Posted : 1 year ago on 10 September 2013 03:08
(A review of Rush)
Perfect. Ron Howard gives the "Apollo 13" historical treatment to one of the greatest seasons in Formula 1 history, 1976. The acting is amazing, the racing scenes are possibly the most thrilling ever filmed, and that true story is of course, a great one.
If you don't know anything about Formula 1, this film explains exactly why the sport is the best in the world in 2 hours. If you love formula 1 you will already know every single scene and line in this film, like I did, and yet you will be extremely pleased by this masterful portrayal of history! 10/10
Posted : 2 years ago on 15 September 2012 03:45
(A review of The Thieves)
Basically this could be the next episode of the Oceans series, except the cast is a collection Chinese and Korean movie stars. If you are not familiar with them, this movie will sometimes drag on as various actors joke around and have fun on screen, while the plot drags to a slow crawl. Then there are the occasional flashbacks to explain different characters' motivations in the present. Its often frustrating to be constantly interrupted like this in the midst of a complicated heist to rob a casino, not to mention the various double-crosses each of the many characters are planning behind the scenes.
Having said that, I'm sure the reason that The Thieves is Korea's all time box office champion is because the interactions between the star actors is much more amusing if you really know them well. There are some awesome action scenes that rival the likes of Mission Impossible, and the humor does actually work some of the time, even with subtitles. It doesn't hurt that the cast is full of eye candy as well. But overall, the film would have worked much better if there was about 30 minutes shaved off.
Posted : 2 years ago on 9 September 2012 06:29
(A review of Cloud Atlas)
The Wachowskis join forces with Tom Tykwer and overhaul the meaning of the word Epic! Kudos to all the filmmakers for adapting this famously "unfilmable" novel in such an inventive way. There are SIX separate timelines that switch after every scene, but instead of the plot, the narrative continuity follows the theme of the film. Once you clue in to that overall theme, it is no longer confusing when the story jumps from a runaway slave in the 1800s to a post apocalyptic future battle between some of the last humans remaining on earth.
All this audacious style and structure makes Cloud Atlas a curiosity to say the least, but the film is lifted to the realm of "Masterpiece" by the all-star ensemble cast. This impressive collection of actors fires off amazing performances like the Expendables 2 fires off high caliber bullets. I mean this will long be considered one of the greatest acting clinics ever filmed, and a high point in some already outstanding careers, as the end credits alone are astonishing to watch.
Overall this is a movie that transcends the simple elements of stars and plots and special effects, and boldly assumes to take the cinema to another level of storytelling, much like Avatar took film to a new level of technology a few years ago. The ambition, the technical brilliance and the passion that was put into this film makes it one of the great epics of our time.
Posted : 3 years, 2 months ago on 21 June 2011 03:41
(A review of Senna)
Formula 1 is the ultimate sport. First, you have to have a brilliant athlete, with superior reflexes, an ability to endure high levels of stress, a creativity that allows him to outsmart his opponents, and absolutely no fear in the face of mortal danger. Second, you have to have a team of genius engineers who have just a few weeks to design machines that are as sophisticated and advanced as the latest military fighter jets. Finally, the athlete has to be able to work with this team of engineers to adjust the racing vehicle to a level of perfect harmony between man and machine! All of these elements, and a touch of luck, have to come together to win a Formula 1 championship.
Ayrton Senna made all of this look easy by winning 3 Formula 1 championships in 4 years. This film shows us many different Formula 1 characters, from fellow drivers, to media types, to team members, all praising the talent of the young Brazilian driver who dominated the sport in the early 1990s. We are shown various clips as Senna rises up from Go Kart racing, to his early days of over-performing in a weak F1 car, and onward to his move to McLaren Honda in his prime. This is where the story gets interesting, as every F1 fan knows. Senna's rivalry with the other great champion of that era, Alain Prost, is examined in great detail, and thankfully Prost himself is allowed to speak in his own defense about their many clashes.
Despite the amazing subject matter - Senna is easily one of the most loved athletes who ever lived! - the film really doesn't flow at all. Unfortunately, instead of simply allowing the events to unfold visually, we have to constantly watch several talking heads explain every event in the greatest detail. Watching Senna gracefully fly around a racetrack, and then interrupting this for two or three people to explain Senna's driving skills, is really the kind of thing you would expect from a TV production. For a feature film, you would think there was plenty of time to edit together a bit more amazing archival footage, and a bit less talking head footage. It's not that these experts aren't impressive, big name F1 insiders, but it is simply inherently boring to watch a person sit in a chair and talk.
Overall, the story of Senna's amazing career, his epic battles with the "villain" Alain Prost, and of course the drama of his horrific death in front of 100s of millions of TV viewers, is all plenty of material to make this documentary fascinating. Just don't expect anything more visually innovative than a typical athlete feature from any sports network pre-game show.
Posted : 3 years, 3 months ago on 20 June 2011 03:07
(A review of Super)
It would be easy to simply dismiss Super as the cheap, indy cinema, not-very-cool, Kick Ass wannabe that it appears to be. Easy but incorrect. Super asks the viewer the same question as Batman, Watchmen and Kick Ass, "What would happen if regular people took it upon themselves to become masked heroes?" Despite this premise, even those three films allow for impossibly powerful characters. Just look at Batman's wealth, or "Blue Penis Guy's" powers, or even Hit Girl's fighting skills. Super only allows for a regular person to don the mask and tights, which takes the level of realism to places the viewer may not really want to go!
Dwight Shrute... I mean Rainn Wilson plays the enraged man who has been dumped by his junky wife in favor of her drug dealer. This event - and possibly the years of pranks at the hands of Joker Jim Halpert - causes Wilson's character to "go Batman", or "Bat-shit crazy", as we would call it in the real world. He creates a costume, ruthlessly beats bad guys with a wrench, and even does his crime fighting research at the local comic book shop. Wilson is convincing as the borderline madman because our expectations allow him to play his character for laughs at the beginning, and as we slowly realize his intense dedication to crime fighting, we begin to question if he is actually the hero or the villain.
This philosophical question is studied from countless angles in the film. If it's OK to send someone to intensive care for mugging a woman in a wheelchair, without judge nor jury, is it also OK to similarly beat someone for cutting in line at the movies? How is one man justified to judge who is good or evil anyways? Would he be more justified to do so if God himself came down to earth and motivated him to do so? And just how far down the path of evil would a person have to go in order to defeat an even bigger evil?
That last question brings us to Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon's characters. Page is the comic book store clerk who becomes Wilson's sidekick, and Bacon is the drug dealer who stole Wilson's wife, and thus becomes his "arch enemy". The two are compelling characters because there are times when you have to question if Page's enthusiasm is actually a sick blood lust, while the supposedly evil Bacon character actually shows mercy occasionally, and even attempts to rationalize his evil acts as "unavoidable". Both performances, like Wilson's, are careful to tread the line between comic book "over the top" characters, and disturbed real world individuals, depending on your point of view.
Your enjoyment of Super will also depend on this point of view. As a comic book movie it is clumsy and horrifically bloody, as the characters compensate for their lack of any fighting skills, by brutalizing each other with skull cracking head traumas and multiple gun shot wounds. As a realistic study of heroism, the film is much more fascinating. If you are willing to look beneath the surface violence, and think about the actual difference between good or evil in society, this film may be in the back of your mind the next time you watch Batman or Spiderman gracefully knock out yet another evil henchman.
Posted : 3 years, 3 months ago on 20 June 2011 04:28
(A review of Green Lantern)
Just to show you how much Hollywood is in love with the trendy "Comic Book Movie" genre, we now have the not-so-well-known superhero Green Lantern getting a luxurious (rumored) $200+ million budget! With all this money on the line, the film is presented as straight up origin story, and lacks any real surprises.
We've recently seen Ryan Reynolds flex his acting muscles in Buried and his sucking muscles in The Proposal, but "the impossibly handsome one" is tailor made for this particular super hero role. Fortunately Reynolds brings some vulnerability and a touch of humor to the character, so the audience actually will be able to tell him apart from the army of CGI creatures. Blake Lively is the other standout in the film, mostly because she is blessed with a well written role as Green's romantic interest. In addition to being the predictable damsel to be rescued, she actually gives Green some pep talks and helps him overcome his fears. Other performances are played as straight up villains and sidekicks.
Martin Campbell's directing is well paced and actually makes good use of the MASSIVE amounts of CGI. Although most of the film contains special effects, they do actually look somewhat convincing (at least in the 2D version), to the point that they are actually impressive. The film is directed more like a regular action movie, instead of the recent trends of comic-inspired flourishes like Scott Pilgrim or Nolan's style of ultra-realism.
As for plot, we have the standard origin story. The guy gets his super power, he learns about his power, he has self doubt, some enemy threatens his planet, the hero finds some new resolve and defeats the enemy. Let's face it, anyone who has seen their share of comic book movies, can spell out the entire plot before they even see the film.
The banality of the Green Lantern story exposes the weakness of this film, especially in comparison to the more philosophically interesting and emotionally intense plot lines of the recent X Men reboot. We simply have a god-like hero fighting unimaginably powerful enemies. If there is still room in the cluttered universe of comic book movies for a righteous defender of justice, with a knack for special effects eye candy, then Green Lantern is as good of a bet as any superhero. If you need some psychological depth and cinematic style in your comic book films, then you may want to skip this one and watch that Dark Knight Blu Ray again.
Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 14 March 2011 09:05
(A review of Taxi Driver)
Taxi driver is the opposite of Ben Hur! Martin Scorsese was at his best with this film, and not yet concerned with chasing his elusive Oscar. The director had come from a documentary background, and in this film he stuck to his roots, allowing DeNiro the freedom to become his character as he filmed him with minimal interference. The result is a brilliant American film that mixes French New Wave shots with Wellesian angles and carefully structured sets with improvisational acting.
The cast is terrific at maintaining natural performances that ground this film in the True New York, not the traditional Hollywood New York with dance numbers and horse carriages. The images the audience sees support this realism by showing the dirty, dangerous side of the city, rather than glamorous tourist attractions. When we see Travis Bickle complain to a political candidate riding in his cab about all the scum on the streets, we know exactly what he is referring to, because by then we have already been dragged down into his world.
Is Bickle a traumatized war vet, or a born psychopath? Does he hate people in general, or does he simply not have any concept of how to connect to others? So many questions arise from our examination of this character, and thus Scorsese prods us all to reflect on society itself, and our own place in it. Do we all have a little Travis Bickle in us? Since this film came out, we have certainly seen our share of ordinary people reenact Bickle's final shoot out with the gangsters. Except in the real world, the targets are usually family members, classmates and co-workers.
This is a remarkable essay on violent behavior and a milestone in the American movement away from the Hollywood studio machine towards the modern Hollywood, where uber-directors like Spielberg, Tarantino and Cameron run the show. With all those different ways to approach a viewing of Taxi Driver, I would recommend it for any person who really loves movies because above everything else, that's what Scorsese is really about.
Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 14 March 2011 08:35
(A review of Troll Hunter)
This movie is surprisingly not about mentally challenged internet troublemakers that mock suicidal teenagers, it's about actual mythological trolls. They eat rocks and Christians, they turn to stone, and they are huge.
The film uses the "found footage" gimmick to give a Cloverfield/Blair Witch kind of perspective to the story. The set up is, a group of film school students decide to film a documentary about an infamous bear poacher in the Norwegian wilderness. Needless to say, this character turns out not to be a bear poacher, but a troll hunter, hence the name! As the documentary crew discovers, his title does not imply that he tries to get dates with Snooki in Jersey, but that he actually hunts down giant trolls in the middle of the night and kills them. As the crew and the troll hunter warm up to each other, this mysterious man reveals all the ups and downs of his career to them.
Of course the found footage contains many troll hunts and the special effects are convincing enough to be entertaining. There is not much of a plot as the group drives from troll to troll for some half-baked reasons. The characters are portrayed as realistic people. There is a touching moment when the troll hunter describes himself as some sort of mass murderer, when one of the young filmmakers suggests that he is Norway's greatest hero. Once in a while the man does show that tiniest bit of admiration towards the creatures that he relentlessly slaughters for a living, kind of like Reggie White admired some of the Quarterbacks he slaughtered.
The Troll Hunter is a pleasant low budget surprise in the same sort of way that Monsters or District 9 were. Overall the film feels more like a documentary than any kind of monster movie. It's interesting enough to enjoy, and simple enough to follow even if you hate foreign films, but probably not a movie you could watch over and over.
Reading a review is hardly necessary for a film of this nature. Let's face it, if you were able to watch the trailer for 2 hours, then you would have had the same experience as seeing the whole movie. There are random gunfights and explosions, dramatic news footage from various televisions, and soldiers you will never bother to care about.
The plot is simple and familiar. Aliens invade earth's major coastal cities, and as you would expect, the Marines are immediately sent to fight them. These armor plated aliens have about the same weapons as humans, so its possible for the Marines to escape an ambush, or to have a fair firefight with the creatures. Luckily for our Marines, the aliens have apparently spent all their scientific resources inventing space travel and never bothered with nukes or any weapon stronger than a grenade. And you thought the Nazis were stupid for invading Russia without winter clothes! Basically these beings just walk around with giant missile launchers that can blow up cars, instead of wiping out entire cities with their UFOs like in "Independence Day".
Oddly, with such a bunch of weak invaders, the earth still gets beaten down severely until our hero, "Sarge" Aaron Eckhart, gets into the melee. The reluctant leader of the soldiers we follow throughout the film, Eckhart plays the quiet "lead by example" veteran. His performance is decent enough, but he is handicapped by the dialog, which is mainly rah rah military gibberish straight out of "300". The other actors are just anonymous cannon fodder, not much different from the aliens themselves. You will hardly care who survives or who dies.
The directing is extremely weak. The "shaky cam" is overused and sabotages any hope of decent cinematography by making everything blurry and incomprehensible. Seriously, Cloverfield looks like an Ozu film compared to this! I doubt that doing about 10 shots of tequila and then being caught in an actual ambush by mysterious aliens with unknown weapons is even as confusing as watching this movie. Having said that, the special effects do look convincing in this kind of drunken haze.
Overall this isn't even a real narrative film, but rather a series of military battles much like a typical war video game, except with dizzy toddlers controlling the cameras. Between the messy battles there is a lot of military babble and rah rah speeches. The biggest thing missing from this film is fun. There is no humor at all, and everyone is stoic and resolute the whole time. Thus without any sense of fun, this film even fails as spectacle.
Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 11 March 2011 09:51
(A review of The Seventh Seal)
As every movie lover knows, this story about a knight playing chess against death is one of the essentials of world cinema. The so-called "dark and depressing" film is actually much more hopeful and humorous than it's reputation suggests.
The knight himself is understandably obsessed with mortality, the nature of God and the meaning of life, since his chess game has the highest of stakes. The Knight, Antonius Block, and his squire encounter many characters along their journey home from the crusades, each one usually presenting new themes and subplots to be explored. Not only is the Black Plague wiping out the population of Block's homeland, but this has caused widespread religious fanaticism, moral decay, and various other forms of panic throughout that medieval society. In terms of historical significance, Bergman made this film as an examination of not only medieval European society, but also the 1950s cold war paranoia caused by the Soviet discovery of nuclear weapons. Despite those gloomy themes, the main characters are generally warm, funny and caring of one another. While this could have evolved into an angry indictment of humanity, Bergman actually goes the opposite direction, as he suggests that even in this darkest of times there is still good to be found in the world.
Technically speaking this film is perfect in every way. There are countless images that are iconic in the film world, and the acting is flawless all around. Since Bergman is considered one of the greatest directors who ever lived, and this is one of his defining works, I will simply agree with all the praise already heaped upon this film instead of repeating it endlessly.
As for recommending it, well let's face it, if you want to pretend to know anything at all about the art of motion pictures, then this is one of a handful of films you absolutely must see, whether you want to or not. But who wouldn't want to after all?