. The other thing I dislike is the small letters at the end saying "Also on DVD". I get that the factories and studios alike want to boost Blu-ray sales, but they just can't escape the truth, which is that DVDs are still a far greater seller, and what happened to that big old Disney DVD logo that was side-by-side with the Disney Blu-ray logo less than a year ago?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Somebody pinch me, for I must be dreaming...

In the last 24 hours I have been like an excited kid at Christmas. Why? We four days away from Christmas, a wonderful day with friends and family celebrating the birth of Christ, the thought of which excites me to no end all year, but my excitement has peaked in recent hours after viewing these two trailers for the first time.

Firstly is The Dark Knight Rises (2012)...


Only two sequels have excited me more at prospect value in the last four years than this one - Toy Story 3 (2010) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011). Although this film doesn't look as slick as its 2008 predecessor, it looks to be a gritty and explosive finale to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy (2005-12), and is sure to get the audience on the edge's of their seats.

Secondly is the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), which only premiered in the last twelve or so hours...



I must be dreaming. Like millions I have missed Middle Earth a lot since The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-4) ended with The Return of the King: Extended Edition (2003/4), and it is with great excitement that I await Peter Jackson's two-part adaptation of The Hobbit (2012/13), which from the looks of this trailer is set to have the more comical/light-hearted side of Tolkien ever present in the book. It also looks to be just as much a strong, passionate piece of fantasy as The Lord of the Rings, with another dynamite performance from Ian McKellen as Gandalf, an ever wonderful Gollum, and the incredible visuals that were ever present in The Lord of the Rings.

If there can only be three of next year's biggest blockbusters I can see it shall be these two and Brave (2012). Naturally I will see way more, but you know what I mean. The sequel and the prequel that the world have been waiting for these surely shall not disappoint.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Couple of Trailers

Here's the trailer for The Lorax (2012)...


Based on the Dr Seuss classic children's story, the film is out in cinemas in time for Easter. Although the film looks like a visual beauty, like Horton Hears a Who! (2008), it looks like another case of a simple yet beautiful  story getting completely over cooked by the chefs (filmmakers) in those Hollywood studios. However, I'm sure it will still be a piece of fun as Horton was, plus the casting of Danny DeVito I'm sure will turn out to be an excellent creative decision.

Next is the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)...


DreamWorks's rival for Pixar's Brave (2012) next summer, Brave looks to be the far superior of the two while the latest Madagascar film looks set to be a miss like its predecessors (2005/8). Entertaining - yes. A strong piece of film - no. A major drop in quality compared to recent hits such as How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and Puss in Boots (2011) - based on the so far reviews, seeing Puss this week!