Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Thor Review

After a great deal of waiting that extended well beyond the titillating tease for a Thor movie in Iron Man 2 a Thor film was finally released in 2011. To this day I still sadly can't help but be underwhelmed by the final results with Thor being the second weakest Marvel Studios film thus far. To be clear, Thor is not a bad film like I found Iron Man 3 to be and still remains enjoyable, it however is in many ways also a wasted opportunity.

The strength of Thor is most notably the comedy and the film contains many extremely funny moments. The visuals are also simply stunning, though the scenes that take place on earth do fell dull and lifeless especially when they are are compared with Asgard. The 3d, which was yet another conversion at times displays the cardboard cut-out effect and clearly was not taken into consideration by the film makers. Put simply the 2d release of Thor is the version to see.

The main issue however resides with the pacing and forced love story. To put it simply whilst both Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Natalie Portman as Jane both give strong performance their is little chemistry between the two and as a result the love story present fells forced and completely unnecessary. This is particularly an issue as Thor fells overcrowded with little to no breathing room and could have likely benefited from either a longer run-time or the removal of a the forced and contrived love story. Likewise whilst Stellan Skarsgård provides a good performance he fells underutilized and once again unnecessary and is seemingly included for his more pertinent role in The Avengers.

The whole angle of the 'villain' also doesn't carry the emotional impact that the film-makers seem to have been aiming for which leaves the ending rather anticlimactic. Admittedly Tom Hiddleston as Loki provides for what is easily the strongest performance and also the most interesting character present. It is just a shame we get a tired, predictable and unneeded love story instead of a more in depth look at Loki and his relationship with his brother Thor and father Odin.

Thankfully the humour is successfully enough to overlook some of Thors more obvious flaws and the action scenes are generally exciting and keep everything moving forward at a brisk pace. Sadly the humour and action isn't enough to overlook Thors wasted potential. Thor is a film that I would have no hesitation recommending to fans of comic book films and those who like large doses of humour in their action films. For those less ecstatic about such films Thor is by no means a film that is likely to change their mind on the genre and thus comes tentatively recommended.

Monday, 28 October 2013

About Time Review

About Time comes from director Richard Curtis who's last film Love Actually was a romantic comedy that featured a large cast of notable actors and actresses which makes it all the more surprising that it was not only palatable but was actually enjoyable. Likewise About time is another romantic comedy though is allowed a more focused narrative as it features a much smaller cast.

About Time starts of with the protagonist Tim describing his overly 'perfect' family life which is juxtaposed with his awkward social skills. The day after yet another new years party Tim's father played by Bill Nighy tells him the men in his family had always been able to travel back in time. Understandably Tim doesn't believe him but none the less takes his fathers advice and discovers that he indeed can travel in time and goes back to last nights new years party and 'armed' with his knowledge of event he is able to change his past with more satisfactory results. Tim then decides he would use his time travel abilities for the purpose of finding love.

Time then sets out to find love utilising his time travel abilities to no avail until he meets Mary in what is an original yet overplayed scene, where they are dinning in a completely dark restaurant with blind waiters. This of course means in their initial encounter they are unable to see one another and in a rare occurrence Time isn't awkward in the presence of Mary and doesn't need to utilise his ability to time travel to correct his mistakes. Tim of course after this meeting time travels and in error erases this encounter from ever occurring. After which Tim sets out to meet Mary again (though why he doesn't simply travel back in time again and meet Mary as he originally did is sadly not given enough attention). Most of Tim and Mary's story from here is as predictable as expected, and whilst both Domhnall Gleeson as Tim and Rachel McAdams as Mary provide for solid performances it never goes beyond what is expected from such a film with the exception of a sprinkling of humor that the time travel enables.

Where the real heart of the film comes from is the relationship between fathers and their children, or most notably between Tim and his father. This is an area whereby the film utilises the time travel aspect to great effect providing for unique and emotionally resonant scenes that otherwise would simply not be possible. It however must be said that whilst there are some exceptions, those expecting an interesting time travel story will likely be disappointed and the time travel aspects are largely used to try and breathe fresh air to provide unique twists in what is usually an overly predictable genre and for the most part it succeeds in doing so. Unfortunately there are moments where the pacing of the film does come to a stand still which doesn't suite the portions of the film they are present in, this none the less is only a minor issue in what is otherwise a film that rises well above the genre it finds itself in.

About Time is a rare example of a romantic comedy done well and features mostly strong performances, quietly amusing comedy that doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator and an excellent and interesting take an the relationship between a father and son. Hence About Time comes highly recommended.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Skyline Review

"it's a little of a f u to the audience"

"recycle where you can create new where you have to"

The above are comments made by the directors regarding this film in the commentary and I think highlight what is behind the majority of issues present in this film. The Strauss Brothers (yes, that is what they like to credit themselves as) are clearly talented in the visual effects field as one can easily see by looking at their impressive resume in that field and that they are also the founders of Hydralux. They however have proven themselves here to be incompetent directors in near on every regard.

Hence it isn't surprising that Skyline is a film that has some impressive visual effects (although it also has some rather poor effects as well). However the rest of the film looks as if it was made for tv and cheaply at that. Performances throughout are dreadful (aside from Crystal Reed who provides an adequate performance which is impressive given how little their is to work with here), pacing is inconsistent and the script is simply dreadful.

With that being said the film does offer glimpses of something that could have made for a fun albeit still brain dead film. The idea of how the Aliens would make something beautiful (the light) and use it as a weapon could indeed be an interesting idea if further explored especially had the more interesting and mysterious Aliens forms we get glimpses of early in the film hadn't been turned into nothing more then brain munching zombies. The ending, that is what originally seems to be the ending is also surprisingly well shoot and is at least somewhat satisfying and almost gives me something positive to say about the film. That is until the extra end is thrown on, and their in lays the problem. Whilst some good ideas and a handful of well shoot scenes are nice to see, they are ultimately overwhelmed by every other scene featuring such poor film making it amazes me that they where made by the same people.

Put simply, Skyline is a film that shows faint signs of potential but such glimpses are few and far between and are overwhelmed by horrible acting, horrible dialogue, poor pacing and a dreadful and incompetent ending. Hence Skyline is a film one should go out of their way to ensure they never see.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Gravity Review

Gravity starts of in a rather condescending manner reminding viewers of how life in space is impossible and an incredibly harsh environment to try and survive in (would a film about trying to survive a damaged submarine fell the need to remind you that when surrounded by water and nothing else you will drown?). Thankfully my concerns resulting from this almost immediately vanished among seeing the very first shoot of earth which was shoot in such a way that could be only described as being spectacularly beautiful. The film then doesn't cut for what I have been told is around seventeen minutes and the shoot moves around three Astronauts as they work on what I believe was an optical system of a satellite. As they work they are told about a possible debris risk which is initially not on trajectory with their position but this soon changes as it crashes into other satellites making new debris which of course is on trajectory for their current position. As one would expect this does catastrophic damage to their ship and sends one of the astronauts spinning out of control away from their ship and thus begins the journey for survival for those left alive.

Performances by both Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalski are superb. However whilst the characters are undeniably interesting and one in particular has a strong character arc, Gravity is less about the characters and more about the horrors and beauty of space. This isn't to say that the characters are unimportant, rather that the setting more then anything is the star of the film, whilst the characters provide an emotional core for you to invest yourself in. Simply put Gravity provides for an interesting experience in that it is successfully able to convey both the beauty of space along with how inhospitable and horrifying it simultaneously can be. From a visual standpoint Gravity is breathtaking and unlike the sadly large number of tacked on 3d releases of late (such as Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel etc) Gravity is a film whose inclusion of 3d comes from the film makers who have been successfully able to utilize it in such a way that adds tremendously to the film.

Likewise the sound design throughout is superb and background space stations and satellites being destroyed in silence provide for some eerie moments that help emphasize the environment the Astronauts find themselves in. Likewise the muted sound design of the astronauts moving around as they come into contact with various objects likewise helps amp up the tension resulting in both the visuals and audio working in harmony along with the superb performances by both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney to create for a tense and satisfying experience that few films can hope to measure up to.

Gravity for good reason has been riding an unprecedented amount of hype for an October release and has also deservedly received critical acclaim which I can only concur with and Gravity comes with my highest recommendation.

Note: Gravity is also a film that I urge those interested in seeing it to do so in 3d as unlike far to many 3d releases this is a film that utilizes 3d in such a way that I can't imagine the 2d release being able to compare favorably to. In other words this is how 3d should be done.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Margaret (Extended Cut) Review

Margaret is a film that for various reasons was delayed several years prior to its eventual limited release which saw the film release in a two and a half hour cut. This however was not the directors preferred cut which has now been released on home video and has a run time of three hours and eight minutes.

Margaret despite my immediate assumption was not about a character called Margaret, rather the films is named after a character from the poem 'Spring and Fall: To a Young Child' by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The reason for which are the similar central ideas present in both the film and poem. The protagonist Lisa is played by Anna Paquin who is a young and apparently talented care free seventeen year old (though we are only told this and are never shown this). This however all changes when she distracts a bus driver who as a result runs a red light and hits a pedestrian who in the minutes that follow dies in Lisa's arms.

From here the film slowly begins to delve into the guilt Lisa fells for her part in what transpired, sadly the films jumps around different characters in Lisas' life and the numerous themes present at will. This results is the film felling overlong and unfocused. Likewise despite all around solid performances (in particular by Anna Paquin as Lisa and J. Smith-Cameron as Lisa's mother) the film ultimately lacks the emotional punch it could have had with a more focused narrative.

Margaret is a film that lacks focus and narrative cohesion that has an excessive number of interesting ideas forced into a film that as a result fells overcrowded yet still somehow manages to move at a snails pace. As a result whilst Margaret does have some strong performances the film devolves into a rather monotonous affair that is harder to sit through because of how uninteresting it is rather then how confronting the subject matter should be. Hence whilst the the extended cut of Margaret has glimpses of potential it ultimately does not come recommended.

Note: Sadly the leaner theatrical cut is not available on home video in Australia so I can't comment as to whether that provided for a more focused film.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Tron Review

“The Original Classic”

As proclaimed in large capitalized text on the blu-ray cover, Tron is indeed a classic that was no doubt not fully appreciated upon release, but more on that soon.

Tron stars Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn a young enthusiastic programmer who worked extensively to create some of the most popular video games released. Unfortunately his work is stolen by Ed Dillinger (David Warner) who then uses these stolen games to propel himself to the head of the company whilst Kevin Flynn is simply removed from the picture and left to scrape what money he can through his arcade. In spite of this Flynn remains determined to clear his name and return to his rightful place and so starts Tron which sees Kevin accidentally enter a computer world which is populated by users, which are essentially virtual representations of people in the form of programs.

As previously mentioned Tron does not seem to have been appreciated on release however over thirty years later and I imagine it has become increasingly appreciated as some of the ideas and concepts present have become a reality. The most obvious of which being ones second 'life' in the computer world which is indisputably occurring with such wildly popular websites as Facebook and Twitter. Whilst it is true that many ideas are more hinted at rather then fully explored they remain none the less astonishingly present for a film that was made before terms like bit or program where common knowledge.

The acting throughout much like the film is fittingly campy and Jeff Bridges enthusiasm practically oozes of the screen and provides for a particularly fun performance that helps mask the films several shortcomings. The other actors are for the most part are not as impressive as Jeff Bridges but still manage to help give this film heart that it so could easily have not had and saves the film from being nothing more then what today still remains a visual splendor.

Some may argue that the computer generated imagery (CGI) of Tron hasn't aged well, but to do so would to not understand the film makers intent. It is true in the more recent Tron Legacy the film-makers wanted the world to look real, however in the original Tron they wanted the world they created to look digital which they are undeniably successful in achieving, often with more standard techniques although a heavy amount of CGI is none the less present which is particularly impressive given that Tron is over thirty years old at the time of this review.

As I previously mentioned Tron is a classic but it is not without its flaws, but when a film is as overwhelmingly interesting and simply fun as it is in this case, the minor issues are easy to forgive.

Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Collection Update (September 2013)

In the last months or so I have purchased several more films then usual largely thanks to multiple sales that JB HI FI was so kind to combine (20% of the blu-rays along with buy two get one free). Below is what I have recently picked up.

Adaptation is a film I have been wanting to release on blu-ray for quite some time and now I finally have it. This means I can finally get rid of my rather degraded dvd that was heavily damaged yet somehow still ran, though I doubt it would have for much longer. Another Earth is a fantastic little indie film that I recently watched and am currently working on a review for and Hick is a blind buy that I know absolutely nothing about outside of what the front cover shows. Speaking of blind buys below are three further blind buys for films that I have been wanting to see for quite some time but simply never managed to get around to doing so.

Lastly are the 3d blu-rays I have recently picked up (and Super 8), all of which are for films that where intended to be seen in 2d and not 3d. None the less given the small price difference I decided to go with the 3d versions and despite being a 3d advocate I imagine I will generally watch the 2d versions. Note: Iron Man 3 was a gift and not a film I would have picked up given how disappointing I found it. Maybe a second viewing will change my mind I however doubt it shall as it is a very flawed film.

I am most excited to see Jurassic Park in 3d largely as it has been years since I have seen the film bus also as I have been told it is close to the quality of the Titanic 3d conversion. Super 8 is a film that is a great throwback to how blockbusters use to be (for both better and worse) and thus 'only' being available in 2d is rather suitable.

I am rather happy with this haul though I can't help but fell as if I should have been a little less open to the blind buying of films.