Sunday, 13 December 2015

Ex Machina Review

The questions Ex Machina asks are well established but none the less
remain both interesting and engaging.

Ex Machina is a highly ambitious film and is Alex Garlands first time directing a film, who some may know from his role in writing films such as Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd. Knowing this I was skeptical at the likelihood that the film would be able to be thematically consistent without obvious dips in quality throughout. Unfortunately my skepticism was correct albeit not in the manner that I had expected it to be.

Ex Machina starts with a young programmer Caleb winning the ability to spend time with his boss. Immediately this seemed a bit odd as who really wants to win spending time with there boss? But ultimately I simply assumed it was a chance for Caleb to meet a great mind in the industry. However once he meets his boss Nathan he seems to be little more then an alcoholic with little apparent intreset in his work. Which is contrary to everything else presented on screen and as it turns out Nathan is working on creating artificial intelligence and wants Caleb to test the artificial intelligence named Ava and see if he sees her as sentient.

The  slowly reveal of characters through there intentions and actions throughout
it a joy to watch.

As the film continues and the various characters motivations become clearer, your feelings towards the characters will likely shift dramatically. Characters aren't stagnant and whilst they don't grow as characters throughout the film, more is slowly revealed about them that in some cases will drastically change your opinion of them. This is easily where Ex Machina is at its best. It helps that the three leads all deliver fabulous and believable multilayered performances

Thematically Ex Machina also shines and had me pondering questions it puts forward. Admittedly these are far from new questions about consciousness and similar, but they are still presented in an interesting manner that provided a fresh twist on what will likely be familiar territory for most fans of this genre. Ex Machina is also gorgeously photographed with the machinery of Ava being aprticularly striking when placed directly against nature. Likewise the score is both unique and at times chilling that adds to a film that could otherwise at times feel a little empty given the few characters present. Sadly not all is well with Ex Machina.

The technical aspects the film uses it fairly route and poorly done, but this isn't anything all that unexpected for a film dabbling with the ideas presented here. It however does connect and lead to one very large flaw which sadly directly impacts the ending. The ending itself starts out strongly and has some truly remarkable moments. However as it continued as much as I wanted to love everything that was happening on screen I simply didn't. Not that it is bad per se, but it feels like less then it could have easily been, with odd choices early in the film at least for me giving away the finale. The films big shock moment in particular I found to be not particularly shocking (though i'm sure it will shock many) and the most painful thing about he above is how close it comes to greatness.

Ex Machina is consistently a visually striking film that looks far better 
then its relatively meager budget may suggest.

Sadly with just a few small tweaks it could easily have been surprising and as shocking as the film makers seem to have wanted it to be. Alas those changes will never be and whilst they are minor in the scope of the film as a whole, they do deride what is an otherwise marvelous film.

If nothing else Ex Machina had me asking questions I had pondered many times before again. I also greatly enjoyed the slow reveal of the characters present. Admittedly the themes and questions they pose are really no different to what Blade Runner covered over thirty years ago (or numerous other films and novels that are far older then Blade Runner). None the less Ex Machina had me contemplating those themes from what felt like a fresh perspective, even though it really was simply retreading familiar territory. Whilst a deeply flawed film Ex Machina still comes highly recommended.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Jurassic World Review

Jurassic World with its odd choice of 2.00:1 framing is unique if nothing else.

In recent years there has been a continuing and escalating trend of what for some is a no doubt a worrying trend. Larger Hollywood films in particular have become far to reliant revisiting old film franchises or continuing existing well known franchises, churn out sequel after sequel with few new original series being given a chance. Whilst this is far from an ideal situation it doesn't negate that some of this films are terrific regardless. With that in mind does Jurassic World flounder or does it thrive, breathing new life into a series that apart from the first entry has garnered a middling response.

Jurassic World quickly introduces as to a plethora of characters often dedicating entire scenes to these introductions with one character introduction after the other. This may seem great and in theory it would be. The problem is that whilst it so clearly wants to use these scenes to invest us in the characters for the rest of the film, the characters are particularly one dimensional and these introductions serve little purpose then show the rather basic archetypes that each character is. There is the business focused character, so focused on her job she has not time for family and is running the newly established Jurassic World. The "charming" adventurous type character along with the character we are so obviously meant to hate, and two admittedly not so annoying brothers which is rather new ground for this series.

The Dinosaurs along with other effects often feel oddly disconnected
from there surroundings. 

But this is a Jurassic Park film, so dinosaurs must break free somehow and chaos must ensure, an this ensemble of rather generic characters is more then up to the task. I will first admit the first 'creature' (as they continuously say things like "it is not dinosaur" and similar) to escape does so in what is a rather exciting sequence. The problem is, that even whilst this sequence was entertaining enough, the characters actions that allow this to happen are so poorly thought out one wouldn't expect them to be in charge of containing numerous dinosaurs, but alas they are and thus we have the catalyst for what will be the driving force behind the film.

Of course things don't go so smoothly but from this point the film continues to not only be fairly predictable, but overly reliant on referencing the far better first entry of this series. Characters take breaks from being hunted by some monster that was just recently trying to eat them to slowly walk through and notice things that I can only assume was meant to fill me full of nostalgia from enjoying the first film. The action present whilst no doubt well staged is a mostly dull affair as the films continues and the scripts hard to ignore issues continue to weigh the film down. That isn't to say that there are no scenes that will grab your attention, just that many fail to do so. The poor and nonsensical plotting continues through to the finale with several not only implausible scenes but impractical scenes occuring all to let the film stumble into its final act where things become even more ludicrous and sadly not in a good way.

Jurassic World had obvious potential, how hard can it really be to put together a good enough script where dinosaurs cause chaos. Sadly the script seems to have been a rushed and the director seems to have simply not been ready to lead such a large film. This along with the above mentioned issues result in a film that is poorly paced, derivative and rarely involving. For those looking for nothing but some dinosaur carnage Jurassic World will provide for serviceable entertainment. However for everyone else Jurassic World does not come recommended.

No awards for guessing who the tired and forced semi-love story is
between in Jurassic World.

What about the 3d:  Like far to many of the larger budget films of recent, Jurassic World was not shoot in 3d, with the film makers opting to shoot on a mixture of 35mm and 65mm film. The result at first are quite good, but as the films continues the 3d whilst still present is overly cautious. Likewise there are notable conversion errors such as warping or objects placed at the wrong depth levels. I imagine few will notice these faults, they however are none the less issues that detract from a 3d presentation that clearly needed more time and/or care. Likewise darker scenes which where clearly shoot on film lack detail in the darkest of sections which results in such scenes looking relatively flat.

With that said the film certainly is improved by the addition of 3d with action scenes in particular working for better then when viewed in 3d with everything being far easier to keep track of. For those who have always hated 3d, its use here will likely not convince you otherwise. For those who have enjoyed the format at all, 3d is the way to view Jurassic World. Note: for those who have enjoyed this film and enjoyed its use of 3d I would strongly recommend you view the original Jurassic Park in 3d, it use of the format is superior with higher levels of depth, that and the film is far more enjoyable.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

In Your Eyes Review

Whilst In Your Eyes isn't going to win awards for its cinematography it's none
the less an occasionally stunning film.

In Your Eyes is a film that not only bypassed your local cinema, but also bypassed a traditional home video release. Instead opting for a straight to digital release, initially being sold for five dollars (though it has since been put on streaming services and a physical release is planned for early next year). Usually when I see a film that is intended to not go to cinemas I plan for the worse. Typically the production values are middling at best and the films typically have so little passion behind them it is remarkable they where ever completed. Recent years however have shown a distinct change in direction, with numerous smaller films intended for digital distribution  not only being surprisingly good, but far better then many of the films in your local multiplex. This however still remains the exception to the norm, and with In Your Eyes being billed as a romantic comedy, my expectations couldn't be lower, that is until I heard of Joss Whedon's involvement (best known for television work such as Buffy and Firefly and those small Avenger comic book films).

The premise is simple, there are two individuals who have never directly meet but share a bond, and often feeling what the other feels (both physically and mentally). In a more comic book style film this would likely lead to an early realization of this and how this is possible would be explored. However in this film it leads to the two individuals living there lives separately, confused and understandably not understanding what they are experiencing. Unaware of what is happening both individuals are damaged by this in different ways. This however all changes when they suddenly are able to communicate with one another and see what the other sees and understand what has been happening to them for decades.

The two different locations presented help reinforce the connection the two leads
 have in spite of there obvious physical separation.

At first as you may expect, both characters think they are simply loosing there minds but quickly they come to the realization that what is happening is real. From there the film quite tightly follows the typical romcom formula, although I wouldn't call this film a romcom, rather it is an indie romance that simply follows a well know formula from another genre. We all know the basic outline for a romcom, hurdles are presented to the relationship that must be overcome, the boy must chase the girl at some point and so on. One may assume that the large distinction this film has over other similar films is that the characters are never in the same state, let alone the same room. But beyond being a spring board and providing a unique twist, the connection they share isn't directly what makes the film shine, and is little more then a plot deivce. Simply put the film comes of as genuine especially when compare to most other films, let alone other romcom or romance films. Likewise it doesn't rush a forced relationship upon the viewer that no one is going to believe. Instead it slowly reveals the flaws that this abnormal connection has caused and slowly shows how what was once so damaging was slowly healing itself and how they had unknowingly also helped on another previously in a well paced build that is surprisingly touching.

With that said In Your Eyes is far from perfect. The last few minutes in particular fells tonally of from what had been present up to that point. Likewise those who are looking for a truly unique film that explores the ramifications of this connection the two leads share beyond how it directly has and continues to effect them will  no doubt be left disappointing. With that said it is abundantly clear that In Your Eyes has not interest exploring how this phenomena has occurred and the rules by which it complies. Rather the film simply uses it as a device to spring forward a different take on what is an over-saturated and largely stagnant genre.

With all that said, In Your Eyes isn't the film that will convince those who are not a fan of romance based films otherwise. It does however offer what is amusingly a far more believable relationship then one typically sees in such films, and whilst it does stumble in its finale it remains a refreshing film with a paltry number of issue compared to everything it does well. Recommended.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Zhong Kui: Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal Review

Zhong Kui is a young warrior who is trained and bestowed powers by a god for the purpose of fighting and killing demons. The powers he is granted turns himself into a large 'monster' like creature when he opens up a fan. Zhong Kui also awkwardly pulls out his spine when in this 'monster' form which he then uses as a sword. Zhong is then commanded by this god to take the dark crystal from hell which he does and hell wanting it back sends demon's in the form of beautiful women to reclaim it and thus begins a series of twist involving poorly established love angles, poorly staged action, embarrassing dialogue and acting combined with some stunningly bad editing.

So it should be abundantly clear that I did not enjoy the individual parts of this film or the film as a whole. One of the larger issues is how cheap everything looks, which in many films would be a minor issue. However given how much time is spent viewing these sub par effects and that it is clearly intended to be part of the draw and you have something that is not only exceedingly dull to watch, but cheap enough that one could be mistaken for assuming this was a made for tv syfy original. To be far the costumes whilst nothing special are passable and it does seem that the poor effects are more a result of the overly low budget for what the film was hoping to achieve. But none of this makes the results any more palatable. I will say that whilst for most of the film the 3d is wasted their are a handful of breathtaking shoots where the 3d is well utilized. However for most of the film you could easily forget you where viewing a 3d film and thus if you do decide to see this film, it is not worth paying the additional premium to view it in 3d. However fans looking to pick it up on blu-ray will likely be happier with the 3d release for a small additional cost for what would presumably be multiple more viewings.

The larger issue however is the acting and story. The story fells overly simply with the twists being as obvious as possible, yet set up and revealed as if they wher meant to shock. The dialogue is atrocious and the acting does this poor writing no help either. Frequently falling into what some may view as laughably bad territory, I however was simply bored by what was occurring. The editing only makes such issues more obvious and goes as far as to have two characters meet and then show you the scene after for why you should care about the characters in the previous scene meeting so that the previous scene can be effective. This obviously doesn't work in the films favour and simply has me confused as to how someone could edit a film together and feel that this was the most effective placement of scenes. Likewise large scale action set pieces start as quickly as they end and the film starts dragging early on yet refuses to give it the brisk pacing that a story as simple as this demands.

It is rare that I come across a film with as few redeeming features as Zhong Kui: Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal. With the exception of a passable but well trod concept and a handful of beautiful 3d shoots there is nothing I can say I enjoyed. With most of the film been a dull chore that makes even the most toxic of poorly made action films that spew out of Hollywood seem like relative masterpieces. My recommendation, stay very far away.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Collection Updates (March 2015)

Their was another 20% of sale and thus I picked up a number of blu-rays. I will also take this moment to note I am hoping to post Sunday every week, which I have stumbled in doing so recently. I however should be back on track for a review most Sundays with the occasional collection update or other movie related post.

 Lucy is a film that whilst a gigantic box office success seems to have received a rather mixed response which after viewing some trailers and promotional materials I can understand why. The film itself has an exceedingly fast pace yet contains very little action which is what the film advertising material promised. It likewise is a film that I imagine will be divisive, I myself found it to be a stylish, brisk and silly ride that was a joy to view. The blu-ray itself is absolutely stunning with reference audio and video.

The Young and Prodigious T.S Spivet is a film that few will have seen as it has struggled to even have a release in numerous markets. It is a fantastic film with absolutely stunning 3d that I can't recommend highly enough. The 3d is amongst the best available which is certainly a nice bonus for those who are enthusiasts of the format and those who are 3d ready. As is the cost of the 3d and 2d release being the same price that a 2d only blu-ray release usually is.

Life of Pi is another film that features reference 3d and along with The Young and Prodigious T.S Spivet and Hugo are amongst the format has to offer. None of which are action films which despite the common view that 3d is only beneficial for sci-fi and action films the 3d here adds far more then 3d has for any action film.

Not much has to be said about Game of Thrones as their is little to nothing I could say about season 4 that hasn't already been repeated ad nauseum. I will note that if you like me don't often veiw any television shows, I would strongly recommend considering giving it a chance.. I must also note though that whilst the Australians rating logo is always horrid, it is particularly bad with simplistic designs as it is in the above. I have only viewed one episode thus far on blu-ray but the transfer is as stunning as the previous seasons. Which brings me to the end of this rather small collection update.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Let Me In Review

Let Me In features two of the strongest lead performances I can recall which
is all the more surprising giving the leads ages.

Let Me In is an adaptation of both the novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvistof's Let The Right One In, and is both written and directed by Matt Reeves who’s most notable previous work was Cloverfield and has since directed the fantastic Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Whilst I am no fan of Twilight, its advent has allowed for a number of vampire films that I find myself to have thoroughly enjoyed such as Only Lovers Left Alive and Byzantium. All of which are films that seemingly where only made possible by the extraordinary success the Twilight films achieved in spite of their own qualities. So is Let Me In another triumph or does it suffer the same fate as a lesser quality vampire film.

Let Me in is a film about the difficulties of adolescence and follows the young boy Owen who is relentlessly bullied at school and has not real support from home where his parents who are divorced are to busy with other matters to even notice the issues Owen is facing, let alone help him with them. Which is where Abby comes in, having recently moved into the same apartment complex as Owen she senses his loneliness and for 'questionable' reasons decides to befriend Owen. This is where Let Me In quickly differentiates itself from other films as it develops into what is a far more complex narrative then we usually see in genre films such as this as characters both young and old are well realized and have numerous reasons for their actions. At its core however Let Me In remains a film about isolation, adolescence and love.

Let Me In is one of the darkest films in recent memory and will test
even the best of displays.

Performances are simply sublime and the two child leads give far better performances then the overwhelming majority of films and are amongst the best performances I have seen let alone those by children/teenagers. The supporting cast for the most part has less to work with but are similarly impressive and the whole film is cloaked in darkness that whilst gorgeous will test even the best of displays to faithfully replicate the intended appearance. As expected from Michael Giacchino the score is similarly ominous with bursts of beauty that superbly enhances the film without becoming overwhelming or aggressive.

The main issue I expected I may have is that the film is strikingly similar to the Swedish film Let The Right One In, which whilst not entirely unexpected given that they are not only both based on the same source material but Let Me In is also based on the screenplay for the Swedish film, it was still worrisome given the .poor track record of American remakes of foreign films. At a cursory glance those familiar with Let The Right One In will find numerous shoots in the trailers for Let Me In that closely resemble one another and as one may expect the stories in both films are strikingly similar. However whilst there are certainly elements that closely resemble on another the two films are notably different. Most notably is the characters growth throughout the film being different to those in the original film and book. Likewise unlike the 'original' film, Let Me In remains aggressive and horrific throughout its entire proceedings (which ties in nicely with the leads perception of violence as the film progresses).

At it's core Let Me In is a film about isolation, the terrors of adolescence and love. Put simply Let Me In should not be missed and comes with my highest recommendation.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Jupiter Ascending Review

The production design throughout is simply mesmerizing and is
matched by few films.

Jupiter Ascending is currently an easy target, from the writer and director Wachowski duo who have not had a critical and financial hit since the Matrix films, Jupiter Ascending is a film that has been released with little to no hype behind it. It is also certain to be a costly movie for those who financed it given its sizeable budget and its low box office takings thus far. However none of that should have any weight in whether one does or does not enjoy the film.

The most problematic portions of Jupiter Ascending are present from the introduction as we are introduced to the protagonists parents as they meet and the tragic events that eventually lead to the protagonists journey. The problem is these scenes are highly unnecessary and add little to a film that is crowded with a plethora of ideas and could have easily been cut with no negative effect on the film as a whole. Their is likewise an early scene between the 'villains' which screams of a scene that was added after the fact as the studio/film makers became worried that some may struggle with the amount of information presented throughout. Whilst it does make it clear what is happening, it also removes much of the mystery and spoils the bigger reveals turning what could and should have been a shocking reveals later in the film into something that fills more like filler, existing solely to catch the protagonist Jupiter Jones up with what the audience was sadly already spoon feed at the beginning of the film.

The gravity boots add an interesting and unique flair to the 
action throughout.

Jupiter Jones largely as a result is a character that I cared very little for, which is quite an issue given that she is the protagonist and as such the film is largely her journey. It doesn't help that she is largely a blank slate, defined by little else then cleaning toilets and her desire to purchase a telescope, hinting at a connection to her father who was also fascinated by the beauty of space. Had this point been given further development it could have tied in nicely with the idea of reincarnation present, it however is left as a loose end that is 'merely' one of but a few character traits for Jupiter.

That isn't to say that the entire cast is left with little to work with. Quite the contrary, the supporting cast and the 'world' that is created is far more interesting. Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax is particularly enjoyable to watch who whilst veering into hammy territory is suitably and interestingly conflicted and unstable in a manner that ties in nicely with his 'relationship' to Jupiter. Other characters are far more standard but none the less are acted well and help propel the film and the world it is set in forward in an entertaining fashion. Which leads me to the films greatest strength. The realization of its world building and the visuals that are so vital in that realization.

Did I mention that the production design throughout is
simply mesmerizing.

I imagine few will doubt the visual flair that the Wachowskis bring to the films they direct, fewer yet will likely be disappointed by the lush and detailed visuals that exists not only to impress the viewer but to effectively further the story of the world. To say I was impressed would be quite the understatement with the production design being simply unmatched by any recent film. The 3d is likewise rather strong throughout and certainly helps highlight this aspect of the film whilst also adding notably throughout, especially to the numerous aerial battles present. The action to put simply is impressive and whilst it is far more standard in how it is shoot given what one may expect given the Wachowskis track record, it is still far more creative and exciting then all but a few films of recent. I imagine those who have complained about the extended finales of some recent blockbusters may take issue with the length of some of the action present, I however never felt it extended beyond its welcome.

Jupiter Ascending is not without its notable flaws, it however remains a visually impressive thrill ride throughout most of its runtime and thus comes highly recommended in spite of a handful of elements that disappoint.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

My Favourite Films of 2014

Whilst most list for ones best and/or favourite films where release a good few weeks ago I have only finally managed to key together what my own personal favourite films released in 2014 where. At this point I should point out this list is for my favourite 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. Birdman may or may not be among the better films released recently but as they are 2015 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.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints:
Ain't Them Bodies Saints in many ways is a very simple film. It is none the less a powerful film that largely removes itself from any obvious time period and is about two individuals who are in love and forced to live separately due to their own egregious mistakes. Fantastic performances throughout along with what would easily be my favorite score of the year (which utilizes clapping throughout as part of the music and is oddly fitting) in an emotionally draining film that I adored.

The Double:
The Double is the film on this list that I imagine is most likely to divide audiences. Self conscious but still dramatically effective I found myself chuckling throughout. Combine that with some gorgeous cinematography and a timeless and particularly odd world and you have a film that whilst no revelation was a breathe of fresh air that is as bizarre as it is enjoyable.

Edge of Tomorrow:
Two years in a row a large budget Tom Cruise 'sci-fi' film have made it into my favorite films list. It would be, and certainly is easy to make fun of Tom for his off screen antic and whilst doing so may be fun for many, those antics don't negate the quality of his acting, or the films he stars in. Likewise in a year full of disappointing larger budget films Edge of Tomorrow was a sadly overlooked film that was far better then its more successful but far less enjoyable competition. Featuring stunning action, a story that whilst flawed (a continuous problem with stories involving time travel) holds your interest with enough characters fleshed out just enough to care about what is happening. Likewise whilst the live action was converted to 3d it is easily one of the better example of what the 3d format has to offer especially as it wasn't afraid of using heavier levels of depth.


Their is very little I could hope to say about Her that hasn't been already said a great number of times before. Simply put it is about a man who falls in love with his computer, or more accurately an artificial intelligence. The surprising part is that it comes of as genuine without any sense of self awareness, yet still works. This is of course no doubt thanks to the ever brilliant Spike Jonze who both wrote and directed the film (and made a personal favorite of mine Adaptation) along with some simply brilliant action and cinematography, which also applies to the film directly below which shares the same cinematographer (and was also the cinematographer on another favorite of mine, Let the Right One In).

Interstellar disappointed many their is no denying. It arrived with beyond high levels of hype thanks to director Christopher Nolan helming the film along with some utterly fantastic trailers. I myself found that it lived up to the hype and found it refreshing for a large budget film to feature so little action whilst remaining captivating and is another in director Christopher Nolans long run of hit films.

The Wolf of Wall Street:
After Hugo flopped Martin Scorsese is back making a film in what could only be described as more familiar territory for the director. That isn't necessarily as bad thing as the film was one of my favorites released last year, being both vile and brilliant throughout. I none the less would like to see the director make some less predictable film choices in the future. However when the film is this good such a complaint is nit picking at best.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

Protagonist Egsy, clearly not a standard candidate for
the Kingsman.

I must confess, ever since the film Layer Cake I have been a fan of Kingsman: The Secret Service director Matthew Vaughan, from films like Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class to Stardust he has always made highly entertaining films. All of which have contained great humour, characters and not only well staged and genuinely exciting action scenes, but action scenes that are also frequently wildly inventive. Kingsman: The Secret Service thankfully continues this run of excellent films by Matthew Vaughan.

Gary Unwin, also known as Eggsy is a young man, drifting through life without any real goals or purpose. Soon enough one of his escapades has his path crosses with Harry Hart, who is a member of a secret service known as the Kingsman who are entirely 'gentlemen' in behaviour. After some rudimentary tests Harry seeks to recruit Eggsy into the Kingsman. Performances are strong throughout, but Sofia Boutella as the blade legged femme fatale and Colin Firth as Harry Hart are easily the highlights. Colin Firth in particular will surprisingly enough likely leave many thinking how he would have been a perfect fit for James Bond. Not only fitting the suave nature of Bond with ease, but providing more then up for the challenge of the action scenes present. Likewise whilst Sofia Boutella has minimal dialogue she is able to give a presence that would otherwise be missing from the amusing but non threatening core villain present as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson.

Sofia Boutella as the femme fatale and Colin Firth is a suave
secret agent are particular highlights.

On that note the humour and action as expected from a Matthew Vaughan film is handled with a flare and whimsy that films with budgets several times larger can't even begin to hope to match. Meanwhile the action is also brutally violent, which is a breathe of fresh air given the large number of the big budget action films having somewhat tepid action due to the restriction a lower rating puts on them. Their is a scene in a church that starts of with one of most ludicrously brilliant lines in quite some time that evolves into what is simply jaw dropping carnage that is stunningly shoot and edited together. For action junkies it is one of the few scenes I have ever seen that truly leaves up to the notion of being worth the price of admission alone. Likewise the finale is suitably spectacular and inventive without out wearing it welcome and dragging on far to long as has become customary for many action films in recent years.

At its core of Kingsman: The Secret Service is an unashamed homage to the older James Bond films where English secret agents used numerous gadgets and the agents being those women want to be with and men want to be. However unlike James Bond Kingsman: The Secret Service features far more humour and has far more brutal and bloody action which helps sets it apart on its own and given the more recent Bonds more serious tone leaves Kingsman felling far more fresh then it probably should. Kingsman: The Secret service comes recommended.

Note: As is far to common I must recommend people stay away from the full trailers for this film as they give far to much away as sadly it seems that those creating trailers still feel the way to sell a film is to simply have a two to three minute summary of many of the key points of a film. I strongly disagree.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Collection Update (February 2015)

The Double whilst a terrific film is also a blu-ray release that has cause me numerous issues. Having replaced the first copy I have yet to check if this disc works (though I really must ensure it works properly soon). The first disc I had continuously had audio pops and some scenes simply refused to play. I hope this isn't a wide spread issue with the Australian release, which sadly wouldn't be unheard of for a smaller film released here. Thankfully both Awakening and Frances Ha have very nice transfers with no issues to speak of from a technical stand point.

Whilst I don't wish to concentrate on negative aspects of the release I have purchased I fell obligated to mention Transcendence. Regardless of what you think of the film, to say Transcendence was seen in cinemas was quite a beautiful film would be a dramatic understatement. Which given the director is not at all surprising. Sadly the blu-ray release is plagued with unforgivable amounts of dnr, edge enhancement and black crush that was not present in the theatrical release. Whilst it is likely you have already bought Transcendence if you are a fan, if you have not, do not expect to not be thrilled by what you see regarding the transfer and ensure you get it on a nice, big sale. It is sad to see such a gorgeous film, that was released so recently with a large budget get such poor treatment.

On a more positive note The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has an extremely competent transfer for what I believe was a very early release for the blu-ray format. It was also available for a ludicrously low price and whilst I don't enjoy it as much as the books or radio show it is based on, it is still an enjoyable film that whilst it falters in some aspects, mostly retains the tone and humour of its source material (though some of the changes still feel entirely unnecessary).

Likewise Thirst is a film that all horror fans should check out. I myself picked up the South Korean release as it contains the directors cut and doesn't have the overly bright and saturated colours that unfortunately plague the other releases that I have looked into. It was more costly then I would have liked but for fans of the film this does seem to be the release to purchase and it is a gorgeous blu-ray.

With all the above said I hope we can look forward to less problematic release in Australia as the cost of importing is becoming less feasible whilst also becoming less worthwhile. Sadly many smaller release still struggle to get a release at all, and when they do they often have problematic releases (going as far as not having features that are claimed to be present on the disc case) which leaves importing the only option, which as stated above is less attractive then it has been in a very long time. I hope we get more consistent releases of high quality, which given that currently smaller films releasing on blu-ray is seemingly not worthwhile and I must wonder how uhd (4k) will far in smaller markets. I do hope it isn't simply relegated to some blockbuster releases. Likewise, I hope that the prices and selection will be reasonable compared to that in the UK, America and similar. I however am not holding my breath.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Spider-Man is back in yet another film, but the results are
far from amazing.

As one would expect The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a sequel to the first Amazing Spider-Man film, a film which was received with a largely tepid response as it was generally felt to be an unnecessary addition following the recent Raimi trilogy. None the less from the little I know of the comics it seemed to remain more faithful to the source material and whilst not amazing, it was a reasonably enjoyable film. The two leads as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy being particular highlights.

With the above in mind I whilst I was reasonably excited for how the sequel could expand on the first film. The first issue that becomes immediately clear and only becomes more irritating as the film continues is the absolutely horrid writing present. Little that happens makes any sense. The most obvious example of this is how characters are able to understand the entirety of a character back story from a few seconds of video footage to how the villain Electro comes to be (he is electrocuted, falls into a tank and gets bitten by electric eals and that's the extent to which it is shown/explained).

Packed with far to many subplots and far to concerned with setting up future
films TASM2 comes across as rushed.

This admittedly in of itself may have worked if the film didn't also fell the need to stuff a sub plot in explaining how Peter was able to survive and become Spider-Man from being bitten by a spider in the prior film. Speaking of sub plots, the film has far to any of them and is also far to concerned with setting up future films (be they direct sequels or spin offs). This results in an overcrowded series of sub plots which leave far to little time to expand on the content of the individual sub plots. The result is the compression of information from what should have been spread across several different scenes (and written far better) into singular scenes, leaving the characters felling like they are going through a check list of information with one another which as one may expect comes across as incredibly unnatural and also leaves the film felling incredibly rushed in spite of its reasonably long run time.

The absurdity of how Electro comes to be is only matched by the poor characterisation present for both himself and the rest of the cast. Characters are typically one note card board cut outs with the depth of a paddling pool. The once engaging relationship between Peter and Gwen is throughout nothing but a can they or can't they be together type story. An idea that the first film had already covered and had also done a far better job establishing and resolving in a far shorter period of time. That's not to say Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone give poor performances, rather they do a stunningly good job given the material they have to work with as does Jamie Fox. The problem is the material is simply so horrid that it borders on parody and no matter the performance the film is rarely engaging and is frequently a mundane bore to embarrassing to veiw.

Whilst the effects and action are frequently spectacular they can't hide how poorly
written the film is and how little the actors have to work with.

The exception to this is the action. When Spider-Man is swinging through New York, battling villains or similar the film changes gears and becomes an exciting and frenetic thrill ride. One particular highlight is the show down between Spider-Man and Electro in Times Square which features some excellent action accompanied by some brilliantly unique music that alone does a far better job portraying Electro as a lonely, paranoid and angry individual then the entirety of the rest of the film. The effects likewise are particularly impressive with Electro looking as if there is a storm inside of him (such a shame that this obvious statement of his mental state doesn't lead anywhere as the character is so shallow), to Spider-Man never having looked so good as he swings throughout New York. This is helped by some fantastic use of 3d in the action scenes, though it fells more tacked on in the dialogue scenes. None the less those who wish to see the film would be best viewing it in 3d if at all possible as whilst it isn't always of notable benefit, when it is the 3d is genuinely spectacular.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a film that is far to concerned with setting up future films and in doing so rushes over its own story. This combined with some horrid writing has The Amazing Spider-Man 2 come not recommended in spite of outstanding and exciting moments of action.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Submarine Review

Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate and Yasmin Paige as Jordana give both strong and
more importantly believable performances in the lead roles.

From first time director Richard Ayoade comes Submarine, a film about Oliver Tate. Oliver is a teenager who has taken an interest in a young girl he goes to school with called Jordana. His family life is already rather poorly with his parents seeming to be growing apart, matters become exponentially worse when his mothers old boyfriend moves in next door. Jordana soon enough takes and interest in Oliver who seeks to resolves any issues he has with his new girlfriend and problematic family situation in shall we say odd ways.

Oliver is far from the typical teenager and shows many trappings of someone who whilst intellectually mature or longing to be, is in many ways an immature character unable to understand the basic elements of the society he belongs in. This results in the rather unusual plans he has to 'fix' his life. His attempts of course at best resemble a band aid and do nothing to resolve the core problems, which when he is faced with he responds with avoidance. Put simply Oliver is a character who wants to fit in and belong, he however by his own thoughts and behaviour simply does not. Submarine also delves into Oliver fathers depression possibly along with his own and provides for what in many ways is a very conventional coming of age story told in an unconventional way as it fells far more based in reality then most films manage with characters also struggling with far more relatable problems (be them real or simply perceived) then what most similar films present.

The acting throughout Submarine is exceptional, from Craig Roberts as Oliver to the now oscar nominated Sally Hawkins as his mother the cast on all fronts deliver believable and at times nuanced performances. Likewise the music is superb if not unexpected often suddenly interrupting what is happening suddenly and loudly reflecting the degree of importance Oliver puts on things which are comparatively trivial to what else is happening in his life.

Like The Double, Submarine features some gorgeous photography.

When comparing Submarine with the directors next film The Double he already seems to have a distinct style, common story elements and cast. Both films feature a protagonist longing to fit in, have someone in particular with whom they are romantically interested, both protagonists are misfits, both films feature a number of the some actors and actresses and the films take place in a time period that is indistinct. With that said the films in the execution are notably different. Most notably regarding the humour, whereas the double featured a dark dry sense of humour with a self concious tone, submarine provides far fewer amusing moments that are often awkward in how they are amusing, which is fitting giving the characters and story present. Likewise whilst Submarine is certainly well shoot, it doesn't ooze the style of The Double and instead presents a relatively indistinct time in a very real world English setting. Whilst I wouldn't usually compare to films as in depth as this the films whilst clearly different are distinctly similar and I fell those who enjoy one will very likely enjoy the other.

Whilst I can't help but be somewhat let down viewing Submarine after The Double, most of my reasons for preferring one over come down to entirely subjective taste and what I tend to favour in films. Submarine thankfully stands on its own as a well shoot, terrifically acted film that is often awkwardly amusing that tells a conventional story in an unconventional manner and comes highly recommended.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Double (2013) Review

Jesse Eisenberg as both Simon and James gives two brilliant performances.

The world The Double is set that of an inexact locale with a bizarre yet timeless fell. The technology present throughout resembles some form of aberration of seventies technology whose functionality seems unwieldy at best as if the world is being constricted by the rules that govern and unable to grow. This is combined with numerous accents on display, which combined with some delightful and purposeful drab cinematography creates a world that is immediately recognizable when one simply looks at one part, but as a whole is otherworldly.

In this world a young timed man called Simon lives. Simon is a young, timid man who lives his life in loneliness, but desperately seeks to connect with others. He works long hours as a clerk in a government agency where he along with his own work does others with no thanks. Only leaving when only those left cleaning where he works remain. From every angle Simon is thoroughly ignored and beaten down by the society he lives and is regarded as being completely forgettable by those who do recognize him. Simon in particular yearns to connect with a young woman called Hannah that he creates reasons to see whilst at work and also watches from his apartment with a telescope. Just as it seems as if he may have made some progress a man called James enters his life.

The cinematography is gorgeous and helps create a film with
a very otherworldly feel.

James is physically an exact double of Simon, however Simon acts and is viewed by the world is the reverse of James. Brimming with confidence Simon is quick to get to know Simon, and quickly uses Simon to quickly rise in the ranks. In many ways Simon has numerous traits that one would associate with a sociopath and is happy to use anyone if it is of benefit to himself, which leads to Simon's world crashing lower from its already largely intolerable state.

In spite of this The Double whilst never promoting uncontrollable laughter is frequently amusing and never enters the territory of being depressing thanks to the largely self concious tone present throughout. Jesse Eisenberg as Simon and James along with ever reliable Mia Wasikowska as Hannah excel in their roles and in spite of the odd world presented or the self concious tone provide for some genuine heart that could very easily have been missing. Likewise the sound design and the music composed by Andrew Hewitt perfectly reinforce what is happening in a way that has the film swing seamlessly from quirky to a film with dramatic weight behind it. Andrew Hewitt's score is particularly memorable and helps in reinforcing the odd tone already present throughout, along with highlighting key moments with a unique and score that manages to come ever so close to being over bearing whilst never becoming so.

Despite of the praise above The Double is a film that from the first frame to the last is a film that is clearly going to divide audiences. In spite of this The Double is more then endearing enough to come with my highest recommendation and I can't wait to see what the director (Richard Ayoade) does in the future.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Azog, one of the many examples of how this series was padded out
to mixed results.

In many ways The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is a hard film to review. Fans of middle earth are going to swarm to the film regardless of what any review contains, and for good reason. The original trilogy easily contains some of the best, if not the very best fantasy films made. The Hobbit trilogy in comparison has widely thus far been considered good albeit disappointing.

The Battle of Five armies starts of where The Desolation of Smaug ends, a film that sadly and amusingly didn't contain the actual desolation of Smaug. Instead it was used as bait to entice viewers to see this presumably final film of Peter Jackson middle earth saga. As a result The Battle of Five armies has an expectedly exciting opening. Although those who where less then impressed by the more cartoon like action of The Hobbit will continue to be unimpressed. Characters from the outset continue to do impossible things, At times this is fine as it is well established in the films that Elves are capable of what are seemingly impossible feats for a human. However this film as the prior two Hobbit films extends this to both the human characters and dwarves. This once again robs the film of their being any sense of risk for the characters present, which undermines the entire epic finale and battle between five armies.

The action remains over the top, but far less so then what was
present in the previous two films.

That isn't to say the film as a finale isn't satisfyingly epic. It just is a film that seem to undercut its intentions for little reason beyond Peter Jackson an co thinking a certain moment may look 'cool', much like Michael Bay seemingly has done with the Transformer films. However compared to the previous instalments such silliness is kept to a relative minimum and thus allows some room for emotional weight. However with a few exceptions such as Bilbo, Gandalf and Thranduil who all have exceptional acting behind them, their is little reasons to care about what happens. This is particularly problematic when it comes to the dwarves of which less then half contain anything resembling a character beyond a caricature. Giving that the entire trilogy is about the Dwarves reclaiming their home this is a particular problem that undermines the purpose of the entire trilogy.

With that being said the performances of those that you do care about that the finale does provide for just enough context to provide some emotional punch and to bring this middle earth saga to a satisfying if not disappointing conclusion. The film is also the shortest of the trilogy and whilst a few areas are left with little resolution this decreased run time is largely welcome and removes the bloat that plagued the first two Hobbit films where it was abundantly obvious that their simply wasn't enough content to sustain an entire trilogy.

Whilst it is far from a masterpiece The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is a film that is certainly easy to recommend to fans of the Hobbit films. It also has reduced the issues present in the previous two films to a large enough degree to come recommended thanks largely to it slightly less absurd action and its tighter pacing without the bloat that plagued the first two entries of this trilogy.

Whilst it isn't the defining chapter as marketing would have you believe it
is certainly the most enjoyable of the Hobbit films.

What about he HFR? Well I may be somewhat cheating here as this is largely a direct copy of what I wrote last year regarding the HFR in The Desolation of Smaug. It however remains as relevant for this film as it was the last. The short story is I would highly recommend viewing it in HFR, for more detail please read the below.

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 Battle of Five Armies, 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 the prior two films The Battle of Five Armies has been filmed in HFR at 48fps as opposed 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 interested in seeing 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 entire Hobbit trillogy 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.