Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Infestation (2009)

“Prepare for Global Swarming”

Director: Kyle Rankin
Starring: Chris Marquette, Brooke Nevin and Kinsey Packard
Writer: Kyle Rankin

Combining both an awareness of its genre origins, as well as tongue in cheek approach to it all, Infestation is a surprisingly fun movie that doesn’t ask for a lot. A lot of it does come down to Kyle Rankin keeping the movie simple and aiming for the Saturday monster movie feel. He’s certainly helped by a cast that seems to be oozing charm all over the place.

Chris Marquette as the lead Cooper is a lovable schlub, a slacker but not annoyingly so. He gives the movie it’s drive, and having a likeable character means it never really get’s to us cheering for the bugs. Ray Wise is also great as his ex military father. Yet again he infuses the character with enough likability that he doesn’t come off as a bastard that we want to be killed.

Finally while the CGI isn’t all that, in fact it’s on the level of bad Sci Fi channel movies, there are enough imaginative practical effects that will entertain. The movie also blends both giant bug attacks and zombie movies. That’s right even in a bug movie we can’t escape the zombie craze, but the spider/zombie/human is actually pretty damn cool, with the transformation looking particularly painful.

If you’re not expecting something too transcendent, then there is a bit of fun to be had here. Characters to root for, creatures to be disgusted by, and a plot that never tries to be overly complicated. If you need a silly monster movie you could do a lot worse, really do recommend you give Infestation a try.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Life As We Know It (2010)

“I never had to think for three people before, hell, I barely had to think for one.”

Director: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel and Josh Lucas
Writers: Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson

There is this weird line that romantic comedies can cross and the female lead can become a shrieking harpy, and any sympathy is thrown out of the window. I would say that this applies to guys as well, but normally they are painted as obnoxious man children that need to grow up so if they deviate from this stereotype it’s often an improvement. Why do I bring this up? Well Josh Duhmel is the man child, Katherine Heigl plays a screaming harpy who I wanted to get hit by a truck as soon as possible.

You could find better romantic comedies out there instead of giving this movie a try. Honestly while I would love to assign blame to the writers or the director, it’s all pretty standard. Sure the writing could have painted Holly (Katherine Heigl) in a better light, and not made her such a shrew, but maybe in the hands of a better actor a bit of subtlety could have been used and the character would be more than what is written. Heigl is just a bad, and I don’t think I can stress how much she annoyed me through out the movie.

There is an idea here that could have made for a good movie, but the central premise is buried beneath the horrid romantic comedy. This movie is symptomatic of the lack of care taken with characters, and going for the wacky story beats and giving us unsympathetic characters in the process. Instead don’t waste your time with this movie and go find other more meaningful movies.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini

Oh how I wanted this to be good, but alas it wasn’t to be. There are good elements throughout the movie which stop it from being awful, but they don’t come together in a satisfying way. It’s a shame as I think Rupert Sanders has a great style that suits the fairy tale world. The visualization of both the Dark Forest and Sanctuary, really create this magical world that I wanted to explore. However the story and acting really grind this movie to a halt. It’s too long without any real focus, characters that don’t have much to do, and subplots that are never really fleshed out.

The acting is a very mixed bag. Charlize Theron is the highlight of this movie, she is having so much fun as the evil queen and just chews up the scenery, but in that very good way. Kristen Stewart cops a lot of flack for her acting but I don’t think it’s all that bad; unfortunately the script never gives her anything to really do other than cry. She has a rallying speech near the end of the movie, but it never really hits right. Some of the actors seem really bored, and I was dismayed to see Bob Hoskins sleep walking through his part. Chris Hemsworth is okay as the huntsman but his accent is pretty bad, and therefore off putting.

Good ideas exist in this film but they never seem to be payed off, the world is enchanting but this story doesn’t intrigue me, characters play out larger than life yet actors just don’t seem to commit fully. I can’t say I hated this movie, and if I see this on the television I may watch it again. But I can’t recommend it to people as it really does fail to be as great as it’s ideas could of led it to be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Rock of Ages (2012)

“This place is about to become a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music and puke.”

Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand and Tom Cruise
Writers: Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo and Allan Loeb

Musicals are a funny thing; in my opinion even the worst of them will have fans. It all depends on the use of songs, the characters, and how it speaks to the individual. Having said that I did not like this movie at all, but I can understand why people may dig it. The songs of the 80’s rock are catchy, and even after this movie I was humming to the songs, I just wished I could have listened to them on a CD rather than this movie.

So breaking this movie down it’s instantly ham strung by what type of musical it is. Using already existing songs the movie needs to try and fit the songs to the plot; of course with this the songs are never going to always fit perfectly. This causes a certain pause to some songs. There just isn’t a natural flow from talking scene to song. Still while this is a problem with the picture, some people are going to love the songs, and I can’t say that a few of the numbers were well done even with the break of flow.

Story wise we have the very cliché boy meets girl, troubles arise, can they overcome the troubles and get back together. We also have a subplot of rocker who has sold out trying to find the spark that got him into the business, and we also have a business owner trying to save his bar. You’ve seen this a million times before, and honestly it’s being kept broad as the music is what it’s all about. Unfortunately trying to have such a broad appeal means that interest in the story is all on the actors shoulders.

Now we get to the biggest problem, while Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are great in the singing parts, their characters are just so bland, and they bring nothing of interest to the parts. During their scenes I was falling asleep which is never a good sign. Tom Cruise as the big rock star Stacee Jaxx has a lot of fun in the role, and I can’t disagree with some of the choices he made, but I just don’t buy Tom as the rock n roll star type. Now we get to the two that helped me through this movie. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand steal the damn show with this movie. Every time they were on the screen I was overjoyed and more importantly laughing at their shenanigans. I wish there was more of them in the movie. Catherine Zeta Jones is pretty bad, and what’s worse she’s given some of the worst music numbers out of the entire movie.

At the end of the day I think that this fails as a movie as it doesn’t really excite and doesn’t really use the music in any witty way. People will find some enjoyment of this film, but I’m pretty sure it will be forgotten by them in the long run. If you watched the trailer and were intrigued then go ahead and watch it. If not skip them and go watch something else, maybe find an old musical to listen to.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

To Sleep Perchance To Dream

When I’ve dabbled in fictional writing, a lot of my stories revolve around dreams. At university a lot of the analytical writings I did were on dreams. Hell I would try and put the topic in courses that had nothing to do with them. So the power of Dreams is something pretty important to me. It got me wandering what movies really spoke to me in regards to dreams and dreaming. Now here is the list of films that either influenced me or I really dug thanks to the dream elements.

Dreamscape: This is the movie that really started it all for me. I watched this as a kid, and even though the snake man scared the living crap out of me I was hooked. If I was being honest I will admit I haven’t gone back to watch this movie as I’m sure as an adult now (or at least as much of an adult as I can be) the movie won’t speak to me the same way. But I think we can all agree Denis Quaid is awesome. Some have said that Inception is a direct rip off of this movie, but I think the idea of influencing someone’s dream is one that intrigues and scares us. Funnily enough it comes up a few times on this list.

The Cell: This really spoke to me in a time when I was really starting to get into writing. Creepy, disturbing, and a brilliant look into the dreams of a serial killer; it showed me a darker side of dreams. Unlike Freddy Krueger who uses peoples nightmares against them, this was the serial killers own heaven and hell. It created a world that showed the worst excess of Carl Stargher and at the same time made him sympathetic, as we saw how his own mind affected him. I think a lot of people dismiss this movie because of Jennifer Lopez, which is a shame as she isn’t that bad in this movie.

Un Chien Andalou: Known in English as An Andalusian Dog, it’s a short movie made by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. I got a chance to watch this during one of my many subjects during university. This is as if someone, somehow, managed to film someone’s dream. Time means nothing, imagery is random and yet symbolic and trying to derive meaning from it is pointless as everyone’s interpretation is correct. It may seem like a little too artsy for some folks, but for anyone who likes to see dream interpreted on the screen, do yourself a favour and search this movie out.

Shutter Island: You were expecting that other Leonardo DiCaprio movie about dreams that came out the same year. Well while I did love Inception, I can’t say it had anything in it that was influential. Shutter Island on the other hand gives us some fine examples of lucid dreaming. In fact the camera tricks on display create a very dream like world. There are moments when we know Teddy is dreaming, but it’s the moments that we aren’t sure that really do work. This is one of those movies you can watch a second time and pick up on elements that might have been missed the first time. I think something like this can only really be accomplished by a director as masterful as Martin Scorsese, someone who knows that small tricks can mean a lot.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: It had to be here somewhere. Personally I really like number 3 in the series. Sure this is when wise cracking Freddy really came to the fore, but I liked the idea of characters defining themselves in dreams, to which Freddy came along and began screwing with them all. Still the first is really dark, and I must admit sometimes I wake from bad nightmares and I can’t shake the feeling of a dark presence not only in my dreams, but watching over me as I fall asleep. Freddy is the monster we all really fear, the one that can get us when we are all vulnerable.

Total Recall: Finally why not end this movie with some cheese. Now the ending does try and have the audience question whether this was all a dream, but for me that’s not really the most important thing. When it comes to this movie, I’m fascinated at how everything transpires, simply because a man has a dream. It’s weird to think that something as simple as dream can make us do an action that seems so innocent, and then bam you’ve got Michael Ironside on your ass. Okay this might be the weakest link on the list of movies, but I think everyone should watch Total Recall at least once.

So there’s a look at a few movies that have influenced my love of dreams. There are other movies out there, that do have surreal imagery that is dream like, but they don’t really deal with dreams so I didn’t think I should put them on the list. But some of these for the curious are Toys, What Dreams May Come (yes dream is in the damn title, but it’s about the after life), Deep Red and Natural Born Killers. Anyway that’s it for now, so goodnight and good luck. You’ll need it if my Dream/Soul Catcher experiment works.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Prometheus (2012)

“Big things have small beginnings.”

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof

Prometheus was a movie I was looking forward to, it was a movie that many people were looking forward to. For me it was the promise of Ridley Scott returning to a universe which I loved, I respect him as a director and his promise of exploring the same universe but not doing a direct prequel was intriguing. Yet the movie has hit and split the audience in twain. So where do I stand?

Simply put, I love this movie. I got a very good movie that just fails to take that final step to becoming a great movie. It’s a story that asks many questions about not only the origin of humanity, but if we could handle the answers if found. There are ties to the Aliens movies; more than Ridley Scott admitted to; but this is not an Alien film and a lot of people who go into the movie with those expectations are most likely to be disappointed.

Ridley Scott weaves a fantastically visual film that uses 3D to its fullest; some of the opening shots are just jaw dropping with their majesty. Scott has always had a keen eye and shows that he hasn’t lost a drop of his talent. I can understand that 3D does make people roll their eyes, but in the hands of a cinema great you finally realise how powerful the technology can be. Add to that the love and care that is taken with all the effects from CGI to practical, you have a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Acting wise we get some top notch performances. The one name you’re going to hear more than anything else is Michael Fassbender as the robot David 8. You never know exactly what is going on in the brain of David as he is both helpful and playing his own game, a pawn being used and a new being on the verge of self discovery. Not bound by any human morals he comes across as alien in thought if not in look. It’s a fascinating role for Fassbender as how characters interact with him, answers questions the humans are asking of their makers. His turn eclipses the good work of others. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) at first seems like a Ripley replacement, but where Ripley was a worker, she’s a scientist who is both hunting for the truth while trying to retain a grasp of her faith. She is the soul of the film.

Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and the others all do great a great job as well. However unlike David or Elizabeth they aren’t given as much to do. This is where the main flaw starts coming through with Prometheus, in respects to writing it seems Lindelof and Spaihts can’t juggle the amount of people in the film. People have their moments, and the actors bring their A game, but you can’t do a lot with a script that does leave them hanging. In some respects I think Ridley Scott might have tried as well to flesh out other characters with some visual quirks. In fact I’m curious to see the Directors Cut that’s already been announced for Blu Ray.

So the script, it lets down the movie. It raises questions; it introduces mysteries, but never really pays anything off. I think thanks to the actors and Ridley Scott there are answers to be found, and in those regards there aren’t really plot holes, but you have to really dig deep into the movie to get them. This will turn a lot of people away from the movie. It’s easy to blame Lindelof as we’ve seen similar problems in his other works, but there were two writers here. Another writing problem is the dialogue. The actors are good so they get through it, but man do some of the lines just induce cringe worthy shudders. It’s ham fisted for a movie that’s trying to be a thoughtful science fiction movie.

As I said in the beginning I love this movie. It’s so close to being a great movie it drives me insane and if there was a better script it would have all the tools. Still Ridley Scott is a master and manages to make a movie that is still worthy of your time. In an era of Science Fiction movies that are more intent on loud explosions, it’s nice to have a more thoughtful film out there. Even if the story doesn’t gel with you it’s still worth going to see this in 3D has it’s truly a joy to watch as a master uses a new technology to it’s fullest.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Vol 30

American Reunion (2012)

So it comes to pass and the circle is finally finished. Actually this is a sequel we never needed, and yet it manages to retain enough charm to be just passable. But only just. Everyone one of the returning actor’s slips into their character easily enough, and there isn’t much of a surprise in where the characters have headed in their later years. Stifler yet again seems to be the comedy highlight, so adjust your expectations according to the mileage you get from the character.

The main brunt of the story is our four main characters going through a mid life crisis, and various wacky misunderstandings occur as they try to get to grips with it. I think this is the very definition of an average movie. It never does anything wrong, and you can be entertained by it, but there is nothing really to recommend it to anyone.

Stardust (2007)

Don’t ask me why but I was always reluctant to see this movie, but finally I put whatever emotions I had about it aside and sat down to watch it. What I found was a fascinating world that not only had its sly jabs at the fantasy genre, but a richness that allowed for heroic feats and romantic stories to thrive. It’s all helped thanks to Matthew Vaughn and his wonderful eye for detail.

Acting wise we have Robert DeNiro tackling a character I haven’t seem him handle, Michelle Pfeiffer having a wonderful time as the evil witch and Charlie Cox hitting the right note of adventurous youth and love struck naïve boy. I was also never a fan of Claire Danes but damn is she great as Yvaine the fallen star who the movie revolves around. Fans of fantasy, especially those who have a soft spot of Labyrinth and Princess Bride should love Stardust as it captures that same magic.

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Loosely based on one of my favourite Justice League story, I will put up front that this could all be because I’m a fanboy, but I didn’t like this movie. The comics were an interesting look at Batman and his interactions with the JLA, it culminated in one of the dramatic moments in the relationship between Batman and Superman. However this movie has gone out of its way to change things and I’m not really sure why.

The main villain has changed, the overall game plan has changed, over villains have been added, and even the final resolution has changed to make Batman not suffer any real consequences. I’m sure people will like the movie though as it’s a breezy watch and of course there are super heroes and villains punching the crap out of each other. The animation is okay but I’ve seen better in other DC products. If you want an easy watch, or something to watch with the kids on the Saturday afternoon then this could be what you seek.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Men in Black 3 (2012)

“A miracle is something that seems impossible but happens anyway.”

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin
Writers: Etan Cohen, Lowell Cunningham

I loved the first MIB movie, and despite its numerous flaws I can watch MIB 2 and still get some enjoyment from it. When I heard that after ten years MIB 3 was going to make it’s way to the cinema’s I was a little bit cautious. Stories from the set were the script wasn’t even finished when shooting began. As such this movie should not have been good, it should have been a disaster, and yet miracle of miracles it defied expectations and was better than it had any right to be.

Somehow in the midst of all the chaos, they managed to strike upon the same tone as the first movie. Instantly it’s a step ahead of the second movie which really just tried to use the same jokes, but forget about feeling the same. While not everything works, there is more than enough to be interested in MIB 3. The time travel aspect is probably one of the biggest problems the movie has, but it allows for us to be introduced to one of the most interesting characters in Griffin. Writing wise we have jokes that hit more than they miss and therefore people will be entertained.

Will Smith slips into the character of Agent J with ease. It’s also been a while since I’ve watched a movie with this Will Smith and I kind of missed it. Tommy Lee Jones is actually really disappointing as he seems to be going through the motions. Actually if he was going through the motions it would be better, as he seems close to collapse at various times throughout the movie. On the other hand Agent K still get’s a strong showing thanks to Josh Brolin who plays the younger version of the agent. To call it an impressive impersonation is not doing it justice, as he manages to not only capture the essence of Tommy Lee Jones but expand upon the character and making it his own. It’s an impressive feat. Another great turn comes from Jemaine Clement as movies villain Boris. Amazingly Boris is a threatening presence and is a somewhat unique portrayal. But the real joy of this movie comes from the character of Griffin played by Michael Stuhlbarg. His character exists in ‘five dimensions,’ and has some of the cooler lines in the movie. It’s also a unique character that I haven’t seen about nine or so times.

When the movie uses practical effects it looks fantastic, and some of the retro designs of MIB offices are funny. For some reason the movie seems to really be firing when the practical stuff is present. There is just a sense of fun that comes through; almost you can sense the joy the designers were having. Unfortunately a lot of the CGI doesn’t really work, especially the time travel sequences. I couldn’t help but feel like I was trapped in a video game.

Plot wise is where the movie really comes apart. The time travel makes the movie an incomprehensible mess, and the more attention you pay the worse it gets. The biggest insult is that the movie really goes a long way to destroying a lot plot beats set up in the first movie. The introduction of Agent O not only further undoes the emotional story of Agent K, but it also wastes Emma Thompson’s time. Truly this movie defines the notion of ‘if you don’t question it, you will enjoy the movie more.’

In the grand scheme of the movies it’s got nothing on the first movie, but there is a lot more to like here than its sequel. It’s a shame Tommy Lee Jones didn’t bring his A game as everyone else does bring a lot of charm to the screen. The time travel aspect does bring some great visuals to the movie. It’s not a flawless movie and I can see why some reviewers will not like it, but general audiences should find enough here to have a good time.