Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Review

Well it's finally Christmas Eve and last year I reviewed a Christmas classic in the form of The Muppets Christmas Carol that I still believe is the best Christmas film but, hey, that's just a tradition in my house (gonna watch it again tonight so...yeah). There are so many other Christmas classics that bring the Christmas feeling...I've said Christmas way too many times already. I think the other classics include It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and White Christmas...so let's review Die Hard.

New York City Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is invited to an Christmas party by his ex-wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) in the Nakatomi Plaza in LA. It's not going to be good though as a group of German criminals led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) arrive at the building and hold everyone hostage. McClane manages to slip by them which leaves him on his own. McClane is now one man against 12 armed criminals.

If you haven't ever seen this film, you will probably be surprised to hear that this is very much a Christmas film. It actually makes for some nice memorable Christmas moments such as the "Now i have a machine gun" scene. The soundtrack also offers some Christmas tunes that work surprisingly well considering that this is a violent action film. In addiation to this, the film does get a lot of humourous moments that are probably one of the man reasons that people rewatch this film year after year. It's easily one of the most iconic action films and lines such as "Yippee Ki-Yay, motherf**ker" will stick with you for ages. Of course, these moments don't detract from the great action scenes.

Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman are great. Sure, Rickman's accent seems to disappear as the film goes on but he still does a good job as the villain who works great opposite Willis as John McClane. Willis absolutely owns the role and proves that McClane probably couldn't be played by anyone else. The two are very enjoyable to watch as are the side-characters. Reginald VelJohnson and De'voreaux White make for likable characters that contact with McClane that you do get attached to (well, VelJohnson as Al Powell anyway).

Die Hard is definitely worthy of being a Christmas classic. Sure it does the action genre justice with great action scenes and hilarious one-liners with memorable original characters played by great actors, it also offers some Christmas imagery with a very Christmassy soundtrack. Well, that's it for Christmas season this year so it's back to normal films again after Christmas. I hope you have a good Christmas (or other Holiday if that's not your thing) and I'll see you afterwards.

With great action, humour and acting, Die Hard is a surprise Christmas classic that I plan on watching every year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) Review

I'm going to find myself reviewing some version of A Christmas Carol, aren't I. I reviewed The Muppets Christmas Carol last year and now find myself looking at a more modern interpretation of the story (well...more 80s version). Scrooged is probably the most unique of the adaptations since there is no Ebenezer Scrooge, no Jacob Marley, no Tiny Tim and so on. It uses it's own characters and setting however it loosely follows the story. Does it still work though? Let's find out.

Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is cynical, selfish and all round unpleasant president of a television broadcast company which is currently planning their adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Frank is met by the ghost (or rather, zombie like corpse) of his mentor Lew Hayward (John Forsythe) who warns him off three ghosts coming to visit him over the course of the next couple of days. Frank reluctantly goes along with it as the ghosts try to make Frank a better man.

The most notable thing the film offers, probably a result of it's Oscar nomination, is how good the make-up is. The ghosts become memorable as a result (Ghost of Christmas Past and Lew Hayward look especially good). I also love the design of the Ghost of Christmas Future which has the traditional Grim Reaper look but with a TV screen for a face for sake of irony and uniqueness. It also is quite freaky at times. For example in the original story, Marley just spoke to Scrooge but here, Hayward scares the life out of Frank. It's much darker than any interpretation that I've seen yet...which makes the film much more memorable.

Bill Murray is his usual self in this film so that should give you a good idea of what kind of performance he brings but I can't get enough of Bill Murray so I'm fine with it. One of the most memorable performances in this film is Bobcat Goldthwait as one of the workers Frank fires in the first scene. He was very enjoyable to watch along with the actors who portray the ghosts. The humour is good but I think it isn't really a film for all audiences. I can see some people thinking it's a pretty stupid movie but I enjoyed it enough.

Scrooged is an interesting interpretation on the classic story and lends itself to great make-up work, good humour and an enjoyable cast. While I can't really recommend it to everyone, I will say that if you enjoy Bill Murray's other works such as Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day (both of which I have previously reviewed) then I would say have a look at this one. Well, join me on Christmas Eve where we take a look at our last Christmas film this year...and it's freaking awesome.

It looks good and offers good humour with Bill Murray's typical performance.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nativity! (Debbie Isitt, 2009) Review

With the excellent film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I needed to see more films starring Martin Freeman and, what with it being the Christmas season, I found a film that seems to fulfill this. Nativity is a Christmas film starring Martin Freeman so I figured we should take a look at this one. It only seems right to take a look at a Christmas film that deals with the Nativity...kind of the point of Christmas, isn't it. Well then, let's take a look at Nativity!

Coming up to Christmas, Primary school teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is assigned the task of working on the school's performance of the Nativity. In addition to this, the class assistant, Desmond Poppy (Marc Wootton), arrives and proves to be a opposite to Paul's strict disposition. Things get worse though when Paul tries to impress his rival Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) by claiming that Hollywood producers are arriving to see the performance. Poppy spreads the word which puts all the pressure on Paul and his growing lie.

This was definitely the surprise Christmas film for me. Seeing all the adverts, I really didn't think much of it but after watching it, it's good. Not amazing but good enough to be a Christmas classic I reckon. Martin Freeman offers one of his more emotional performances that is surprisingly touching that ties into Paul's quite heart-breaking backstory which is accompanied by Ashley Jensen carrying over her skills from Extras. Other actors might not be as good but Freeman and Jensen hold the film up. Even the children actors do a good job of making the children unique and memorable.

I must say it is refreshing to see a Christmas film that doesn't focus on the commercial side of Christmas and focuses more on what the whole point of Christmas is. Christmas specials such as The Vicar of Dibley and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'em do focus on the Nativity but I haven't really seen a film focus on it (some recommendations of more of these would be appreciated). It is an engaging film as well considering that it does draw you in. That's always a plus.

Nativity! may not be the best Christmas film ever but it was a pleasant surprise and has made it as an annual viewing for me. Martin Freeman makes the film with a surprisingly strong performance accompanied by Ashley Jensen. The children do a good job while other characters aren't necessarily as good as the leads. Love Actually still stands as the best Christmas film with Martin Freeman but this still has its place among the Christmas film collection.

The acting is good and it's definitely a feel good film. There are still a few minor complaints but still a good Christmas film.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson, 2013) Review

Christmas film interruption time as we take a look at yet another 2013 film...I'm really flying through these this year. Last December saw the prequel of the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which, while it was a good film, didn't really compare to the original trilogy. It's been a year since then and we can now return to Middle Earth to witness The Desolation of Smaug.

On the quest to the lonely mountain, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) Throrin (Richard Armitage) and their band of Dwarves must pass through the Mirkwood Forest and reach Lake-town without the aid of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and face the judgement of Elven warriors. From Lake-town, Bilbo must prove his worth as a burglar and reclaim the Arkinstone from the Arkhenstone from the clutches of the beast that took over the mountain, the ferocious dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

THIS is what I wanted from the first Hobbit film. Action sequences have always been a highlight in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (the battle of Helms Deep is one of my favourite action scenes in any film) and the first Hobbit film never had any one action scene that stuck out. There were memorable scenes such as the Gollum scene but not nearly as many as old trilogy. The Desolation of Smaug fixes this and ups the ante. Since the introductions were done previously, we get more time for the journey and action. The barrel scene that was featured in the trailer is more amazing than you could possibly imagine and any scene with the eponymous Smaug is absolutely brilliant. These are scenes that are truly worthy of being associated with The Lord of the Rings.

I have to wonder what people's reaction to Martin Freeman being cast as Bilbo was. I bet they couldn't see how brilliant of a performance he would deliver in this film. While you could accuse him as just being a hobbit version of John Watson in the first film, Freeman proves his acting abilities in this one. This film adds much more emotion (the scene with the ring in Mirkwood Forest is really well acted). Other actors such as Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage also do well, even though McKellen is downplayed a bit in this one. The actor that truly blew this one out the water though was, just like Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch. His voice combined with Smaug's design is worth the price of admission alone.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was the film we've been wanting sine these prequels were announced. If you loved the original trilogy yet felt let down by the first Hobbit film, this one will hopefully fix everything. The acting is amazing, the action scenes make the film, more emotion makes more a more engaging experience and Smaug is one of the highlights of this film year. Well worth the price of admission.

Fixes all the problems with the first film and expands upon these elements even further.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Santa Clause (Josh Pasquin, 1994) Review

Continuing with Christmas season, we looked at a film that had one of, if not, the best Santa Claus in any film in the form of Douglas Seale in Ernest Saves Christmas so let's look at a film that has a kind of unlikely person to play Santa: Tim Allen. Buzz Lightyear himself takes to the sleigh in a film with a pun in the title...I don't even know what to make of that...

Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is a disgruntled single father whose life changes completely when he accidentally kills Santa Claus. Donning the iconic clothing, Scott takes it upon himself to finish the job only to find himself taken to the North Pole where he is officially inducted as Santa Claus, whether he likes it or not. His son Charlie () tries to convince everyone that his father really is Santa Claus however this only worsens the relationship between Scott and his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson).

This is definelty one of those Christmas films I watch every year. Sure that doesn't mean it's that good but it is good enough to watch year after year. The charm of it comes down to Tim Allen. While bad Santas are becoming more popular, I feel that Tim Allen was the first (well, after A Christmas Story) but since the whole film is centred on him, it does do a good job of showing his progression as Santa Claus. While Tim Allen is memorable, the other actors are pretty forgettable (except maybe David Krumholtz and Peter Boyle).

What is good, however, is the imagery. The set pieces, specifically in Santa's Workshop, are really impressive and just fascinating to look at. Even the imagery of the real world is nice. The scene where Scott enters the houses when delivering presents looks really nice and definitely captures the look of Christmas. Sure the plot is a bit predictable and a bit bland and, yes, that is a big flaw but that doesn't stop this from being a annual viewing for me.

The Santa Clause has it's flaws and feels a bit clunky at times as a result of a basic story and unmemorable actors but the great lead with Tim Allen and nice iconography makes for a Christmas classic. Not the strongest classic, mind you, but still worthy of a watch this Christmas. I guess Christmas is time of no movie shame considering that I watch Jingle all the Way...aw well.

While Tim Allen is good in the role and has very nice iconography, everyone else is a bit bland the story is pretty basic. Still a Christmas classic though.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ernest Saves Christmas (John R. Cherry III, 1988) Review

It's time to review some Christmas films. Really, I would've started earlier but I was watching new film after new film and I like to review new films as soon as possible. With those out of the way (even though there might be more on the way...I'm looking at you Mr. Banks.), we can take a look at some more Christmas films and starting it off is one that few of you have probably seen but...well...I don't know to be honest...

Ernest (Jim Varney) is a bumbling yet good hearted man who gets caught up in an adventure when he winds up with Santa Claus' (Douglas Seale) magic sack. He attempts to give the sack back however Santa is too occupied with trying to find his replacement after doing the job for too long. If Ernest and Santa fail at finding the successor, Christmas will cease to exist.

This is definitely one annoying film. I can see many people disliking Ernest for being stupidly obnoxious and giving no room to the camera (seriously, his face gets too much close up time) and others will find the tag along kid while it uses a plot that leaves you wishing you were watching The Santa Clause. While others could argue that Ernest is meant to be annoying, I actually do like him just because he's a nice guy at heart...an annoying nice guy but still somewhat likable but these moments are few and far between...and this seems to force the kid in. I do like the scene when her story arc finishes but it takes a while for her to actually do anything substantial.

However, when this film gets something right...it gets it right (boy, that was redundant). Douglas Seale is easily one of the best Santa Clauses you will ever see in a film. Just imagine the Sultan's voice from Aladdin as Santa and you get the general idea. He makes this film and is the primary reason that this film is worth watching. In fact, this film does leave me with a nice Christmassy feeling that does make me want to rewatch the film...once you get through the awkward camera angles. I did find myself laughing at times but this isn't exactly a comedy masterpiece.

Ernest Saves Christmas is definitely a mixed bag (or sack as Santa goes about saying). On one hand, it's annoying and has so many elements that were unnecessary yet on the other it does a good job of portraying the spirit of Christmas and has one of, if not, the best Santa Clauses in any film. Do I recommend it? Yes and no. Watch it for Douglas Seale but don't come crying to me if you get freaked out by Jim Varney's face up close. Honestly, this would be on my Christmas annual watch if the DVD wasn't so hard to find...although now I've found it on demand, this is official part of my Christmas line up. Arthur Christmas is one I hope to check out soon too.

Somehow this film is both annoying and stupid and also good hearted and captures the spirit of Christmas.

Also, why did the sticker in Ernest's car say "Keep the Christ in Christmas" if it's a film about Santa Claus?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013) Review

Yes, 3 2013 films in a row. We're doing so well but I imagine that's it because I've got to start looking at Christmas films now! So now we have a sequel to a film that seemed to divide people (I got people both loving and hating it). While I enjoyed it, others certainly didn't so is the sequel going to change anyone's opinion...probably not.

Facing the repercussions of her actions from the previous Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is met by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) before she and her partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) set off on the victory tour. Snow fears Katniss' actions may end up causing a revolution and makes sure that Katniss does not make the same mistake while keeping the revolution down. To make matters worse, Katniss and Peeta are thrown back into the next Hunger Games for a special event known as the Quarter Quell that allows winners to return to the games every 25 years. Now Katniss has to survive, protect Peeta and decide whether to restore peace or defy President Snow.

While I initially was wondering whether I thought this was better than the original or not, I came to the conclusion that, while it is superior to the original, it is not enough to shift it to a higher score...confusing I know. All the elements that made me enjoy the first one are still present however there are certain elements that are reduced while others are increased. The first 10 minutes has terrible pacing which made me realise that not enough time is spent with Katniss and Peeta enjoying their victory...if they would (they probably wouldn't any way) and certain side characters that I enjoyed in the first are down-played (Toby Jones has one scene!). 

However, Donald Sutherland is given more screen time and owns every scene he is in along with the addition of Philip Seymour-Hoffman, who is always great to watch. Jennifer Lawrence also gives a much more emotional performance even though Josh Hutcherson is downplayed much more than in the original. It's also good to see more traps featured in the actual hunger games with new tributes to enjoy (much more likable that in the first one). It is definetly smarter than the first film however, outside of the games themselves, it does feel different to the first which is preferable in my opinion.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire subtracts a few things that I enjoyed from the first but makes up for these lost elements with new and/or expanded material. Yes, it is better than the first but not by enough to warrant a higher score. So while it may appear the same, it isn't. It is better...just not by much. The characters that aren't shafted to the side are more developed with stronger acting and new actors do offer great new material the franchise and has an ending that left me wanting the next films. It's definetly more engaging than the first but I doubt it'll sway anyone's opinion. Just more for the fans.

An enjoyable flick from start to finish that makes me remember why I enjoyed the first film

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013) Review

And now for another film up-to-date film. Hopefully I can score a hat trick and deliver 3 new films in a row. So I read all the reviews, saw all the hype and finally decided to watch the box office smash that is Gravity. The director also caught my interest as his previous works include my favourite Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban and Y Tu Mama Tambien, a film I looked at for Film Studies. It was also good to see a trailer not give much away although, having watched it, there wasn't much they could get away with in the trailers without ruining anything. So let's take a look at what seems to be set up as the best film this year.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are two astronauts out in space on a mission which is both Ryan's first and Matt's last missions. Things go wrong though when a Russian missile strike on a satellite causes loads of debris to start circling Earth's orbit. The debris destroys their ship and Ryan and Matt are left alone in space. With oxygen running out and no radio signals, the two must rely on their wits to survive the horrors of space.

This film is absolutely beautiful. In every sense of the word. Not just down to how amazing the visuals are but the subtle writing, astounding performance from Sandra Bullock, wonderful soundtrack and just having the Earth looming over every shot creates a feeling of awe and is a marvel to watch. Sandra Bullock delivers an amazing performance which almost guarantees her an Oscar and I wouldn't be surprised if George Clooney is nominated too since he delivers some light-heartedness to the film. Even the cinematography is great as it makes the film look grand and epic even when it's a close up shot (also fun to see the first 10 minutes be one continuous shot).

This is exactly the sci-fi film that I've always wanted to see. A film that focused on realism (...for the most part, isn't that right WALL-E?) as well as the isolation in space. 2001: A Space Odyssey is probably the closest we've come to this but I'm sure all of you saw the ending and thought "....what?" (I get it the ending...I think). It's almost a peaceful film as some scenes leave you with the silence of space. It's serene. The great cinematography helps accompany this as well as an amazing soundtrack. 

Gravity is easily the best film I've seen this year. Everything is amazing from the damn good performance from Sandra Bullock to the excellent cinematography. Do yourself a favour and watch this ASAP, it deserves every star that it's received and I'm sure I could connect that line with space but...I'm not that smart. Hopefully the next review of mine should be ANOTHER 2013 film! Yay for affordable cinema!

Believe the hype. Gravity is as good as you've heard. Film of the year by far.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor (Nick Hurran, 2013) Review

I'm back! Yeah! And what a way to kick off my return with a review of...something that is technically not a film but on the other hand it could perfectly qualify as one (well, it defines the dictionary definition of both 'film' and 'movie'). The main reason being that, if you are a big Doctor Who fan like me, you could see it in the cinema...and I did. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who was shown in cinemas so it certainlly qualifies. So what about my 'Top 10 Films of 2013' list...well it would have to be qualify before we even argue about it.

The 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) are summoned to UNIT's base in London in order to investigate a painting of the destruction of Galifrey, the Doctor's homeworld. Time portals open to reveal the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) hunting down Zygons in 18th century England and the Doctor during the Time War, known as the War Doctor (John Hurt), having to make a horrific decision. The three Doctors band together to not only stop the Zygons from taking over present day London but to also make sure that the War Doctor makes the correct decision.

I think the first thing that came to mind when watching this is that it reminded me how great David Tennant was in the role and it's excellent to see him return. Matt Smith certainly proves his worth this time around especially if you weren't that convinced by him before hand. Lastly, John Hurt just seems like an actor who will never lose his touch. The three work off each other very well and it's good to see the film make use of side characters such as Clara too. The writing has definitely improved from the series, especially considering that this is a Steven Moffat script which are usually convoluted and a bit too much. The 'film' benefits from a feature-length run time and definitely feels like an actual Doctor Who movie.

I do have a few complaints however. While the primary story about the War Doctor is great, the Zygon sub-story starts off fine but is dropped completely towards the end. We never see an outcome or any kind of resolution to it. I can also see some people getting annoyed by the portrayal of Elizabeth I but it didn't really bug me that much as she did come in handy in the second half. This is a personal point but I do think that we needed more characters for the 50th Anniversary. You could argue that the episode Journey's End was grander but the second half of Day of the Doctor makes up for this with a spectacular finale for one of my favourite cinematic moments this year. I was also a bit miffed at how small of an appearance Billie Piper makes

The Day of the Doctor is a pretty damn good way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. The three leads compliment each other very well and work off each other, leading to some great moments (both spectacular and hilarious). The writing is much stronger than the actual show and, while it does have some flaws, was worth watching in the cinema. If I saw this on TV, it would probably be a 7/10 but the grand spectacle of it on the big screen earns it an extra 0.5 as well as one of the best cameos this year next to Thor: The Dark World (not Stan Lee) and a great ending.

A cinematic treat. There are some flaws regarding sub-plots but the surprisingly good writing and great acting makes for a memorable movie event.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Parenthood (Ron Howard, 1989) Review

I know I've been failing on the quantity of reviews recently but there are plenty of reasons why...or just one but, hey, let's just get this show on the road. Considering that there are plenty of films out in the cinema that look great...it's time to talk about a film that came out more than 20 years ago...yeeeah, I'm sure I'll get to the cinema eventually...Gravity looks pretty good...

Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) is a father of three with his wife Karen (Mary Steenburgen) who has to deal with his problem childern, his 'black-sheep' brother Larry (Tom Hulce) and being a likable father and providing for his kids. He's not the only one having parent trouble as his realative Helen (Diane Wiest) has to raise her two kids after her husband abandons them. Her daughter is bringing home what seems like a sleeze and her son is very distant. Lastly is Nathan Huffer (Rick Moranis) who has to deal with his estranged wife while making sure his daughter is a straight-A student.

I admire what the film is doing. I enjoy it when films have multiple characters and stories to develop them. It's refreshing to see multiple narratives that run parallel to each other yet are still connected and cross-over every now and then. This means that we get some genuinely engaging with likable characters who the actors do justice. The heart-warming story is assisted by good humour and good character development (the ending to Larry's story is...heart-breaking yet sadly realistic). It's runs on realism and making the situation relatable.

The film is well-written and uses humour well yet still manages to make a heart-warming story. Diane Wiest is probably the stand-out actor in this film along side a surprisingly deep role from Keanu Reeves. Steve Martin brings his usual routine that he has perfected and it's good to see Rick Moranis play against type by NOT being a pathetic dweeb. The ending is bitter-sweet to say the least but it ends the story with most of the loose ends tied up.

Parenthood was a good surprise and one of the stronger films that fall within Steve Martin's usual routine. It does what it sets out to do by delivering a heart-warming story with good acting (with an brilliant performance from Diane Wiest). I could see how this film is relatable and creates a realistic family setting. Next time, I'm sure I'll get round to reviewing a modern film...or a film that rocked my mind...I really don't know what happened for that last 2 hours...

A well-written, heart-warming story that uses humour and realism to make a relatable and enjoyable flick.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013) Review

I think it's safe to say that it hasn't been the best of years for films (we were spoilt last year with greatness) and my evidence for this being that the last film I saw in the cinema was Pacific Rim...that was back in July. Now it's November and I finally got around to watching a new film in the cinema and the next in line in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World.

After the events of Avengers Assemble, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is brought before Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and is sent to the Asgard dungeon for the rest of his days. Asgard can't rest easy though, as a threat from Asgard's part, Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston), for as returned to find a powerful energy known as the Aether. Back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natatlie Portman) learns about portals found in London which lead to a realm known as The Dark World where the Ether is kept. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes Jane with the Ether back to Asgard to find a way to harness it and stop Malekith from reeking havoc.

One of the biggest complaints about the first Thor was that people just wanted all out action rather than a fish-out-of-water story with Thor getting his powers back. This is the Thor film those people wanted as it is just all out action (with a very unique fight scene which I've heard being described as Portal meets Mortal Kombat...Portal Kombat). This, however, means that it takes a while to REALLY get started as it just seems dull to begin with. The second half is excellent though and the settings are nicer (London is much nicer than New Mexico...did I just say that out loud?) and it's very nice to see more of Asgard (although I was expecting to see more of Thor's friends but there is somehow LESS of them than the first film).

When Avengers Assemble came out, the character that exploded in popularity was Loki so it was expected that he would return as a main character but I didn't expect him to be the best thing about the film. Tom Hiddleston proves that he can still keep up a great role and gets better every time and leads to some of the films funniest moments (one of which features one of the best movie cameos I have ever seen). Malekith was mixed for me. He has a great design (and considering how impossibly stupid he looks in the comics, is saying a lot) and his powers offer a great fight scene but in terms of personality and voice, he isn't very unique (which is disappointing considering that he sounded better in the trailer).

Thor: The Dark World is not as good as the first film but damn is it close. The only thing that really makes it inferior is the dull first act but it makes up for it with a spectacular second half. The action is great (mostly thanks to a very unique fight sequence), it looks very impressive for the most part, the characters are still as we remember them and is a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While not as good as the first, it captures what Thor does best and makes for some unique moments and great action.

Also stick around for the credits...it's a Marvel film, I shouldn't have to tell you that now.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Road to El Dorado (Eric Bergeron and Will Fin, 2000) Review

Have you noticed that people like to use the word "under-rated" even when a film statistically isn't under-rated? The misusing of the word is what I'm getting at. I will admit I have some films I like that are under-rated (based on imdb and Rotten Tomatoes). This also marks my first traditional animated Dreamworks film review which means that there may be some good films on the horizon like The Prince of Egypt but let's take a look at the only Dreamworks film to never make a profit...The Road to El Dorado.

In 1519 Spain, two swindlers called Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) and Tulio (Kevin Kline) cheat their way through a game of dice and end up wining a map leading to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. After being found out, the two find themselves on the ship of Cortez (Jim Cummings) who decides to make them slaves on their voyage to Cuba. Miguel and Tulio break out and find themselves on an desert island where they find El Dorado itself. Upon arriving, they are thought to be gods by the citizens and keep up the facade to steal their gold and pull off the biggest scam in history.

Why must we live in a world where awful films like Shark Tale made a profit and yet this film didn't. Why do I say this. Because I think that this is one hell of a film. The film lends itself to traditional animation in order to capture the cartooney yet realistic style that fits the film so well. The idea behind the film was to make an animated film that didn't focus on a hero and instead put sidekick-esque characters in the leading role and it makes for two very likable and memorable protagonists. Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline share such a strong chemistry like that of John Goodman and Billy Crystal in Monsters Inc. and make Miguel and Tulio that much better characters. Even the villain, Tzekel-Kan, manages to escape being generic and with Armand Assante hamming up the performance. 

Arguably the film's strongest aspect is the music. This was to be expected considering that it's provided by the same team behind The Lion King's legendary soundtrack. Is it on the same level? If it isn't, it's pretty damn close. The main theme starts the film off with a magnificent and triumphant bang with other songs doing what songs in films SHOULD do, convey the emotions of the characters like 'Friends Never Say Goodbye' does. While it is a little bit odd that the characters sing one song themselves and leave the rest up to Elton John's non-diegetic songs but 'It's Tough To Be God' is so damn catchy that it's easy to forgive. Even the background music is magnificent with the talented duo of Hans Zimmer and John Powell.

It really saddens me that The Road to El Dorado was a flop because I would've loved to see more from Miguel and Tulio (well, as long as Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline stayed on board). It puzzles me as to why is was a flop or why it's currently under 50% on Rotten Tomatoes (THAT really perplexes me). With very memorable and likable character accompanied by top notch voice acting, an absolutely amazing soundtrack (both vocal and background) and beautiful animation (with maybe one or two moments of CGI that sticks out). The Road to El Dorado is one of the many reasons why I miss traditionally animated films but it's sure as hell better than most animated films in recent history.

Such a magnificent film and easily one of Dreamworks best. Why it flopped...I have absolutely no idea.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009) Review

I think it's an interesting point that I've not only already done a spot frame animated film but this is also the second one to be directed by Henry Selick...maybe he should stop being a freaky weirdo (sorry, sir). Now, A Nightmare Before Christmas is obviously a Halloween related film...and Christmas but more so Halloween. What does Coraline have to do with that or, failing that, is it the least bit scary...oh, you have no idea.

The Jones family recently moved into an old shared house old in the middle of nowhere. The daughter, Coraline (Dakota Fanning) feels ignored by her parents (Terri Hatcher and John Hodgman) and gets bored so she decides to explore their new home. Doing so, she finds a hidden passage that, obviously, she goes through. Coraline finds herself in a parallel world where everyone's eyes are replaced by buttons. She finds that in this world, her parents are much more attentive and treat her well. While this world seems all well and good, slowly the truth behind the other world is revealed and Coraline has to escape from her Other Mother.

Going in, I had no idea what to think think. Literally, no idea. Coming out...I can conclude that this is a pretty damn scary film. It worries me that this was targeted at kids considering some of the frightening imagery in this. Now, scary kids in films is fine in small doses like the pink elephants in Dumbo but, when it's a whole film of freaking imagery, I have to wonder if this is really a kids film. It proves to me that films like this are definitely scarier than any, so called, 'horror' film like Paranormal Activity can be (i.e. not scary in the slightest no matter how hard it tries). It doesn't rely on jump scares and simply uses imaginative characters and scenarios for raw horror.

Something I learnt about Coraline is that it was it was originally supposed to be a musical much like A Nightmare Before Christmas. Initially I didn't mind the change but considering that They Might Be Giants would be behind the soundtrack, I think we missed our chance for an excellent soundtrack (one short song is left in and it's great...and works in context). Since I can't think of a better segway, let's talk about the actors. Teri Hatcher does a great job as both mothers. She plays the real one as bored and uninterested however the Other Mother is played bi-polar with the calm and attentive side before switching to the cruel and terrifying performance. It's also good to see Dakota Fanning...put effort into a role. This and My Neighbour Totoro are the only films that I can think of where she does a good job. She just seems bored in other films but I guess I'll save that for other films.

Coraline is a well animated, good looking and genuinely scary film from stop fame mastermind Henry Selick. The voice actors do great jobs, especially Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher, and offers some imaginative scenarios and supporting characters. While I personally prefer A Nightmare Before Christmas mostly because I prefer the characters and designs, but I wouldn't argue with anyone that said Coraline is the stronger film...because it could possibly be. 

It looks good and is well animated, has great voice acting and is genuinely scary.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1990) Review

Now it appears that I have been a bit too generous this month and haven't exactly review any bad films. Well I think it's time to change that and tackle a film that really SHOULD be scary but ends up being god damn hilarious. Sure, I'm freaked out by scary clowns and I haven't really seen a film that exploits peoples fear of clowns except this one so...let's take a look at It...great name for a film, by the way. (Yes, I know it is TECHNICALLY a mini-series but it can be viewed as one boringly long film).

In 1960, a group of high school outcasts realise that the town they live in is terrorised by a sadistic evil clown known as Pennywise (Tim Curry) who has been killing children with the brother of one of the kids being the most notable. They band together to take the clown down. 20 years later after the defeat of Pennywise, he is back and is now out for revenge against the now grown up group. It's now up to them to defeat the clown once and for all.

You may have noticed that the only character whose name and actor I mentioned is Pennywise. The reason for this is because everyone else in this film is unbelievably dull. The only kid character I remember well is Richie and that is only because he's played by Seth Green. This therefore means that, when someone dies, there is no sorrow to be had because I just don't care for them. However, where the main characters fall down, this only enhances Pennywise. Tim Curry is freaking hilarious. I'm not sure whether or not he is SUPPOSED to be funny but he really is. I'm sure fans of the Nostalgia Critic know which scene is one my mind at the moment ("Do you have Prince Albert in a can?") and props to the make-up guys because it is truly hard to tell that that is Tim Curry.

Tim Curry holds his film all together and would be god awful if it wasn't for him. The special effects are dreadful, the script is dire and the story is not very good. There is no explanation for where Pennywise came from or why he does what he does. Don't watch this film if you want explanations...you're not getting any (seems to be a theme with Stephen King's works).

It is only worth a watch to watch Tim Curry mess around as an evil clown. That statement should be on the DVD cover considering that it's the only selling point. Everything is pretty dull. Not necessarily terrible (well, some things are terrible), just dull. Dull is the word that best describes this film/mini-series/whatever the hell it is. Not really worth a watch unless you want to see a hilarious role from Tim Curry

There is only one reason to watch this, Tim Curry.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Review

Continuing on with the nightmares (first there was a nightmare before Christmas, now there's a nightmare on Elm Street!) is our first proper HORROR film with blood and all the good stuff. Now I am aware that this film did spawn a big franchise consisting of many films but we're just dealing with the first one for now. I may review them at a later date but I've got to watch them first. Let's just take a look at A Nightmare on Elm Street.

On Elm Street, a group of teenagers are being tormented in their dreams by a clawed assailant known as Fred Krueger (Robert Englund). When Krueger kills one of them in their dream, they die in real life meaning that one teen, Nancy Thompson  (Heather Langenkamp), is left to battle Kruger in the dreamworld and bring him to the real world. There is also a mystery surrounding Krueger's origins and what Nancy's mother (Ronee Blakley) knows about him. 

I couldn't really continue without pointing out that, yes, this is Johnny Depp's first ever acting role. With that out of the way, one thing that I love about this film, and considering that it's a horror film it definitely benefits from this, is that I had absolutely no idea what direction this film was going. There are a lot of fake outs and hope spots that work in the films favour but, that being said, maybe it relies a bit too heavily on that. There isn't as much suspense as their could be and I feel that showing Freddy more would've worked. I know the best horror films keep the monster off screen or a majority of the film like Alien or Jaws but that's because their silent killers. Freddy relies on black comedy which isn't shown off as often as it could be.

While on the topic of Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund basically IS Freddy. 'Nuff said. I also enjoyed Heather Lagenkamp's performance as she managed to convey Nancy's character arc and development that came with surprisingly complex story. Even more so, the ending is............interesting. It is definitely up to interpretation and it's interesting to learn that the director himself hated it...and I can see why. It definitely kills the mood and left me with an awkward feeling.

All in all, A Nightmare on Elm Street does it's job of making a good horror film. While I feel that Freddy should've been explored more and that he needed more attention, the acting is good for the most part and the effects are effective (I guess that's why their called effects...) and I had no idea where the film was going. That's always a plus with horror films. I guess the biggest flaw is that it is very very 80s...VERY 80s....

It has many flaws however it makes up for these flaws with good acting and genuinely good horror.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) Review

I'm quite concerned that a lot of the films I went over to review next were directed by Tim Burton which reminds me how messed up in the head he is. While I'm sure I'll get down to watching proper horror films like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween so that I can review them but...I haven't watched them yet so lets have one more comedic horror film before diving into the proper horror. Let's take a look at Beetlejuice.

When married couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are killed in a car accident, they return to their home and learn that they are now ghosts. The problem is that a new family is planning on moving into their home while Adam and Barbara fail at scaring them out since it only makes them want to stay more. The couple decide to call for the help of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a "bio-exorcist", who has more plans than just helping them.

This is definitely one of the Tim Burton films that I would call a classic. Michael Keaton kills it as the eponymous spirit and steals the show from everyone else. That's not to say that everyone else is terrible. In fact, far from it. Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones are very memorable as the obnoxious couple that are moving in with the dinner scene being the highlight of the film (I can see the fans of the film chuckling now) which leads me onto the comedy. This is a great example of balancing creepy imagery with great comedy that doesn't date itself.

Unique is the word I would use to describe this film...and a lot of other Tim Burton films but this one is the most unique. I think insane might be a better word based on the writing, humour and make-up (Michael Keaton is unrecognisable!). It's clear that Burton had strong creative control in this film which will probably determine what you're opinion on the film is seeing as there are some people that aren't fond of Tim Burton and his...craziness.

Beetlejuice knows how to balance comedy and creepy imagery perfectly with memorable acting from the likes of Michael Keaton who steals the show. There are some great scenes and some generally creepy moments to fulfill the horror aspect of the film. It's not perfect but there is even good stuff to be worth a recommendation, especially if you're a fan of Tim Burton's other films.

A perfect balance of comedy and creepy imagery with great acting and memorable scenes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) Review

So you could probably argue that this is a Christmas film but, let's face it, you'll remember more Halloween imagery which means that I count this as a Halloween film (the name of the first song is 'This is Halloween'). Despite being directed by Henry Selick, I guess Tim Burton had creative control so that means that we have to take a look at Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas...I'm not calling it that...it's like saying J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter and the Something Something...ok.

In a world composed of Halloween elements creatively called Halloweentown, the town is finished celebrating the holiday of Halloween (I'm probably going to say that word a lot) and the king of Halloween, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), grows tired of the same thing year after year and goes off to search for something new. He returns having learnt about the holiday of Christmas and wishes to take over the holiday and do it himself. Rag doll creation Sally (Cathrine O'Hara) foresees a disaster at Christmas and tries to warn Jack but he doesn't heed her warning.

I have very fond memories of this film and enjoyed it a lot...however having watched it recently, I can actually see some of the flaws it has. The biggest flaw is that it is far too short. Now it's kind of hard to create a very long stop frame film and I praised The Cat Returns despite its length however while The Cat Returns was well paced, this is not. There are a lot of things not explained and it feels like there are scenes missing (and the deleted scenes on the DVD didn't help). It just goes a bit too quickly (heck, the villain Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) only appears in three scenes!).

Other than that, there aren't that many huge flaws. The songs are VERY memorable and catchy with my favourites being Jack's Lament, The Oogie-Boogie Song and Poor Jack which come from the mind of Danny Elfman and are accompanied by great vocals (Danny Elfman and Ken Page do excellent jobs). The songs in this musical do their job of conveying how the character is feeling and/or moving the story along. The character designs are just wonderful, Jack especially has a fascinating design that only gets better by using some very impressive stop frame effects.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the greats in stop-frame animation and, while the pacing needs work which does take it down a few notches, it can still be considered a classic that I put on every Halloween...or Christmas...or both. The music is brilliant, the look is perfect for stop frame, the sets are well crafted and the characters are memorable, well designed and well voiced. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and stick it on this Halloween.

The pacing is a big issue because it feels like scenes are missing or things just aren't explained, however the stop frame is very impressive, the music is brilliant, the voice acting is great and the characters are memorable and likable and is a great Halloween film.

But was Chris Sarandon needed seeing as Jack sings more than he speaks?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) Review

So it only hit me that it was October...well, I knew it was October but I've only just got into the spirit of it as it's the month of Halloween! That means that we can dig into some scary films...that's exactly why I picked one that wasn't scary...sorry. It only seemed appropriate to start with a classic Universal horror film and I decided to pick my favourite monster (harsh seeing as he's still human, I guess). Let's take a look at The Invisible Man.

A scientist named Griffin (Claude Rains) develops an experiment that allows him to become invisible, however this is permanent. Not only that, but the experiment also starts affecting his brain and he slowly turns insane resulting in him using his power to terrorise the local town and terrify the citizens. The police are called in to deal with the situation however they are dealing with an enemy that they can't see.

The reason that Griffin is my favourite of the Universal horror icons is because he is a much more likable character. Not likable in an emotional sense but in the sense that it is clear that, while he is insane, he is enjoying himself and is more of a prankster...sure he goes a bit far but the performance of Claude Rains brings some light-heartedness to the role. However, Claude Rains is the only memorable star. I can't remember a single other character except for Flora (Gloria Stuart). Rains makes this film.

There isn't really much for the plot however it's simple and therefore a nice, easy flick to put on. The ending may leave you a bit depressed but it's all good fun while it lasts...as long as you're on Griffin's side. Amazingly, the effects still hold up. The scene where Griffin removes his bandages to reveal nothing there is pretty chilling and still amazingly well done. Later scenes such as him skipping in nothing but his trousers or his footsteps appearing in the snow still look good, especially considering the time this film was made. 

The Invisible Man is my personal favourite of the classic Universal horror films but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. To be honest, it's pretty simple. You could argue that it holds up well enough with a likable yet sadistic protagonist...antagonist...prantagonist (I'm coining that word now) with some effects that still look good now. The plot is simple but it's a good film to stick on this Halloween  It's not perfect but it's a good film to see at least once. 

While the plot is simple and Griffin is the only memorable character, the effects still hold up and it gets the tone right with a likable monster.

and yes, the Invisible Man is my favourite character in Hotel Transylvania.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flight (Robert Zemeckis, 2012) Review

Why is it that everything I've been watching has plane catastrophes recently?! First I watched this movie, which focuses on the repercussions of the averted disaster, then I saw an episode of An Idiot Abroad and now I've been re watching Breaking Bad (nothing will fill that empty void in my heart) so I thought it would only be far to catch up on this movie...considering I've had it in draft form for ages in the hopes I would see it in the cinema...which didn't happen.

William 'Whip' Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an alcoholic, drug addicted pilot who manages to stop a potentially catastrophic crash with an unbelievable maneuver that could not be simulated. He is hailed a hero while recovering in hospital where he meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering heroin addict. All goes well until blood tests reveal that he had alcohol while flying the plane. He works with Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to try and prove his innocence. 

It is notable that Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Whip and I can say that he definitely deserves it as, while Whip isn't exactly a likable person, you do get invested in his turmoils that ultimately leads to a bittersweet ending (I wasn't sure what do think!). Co-stars like Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle also do a good job of offering support to Denzel Washington's performance. The peak of the film is the opening plane scene (not to say the rest of the film is bad, I'm just saying that this scene is amazing). The visuals are excellent and it really captures the feel of flight...or lack of.

However, Kelly Reilly's character is almost pointless and has no reason being in this film. Her plot goes nowhere and, while you could argue that it affects Whip's life, it doesn't show it well. The second act of the film is also lacking in comparison to the opening and last acts (the last act is especially gripping). Ultimately, it falls a little short in the middle but is sandwich in between acts that more than make up for it.

Flight definitely proves Denzel Washington's acting ability is great along side an excellent supporting cast with a gripping opening and ending. While it does drag in the middle, it picks up immensely. The opening scene with the plane is more than worth the price of admittance. So not HIGHLY recommend but recommend nonetheless.

While it dags in the middle, it picks up with great opening and ending acts and acting.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Robert Wyatt, 2011) Review

We appear to me that we are currently in a film drought. Considering that the last new film  I reviewed was The World's End, I would say that the next big films are at the end of this year with the likes of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and Gravity but I figure that its a good time to good back on some recent success in the movie industry which, today, seems to be Rise of the Planet of the Apes....no reason...just happened to feel like reviewing it.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist who has developed a new, experimental drug that can give animals human-like intelligence and emotion. Having raised a ape child after the death of its mother, Will uses the drug on the ape, named Ceaser (Andy Serkis), which increases his intelligence. After trying to protect Will's father (John Lithgow), Ceaser finds himself taken away and kept in an Ape Sanctuary. Ceaser gains the respect of his fellow inmates and starts a revolution to fight back against the human oppression.

Andy Serkis is excellent! He holds the film but, to be honest, that is necessary because of how excellent the film is all around. The writing is great and the narrative does a really good job of starting the timeless franchise with a good origin story. Andy Serkis isn't the only great actor in this. The other great actor is Tom Felton (yes, Malfoy) working opposite Serkis for some of the films best scenes and supporting actors like James Franco and John Lithgow do a good job for their surprisingly short appearences. The role of Ceaser is obviously motion capture (which Serkis seems to be a big fan of) and it looks phenomenal. It definitely gives Avatar a run for its money (oh no, did I really just say that?) and having an abundance of apes leads to an epic climax.

Yes, it seems that everything is good in this film....and it is. There is so much effort put into this film that I have the utmost respect for the minds behind this film (and in front...because....they're on screen?....never mind). While it does leave on a depressing note (well, for humans anyway), there is a bittersweet feeling because the films takes us on a journey with Ceaser and therefore dedicates time to develop and make us like him which creates a strong protagonist that the film can revolve around, which would explain the high quality of the film.

So with some great writing, a fantastic performance from Andy Serkis (I think we need a motion capture Oscar category) and an excellent narrative leading into the events of Planet of the Apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic iternation to the popular franchise and proves to be  an excellent film in general. Now if only there wsa a sequel to continue this brilliance....oh wait! What's that on the horizon?

A stunning film with a fantastic lead, phenominal SFX, a gripping narrative and a strong screenplay.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991) Review

It's been a while since I reviewed a Disney Animated Classic film and I recently digged out Beauty and the Beast to re watch for...no particular reason (really, I was bored) and since it's one of the only Disney films I have the soundtrack for (it was on sale), I think it's time to review one of the films grouped within the Disney Renaissance so is that for good reason? Let's find out.

In a quiet, simple village, Belle (Paige O'Hara) is a girl seen as an outcast who dreams of a more adventurous life. When her father (Rex Everhart) goes missing, she ventures out and finds an abandoned castle where is being kept prisoner. She reasons with the master of the castle to release her father and take her instead and learns that the master is a Prince who was transformed into a Beast (Robby Benson) 10 years ago. The village hero, Gaston (Richard White), is determined to marry Belle and starts to scheme a plan to force her into marriage whatever the cost may be.

This is easily one of the best looking Disney films. The character design is excellent (especially the Beast's design), it's coloured well (although Aladdin still has the best colour of any Disney film) and the backgrounds look beautiful (and yes, the CGI used in the ballroom is effective). Also we have some of the best voice acting in any Disney film. Paige O'Hara gives personality to Belle as do the rest of the stars and is supported by some of the best side characters such as Lumiere (Jeremy Orbach), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) and Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury). The characters are some of the most developed in Disney's history.

I mentioned I bought the soundtrack to this film...and for good reason. While not ALL of them are gems, there are some very good songs such as the memorable 'Be Our Guest' (my personal favouite), the eponymous 'Beauty and the Beast' and the very catchy villain song 'Gaston'. While it's not Disney's strongest soundtrack (it is very close though), it has some genuine gems that will stick with you forever.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the greatest Disney films and one of the greatest animated films, period. The animation is very nice looking, the voice acting is great, the songs are catchy and memorable and the story actually allows character development (especially the parallel in development time between Beast and Gaston). While Aladdin and Basil, The Great Mouse Detective are still my favourite Disney films, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself thinking that this is that far off my favourite.

One of the best looking, best sounding, best written and all round best Disney films.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miss Potter (Chris Noonan, 2006) Review

One of the places that I adore and visit every year is the Lake District. It's a fascinating place with a rich history and one of the most famous children book authors, Beatrix Potter, is an example of the history. With such a strong iconography, I thought that it would be surprising not to have a film based on her life and her works so upon hearing of this film, I decided to take a look.

In Victorian London, Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger) lives with her family with her mother (Barbara Flynn) trying to find her a good husband and her father (Bill Paterson) trying to push her talents, which consists of story-telling and art. When she offers her stories to a pint house, she is assigned a rookie publisher, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), who becomes enthraled in her stories and publishes her book. Becoming an overnight success, Beatrix continues to publish stories with Norman which starts a romance between the two.

I have to address a bit of questionable casting, primarily Renée Zellweger. I appreciate that she has pulled of British roles before but nothing about her at all screams 'Beatrix Potter'. It's a sign that the studio only wanted to aim to an American audience and not focus on getting someone more convincing. You could argue she does a good job but I don't feel like I'm seeing Beatrix Potter. She just seems a bit too 'Bridget Jones' for my liking. Nothing against the actress, I just feel like this isn't the best role for her. I guess the average screenplay doesn't do much justice for this though. At least actors like Bill Paterson and Emily Watson give good performances.

On the other hand, this is a very nice looking film. This is to be expected since part of it is set in the Lake District but the bits in London look good too. Part of the look is helped by using imagery inspired by Beatrix Potter's work so they are inherently nice looking. I also feel that it does accurately portray bits of Beatrix Potter's life but there isn't anything distinctly memorable about.

If it weren't for the fact that this focusing on Beatrix Potter, this would be a much blander film with nothing memorable in it. It's not bad by any means but there isn't anything distinct about it except the subject. Renée Zellweger isn't suited for the role and is only in it for star appeal but at least we get some nice shots of the Lake District and it will spread awareness of Beatrix Potter's work which is always a plus in my book...shame that the film wasn't strong.

A decent attempt at portraying Beatrix Potter's life but Renée Zellweger isn't right for the part and there isn't much that makes the film stand out. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011) Review

It has recently come to my attention that legendary actor Gary Oldman hasn't one a single Oscar. This news, frankly, disgusts me. He has come close though so I thought we'd take a look at the only film that he's been nominated for an Oscar for, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film that might have gone under the radar. Let's take a look.

During the Cold War, the head of the British Intelligence, Control (John Hurt), steps down after a botched up mission in Hungary. Events conspire to reveal that there is a Russian agent, a mole, within the British Intelligence. Control's departure caused agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) into retirement but not before being sent to gather information rogue agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) about the mole and Ricki's backstory own branch. Smiley takes it upon himself to find the mole and secure the county's safety from foreign threat.

It's good to see a film where every actor does a good job (well, all the main ones anyway). Naturally, Gary Oldman in the lead helps this aspect but other stars such as Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth deliver tremendous performances. I also like the look of the film such as the aesthetic design and use of camera positioning for some interesting shots (primarily in the meeting room). The strong narrative is also a highlight in the film with multiple narratives for each character that end up linking together well in the end.

However, I will admit that first time through and this film was very overwhelming. This is most apparent in the narrative. It seemed to be all over the place and hard to follow however upon multiple viewings, it becomes clearer and becomes a strong narrative as a result. I have no experience with the original works of this franchise however I think you won't be alienated by this film as it introduces the characters well.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may seem overwhelming upon first watching as you may feel as lost and confused as I was the first time watching it but after thinking about it and rewatching it, it becomes clearer and stronger. The great acting and writing also helps make this a great film that I feel went under the radar a bit considering that I don't know anyone that has seen it.

Confusing at first, it ends up becoming a strong and great film topped with fantastic acting.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Flightplan (Robert Schwentke, 2005) Review

I hate it when schedules fail. I had some films that I planned on watching and reviewing but things came up which preventing me from watching them so I had to improvise and review the last film I saw. That would be Flightplan, the first film outside of Silence of the Lambs that I've seen Jodie Foster in...shocking, I know but that was her most famous role...arguably. Well, let's take a look at Flightplan.

Following the death of her husband in Berlin, Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) has to fly home with her daughter with his coffin. Part way through the flight, Kyle wakes up to find her daughter missing so Kyle sets out to find her daughter who has to still be on the plane. When the crew start to believe that she is unwell, Kyle must fight through adversity and prove to the crew that he daughter is still on the plane.

I'm going to get one thing out of way first. The first half of the film does a good job of creating a Hitchcock-esque thriller that generally seemed like it was going somewhere unique however it drops the ball half way through. It becomes a generic action film with a conspiracy wedged in and an action packed finale that seems like a complete shift from the tone that the film had been making throughout the earlier parts of the film. There was promise for a memorable thriller but it comes out as a generic action film.

Jodie Foster brings her usual good performances (nowhere near as good as Silence of the Lambs though) and it was nice to see Sean Bean play against type as a normal person for once. Peter Sarsgaard fills in for the generic character trope that Carson portrays well so at least the acting is good. There wasn't that much else that was memorable except that you can see more of planes than you would probably see...that's about it. Nothing else stuck out.

Flightplan  shows promise that it could be a good thriller however it takes a dive half way through into the realm of generic action. The acting is good which is what you might expect from a cast featuring Jodie Foster and Sean Bean but there isn't really much else that stuck out. The first half was fine but midway through it loses its way. Actors are good, story is not.

A film with promise that decides to throw it out of the window in favour of generic action.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Steve Box and Nick Park, 2005) Review

Yeah I know it's been more than a week since my last review but there has been a lot going on recently so I've been distracted but at least it gave me time to think about other films to review since I was struggling to think of more (don't worry, I've got loads more now) and since I've been abusing LoveFilm and watching Rex The Runt, I thought I'd take a look at Aardman's big feature film based on their most beloved franchise. 

Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit (...no one) now run an pest control business however, instead of killing the pests (specifically rabbits), they keep them in the basements so that Wallace can find a way to change their nature from being pests. When Wallace uses a machine on him and a rabbit, there are reports about a giant Were-Rabbit loose in the village. Wallace and Gromit agree to dispose of the Were-Rabbit so that Wallace can win over Lady Tottington (Helen Bonham Carter) while avoiding the wrath of jealous hunter Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes).

Considering that the whole film is claymation, it looks really nice. The animation is smooth and the new characters fit in well into the newly expanded Wallace & Gromit world. The new characters are memorable and fit in well into the tone of the show. It doesn't feel like a shark-jumping technique by Aardman and fits in well with the existing Wallace and Gromit flicks. Peter Sallis reprises his iconic role as Wallace which is brilliant and the new cast do a good job too.

Yes, this is a comedy the likes of previous Wallace and Gromit projects but it does take a very slight dark tone with scenes with the Were-Rabbit that I don't particularly think fits with Wallace and Gromit. Maybe this is because of the very lighthearted tone of everything else but I guess it set the tone for the next short featuring a serial killer. You could argue that this is the turning point of the series then.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a good way of bringing Wallace and Gromit to the mainstream, universal audience for an iconic duo. The film is thoroughly enjoyable with now major flaws however there isn't really anything strong with it except the very nice animation. I don't think I need to bother recommending this because, lets be honest, you've already seen this (and if you haven't...I don't believe you. It's like saying you haven't seen Avengers Assemble)

A good film that expands on the world of Wallace and Gromit. There isn't exactly anything that makes it stand out though...except the name.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild (Riyad Barmania, 2013) Review

Okay, now we've reached an interesting area of film reviews. We're not looking at a theatrical film, a straight to DVD film or a film that is three episodes in one. Nope, we're looking at a new film domain, the internet. I can't argue though, a film is a film. For those who don't know, Stuart Ashen is a youtuber who specialises in reviewing useless tat. He has reached enough popularity to make his own film so let's check it out (yes, it makes all qualifications to be a film).

Ashens (Stuart Ashen) spends his life collecting rare yet worthless tat. He is given a reminder from an unknown informant about a rare Gameboy knock-off known as a Gamechild. Ashens has had the Gamechild missing from his collection for years so he sets off on a mission to find the Gamechild and complete his collection. He is joined by Geoff 'Chef' Excellence (Dan Tomlinson) on his 'quest' where he must face adversity, gain allies and enemies and discover the truth behind the elusive Gamechild.

Normally a film based on an internet star is the scum of the cinema (Fred: The Movie comes to mind) but, you know what, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It had a style that was very reminiscent of Edger Wright films in terms of humour and over the topness. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments which I would've expected from Ashens. For an independent project, the acting is pretty good. While there are some big names like Warwick Davis (in a hilarious cameo), the main actors do a good job (there're alot of first time actors but they're still great). Ashens and Geoff are a fun duo that reminds me of typical Simon Pegg and Nick Frost characters. What I'm saying is is that if you like the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End, then you'll probably get a kick out of this film.

Although, saying that, it's really only for fans of Ashens (I'm the only one I know personally). There are characters from his show and references to his show however it does do a good job of establishing some things for new viewers. The humour doesn't come from the established things for the most part so it's quite easy to get the humour. It's mostly character driven and that's what I like to see. It doesn't let it's independent nature set it back.

Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild was a surprisingly good film considering it's context. I didn't expect anything special but it enjoyed it a lot. It's no masterpiece, sure, but the acting is good, the writing is fresh and looks good too. If you're a fan of Ashens, it's essential but, seeing as there are a lot of you who don't watch Ashens, I recommend starting with his channel in order to get used to his comedic style or get context of what the hell Ashens is!

A surprisingly good independent film based on a hilarious youtube icon. The writing, acting and story are all great.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Review

So some of my favorites Pixar films were made by Brad Bird. Don't you think it would be a good time to check out a film that is often considered to be his magnum opus in a time when Warner Bros. made good animated films. Let's take a look at a film that probably set the tone for Brad Bird's later work like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Let's do this.

When a giant robot (Vin Diesel) crash lands on Earth, a young boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) discovers it and tries to hide it from public eye. Things get worse when a paranoid government agent named Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) discovers strange occurrences and is the only one who believes the giant is real. Hogarth hides the giant at the town scrap yard run by Dean (Harry Connick Jr.). Now Hogarth has to keep the giant out of reach of Mansley or else the giant will be destroyed.

Brad Bird has always been good with character design and this is no different. I love the design used for the giant as, combined with Vin Diesel's surprising performance, makes him a very likable character based on his naivety. Hogarth always makes a good kid hero which is a hard thing to do without coming off as annoying. The two best characters are Dean and Kent Mansley due to how completely different they are to each other (one is a chilled out beatnik and the other is a high strung government agent). The actors all to justice to the roles and the character design helps amplify this.

While the story may seem generic (kid finds alien, tries to hide it), it's done so well that you don't seem to care. The characters are so likable with some generally heartwarming and funny moments that this would pass for one of the best Pixar films...except this is Warner Bros (but this is on the list of films that HOLLYWOOD IS NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH!). I wouldn't have expected anything less from the mind that made The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The Iron Giant is a fantastic representation of how good non-Disney animation can be. The animation is great, the character designs are well done, the acting is well performed and the characters are likable. This was a treat from start to finish and is highly recommend to those that have yet to watch this film, especially if you're a fan of Pixar style films...even though it's 2D animation (which, in my opinion, is better).

Everything looks great and is well done. A classic example of a great animated film.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Osmosis Jones (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2001) Review

Yes, I lied. I think it's justified considering that the previous review was up at about 1 in the morning. Plus the extra time gave me some more time to think about what film to review next...apparently it's one that not many people have seen so I figured I would take a look at Osmosis Jones, a film from the makers of Space Jam so you should expect to see cartoons mixed with live action. Let's check it out.

Frank Detomello (Bill Murray) is a zoo worker and single father who, when out working, catches an unknown disease. Inside Frank is 'The City of Frank', a world full of sentient and anthropomorphic white blood cells. One cell is Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), a cop who winds up having to act as a hero when a germ known as Thrax (Laurence Fishburne). In order to fight this unknown threat, a work partner for Jones is sent in, a cold pill called Drix (David Hyde Pierce). Together, Jones and Drix have to put aside their differences to stop Thrax from killing Frank.

Like Space Jam, this film takes opportunity of using cartoons with live action, however it keeps them separate until the climax which leads to a similar problem that The Lorax suffered from. The Lorax had a similar two story structure that made one so much better than the other, which therefore drags the film down. Osmosis Jones does follow this but it's not as bad considering that less time is given to live action world, which is a plus. It also gives more time to the animated characters who I actually enjoyed. Jones is a likable hero especially due to Chris Rock's performance, Drix is a great foil with David Hyde Pierce's great sophistication and Thrax is one of the best underrated animated villains (Laurence Fishburne did a great job and his design is well made).

This is a pretty weird film though. It definitely isn't for everyone as there are a few moments that were just unnecessary (one of which involves a ridiculous cameo from Kid Rock...definitely showing the film's age) Not just that but, while the animation is good for the most part, there are few moments where it was questionable (a Matrix parody used a bit of sneaky CGI).

Osmosis Jones isn't a terrible film but it's not amazing. Personally, I enjoy it but it's definitely not for everyone. The live action stuff isn't anything special but the animated world inside Frank is where the film is better off. I loved the actors performances as well as the characters but I feel that it needed a little more time to cook.

An enjoyable enough flick with good acting but is clouded by some average aspects.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) Reivew

Damn, this is a late review. I've just been so busy (or distracted, you decide) so I guess I'll have to do 2 reviews today (I know! Amazing!). This has been a film that I've been delaying for quite some time so i guess it's finally time to review The King's Speech...no, there is no special event to tie this film to, I just picked a film and random as I usually do (I haven't been watching that many films lately...shocking for someone called Opinionated Movie-Goer...).

Telling the real life story of King George VI (Colin Firth), George (real name Bertie) suffers from a stammer which would be an obvious problem when Bertie is reluctantly made King of England. Bertie's wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), enlists in the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist, after all the other speech therapists fail to assist Bertie. The film continues to follow their friendship through both good and bad/

We all know that this is supposed to be a great film judging by how it swept the Oscars and...it is. Colin Firth deserves all the praise that he is getting due to how good of a job he does portraying Bertie. If I had to pick a best performance, it's gotta go to Geoffrey Rush as Lionel due to his lovable, deadpan performance that leads to some of the films best moments (of which there are many). All the supporting cast does a good job of accompanying the leads which is helped by the great writing (leading to the aforementioned great moments).

While people complained about Tom Hooper's cinematography in Les Miserables but that doesn't seem to be as bad in The King's Speech some shots are well done and it has a great look with costumes and sets. This is a very nice looking film. It also has a surprisingly memorable soundtrack which was surprising as I didn't expect that form a film of this genre. It was a nice surprise.

The King's Speech is deserving of all the praise that it has gained. All the actors are great, the music is memorable, it looks great and has some clever writing. I enjoyed this film thouroughly...but I think Geoffrey Rush was cheated out of the Oscar...can't say I've seen The Fighter (it's just sitting on my DVD shelf gathering dust...). Now if you excuse me...I need sleep...

Great acting, good music, looks nice and is very well written. A good film through and through.