Posted on 7/22/12 02:21 AM
Expectations can be damn hard to fulfill, but The Dark Knight Rises succeeds and fails.
But not too worry, this should satisfy Bat-fans. Though I feel compelled after watching this (probably because of the excellent goosebumps-giving sound effects at the end), this is still reasonable doubt that TDKR just does not live up to TDK. But hey, who's complaining, right? For I doubt any superhero movie can live up to the mega-gianourmous-skyscraping standards set by TDK. To put it simply, this movie is a good, but maybe not so great.
Right, enough about whether the movie is 'good' or 'bad'. Where do we pick up from TDK? Well, it's years since Batman got his hands dirty, so Bruce Wayne is in exile. But worry not, crime in Gotham City is as low as it can only wish to be. The first sequence of the film is progressive, leaving room for characters to develop. We are introduced to the usual (Alfred, Wayne, Gordon, Lucius) and new characters (Bane, who is given a brilliant opening Joker-like scene, Selina, Blake, Miranda).
As we move into the middle, we learn more of Blake and Selina, both of whom are given satisfactory lines in the entire movie. But Bane, maybe not like The Joker, steals the show. His large build, semi-grotesque face, almost-mechanical voice is supreme and fitting as a villain. Mind you all, that mask is bound to be a bestseller. One might criticize though, that the 'revolution' plot seems 'used', like in TDK by The Joker, so originality might wane. Plus, there seems to be something strange and a little political to the subtle "Live so large, leave so little" message. But that is just me, I presume.
A superhero movie is not without a fall-then-rise plot, and we do get that here. Is it predictable? Yes. But to hell with it. There is a Bane VS Batman scene that comic-readers should recognize, which brings up the 'rise' part of the film. Bruce Wayne is mortal but he is not without spirit, we would realize. Christopher Nolan should be commanded for this intermittent part of the movie; it is rightfully demoralizing to watch, uplifting to cheer. Which leads us nicely into the final sequence...
Where we get to see Crane (remember Scarecrow?). No no, that is not the only interesting thing that happens. The final part has Nolan written all over it, which means a twist in proceedings.
Overall, TDKR is good with Bane the highlight of the show.
Personally*... There is desert in Gotham?
Posted on 6/07/12 07:36 PM
This is not an Alien prequel. Oh wait, it is. Oh wait, it is not. Who cares! The movie is a winner, in my book at least.
No doubt, Ridley Scott's imaginative film into the future is brilliant - full of interesting scares and visuals. And no doubt, Prometheus would certainly pacify those geeked-out Alien fans (as I am). Do take note, however, that it might leave us pondering over more questions, rather than answering them.
The plot is essentially not contrived. The main agenda here is that Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, is leading a team of some not-so-merry (expendable, really) men on a space expedition to examine the origins of mankind. (But to me, this all sounds a tad farcical. Why would critics just want to watch an Alien prequel? Scott just needed a sort-of diversion to his main objective of making this film, which is to make an Alien prequel.) This expedition is sponsored by Weylan Corp. and is overlooked by the (witch?) Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron).
Shaw and the band reach their destination, where most of the film's action sequences would take place. But by this time, we would have been absolutely blown away by David. As you would probably have known, Michael Fassbender plays David, an android butler, who (yes, who - that is how human-like he is) primarily carries out orders of humans. Fassbender is stunning, especially when he is given a clean-shaven uber-cool, friendly look. The way he walks, talks, and shows emotions is so robotic, and yet so brilliantly human. This is prefect casting.
Back to the main course, where Shaw and co. would be busy exploring a certain temple-like place. This 'place', for lack of a better word, is damp and creepy. The fascination here lies with Scott's efforts of almost reprising certain features of his Alien film. The bone-like wall structure, the dripping 'dip-dip' you might see or hear and the ominous-looking 'vases'. As the movie progresses, things get a little strange. Men get left behind, weird creatures come out of nowhere, new beings come into play, David getting all sneaky... fear not, Scott does not disappoint when it comes to leaving us anxious in our seats.
I do realize however, that the plot is extremely summarized. There are sub-plots here and there about human DNA, finding where humans come from and saving humanity. All of which you should be able to gawk at interestingly when you watch the film. So, onto the flaws then. To be precise there is really only one main flaw. And it could also be Scott's own undoing.
Is this part of the Alien franchise? Or is it not? Critics might say, "Every time there is a good sequence of scenes, the moment is punctuated by Scott's persistence to find a connection with Alien." And this is unfortunately, the flaw. But this is purely subjective. Towards the end of the film, we might have already decided whether this is an Alien film. The climatic ending is sublime, with its last scene being the best of all.
Definitely worth a re-watch, just to see Fasssbender waxing his neat hairdo.
Personally*... Can someone please explain to me what the first few scenes were about?
Posted on 5/05/12 07:46 AM
Awe-inducing, funny and action-packed, this could be the superhero movie of the year (not that there are many).
It is unusual for directors to modify the genre of superhero movies. To be precise, if we are looking for some popcorn entertainment, Joss Whedon could have easily turned this into a full-blown alien-versus-superhero affair (that actually would not be too bad). Interestingly to note however, he does not. With an affinity to blend action scenes with tongue-in-cheek humor, he balances the tone of the movie to be both rewarding and most definitely, superhero-themed.
There are plenty of noteworthy things you can brag about this movie. The cinematography, the script, the visuals, the cast, the production design. Surely though, there would be one or two flaws, but they are not really meant to be called 'flaws' per se. Bending the laws of physics, 'saving the world' is saving the US and how Hulk manages to comply to orders are just some of the minor 'flaws'. These are probably things that you would just like to ignore for the sake of giving the director the benefit of the doubt.
It is quite evident that Whedon has made this film his own. He incorporates humor into almost every scene, as if things are not to be taken too seriously in the world of The Avengers. And it should be like that. Again, the emphasis on superhero movies usually lie on destruction, life-saving and personalization of characters. But here, there is some of that, but not completely. No chessy lines. No rushed pacing. No cliche-ridden narrative. (Just Loki speaking in a not-so-sharp English accent.)
The movie can also be likened to last year's Deathly Hallows (Part 2); a lot of hype, and duly delivered. At least we could expect how the last Harry Potter movie was meant to be : an emotional, epic battle. The Avengers did deliver but there is something different to the whole theme that somehow manages to change our view on how superhero movies should be in the future. Is it Robert Downey Junior's Shakespearean jab at Thor? Or is the excellent cinematography of sticking to single shots instead of quick-fire editing? Heck, it could even be Scarlett Johansson's semi-obscene display of bust. Anyhow the movie is a success, most definitely.
Unprecedented, now that is one word to decribe Joss Whedon's take on a superhero movie.
Personally*... Stay in your seats till the end; there are rumors that an extra scene is added to the US version of The Avengers, for compensation of the late release.
Posted on 4/21/12 10:45 PM
It always astounds us as to how kids in films make us emotional. Yet again with TKWAB, we should be very much moved.
But this is not a direct emotionally-driven film. The kid, Cyril (Thomas Doret) is not the wisest kid on the block. He is not saving the world or helping aliens cross planets, but he is essentially memorable. The movie starts with him frantically grappling with his teacher, trying to call his father who has recently gone missing. But it is up to no avail, Cyril is left licking his wounds; he wants his papa, but cannot reach him.
The direction, by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, is very progressive. Cyril is made to be a hardened boy with a soft inside, always on a mission but still taking time to feel the emotions of a mere boy. The "Bike" part of the movie comes from his efforts of finding his bike, which his dad possesses. Though he does find it, his dad is still nowhere to be seen.
In the midst of it all, he bumps into Samantha (CÚcile De France). Samantha plays an integral part here, being Cyril's foster mother. CÚcile De France's performance is natural, showing the audience that she is a seasoned actress. Her scenes with Cyril are mostly filled with arguments and little fights, but in the more poignant scenes, CÚcile is really in control in terms of emotional direction.
Which brings us to the screenplay, also done by the directors. Mostly written to build Cyril's character, the script is short and sweet. Alright, maybe not sweet, because Cyril is not exactly the character you would root for. He is somewhat rude and impatient, with a ruthless streak to get what his wants. Then again, underneath all that, there is empathy for the child. He is made to fail in his efforts and this builds a common understanding in the viewers: he is just neglected, give him a break. The script keeps focusing on Cyril, so it is difficult not to feel for him.
Other cinematic effects like background sound and cinematography are the single tone of inspiration in between scenes to ensure continuity and the shots of Cyril and the background (there are not many face-face conversation close-ups). Overall, like most films, the acting, script and direction dictates this sort of things.
Not as uplifting as you had expected, but still one worth crediting for acting and good narration.
Personally*... How do you fake a cut in a scene? Samantha gets a cut on the arm, but how do you edit the scenes to make it bloody? Is she really cut?
Posted on 4/09/12 07:24 AM
Seriously? Blockbuster? Unfortunately, this one just dies out with expectations.
The good thing is : you will certainly love the premise and Jennifer Lawrence. It starts off interestingly with the introduction of The Hunger Games, but we would probably not be needing that. Thanks to proper marketing, the audience should have an idea of why and how the games are carried out.
Well then, one might ask, what is the whole point of watching the movie? To watch the characters kill each other in intriguing ways? To see what this relatively fresh plot might bring? Or to simply find out what everyone has been talking about? Whatever the reason, one should at least wait and see.
The first part was thankfully not rushed and boring; Stanley Tucci is excellent as an effervescent show presenter for The Games. As we make that transition into the actual sequences of The Games, things understandably get a little complicated. The film never really gets violent, just a few arrows, sword slashes and even a twist of the neck.
The one big gripe would be about the characters. Other than the featured actors, there are not many lines (or even screen time) for the actual players of The Games. A few get killed early on, people whose names are barely mentioned. But these guys are bound to be dead anyway. So we move on to the 'real' baddies. Other than the alpha, Cato (Alexander Ludwig), would we be able to recall the other names? This might account for poor character development, other than the stereotypical 'bad guy'.
But again, one might say the spotlight should be on Lawrence. Hence we shall focus on Lawrence - and Josh Hutcherson. Playing the roles of leads, they do well to fit the overall plot line. There is a minor twist in the rules towards the middle, which leads to some good chemistry-building between Lawrence and Hutcherson. Also interesting to note is the constant use of slightly shaky camera shots, which gives a sort-of first person point-of-view (which is how the source novel is told).
Intriguing? Yes. But look elsewhere, the film does try a little too hard to stick to its source. So much so that it lingers on being unoriginal.
Personally*... Very nice, sponsors...
Posted on 4/02/12 07:15 AM
Studio Ghibli has produced yet another gem, without compromising its usual spectacular visual and emotional direction.
It should be thoroughly examined as to how animation can be made to be so real and engaging that the viewer can only watch in awe. Ghibli is famous for that and if Pixar films are great, Ghibli films are simply amazing.
In Arrietty's case, the world of animation might seem a little restricted. Nevertheless, the world is a magical one. Arrietty is a vibrant teenager and along with her parents are The Borrowers, who 'borrow' things from the homes of large human beings. They live underground and live like their dangerous counterparts; they have a miniature kitchen, bedrooms, and even do the laundry when the sun is up. When their supplies run low, the father would sneak into the house and take what they need.
But if there is one thing the "little people" should be afraid of, it is the humans. After her first encounter with a human (a boy named Shawn), Arrietty is sternly warned by her father never to talk to him again. But being too curious and adventurous for her good, she starts befriending Shawn who is all too grateful for some companion. Through slow and steady pacing, this friendship plot is well developed to provide empathy for the characters. How could someone so little be friends with someone so big? It does not matter. After all, the world in Studio Ghibli is always full of imagination.
Things do get a little complicated when the house maid, Hara, finds out about Arrietty and her family. She is meant to be the 'evil' figure, but becomes comedic fodder in the end.
The visuals are technically amazing. Every picture is just that: a picture. The characters always seem to be moving within well-drawn background paintings. It is almost as if we should be crying, "Wait! Let me just admire this scene for a few seconds." Every blade of grass, clump of bushes, sparkle of teardrop, movement of shadow and shining of light is drawn and displayed to perfection. The filmmakers thoroughly make use of the perk of animation: boundless creativity.
Thumbs up for Ghibli!
Personally*... Look under your carpets...
Posted on 3/26/12 06:56 AM
This is a must watch for those interested in killing, murdering and torturing people. What? Too harsh?
That is not necessarily a bad thing for the film. The gruesome, murderous scenes are sights to behold. Yes, gory, but terrific film-making nonetheless. Chances are, we would get so hooked to the brutality of the killings that we forget we are watching this. We might as well join in the fun.
Right, enough masochism. The film basically revolves around a group of high-school Japanese teens who find themselves deserted on a island with only one instruction: to kill each and every one of their mates, and -duh- survive the ordeal. To set things all off, their teacher starts killing those who think this ploy is some sort of joke. This is real. And this is Battle Royale.
Protagonist? Antagonist? Everyone and no one at the same time. But there are plenty of love scenes, which is understandable considering that teens are the actors here. However, one should digress, as it is too easy to get too engrossed into the mushy, teary scenes where hands are held and sad, almost corny lines are muttered. Hence, we shall focus on the plot.
It is meant to be futuristic dystopian; Japan is in disarray and the youth is depicted as useless. But is teenage violence the way to go? Yes, according to an Act of some sort, which permits (and forces) teenagers to a fight for survival. Look, as absurd as this may sound, the more we watch this the more we enjoy this. The film exploits our instincts and 'nature' of the human being: to kill and survive. Sure there is compassion and kindness in the middle, but the truth (or what the film wants us to believe) is when the time comes, all hell breaks loose. The survival of the fittest. And all the cliches, unfortunately.
It is old-fashioned stuff: overblown sound effects, over-dramatic mourning scenes, over-the-top 'bad guy' leader. What is more ambiguous about him (in a strange way) is during the ending. (How the hell did he get up after being shot a zillion times?) But, one has to admit (I do, anyway) that it has been one hell of a joy ride. Violence? Bah. Unrealistic? Meh. Kick-ass? Not too bad.
Battle Royale is one of those we cannot quite forget, though we would very much like to.
Personally*... I believe that their parents are missing somewhere...
Posted on 3/16/12 09:12 PM
This is surely one of Liam Neeson's better performances compared to his recent features. And that is all thanks to a good script and edgy action scenes.
Neeson against a pack of wolves. Really, that is the movie. A group of people have crash-landed into a icy, bitter-cold unknown place, with almost no one for company except themselves - and those flesh-eating wolves. Usually, a predictable plot is just that: predictable (almost cliche all the time).But The Grey is a well-made survival film, definitely one we have been missing of late.
Normally we see the survivors battle the plights of some kind of horrendous weather, but here Ottway (Neeson) and a bunch of other survivors are not battered by the cold climate. Instead, there is a new enemy (well, at least to the viewer it is). One which is given a surprising amount of depth in character: the wolf. It kills when threatened, as Ottway explains to his bunch of weary-looking followers. Unfortunately this is where things get a little too obvious. We can pretty much tell who the 'first victim' is and that there is a good chance Ottway would be the 'last man standing'.
But it is always fancy to see how the director and screenwriters choose to kill off the characters. Thankfully they do not disappoint. In lieu of merely dumping out the characters, they are given some good emotional scenes (you know, campfire chit-chat about their backgrounds) before being killed. Speaking of backgrounds, Ottway's past is played in flashbacks, often depicting him caressing a woman (his beloved?). These flashbacks are smart, as they give good depth to Neeson's character and of course, the follow-up question: Who is she?
Towards the middle we can fairly say, "Hey, I've seen something like that before!" Predictable or not, the film is still pretty darn gripping. Besides, there is a certain hidden twist to the overall plot. The wolves are given a somewhat different treatment than the usual predatory outlook. Here there is the alpha and omega, the "radius" around their den which they seek to protect and more wolf characteristics. Ironically we should now say, "Hey, I'm learning something about these animals!"
The sound editing is amplified; every punch, bite, growl is akin to that of a lion's. In almost every scene there is music to set the tone, be it suspenseful, scary or emotional. We might also be wondering where Ottway and his group actually are. Siberia? Tibet? The scene-editing does not show the entire setting, which might be a problem. They could probably be in a controlled Truman-like experimental snow-covered forest and nobody would know. But that is probably subjective.
Given the benefit of the doubt, the plot, entertainment and acting is solid. And the antagonists here are not exactly the bad ones here, are they?
Personally*... Did Neeson speak with an Irish accent?
Posted on 3/09/12 11:43 PM
A play? In a movie? Sounds great.
A simple plot would have sufficed for any film, but not for Carnage. Essentially, it is adapted from a French play ("God of Carnage"). Meant to be black comedy, it is, if not for the stereotypes. Simply put, Carnage is good but not great.
The audience should find the approach to the movie's initial stages interesting enough. It starts fresh and friendly with both parties agreeing to put the matter to bed. Wait, in case you have not realized, the 'matter' at hand is basically about an eleven-year-old boy hitting another boy, resulting in injury. So the parents of the bully and the victim decide to meet and settle things for good. But of course, things are never settled in an ideal way.
Unfortunately, as soon as the doubtful notion of whether the bully actually has any regrets comes in, the game, the fiasco, the whole play starts. A discussion-turned-argument-turned-debate ensues. To see Jodie Foster cringing in an epic display of moral super-ego irrationality is already worth watching the movie.
But what about the others? As much as one would like to see John C. Reilly kick butt, most of the time the script helps him act. He does not shine as much as Foster, his spouse in the movie. Together, they are the parents of the bullied, and are determined to hold their ground when it comes to moralistic justice for their son. See how incredulous that sounds? In comes the Waltz-Winslet couple.
At first glance, you can assume they are the 'all work and no play' business-like couple. But as time wears on, it is clear they are putting on a show. Just to be appear accomodating. Fake, in other words. Waltz, doing his best to hide the Basterds accent, is sensational in his sharp rhetorical manner with words. He does not speak much at first, but when he gets his chance towards the end, he talks with superiority, matched only by Foster's lines of morality. Winslet's role, on the other hand, is somewhat plunged into a hole of disorder. Thanks to the screenwriters, Winslet, though less convincing than Reilly, is certainly interesting when it comes to body language.
One more interesting thing about the film is how Roman Polanski gives every actor enough screen time. Of course, with plays, you shine the spotlight on the speaker. But here, there must be a balance of shots of the whole bunch, as well as the four actors in their respective individual frames. There is even a part where scenes of the two couples are split to secretly show disdain for the each other. This type of 'play' cinematography might be double-edged, as that thought of "I'm actually watching a play" keeps coming to mind. But that is probably subjective, as Waltz might put it.
Definitely worth watching given the short 80-minute viewing time, Carnage does pose some interesting questions. But if only Polanski could go deeper than modern family catastrophe.
Personally*... That is a lot of wrinkly veins, Jodie.
Posted on 3/01/12 06:16 AM
Haunting, yes, and certainly genuine textbook film-making. But is it twisted? Alas, no. This psychological drama is more dramatic than it attempts to be.
Elizabeth Olsen is Martha, Marcy, May and Marlene. Well, not really. She mainly plays Martha, who as you go along throughout the movie would tell that she is having some sort of psychological problem. But that is not why we are watching this. Usually, when we see characters being dogged by their traumatizing past, there is sympathy, empathy and a sense of morality that is challenged. Here, Martha is devoid of those values. She is like the stranger amongst the crowd.
So who is Martha anyway? Frankly, the film does not reveal much from the first few scenes. It opens with Martha being stranded in an unknown place, lost and apprehensive about something. As we go on, the scenes play themselves out in a mysterious past-present chronological mode that moviegoers have become accustomed to when watching psychological dramas. However, that is not to say the movie is cliche in its methods; it adeptly balances the time-frame in a way that prevents the viewer from distractedly asking 'when' or 'what just happened?'. It is subtly suspenseful at creating a sense of dread.
Hence, the next question would (still) be "Who is Martha?". Now this is where the effects of psychology set in. One minute we see Martha in a rural shack with people who seem almost as strange as her. Led by Patrick (John Hawkes), this group of people are like a fraternity, who talk of 'cleansing' themselves. Here, the assumption is that Martha is at a place where people seem to have gone the 'other' way of life. But the next minute she is being taken care of by her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her egoistic husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). Obviously, this is the present of Martha. She is now surrounded by civilization.
This dual representation of (Martha's) life is the intrigue of the film. In one scene when Ted becomes increasingly frustrated by Martha's nonchalant behavior, she questions whether success in life is measured by money and perception. This scene is important simply because it tells us who Martha is, at least perceptively. She is the girl who does not care or understand the norms of society and as a result, feels extremely out-of-place.
The bleak outlook of Martha is also accentuated by the camerawork. Lighting is, of course, an essential aspect when it comes to creating that dramatic scene filled with trepidation and anxiety. And for most scenes, Martha is shot with her face against the light, so that her shadows fall to get that isolated figure. In the scenes where there is little light, the camera takes its time by slowing down the scenes and focusing on her emotional face, before moving on to the next scene. This gives Olsen a lot of room to show her acting skills.
Martha Marcy May Marlene sounds like a mouthful, but it should be a surprise for viewers. Psychological breakdowns always are.
Personally*... John Hawkes appears more demented than in Winter's Bone.