Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Year Long Remembered: 2014 in Film Part 3

With the overall look at the year now out of the way along with the best and worst its time now to start delving into the final lists of the year.

And in this 3rd part I want to talk about my surprises, disappointments and regrets of the year and boy oh boy there are some big ones to talk about in each of those categories so lets get to the chase and dive right in.

Disappointments of 2014:

Oh dear oh dear there were some major disappointments this year for me, 3 major ones in particular.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: This is my third pick for this list and this was a film that I was really excited to see beforehand having enjoyed the first Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield in 2012 but alas it had to get caught up with the School Holidays here in Australia and as a result I had to wait until the US got it before I could see it.

And the wait sadly was not worth it and the main reason that was is because of the script, frankly it has too much going on as it was wanting to build that cinematic universe but it forgot the fundamental tale of Peter and Gwen and that great chemistry between them was just thrown away like so much else of this film.

And in a way I am reminded of the 1983 film Two of a Kind which was the reunion picture between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and like that film this one felt like it was more interested in everything else rather than the central chemistry and Columbia Pictures is now paying a very heavy price for its meddling with this great character to fit a formula that doesn't work.

2. Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit: This was my most anticipated film of 2014 along with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 and the Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and it came out in January, a very weird feeling.

But alas it was also very disappointing as I'm such a fan of the early Tom Clancy novels with this character (The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games are great reads) and the 1990 film version of Red October is one of my very favorite films but this new one is just a repackaged, retreaded and tired and so very average.

And by that I mean nothing feels at stake here (Red October dealt with the potential 3rd World War against Russia, here it's just an economic crash ZZZZZZ), the action feels very tedious to watch (Sir Ken Branagh is not an action director despite his good work on Thor in 2011) and the cast just sound bored (Chris Pine was a good choice for Jack but he's given nothing to work with same with Kevin Costner.)

But this is the new PG-13 Hollywood at work in this film: Don't go too far, don't be too risky with the violence and just go through the archives to find a easy to market villain otherwise we risk offending vital markets and with these sort of high energy action pictures where the heroes DON'T wear tights or a mask (Halle Fucking Lujah) it's not good enough and again like with Amazing Spider-Man 2 just because this sort of approach works elsewhere doesn't mean it can be tailored into a one size fits all approach.

But as disappointing as those were, this one just made my heart sink.

1. Interstellar: Coming in at number 1 on this list is Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi epic Interstellar.

The reason I found this the most disappointing was that this was a big film I was very excited to see (I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan) but whilst I was sitting in my seat in the cinema watching this film I just felt my heart sink as it was going on and when it was over I just said to myself "This did not live up to my expectations."

And that is a shame because this was a very ambitious project but Nolan tried to do too much and while he excels at that dark toned hard edge filmmaking he gave us in the Dark Knight he's not so good at the more emotional melodrama that Spielberg and Cameron can do well and the mix of the two tones at times is very jarring which again is very sad.

But that's the disappointments out of the way its now time to talk about the surprises of the year.

3. August Osage County: This was the first film I saw in a cinema this year and going into it I did not expect much apart from a typical family drama.

Boy was I wrong as I was really surprised by how much effect it had on me when I walked out of it because if you have ever gone to an uncomfortable family gathering where the relatives start fighting and one has a bit too much to drink or too much on their mind to say well you will be reminded of that and not in a good way as was the case with me.

2. Grudge Match: Now this was one I did not expect anything from apart from just Stallone and De Niro doing bad parodies of their iconic boxing movie roles.

But I was wrong as I had a good time watching this film mainly due to Alan Arkin who is almost always good value in a comedy and though this one is not perfect (it's way too long when it should've been just a light hearted 80 to 90 minute boxing comedy but instead its nearly 2 hours) I did have a good time here and for that I was happy.

But my biggest surprise of 2014 was by far this one:

1. The Lego Movie: Talk about having low expectations I had next to none going into this film as I saw the big standees and the posters for it and thought to myself "You have got to be joking" but my weakness for animated films being as such I decided to go and see it.

And boy oh boy was I ever so glad to do so as this was so much fun to watch, Phil Lord and Chris Miller who also made the very funny 22 Jump Street wrote a great script with many great gags, the visuals were stunning, the song "Everything is Awesome" should be a shoe in for best original song at the Academy Awards next year as it is catchy as hell and the vocal performances were terrific across the board especially Liam Neeson (and yes he is doing both of those voices sometimes simultaneously.)

But not only was it a great animated film it was also a great comedy first and foremost and its great to see Lord and Miller giving comedy films a real kick in the ass after stagnation with the Judd Apatow Comedy Club formula of making comedies and like just about everyone else walking out of the cinema I couldn't help but sing:

"Everything is Awesome,
everything is cool when you part of a team,
Everything is Awesome,
when we're living our dream"

But after that bout of happiness it's time to talk about my regrets for the year and these are the ones I sorely wish I could've gotten the chance to see but the opportunity to do so eluded me and there are three big ones.

3. Sin City a Dame to Kill For: This one came out in Australian cinemas in September but like Amazing Spider-Man 2 it came out in the shadow of the School Holidays.

But sadly unlike the Amazing Spider-Man 2 I never got the chance to see this one before the year ends (its Australian DVD release is next month and the US Blu-Ray is region locked) and I would've loved to have gotten to do so as it looked very dark and very adult in its tone (something we sadly see too few of in films these days.)

And I know this film got horrible reviews and there were others telling me not to see it and that I'm not missing much but I would have loved to have had the chance to decide for myself on that front but happily that opportunity is not far away.

2. Boyhood: Richard Linklater's 12 years in the making film about a boy growing up has gotten a lot of acclaim and should win the Best Picture and Director Oscars but its cinema release in Australia was very limited.

And indeed such an opportunity did come my way when my main cinema picked it up for late October and I made plans to see it the week after as that would blend with Interstellar but sadly it was only on for one week and I had to find out why to which the response was "It was difficult to market and because of the 3 hour runtime the session times had to be very limited" and indeed they were as it only had 1 session a day for the week it was on.

Hopefully the disc release is not too far away.

But my biggest regret for the year is:

1. Life Itself: Based off the memoirs of the late great Roger Ebert.

Ever since I heard about this film I knew I had to see it as I'm such a Siskel and Ebert fan but sadly it was only shown on the Sydney and Melbourne film festival circuits and those places aren't the easiest for me to get to at the moment so alas I had to sit this one out and it's such a shame as this film going year for me would've felt more complete if I did get the chance to see it.

But happily my chance to do so is coming as the doco will be out on disc in the US early next year and there is no way in the world I will be prevented from importing it.

And so this was my look back on 2014 (in case you want to know my best and worst of the year be sure to listen to my Radio show as I revealed them there) and 2015 promises to be a huge year for films with some very big releases on the horizon like Mad Max 4, the Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre the new 007 film, Mockingjay Part 2 and the new Star Wars film being my top 5 most anticipated of the new year.

See you all at the movies.

On the Air Episode 6: A Year Long Remembered

And that quote is ever so true.

On this my final Radio show for 2014 I talk about:

- The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
- Best and Worst of lists for the year
- The Holiday Releases I'm keen to see

As always you can click play on the streaming option in the link or right click on download audio and save it to your Computer.

Link is here: http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/2014/12/friday-flicks-best-and-worst-films-of-2014.html?site=adelaide&program=south_east_mornings

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Film Review - Paddington (2014)

Based off the beloved Book character, Paddington tells the tale of Paddington Bear (Ben Wishaw) as he journeys from Darkest Peru to London in search of a new home but this search could be a perilous one for our plucky young bear.

I have to say that going into this film I did not expect an awful lot mainly because the films previews did very little for me but I decided to go and see the film in the hope I could be turned around.

And so say it that I was turned around by this film as I did find it to be nicely charming and a lot of that is down to the casting, Wishaw is wonderful as Paddington and he brings so much warmth and humour and good natured charm to the role that its hard to not fall in love with the character the moment you see him, Sally Hawkins equipped herself well as does Peter Capaldi and Jim Broadbent but my other standout is Nicole Kidman as the villain, I really enjoyed her here and part of me wishes she would play Cruella De Ville someday.

However my enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the unnecessary dark tone this movie displays sometimes, the end of the film reminded me of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 with its muted colours and jeopardy plus at times there is some hints at sexual innuendo and I just thought to myself "Why is this in this movie" as I was enjoying the family friendly tone and it was spoiled by the unnecessary dark tone that I'm certain was to aim the film at an adult audience.

But despite that niggle, Paddington is a nice family film that is worth seeing, 3 out of 5.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Year Long Remembered: 2014 in Film Part 1

Well well it's that time again, the time when like we do with our Christmas list, we cast our minds on what was another 12 months in the movie theatre.

And for me I have to say that of the 6 years I've been blogging reviews for movies, this has been my favorite year of reviewing films and that is mainly because I had the most access to movies in a cinema than I have ever had (though the travel side of it as well as the heavy cost it can incur is still no fun whatsoever) as well as being able to see a much wider variety of films (after all I am a grown up and would like to see more movies for grownups.)

But for me it is impossible to talk about this year in movies without talking about Blue Thursday and by that I mean the Blue Thursday in July where I was offered the ABC Radio gig for which I am eternally grateful even if I fear I'll be cancelled after this year.

But in terms of the trend of the year well it would have to be the huge explosion of Superhero films as not only Marvel ramp up their cinematic universe but also DC and Warner Brothers start putting their cinematic universe together plus 20th Century Fox putting their rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four to work and Columbia well let's not talk about them shall we as they are definitely dead last with their continued bungling of the Amazing Spider-Man (a character that could do with a return to Marvel Studios IMHO).

But sadly this has come at a very big cost as many of the more adult movies like Boyhood, Birdman and Nightcrawler have been relegated to the arthouse and independent markets where they gain only limited cinema releases whereas 10 or 20 years ago those sort of films thanks to the rise of small studios like Miramax got to enjoy more mainstream cinema releases now don't get me wrong some of those still do David Fincher's Gone Girl is one of them.

But it saddens me that those sort of movies are being shoved out of the mainstream market and like I said onto the arthouse and independent markets and for me it is a sad shame as I am 18 months away from turning 30 and would like to see more adult oriented movies but at the moment those films just don't get the widespread cinema run they might have back in the old days.

And given the heavily corporate fanboy culture infesting Hollywood at the moment that lack of diversity in the mainstream market puts me off being more excited for the big Superhero films set to dominate cinemas in the next few years as to my perspective it looks like that's all we're getting (I think this corporate fanboy culture in Hollywood is also why we haven't seen many female leads in films also but that's just my theory.)

And so that is Part 1 of A Year Long Remembered, keep an eye out for Part 2 where I talk about my surprises and disappointments movie wise for 2014.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Film Review - Exodus Gods and Kings (2014)

Long Ago in Ancient Egypt there lived two brothers Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) but when it becomes known that Moses is Hebrew by birth Ramses disowns him so Moses sets out to free his people from slavery.

Going into this film I had very mixed expectations mainly because I felt the films advertising campaign was very average plus Sir Ridley Scott who is the director of the film hasn't really impressed me over the years plus its Ancient Egypt setting just kept making me think of En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse's birth name from the X-Men series) and his Four Horsemen.

Could this film claim Dominion over my mixed hopes or did it mainly crash on the crash on the rocks of the eternal shore of expectations.

Well instead it was no closer than Scott's Prometheus from 2012 with its Sci-Fi setting and Alien esque undertones as this was not that good of a film but before I get into that in more detail I will talk about what I did like and that is Arthur Max's Production Design, Janty Yates's costumes and the visual effects work, this is a very handsomely mounted production and on that visual sense you are never bored.

But it does bore where it should count most and that is in the storyline and there are two reasons for this:

- The first is that this feels like a very hollow film to watch as you just sit there not really caring about any of the events going on screen and as a result you just keep thinking that for all of this glorious visual detail there's nothing underneath to give it any resonance.

- And the second point is that this is also a very predictable story, anyone who has seen the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston or even the Simpsons Bible Stories episode with Milhouse as Moses will know how this story plays out and Sir Ridley really needs to find a strong script as that was the key to why his classics in Alien, Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise have held up so well over the years whereas here the script falls very flat.

As for the casting this is quite frankly some of the worst I've seen in the last 2 years, Bale does what he can but he again comes across as hollow at times while Edgerton TENDS TO SHOUT SOME OF HIS LINES LIKE THIS AT TIMES!!! and I just kept wishing Joaquin Phoenix from Gladiator had been cast instead as he would've done a better job while Sigourney Weaver barely appears save for a few lines.

But that isn't all, John Turturro and Ben Mendelsohn were woeful in their roles opting for high camp which made me laugh at the film while Ben Kingsley just pretty much ended up playing Ben Kenobi from Star Wars hell I expected him to say "A young Jedi named Darth Vader who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil" in one scene of the film, whoever was the casting director for this film needs a stern talking to.

Oh and last point I did start wishing Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen would show up and end of the film at one point as I was getting bored by what I was watching on the screen.

And so I cannot recommend Exodus and would much rather recommend The Ten Commandments with Heston and Yul Brenner playing Ramses now THAT is a duo whereas this one falls flat, 1 out of 5.

Friday, December 5, 2014

I'll Get you Next Time Mr Bond, Next Time

(A Cat starts purring and snickering)

No that was not done in a James Bond film but rather from a villain inspired by it, the infamous Dr Claw from the Children's TV show Inspector Gadget.

But it is also appropriate as well as last night Australian time (about 10pm so some may have missed it) Columbia Pictures, MGM and veteran Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced the latest James Bond film to be titled "Spectre" and will be released November next year.

The two main new casting announcements I took away from it were Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista, don't get me wrong it is a great cast and production team they've assembled (though Lee Smith as Editor has me a little worried as his action editing in the past has not been impressive, relying too much on quick cuts, close ups and shaky camera work) but Waltz and Bautista were the main takeouts I took from the announcement in terms of the cast.

In terms of the crew cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (I sure hope he gave his Parents hell for that) will join the production team and it's a good choice as his cinematography in recent years in films Her and Interstellar were very good.

But overall I have to say that the announcement has made me very excited for this new film and the potential it promises in terms of being I think one of the great Bond films and there haven't been very many of them let's be honest with ourselves.

To my mind my 2 personal favorite Bond films are "From Russia with Love" and "Goldeneye" and the reason I feel that way about those films are that they had both an imaginative storyline that got me thinking about the stakes within the film as well as a great adversary for 007 to face off against and both of these things have been lacking in a great many Bond films.

Now this isn't entirely Wilson or the Broccoli family's fault as the Spectre organization and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (who was originally going to appear in 1977's the Spy who Loved Me before Cubby Broccoli put the kibosh on those plans) have been at the centre of a rights dispute for many years that prevented the official Bond production team from using either of these characters.

But November last year that all changed as Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were able to reach a settlement with the estate of rogue Bond producer Kevin McClory who held the rights to both and with that out of the way do not be surprised if Waltz is indeed playing Blofeld in this new film and this is being hidden from fans until they see the film much like Benedict Cumberbatch was Khan and this was hidden by JJ Abrams and his team.

But to come back on point I think that this could be the great James Bond film that Daniel Craig's tenure has yet to produce as for me as much as I enjoyed Skyfall at the cinema I've had little desire to watch it again since same with Casino Royale and it's a shame as Craig is a fantastic 007 and ranks with Connery and Tim Dalton (who really laid a lot of the groundwork for Craig's tenure in the role) for me.

(As for Quantum of Solace well Props for Trying is as nice as I will get now about that film.)

And so that is my slightly rambling column about the new Bond announcement, its very exciting and very promising and I really hope all involved deliver the goods.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Film Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

The third and final book in the series has become a 2 part film adaptation and this story sees Katniss becoming part of the rebellion against the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) but Snow has a secret weapon in the fight against the Rebel Scum.

I was very keen going into this film as I was a big fan of the previous film Catching Fire which really got me keen to see where the story was going to go and was overall a much better film than the first, could this new film rise above like a Pheonix or like Interstellar come crashing down to Earth like a Seagull going out to sea to Die.

Well happily this film did indeed do what Interstellar could not and that is fulfil the hopes and desires I had for it, this is a very well made blockbuster and it is anchored first of all by a strong story of Rebellion against a ruling evil, the use of propaganda on both sides to wage war on a mental level against the enemy as well as the physical and the symbol inspiring others to join the fight.

Another thing I must praise about this film as well as the others so far is its wonderful female lead in Katniss who Laurence just brings to life effortlessly in a way that she sort of failed to do with Mystique in X-Men recently and you absolutely believe in her and her character here, she's strong, she has a soft side, she's a great leader and she has her doubts, I really hope we see more female characters like this one in the years to come as other actresses deserve it.

I must also praise the cast as a whole as well, Sutherland is a great villain here and it's interesting to see him here having recently watched him as a conspiracy theorist in JFK the day before, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman is good here along with Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Geoffrey Wright, Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson.

However the decision to split this film adaptation into 2 parts severely dents any emotional impact the film is striving for as you start to get interested in what is going to happen and where the story is going to go and then it ends with a "Keep watching after this film for more of Mockingjay", I wish that the filmmakers had gone for broke and made a 3 to 3 and a half hour film which covered the book as the current decision to splice it into 2 makes it look like a cheap money grab and the first part failing to impress in its own right.

But that said none of that will matter as the lines for the film will go out the cinema door and the box office worldwide will be very big (I think the biggest of the year) but still at least its not deadly dull or disappointing so there's that, 3 and a half out of 5.