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.