Tag Archives: Review

Delivers on what it promises.

https://i0.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/2784244/140full.jpg“You think you’re the only guy with a fucking gun?”

Critics and audiences alike have slammed Contraband for its unoriginality and the so-called ‘convoluted plot’. I personally loved the film. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Contraband is based on the Icelandic film, Reykjavík-Rotterdam, which Kormákur starred in. This is a visceral thriller jam-packed with nail biting set pieces. It is understandable to call this just another generic Mark Wahlberg movie, but this is well-above the standard offerings from Marky-Mark. Maybe I’m being a bit generous with my praise. This isn’t a perfect film by any means, but there’s nothing obnoxious about the way it’s been made. Contraband was marketed as a gritty and suspenseful thriller, and on this part, it certainly delivers.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a former world-class smuggler, has retired to the suburbs to go straight for the sake of his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. When Kate’s younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) dumps a load of cocaine overboard during a customs raid, drug boss Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) is not a happy man. He wants compensation, nearly a million dollars worth and the only way to get that sort of money is one last smuggling effort from Chris. Things, however, don’t go to plan when the job comes to action.

Having never seen the original film, I can’t really compare it to anything. Like all films of this kind of style, Contraband is basically about a job gone wrong. From Inception to The Town – this style of storytelling is thrilling to witness. As Chris and his team put their plan into action, things just go wrong at every turn. Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski can’t be targeted for being ‘unoriginal’ as this is the classic set up for heist thrillers. Also, the plot is well structured – I have no idea why people keep saying it’s convoluted. The film is filled with twists and turns, with the risks and urgency of the job constantly raised, keeping the audience engaged. The dialogue captures the context of the film perfectly, and the film also breaks its gritty tone with some humour – and it actually works! I laughed out loud a couple of times through the film.

Flaws are few but I’ll have to name them since this is a review. First off is the character of Kate, who doesn’t have a great deal to do. For most of the film, she is often characterised as a damsel in distress. She’s extremely vulnerable without the aid of Chris, and it’s really up to him to fix her brother’s issue. Still, although vulnerable, her character has a feisty and strong-willed attitude that at least keeps her interesting. She’s a realistic and it’s easy to relate with her, and thus you end up caring for the woman. Also, the relationship between Chris and his father, which is established before the heist begins, never really resonates effectively.

Mark Wahlberg is no stranger to tough guy roles like this, and while he seems to be making an entry into the comedy genre just recently with Ted, there’s no denying he plays these kinds of characters well. He’s a competent as Chris, and carries much of the movie terrifically. Kate Beckinsale looks gorgeous as always, and delivers a convincing performance as Chris’ wife. Ben Foster is undeniably subtle and cool as Chris’ best friend Sebastian, but one who lacks that kind of subtlety is Giovanni Ribisi. He is absolutely over-the-top in the role of Tim Briggs, and while many would say that’s a negative, I quite liked the tone he decided to take. He’s not subtle in any way, but it’s so much fun to watch him perform like he’s on drugs. Some of his line delivery is also mildly amusing.

What shocked me most is that Contraband only had a budget of $25 Million. I’ve seen films with double that for a budget, and they always end up being shockingly bad. Contraband is amazingly well put together. The editing of all the spectacular shots is masterful, and this combination comes into play terrifically in the nail-biting heist sequences, all expertly staged by Kormákur. A highlight of the film is a spectacular shootout in the streets of Panema. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is no stranger to handheld camerawork, and although I’ve dreaded it films like The Hurt Locker, it comes to effect brilliantly in Contraband. The gritty and dangerous feel of the locations are captured well through the shaky-cam, and Clinton Shorter’s score adds to this.

Overall, Contraband is a brilliantly thrilling film. It’s easy to criticise the plot, but there’s nothing too mindless about it. There are plenty of unexpected plot developments, and every single action sequence is thoroughly entertaining. In a year full of mindless action movies that just have eye candy to offer, it’s refreshing to watch a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Yes, I loved Contraband. Don’t hate me for it.


Tagged , , , ,

The ‘fairer’ Snow White film of the year.

https://i1.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3624717/140full.jpg“I shall give this wretched world the queen it deserves.”

2012 has featured the release of two live-action adaptations of the Grimms fairytale, with Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror and Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman. I rather hated the hell out of Mirror Mirror due to it’s ridiculously cheesy approach to the fairytale. Snow White and the Huntsman is the complete opposite to that film – this is a dark, gritty, and even violent re-imagining of the beloved tale. The verdict is in – Snow White and the Huntsman is far more superior film to Mirror Mirror. This the first feature film from commercials director Rupert Sanders, and he’s handled this big budget blockbuster with technique and skill. The most notable change to the original story is the character of the Huntsman – he’s given a bigger part in this film. There are many things one could nitpick about, particularly with the screenplay, but Snow White and the Huntsman manages to grab your interest from the get-go, and it is without a doubt, the fairer Snow White adaptation of the year.

Snow White, the young princess of Tabor, is imprisoned in a tower after her father’s kingdom is overthrown by the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Years later, Snow White (played by Kristen Stewart) escapes her prison just as Ravenna, who is now queen, learns from her Magic Mirror that Snow White’s heart is the source for her immortality. Evading capture from the queen’s guards, Snow White escapes into the dark forest, a place where no-one comes out alive. The Evil Queen enlists the help of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to capture Snow White. However, the Huntsman ends up siding with the fugitive when he comes face to face with her, and the two set out to overthrow Ravenna. Meanwhile, Snow White’s childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) sets out to find her after he learns that she is alive.

Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini, the screenplay is riveting for the most of the film. Like I said earlier, this is a hugely different re-imagining of Snow White than we’re used to. The writers really embraced the grit, and threw in all kinds of dark and spooky elements. The queen in particular is beautifully characterised villain. You get the sense that this evil queen was actually a human being at one point, and now she’s a complete monster. This is achieved through actual establishment of the character – we see flashbacks from her past, and the relationship with her evil brother (played by Sam Spruell) is also established well. Snow White also has been written well, though this is a totally different Snow White to the one we’re used to. In the film, she’s a ‘chosen one’ type character – throughout the land, many believe she is destined to overthrow the queen. What’s terrific is you actually get a feel that Snow White and Ravenna were complete opposites – they were true rivals who had to fight at the end no matter what. Last but not least, the Huntsman is a terrific love interest – it’s a nice twist on the classic tale.

This brings me to the flaws of the screenplay – the love triangle. The inclusion of the character William was a truly unnecessary decision. He got in the way of the developing the relationship between Snow White and the Huntsman – to be honest, their relationship could’ve been stretched out a lot more. There also doesn’t seem to be any purpose for the love triangle. There’s no conflict between William and the Huntsman, and William himself isn’t the most interesting of characters – he’s actually the most insipid of the film. Another qualm I had with Snow White and the Huntsman is the pacing, particularly around the middle act of the film as Snow White and her companion are evading capture from the Queen’s men. It felt tedious around this part in the film – nothing seems to happen, and the plot doesn’t go anywhere. The queen is also off-screen for far too long. Still, the story kicks right in once we see a surprisingly effective twist on the poisonous apple and the spell-breaking kiss. The introduction of the dwarves also livens up the mood of the film, as they’re pretty much the only source of humour. These characters are simply hilarious, and again, the writers added a nice gritty attitude to the characterisation of them – they’re not the most pleasant of dwarves.

I think it’s a no-brainer when I say this – Charlize Theron stole the show. She was hot as always, but she really brought the villainy to this role. Theron has so much range, and I’m still waiting for the day where she delivers a bad performance. Like all good actors, Theron works with the script to make sure her character has depth and is convincing, and through her, we can see the humanity Ravenna once had. This is the first time in a while where she’s played a truly evil villain, but she pulls it off with so much skill. If there’s one thing that can carry a film, it’s a good villain, and she definitely delivered on her part. While all the other actors are almost always upstaged by Theron, they still bring solid performances to the film. Kristen Stewart gets a lot of hate for her role in the Twilight films. I personally am a fan, and while she struggles with her accent from time to time, Stewart delivered the vulnerability and fierceness of her character beautifully. Chris Hemsworth is also good value as the Huntsman, showing that he can deliver great performances outside the Marvel films. His Scottish accent was also perfect, and suited the gritty tone of his character. The dwarves were all sensational, played by well-known British performers such as Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost. All deliver a solid performances of their mischievous characters. Sam Claflin did get on my nerves from time to time as William – he just doesn’t seem to be trying. Maybe it was his character, but so far, nothing he’s done has been that amazing. Remember Pirates 4?)

On the technical side, Snow White and the Huntsman is a masterpiece. This film is absolutely riveting when it comes to the visuals. With superb creature design, the visual effects used to create all the mythical creatures is amazing. There are trolls, trees that turn snakes, and at one point in the film, the characters stumble upon a beautiful garden called Sanctuary – the visuals alone in this location make it a joyous watch. With luscious cinematography by Greig Fraser, this is definitely one of the most visually stunning films of the year so far. Sanders also uses his visual effects creatively when it comes to the Evil Queen. She transforms into a flock of ravens, engulfs herself in flames, bathes herself in a white liquid – all the effects done with the Queen always have a great combination of spooky and exhilarating. What’s also mind-blowing is the make-up done on Theron – throughout the film, the Queen actually grows older, and it’s a really cool effect. The production design is top rate, and again, all is shot beautifully by Fraser. Sanders shows that he has an eye for beauty – Snow White and the Huntsman always manages to impress on this aspect. What really surprised me is how much action there is in the film. There are a lot of action sequences here, and although some are quite short, the spectacle of them is magnificent. Sanders stages some really exciting set-pieces, particularly the climatic raid on the evil Queen’s castle, and all this is assisted by James Newton Howard’s epic score. The costumes by Colleen Atwood are worthy of an Oscar, with Snow White’s armour she wears at the climax being huge favourite of mine – Stewart looks like a total badass when she dons it.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a must-see in my opinion, and it’s a promising debut from Sanders. With a standout performance from Charlize Theron, who may prove to be the best villain of year, and a beautiful visual style, this re-imagining delivers, and you’re better off seeing this than Mirror Mirror. What I find extremely strange is a sequel is already being planned – what could they continue on with? Something tells me the love triangle will have more of a place in the sequel, but if it ends up like Twilight… oh dear.


Tagged , , , , ,

Cause havoc, Just Cause 2

The Just Cause series made its first debut in 2006, long awaited and over hyped, Just Cause 2 came out in 2010. Developers trying to make the      expectations that furious fans had for the game. Edios this time have made the fans even more happy. Living up to the long awaited 3rd person open  world shooter.With many more content compared to first one, but some of my favorite features are taken out. Just Cause 2, powered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0 is a truly stunning game, with amazing detail to the massive world, wherever you go.

This time you return as Rico Rodriguez, on the fictional Asian island of Panua. As Rico, you are armed with cars, planes, helicopters, guns and a new “Grappling Hook” that you can use in almost any situation, whether it is hijacking a plane, or simply towing an enemy, you would master the use of it and might find it more useful than a machine gun. Panua is a truly amazing environment. From tropical islands to the arid desert. The world will keep you exploring for ages.

The graphics in Just Cause 2 is AMAZING, you can’t tell it was made in ’10 because its graphics can be better than some games that are being released right now. One thing that truly amazed me was the water in Just Cause 2, the tropical water looks very good in the sun light and has a strong tropical color to it. But, with high graphics comes with a high price for PC. Most gamers would need a mid to high end computer to run this game. But of course, rest a sure, this games still looks fantastic on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. The physics is also an important part of the game. Just Cause 2 uses the Havok physic engine. Although this isn’t the best physic engine out there, it still does a good job showing all the effects. Sometimes it might feel a bit weird and your character might slip and slide on mountains or just the ground.

So whats the gameplay like? Its awesome. To progress further into the game you must cause havoc on government property, like military bases. The more havoc you cause, the more money you get and you progress further into the game. Trying to find a rogue American Spy. To your disposal is a black market feature, you can use it to call in vehicle, weapons and tell it to extract you to a location wherever you like. However, unlike the first Just Cause, you can no longer call in air strikes. A feature that I dearly miss. Somethings boats and planes seem unresponsive and take a master to handle them.

Overall, Just Cause 2 is an amazing game, both by graphics and by gameplay. If you have time you should definitely give this game a shot. It would keep you occupied for at least 12 hours or more. To rate this game, I would give it an 8.5 out of 10. Only losing some marks because of small bugs inside the physic engines and other small minor in game issues. But these small things will cancel out when you see the scale of the game.

J Chong

Happy Gaming


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A complete waste of time.

https://i0.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3197361/140full.jpg“Ranger Manoso. He’s like the statue of David by Michelangelo, if you dipped him in caramel and strapped some heat on him.”

Katherine Heigl’s career is going no where at this point, and with the release of her latest movie One for the Money, that statement has hit home. Heigl had a positive start with a rom-com I actually liked, 27 Dresses. However, lately she’s been playing the same character over and over again – the annoying woman who spends the whole film screaming and acting like a complete lunatic. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson, One for the Money is based on the popular novel of the same name by Janet Evanovich. Having never read the book, I had no idea what this film would be about. Obviously anything featuring Heigl these days is a chick flick, but the inclusion of action, crime, and other elements from different genres makes One for the Money a confused experience. As a comedy, which it tries to be for the most part, it’s an utter miss. With so many funnier and better films out there, One for the Money is simply a waste of your time.

Jersey girl Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl), after losing her job, is broke. Needing a job she is told that her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), a bail bondsman, needs someone to help out in the office. But all he has are skip tracers. She learns that Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a cop she knew intimately years ago, is one of them. To prepare for the job, bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) tries to teach her, giving her a gun and showing her the tricks. After many encounters with Morelli, Stephanie starts to suspect that he may be innocent of the crimes he’s been accused of.

Written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray, and Liz Brixius, the screenplay is simply generic and unfunny. Even fans of the original book have complained about the film’s treatment of it. The main issue is there’s no reason to care about any of the characters or what they’re trying to achieve. Stephanie isn’t particularly unlikeable, but she’s not interesting in any way. The way her search for Morelli unfolds is so predictable – the film tries way too hard to be a crime mystery, and although it is in the book, there’s no reason to care about what happens while watching the film. Morelli does give the film somewhat enjoyable banter between him and Stephanie, and Ranger is a fun character. In all honesty, the male characters definitely bring some sense of joy to this chick flick. There is a moment in the film where Stephanie develops a friendship with a pair of hookers, and when one of them is injured by a criminal Stephanie is tracking down, there’s supposed to be a big emotional response in the audience. Problem is we haven’t spent enough time with these characters to really care what happens to them. Like I said earlier, the film doesn’t try in any way to give you something to care about, making it real chore to get through the whole film.

Katherine Heigl may be amazing eye candy, but she brings nothing interesting to the role. For the most part, she acts like a lunatic. Still, Heigl is competent enough to the point where she doesn’t truly get on your nerves. The same goes for the rest of the cast. Jason O’Mara is decent as the token love interest, and there’s fun banter between him and Heigl. The two share a certain amount of chemistry, but it still doesn’t add a lot to the experience of the film. I really liked Daniel Sunjata as Ranger, giving a cool and badass performance. Yes, you could say he was wooden, but I thought it suited the role well.

When One for the Money moves into territories outside the rom-com genre, it becomes a complete mess. The mini action beats are decently put together, but the comic music played over them give the sequences no sense of tension. There’s really nothing left more me to say. This review may very well be my shortest ever, and for good reason. One for the Money has nothing to discuss about. It’s not obnoxious in any way, but there’s nothing I can recommend about it. I guess if you are a fan of Katherine Heigl, then it could be fun movie to watch, but for anyone else, it’s a waste of time. There are better rom-coms out there – try Crazy, Stupid, Love. or (500) Days of Summer.


Tagged , , , ,

A sweet and simple comedy.

https://i0.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3032914/140full.jpg“If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it.”

I’m infamous for enjoying the most barbaric kinds of humour. I like gross out comedy, sex comedy, and even racial comedy. Thus, when a ‘smart’ comedy comes out, I usually never have any interest in seeing them. There are times when I do actually enjoy a comedy with a witty and subtle script – Up in the Air is an excellent example. The most recent addition to this list is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (one hell of a title). I never had any real interest in seeing this even though I liked the trailer. When I was dragged along to see it with a cousin, I wasn’t reluctant, and I actually really enjoyed this film. I can’t say this is the funniest film I’ve seen all year, but it does provide many laughs throughout the running time, and it’s rich with character and gorgeous imagery. Best yet, there’s nothing too depressing about it. This is, at the heart of it, an extremely fun and sweet feel-good movie.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India is the new home for a group of old British retirees who can’t afford to stay in Britain anymore. They are stubborn prejudiced Muriel (Maggie Smith), who needs a hip replacement, mismatched married couple Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), recent widow Evelyn (Judi Dench), Graham (Tom Wilkinson), who grew up in India and has past issues to deal with, good-time girl Madge (Celia Imrie) who’s looking for a rich husband, and Norman (Ronald Pickup), an inveterate ladies’ man who’s actually just looking for romance. Each responds to this strange, colourful new world in different ways. The young owner of the hotel, Sonny (Dev Patel), is defying his family in keeping on with this inherited white elephant and in wanting to marry the girl he loves.

Written by Ol Parker, the film is an adaptation of Deborah Moggarch’s novel, and it goes in directions you’d pretty much expect it to. Just from the trailer, you can tell already that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a predictable film. That being said, it doesn’t damage the film in a horrific way. It does take away the element of surprise, but the film still packs in a lot of hilarious lines and characters. Parker’s script is rich with interesting characters, with the more well-known stars getting the most attention. Graham, Evelyn, Douglas, and Muriel all have terrific arcs – they’re developed extremely well. It’s a shame that the rest of the characters don’t get much of a look into at all. Still, there’s enough romance and laughter between the characters to keep the film moving at fun and brisk pace. There’s also a lot of emotion thrown in for good measure – there are sad moments in the film, and they do manage to tug at the heart-strings.

Parker’s dialogue is witty throughout, and the film rarely depends on physical gags and raunch to generate laughter like most comedies we see nowadays. This is simply dialogue and character driven. Muriel in particular will guarantee applause from the audience. Although she is a caricature, her racism and fussy attitude is actually hilarious. Yes, she may be a tad bit obnoxious during the start of the film – but that’s the point. Her transformation in the film is beautiful as she spends more time with another culture. Also really funny is the character of Norman, although his best jokes are featured in the trailer. There is a touch of romance in the film, particularly with Sonny and his girlfriend, and this is slightly weak as it detracts from most of the film. The same goes with the budding relationship between Evelyn and Douglas. All this romance just feels forced.

The cast is the main selling point of the movie. Director John Madden has gathered a group of veteran British performers to play the leads in the film, and they’re all in top form. Judi Dench plays her role beautifully, creating a nuanced and likeable character. It’s nice to see Bill Nighy playing a normal human being for once, and he’s actually really fine. Tom Wilkinson doesn’t get the most screen-time as one would imagine, but he’s definitely one of wiser characters. There’s a gentle screen presence he has that works well in this. Maggie Smith really shines in this as well. Dropping the whole persona of Professor McGonagall, Smith dives into her racist character with ease, and adds a nice adorable touch to her performance. Last but not least, Dev Patel is a lot of fun as Sonny. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen a lot of him after his performance in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (maybe it was The Last Airbender), but he definitely brought real enjoyment to his character, and it definitely shows he has a bright future in comedy.

Madden’s direction is great, and although he doesn’t take the film in unexpected places, he works well in his comfort zone. The film looks absolutely beautiful, thanks to the handsome photography by Ben Davis. Davis captures the colour and vibrancy of India gorgeously – this depicts the country in a truly positive manner. Also working for me was the score by Thomas Newman, which had a nice festive feel to it. All these technical elements give The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel an aspect of Indian culture – the combination of the cinematography and sound gives the audience a real look into this country.

Overall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delicate and sweet comedy that should be enjoyed by all ages. No matter what kind of comedy you’re into, the film will generate laughter from you, and it leaves you with a good feeling. Yes, it’s extremely predictable, and there’s nothing groundbreaking or new here, but if you just want a film that’s enjoyable and immensely satisfying, this should be witnessed by you.


Tagged , , , , , , ,

For once, a deep and complex summer movie.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3734190/140full.jpg  “If we don’t stop it, there won’t be any home to go back to!”

2012 has been a great year for movies, particularly during the summer. Summer blockbusters have always been about the spectacle, and that’s perfectly fine with me. The Avengers delivered on what it promised – an entertaining and visually exhilarating ride. It started off the summer season with a bang (it garnered critical acclaim and has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide so far, making it the third highest grossing film ever), and now Ridley Scott’s long-awaited Alien prequel finally hits movie theaters all around the world. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Prometheus, as it marks Scott’s return to the film that started his successful career. I was excited, and even though I didn’t love the first Alien film quite like everyone else, seeing a sci-fi epic directed by Scott was something anyone, regardless if they saw Alien, would want to see. Having seen it now, in IMAX 3D, I can say that it literally blew me away. It definitely lived up to the hype, and even exceeded my expectations.

In 2089 on the Isle of Skye, scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover cave paintings identical to those already discovered in many different parts of the world – they depict a man reaching out to a strange constellation of stars. Three years later Shaw and Holloway are among the crew of Scientific Exploratory Vessel Prometheus, heading for the planet closest to the stars depicted in the drawings. Also on board are Captain Janek (Idris Elba), the powerful representative of Weyland Corp, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and David (Michael Fassbender), an all-intelligent android. Prometheus lands on the planet, and in a vast cavern the scientists make some strange, unsettling, discoveries.

Scripted by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, Prometheus is filled with subtle throwbacks to Alien. It really expands on the Alien lore and concepts – I was quite annoyed that I never re-watched the first Alien film when I came out of this movie because you get more out of it if you do. Regardless of whether you’re a newbie to this franchise, there’s still so much complexity you can appreciate from the film. It’s a truly deep plot Scott has going on his latest blockbuster, with themes of religion and our origins, and these link together beautifully. There are questions raised in the film about our makers, and like most films with a philosophical edge, these questions are never answered (it should be kept that way in my opinion). The film also follows a classic line of events, as the crew’s situation just gets worse and worse. Scott and his writers really tried to create a reminiscent structure to Alien, and he succeeded with that. My only criticism with script is character – there’s not a great deal of it than you’d expect. While the heroine, Elizabeth Shaw, is fairly well established and developed, some of the other characters aren’t. There’s no tension between some of them even though there should be, and times it fails to develop some members of the crew and even elements of story. Vickers in particular is established beautifully, but her character never has a chance to develop. The same goes with David. I don’t mind this as much as most movie-goers probably will, but it’s definitely a flaw in the film.

Prometheus always manages to keep you on the edge of your seat though. At the heart of it, it is a horror movie just like Alien. The film includes a dozen of unforgettable sequences – to be honest, every moment of the film is memorable. There are moments of gore, which definitely delivers on gruesomeness. A truly terrifyingly marvelous features Shaw performing abdominal surgery on herself. Expect a lot of blood. Also pretty spectacular was the climax – definitely the best sequence of I’ve seen all year so far. Holy shit, that got my heart pumping. From the moment it begins, you are tense and it won’t stop til the ending of the film.

Scott has a remarkable cast to work with, though some are kind of wasted on their weak characters. Noomi Rapace is awesome, making a big name for herself in Hollywood after the Swedish adaptation of the Millenium trilogy and starring in the Sherlock Holmes sequel. She’s fantastic in the role of Shaw, and provided the emotion and physique to pull off some truly unbelievable scenes. She’s one to watch, I can tell you that. Logan Marshall-Green is exceptional as Holloway, delivering on the desperate attitude of his character. Michael Fassbender meanwhile is a show stealer. He adopts a more different approach to playing the android as opposed to actors cast in this kind of role in previous Alien films. Fassbender goes for eerie feel with his portrayal of David, and it actually works really well, making the audience suspicious about his true agenda. Likewise, Charlize Theron also had a suspicious feel in her acting here, and it definitely allowed her to be an effective character. It’s a shame her character wasn’t developed enough, as Vickers was actually really interesting. Still Theron was excellent, and my god, she is fine as hell (anyone who follows my reviews will know I almost always say something like that :P). Guy Pearce makes a brief appearance in this under heavy make-up as Weyland, and his practically unrecognisable. Idris Elba is also superb as the captain, but his character, like many, is never fully developed towards the end.

The spectacle of Prometheus is one of the film’s strongest points. Scott is no stranger to working with a grand budget, and he always manages to work with it and create a visually terrific blockbuster. Everything about Prometheus looks beautiful. Shot by one of my favourite cinematographers, Dariusz Wolski, the film has rich, dark look, and it all falls into the place with eerie sets. The planet that the crew lands on is full of danger and death, and the film created this perfectly. The visual effects are top rate through out and definitely the best I’ve seen all year (yes, even better than The Avengers). The design of ship, Prometheus, is actually quite stunning, and the production design on the interior is superb – the space suits the crew wear look pretty awesome to me. While the score isn’t that memorable, it did add to the tension of the film, and the creature designs are just frightening. If you’re a fan of scary aliens, you’re in for a treat, as Prometheus features an array of shocking things that will have you jumping in your seat. I saw this in IMAX 3D, and while the 3D isn’t amazing (I was surprised considering it was shot in the format), it didn’t ruin anything for me, and was implemented well at times, particularly the climax. Scott stages some pretty spectacular action sequences that actually have a real sense of tension to it – it’s not just eye-candy, there is true suspense at work in Prometheus.

Yes, I have issues with the characters in the screenplay, but I still love this film. Prometheus is probably the first blockbuster with a complex narrative to be released this year. It’s rich with subtle themes and references, and the cast is fantastic. After watching this, it made want to watch the Alien series all over again, and that’s definitely a good sign. Once I’ve finished with them, you expect me in the cinema watching this another time. Yes, it’s that fucking good.


Tagged , , , , , , ,

A generic, sci-fi mess.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3476752/140full.jpg“Did I not tell you he could jump!”

We’ve seen millions of films set in outer-space, and many of them have become classics over the years. John Carter is based off the 1917 novel, A Princess of Mars, and is considered by many fans to have been the inspiration for sci-fi epics including Star Wars and Star Trek. While this is probably true, the film adaptation has been made years after the genre has been used so many times, John Carter in the end just feels dull and cliché. Directed by Andrew Stanton, who is making his first live-action film after many years of working with Pixar, this is just a mildly enjoyable film. With Disney trying so desperately to launch a franchise since Pirates of the Caribbean is doing so well in terms of the box-office, John Carter (which is apparently the biggest box-office flop of all time) will entertain the most undemanding of movie-goers.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) learns that his Uncle, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), has died. Reading his diary, Edgar discovers that Carter had fought with the South in the Civil War and later, while fleeing from Apaches, had stumbled across gold in a cave and, via a magical medallion, had been transported to Mars, called Barsoom by the people who live there. These people are the tall, green, thin Tharks and the human-like, tattoed, Zodangans, who are in conflict with one another. Carter is attracted to Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), a red Martian Princess.

John Carter was written by Stanton and co-writers Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, and it’s derivative of every sci-fi epic you can think of. Aircraft battles, rival species – George Lucas had done this a long time ago. Yes, there are films that can get away with having a certain genre like this, but the issue is with the screenplay. There’s nothing special about it. To be honest, I found so much of this film confusing, particularly with the rival aliens, and the god-like villains known as the Therns, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong). Surprisingly, considering how cliché this whole film is, the plot is extremely convoluted. There are too many unnecessary sub-plots, and it’s hard remembering certain characters (the names all sounded the same…). The hero is likeable enough, and fortunately Dejar is not a total stereotypical princess – she’s a scientist and warrior, which at least gives the movie an interesting character.

The first act of John Carter definitely has severe issues. First off, there are just so many plot-holes, and it’s really the case of lazy writing. For example, when John Carter arrives on Mars, he can’t walk properly due to the gravity change, and thus he must jump to be able to move in distances. Shortly after he realises this, he suddenly starts walking normally as if the gravity was suddenly changed to the way it is on Earth. How the hell did this happen? The writers should’ve at least took some time to develop this ability to walk properly as if he was on Earth. Also, the pacing is dangerously slow in the first half, mainly due to just uninteresting content. When the film tries to set up a romantic relationship between John Carter and Dejar, it’s not convincing, and although his past is harrowing, I couldn’t care less about Carter – he just felt derivative and uninteresting.

In terms of acting, John Carter doesn’t feature any performances that really stand out. Taylor Kitsch is wooden and looks bored as the title character. He just spends most of the film talking in the same tone of voice, and although he maybe trying to appear like a badass, his performance is nothing great. Lynn Collins definitely added some enjoyment to the film (she’s remarkably hot), but her acting itself, like Kitsch, is nothing special, although her character is a lot more interesting than John Carter. Thus, she has slightly more to do. Mark Strong and Ciáran Hinds look embarrassed to be in this and spend most of the film trying to keep a straight face. Willem Dafoe adds some good value to mix voicing the leader of the Tharks, and Samantha Morton is also commendable as his daughter.

While the first half is sluggish, the second act of the film definitely picks up the pace with a lot more spectacle. The action sequences are mediocre at best, and I gotta say, I think 3D ruined them for me. This is, by far, one of the worst 3D conversions I’ve ever seen (I never saw Clash of the Titans, so I can’t compare this to the latter). It’s not well used, and it added nothing to visuals – it just made everything darker. Thus, the action set-pieces never really grabbed me, and 3D was never even implemented well with them. With all these negatives, the film still has positive aspects. The design is amazing. The sets look beautiful, and the costumes, particular Lynn Collins’, were great to look at. The ships look spectacular, although the visual effects used to create them are standard for this kind of thing. The score’s not particularly memorable, but editor Eric Zumbrunnen did manage to capture a nice adventurous style to film, with long dissolves and well cut action.

I find John Carter extremely hard to recommend. There is some fun to be had with it during it’s second half, but oh god, the other half… it’s just boring to sit through. With the 3D just ruining so much for me, I’d say it’s a decent rental, but don’t expect anything spectacular. It’s shocks me that the film had such an enormous budget ($250 Million), yet everything looks so unconvincing. Even Mars itself wasn’t convincing (it just looked like a desert somewhere on our planet). Like I said, if you’re undemanding with your sci-fi, then you probably could ignore the endless amount of flaws in John Carter. Otherwise, it’s a film I wouldn’t waste my time with.


Tagged , , , ,

Considering the hype, this is underwhelming.

https://i1.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3660449/140full.jpg“Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire!”

The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, is based on the popular novel of the same name. After I saw this film, I actually went out and read the book, and I loved it. Can’t say the same thing about the film though. If you’ve seen something like Battle Royale, then The Hunger Games won’t be as amazing as the hype has been setting it up to be. The transition from the book to film is poorly made, and the PG-13 rating has definitely damaged what the film could’ve been. Fans have called this the next Harry Potter, and with that franchise already finished, The Hunger Games is trying to take it’s spot as the beloved novel-to-film franchise. Although it’s better than Twilight (I’m gonna get hell for this, but they’re not that far apart in quality), this really doesn’t have the same charm as Harry Potter.

Sometime in the future in what was once North America, the rulers of a decadent dictatorship force 24 teenagers, 12 boys and 12 girls, from each of the country’s 12 enslaved districts, to fight to the death in a protracted contest relayed to the entire country on television. In District 12, 16-year-old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers when her young sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is originally chosen, and, together with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), son of the baker, becomes a ‘Tribute’, taken to the nation’s capital to be groomed and trained for the Hunger Games.

I’ve been reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and it’s an amazing series of books. I hate to say this line, but the book is simply better than the movie. Personally I don’t think The Hunger Games works so much as a film. The original book was written in first-person from the viewpoint of Katniss, so the reader would get an insight into every thought that went through her head. There was constant urge for survival in the novel, and that really added tension to it. This is missing in the film, which I guess is necessary. The books also had social commentary on the world of Panem, but there’s no attempt to explore this. Instead, the film pushes more for the love triangle, a form of romance that has become quite popular with the whole Team Edward/Team Jacob phenomenon. I do think The Hunger Games has a better love triangle than Twilight – infinitely better. The characters are slightly more likeable, especially Katniss. However, Ross, who co-wrote the screenplay with The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray, fail to establish a convincing relationship between Katniss and Peeta. I just didn’t buy their romance. I must yet again fall back on the novel and it’s first-person writing style, as it allowed the reader to know what Katniss really thought of Peeta.

Although I have huge qualms with the script, there were scenes I just loved, the reaping in particular. This is the moment in which Katniss volunteers as a tribute for the Hunger Games – it’s a truly heart-wrenching scene. The writing is perfect, and the utter silence amongst the crowd just adds to the fear and emotional tension. It’s a perfect transition from the page to the screen. Also working was spot-on characterisation of Katniss, and the relationship between her mother and Primrose is beautifully realised. Ross still tries to stay true to the book and I respect him for that. He keeps key moments of Katniss’ past inter-cut within the film, using the terrific flashbacks, for example the death of her father. The other tributes in the mix also added some great tension to the film, particularly the career tributes who have been training their whole entire lives to compete in the games.

As Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence is perfect. If you get over the fact that she doesn’t look 16 at all, you’ll realise she embodies the role perfectly. This was very fine casting, and she definitely brings a strong presence to a female role. Lawrence might actually have a future career as a female action star. Josh Hutcherson brought charm to his performance as Peeta, and depicted this brilliantly kind character well. I can’t say he and Lawrence shared a great deal of chemistry, but they were able to work competently together. Liam Hemsworth has little screen time as Gale, a close friend of Katniss back at home in District 12. He’ll definitely have more to do in the sequel, which is when the love triangle will start to emerge (New Moon, anyone). The players in support are also superb – Woody Harrelson is entertaining as Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor, Elizabeth Banks has heaps of fun as Effie Trinket, and last but not least, Willow Shields brought a sweet innocence to Primrose that I adored. Among the tributes fighting in the games, no one in particular really stood out apart from Isabelle Fuhrman and Leven Rambin as two female career tributes. Rambin is beautiful and has been well cast as the pretty tribute Glimmer, while Fuhrman just relished her role, playing a sadistically evil character with confidence. It’s no surprise she handled this role so well – Fuhrman actually played the evil child in Orphan.

Ross’ approach to the action is shocking. He’s decided to use the infamous shaky-cam style, and it doesn’t help at all. It appeared as if it was used to hide the violence, but I’ve seen combat with swords and arrows done well with a PG-13 rating (Lord of the Rings in particular). This shooting style doesn’t help a lot with the action sequences, which have been shot so poorly that you literally can not tell what is happening on-screen. There was only one action set-piece that I liked. There’s a chase sequence during the games where Katniss flees from a growing bushfire. The shaky cam actually adds a sense of speed to the action, and the visual effects are handled well. In fact, the visual effects overall were decent – nothing too special, but convincing. Also, I loved the design of the capital and its inhabitants. The exaggerated look of things captured the mainstream and selfish ways of the Capitol. Though the design is great, it’s a shame that it’s not done justice by the horrible photography. Even Twilight had better cinematography than this (Yes, I just said that).

Overall, The Hunger Games is an average adaptation of a pretty outstanding book, and considering the hype behind this film, it really isn’t that good. While the books are infinitely better than The Twilight Saga, the film only has a slight edge over the sparkling vampires. While Ross directs the drama well, his decision to opt for a handheld look is counter-productive. I’m still looking forward to the sequel, Catching Fire, which will be directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants). From his filmography, I see that there’s little shaky-cam in his movies, so hopefully the sequel will be more enjoyable to look at.


Tagged , , , ,

No nutrional value at all, but it’s still sweet.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3612881/140full.jpg“You’re gonna die. I’m gonna die. We’re all gonna die… Just not today!”

If you thought Transformers was dumb, just wait to you see Battleship. Based on the popular board game of the same name, this is like drinking a shitload of Red Bull – it’s not good for you in any way, but it tastes nice. Battleship has nothing going for it in terms of plot – at all. We’ve seen so many invasion movies that the story doesn’t break new ground. Directed by Peter Berg, the film does what it’s meant to do – entertain us. There’s enough eye-candy here to keep brainless teenagers like me impressed, but there’s no way this can hold a candle to the success of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, which in a way, it tries to mimic.

Alex (Taylor Kitsch) is the tearaway brother of naval commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard). Forced into the navy he’s still got a lot to learn, but still manages to maintain a romantic relationship with the beautiful Sam (Brooklyn Decker), who is the daughter of the strict Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Elsewhere, scientists have built powerful satellites to communicate with any lifeforms out there in the universe. This unexpectedly invites a nasty species of Aliens to crash down on earth in the sea. Intent on using the satellites to communicate with their home planet, the aliens begin battle with US Navy Battleships (three to be precise), and Alex has trouble dealing with the situation.

There’s nothing complex about the script, no surprise there. The humans involved are dull, with Alex being quite unlikeable, and we never get to see a great deal of his romance with Sam. I can’t particularly note any other characters as there’s nothing more to say this element. Basically, these characters are flat and the action is pushed for. However, there is humour in the film, which I liked. There are moments in the film when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As Battleship definitely has an absurd concept, it was nice to see that the filmmakers at least had a sense of humour, with the early scenes being quite amusing. Though a lot of this charm disappears as soon as the aliens arrive, the film still brings small doses of the amusement to keep the audience laughing from time to time. This isn’t witty comedy, but it’s so silly that you kind of go with it.

What I also hated were the aliens. These aliens, though they may have cool tech, aren’t interesting. This is, of course, the fault of the script. Why did these aliens land on our planet? What do they want from us? We can only assume these answers as we’re never really given hints. Also, I wish the aliens had been actual characters themselves – that way we could’ve maybe learned more about their intentions. With so many invasion movies that actually have menacing bad guys, Battleship just feels weak in the mix. These aliens aren’t the slightest bit threatening (apart from the weapons), and their look is rather… weird. I won’t spoil their design, and I can’t even explain how terrible they look. Basic statement I’m trying to make: the aliens didn’t deliver on what they were supposed to. The running time actually went over-board for me (see what I did there?), clocking over 2 hours. Normally I’m fine with this, but when nothing interesting happens on screen, it really starts to get boring. The pacing is definitely an issue, with the first act in particular draining our minds. I just wanted the film to cut to the battle – that’s what the audience is here for. With such an empty script, the film really didn’t to spend anytime with plot and character development. It was just a waste of time.

Taylor Kitsch is not having a good year. After the dismal John Carter (which is apparently the biggest box-office flop of all time), he’s not having a lot of luck in the industry. My issue with him is that he brings the same performance to every role with that husky voice. Is he trying to be a badass or something? Granted he did have a bit of humour to work with here so that was nice. Liam Neeson spends most of the movie trying to keep a straight face, though he doesn’t have a lot of screen time. Likewise, Alexander Skarsgard isn’t in the movie for very long. Brooklyn Decker, surprisingly, didn’t bother me too much in the film, and she had great banter with war veteran Gregory D. Gadson, who plays a patient of hers. However, someone who did bother me was Rhianna. Oh dear, she shouldn’t be acting at all. Luckily, her character had absolutely nothing to do in this.

The only reason I went into this was for the action, and the film delivered on its promise. While it takes a while for the action to begin, I was satisfied when it started. The aliens crashing on Earth literally brings the action to the film, and it immediately enters into explosive battles. Berg has always been fond of using shaky-camera work, but he tones it down in Battleship The action sequences are actually extremely well put together, with the sound perfect (the sound effects are reminiscent of those in Transformers), and the images crisp and convincing. There are small set-pieces that actually hark back to the game this film is based on, and those moments are fantastic, adding actual tension to the film as both sides can’t see each other. My big issue with the action is that it never peaks at the end – the final confrontation is really disappointing, and far too short for there to have been any real suspense. Still, it looked great. The soundtrack is fun and upbeat, and while the aliens themselves look ridiculous, their technology is insanely cool. You’ll find the aliens doing a lot more destruction than the humans (surprise, surprise).

Battleship is so stupid. There’s no intelligence at all here. It’s all eye candy, and it delivers on that. The action in this film has its breathtaking moments. While it almost has nothing to do with board game – no one evers says “You suck my battleship!” – it does entertain, and if you’re in the right mood, Battleship is a lot of fun. It’s a seriously flawed film, and there’s no way a sequel will be made, but if you’re bored and you simply want to see shit blow up, look no further than Battleship.


Tagged , , ,

A huge improvement over the first film.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.listal.com/image/3038706/140full.jpg“We may not be gods. But we do what people say can’t be done, we hope when there isn’t any… whatever odds we face, we prevail.”

Clash of the Titans was a shocking movie. It was simply terrible. As an adventure movie, it sucked as the characters were bland, and the story was thin. Even as an action film, it was mediocre – the sword fights in particular were shot and edited awfully. I never saw the film in 3D, so I wouldn’t know how bad the 3D looked. Now, the director of Battle: Los Angeles (Unlike most movie-goers, I actually don’t mind that film), Jonathan Liebesman helms the sequel. Wrath of the Titans is infinitely better than Clash. As a sequel, it doesn’t improve or develop the story of this franchise, but the film succeeds on the element that is vital – the visuals. I’ll be honest, I dug the hell out of this film, and even if you hated the first movie, I still think you’ll enjoy Wrath of the Titans. The positives, in my opinion, outweigh the negatives, which are – surprise, surprise – in the scripting department.

A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) the demigod son of Zeus, is living a peaceful life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius (John Bell). Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston). The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous underworld. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus’ godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramírez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans’ strength grows stronger as Zeus’ remaining godly powers are siphoned, and hell is unleashed on earth. Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son, Argenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus.

Alright, the first film had a bad script, so it’s really no surprise that Wrath of the Titans is no different. However, since it’s a sequel, I really didn’t care. My issue with the first film is that Perseus as a character was never established well, and he never particularly developed over the course of his journey. In Wrath, we can at least suspect that he’s developed into a stronger man during his years as a fisherman – weirdly enough, his new haircut really adds to his character, he actually looks like Perseus now. Obviously the stories nothing great, and it plays out like a video game. Still, it allows for the filmmakers set up better action sequences than the first film, and for the first time, we see Zeus in action. My biggest issue with the script is the ending. It felt extremely abrupt and the climax just happened way too quick.

This leads us to the characters. I don’t get too upset when the plot is terrible in mindless action movies, but at least give us decent characters. All the new characters introduced are bland as they don’t develop in any way, and you don’t care about them at all. The same goes with the hero, Perseus. Although he acts like a badass now, we don’t care about him, and there’s no tension when something dangerous approaches him. The relationship he shares with his son is established briefly, so there’s no emotional value there, and the some-what romance he has with Andromeda is also weak. This ain’t really a spoiler, but towards the end, Perseus just kisses her – where did this come from? Before the kiss, they never shared any sort of romantic moment, though we could tell that Andromeda had feelings for Perseus. I would’ve also liked to have seen some form of a relationship between Perseus and Ares – after all they are brothers. The film just spends too much time with its action for there to be any sort of character interplay.

I’ve always thought Sam Worthington was a great action hero – he’s a badass. Being an Aussie myself, his accent doesn’t bother as much as most movie-goers, but it’s a shame he doesn’t have a lot to work with here. His performance as Perseus in Wrath of the Titans has definitely been an improvement over his in Clash of the Titans (it’s definitely the haircut), but it’s still nothing special. Meanwhile, Rosamund Pike proves she can still bring that badass girl attitude that was so amazing in Die Another Day. Like Worthington, her character’s bland, and she doesn’t have a lot to do here in terms of acting. But she’s still awesome – how she doesn’t have more roles in action movies, I’ll never know. Liam Neeson finally gets to do more as Zeus, and I actually thought he did well. He’s at least trying, and like I said earlier, we get to see him bring the hurt this time during the action scenes. Likewise, Ralph Fiennes also gets a lot more involved in the action, and he brings a convincing performance as well. Bill Nighy has heaps of fun with his role, but his screen time is quite limited.

In terms of action, Wrath of the Titans certainly delivers. This was what I went into this movie for – the action, not the script. Liebesman set up some really breathtaking set-pieces, which surprised me as his last action movie focuses so much on shaky-camera work. But alas, the action was shot perfectly in Wrath of the Titans. Even the sword fights are stunning – I couldn’t stand the ones in Clash – and the battle sequence between Perseus and Ares is riveting stuff. The visual effects are top notch as expected – the creation of the monsters is superb. From the Chimera to the Kronus himself, the detail and design of these creatures is to commended. Also, the 3D actually adds to the experience. I was shocked, considering the film was converted in post-production. The film also looks beautiful, with gorgeous production design by Charles Wood, which has been shot with skill by Ben Davis. The score by Javier Navarrete was epic, and praise should be handed to Liebesman for keeping pacing brisk.

I’ve surprisingly met people who actually liked the first film, and if that’s the case with you, then I can’t recommend Wrath of the Titans enough to you. Yes, there’s been no change with the script, and the characters are bland, but the action has been improved to such an amazing level. I went in for action alone, and I got it. Since the film is paced so well, you’re never bored as the characters are always thrown into battle after short moments of conversation. With the 3D working well, and spectacular action set-pieces, Wrath of the Titans should entertain those who don’t ask too much from their movies. Bottom line, check your brain at the door and enjoy the ride.


Tagged , , , ,