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.