I have taken a week to collect my thoughts about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and I'm still not completely sure where I sit when it comes to this film. However, I can say that I do not dislike it. There are plenty of elements that I didn't like, but there are just as many, if not more, that I actually really liked. I ended up falling squarely in the middle. I neither found this to be a terrible superhero flick akin to Fantastic Four, nor did I think it was a masterpiece in the realm of The Dark Knight. It falls somewhere in the middle. Much like the film itself, the characters portrayed are very divisive in my mind. Batman, as played by Ben Affleck, might just be my favourite take on the character, as he is almost exactly as I had pictured him when reading The Dark Knight Returns. He is grizzled, worn, desperate and vicious. However, he also kills people without hesitation, something that even early in the comics, when he used guns, he was torn on. I'm not against this interpretation, it is just something that will need to be explored more thoroughly in the future. Superman is also hit and miss, as he is the most true to the comics visually, and his god-like status creates a fascinating arc for the film, even if it isn't dealt with all that well. With Superman though, what is interesting about him, isn't his emotional depth as a character, for he is supposed to be the unwavering beacon of hope for humanity, and he is never supposed to lose his faith, but it is supposed to be the problems he is faced with that shape his stories. Here, he is a man who loses faith not in just himself, but in humankind, something that just doesn't fit with who he is in the comics. The story is actually very interesting. At least to begin with. Superman should be held accountable for his actions, even when there is no one that can pass that judgement on him. Batman believes that he is the only man who may be able to eliminate the alien threat, and chaos ensues. The only problem is that Zack Snyder has no idea how to pace a film. We saw that with Watchmen, and we definitely saw that with Man of Steel. The first act is fascinating, but is basically all dialogue, and I could feel the attention of the audience wavering. The second act attempts to alleviate this problem by throwing in dream sequences, and this only further alienated the audience. The final third is one big action sequence, a welcome change of pace, except that it completely abandons the storyline of the first two acts. The climax of the film isn't what you expect it to be and it suffers for the change of direction. I seriously do think that Zack Snyder might just be the best visual director of our time. His images can directly be seen as direct translation of the comics from the page to the screen. However, the fight scenes in this film, barring one Batman rescue sequence and the final fight that brings the heroes together, felt tired compared to other Snyder films such as Watchmen and Sucker Punch. With all of this said though, there are some great elements to the film. Visually, as mentioned, it is beautiful. The characters are interesting to watch and interact. Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, was fascinating, as portrayed by Gal Gadot. Jesse Eisenberg played a bizarre version of Lex Luthor, but he was interesting nonetheless. I honestly didn't see some of the story elements coming, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. In the end, I want to watch the movie again, and that is the key factor. I enjoyed my time with the film despite all of its flaws. I wouldn't put this up there with some of the best Marvel films such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Winter Soldier, but as an alternative to The Avengers, I welcome this dark direction they have taken. My solution to the problem: pair Zack Snyder up with Ben Affleck as co-directors. Allow Snyder to do the art direction and action sequences, while Affleck takes responsibility for the editing, performances and script. All in all though, I'm giving Batman v Superman 3 out of 5 stars. Worth a look, if only because Batman and Superman are on the screen together for the first time. Sorry for the long winded review, but leave your thoughts down below!
Eye in the Sky (2015 film) is an average film, not doing any one thing particularly well, but is elevated by a subject that needs to be talked about. Drone strikes are a terrifying reality, and their use is something that divides groups down the middle. This film doesn't try and take sides here, presenting strengths to either side of the argument, but feels weightless because of it. There is no style or substance to the film, with director Gavin Hood using the same angles and shots repeatedly throughout the film. He doesn't have to create drama, for the idea of a drone strike on a terrorist compound with civilians within distance to become casualties presents enough dramatic weight for all other elements to fall by the wayside. The acting is strong, with great performances from Aaron Paul, Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman, but none of them have to stretch, as the script gives them very little to work with. You can predict where the story is going mere minutes into the film, but there is undeniable tension throughout. This is an effective thriller because of the gravity of the situation, but there is nothing worth noting here. I wouldn't recommend paying to see this one, but it might be a good rent down the line. 3 out of 5 stars.
Song of the Sea is quite easily one of the most underrated films on Netflix, and one which you should watch at the first opportunity possible. You have never seen animation quite like this. Every frame looks like a painting, and the wonder doesn't wear off, even by the end of the 90 minute runtime. Song of the Sea is an Irish folk tale, simple in its story, but powerful in its execution. Going in knowing as little as possible will make this movie all that more wondrous, for the imagination in the film is striking. The music, the voice acting and once again, the incredible art, all add up to an incredible movie going experience. This is a must see film. Seek it out, curl up, shut off all the lights and electronics and bask in its beauty. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Submarine is the first feature film from writer, actor, director Richard Ayoade, and it is clear to see why he has continued to have success both behind and in front of the camera. This is a coming of age story unlike any other you've seen before. Some may call it too quirky, but I found the lead character relatable, with plenty of moments where I saw myself in the scenarios that Oliver found himself in. I rarely audibly laughed out loud, but that isn't to say that the movie isn't funny, it was just so absurd that I found myself with my jaw dropped, instead of rolling on the floor. Oliver is in love with a girl in his class, but winning her over, while trying to get his parents to fall back in love proves quite a challenge. Ayoade has a lot to say with this film, and with a strong soundtrack, visual style and script, I can highly recommend Submarine. If you enjoy this, I also recommend checking out his second film, The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg. Submarine: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Little Prince is an adaptation of the French children's story, Le Petit Prince. The film divides its time between the stop-motion animation of The Little Prince, and the 3D animated story of a girl whose mother is trying to force her to live the life of a grownup. The two stories are both well told, offering messages to both children and grownups about what we can learn from each other. However, I found the two stories didn't mesh particularly well. The two messages weren't at odds with each other, but they didn't relate to each other in a way that I found cohesive. The stop-motion was also so beautiful that I found it hard going back to "reality" in the film. The story is deliberately slowly paced, but this may act as a hindrance, as this is primarily a child oriented film. Going up against movies such as Kung Fu Panda 3, or even the latest Pixar film, this may feel like a slog for the younger generation. I enjoyed my time with The Little Prince, and if you enjoy animated films then this will definitely be worth a look when it comes out next month, but I don't believe it will have the same hold that other animated films of late have had. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Tribe (2014 film) on paper sounds like a film that should be right up my alley. Long takes, a violent crime story, visual storytelling and a concept that has never been attempted before. Yet, when I sat down to watch the film, I found myself not only bored at times, but turned off by the decisions the director was making. This is the story of a boy who has transferred to a deaf boarding school, one that is overrun by a vicious crime ring. He is quickly pulled into their operations, dealing drugs, stealing and running a prostitution ring. The entire film is silent, as all of the characters speak with sign language, but there are no subtitles, meaning that everything is meant to be understood from the emotion and actions portrayed by the characters onscreen. I loved the beginning of the film. However, the film could have easily been cut down by an hour and still had the same effect. The director couldn't seem to be able to let go of beautiful shots. The first time we see a graphic sex scene it is shocking, and honest, and hard to watch. By the fourth time, it has lost all effect and drags on, merely making the viewer uncomfortable. The same goes for the plot points. There are only so many times we can watch the same thing happen over and over before we start looking at our watches. I understand that this was on purpose, adding to the idea of how far down the character has fallen into the rabbit hole. For me, however, it worked against the film. The ending was powerful, and redeemed the last bit of the film, but I still found as a whole that I wasted a fair bit of my time. It was an interesting experiment, with some effective camera work, brutal sequences and a concept not soon forgotten, but I wouldn't recommend this one unless you are interested in the process of filmmaking itself. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Zoolander 2 so far holds the honour of worst film of 2016. One of the many questions I had when leaving the theatre, something shared by my friends, was "how in the world did this film get made?" With so many talented people attached to the film, both in front and behind the camera, it is unfathomable how the film turned out as it did. The movie began funnily enough, getting a laugh out of its audience by killing off a certain celebrity, but from that point forward, it was all downhill. The plot was nonsensical, and not in the pleasant over-the-top way. The acting was poor from several of the actors who looked as if they were just phoning it in. Most mysteriously though, the characters that were so likeable from the first film were downright obnoxious. There is no saving grace here. My diehard Zoolander friends summed it up nicely, saying "it was so bad!" 1 out of 5 stars.
Jem and the Holograms was just as dumb and predictable as I expected, and it was exactly what I wanted it to be. Yes, the story could be summed up in a single sentence without leaving out details. Yes, the acting wasn't especially strong. Yes, it featured ham-fisted direction. But gosh darn it, this film had some of the best musical performances of the year and I'm still humming their debut single. Take a shy girl who is afraid to perform, put her on youtube, have her become an internet sensation and then watch as her band goes through the usual trials and tribulations. It has been done a thousand times before, and certainly better, but if you want to see a light hearted movie about a musical family that can genuinely sing, this one might be what you're looking for. I can't recommend it on a critical level by any means, but I had a good enough time that it falls into the "it's so bad it's good" category. 2 out of 5 stars.
Far From The Madding Crowd was an infuriating movie to watch, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed being maddened by. This is a love story that will have you shouting at your television, for the protagonist is just so clueless about love that you desperately want her to end up with the right person. For more than two hours, I sat with my fists clenched, sending messages back and forth with Stephanie, complaining about all of the things wrong with the film. I won't say whether she ends up with who I wanted her to, but in the end, I found myself oddly satisfied, and forgetting the pent of frustrations that had lingered leading up to the conclusion. It takes a good film to make me care so deeply about a character that I get pent up rage when she doesn't do what is best for her. All of the characters are fleshed out, with distinct personalities. And the cinematography. Oh, that sweet, beautiful cinematography. The acting is also worth noting, with a fine performance by Carey Mulligan as usual. However, fair warning to the feminists out there, this one might not be for you. While initially the protagonist acts as a strong independent character, she quickly dissolves into a lovestruck damsel. Again, this does work itself out in the end for the most part, but its worth noting. I can't recommend it wholeheartedly because it was such a frustrating watch, but if you don't mind a flawed lead character, this one might be worth a watch for all that it does right. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Room took me by surprise despite how much I was anticipating it. I was taken aback by just how involved I was in the fate of these two human beings that were trying to escape the four walls that trapped them for so many years. I didn't just feel tension because of their situation, I deeply cared for them as individuals. To say that Brie Larson deserves the Oscar this year for her performance would be an understatement, but just as deserving, if not more so, would be Jacob Tremblay.. I felt his fears, understood his excitement and longed for him to understand what was out in the real world. Quite often films brush past the children to look at the more complex emotions of adults, but that would have been a great disservice. Jack is the heart of the story, and seeing it play out from his perspective is far more interesting. We rediscover the beauty of our world in the two hour span of the film. The script is top notch, the performances beautiful and I find myself thinking about the film even now, days after seeing it. This may be my new film of the year. If you haven't already, take the time and watch Room. 5 out of 5 stars.
Paper Towns was a fairly faithful adaptation of the book by John Green, and for that reason, I found myself emotionally distant and bored by the proceedings. Full disclosure, I read the book and didn't like it. In some ways, I actually liked the movie better. I thought the ending was more satisfying, I actually liked the lead character and it had some funny moments without trying too hard. With that said, it lacked the mystery of the book, having to seriously shorten the amount of time it took the protagonist to work through the problems set before him. The acting was fine for a coming of age story, but the film did nothing to set itself apart from other teen romance movies. I couldn't relate to the high school drama taking place, nor the romances that were so unbelievable they made me laugh. It was still entertaining enough for me to get through, and it had a great soundtrack and cinematography. I personally just didn't connect with the source material. If you're interested in the film, do yourself a service and watch The Way Way Back instead. 2 out of 5 stars.
Anomalisa is either going to be a film that you completely connect with and leave the theatre emotionally fulfilled, or it will leave you feeling cold and distant. I was fortunate enough to go with someone that felt the former, but I definitely fell into the camp where the movie didn't connect with me at all. For me, the main character was such an emotionally distraught, broken individual, willing to do terrible things for his own benefit, that I couldn't relate. Yet my friend was able to find small details within the character that he found eye-opening and relatable. The screenplay by Charlie Kaufman is scarily realistic, to the point of being uncomfortable. Had the film been played by actors and not puppets, it would have been unbearable to sit through. As it is though, it ponders many questions about the human condition, relationships, finding yourself and being honest. I would never say that this is a bad film, but it certainly wasn't for me. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Bridge Of Spies continues the trend of recent films by Steven Spielberg that are masterfully shot and acted, but lack any sense of emotion or immediacy. Here is a story of a man that has to enter Germany as the Berlin Wall is being erected to broker a deal with the Russians to release American prisoners. If that isn't ripe for the picking, I don't know what story would be. Yet, I found myself looking at my watch several times, as the reality of the situation felt much more dry and clinical than what I had expected. This didn't feel like a dramatization, than a docu-drama. The film is elegantly shot, with low key lighting, cool complimentary colours and period accurate sets. Tom Hanks once again anchors the film with the necessary weight it deserves. Yet, in the end, I found that I took little away from the film and wouldn't recommend it. It is baffling to me that Spielberg was once the master of blockbusters, the master of period dramas, and lately he seems drawn to the minutiae, rather than the emotion of a story. Check this out of you really enjoy cold war pieces, but otherwise, I'm amazed this has been getting the awards attention it has. 3 out of 5 stars.
The Hateful Eight left me unsure of how I felt after leaving the theatre. In the end, however, I found that I had enjoyed my time with the film, but it is definitely one of the weaker Tarantino films in his catalogue. There is no reason that the film had to be more than three hours long. This is also one of the first Tarantino films where I haven't felt connected to any of the characters. They were all entertaining, but they felt more like caricatures than actual people. I never felt myself getting bored, but with that said, I actually found the movie predictable because it played out exactly how I expect a Tarantino film to play out. By the end, the over the top violence, betrayals and twists felt like a parody of his own works. I loved the subtle score, the lighting and the smart dialogue, but it just wasn't enough to warrant a place amongst his best works, or possibly even a second watch. If you enjoy Quentin Tarantino's other works, this one might be worth the time investment, but don't expect to be blown away. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Steve Jobs is a well made film, I don't think there is any doubt there. What is more in question though is the setup of the film. Based on a novel covering the same series of events, Aaron Sorkin has woven an entire career of one man into three separate days, and for better or worse, he manages to cover the faults and strengths of Mr. Jobs quite well. However, only covering those three events and squeezing of all of that drama into what feels like mere minutes leaves the film rather devoid of emotion. From the very beginning, I was enthralled by the film. The dialogue is sharp, the acting is top notch and the events themselves are of historical importance, but it doesn't all come together quite the way it was intended. It doesn't feel genuine, instead more like a mashup of ideas, throwing all of the characters and drama into the scenario as possible to build the story. Except that I didn't quite buy it. I believed these characters thanks to Sorkin's dialogue, I even believed that these events were just as important as Jobs would have you think. What I didn't buy was why I should care. Steve Jobs as a figure is interesting, but I wasn't sold on him as the centre of a movie. The story wasn't there to back him up. Unlike with Sorkin's efforts with The Social Network where he crafted a story around the figure, creating a grey image of all involved, this is very black and white. Now, I've been very hard on it, but I really did enjoy it, I just think there was something missing. The cinematography was pleasant if a bit stark, the direction was serviceable if a little devoid of style, and as mentioned before, the performances left me wanting more. I wanted to love this, but I just walked away liking it. This should have been a sure thing with the team up of Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin. Instead, I'm anticipating their next films and not relishing this one. 3.5 out of 5 stars.