Saturday, March 21, 2015

Film Review - Love, Rosie (2014)

Love, Rosie stars Sam Claflin (Finnick from the Hunger Games) as Alex a man who is childhood friends with Rosie (Lily Collins) and the film follows their time together as well as their own adventures along the road of life.

Hmmm, it saddens me to say this but I was disappointed by this movie mainly because I really liked Claflin and Collins as a pair, the two have a very nice chemistry in their scenes together and both are very appealing to watch.

But sadly the film around them just didn't interest me very much and in the case of Collins's character I just found it difficult to buy that that would happen to her, what this could have been is a fun little "When Harry met Sally" type film for 90 minutes or so and that would have been okay with me even if it would have been predictable with a capital P but I probably would've gone that it was fine if nothing spectacular but alas the film that it is just very "so what, I don't care" and I just didn't find it that interesting.

Which is a shame as I was looking forward to seeing this film and what Claflin had up his sleeve after the Hunger Games (he should've been the new Tarzan with Margot Robbie but he isn't a star like Alexander Skarsgaard is which is a shame) so sadly I can't say that I recommend this film, rent When Harry met Sally instead, 1.5 out of 5.

Film Review - Internal Affairs (1990)

Internal Affairs stars Richard Gere as Dennis Peck a cop who is seen by the Internal Affairs department to be dirty and Raymond Avila (Andy Garcia) is determined to get to the bottom of it.

This was a very boring thriller to sit through but it is well performed with Garcia excellently anchoring the film in both his quiet and more temperamental moments, Nancy Travis also turns in a good performance and I liked seeing Richard Bradford from the Untouchables in a small role also plus the film has some excellent cinematography by veteran John Alonso with dark grainy scenes at night and bold colours really leaving an impression on me.

But by goodness did this film despite its 2 hour length just drag on and on and on as it went along and while I normally like Gere I just found it very hard to buy him as a villain in this film plus the events get more and more predictable as they go on and I just kept going "that's gonna happen, that's gonna happen, that's gonna happen" and sure enough they all did and as a result I ended up caring even less about what happened.

And so that was Internal Affairs where good performances and cinematography could not save a boring and predictable thriller, 1 out of 5.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Film Review - Insurgent (2015)

Insurgent is the 2nd film in the Divergent series and again stars Shailene Woodley as Tris who with Four (Theo James) go on the run following the events of the first film but Jeanine (Kate Winslet) makes a critical discovery that could lead her government and the Factionless led by Evelyn (Naomi Watts) towards a war.

I did not have very high hopes going into this film mainly because I was not a big fan of the first Divergent film but I decided to go and give this 2nd film a chance in the hope it might do the same trick that the 2nd Hunger Games film Catching Fire did in 2013 in that I wasn't a big fan of the first film in that series (I've since come around) but the 2nd one left a strong impression on me, could lightning strike twice or was it a case of the one term wonder casting its spell?

Well it has to be a case (and a very strong one) of the former but while this film is far from terrible this film is also bland with a Capital B and that feeling of blandness permeates throughout the whole film, the storyline feels very routine with the magic Box and the one true person capable of opening it who is part of the Rebel forces, the action sequences feel very tired and flat (gotta get that PG-13 rating in the US or all of those teenage girls can't go and see the movie) and the performances all feel lifeless.

I mean you have some good talent here, Miles Teller (who looks an awful lot like a young John Cusack) wishes he was anywhere else in the world but there, Woodley just goes through the film in chains as when she tries to break out she's put back in the cage by the male leads, Watts and Winslet are given very little if anything to do apart from spout leadership dialogue and Ansel Elgort and Theo James are pretty much playing the part of the hunks.

And yet all I could think of was "Where is the Fire, the Heart and the Imagination of the Hunger Games Series" which to my mind was the series that reminded me of what it was like to be 11 years old and seeing Star Wars for the first time as well as combining the sense of satire and insight that Paul Verhoeven brought to his Sci-Fi work in the late 80s and 90s but alas all this is as well as the first film is a pale bland imitation and that fact is all over these films.

And so to close Insurgent is not a terrible film but it is so very bland to sit through that it just becomes boring by the end, 1.5 out of 5.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Film Review - Chappie (2015)

Chappie is the 3rd film directed by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp and takes place in a futuristic Johannesburg where Scout police droids are used to help lower the crime rate but their creator Deon (Dev Patel) dreams of something more for his creation, a dream that could make his robot come alive like a human being.

I'm always a sucker for a new Science Fiction film and as a result I held out hope for Chappie to deliver the goods and also for Neill Blomkamp who made a strong debut with District 9 but fell from those great heights with Elysium in 2013 (this isn't new BTW, our own Geoffrey Wright fell from the grace Romper Stomper gave him with Metal Skin) so could Chappie prove he really is alive or should it be sent to the scrapheap?

Well sadly this is strongly a case of the latter as I hated sitting through this film and hated almost everything about this film for primarily 2 key reasons:

- The first key reason for this is that so much of this film rests on you caring for people that are essentially criminals played by hip hop artists Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser and you see them at the start of the film up to no good while the police droids come on the scene and start shooting at them but then Blomkamp decides to make these people the heart of this movie and I just kept thinking "I don't care about these people, I hate watching them and why again must I feel forced to sympathise with criminals, smegging hell" and on top of that the hip hop artists are annoying in their roles to watch especially Yo-Landi who has a very high pitch voice which is not easy to listen to after a while.

- The second key reason is that the whole film plays out like a copy of Robocop I mean you have the lawless city, the rival scientists with their own competing projects, the sentient being that becomes its own living soul as the film goes on and the attempts by the company to shut him down and I'm sorry but Neill Blomkamp is not Paul Verhoeven and this film is nowhere as compelling or funny or heartfelt as the original Robocop film is.

Oh and as for the central performances by Patel, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver they're all wasted in their roles and all 3 of them deserve better especially Patel and Jackman, hopefully Jackman gets to show us the Wild side of Wolverine in X-Men Apocalypse next year.

But I have to talk about Blomkamp himself now and it just staggers me beyond all belief that this man has fallen so far so fast first with Elysium and now with Chappie after showing such promise with District 9 which did have a good story, good action and characters worth caring about in the Prawn race and to think 20th Century Fox has hired this man to revive the Alien franchise based purely on his conceptual artwork for what it might look like, frankly Fox should be hiring Bryan Singer instead given how well he rebooted X-Men with Days of Future Past last year but alas things are what they are.

And yet I wanted to like this film much like I wanted to like the recent Jupiter Ascending as I wanted a good Sci-Fi film to like before the onslaught of Superhero and Animated films come our way and especially before the new Star Wars film hits cinemas in December but alas the Sci-Fi fanbase has trusted the Force and for the most part they stayed away from both of these films all the while deciding to wait for Star Wars based primarily I think on the strength of the teaser trailer from late last year.

And so that was Chappie a film I hated sitting through and it breaks my heart to say it, .5 out of 5.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blu-Ray Review - The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

The Film:

Released back in November of last year, Mockingjay Part 1 takes place after the events of Catching Fire the 2nd film in the series and here we see Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in the mysterious District 13 which she was always led to believe was destroyed by the Capitol but more on her mind is the capture of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the hope that he can be rescued, then and only then will she agree to become to Mockingjay and help save Panem from the tyrannical grip of President Snow (Donald Sutherland.)

Before going into this film I was very excited to see it mainly because Catching Fire in 2013 left a very distinct impression on me after I walked out of it and it made me keen for what would come afterwards and I wasn't disappointed despite feeling (as many others have) that this film was hurt somewhat by the split of the final book into 2 films but whether the split was justified we simply won't know until Part 2 hits cinemas on November 19th.

But there is one other thing I want to talk about and that is for me I honestly feel that this has become the new Star Wars (and trust me this is a question I have rattled around in my brain for a long while now) as this series and the way it has evolved in terms of its storytelling has brought back what it felt like to be 11 years old and seeing Star Wars for the first time (though X-Men has also given this a run for its money as well.)

The Video:

Presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio the film looks terrific here and this could have been a tricky transfer given how much of the film is very muted in its look and some scenes take place in total darkness but the team involved here have really pulled off something of a minor miracle.

And also I think the film looks better here than it did in cinemas which is slowly becoming more and more common I find and it's a real problem for DCP projection as on the right screen it can look very clear whereas on the wrong screen it can look pretty bad and pull you out of the experience somewhat and unless this is addressed then you might see some start to miss 35mm film projection more and more (personally I don't miss it all that much.)

The Audio:

There are 3 main audio options presented here, A Dolby TrueHD Atmos 7.1 track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for night time watching.

The 2 main tracks I will discuss are the Atmos and night time tracks and both are very good indeed, there is a nice balance between the action scenes and the quieter scenes of dialogue and the mix is also very active with background noise, rain in one of Snow's scenes and James Newton Howard's very good musical score (his best for the series so far) not to mention the Hanging Tree scene when the choir comes in to take over the song.

The night time mix is a great addition and idea in general and will also come in very handy when you want to watch the film late at night and you don't want to wake anyone, hopefully this becomes a regular addition to disc releases in the future.

The Extras:

One big highlight of these disc releases for these films is the high quality assortment of extra features that come with them and I have to highly commend Lionsgate for going the full mile for fans as SO. VERY. MANY. other studios just ignore the extras and throw on a few bits here and there that are just unsatisfying.

But as I said when I talked about the Blu-Ray of X-Men Days of Future Past I can't help but think that this is a deliberate decision by studios so they can move consumers towards the streaming options (which I don't like) and that way they can have much more control over the distribution of film content and put things back to before the Video Revolution of the 80s and it is just very very sad but enough of that little rant let's get into this.

There are 2 discs to this Blu-Ray release (the 2nd disc is purely the Making of documentary which was the call of Roadshow Entertainment as they made it clear to me on Twitter that they couldn't fit it all onto the one disc so they moved it onto a 2nd disc all its own which is a very smart move.)

On the first disc lies the following extras:

Audio Commentary by Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson: The two reunite for a commentary track for this film and while they give out some interesting info, I found myself turning it off as the monotone sound to their voices got a bit much after a while.

Deleted Scenes: 12 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes appear here and while they are of interest it's hard to see them being put back into the film though one could argue the hunting scene with Katniss and Gale could've also been deleted from the film but given how that has been a key character trait for both of them I guess Francis and Co didn't want to rock the boat more by taking out that moment and given how some fans reacted to the changes in the story as it is (this is where it was going after Catching Fire people) I can't say I blame them for leaving that in.

Straight from the Heart - A Tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Pretty much as the title says, the cast and crew remember their castmate PSH with some coming close to tears as they do it (he had completed 80% of his filming for the Mockingjay films before he sadly passed away last year and the coffee scene with Effie was meant to be shot with him the Friday before he died but a snowstorm in Atlanta delayed the shooting of that scene to the following week.)

PSH was a very fine actor who rarely let you down even if the film he was in wasn't all that flash and I think that his casting as Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire was a key reason for that films success as well as helping to bring in that wider audience that might have dismissed this film at first glance and his death last year hit a lot of film fans very hard (Nina states on the commentary track that he had completed 80% of his work on Mockingjay before he died and Francis states that the Coffee scene that Effie has in the film was meant to be shot with him on the Friday before he died but a snowstorm in Atlanta delayed shooting that scene to the following week.)

I also believe that when Mockingjay Part 2 hits cinemas in November you will have people go to see the film purely so they can have that one last goodbye to him much like with Robin Williams and Night at the Museum 3 at the end of the last year.

And also when I got my hands on the Roadshow Entertainment VHS of Pulp Fiction a few weeks back one of the previews on it was for Robert Benton's Nobody's Fool which had him in it and it made me smile so he's not really gone as long as we remember him.

Songs of Rebellion - Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack: Pop artist Lorde (who also did the end credits song) is interviewed here talking about the Pop songs she wanted to bring to that soundtrack for this film.

Yellow Flicker Beat Music Video by Lorde: Pretty much as the title says this is the Music Video for the end credits song of this film.

And now onto Disc 2's sole extra feature:

The Mockingjay Lives - The Making of Mockingjay Part 1: A doco that is 10 minutes or so longer than the actual film this doco covers almost everything you could want to hear about the making of this film.

And a fair bit is covered here but what really impressed me the most was that District 13 itself was created for real for the most part and the sets for it are very good (it also reminds me a lot of the Rebel Alliance bases in the original Star Wars films which is very cool) and the creation of the descent into the Tribute centre is remarkable to watch as it was done for real and the test footage made me gulp quite a bit.

Though it has to be said we don't get a lot about Part 2 in this making of in the final featurette though as Francis states that film had to be started on ASAP for the visual effects work to be completed on time (poor fellow could also do with a good night's sleep as there are times where you see him one step short of nodding off but this is the job and I'm glad I prefer talking about movies than making them as the shorts I made in 2007-08 were more than enough for me to go "never again" as it was tough so I give Francis a lot of credit here.)

Please also note that this doco and the PSH tribute are exclusive to the Blu-Ray release and don't appear on the DVD version so please keep that in mind.

But before I finish up I have to talk about the disc menus which are excellent as it shows off the various propaganda material from the film in a near full size and it makes me wish that they along with the films trailers were on this disc as that was a key part of the film and it would've been nice to see a full screen version of the Join the Mockingjay propo as its cut to resemble the previews for this movie.

Final Thoughts:

Mockingjay Part 1 has been given first class treatment on Blu-Ray and I am very impressed with what I've seen, I can't recommend this disc highly enough and for $25 its almost a steal.

Film Review - Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey (1989 and 1991)

I watched these as a double bill so I'm going to review them that way and that is the 2 Bill and Ted films which starred Keanu Reeves as Ted and Alex Winter as Bill.

In Excellent Adventure we learn that the two are failing their History class as they are spending their time on setting up their Band the Wyld Stallions until Rufus (George Carlin) offers them a phone booth that can take them through time to learn history from the people who helped shape it.

I had a lot of fun with Excellent Adventure, Reeves and Winter play off each other very well and the film is full of good laughs as well as having a fun story to help tie it all together plus it also has a nice upbeat feel to it which is pretty rare these days so I will give it a 3 out of 5.

In the 2nd film Bogus Journey the boys find themselves ambushed by bad robotic versions of themselves who then kill them which is where they meet Death himself (William Sadler) and after getting the better of him they join forces to rescue their girlfriends and the future world from the evil De Nomolous (Joss Ackland.)

I had some fun with this sequel but I can't say that I enjoyed it as much as I liked the first one, the first reason is that the story here isn't as interesting though it does have some fun moments, the second reason is that the comedy here isn't as funny though there were a couple of gags that made me laugh but not as much as I did in the first film and the third is that it feels a bit long in the tooth at the end.

However Sadler does such a good job here that it redeems this sequel from being one where you sit around bored while watching it and I also liked Ackland and Frank Welker who does a couple of voice roles here (okay he does the Dr Claw voice so sue me I love that voice okay.)

So all in all this sequel only gets a 2.5 out of 5 from me, it's fun in places but not as fun as the first film and hopefully the rumoured third film never eventuates as I think the guys act starts to wear thin a little while you're watching the second film.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Film Review - Focus (2015)

Focus stars Will Smith as Nikki and Margot Robbie as Jess who are a pair of con artists who plot to pull off a con on businessmen as well as regular folk but when they begin to get involved things could go horribly wrong.

Focus is not a good film I'm afraid but before I delve into that I want to talk about the fantastic cinematography here by Xavier Grobet I mean this is really terrific work here and he makes the skyboxes, the pubs and clubs really feel like real places and it really makes you believe in what you are watching on the screen and hopefully he'll be able to strut his stuff some more in this field in the future.

But sadly the film as a whole is a real bore to sit through for these reasons:

- The first is that the script is not that interesting here as it tries so hard to be a new Ocean's Eleven and it doesn't have the fun or the charm or the narrative thrust of that film and as the film went on I began to get very bored with it all.

- The second is that the central chemistry didn't really click for me, Smith just scoured throughout the entire film and just said his lines in this very angry voice which I found to be off putting while Robbie who impressed me very much in About Time and The Wolf of Wall Street was very disappointing, the voice she did made her sound like a terrible actress and when the film ended and her name came up I just thought to myself "You Failed Me" in my impression of Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, I really really hope she steps it up as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad next year but given David Ayer's track record with female characters in his films I fear a repeat of her work in this film.

But the supporting performances however I thought were pretty good especially BD Wong, Gerald McRaney and Adrian Martinez, all 3 of those men are very good and do a lot to hold your interest throughout the film.

And so that was Focus, great cinematography could not make up for a dull script and boring central performances, 1 out of 5.