Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the Air - Episode 1: A New Beginning

Last week I was given the great privilege and thrill to talk to ABC Radio South East SA (South Australia) about the 5 main current releases now showing in Australian cinemas.

Happily the audio from that show has now been made available so it is with great pleasure that I am now able to present it to you:

The movies covered on this show are:

- Transformers Age of Extinction
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- Rio 2
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
- Jersey Boys

To listen to the show just click on the "Friday Flicks" highlighted in Grey and it should start playing:



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Film Review - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and in that time a Virus has wiped out most of humanity and the humans band together to survive, the Apes meanwhile have set up a home on the outskirts of San Francisco led by Ceasar (Andy Serkis) but the encorachment of Humans may threaten their peaceful life in the forest.

I have to confess that I was somewhat mixed heading into this film primarily because I was not a huge fan of Rise of the Planet of the Apes it had its moments but it bored me for the most part but the previews for this film that showed Jason Clarke (one of my favourite actors of the moment) having a role as well so I became more excited for it, did it make a happy little monkey out of me or make me hate every Ape I see from Chimpan A to Chimpanzee.

Happily I can say "I Love You Dr. Zaius" as this film did make a happy little monkey out of me much more than Rise did and that is primarily down to the Apocalyptic setting of this new film which for me seemed to fit the story better than the modern day setting Rise had, Clarke is also very good here as the lead human as was Keri Russell who had a larger role than I first thought she would though sadly out of the main human cast Gary Oldman just sounded like a broken record doing his Jim Gordon voice from Batman and it just pulled me out of the film whenever he appeared.

But the real star of this film is Serkis as Caesar and again he weaves the same performance capture magic that he did when he played Gollum/Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, I still hate the fact that he was Captain Haddock in Tintin a couple of years ago (Richard Armitage would've been much better in the role) but here you really get a sense that there is a living breathing performer in the character and when you see Caesar's eyes you really believe Serkis is there, I really really hope that he gets a Special Achievement Oscar for his Motion Capture Work as when he gets it right, its magical.

And so all in all, Apes Sequel is Strong and well worth a look though leave the kids at home, 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Film Review - Jersey Boys (2014)

Jersey Boys is based off of the successful Broadway musical and is also directed by Clint Eastwood and the story here concerns the origin of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as well as their eventual success with many hit songs and the tensions that lie underneath between its 4 members.

I have to say that I was looking forward to this film going into it, I like a good musical and I'm also a big fan of Clint as a director mainly because I love his snapshot of working people on film, it's tricky to do that in a way that feels authentic and with his style I look at it and go "Yeah this feels like someone I would come across in my own life", could he make my day with a good musical and was I just an unlucky punk?

Well sadly it's more of a disappointment for me and I forgot to remember that a good man always knows his limitations, what I did like here thought was the dramatic side of the film I thought that did work very well and I was invested in the lives of the four band members.

What is not as good here is the musical numbers as they feel very out of place in this kinda dark film and some of them are okay but they don't really gel all that well into the main structure of the film, I can't help but think that Clint just doesn't feel all that comfortable with them and had to have them there because they were part of the stage show and as a result of this, the film runs on for a little too long for its own good.

Don't get me wrong though I did like some of those musical numbers mainly "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "I Love You Baby" which is easily the best song moment of the film as it feels like it fits within the main arc of the character but even then I couldn't help but be reminded of Michelle Pfeiffer's version in the Fabulous Baker Boys which is a MUCH better film in this style as it focuses much more on the drama than the singing.

And so all in all I would recommend the Fabulous Baker Boys instead of Jersey Boys as this film sadly disappointed me, 1.5 out of 5.

Film Review - Transformers Age of Extinction (2014)

Transformers Age of Extinction is the fourth film in this series but this time we get a new lead character Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) an inventor down on his luck trying to get his daughter through College but one day he finds an old abandoned truck for his workshop to work on in the hope of making some money but there is more to this truck than meets the eye.

I have to confess sitting on the Comfy Chair that I had some level of optimism going into this film primarily because I thought the addition of Wahlberg to the series replacing Screaming Shia LaBeouf might make it watchable and also the addition of Frank Welker as Galvatron as a potential villain and the hiring of William Goldenberg to edit the film (he'd done the editing for Argo) which had me hoping that he might just might stand up to Director Michael Bay in terms of the ridiculous length of these movies, was I to dream perchance to hope or was it just a fool's hope in the dead of night.

Well sad to say that this was merely a fool's hope as this becomes the film version of the song that never ends, it just goes on and on and on and it all goes BANG! CRASH! and BOOM! and no one walks out without a funny head.

But to be more serious now there are a few key problems with this film and I will now outline those in more detail:

- The first of these is that the storyline is so sparse that it earns no right whatsoever to be 165 minutes long, this could've easily been done in 90 minutes to 2 hours at the very most and I am most disappointed in Mr. Goldenberg here that he did not do a better job in trying to get the length down but given he has 2 other editors to work with Roger Barton and Paul Rubell both of whom have edited some of Bay's previous films he probably didn't have much hope at all which is very disappointing.

- The second is that the characters here are just not worth caring about very much at all, Wahlberg does his absolute best and is a massive improvement over LaBeouf but even he can't make it worthwhile watching, Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci also don't fare much better and it just comes across as a real waste of two great actors and Peter Cullen as Optimus the one thing all of us Transformers fans care about the most in this series just grunts, growls and mouths meaningless dialogue.

I also have another objection here on that point and that is the treatment of Optimus in this particular film, the Optimus I remember would NEVER endanger humans with his actions and would always try to lead the fighting away from them as much as possible whereas here he just doesn't care about anyone and is more than happy to blow away half of Chicago and Hong Kong, I sat there feeling very mad about that and that feeling hasn't changed much either.

- The third and last problem I have with this film is my old bug bear of the villains, there are two villains here Galvatron as I mentioned and Lockdown, ah yes Lockdown he was in the new Transformers game Rise of the Dark Spark and like in that game he's a nothing no name of a villain who has little to nothing to do with the plot and could've easily been removed with a clever rewrite of the script which makes Galvatron the villain and gives us the Cullen/Welker showdown I've been wanting all throughout this series and have never gotten, hopefully next time around that will change but why kid myself, I know it won't.

And also the 3D here is just way too dark and although it wasn't the headache inducing world of pain I had been expecting it still wasn't a good experience and 2D is more than enough for this movie.

But lastly watching this film made me appreciate Bryan Singer's work on X-Men just so much more as that felt like a big blockbuster film with actual heart and characters at its core instead of mindless head banging drivel that leaves either dizzy or with a headache but I'll stop there.

So all in all my foolish optimism for Transformers Age of Extinction turned to be just that foolish but hey we all know this will be a huge hit and you'll all go and see the movie regardless of my thoughts so here's my score of 1 out of 5.

Film Review - Rio 2 (2014)

Rio 2 is the continuation of the first Rio film from 2011 and again stars Jesse Eisenberg and Blu and Anne Hathaway as Jewel and both now have kids of their own and Jewel decides its time to go and see the Amazon rainforest so their kids can see what life is like in the wild but life in the jungle won't all be fun and games.

In a year which has given us the Lego Movie and How to Train your Dragon 2 both of which have been great family entertainments, it's disappointing to say that Rio 2 is almost entirely forgettable on so many levels, the first of those is that the animation is almost completely flat and has no real pop to it like the animation in Lego Movie and HTTYD 2 did instead it all just looks really rubbery in terms of the human characters and the various environments well again they just look dull and flat.

But the biggest problem here is that the film has no real central story to tie itself together with and instead you have 4 or 5 different plotlines all trying to be told at the same time and they are:

- Blu trying to fit in with the life of the jungle

- The other birds in the group trying to find new talent for their carnivale show

- The rival birds wanting control over the rainforest

- The big bad evil loggers wanting to tear down the rainforest

- The bad bird wanting revenge against Blu Wrath of Khan style

And finally the love triangle with another bird who once knew Jewel and yet all of these plotlines become entangled in their own messy web and as a result you just sit there feeling bored by the whole damn thing as the film can't make up its mind as to which story it wants to tell well how about you get rid of those god damn loggers for a start as first of all they add nothing whatsoever to the plot and second it's also there to hammer in the "Save the Rainforests" message that was there in Smegging Ferngully.

Smegging hell does every kids film these days and especially those for young children like this one have to have some sort of bad wicked person in it as well as a message, couldn't this have just been light hearted fun with the birds and the pretty good flight skills they show in the climax, it's not that hard guys really.

But alas it wasn't to be and the real sin here is the waste of Andy Garcia in a key role, I love him in the Untouchables as the sharp shooting George Stone but here he just spouts phrases and yells a lot, what a terrible waste of a great actor.

And lastly the 3D in this film is utterly utterly utterly pointless and it hurt my eyes to watch it in that way, go for a 2D session if you can find one.

So all in all I just cannot recommend Rio 2 to anyone over 6 or 7 years of age as the animation is dull and the storyline is a mess, a real shame after Lego and HTTYD 2 were so good this year, 1.5 out of 5.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Film Review - Next of Kin (1990)

Next of Kin stars Patrick Swayze as Truman Gates, a Chicago Police Officer who is asked to investigate the murder of his brother Gerald (Bill Paxton) but complicating things is his other brother Briar (Liam Neeson) who also comes to town determined to find Gerald's killer no matter the cost.

I had some fun watching this film, parts of it are predictable in terms of how it will all play out but I enjoyed myself watching it nonetheless, Swayze was on good form and made for a likeable lead and the film also has a pretty good cast on the whole with Paxton, Andreas Katsulas, Helen Hunt and Ben Stiller both having early roles along with Michael Pollard from Dick Tracy, Ted Levine and Adam Baldwin.

But the show stealer for me here is Neeson who like Hunt and Stiller is in an early role here and it's very easy to see why he's become so popular in recent years as an action star as every time he was kicking bottom I was like "YAAAY" much like I did in the first Taken film, its just a pity most of his action films since have not been that good.

So all in all Next of Kin was good fun if slightly predictable and worth it mainly for Liam Neeson and his Southern Accent, 3 out of 5.

Film Review - The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects is directed by Bryan Singer and stars Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint, a crippled man who is brought into the NYPD to tell his side of the story of a drug heist that went very wrong but there may be more to this story than at first glance.

I first saw this film back about 10 or 11 years ago primarily due to being a big fan of Singer's work on the first two X-Men films and now having seen the new film in that series Days of Future Past I felt inspired to go back and revisit it again, does it hold up after a long time between viewings?

Absolutely, this is a very impressive film to sit through though it does require some patience on behalf of the viewer but you are very handsomely rewarded when its finished, the script by Chris McQuarrie is the first of many that deserve praise here as his script is so tight that it could potentially become so convoluted and complicated that it could be difficult to follow who's who and what's going on in the wrong hands.

But Singer keeps a very firm grip on the key characters and events and it's hard to believe rewatching the film again that this was his first major movie it felt like he had the confidence of a veteran director here and it's easy to see the way he directs his cast why he was chosen to handle the X-Men series a few years later, Tom Sigel has some great cinematography here and John Ottman's editing and music score are great as well, it's a pity he won't get the chance to re-edit the first X-Men film as I would love to have seen what he might have done with it as I can't help but think it would feel like a better film.

But lastly I have to talk about the performances and not only is Spacey very convincing but Chazz Palminteri, the late Pete Posthelthwaite, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollack are very good here and the 5 main guys also work very well together as a group.

And so to close it, I really enjoyed rewatching the Usual Suspects and would very highly recommend it to anyone, 4 out of 5.