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.