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 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 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 ( 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.