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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunshine

How would we cope under the most extreme circumstances imaginable? That is the question posed by Danny Boyle's latest offering, and the answer seems to be that anybody can be pushed over the edge, it is just a question of what and how much it takes.

Danny Boyle seems unable to settle on a genre specialty, but it also seems that whatever he turns his hand to he can make work (with the exception of romantic comedy - A Life Less Ordinary anyone?). In his latest, the sun is dying, and we join the 2nd attempt to try and restart the star by delivering a nuclear bomb to kick-start it. Having been alone in space for the past 16 months, the eight-man crew is approaching its destination, but nerves are starting to fray. Then they pick up a signal rom the ship that made the first, unsuccessful, attempt. Inevitably they go and investigate, and problems ensue. When the inevitable disaster occurs, jeopardising the mission, we begin to see how people deal with extreme circumstances, and how their sanity is affected, in different ways. Elements are recognisable from Alien, Solaris and Event Horizon, and the film certainly benefits from all of those influences. The claustrophobia, the understated technology, the dark corridors, the unseen menace, all recognisable but effectively used.

This is not a typical science fiction per se. There are no aliens, no space battles, and no ultra-advanced technology on show. Instead Boyle chooses a more philosophical tangent, leading to questions of exactly what defines humanity, and the value of a single life weighed against the future of mankind.

The casting is excellent, with many recognisable but no particularly famous faces, the biggest names being Batman Begins' Cillian Murphy and Fantastic Four's Chris Evans. This lack of star names, combined with a cast of only the eight crew somehow makes the loneliness and the feeling of being a huge distance from home with a long way to go seem even more real. We really begin to feel with the crew as they try to hold it together long enough to complete their vital mission. Cillian Murphy in particular is a piece of inspired casting, as in many of his roles he has always appeared on the very brink of insanity anyway, so he has the close-to-crazy act down to a tee.

The CGI of the sun is extremely impressive, particularly considering the relatively low budget of the film, and the simple but intense story has viewers on the edge of the seat virtually from first act to last. The suspense is built gradually but extremely effectively, to the extent where you can feel your sanity heading the way of the astronauts' as the conclusion approaches with increasing speed.

Overall a very effective study in what a tenuous thing sanity is when faced with huge odds and a great threat. Thrilling, gripping and thought-provoking, and another genre nailed by Boyle - now if only he could crack that pesky rom-com!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Layer Cake


I went into Layer Cake with no expectations. I didn't like the whole cake idea, it was okay to a certain extent I guess. I did however enjoy Lock Stock and Snatch. Layer Cake is a different kind of animal.
Whilst Lock Stock and Snatch were more comedy based, Layer Cake has this more serious approach, no names flashing on the screen, identifying any of the characters, so you have to pay extra special attention!
There are several flashback/sub plots which don't particularly help as they can confuse you if you're not paying attention. There were many characters introduced to you in a short space of time and then suddenly going off at a tangent involving some of the 'slightly minor lead' characters.

You can see the influences of other directors in Matthew Vaughn's end product. The direction style is good and the montage is solid.



Daniel Craig gives a good solid performance. His narrative does help place him well in the movie. His narrative in the beginning is definitely something that draws you in. The rest of the performances are pretty good. Tamer Hassan has a minor role. After seeing the major role he had in The Football Factory, he can act, he should have possibly had a larger character. His character does not shine across as that 'demented' as that in The Football Factory. Sienna Miller was underused also, which was a shame.


Although there are some problems with the story, Matthew Vaughn has made a respectable movie. This being his debut, he has nothing to be ashamed of. As long as he works on the clarity of the plot more, he will have no problems securing full audiences. Layer Cake gives a good reputation to British films instead of the some rubbish released over the last few years.

I enjoyed the ending, it was good, I'm not going to say anything about it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Despicable Me :D



First of all, I would like to thank Liza for recommending this to me for reviewing, her kids love this movie, so do I.
Since I reviewed Toy Story 3, it's rather knee-jerk to compare Despicable Me to the animation giant. But you shouldn't. Despicable Me doesn't have the heavy, dark tones of the final Toy Story and, therefore, is probably better suited to smaller children. As with the best family films, though, adults will love this story as much - if not more - than their little ones.
It's so fluffaaay I'm going to die :-D
Minions :)

And here's why. It is incredibly rare to see a single dad portrayed in such a positive light. While Gru has an admittedly "bad" vocation, there are unbelievably sweet moments between him and the three children, probably aided by the juxtaposition of tiny girls to a large, "bad" guy.

The nepotistic supporting cast from Saturday Night Live (even Jack McBrayer works for Tina Fey) is fantastic. One pleasant surprise was from Gru's minions: they did not steal the show. Not that they should've- the little yellow guys were funny and entertaining, but one would expect from the previews they would ultimately be the best part of the film... and I'm happy to report that wasn't true.

Despicable Me is LOL funny throughout, warm, goofy, and will not disappoint. I'd say you're a despicable parent if you don't take your kids to see it immediately.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

American Psycho





'American Psycho' is NOT a slasher movie. It is a depiction, a fantasy if you will, of the life of modern man and his place in society.

Nothing is enough. Money, sex, social stature, there is always someone else who has more and everyone else expect from you to try harder for even more.

This movie is about eliminating competition the easy way. By killing your opponents. By eating your sexual partners. By destroying everyone around you.

'American Psycho' retains the balance between this psychotic state, a chilling thriller and a very funny movie.

The scenes that show Patrick playing music for his guests are absolutely hilarious, as he comments very seriously on records by artists such as Whitney Houston, Phil Collins and Huey Lewis & the News. The funny thing is that he chooses the most commercial or sold out records of these artists, to explain how much better they are compared to their previous, more artistic work. Another message of the state of the receivers of commercial art.

You can analyze 'American Psycho' for hours. It can be perceived both as a deep and a fun movie. Even if you don't like the story, you will love Christian Bale's excellent performance.

Enjoy.

10/10   ..... "I have to return some videotapes" <3 Drowsy

Friday, March 18, 2011

Toy Story 3


As a 20+ year old, i have always enjoyed Pixar's movies. I cannot label them as cartoons as there is nothing cartoonish about their stories; they have heart, meaning, feel-goodness with the right touch of class & humor. The formula is A1 yet without feeling overused.

Toy Story 3 is once again a hit. We are treated to our favorite familiar characters and reminded again why we like them so. They are heroes who share the same values of team spirit, bonding and camaraderie. No one gets left behind. The technical aspects are again flawless. 


This is one series of sequels i do not mind seeing for Toy Story 4, 5, 6...this is coming from someone who adamantly refused to watch Toy Story 1 & 2 and UP..up and until last week i forced myself to..and i was so blown away by all three i have never been gladder to be proved wrong.

Watch this, and Pixar, don't stop making movies for us.





Fight Club



I am, unfortunately, not one of the faithful Chuck Palahniuk readers who had read the book BEFORE they saw the movie. I, however, couldn't wait to read the book after seeing this film. I've read the book 5 times since and seen the movie more times than I can remember.

Simply put, this movie changed my life. Not just on a personal level (on which I will not comment here except to say I'm now a major Palahniuk fan) but also as a movie-watcher. I view movies differently after seeing this movie, because it broke down doors.


This movie is literally the first time I ever came upon something that, at first sight seemed incredibly stylish, sophisticated and entertaining. The plot lured you in before turning you upside down, the acting was nothing short of perfect (has there ever been a more memorable character than Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden?), the music, the screenplay (based on what is now my all-time favorite book), the lighting, the pacing, the everything! Virtually everything about this movie took my by surprise, save for one man.

David Fincher, director, was probably the only reason I 

went to see this movie in the first place. His work on 'Seven' and 'The Game' had me excited to see what he would do next, but I came to this movie expecting a stylish flick that offered a good plot and hopefully some good acting but what I got was so much, much more.

Honestly, how many times have you seen a movie that, with every viewing, gets even more complicated yet so simple that you can't help but laugh. Every time I watch this movie I notice something new about it, such is the depth of what is on the screen. Then there's the tiny issue of the story of Fight Club, penned by Chuck Palahniuk (who has one of the most fertile imaginations around. Don't believe me? Read 'Survivor' and weep!) the story is nothing short of incredible, a pure shock-value social commentary on the state of the world at the end of the century. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll do all the clich├ęs but most importantly you'll identify with every single thing on the screen.

This movie rates as one of my all-time favorite movies and, simply put, if you haven't seen it yet then quit wasting your time OnLine and get to the nearest videostore! 

The Shawshank Redemption






I have never seen such an amazing film since I saw The Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank encompasses friendships, hardships, hopes, and dreams. And what is so great about the movie is that it moves you, it gives you hope. Even though the circumstances between the characters and the viewers are quite different, you don't feel that far removed from what the characters are going through.


It is a simple film, yet it has an everlasting message. Frank Darabont didn't need to put any kind of outlandish special effects to get us to love this film, the narration and the acting does that for him. Why this movie didn't win all seven Oscars is beyond me, but don't let that sway you to not see this film, let its ranking on the IMDb's top 250 list sway you, let your friends recommendation about the movie sway you.


Set aside a little over two hours tonight and rent this movie. You will finally understand what everyone is talking about and you will understand why this is my all time favorite movie.

Batman Begins



Batman Begins is a well told story of the origin of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale). It covers a lot of the same ground as Michael Keaton's original Batman, but goes much further in depth in many factors of his creation. It goes into great detail about subjects such as how he got his costume, what exactly it is. Same goes with the Batmobile. We also find out why he chose to be bat-like.

One of the more interesting aspects here is how it shows Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache), and how he molded Bruce's life and instilled good judgment within him, a point which is misunderstood about him by most people he comes in contact with. Thomas, too, teaches Bruce valuable lesson, such as "We fall so we can learn to pick ourselves up". This is pretty close to the theme of the movie or motto Bruce Wayne lives by. The resemblance of the father & son is pretty good, too.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the training Bruce Wayne endured becoming "invincible". Bruce is trained by Ducard (Liam Neeson) in many ways like a ninja (The concept of Batman IS similar to a ninja). He is taught many valuable lessons in this temple and is shown no mercy. Eventually, we even see his first real enemy as a superhero/vigilante.

Although I am not positive as to how true to the comic book this movie is, I am sure it took a few liberties, as did Spider-Man. Most of the small examples I have noticed are for the better and make for a good story. The Batmobile is more believable as an expensive armored vehicle that the military would not spend the money on than a juiced up Corvette (or whatever that was). Same with the Batsuit.

Katie Holmes is excellent as Rachel Dawes, a D.A. who is not afraid to go after the big villains in court. Also worthy of mentioning is Michael Caine as Alfred the butler. I do not believe they could have found a better man for that role, although I could not get the image of Caine as Austin Powers' dad out of my head when he was on screen.

Finally, in my opinion, Christian Bale makes a much better Batman than the three recent previous ones in Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Something about him makes Batman darker and more mysterious. Hopefully, DC Comics and movies have learned from their mistakes and we will not have to worry about Batman picking up a sidekick in this newest installment of the Batman series. 9/10

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The King's Speech

This is a biopic about how King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, overcame his stuttering problem. Widely considered by all but his father unfit to be king, George is reluctantly thrust unto the throne and into the spotlight after his brother is forced to abdicate. Overshadowed on the global stage by powerful orators like Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, the King relies on the help of a little-known Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue to find his voice and courageously lead his people into the most devastating war humanity has ever faced.

This is a powerful, hilarious and deeply moving story, told against the backdrop of a critical juncture in modern history, of the emergence of a deep friendship out of a professional relationship between two men who would otherwise never have socially interacted. The screenplay, written by David Seidler (who also wrote Tucker: The Man and his Dream), is excellent. The dry British wit is hilarious. I was literally slapping my knee during some of the scenes. Tom Hooper (Elizabeth I) does a superb job directing this movie. The buildup to the climactic finale is skillfully executed and prompted the audience to erupt into spontaneous applause. (Apparently, this also happened at the Roy Thomson Hall premiere.) Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) does a fantastic job as Lionel Logue and Colin Firth (A Single Man) is excellent as King George VI.

I saw the second public screening of this movie at the Ryerson Theater during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Tom Hooper was present to introduce the movie. He was joined by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush after the movie ended for a brief Q&A.

It turns out that David Seidler also had a stuttering problem as a child and drew inspiration from the king's struggle. Early in his career he wanted to write a screenplay about it. He dutifully asked the Queen Mother for permission. She agreed but told him "not in my lifetime". Little did he know she would live to be 101 and he would have to wait another 30 years.

Another interesting tidbit we learned was that near the end of the shoot, the crew finally located one of Lionel Logue's grandsons, who just so happened to live about 10 minutes away from the director. They got access to Lionel's diaries and correspondence and managed to incorporate some of it into the script.

This movie is an unqualified must see.

TRON: Legacy

TRON: Legacy has been one of the most promoted films of the year. With a monstrous budget (around $200 million) and reports saying that Disney is worried that the film isn't tracking as well as they'd hoped, the initial thought process from these rumors is that the TRON sequel will open to a disappointing first place weekend much like the most recent Chronicles of Narnia film. As of this writing, I haven't gotten around to seeing the original film. I wanted to, but thanks to Disney it was pretty much pulled from every retail store imaginable whether you wanted to rent or purchase the film at least until next year. The urge to see TRON: Legacy didn't really sink in until around the time the third trailer was released. While the Daft Punk score has interested me from the beginning, TRON: Legacy just seemed like another overrated piece of eye candy that fan boys were getting excited about. The thing about first impressions though is that they always have the opportunity to be wrong.

The glorified TRON sequel is getting a lot of mixed reviews from most movie critics. The problem seems to lie within the way the film is written and its screenplay. To tell the truth, you don't see a movie like this for a great story alone. The special effects are the main attraction and boy, do they deliver. The way programs disintegrate when they're disposed of, the light cycle battles, airborne chases, and the many fight sequences in the film are just a small example of the dazzling display of some of the most exceptional and impressive special effects ever seen in a cinematic feature. As with most films that have been presented in 3D lately, the 3D effect probably isn't necessary to enjoy a film of this magnitude. It'll be just as entertaining if you save yourself the extra $4 and see it in a conventional theater.

The writing didn't seem as bothersome as much as other reports say. It certainly wasn't the best, but it seemed like enough to add just the right amount of depth to TRON: Legacy and give it more of a background than most films revolving around spectacular special effects. There were a few lines that bothered me. The main one being when Alan first visits Sam and Sam says something about his father probably either being dead or chilling in Costa Rica...or both. Wait, what? It just gives you this Weekend at Bernie's flashback with Bernie being replaced with Kevin Flynn's limp carcass. Some of the lines Jeff Bridges muttered just made him seem way too much like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, which seems awesome but really has no place in the TRON universe. Saying things like, "Check this out," or, "Radical, man," followed by that stoner laugh of his really didn't help matters much. The weak points of the way the film is written are rectified with the way the film never lets your attention out of its choke-hold. You'll be drawn to the screen the entire film; that's practically a guarantee. The right mindset for a film like this can make or break your opinion of the film. If you don't have inflated expectations and don't expect much more than impressive special effects, then you'll probably walk away pleasantly surprised. I actually had a similar mindset during Avatar, which seemed to also suffer/take advantage of groundbreaking special effects being more consuming than the story and had a similar result.

The cast is about as developed as can be expected. The real star of the film is Garrett Hedlund, who does a pretty decent job of carrying the film and being generally astonished that not only was his father alive but the extraordinary world he always talked about actually existed. Jeff Bridges' performance isn't nearly as strong as his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, but he does have his moments. He seems to shine during his reunion with Hedlund and his strongest scenes are with Hedlund alone while being rather flat the rest of the time. Olivia Wilde's Quorra is interesting, as well. There's an intriguing twist to her character, but her fascination and curiosity revolving around the world Sam is from is what gives her character heart. Michael Sheen did seem a bit too over the top at times as Castor, but that may have been the point. The biggest surprise was seeing Cillian Murphy cameo. Given his strong outings in films like Sunshine, Peacock, and Inception, it just left me wanting to see more of his character in future installments assuming this film does well enough to warrant a sequel (or sequels).

TRON: Legacy is certainly the special effects extravaganza it's been made out to be all year. Its fantastic effects certify the sequel as being the most visually appealing film of the year. While the writing of the film isn't quite as polished as the special effects, there certainly seems to be a good enough balance to keep the film afloat and deliver an extremely entertaining way to kill two hours. As far as eye candy goes, TRON: Legacy is an incredible and all around awesome experience.

Battle: Los Angeles


As war movies go, ho-hum. Saving Private Ryan set a good example of how a war movie should look like, and still directors don't achieve that level, even if they are inspired by it. I can't quite figure out what's holding them back. It does work.

But as alien invasion movies go, it's the most "grounded." You won't find any brain-sucking aliens in this movie, or U.S. presidents in fighter jets, or Microsoft viruses infecting the alien mothership, or aliens suddenly catching the flu and dying off soon after the attack. Because what I mean by being very "grounded" is the opposite extreme. It's not a movie about aliens, it's a movie about Marines at war, and while they are fighting aliens, there is nothing particularly "alien" about them when it comes to battle -- they're just tougher to kill.

Therein lies the reality-flaw: aliens able to travel from another star (presumably) and swarm our planet shouldn't be using ballistic firearms, they'd be using something a lot more deadly and advanced. Gas? Lasers? Chemical / viral drops? And even if they went ballistic, the shells ought to at least be armor-piercing and heat-sinking. While the alien machinery was tough to beat, it wasn't impossible, and it didn't seem to possess technology that was in advance of ours. In fact, they didn't even seem to have gravity control, but rather their ships flew rocket- style. That's just so 50's, isn't it?

There are many complaints about the shaky hand-cam effect in Battle: Los Angeles. Really? NOW everyone's complaining, after a hundred jiggling action movies in the last 10 years that have driven me to CVS upon leaving the theater? Even as a shaky-cam movie, it wasn't nearly as hard to watch as just a few minutes a Michael Bay movie.

It's like all the cameramen these days have Parkinson's.

And yet despite that I gave it 7 stars out of 10 here, which is pretty high, and I suppose I did that for a couple of reasons.

One, it was the most superior alien invasion movie that's been done to date. It divorced itself from the ideas behind Independence Day, War of the Worlds (remake), The Day the Earth Stood Still (remake), and Skyline, and tried to deal out all-out destruction without any over- ambitious science fiction ideas or save-the-earth-from-humans propaganda. I appreciated that, although I wished there was more "Sci-Fi" and less "Marines." Aliens struck a much more satisfying balance between the two, and had better plotting, better pacing, and a cooler foe.

Two, while the movie didn't take a lot of time to develop characters, the actors were strong performers that felt tangible and empathetic. I felt I was there with them, and that's where a lot of genre movies fail. They felt more like real people than actors playing people from a memorized script.

But as a science fiction movie about alien visitation (not necessarily war), it's way, way down on the interest list. District 9 was much more compelling.