JT Film Review

Haywire (2012)

Haywire Review
Review #168

3/5 star

Director – Steven Soderbergh

Cast – Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

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Steven Soderbergh is known for his “one for you, one for me” approach to film making. He’ll do the pop-oriented Ocean movies, but then turn around and do a movie like The Girlfriend Experience or Solaris, which can’t possibly be expected to be blockbusters. I like that approach. It gives him an opportunity to use some top-grade talent and production values in movies that might not otherwise have gotten them.

This one was definitely a “one for me” movie, at least in terms of box office returns, and partly in style. I wonder if the studio thought it would be one for them… It is a flat-out action movie that doesn’t stop for breath, and it has an all-star cast full of upcoming and established stars. So why wasn’t this a blockbuster? Why did it just appear for two seconds on our radar, and then disappear?

Well it’s a bit of a mess. The story is told in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, and it just confuses the hell out of us. The minimal dialogue doesn’t help either. Perhaps the intent with the flashbacks was to add something to keep us interested, in a movie that is distinctly single-minded. Not a bad idea, I suppose. But what we want to see from this movie is a) Gina Carano kicking ass, and b) all the other awesome actors getting their asses kicked. That would satisfy us, especially coupled with a smart script (which this is, no doubt) and a stylish director such as Soderbergh. But the convoluted flashbacks often leave us wondering who is who and where we are.

Soderbergh is a cold director, or seems to be from the movies I have seen, and a lot of his artsy choices here don’t really mesh with the material. This is a stylish B-movie at heart, and it shouldn’t really be spiced up too much. It loses its edge, and more importantly it loses its focus. This a cup of strong black coffee, but it’s been served to us in a tea-cup. Something is off.

Thankfully the casting director was on her toes for this one, though! Fassbender, McGregor, Tatum, Banderas, Douglas, Paxton. Already I want to see this movie. They are all great, with Ewan McGregor being a stand out as Carano’s slimy boss. I love this guy. I love that he will take on smaller roles, and deliver strong performances in everything he’s in. Perhaps the smaller roles are because he is not as much of a box office draw as he once was, but I’ll see this guy in almost anything.

OVERALL

Haywire is a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s skeleton is a perfectly stylish B-movie, but confusing plot elements and Soderbergh’s impersonal direction threaten to topple the whole house of cards. If there’s anything we need in an action movie its clarity, and we just don’t have it here. We end up with a movie that feels too pulp to be artsy, yet too artsy to be pulp.

Having said that, I am curious to see what this movie would feel like on a second viewing. If we have a grasp on the plot would we be able to appreciate it more? I would argue so. The cast is enjoyable, and Carano certainly impress us with her fight scenes (which are excellently choreographed). I might end up giving this movie a second shot, but I doubt most people would want to. I can give a cautious recommendation as a curiosity, but not much else.

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“Haywire” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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November 27, 2012 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas Review
Review #167

4.5/5 stars

Director –  Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer

Cast – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon

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This is a helluva ambitious movie. Helluva.

Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, it is an adaptation on the 2004 novel of the same name. It consists of six intertwined stories, ranging from the 1800’s to a post apocalyptic future. There are physical links between the stories… letters written in one time period are read by a character in another, a character in one story is worshiped as a deity in another, that sort of thing. The lead actors also all appear in several stories as characters with different ethnicities and even genders.

But the real link between the stories is thematic. The point of the movie is that people’s actions have consequences, and choices we make “reverberate through time”, etc. It’s not a new theme. It could easily be quite corny too, but success is all in the execution.  Cloud Atlas avoids being cheesy,  (more or less), and I would even describe it as inspiring. It easily avoids being boring, too, which seems odd as it’s almost three hours long.

It is definitely what I would call a “lie down movie”, though; one of those long films you can go to in a near-empty theatre, lie down on the seats, and let the movie wash over you. (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was another one.) The movie intrigues us, draws us in, and gets to the point in due time. It drags a bit in the middle, to be sure, but not for long. It’s six stories are all interesting in one way or another. They weave together well, despite the occasional jarring transition, and the actors all commit to their roles one hundred percent.  If you don’t like any of the stories, there’s a new one coming along in a couple of minutes!

I would like to touch on the ridiculous accusations of racism that have surrounded the movie. Many white members of the cast appear in a couple of stories as ethnicities other than their own. This is done with prosthetics and makeup, and has drawn comparisons to black-face. Some people are asking why actors of the ethnicity portrayed were not hired to play those parts, and normally they would have a point. But in a movie like this, where actors of all colours play different parts, the accusation fall flat. You can not say putting Hugh Grant in vaguely Oriental makeup is racist when the next scene features Halle Berry as a white British woman. Context is key here, and there is no racism here. No chance.

OVERALL

Cloud Atlas is huge, audacious, and effective. It’s six stories complement each other wonderfully, and the actors are obviously into the spirit of the thing. It sounds so flippant to say it, but Cloud Atlas is inspiring. It might confuse some and alienate others, but it is much more approachable than some are saying. Highly recommended.

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‘Cloud Atlas’ on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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November 21, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall Review
Review # 166

4/5 stars

Director – Sam Mendes

Cast – Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Bérénice Lim Marlohe

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Daniel Craig is Bond for the third time in Skyfall. We get the feeling that he’s always wanted to portray Bond as a tired, broken man; and the 23rd Bond movie gives us that with gusto.

We start off with a Bond who is believed dead, but who is really taking some quality time on some un-named Caribbean island. He is a wreck of a man, at least compared to what he once was. Trouble at MI6 leads him back, where he finds his skills have grown very rusty indeed. When undergoing re-assessment Bond finds he can’t hit a target the way he used to; he strides forward angrily, firing round after round. Not one hits a vital area.

But duty calls, and perhaps out of misplaced trust in him, M decides to throw 007 back into the field despite his dismal aptitude scores. He is after terrorist mastermind Silva, a man who has already blown up MI6’s headquarters, and seems to have a strange amount of knowledge of the inner working of Britain’s top spy program. But when it comes down to the final count, we see it’s not skill so much as will that makes the difference here.

Never before has a Bond movie had such a cast. We have the regulars, Dench, Craig, etc. But add onto that Fiennes in a great “English gentleman” role, Bardem as a great villain who sets the perfect tone, Finney as a reliable old caretaker (rumoured to have been planned as a winking role for Sean Connery), even Whishaw as a young and sly Q. This is a cast that screams prestige, and throw in Sam Mendes  as director and we really have something to raise the eyebrow. The movie is well paced, has great action, and even throws a nod to the Bonds of the past. This is the old man’s 50th anniversary, you know.

In retrospect, Bond has come along way from his beginnings in many ways, yet in many other ways he has not. Women can now be field agents, though they may prefer a desk job when all is said and done. 007 still sleeps with every skirt he comes across, and he still has to (inevitably) watch the villain blow them away. He doesn’t have as many cool toys as you may expect, though one particular car makes a crowd pleasing re-appearance. But the most fundamental way that Bond has changed in the last decade or so is to have an added sense of world-weariness. He kills, puns, and fornicates his way across the world, but you get the sense he doesn’t enjoy it as much any more. People argue that Fleming’s books always had a bit of this, but the movies have generally had a more light-hearted approach.  That is gone now. Bond is hewing closer and closer to Bourne.

This isn’t a particularly ground breaking comment, to be sure. But you have to wonder how long this trend will continue. Skyfall has a wonderfully low-key third act, that works very well despite a slight loss of urgency. When a terrorist is seeking M and Bond, they sneak off to a semi-abandoned mansion in Scotland. They take the fight to a remote area, to gain the upper hand and to cause less damage. (This is a wonderfully unexpected turn of events. Since when has Bond cared about collateral damage?) This is not the Bond we expect, and it works, but for how long can it? The reason it works so well is that it flies against convention, but I find myself hoping that what we have here is a strange side route, to be relished for its uniqueness; then we can jump back onto the main road for some “kiss kiss bang bang”, as they say. Indeed, we get a sense of that direction from the final scene. Moneypenny is at her desk, M is in his (!) office, Bond is being handed a dossier marked “Top Secret”, and we even have the coat rack back. Has the Bond train been diverted to its more fun and swashbuckling main line? I must admit, I hope so.

OVERALL

Skyfall is a bit of a departure from the usual Bond tone, but not too much so. It has the perfect tone for what it’s trying to do, and manages to wring a decent bit of fun out of the whole thing. Craig is settling wonderfully into his role, and the rest of the cast is superb. The final scene leaves us waiting with bated breath for the next one, and in the end, what more can we ask for. Skyfall is one of the better Bonds, made all the more interesting by its (comparatively) low-key third act. Bring on Bond 24!

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‘Skyfall’ on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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November 14, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in Black Review
Review #164

4/5 stars

Director – James Watkins

Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Cirian Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White, Roger Allam

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Hammer is back! The infamous production company most famous for Christopher Lee’s Dracula series (and a myriad of other lo-fi British horror films), has been dormant since the 1980’s. About five years ago the company was resurrected, and makes its return to the gothic horror films upon which they made their name.

The Woman in Black is also an attempted resurrection of sorts for its star. Radcliffe is of course best known as the star of the recently finished Harry Potter films, and now presumably wishes to cast that mantle aside. A period-ish piece about supernatural happenings may not seem like a complete 180 turn, but there we have it. Is Radcliffe a bit young for the role? I would argue that yes, he is. But Radcliffe is a very competent (if slightly wooden) actor, and he carries the film capably. Any doubts we may have about his character’s motivations are down to the script, and he actually does more than we could have hoped to help.

But does the movie work?

I think it depends on how you approach it. If you expect a slow burn of a horror movie, with nuanced characters and a solid story, you will be a bit disappointed. However, if you are in the mood for a traditional haunted house movie with tons of jumps and chills running up and down your spine, it will most certainly provide them. And that word, “traditional”, perhaps describes the movie the best. While the cinematography and effects are all shiny and modern, the story would have fit perfectly in the good old Peter Cushing era, or even any of the old Hollywood horror pics. Our lead hears a bump upstairs? Up he goes to investigate! A sunken face appears at an upstairs window? Up we trot!The whole movie is in that tradition. If you can go with it, you will be in for a good time.

(Is there something particularly scary about things being upstairs? Well maybe it’s just this movie… we’ve seen plenty of scantily clad leads going into creepy basements.)

Adding some welcome dramatic weight to the whole thing are veteran Brit’s Cirian Hinds and Janet McTeer. We also see Roger Allam pop up briefly, just to reaffirm the Britishness of the movie. Janet McTeer is the standout I think. Her character is a bit of a mess. She has seen some bad things, has had her son taken from her by the titular spirit, and believes herself to be possessed. She is tortured, and we see it. Radcliffe is supposed to be a tortured soul as well. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that perhaps.

OVERALL

The Woman in Black is a fun traditional horror film. It features performances that range from solid to excellent, and definitely offers its fair share of scares. Dspite a strangely out-of-place ending, it is a very effective movie. Highly recommended to horror fans.

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“The Woman in Black” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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October 22, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Horror, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review
Review #161

3.5/5 stars

Director – Timur Bekmambetov

Cast – Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That’s quite a title. It catches the eye, and does half of the advertising for you. You know right away if you’ll enjoy the movie, whose plot is also perfectly summarized in the title. The president hunts vampires, there you go. The vampires, of course, decide to fight on the side of the south because slavery provides them with cheap, available food. Bring on the boom-boom-pow.

I have to admit that I had a great time watching this movie. While it is tempting to describe the movie as “so  bad it’s good”, I will resist. That term has always bugged me… It implies that despite a movie being very bad, it was enjoyable. While I understand where the term comes from, surely if the movie was enjoyable, it was good! Now I understand that it means that perhaps the story was ludicrous, or production values very poor, or something along those lines. But still…

This particular movie certainly has a ludicrous story, but the production values aren’t that bad. The characterizations are almost non-existent, but wisely actors were cast who could bring a strong sense of character to underwritten roles. But it is the gung-ho attitude and ballsiness of the movie that make it so enjoyable. During one particular fight scene, a vampire starts throwing horses at the hero. Throwing. Horses.

That right there should tell you if the movie is for you or not.

OVERALL

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a gutsy movie that doesn’t cease to entertain. I honestly didn’t expect to like the movie at all. Maybe it has to do with who you see it with, but I had a ball. Just “check your brain in at the door”. Whatever the hell that means any more.

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“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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September 25, 2012 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Guard (2011)

The Guard Review
Review # 152

4/5 stars

Director – John Michael McDonagh

Cast – Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Laurence Kinlan

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The Guard first came to my attention because the director, John Michael McDonagh, is the brother of the director of one of my favourite movies, In Bruges. That movie also starred Brendan Gleeson. My expectations were up, and I hoped for something akin to the dark humour and bleak tone of the former. While it definitely retains a dark sense of humour, the tone doesn’t seem as consistent, or as defined.

Of course, it is a bad habit (of which I am constantly guilty) to judge a movie merely because another one did something better. And while this isn’t as sharp as In Bruges (by a long shot), it is still a good movie. To be good rather than “Great” isn’t a horrible thing.

Plot wise, we follow Brendan Gleeson’s gleefully un-PC Irish cop (or “Garda”). He has been partnered with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle), who is in Ireland to hunt down a gang of drug traffickers. In accordance with cop movie tradition they are two very different people. Gleeson is “unconventional”, while Cheadle goes by the book. Gleeson doesn’t mind making snide little jokes to Cheadle about his skin colour, and Cheadle has to try to learn to take them as a joke, as they are meant. Their relationship isn’t as “buddy cop” as a Riggs and Murtaugh, but the elements are there.

Brendan Gleeson is the standout in the film, of course, as he usually is. With his dry wit, cheeky jokes, and general orneriness, he creates an enormously fun character. It is a joy to watch Don Cheadle’s FBI agent do his best to keep up. He doesn’t succeed of course, but that’s the point of his character. He just sits by, rolls his eyes, and tries to catch Gleeson when he decides to come back to Earth once in a while.

The trio of drug traffickers are played play Mark Strong, David Wilmot, and Liam Cunningham. Again, poor Mark Strong, doing the villain thing. You can’t deny, he’s good at it. Here we get the impression he doesn’t like the job he finds himself doing. He’s disgusted by bent cops, and wishes for a special relationship. We don’t find him sympathetic, though, he sneers his lines out in a delicious way. He really is one of the best villain actors I can think of.

All in all, the best I can do is reiterate that importance of Gleeson’s character to the movie. As the main character of course he carries a lot of the weight anyway, but the uniqueness of the character he creates can not be under estimated. He is the heart of the movie, and the success of the ambiguous way in which the movie ends can be attributed mainly to him. A strong actor with a strong script is a wonderful thing to see.

OVERALL

The Guard is a dark, witty, and unique movie, whose success is due mainly to Brendan Gleeson’s wonderful turn as Sergeant Gerry Boyle. This is not to underestimate the other actors, Cheadle in particular. For those who enjoy an ambiguous ending, dark humour, and smart writing, this movie is for you.

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“The Guard” on other trailers:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 15, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Crime, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Troll Hunter (2010)

The Troll Hunter (Trolljergen) Review
Review # 151

4.5/5 stars

Director – André Øvredal

Cast – Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, Otto Jespersen, Urmila Berg-Domaas, Hans Morten Hansen, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg

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“Found footage” movies are an interesting little sub-genre, in my opinion, and one that has birthed several notable films lately. Of course there was The Blair Witch Project, but more recently the Paranormal Activity series, [REC], Chronicle, and Cloverfield. This shaky, “documentary” technique give the viewer a great sense of immersion in a world. The world becomes one that we seem to live in, rather than one we are just presented with. You feel it more. It immerses you, and I like that. The Troll Hunter is not as shaky in its camea work as Cloverfield, and I like that too.

Is it just me, or do most “found footage” movies follow a similar basic premise? They all feature a monster or alien being, the effects of which a young person/group of young people have to deal with. [REC] had zombies, Cloverfield had that big alien crab/spider thing. There’s the Blair Witch, of course.

The Troll Hunter has trolls. Big old trolls, the design of which is inspired by old Norwegian and European fairy tale illustrations. The story is not new… An small student film crew are investigating a man suspected of illegally killing bears, but once the talk to him they realize the truth is more sinister. It’s fun too; even the students have a bit of wonder on their faces (mixed in with the fear, to be sure), when they stumble upon a skinny troll as tall as a tree, and looking like a woodcut brought to life. Though the kids are more stumbled upon than stumbling; those trolls are huge. And as they stumble around northern Norway, there are more to be seen. Are there ever… The striking poster image(see above) comes from the final sequence of the movie, and it’s just beautiful.

The trolls themselves are the highlight of the movie, I think. They are of ingenius design, purposefully made to look a bit unreal. They would look out of place in Middle-Earth, for example, with bulbous noses and shocking hair. They look a cross between the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are and the dwarves from Snow White. The special effects work is mostly seamless, though there may be a strange bit of physics work at play from time to time. With a small budget though, what else can you expect?

I do not mean to just compare this movie to others, that would do the film a disservice because it is quite unique in many ways. It is scary when it needs to be, but quite fun in general. It plays with our expectations, and goes farther some times than perhaps it should, but it is all in good fun. See the scene where the students talk to a man in charge of power lines in the north of Norway; power lines that in the film’s universe also act as fences to control trolls. “Doesn’t it surprise you that the power lines just go in circle?”, a student deadpans. “No, not really…” The student nods to the camera, and we gues the line must have been improvised, and we grin.

OVERALL

The Troll Hunter is a fun and spooky little movie, that takes itself just the perfect amount of seriously. I plan on rewatching this movie very soon, it’s one of the best movies I have seen in a while. A real diamond in the rough, it will please found footage fans and the average viewer just as much. Highly recommended.

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“The Troll Hunter” on other websites:

IMDB —– Roten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 13, 2012 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thor (2011)

Thor Review
Review # 150

3/5 stars

Director – Kenneth Branagh

Cast – Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard

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– followed by The Avengers

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Thor continues Marvel’s journey to the intensely awaited The Avengers. Directed by Kenneth Branaugh (of all people), the movie follows the titular arrogant supernatural being/god as he finds himself banished on Earth after a brash attack on a similarly supernatural group of beings called Jötunn (or “Frost Giants”). To regain his superhuman abilities and the respect of his father, Odin, Thor must find humility and lose his arrogance. Or something like that.

Anthony Hopkins appears as Odin, Colm Feore plays the Frost Giant King, and Stellan Skarsgard mentors Natalie Portman’s young and ambitious scientist. I get the feeling that a cast like this would not have been possible without Kenneth Branaugh’s involvement as director. And seriously, how the hell did they get Mr. Shakespeare to do a superhero movie? In interviews Hopkins and Branaugh constantly mention the “Shakespearean themes” in the story. Well, there is a squabbling royal family, I guess that counts.

Released just months before Captain America, there was a lot riding on the success of the two films. Imagine if they both tanked and hadn’t found an audience, especially as The Avengers had already been started. Hundreds of millions of dollars would have been lost. But it wasn’t that likely, was it. The question remains though, could they find a way to make the films work?

They did, for the most part. Thor finds himself mingling with already introduced characters such as Agent Coulson, numerous references are made to Iron Man and other future Avengers, and the tone (on Earth anyway) is kept as realistic as we have come to expect. There may not be a huge amount of chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, and the script gives them even less to work with, but it does get by, and in a fairly pleasant fashion.

Thor is best looked at as a part of a whole, that whole being the Avengers franchise. It serves to introduce both the character of Thor and his villainous brother Loki, and also the concept of supernatural beings as superheroes. Up to this point in the Marvel-verse superheroes are the result of serums (The Incredible Hulk and then Captain America), or super-suits (Iron Man), so to introduce gods into the equation seems a little off. All in all the movie meshes itself in well to the established continuity, and that is really all it wants to do. A more unique story would have been welcome, but what we have here is done well.

OVERALL

Thor is fairly unremarkable, though the special effects and most of the visual design is great. The script holds back the movie, which, while solid and workmanlike, likes to dips its toes in the pool of cliché once or twice too often. It is best seen as a build up to The Avengers, and as such it does what it is expected to.

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“Thor” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 5, 2012 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Superhero, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games Review
Review #148

3.5/5 stars

Director – Gary Ross

Cast – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Amandla Stenberg

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I watched The Hunger Games with the same enjoyment with which I would eat a hotdog. It was fun, a little meaty, but probably would have been a lot more enjoyable if I was ten years younger.

Based on the best-selling young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in a slightly dystopian future, where all twelve “districts” of a future nation (implied to be America) are required to sacrifice two “tributes” each year to fight in a televised fight-to-the-death. The tributes are to be between the ages of 12 and 18. The winner’s district apparently receives extra food, though I was a bit blurry on this point. Tributes are lauded and celebrated as celebrities, the survivor more so. They are built up in the public eye through media events, they seek sponsors, and train for a brief period of time before set loose in a large forest. The forest’s edges are cordoned off, and a laser-like dome/grid covers the whole area, as the Game Master monitors (and occasionally interferes with) the game. The main characters, Katniss (female) and Peta (male), are from a poor district. While Katniss is an excellent shot with a bow and has good survival skills, Peta is without a doubt in over his head. It was good to see that reversal of the usual gender dynamics.

I must admit that the tributes age took me aback a little, once they, you know, started slicing at each other with swords. Even within the group, it was a little bit disturbing to see a large, muscular 18-year-old hacking away at a young nerdy looking kid. Nothing was explicit, to be sure, but perhaps that makes it worse. It was very effective, which was good… I guess. It would have been easier if I could accept the premise that a society would both permit and even flock to such a gruesome spectacle. The vague explanation about “keeping the border districts in line” just didn’t really fly with me… I think as a younger person it would have gone down easier, they would accept the premise quicker. Seeing people your own age get cut down has a different effect. That’s something of a youthful fantasy as well, finding yourself alone against the odds, fighting to the death. Those questions didn’t quite leave the back of my mind, but the movie is not really aimed at me. It is targeted at teens who have read the Hunger Games trilogy. They will get more from it.

All this is not to say that the movie is not solid. It is very well made, and even has some sly little things to say about celebrity, pop culture, and reality TV. The beginning is especially engrossing, but once we reach the capital city to be prepped for the games, the movies start to drag slightly.

The final third of the movie consists of the game itself, and drags a bit as well. When action scenes do happen though, they are brutal and merciless, if a bit too “shaky-cam”. These kids mean to kill, and they are as brutal as the society that forces them to. I just wish that perhaps the movie had been as brutal with the targets of its satire. I love it when reality TV gets a little poke!

OVERALL

The Hunger Games is a solid and respectful film. It is a bit too long, but is impressive when it counts, and is anchored by excellent performances, both from the younger ones (like Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) and the veterans (Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland, etc.). Tucci looks like he is having a ball here, and I have yet to see Woody Harrelson give a bad performance. He’s a joy to watch.

So, while readers of the books may get a bit more out of it, this is a solid movie that is rightfully managing to attract a large audience. Certainly worth your time, but don’t be expecting anything revolutionary. Just sit back and enjoy.

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“The Hunger Games” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 4, 2012 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Carter (2012)

John Carter Review
Review # 146

2/5 stars

Director – Andrew Stanton

Cast – Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Cirian Hinds, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, James Purefoy

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After Brad Bird’s excellent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the bar was set for Andrew Stanton. Another prominent Pixar director who was making the switch to live action, Stanton had found success with his Finding Nemo and Wall-E, two little films you just may have heard of. His entry to the live action realm is John Carter, an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi book A Princess of Mars. Featuring a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars, the book is a widely loved and admired piece of work. It is a pity that the movie is set to be anything but. Critics have been lukewarm at best towards it, and it has been savaged by the industry for its alleged massive budget. I doesn’t look to be gaining much of it back, either. Even comparisons to Ishtar have been made. Ouch.

Maybe the whole situation was just made worse by Bird’s excellent film preceding this by mere months. It built up expectations that in the end just couldn’t pay off. While Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was witty, fast, and delivered exactly what it promised, John Carter is dry, derivative, and dull. Very, very dull.

The key issue is the writing, frankly. It’s expositional, stiff, and all about plot. We can’t get good characterization if every line is “We must get over there!”, or “The good guys have the blue flag, the bad guys the red!”. Several different Mars factions are shown, from humanoids to 9-feet tall four armed aliens. None of their motivations are extremely clear. Mark Strong heads one group, so they must be the bad guys. Poor Mark Strong, you do something well and that’s all they’ll hire you to do…

It doesn’t help that Taylor Kitcsh is miscast as the titular character, and growls out every line as if imitating Christian Bale’s Batman voice. “I am JOHN CARTER!” The strange voices aren’t limited to him though; Lilly Collins has an affected British accent that comes and goes with every other line. James Purefoy and Dominic West come out unscathed, as do the special effects team. In fact the special effects are excellent. The production design and the effects are without a doubt the best thing in the movie. The 3D is pointless though. Even Stanton has said he didn’t really want it or like it.

OVERALL

John Carter is dull, muddled, and at least half an hour too long. Characterization is flat and uninteresting, and while it does have a couple laughs and half way interesting moments (the sequence near the beginning where John is repeatedly arrested is a sign of where the movie could have gone), the rest of the movie is dry as dust. Not recommended for any but sci-fi addicts.

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TRAILER

 

“John Carter”on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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March 15, 2012 Posted by | 2 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment