Sunday, 28 December 2014

Conan the Barbarian (2011) Review

Conan the Barbarian is yet another movie based on the Conan character who was created by writer Robert E. Howard. We have thus far seen stories featuring Conan in a plethora of media formats such as films, games, comics, tv shows and no doubt several others. I none the less have never really been all that excited about the character or the stories he has appeared in. However the prospect of a blood soaked sandle epic does appeal to my taste in films (especially with the current lack of such films) and sadly whilst Conan the Barbarian does provide for that, it has several shortcomings.

Conan the Barbarian starts of with a gloriously ridiculous scene of Conan's birth. Who is born in the middle of a blood soaked battle as his father cuts him from his dying mother and then holds Conan up in the air as he screams (presumably both in pain and joy). After some overly obvious exposition we are then introduced to a still young albeit no longer infant Conan and his combat abilities and mastery are quickly shown and the plot soon after kicks in (which of course required the previously mentioned ham fisted exposition to even make any lick of sense). Khalar Zym (played by the terrific Stephen Lang) seeks to bring back his dead sorceress wife back to life with the aid of his daughter Marique (played by Rose McGowan). Zym holds the belief in doing so he would become a God and the ruler of all. Simply put Zym is on a conquest for power and for a reason that is barely touched on the film believes his all powerful albeit dead wife would be able to grant him his wishes if she was brought back to life (though if she was defeated before why couldn't she be defeated again?). That is more or less all their is to the story and whilst the plot is solid it is childishly simple and uninspired. None the less it remains functional and is not one of the main issues present in the film.

The acting in Conan the Barbarian varies from mediocre to absolutely appalling. The previously mention Stephen Lang and Rose McGowan do their best as the villains but the characters ultimately fell underdeveloped and the reasons for their motives are barely touched on. As father and daughter they also share a creepy scene that hints at an almost incestuous relationship (or at least the possible desire for one) which whilst creepy ultimately adds nothing to the film. Such issues permeate throughout the entire film and 'characters' who already tend to have little screen time and characterisation, have what little they do often squandered on meaningless moments such as the previously mentioned semi-incestuous one. As a result the film makers seemed to rely on cheap visual cues such as an eye patch so as one can remember who particular 'characters' are. The lead actor in particular seemed content in mumbling his words with minimal articulation which is further hindered by an uneven audio mix that often had voices far to soft. None the less Momoa as Conan does himself few favours and whilst he physically looks the part of a ruthless Barbarian out for revenge, his acting ability (at least in this film) is a far shoot from being even remotely good enough to carry any film.

In spite of the above issues with the performances and character a film such as this can can still easily be enjoyed if the action is suitably well staged and exciting (an epic fell also tends to help). Conan sadly has very little of this. The action sequences are over edited and feature an almost nauseating amount of camera movement combined with constant cuts between different shoots that often do not flow from previous shoots. I actually don't mind the shaky camera effect and also feel the overly aggressive editing can work when used well and thus can be an effective tool in enhancing a films action scenes. That however is not the case here. Their are other extremely noticeable issue in editing (although they are likely to stem from filming issues) such as the time of day during the boat fight. The 'bad guys' sneak onto the boat and it is clearly dusk or dawn and moments later when they are detected it is suddenly a bright and sunny day. Such an instance isn't to bad in of itself and by no means something that ruins a film, but it does highlight the issues that are constantly present in the action scenes which jump around with no sense of flow from shoot to shoot and ultimately make this hard to garner any enjoyment.

The pacing is also problematic in that it is practically non existent and as the movie jumps from one action scene to another over and over again. The result is a complete lack of any sense of danger for the lead characters. Conan the Barbarian simply fells as if it's constantly deflating and slowly winding down towards the inevitable finale which to its credit does try to fell bigger and more epic then the previous action scenes, but is none the less plagued by the same issues that are present throughout the entire film and thus the film sadly ends with a whimper.

It saddens me to say that whilst Conan the Barbarian is by no means the worst film released this year and whilst it is not without its positives, it is none the less a film that was ultimately more often boring to watch then it is fun. Conan the Barbarian is simply overwhelmed by numerous issues which successfully zaps near on all the fun the film could otherwise have had to offer. Conan the Barbarian does not come recommended.

The 3d:
Conan the Barbarian is also available in 3d and as has far to often become the case is a complete 2d to 3d conversion. Conan the Barbarian was not shoot in 3d and it was not shoot for 3d and whilst a good conversion can look amazing and add to many films (usually only when intended or wanted by the film makers) that where never intended to be seen in 3d . In this case it however sadly adds nothing to this film and if anything it makes the already poorly edited action sequences even harder to watch as the hectic editing is anything but 3d friendly. The 3d is also minimal and takes on an every flat appearance that does nothing to enhance the story and as previously mentioned actually hinders the action scenes. Hence if you do decide to see this film I would urge you to ignore the 3d option and see it in 2d.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Tree of Life Review

If their ever was a film that could be the poster child for films that divide audience opinions Terrence Malicks Tree of Life is a film that would be a strong candidate. Inescapably and unapologetically experimental and existential The Tree of Life is a film that many will love, but equally many will loath, finding the contents nothing but a pretentious tedious bore.

I would usually try and summarize the basic story of the films setup. However in the case of The Tree of Life that would be a disservice and mostly an impossible task as the Tree of Life is a film that deviates from the norm in how a films themes and story is presented. The film at its core is about the beauty of life and the world and universe we live in. Whilst the story of a family and the individuals that make it up is certainly present, The Tree of Life is more concerned with the larger picture of life and using the smaller scale human narrative so as the audience can more easily relate to the bigger picture. It not only seeks to show beauty in what is generally accepted as beautiful, but also the beauty that still exist in the most tragic of circumstances. It would be a disservice to not mention the beautiful cinematography present by Emmanuel Lubezki that helps present the core concept present to be visible throughout.

Thus The Tree of Life is a film more concerned with evoking 'genuine' emotion from the viewer directly as opposed to trying to elicit an emotional response through how one relates to the individual characters present. With all that said I wouldn't say it is a particularly deep experience. It presents what it wishes to with no interest in exploring why the universe is how it is or similar. It is comfortable being a celebration of the beauty we are so fortunate to be able to experience no matter how limited our capacity may or may not be.

At it's heart The Tree of Life is about the beauty of not only the world we live in, but the universe and that of life. It is a film that I see large number loving and large numbers loathing. None the less I found it to be a completely enthralling and beautiful experience and The Tree of Life comes with my highest recommendation.

Note: I would strongly urge people to not view this film via streaming or a dvd release. Rather I would recommend viewing the blu-ray or seeking a showing at a cinema similar to The Astor Theatre. For those living in Australia I would urge those interested to consider importing the blu-ray as the local release is objectively worse then what is available elsewhere (the Australian release has a 5.1 audio track as opposed to the 7.1 available elsewhere and the video contains significant banding throughout many scenes).

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Collection Update (December 2014 part 2)

The final part for this two part collection update contains both the 3d and Disney blu-rays I have purchased this year.

It may come top a surprise to many that their are numerous 3d films are available from the 1950's. These are not films that have been converted into 3d in recent times, rather they where shoot in 3d. Not only that but they where also presented in 3d using polarized glasses (as most cinemas currently show theatrical 3d films). The results are stunning as the film makers don't have the fear of depth that modern 3d has suffered through in recent times (though that trend thankfully seems to be mostly over with most 3d films pushing higher levels of depth). If it is indeed a surprise that 3d films in the past where not simply the territory of anaglyph 3d (most commonly using red and blue filters in the glasses) it may also surprise many that Alfred Hitchcock directed a 3d film (Dial M for Murder).

How to Train Your Dragon is a film that I would strongly urge people pick up in 3d, even if they are not 3d compatible currently. Not only is the film an exciting funny breath of fresh air in an industry with a low number of quality recent animated titles, but it features amongst the most stunning 3d I have seen. On the other side I had seen the extended cut of Hansel and Gretel and thought I would pick up the 3d release. Whilst it isn't an entirely lost cause I don't think I will ever watch the 3d release again as the extended edition (which is only available in 2d) is by far the superior version of the film.

Lastly for this two part update are the Disney release from the last year. I could write extensively about the poor practices Disney have been undertaking with their recent blu-ray releases but that would be best left for a latter time. 

In what is somewhat of a sweeping statement I would recommend all of these release in 3d except for Captain America. Whilst it is true that not all of these films where originally intended for 3d, it's presence certainly enhances the films. In particular Frozen and Oz The Great and Powerful are stunning examples of intended and native 3d. Likewise Guardians of the Galaxy has stunning 3d that whilst it is a 2d to 3d conversion was made as a 3d film with the director overseeing the 3d conversion of "every shoot".

So the above (along with the prior post) finishes my home film purchases over the last year. I intend for future collection updates to be far more regular but that will of course depend on when I pick up films. Of note is that I bought zero dvd's in the last year. This is simply as their where no films released that I wanted that where only available on dvd.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Collection Update (December 2014 part 1)

How time can fly. It has been a year since my last collection update and having bought more then a small number of films this year I have decided to split this up over the next few weeks in several different posts. Due to the number of release I will only be commenting on specific releases that I fell attention should be brought to. So without further adieu part one of this rather massive collection update.

The film from the above which was easily among the larger surprises of the year was Blue is The Warmest Color. With near universal  acclaim it was a film that I found to be an overly long and bloated film that had plenty of potential that I didn't fell was realized (click here to see my full review). As a fan of Spike Jonze I was very happy to pick up Being John Malkovich which is a film that comes with my highest recommendation. Likewise Edge of Tomorrow was possibly the nicest surprise of the year. I wasn't expecting much and what I got was a tremendous sci fi action film with superb 3d.

Her is another film by Spike Jonze that I can't recommend highly enough. At times purposefully awkward, at other times bitter sweet. It is a film that on paper would likely appear to be a disaster waiting to happen. However thanks to some brilliant direction, acting and of course writing it stunningly is easily amongst the better films of recent memory. Catching Fire is another film I would highly recommend and the blu-ray alternates between it's scope ratio and 1.78:1 (full screen) for the imax scenes which is present throughout the entire time spent in the arena. Sadly the blu-ray does have some flaws, most notably is the film seems bit starved and thus some obvious and ugly banding is sadly present. Of note is this is the American release (which is region locked). The local Australian release does not alternate aspect ratios which some may prefer (especially those with CIH setups).

Whilst the sequel Silent Hill revelation was a travesty (click here to see my full review), the first Silent Hill is personal favourite of mine. Unfortunately the only competent blu-ray release is the French edition which I took the plunge and bought. It not only is the only release approved by the director it is the only one that doesn't have risen black levels that starves the image of any 'pop' resulting in a murky mess (the darkest black appears to be light grey). Thankfully the French release does justice to the film and its gorgeous cinematography. Likewise Super is a film by the director of Guardians of the Galaxy that few seem to have seen. It's premise is very similar to that of the first Kick-Ass film. It however doesn't drop the idea of a nobody trying to act like a super hero in favour of having 'real heroes' (such as Big Daddy and Hit Girl). This is most apparent in the final act and is a film I would recommend to those who are fans of the first Kick-Ass film.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

What If Review

In What If, Wallace a medical drop out who one night meets Chantry a young women in a long term relationship. Upon finding this out he is Chantry gives him her number which he later disposes of uninterested in 'just' a friendship. But of course as this is through and through a romantic one night soon thereafter they both once again meet in a chance encounter and from their the friendship blossoms and the two slowly become more aware of one another feelings towards each other.

If this sound awfully familiar, it is because the film follows the structure of a romantic comedy to a fault. However the reason to see What If is not its structure, rather it is the two leads Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace and Zoe Kazan as Chantry. Both deliver strong, credible performances and share a degree of chemistry that is rare to see in films, especially those in the romcom genre. The comedy and wit on display is likewise surprisingly potent and fells like it comes naturally from the characters involved instead of simply being forced into the film in an attempt to bring life to the film as is so often the case in films like this.

Unfortunately What If does end with one or two completely unnecessary scenes which weighs the film down and takes away from the core strength of the film. At times moving the film into eye roll inducing clear romcom territory as if any nuance or ambiguity would be a crime. I will note that this is a review of the US release which features several minutes of cut footage and apparently the final scenes present here are not present in the uk release. These differences would likely remove the largest and only real issues I had with What If.

At a glance What If could easily be mistaken for an entirely unremarkable film. It follows the structure of a romantic comedy to a fault (especially in the final scenes). It however is able to rise above its structure with its remarkable performances and chemistry between the two leads along with its witty and unforced humour. Whilst I would recommend those interested waiting for the UK release which is uncut and apparently features a different ending, the US release of What If still comes highly recommended.

Note: As is unfortunately a frequent occurrence I would recommend avoiding the trailers for this film as it spoils several key points.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings Review

Note: The below review does contain spoilers, but nothing that I fell constitutes a spoiler giving how well known this story is.

Exodus: Gods and Kings as one may expect follows the tales of Moses a godless Egyptian prince who upon discovering his true parentage is exiled into the dessert where he meets his wife. One day Moses walks up a mountain that just so happens to be one that is forbidden by whilst trying to capture some stray sheep he presumably shepards. It is here that he meets 'god' who needs a general not a shepard and convinces Moses to return from his exile and see what had become of his enslaved people. Unsurprisingly upon returning matters are worse then before and he decides to take action with the help of 'god'.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a film that I imagine many people will find offensive. It is directed by a man who has a very low opinion on religion and has treat the film as a simple story. In it god is shown as a largely thoughtless half wit who whilst incredibly powerful is unable to utilize his power in an effective manner and comes across and immoral and evil entity. Something that Moses in this film seems to agree with, but at no stage is it ever explained why. The characterisation for the most part is equally troubling. With few exceptions characters motivations seem to simply change with the changing requirements of the plot and few are giving enough screen time to be fully realized characters in their own right. This leads to the 'epic' scenes lacking any punch and being nothing more then a visual treat in the same way many enjoy brainless action spectacle films.

The cause would seem to be how rushed the film is. For example, the relationship between Moses and his wife is nothing more then them meeting at a water hole, exchanging no words, next Moses is meeting her father who asks numerous questions as she watches and then suddenly they are married. This lack of development is in part to the mostly passable but entirely unremarkable acting on display, but also that their simply where not enough scenes dedicated to developing important characters beyond Moses. Their is an early scene between Moses his sister and adoptive mother which is certainly a highlight that promises some dramatic punch, but neither are seen again and nor is the dramatic punch.

In many was Exodus: Gods and Kings is like Kingdom of Heaven. Both are directed by Ridley Scott that hope to have an 'epic' scope but are faltered by rushed pacing and story telling that skims over far to many important details. Hopefully Exodus: Gods and Kings get an extended edition that improves the film like Kingdom of Heaven had. But in its current state Exodus: Gods and Kings does not come recommended.

What about the 3d?
The 3d is simply put a rather mixed affair. Starting of rather mild it later pushes to rather heavy levels of depth. Whilst this heavier level of depth is certainly a nice trend to see in an industry that seems fearful of anything but mild 3d in years past the presentation here is also inconsistent with the levels of depth fluctuating wildly within the same scene and similar shoots. The result is a mostly competent 3d presentation that will certainly satisfy fans of the format, but will be unlikely to convert those who have yet to be convinced.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Boogie, el aceitoso (Boogie) Review

Boogie at a glance may appears to be a stylistic and brutally violent cartoon. The film however whilst often brutally violent has no sense of style and is an absolute abomination of a film and is an artistic failure in every way I can fathom.

Boogie is a hitman who's is generally shown to only care about money, taking no joy in anything else. The question as to why he cares for money when he does nothing with it is asked early on, the question however is never addressed in the film. Likewise Boogie is driven throughout the film to prove that he is the best hitman, which contradicts the message that he fells nothing that is simultaneously being repeated ad nauseam throughout the entire proceedings. The story is likewise an inconsistent mess that is unable to present any redeemable qualities.

From a stylistic perspective the film is equally artistically bankrupt and looks like an at best amateur effort by those new to animation. The action lacks any sense of excitement, the pacing is all over the place, the acting ranges from bad to incredibly dreadful  and the editing is equally sub par.

I find it troubling giving the essentially infinite possibilities one has when telling a story that a film like Boogie can exist. I also find it equally difficult to put together an in depth review about this film as I have nothing positive to say and only can list negative aspects about everything present in a film that is as artistically bankrupt as they can come and makes even the worse films one usually has the misfortune of stumbling across seem less horrid in comparison.

Put simply Boogie is a complete disaster that makes even the most putrid hack Hollywood films seem comparatively like high art. I could easily further point out other numerous negative qualities but needless to say Boogie does not simply come not recommended, like the very worst films it comes recommended to never bother with and the rare want for it to be lost in time.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Tron Legacy Review

Tron Legacy is a sequel to the 1982 film Tron, and stars two of the leads from the original (both Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley). However the film makers seemingly understood the cult but none the less limited appeal and knowledge of the first film and thus made this follow up as accessible to new combers as it is fans of the original Tron.

The star of this film is a new character Sam, the son of Kevin Flynn. The film begins as Sam is a young boy with his father suddenly disheartening and presumed dead. This leaves Sam the soul heir of the multi-billion dollar company Encom, whom twenty years later he plays a yearly stunt on Encom which is the only time he is shown to be involved with the company. Meanwhile Alan Bradely who is seemingly the only person to believe Kevin Flynn is still alive receives a page from Kevin's old arcade and tells and lets Sam investigate this for himself. Whilst their Sam finds his fathers old workstation and soon their after find himself in the grid (essentially inside a computer).

Needless to say for those who have seen any trailers or similar, the film is undeniably spectacular, from its light cycle chases to its brief but exciting real world action scene and of course it’s light disc battles and many more. The score is likewise simply phenomenal and I would argue is alone worth the price of 'admission'. However the film is not just a visual and audio treat as it does contain several interesting themes that seem to have been largely ignored by its critics. This is particularly evident with the relationship between Clu and Kevin Flynn and what Clu represent with regards to Kevins character. Their are also themes regarding perfection and imperfection and what that constitutes as well as the role technology plays in our life. Whilst this themes are not going to act as an interesting foreshadowing to our own reality as is the case with the original Tron they are none the less relevant to how we live our lives.

Tron Legacy is a film I would strongly recommend viewing with a quality surround sound system and in 3d (as it's video and audio minus some bass clipping is simply breath taking). Simply put Tron Legacy is a film that comes with my highest recommendation.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

La vie d'Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color) Review

Now an undeniable critic darling, Blue is the Warmest Color released to universal acclaim and seeks to tell a coming of age story whilst following Adèle a young woman over the course of several years. The film largely focuses on Adèle and is a coming of age story about longing and love and is portrayed via Adele’s relationship with Emma.

Much of the dialogue and interactions in Blue is the Warmest Color are tedious and bloated. The most notable example of this are the now infamous sex scenes (one of which last for over six minutes and fails to portray the passion the characters supposedly fell for one another that other films have done with singular shots that last but a few seconds). Likewise sub plots are introduced to be simply forgotten by the time the next scene arrives and in spite of its three hour run time, Blue is the Warmest Color on several occasions also fails to provide necessary information until after it is needed to understand exactly why what is occurring on screen is happening. Had the information that had been skipped simply been minor details, or had withholding the information been able to successfully add something to the film I would understand. But as it is presented it comes across as nothing more than an oversight by the film makers, who whilst I am certain had their reasons, these reasons are unclear and only succeeded in causing confusion instead of being able to understand the reasons behind such scene.

To make matters worse is whilst the films takes places over several years the pacing of time is often unclear and occasionally unknowable. Instead of simply prompting the viewer with a message such as “two years later” or similar, Blue is the Warmest Color simply skips forward in time with little to no hint of time passing. This isn’t necessarily an issue if the film is able to successfully convey the passing of time by other means. Blue is the Warmest Color is however not successful in doing this, or more to the point makes little effort to do this. The result is whilst Blue is the Warmest Color does take place over several years you could be forgiving (or even expected) to often not realize when the age of the characters has changed. For instance whilst at a party Adèle says she is a teacher when asked what she does. Whilst at this point we know that the she wants to be a teacher it is unclear whether she is responding honestly and is a teacher, or is simply lying, possibly embarrassed that she is several years younger than her partner Emma (and possibly still at high school). This ambiguity could of course work in the films favor if it had been addressed elsewhere or was used to make a point. It however isn't and the film as a result simply furthers the sense that the film is not only bloated but also fragmented. Likewise when Adèle and Emma first meet Emma states she has and is in a relationship that has been going on for two years, but seemingly soon after they meet they enter a relationship with one another, yet no mention of a break up or similar is made.

Whilst the films aim is clearly to show the growth of Adèle as a person over several years the actress portraying the character fails to portray a complex character that was able to hold my interest. Sure she cries (with overbearing frequency) and smiles when upset or happy, but I found little present in her portrayal that gave a real sense of character. Adèle as a result is a rather flat character that not only looks more or less the same at both the beginning and start of the film, but acts in the same way seemingly having learnt little from her life experiences. Thankfully Léa Seydoux as Emma is successfully able to portray a multi-faceted character (especially in the latter half of the film) that gives the film some emotional weight. However as she is only a supporting character this is far from enough to save what is akin to a sinking ship.

Blue is the Warmest Color has lofty aims that it is unsuccessful in reaching and instead is a bloated, overly long mess. There is the possibility for a great film among the copious bloat and rather weak performance by the lead actress. However as it is in its current form it simply unrealized potential and thus Blue is the Warmest Color does not come recommended. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Thoughts on the UHD (4k) Blu-ray Announcement

The long overdue announcement for UHD blu-ray (often incorrectly refereed to as 4k) has been made and it is meant to launch late next year. Whilst the standards still have yet to be released beyond resolution (making this announcement of sorts more of an announcement for an announcement) it does seem as if higher frame rates will be supported along with a larger color gamut and HDR.

I am very glad to see the likely inclusion of a higher color gamut and higher frame rate support (like the recent and upcoming Hobbit films have been shoot at) though currently the content of which is very limited. The same of which can be said about UHD in general, with most films still being made using a 2k digital intermediate and only a select few using a 4k digital intermediate (and even fewer getting an actual 4k release in cinemas). Thus whilst I am excited for a UHD disc format I can't help but fell television manufacturers may be looking to release sooner then the content and market is ready for (as I felt about 3d at home).

Likewise the benefits of the resolution increase is severely limited by the content currently available and we are far from seeing a surge of films using a 4k digital intermediate. Though this may of course change. If and in all likelihood as it does change, I expect it will be a rather slow gradual change. Likewise given how far many sit away from there tv screen, and the size of the average tv screen (last I heard it was still less then 50" from around 10 foot) is is likely few will get any benefit from a higher resolution alone. Thus for many it really comes down only to everything else this new UHD disc format will bring (the higher frame rate, color gamut increase etc) which puts this discussion in an odd situation as all we know is the resolution that will be used and a general estimated release date.

I do have some reservations about HDR (especially as films are made for cinemas first and foremost which as I understand is unable to support HDR and thus I can't see films embracing HDR), but my larger reservation is the general interest for an even higher fidelity video format. I absolutely can see videophiles clamoring for this format. But in a world where blu-ray still only makes up for around thirty per cent of physical movie sales I question whether there will be interest in an even higher fidelity format. This is even moreso the case when convenience seems to be a far larger concern for an increasing number of people. Even when this convenience comes with what I view as a substantial drop in both video and audio fidelity when compared with what is available on a blu-ray disc (though of course streaming isn't of interest or even possible for everyone).

I currently find myself conflicted as to whether the market is one soon to be ready for a new higher fidelity video format. There does seem to be many factors working against it and I can see UHD being little more then a niche product much like LaserDisc was depending on what standards are decided upon and how well it is utilized by content providers. However as nothing beyond resolution and now an estimated release date has thus far been confirmed all we can do is speculate and hope that the changes to the color gamut, support of higher frame rate allows for a substantial upgrade. Color me interested, but not entirely excited.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) Review

Christiane is a young woman who is left with a horribly disfigured face after an automobile accident that she blames on her father Dr Génessier. Dr. Génessier has his assistant Louise (a woman who for reasons that become clear throughout the feature is seemingly willing to do anything he asks) finds young woman they deem suitable and kidnaps them. Dr. Génessier and Louise then remove the kidnapped women’s face and attempt to graft it to Christiane’s damaged face to repair the damage he fells responsible for. Unfortunately these attempts to graft a new face onto hers have been unsuccessful and thus there have been several victims.

Unlike many monster movies Dr. Génessier is shown as a caring and compassionate character that is not driven by some sociopathic tendency. Rather his driving force for his horrible actions is his love for his daughter and the guilt he fells for the accident he fells responsible for. Hence unlike many films in the horror genre (especially at the time this film was released) the horror serves to reinforce the characters motivations rather than simply as a gross out visceral ‘thrill’. For instance during the film there is a grotesque scene that is sure to leave many felling sickly whereby a woman’s face is slowly and methodically cut off so that it may be grafted onto Christianes face. Not only does this show the horrors Dr. Génessier is willing to commit to fix the damage he has caused and thus shows how much he loves his daughter and is filled with guilt, but the scenes that proceed show that he genuinely doesn’t directly wish harm on his victims. This all cumulates in a very human character that is conflicted by the inhumane things he feels compelled to commit not out of desire, but out of a need to fix the damage he has done to his daughter.

Christiane (the woman with eyes but not a face) is shown understandably as a very troubled individual who both wishes for a new face but is shown to detest the actions being undertaking to hopefully achieve this. As the film progresses Christiane becomes increasingly convinced that her father will never be able to successfully graft a new face onto her and slowly begins to wish for death. What is most remarkable about Christiane is Edith Scob’s performance, who is able to convey an array of developing emotions despite the limitations of playing a character that mostly wears a mask and has relatively few lines.

When Eyes Without a Face was originally released it was generally received with mixed to poor reviews. However given that Eyes Without a Face is still readily available to this date I can only assume that the films disturbing content was simply too much for many at the time of its release. Resulting in numerous critics being unable to see past the surface level grotesque factor for the more interesting character study that is present (one critic even almost lost their job for simply liking the film and daring to do their job in saying as much).

Make no mistake, whilst Eyes Without a Face is in terms of its disturbing visual content relatively tame to what is often released today. It is the story that surrounds this grotesque imagery that gives the film a level of impact that few films can hope to achieve and thus the film remains one that many will find confronting to view.

Hence Eyes Without a Face comes highly recommended.

Note: I highly recommend considering the criterion blu-ray which is a stunning blu-ray that’s presentation quality has likely not been seen for this film since its original release.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Samsung to End Plasma Production in November

Late last year it was confirmed that Panasonic was leaving the plasma television business and Panasonic plasma stock is now seemingly exhausted in most locations. Samsung sadly is now following suit and the production of Samsung plasmas is due to end in November this year. If you are not a videophile or are not up to date with the market you may be wondering why you should care. The answer is simple, both Samsung and Panasonic plasma's are widely considered to provide the best visual fidelity television within a price range that isn't overly exorbitant (eg: the numerous OLED televisions that often sell for thousands more then what both Samsung and Panasonic flagship plasma's sold for). With the zt and f8500 being the respected leaders for the two companies.

The only real competing tech currently available given the exorbitant cost of OLED televisions (which is a tech still in its infancy) are LCD televisions. LCD televisions include what many painstakingly refer to as LED televisions (which are no more then LCD televisions utilizing an LED light source).

LCD televisions typically fall far behind plasma's in many regards. For instance the black levels of an LCD generally look gray in comparison to a plasma of similar cost, the contrast is notably lower, the motion resolution is worse (which is what lead to the use of frame interpolation, which deviously clever marketing somehow twisted what is a bandage for a flaw into a perceived positive), poor viewing angles when compared to the essentially limitless viewing angles of a plasma, more accurate colors, and the biggest issue I have with LCD's is the poor screen uniformity that plagues all but a select few LCD televisions.

That is not to say that LCD televisions are without there positives. Or more accurately, one main positive which put simply is the brightness advantage LCD has over plasma. This brightness advantage results in better relative performance in brightly lit environments where plasma's look their worse and LCD's their best. Hence for those interested primarily in watching films in a dark or darkened room plasma's continue to be the clear leader and only if one views material mostly in a brightly lit environment would I consider an LCD over a plasma.

Moving forward Panasonic had promised that their new LCD's would be even better then their plasma's. A statement that was doubtful due to the sub par LCD displays that they typically have released, and a statement that has become increasingly ridiculous now reviews for their new displays are now being released (and the results are less then satisfactory for someone looking for a display that exceeds what their plasma's displays are capable of). Likewise, whilst as far as I’m aware Samsung has made no comments as arrogant or spurious as Panasonic has, there is no known 'replacement' that they have planned yet either for their plasma lineup. This leaves LG as the only company still producing plasmas beyond November (and from what I can tell the only company still sinking money into further developing OLED's).

Could this result in LG becoming the go to company in the future for videophiles, it is of course impossible to say. It however would seem rather unlikely given their past of mostly solid but few stand out displays (I also would be surprised if LG didn't stop producing plasma's soon as well). However in the current climate with the potential exception of an unlikely surge of FALD LCD televisions being announced and released, the near future is looking increasingly bleak for those looking for the best visual fidelity available.

Just as Panasonic plasma's are already missed by many videophiles, I am certain Samsung plasma's will likewise be missed. Hopefully LG not only continues producing plasma's, but is able to substantially increase the quality of their plasma's so as they are a comparable product to what has been available with both Samsung and Panasonic plasma's until (and indeed if) OLED displays become a feasible mass product.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Transformers Age of Extinction Review

The Transformers film series is one that whilst at times visually stunning has also been unable to find a consistent tone. The narrative whilst minimal has at times been serviceable such as in the first and third films, and at other times it has been complete train wreck as in the second film which the director himself has now declared as “crap”. Like the director I found the second to be a truly terrible film, however I did find the first and third films to provide for more then serviceable fun action escapism.

Transformers Age of Extinction starts with the American government (or at least a branch of the American government) who once worked alongside the Autobots systematically hunting down both Autobots and Decepticons. From their the plot quickly evolves (or devolves) into a mess of ideas and plot points that are forgotten as quickly as they are introduced. The core idea however revolves around Optimus Prime and the Autobots having there faith restored in humanity. This core idea is one that holds promise, the problem however is that the rest of the film seems to simply be about what Michael Bay thinks would be 'cool', like a kid playing with transformer toys. Thus the narrative fells like it is simply mentioned in passing as apposed to actually being developed in any real way.

The characters as one may expect are lifeless inconsistent caricatures and little to no reason is present to care about any that are present. Mark Whalberg as Cade and Nicola Peltz as Tessa in particular give horrid performances and even the ever reliable Stanley Tucci gives a performance that is passable at best. This problem however extends beyond just the human characters and whilst the performances by the voice actors for the Transformers are extraordinarily good, the characterization for these characters is so basic that it removes one of the few aspects in the story that if handled with more care could provide for the basis of a compelling narrative (the Autobots/Optimus Prime having their faith restored in humanity). Likewise the relationship that existed between the Autobots and humanity in the previous films is not touched on, this absence is in particularly odd given that several of which worked alongside the Autobots in the military that is now hunting them down which could easily have been used to create the conflict that lead to the Autbots loosing their faith in humanity (as apposed to it simply being lost already as the film begins). Likewise the human and Autobot relationship which at times ventured into tenuous territory in the prior films now fells in no way a natural progression for the characters and what is happening. The reason for the continued interaction between Cade, Tessa and the Autobots is simply no longer present, and they exist seemingly for no reason beyond that the film makers decided they wanted human characters to remain the focus.

Transformers Age of Extinction however was clearly not made with the intention of the narrative being the focus. Rather the story simply seems to exists as a framing device for the action. The problem is the action present in this film is far from impressive. The visual effects vary from admittedly impressive to what appears to be embarrassingly unfinished. The action itself also rarely flows together and whilst there are some impressive shoots they remain the minority of the film and even when these impressive shoots do show up there is a complete lack of flow from not only scene to scene but within scenes in of themselves that results in what is simply a chaotic mess to watch that is rarely interesting or exciting. The use of 3d however is well done and whilst some scene it does fell more like an afterthought that is more then enough truly impressive use of the extra dimension to make 3d the way to view the film.

Transformers Age of Extinction in many ways could be described as Michael Bay turned up to eleven. Unfortunately it is all the worst aspects that have been focused on. The narrative achieves the impressive feat of making the seconds films narrative look cohesive in comparison as plot point and characters are introduced only to be not utilized for any purpose beyond a bad joke or getting to an action scene and then is simply discarded. Even the catalyst for the films finale is seemingly forgotten about with the expectation that the chaos that ensues would cover up that little that is happening makes any sense. The problem however is as little makes sense and the action is largely boring, nothing on screen matters so even whilst some shoots are in of themselves spectacular the whole film devolves into what is nothing more then a rushed lifeless bore, full of egregiously in your face product placement that is overly long given the absence of a compelling narrative.

Hence I would recommend staying far away from Transformers Age of Extinction.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Captain America: The First Avenger is the fifth movie in the Marvel film series which ultimately lead to The Avengers film in 2011 which features several of the characters from prior films including the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and more. Captain America does succeed admirably in introducing the character and preparing audiences for his existence in The Avenger. However despite this and the many promising moments Captain America has, the film as a whole never comes together into a cohesive satisfying whole.

The most problematic issue present in Captain America is the action is simply nothing special. Their action is admittedly rather well staged, but they fell more like a collection of action moments sporadically edited together in the hope that they may wow. This does work when it is intended to be viewed  in such a way, for example when Captain America is shown defeating enemies in several locations at different times in a montage it works ever so well. It however does not work when it is in a more straight forward scenes with moments from the same action scene lacking the sense of flow and continuity between shoots one shoulkd expect from an action film, let alone from a film with a budget the size this film commands.

The previous Marvel films where action films but they also contained many laughs as well. Captain America is comparatively devoid of such humour which given the setting does make sense. However it must be said the easiest way to have one pay less attention, or at least care less about the larger leaps in logic present would be to them laughing (and laughing with the film, not at it). This is something the Thor and Iron Man films understood and implemented extremely well, and something that could have helped the few cringe worthy moments present in Captain America be less problematic then they unfortunately are.

Performances throughout are strong as one would expect from the cast present. Hugo Weaving in particular helps the villain seem more threatening then he really should be. It doesn't help that the henchmen are so stupid and incompetent that they make Stormtroppers look like super soldiers. Thankfully the films finale is one of the films strongest points. Both bitter-sweet and providing a level of maturity and emotion that is otherwise not present the ending propels Captain America to be far more memorable then what the rest of the film deserves.

Captain America is not the spectacle film many would have hoped for, and is without doubt the second weakest film in the Marvel series thus far (Iron Man 3 would have to take the 'crown' for the weakest). It however is still a decent action film with a few moments that seem to pull away from the cliché and the fantastic end one well likely be reasonably entertaining throughout. Sadly reasonable is hardly the most positive of comments and Captain America: The First Avenger like the Thor films comes recommended as a decent rental.

What about the 3d?
Captain America, much like all the Marvel films thus far presented in 2d is yet another 2d to 3d conversion and the results whilst not bad aren't anything special either. Captain America is a fairly good conversion and doesn't feature any of the egregiously obvious cardboard cut-out effect moments that are present in Thor. It however also tends to feature very little depth and whilst the 3d adds to the experience the mentioned lack of depth remains problematic. Thus far the only Marvel film worth viewing in 3d has been The Avengers (which was rather spectacular), which is sadly expected as The Avengers along with this film are the only two films that where shoot with 3d in mind.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Bling Ring Review

The Bling Ring is the latest film from director Sofia Coppola and is based on real events whereby young adults and teenagers ‘tracked’ celebrity movements finding out when said celebrities would be at an event or similar, and when said celebrities where out for events and similar they broke into there house and stole various good. These good they then either held onto and in the film seemingly wanting to mimic that kind of ‘lifestyle’ or sold the stolen property. The ingredients thus for a wickedly black satirical comedy are all in place, however in spite of this The Bling Ring marks the continued downward spiral of the once promising director Sofia Coppola.

The Bling Ring has numerous failings; firstly it is a mostly empty and vacuous experience presumably to reflect the same characteristics in the characters present. The film however stumbles as it has nothing to say regarding this and there are no features that I found particularly engaging or interesting. It simply presents superficial characters who steal for superficial reasons with a slightest of hints the a lack of adult presence in there life may have been the cause for their actions and nothing more. Put simply the film lacks a sense of direction.

This lack of direction is most notably present in the performances. Whilst newcomers Katie Chang and Israel Broussard provide for strong performances (especially given the lack of substance present) the performances from others involved are average at best. The most notable instance of poor acting combing with poor direction would have to be from Emma Watson who plays Nicki and early in the film refers to her younger sister Emily as Gabby. Admittedly I can see how this could be an easy mistake to make as Emily in the film seems to have been based on the person Gabby. It none the less highlights the problems of the film effectively and what I presume is the over reliance Sofia Coppola to have her actors and actresses create their lines ad libitum who in this case where simply not up to the task.

The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s weakest film thus far and continues her spiral down from the remarkable film Lost in Translation. Their are many promising ingredients present in The Bling Ring but they are left undeveloped resulting in a film that is devoid of emotion, satire or direction. Hence The Bling Ring does not come recommended.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Robocop (2014) Review

Robocop is that latest remake to have certain circles on the interwebs seemingly in rage over one of ‘their’ beloved films being remade. From Robocop having a black suit to the pg13 rating in America many fans of the original have been outright hostile towards this remake declaring it terrible before the film was even finished. Whilst I certainly can understand some of this frustration having seen numerous terrible remakes, Robocop is an example of remake that is successful in being able to create its own identity and stand apart from the original.

Robocop starts with OmniCorp who provide robots and drones to the US military, but unable to have there product used in America due to legislation supported by the people that prevented there use within the US. OmniCorp is however trying to change this as being able to have there product in the American market would make for a substantial increase in revenue. Alex Murphy is a cop who near the beginning of the film is critically injured, OmniCorp unable to put robots and drones on the street seize this opportunity to put a man in a machine. The ultimate aim of which is to sway the opinion of the people so that there products could be used within America.

Robocop (2014) starts of much as one may expect as a remake of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven film on the most superficial level. There is a cop named Alex Murphy who is injured critically and is then put into a machine. Once one looks a little the considerable changes present become increasingly evident. From the increased focus on drones and robots used as military hardware to help make the film more relevant to the modern audience to the more serious tone and the entirely new focus throughout on the man behind Robocop, Dr. Dennett Norton played by the endlessly talented Gary Oldman. The most immediate difference present in this remake however is the character of Alex Murphy who is given notably more time to develop prior to ‘becoming’ Robocop along with his wife and son. This is a trend that continues throughout the entire film which results in this remake to having notably more emotional punch then the original and makes the fate of those involved more engaging.

The action is likewise a notable improvement on the 1987 film and provides for several fast and frenetic actions scenes. Most shockingly Robocop (2014) is successfully able to use shaky camera during said actions scenes to good effect which has become something or a rarity in recent times as it is not overdone (I never noticed it shacking violently) and what is occurring on screen never becomes hard to follow.

Sadly as the film enters its third act everything starts going to pot as Robocop (2014) introduces a series of clichés that are not only unnecessary but undo to some degree what the film had done so well up to that point. Thankfully the final act for its faults is able to maintain a fast pace that makes said issues somewhat easier to overlook and most importantly remains mostly entertaining.

Robocop is a solid example of a remake that is able to create its own unique identity and stand alone from the original. Whilst it is true that Robocop (2014) lacks the satire of the original it provides for more engaging and fleshed out characters and notably improved action over the original. Hence whilst Robocop (2014) doesn't do anything spectacularly well it is more then a competent enough action film to come recommended in spite of its disappointing final act.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Stoker Review

Stoker is the English debut for director Park Chan-wook who is probably best known for his South Korean films Oldboy and more recently thirst. Likewise Stoker is Wentworth Millers (who is best known for acting in the tv show Prison Break) first foray into writing a feature film. Which makes it all the more surprising just how well thought out and effective Stoker is along with how beautifully shoot it is (as one would expect from a Park Chan-wook film).

It is India Stokers eighteenth birthday and she is seen searching the grounds she lives on for what turns out to be a present. The present however is empty as apposed to the usual present she receives of new black and white saddle shoes. Soon there after she and her mother discover that her father has died in a car accident and thus instead of celebrating her birthday preparations begin for her fathers funeral. Soon thereafter her Uncle Charlie who India had no idea existed prior to arriving comes to live with India and her mother whom India slowly becomes increasingly intrigued by.

Stoker is likely to divide audiences not only because of the material being presented but also because of how it is presented. The two leads Mia Wasikowska as India and Matthew Goode Charlie like the story provide for incredibly detailed yet nuanced performances. However many of these details are easy to overlook. Both lead characters are also largely detached from there emotions, or lack thereof and when this is combined with the supporting cast having little focus present on them (with the focus being clearly on India and Charlie) I can see many being off put by Stoker. This is especially the case as no particular character is particularly likable. I however did not find this to be an issue and found the nuances that make up this coming of age story to be terrifically executed and endlessly engrossing.

Stoker in many ways is a Hitchcockian film and one that certainly pays tribute to several Hitchcock films which most notably include Shadow of a Doubt and Psycho. With its beautiful presentation, which make some truly horrific moments seem almost beautiful, along with its subtle performances and script Stoker is a film that will no doubt be off putting too many due to its story and how it is presented. None the less Stoker comes with my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An End of an Era (Panasonic Plasma's)

Panasonic plasmas most recent line are widely considered to be the best tv's released thus far (along with the legendary Kuro's from Pioneer that ending production several years ago). From the more budget conscious ST60 that provided amazing bang for your buck to the truly stunning VT60 and flagship ZT60. Panasonic plasma's had picture quality that quite simply blew away most of its competition. Of course like any product they where not perfect and could struggle in brighter rooms but for those who watched in a dark or darkened room there was simply nothing on the market that compared (at least if you ignore the extremely expensive oled's).

So why am I taking the time to discuss televisions as apposed to films which this blog is dedicated to? Put simply, it had been long rumored that Panasonic would be ending the production of there plasma's televisions and but a few months ago this rumor was sadly confirmed. For those who aren't hifi enthusiast, or in this specific case videophiles this statement may mean very little and the first paragraph hopefully is able to provide some perspective. But for those who are videophiles this blow I think is safe to say is upsetting especially as there is no replacement coming soon with oleds still having yield issues that make them far to expensive for the overwhelming number of consumers despite there superior picture quality.

Panasonic just like Pioneer from a few years ago actively spent time and of course money producing the best televisions available and sadly Panasonic just like Pioneer where not rewarded by consumers. The reasons for Panasonic ending production of course has nothing to do with the picture quality the sets provided, rather it has everything to do with there financial position. Which has for quite some time been rather grim.

So why have plasmas failed to sell as well as lcd televisions? Plasmas most notable hurdle has for a long time been brightness and like moths so many have seemingly opted for the nothing more then the brightest option which currently is lcd. Brightness however is only one aspect of picture quality and it is more then possible to have an image that is to bright. That is not to say that lcd doesn't have its place as it certainly does. For example those who view there television mostly in a bright environment are more likely to prefer lcd televisions over plasma televisions. None the less few lcd's have come close to matching the picture quality of something like the vt60 (the only lcd that has is apparently the Sharp Elite), which makes the last trickle of plasmas by Panasonic devastating to the options those looking to buy a new television have.

Thankfully not all is lost and LG and Samsung are still thankfully producing there plasma line which includes the impressive f8500. The f8500 is not only extremely bright (especially for a plasma) but is not far behind the Panasonic plasmas in most areas. So whilst Panasonic have left the market hopefully both LG and Samsung are able to continue the production of plasma's for the next few years until something truly better (meaning affordable oleds) becomes widely available. None the less I can't help but be grateful for Panasonic for providing some of the best televisions we have yet to see and whilst it is saddening to see them vanish before there time was due I also understand the reasons behind the decision. Thankyou Panasonic for pushing the limits of tv tech and I look forward to your release of oleds (hopefully) in the years to come.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

From the once promising director Kenneth Branagh comes the latest Jack Ryan film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. After a reasonably long hiatus this latest film is a reboot of the franchise and just may be the most average spy thriller I have seen in quite some time.

The film starts of as Jack Ryan is presumably attending university in 2001 and as you may have guessed shows his reaction to 911. This spurs him onto becoming a marine where he is injured and then starts rehabilitation. From here he is recruited into the CIA and unfortunately this is all we have regarding the character of Jack Ryan. Chris Pine does an admirable job in providing some degree of charisma which allows for the character (or lack thereof) to still manage being somewhat likeable but ultimately empty. Keira Knightley as Cathy is Jack’s love interest but once again there is a lack of any character present beyond the most surface level details. The character also fells completely unnecessary as the film continues and we are left with cringe worthy scenes where a room full of CIA analysts are unable to notice details that she just so happens to notice in what I presume was an attempt to keep the character relevant. Sadly this attempt is in vain and is forced. Likewise for the other characters, we are told and in some cases shown what they do for a living. But characterisation and character growth beyond that is close to non existent.

The action itself thankfully only makes up for a small portion of the film as it for the most part a blurry mess. Shaky camera is used to perplexingly poor effect and left me wondering on numerous occasions what exactly the characters where doing. With Jack Ryan’s low amount of poor action scenes it was thus up to the plot intricacies and twists and turns to engage. Sadly whilst the plot is serviceable it provides for few thrills and as the finale draws nearer it begins to increasingly fall back on clichés. The film as a result lacks character and moment to moment Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit could easily be mistaken for numerous other spy thrillers. The unengaging plot combined with a lack of any characters with some depth resulted in little reason to care for what the outcome was. This makes for what could have been an interesting finale in spite of its over reliance on clichés a relatively mundane affair.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit however is a hard film to dislike as whilst Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn’t do anything particularly well it also doesn’t do anything particularly poorly (excluding the action scenes which are only a small portion of the film). The result is a film that I cannot recommend a cinema trip for. However if one finds themselves bored one day with nothing to watch it should make for a descent rental if one is a fan of the genre.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

My Favorite Films of 2013:

[edit: please not I intend to keep this list update via my letterbox account. Click here to see my up to date list].

Whilst most list for ones best and/or favorite films where release a good two weeks or so ago I have only finally managed to key together what my own personal favorite films released in 2013 where. At this point I should point out this list is for my favorite films, which in no way equal to best. Part of the reason for this is I find the notion of list of the ‘best’ films to be spurious effort at best. In other words this is a list that is completely down to my subjective opinion. The list is also based on the local release date for the films. Meaning some of these films where released elsewhere in earlier years. Likewise The Wolf of Wall Street and Her may or may not be among the better films released recently but as they are 2014 releases where I live they are not included. One last note is that the list is simply presented in alphabetical order and not in order of preference.

Another Earth:
Another Earth is a film that many will argue about what the core themes are. It delves into themes that are more about asking questions that have no set answers and doesn't thoroughly explore what the film makers think of the questions. Instead it leaves that up to the viewer and characters present to decide for themselves. I personally found this to my liking though I would venture a guess that many will not.

Before Midnight:
What is there that one can say about this film that hasn't been said numerous times elsewhere? This is simply a must see film that is the presumable finale to the Before series and once again follows Jesse and Celine and there relationship. It is rather hard to define what genre this film is from as was the case with the first two films; this film however is about what the characters lives are like now they have been in an extended relationship.

Byzantium essentially had a non release in Australia. Released on blu-ray and dvd in September it was seemingly only available for its first few months of release by ordering online. Which is a shame as this a true gem of a film and is how film about vampire and love should be done (along with Let The Right One In and Let Me In as two other excellent examples). Click here to see my full review.

Carrie is without a doubt the most underrated film I saw in 2013. Whilst it is true that it does have several very similar scenes to the 76 Brian DePalma film I thought this worked to its benefit and utilized the best aspect of both the Stephen King Novel and 76 film (excluding the ending from the novel which whilst spectacular in the novel and one of my favorite endings to a story, is also most likely unfilmable without a ludicrous amount of voice over that would remove the impact it has in the novel). I would put this film as a tremendous example of a hybrid remake and re-adaptation done right. Click here to see my full review.

God Bless America:
An empathy inducing Bonnie and Clyde’esque’ duo who feed up with society go on a killing spree throughout America. Full of dark humor and brutal violence the film will not be for everyone. However for myself I found it to work brilliantly and is easily the film I have revisited most this year.

Much like Before Midnight there is little I can say about this film that hasn't been said many times. Put simply it is one of the most thrilling and visually spectacular films in recent years that I would strongly urge everyone to see in 3d (it is a film that truly utilizes 3d in a way that enhances the film to a degree that I find it hard imagining the film having the same level of impact in 2d). Click here to see my full review.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is probably my biggest surprise of 2013. Whilst I did enjoy the first film in the series Catching Fire was one of the few sequels that improved on its predecessor in nearly every area. With a richer exploration of its themes, characters and a notably improved production values I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Click here to see my full review.

Oblivion much like the directors previous film is in many ways a silent film that just so happens to also have dialogue. This may seem and odd statement but I fell the entire story is more then sufficiently explained through its visuals and score alone. Personally I loved this, though I imagine many will have a more mixed response. I would highly recommend one not view the trailer though as it spoils far to much about the film.

Star Trek Into Darkness:
JJ Abrams once again releases a fantastic summer (or where I live winter) blockbuster that is jam packed with exciting well staged action, likable and well acted characters, a nice sprinkling of effective humor and a film that manages to do all this whilst also successfully encompassing what Star Trek is about at its core. Put simply this is another great example of both another Star Trek and a blockbuster film done right. Sadly JJ Abrams is set to direct the upcoming Star Wars movies (does anyone really want more Star Wars?) and thus Star Trek next film will have another director at the helm.

Stoker is Park Chan-wook first English film and the first screenplay by Wentworth Miller which makes it all the more surprising how well realized and detail Stoker is. As one would expect given the director the film delves into areas that some well simply find enjoyable to watch. Those however interested in a meticulous character study within a horror film should certainly put Stoker on there watch list. Click here to see my full review.

Upstream Color:
Upstream Color is not a film that immediately grabbed me. Upon my first viewing I felt it was both tedious and overly vague. None the less I couldn't get the film out of my head after viewing it and it has since easily become one of my favorite films of 2013. It is hard to say to much about this film without spoiling to much but it is about the formation of a relationship between two people who have had there life largely destroyed.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

After a brief scene where Gandalf is seen meeting Thorin, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ‘continues’ as the company of Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf continue to try and evade Azog and make there way to the Lonely Mountain. The first Hobbit film (An Unexpected Journey) had numerous issues, many of which this film also carries. The little doubt I had after viewing An Unexpected Journey that their was simply not enough material to create a three part film series on The Hobbit has completely evaporated as it has become abundantly clear that their simply isn't enough material.

The first most obvious issue is exhibits itself at the start of the film with the Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf continuing to try and evade Azog, which seemingly ignores the ending of An Unexpected Journey. At the end of An Unexpected Journey the Dwarves, Hobbit and Gandalf where saved from Azog by Gwaihir (essentially very large Eagles) and flown what seemed to be quite some distance away from Azog. Yet at the beginning of The Desolation of Smaug, Azog is seen to close to the point that they are hiding in sight from him. They also seemed to be rather close to the Lonely Mountain yet somehow seemed to have moved further away from the mountain in the Desolation of Smaug. This last point is admittedly nitpicking at best, but as the film as a whole is once again unnecessarily bloated it remains noteworthy and the apparent changed distance from the Lonely Mountain does underline one of the major flaws present and that is the film. The Desolation of Smaug is simply far to bloated and far to little seems to be happening in far to long of a time. Their are far to many scenes and characters that are not only unnecessary but slow the film down to the point that I struggle to think of a film that had as much action as this film, yet manages to be as slowly paced. The action itself is admittedly mostly well staged but there is simply far too much action present and as a result that action scenes like the film as a whole begin to drag on.

More problematic then the bloated nature of The Desolation of Smaug is the lack of any sense of danger for the main characters. The Dwarves and company are put into numerous situations that should elicit a sense of danger. But as they are continuously unscathed as they are thrown around, poisoned and even essentially surf melted gold with nothing more then a wheelbarrow it is hard to care for anything that is happening on screen as their is nothing at stake. This further makes the already overwhelming amount of action to not only drag on, but to be a chore to sit through. The one exception to this is the introduction of Smaug which is simply superb. Although much like the rest of the film the scenes with Smaug soon begin to drag on as Smaug fails to hunt down the Dwarves and Hobbit for what was far to long of a time.

Characterisation is also almost completely absent from The Desolation of Smaug, and much like how the start of The Desolation of Smaug seemingly ignores the ending of the first Hobbit film it also ignores the little character development that was present in An Unexpected Journey. This is most notable for Thorin in An Unexpected Journey and how his views on Bilbo had changed. Such issues combined with the amount of unnecessary scenes and bloated run time only further solidify that The Hobbit should never have been made into a three part film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an overly bloated film full of far too much action and far too little characterisation. This along with a lack of any sense of danger results in a film that is uninteresting to watch that does not come recommended.

Note: Whilst more a comment on the technical side I fell compelled to mention the films use of HFR. This is especially the case as The Desolation of Smaug and An Unexpected Journey are the only films with a wide release to be shoot and be viewable in such a way. HFR simply stands for high frame rate and as was the case with An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug has been filmed in HFR at 48fps as apposed to the usual 24fps (meaning the number of images a displayed every second is doubled when compared to more or less every other film that has ever been release [there are some exceptions of course, most notably with older silent films before 24fps became the used ‘standard’]). I simply cannot say enough good things about the use of HFR, it provides for a very surreal presentation with everything appearing extremely smooth and lifelike. Likewise the use of 3d especially when combined with the films use of HFR is equally impressive and well worth the extra cost of admission for those who simply must see this film. The only down side to HFR is it can make the at times less then stellar production values extremely evident. This is of particular note as The Desolation of Smaug is extremely inconsistent with it use of cgi. Most scene do look spectacular but on occasion the use of cgi is overly evident and looks more like what one may expect from a film released well over a decade ago.