Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan is an enduring figure in popular culture, but is now most often viewed as kitschy and campy. Clad in a loin cloth, yelling as he swings through the trees - he's not exactly the action hero modern-day moviegoers have become accustomed to. Director David Yates, best known for helming the final four instalments in the Harry Potter film series, endeavours for viewers to take Tarzan seriously again. This take on the story is commendable in that it wants to be about something, directly addressing the colonialist politics and the unethical means by which various European nations went about their conquest of Africa. It's pretty heady stuff and the film's approach errs on the simplistic side, but there's enough action to ensure the film doesn't get bogged down in its sombre themes.
The world was never aching for another Tarzan movie, but this one justifies its existence by incorporating historical elements and setting out to make a statement about man's relationship with nature. This is complemented by a blend of National Geographic-style panoramic vistas and moderately exciting action beats. While it lacks the heart of the animated version the target teen audience might be most familiar with, it's a fine addition to the Tarzan movie canon, and definitely ranks far above the risible 2014 animated take.
I was surprised to find myself really enjoying the film. From the trailers, I expected it to be a roundly mediocre affair, another in a long line of unsuccessful attempts in bringing dated cartoon characters to the big screen. However, I ended up having a really fun time with the film. It has a very high laughs-per-minute count, delivering a good mix of physical humour, wordplay and "getting crap past the radar" jokes aimed at the adults in the audience (such as the Oedipus Rex reference, the quip about Sherman "touching himself" and Bill Clinton's cameo). I liked how the story, an adaptation of the "Peabody's Improbable History" cartoons, played with historical elements in an entertaining manner reminiscent of Bill and Ted or Doctor Who.
There is a degree of educational content and the film could serve to pique kids' curiosity and encourage them to learn more about the time periods and historical figures depicted in the film on their own. The popular culture references were used in just the right places and I didn't find them as obnoxious as in many earlier Dreamworks animated films (the later Shrek instalments come to mind). My favourite of these sequences was the Troy battle scene, which spoofs the over-used ramping (slow then fast motion) effect popularised by Zack Snyder's 300. The voice cast was good as well, with Ty Burrell's Mr. Peabody suitably authoritative and intellectual. Max Charles was endearingly earnest and gave a very natural vocal performance as Sherman. Stephen Colbert, who has a minor role as Penny's Dad, really should do more animated films - he was also hilarious in Dreamworks' earlier Monsters vs. Aliens.
Stanley Tucci's Leonardo da Vinci and Patrick Warburton's dim-witted Agamemnon were both fun as well. However, the film doesn't satisfyingly explore Sherman's relationship with Penny. She begins the film as a spoilt, detestable bully and suddenly becomes more sympathetic at the midway point without a character arc to explain this, but it's understandable that the focus is placed on Mr. Peabody's relationship with his adoptive son. The film is able to keep a lighthearted tone throughout, without getting sappy or emotionally manipulative and I would recommend it as a film for adoptive parents to bring their children to see. The technical standard of the animation isn't up to the benchmark demonstrated in films like Rise of the Guardians and Frozen, but it did capture the old-fashioned character design adequately. The 3D was designed into the fabric of the film and employed in a delightfully gimmicky manner, with flying spears, tumbling rocks and a barrel of pomegranates that gets knocked out of the screen. The flying sequence, reminiscent of the "Can You Read My Mind" scene in Superman, was lovely. Also of note is Danny Elfman's pleasantly moving score.
Resident Evil: Retribution is a very frustrating film to sit through. It rips off all manner of science-fiction/action films that have gone before, relying on cheap tricks and lazy writing to shove the 'story' along, and concluding with an outright shameless bit of sequel baiting. Whatever life this franchise may have once had has well and truly been replaced with a sense of the undead. It's rote, boring, and has an odd direct-to-video feel - at its worst, it gives off Uwe Boll vibes. It's not so much egregiously bad as it is a very, very unnecessary sequel, and it appears that absolutely nobody involved in this project put in any effort, instead content to churn out another mediocre installment in their sleep. Also, the story goes nowhere, the whole film essentially setting up for yet another sequel. If Paul WS Anderson and co. wish to continue making these films, they had better rethink their strategy, because if this fifth installment achieves anything, it's in showing some sacred cash cows are probably better off slain.
This was just a very, very good film. I've heard a lot about it, particularly that it didn't make a lot of money at the box office because audiences didn't want to see Harrison as a potentially-dangerous anti-hero instead of as the straight good guy people came to know and love the actor as. It's really thought-provoking, and very well-shot. Peter Weir is a director whom I admire a lot and had earlier worked with Ford on "Witness", and would go on to direct films such as 'The Truman Show' and 'Master and Commander'. In this film, Ford plays a radical, somewhat crazy inventor who is tired of what he perceives as overly-commercialised, lazy American culture and uproots his entire family, including his wife (Helen Mirren) and oldest son (River Phoenix) to a remote jungle location along the Mosquito Coast of the title. There, he sets up his own town, building "civillisation" from scratch, but his extreme ideals push him to the edge and endanger his family, and he becomes blinded by his vision, ironic as that sounds. This film proves Ford has range, he plays a wild-eyed, unstable man very well and all the while you still have a shred of sympathy for him even as he pushes the limit of what's acceptable for a father to do to his family over and over again. The location filming in Belize is gorgeous and you truly get a sense that you're off the beaten track and far from the known world, as it seems. It's also one of the last film appearances of Butterfly McQueen aka Prissy from 'Gone With the Wind'. I was watching the film with my mother and she said "hey, that sounds like the silly girl from Gone with the Wind" - and it was the same actress! Helen Mirren was great as usual as the hapless (and actually nameless) wife, pulled along for the insane adventure and loyal to her husband to a fault. River Phoenix's performance was also stunning and it is a huge, huge pity that he passed away so early on; he could have had a very luminous career as he clearly was a talented actor.
The film's tagline is "Nothing But a Good Time" - however, they seemed to put an emphasis on "nothing". And after a while, the "good time" effect began to wear off. The film was drenched in excess, an over-the-top pastiche of good ole' 80s rock music, joyously uninhibited but woefully unrestrained. The whole thing was painted with such broad strokes that it kind of kept the audience out. It's like hearing a party going on in the other room, occasionally peeking in, but never actually joining that party. The emotional scenes were very hard to get into, and there was no sense of intimacy in the character interactions. Julianne Hough was alright, she was a little whiny but I guess that's what they were going for, and she sings and dances good. The male lead, Diego Boneta, was odd. He's watchable, but very bland. You almost forget he's the male lead because of the formidable supporting cast. Everyone's talking about Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, and while he clearly made a huge effort, I think he was very miscast. Try as he might, Tom Cruise isn't a rock star, he's a movie star, an action hero, and there's a difference. His posturing and eccentric mannerisms felt very put-on, and while his singing was great for somebody who isn't a professional vocalist, it was too clean and lacked that rock star aggression the character was supposed to innately have. Catherine Zeta-Jones is always great, but I guess this kind of super-broad comedy isn't her thing. She's good with subtle, sexy, wink-and-blow-a-kiss parts, but as the zealous church lady intent on bringing Jaxx and all of rock music down, it became a caricature, and this one slightly more dated and offensive than the rest. Alec Baldwin was the standout - he was the one who looked like he was having the best time ever, and his singing is pretty good! He had great chemistry with Russell Brand, which culminates in a gloriously silly duet of "Can't Fight This Feeling". Mary J Blige, goes without saying, was the best singer of the bunch. Paul Giammati and Bryan Cranston were both underused as the slimy manager and the lecherous mayor repsectively, and seeing Cranston get smacked in the behind repeatedly takes more than a little dignity away from the actor. The music was good, but you do get that "over-produced cover" feel that Glee sometimes gives off, and a lot of the songs are truncated or mashups. Apparently, a number of songs from the stage musical are missing as well. I guess I had a bit of fun, but found it impossible to connect emotionally to what was being portrayed. Hairspray was a lot better because it had a sense of innocence and whimsy tied to its nostalgia, and an emotional thread running through it. The big finale in Rock of Ages was "Don't Stop Believing" (hasn't that song been overexposed enough?) and a line goes "and the movie goes on and on and on" - and I went "please, no." Thankfully, it ended about there.
Spielberg's movies have been my childhood bread and butter, films like Jurassic Park, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade helped make my formative years and have left something of an impact on me. For me, it's not so much the pioneering nature his films have left on almost every aspect of modern-day filmmaking from scoring to visual effects, but that Spielberg has managed to find the heart in every story and put it up on the screen for all too see. Such is the case with War Horse. It's a beautifully emotional movie in addition to being supremely well-made, a finely-crafted picture that has "modern classic" immediately written all over it. This at first appears to be one of those "a boy and his X" films, like Free Willy was "a boy and his whale" or Spielberg's own E.T. was "a boy and his alien friend", but this is actually "a horse and his boy", like the Narnia title. See, Joey the horse is the main character rather than Albert, the boy who owns and trains him. Joey is the red thread, a lens through which we see the best of humanity in the ugliest of times. Sure, many will say this film offers a gooey, sanitized version of the brutal First World War, but I feel Joey represents an innocence, a sense of intrinsic kindness that even the most horrible of conflicts cannot erode. While the German soldiers may act like the stereotypical villains portrayed in most war films, there are moments when Joey seems to touch them too, and then is a heartrendingly wonderful moment where the British and the Germans put down their guns, for one moment, to come to the aid of Joey when he is trapped in barbed wire on the battlefield. Jeremy Irvine in the lead role is a revelation, he has this old-fashioned "aw-shucks" quality to him in addition to leading man looks. This is a film that offers not what cynical movie viewers have come to expect of a war movie, but what, deep down, they really want.
This film surprised me. I've read many reviews about how the film starts off as a promising-ish comedy and then flounders into a romantically-charged thriller and yes, these reviewers certainly have a point. However, while the transition from comedic romp to intrigue-filled muddy waters was a tad jarring, it wasn't handled as poorly as it could have been. The film rides on Robin Williams and for most of it, he's right in his element, doing pretty funny (if tamer than his usual) stand-up, some material straight from his real-life routines. Robin Williams can easily be grating when he turns the hyperactivity up to 11 and bounces willy nilly about the screen but, believe it or not, he turns in a relatively measured performance here. There are moments when his character is serious, and it's clear that Tom Dobbs is a performer, an entertainer who isn't funny-crazy all of the time. Christopher Walken is also good as Dobbs' manager, he doesn't go over the top as he well could have and is actually the voice of reason. It's not his most memorable performance, but it isn't phoned in either. Laura Linney is quite believable as a woman who discovers something she shouldn't have and is plunged headlong into some unpleasant business, even if her subplot is the weak link in the film. In terms of political satire, it isn't very biting, astute or even extremely funny, but it's relatively entertaining to see Robin Williams doing his thing, and on the whole it's not that bad at all.
Iron Sky's big success is attempting to pull off its premise which is equally ridiculous and entertaining. Recalling old-fashioned "Nazisploitation" and sci-fi movies, the film revels in the sheer absurdity of the plot and tries to get the audience to have fun along with it. There are a few stupid but gut-busting jokes, however given how ripe for comedy it is the movie certainly could have used more humour. It's plain to see that this farce is a labour of love; even though the subject matter isn't serious, some serious effort was put into bringing it to the big screen. About 10% of the film's budget was donated by fans, and the opening credits reveal a myriad of other monetary sources. The movie looks great; the design of the Nazi moon base and the various spacecraft is quite eye-catching and the space battles are pretty fun to watch. However, having a long gestation period, the film's Sarah Palin analogue provides slightly dated and weak satire, and on the whole the film definitely comes off as more haphazard than your typical Hollywood production, but it's definitely worth checking out because it's certainly a fun ride.
2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth was one of the first films to hop onto the contemporary 3D movie bandwagon, and its sequel refines the family adventure flick formula the first one slavishly adhered to. Journey 2 is plasticky, silly and has a sort of theme park artificiality to it, but somehow that's all part of its charm. The movie mainly suffers from a case of "nothingspecialitis", but what little it has to offer is really not too bad. Dwayne Johnson is considerably better than Brendan Fraser was in the first film, and he's genuinely funny and likable here - in between bouncing berries off his pectoral muscles and playing the ukelele by a campfire, he handles the action beats as well as he should. Bonus points for being a very articulate action star when compared to the likes of Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Stallone. Michael Caine steals the show and he's one of those great actors who visibly has a lot of fun when he's in lesser films, and nobody can blame him for that. Vanessa Hudgens' archetypal strong-willed, beautiful lass serves only to provide limited amounts of eye candy for male viewers and perhaps as a gateway to adolescence in the vein of Princess Leia for many a young audience member - but other than that borders on grating. Josh Hutcherson is actually a pretty good actor, despite the contrived stepdaddy issues the script saddles his character with. The production design shines in certain spots - both the palatial interior and steampunk exterior of the Nautilus look great and while the CGI certainly isn't as good as what audiences have become used to, it does do the job. Best of all, it's an action-adventure movie families can thoroughly enjoy without worrying about gratuitous violence, profanity or sexuality - Vanessa Hudgens' cleavage notwithstanding.
This is "The Hunger Games", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and co-starring all the sophistication the 80s can muster - which is to say, none. It's shlocky and cheesy, but represents the guilty pleasure of 80s sci-fi action flicks at its "best". This is Schwarzenegger at the height of his steroid-pumped, one-liner-spouting best, accompanied by loud and kitschy action sequences. This is also probably the only time a Paula Abdul-choreographed dance sequence will find its way into an action movie. Richard Dawson is deliciously venomous as the crowd-favourite host of the Running Man TV show, which is good casting as he was hosting Family Feud at the time. The satire is pretty soft because the movie is meant to be dumbed-down, mass-appeal fare, and the relevance to today's reality TV-addicted culture is lost a little because of how dated everything looks. But there's no denying it's plenty fun, and there's the added appeal of seeing Arnold and Jesse Ventura, both destined to be elected governors, going at it - Ventura armed with a chainsaw to boot. "I'm not into politics, I'm into survival!" Yeah right, Governator.
It is often said that the scariest monster is the one you don't see. It probably doesn't get any scarier than the MEV-1 virus in Contagion, an uberbug that swiftly decimates large swathes of the population. The movie succeeds mostly because of its plausibility - the screenplay by Scott Z Burns is incredibly well-researched and realistic, and the first-rate cast brings it to life in admirable fashion. Director Steven Soderbergh's deft pacing makes sure the tension is at a constant high, and his depiction of mass paranoia is truly chilling. The movie is also brought into the 21st Century with a conspiracy theorist blogger played by Jude Law. The ending, which depicts the origins of the virus, is an especially spine-tingling note to end this brilliant thriller on.
As you've probably heard, this film stars active-duty Navy Seals. If it didn't, it is likely that nobody would notice the movie at all. The "stars" of the film are as much a gimmick as 3D. Thing is, 3D sometimes works. There's no denying the heroism of real-life Navy Seals, but there's a reason they're Seals and not actors. The plot is hokey and exists purely to show off the Seals and their equipment. The villains of the film are basically a lumping-together of every stock action movie bad guy: Russian terrorists, radical Islamic extremists and Mexican drug cartels. Under normal circumstances, this would have gone straight to DVD. This is baldfaced propaganda at its most shameless and sloppily executed. Yes, for what it's worth, there are a couple of good action scenes - but "Act of Valor" forgot the importance of the first word in its title.
This is a fun, lightning-paced techno thriller that douses the audiences in high-speed chases, gunfights, explosions and other hijinks, and doesn't give them a moment to think - which is all the better, because once the cinema lights go on, everyone will probably go "hey, wait a minute...". And after that thought, it seems evident that the bells and whistles and paranoia fuel serve only to disguise the fact that if given a closer look (like, say, an eagle would give), it quickly falls apart under its own weight. Not to mention Shia LaBeouf's incapability to carry to the film, and his non-existent chemistry with co-star Monaghan.
It's undeniably refreshing to see the marriage of a cheerful, optimistic "Life's a Happy Song" mentality with the old-school appeal of the Muppets, and it's a balance that this film handles flawlessly. Just when it starts getting a little sappy, the film jams its tongue firmly in its cheek. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are likeable to a fault, and Chris Cooper as the slimy oilman is unlikeable to a fault, and in-between the Muppets themselves go about doing what they do best - making audiences smile. The films also benefits from fantastic songs, including the familiar (The Rainbow Connection, The Muppet Show Theme), the popular (Forget You, Smells Like Teen Spirit) and new ones (Pictures in My Head is especially good, and Man or Muppet won an Oscar).
Playing like a low-rent "Salt", "The Double" is mostly derivative and not very interesting. Pretty much everything, from the cold war-leftovers plot to the teaming of veteran and rookie, has been done before, and done better. "The Double" does set itself apart in that the biggest twist is revealed pretty early on. The best scenes are the innocuous scenes in which characters nonchalantly interact with the big bad, unaware that he's the one they're after. Still, its two leads pretty much fail to carry the film almost completely. It's impossible to view Richard Gere as a cold, hardened badass, and Topher Grace becomes more annoying every second he's onscreen.
A surprising triumph. I didn't expect to like it this much - it looked like Transformers meets Rocky by way of rock-em sock-em robots. However, the biggest thing going for this film is how believeable the world of robot boxing is made. It sounds like the dumbest thing in the world, but the way the film sets it up, the audience can actually buy into it. There's the pomp and circumstance of big-league boxing (complete with product placement) contrasted with the gritty, anything-goes underbelly of illegal robot fighting. Hugh Jackman is actually pretty good as the jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold Charlie Kenton, and Dakota Goyo is a revelation, turning in a pretty incredible performance. Evangeline Lilly is little more than the perfunctory love interest, but she is easy on the eyes. My favourite character though was Tak Mashido, the brilliant but arrogant robot designer. The story does border on gooey, but in a good way - you probably didn't expect to be on the brink of tears watching a movie about robots punching each other. And it's a given that the robots look utterly amazing, a brilliant combination of animatronics and GCI that give the overall effect of something not unlike Jurassic Park. There's some heart beneath the steel after all.
A powerful piece of animation, "The Prince of Egypt" gets a lot right. It makes the Bible story come to life for younger audiences far better than those awful straight-to-video Christian childrens' cartoons do. It looks amazing and is one of Dreamworks Animation's best. The voice cast is exceptional, I especially like Jeff Goldblum as Aaron. The opening scene brought me to tears within the first minute, and this holds a special place in my heart as one of the first movies I saw in a movie theatre as a child. Also, the songs are amazing, benefitting from Stephen Schwartz's remarkable musical sensibilities and a good atmospheric score from Hans Zimmer, whose work can sometimes border on the generic. And unlike a lot of other "award bait songs" *ahem*MyHeartWillGoOn*ahem*, "When You Believe" isn't overly melodramatic or cringe-worthy.
In attempt to make the "average joes strike back" cliche more timely, Brett Ratner pits a rag-tag gang of condo employees against a ruthless ponzi schemer. The film is ultimately likeable and Ben Stiller makes his character fairly relatable. It is unfortunate that his chemistry with Tea Leoni never really pays off, though. Eddie Murphy is actually funny, but the standout to me was Matthew Broderick's Mr Fitzhugh, a mild-mannered guy on the edge of eviction. Alan Alda just isn't evil enough to truly loathe, and the film takes quite a while to get to the titular heist. But it does help that the macguffin, a vintage sports car once owned by Steve McQueen himself, is pretty cool - and add to that the fact that they have the hoist the car out of the building in the middle of Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade. It's not "Ocean's Eleven" (though both have Casey Affleck as a common denominator), not by a long shot, but it's good for a few chuckles.
After reading many bad reviews, I expected the worst when this came on as the overhead movie on my Delta Airways flight. However, I found myself really enjoying it in spite of everything. The main problem would appear to be Seth Rogen playing a superhero - but the way the character is written and the way Rogen plays him, it works just fine. The action sequences look fantastic thanks to Michel Gondry's keen eye, although sometimes signs of the movie's troubled development process leak through. I expected not to like Jay Chou as Kato, but he won me over with his earnestness and how hard he tried to sound good in English. Every credit to the Mandopop star, there. Christoph Waltz is always, always a good villain, but he doesn't get to do much here. James Franco steals the show as a drug kingpin who only appears during the prologue, to set up Waltz's Chudnofsky character. Above all, this has a good script. There are some good lines, some chuckles, and character, conflict, resolution and all that jazz. It may not be easy being green, but don't sting this one out yet.
I was a skeptic of how this would work out, the original being such a venerated classic, and remakes getting a bad rap. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Striking a near-perfect balance between respecting the original and breaking new ground, "Kid 2010" is a masterpiece all its own. Emotionally affecting, profound and filled w...ith memorable and almost magical moments, the movie valiantly fights its way to the top.
The new story, with the young Dre moving to unfamiliar Beijing with his mother after the death of his dad, and learning kung fu from the maintenance man to defeat school bullies, could have been pulled off clumsily. However, it feels very realistic, mostly due to the shockingly fantastic performances.
Jaden Smith proves himself as an all-round excellent actor - handling the comedy, martial arts and drama with equal ease, not once breaking character and displaying remarkable focus and passion for the craft. Jackie Chan gives his best performance in a Hollywood film ever - given the chance to demonstrate genuine acting chops as the quiet, troubled, firm but kind master. And, he does show off his kung fu skills too, the 55-year-old sharp as ever. The two showcase remarkable chemistry as mentor and student, the relationship never once contrived.
All the other child actors, including Wenwen Han as the nice violinist girl Dre has a crush on and real-life Wushu champ Zhenwei Wang as the arrogant and dangerous bully are very good. Taraji P. Henson also anchors the film, and it's very easy to buy her and Jaden as mother and son.
The main thing I was scared of was the film becoming a postcard travel ad for China - there are several of the pre-requisite touristy vistas, but this never drowns out the inspiring and authentic tone. The movie cleverly avoids exoticising Chinese culture and never once does anyone sound like a fortune cookie.
This is a good one, I kid you not.