Monday, 27 May 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

I had been looking forward to this one as soon as the credits started rolling on the last one.  JJ Abrams' reboot of a very popular franchise is the perfect example of how to appease the hardcore fans while still making something fresh for a new generation of casual movie fans and action fans.  So, after doing it right on the first one, it would be interesting to see if he would be able to ride the momentum with a quality follow up.  He did not disappoint.

Right from the start of this film, the action and tension never let go.  Even in the slowed down, expository scenes there is a chemistry between the actors that keeps the viewer engaged.  They struck gold with the ensemble a couple of years ago and were able to keep them together for another go round.  This is amped up with the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain.  If you haven't seen him in the BBC's Sherlock, I highly recommend you do.  He is terrific as a loner-type that is cold and calculating.  While Holmes is a hero, Khan is far from it.  Cumberbatch is able to adjust and create a villain that anyone would be scared of (I've never seen The Wrath of Khan so I cannot compare it).  He does over-enunciate his lines a bit but I felt it kind of added to the character's intensity and motivation.

Visually, this movie is near perfect.  In an action and sci-fi movie, we demand superior effects and Into Darkness delivers on that.  Everything looks very real and plausible.  The only drawback would be Abrams overdoing the lens flares a bit but that is his signature.  At least he doesn't slow everything down like John Woo.

See it.  Even if you aren't a Sci-Fi or Star Trek fan, these movies are just flat out, great, funny action.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Oblivion Review

Another movie that had a tremendous amount of potential.  It has some very good actors in Tom Cruise, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman.  It also has a story that could be quite intriguing.  The problem is that the story is written with a lot of holes that it leaves the viewer wondering "what the hell?"  This can sometimes be overcome with some great action (see Transformers).  But they decided to try and make this a philosophical play rather than a sci-fi action movie.  The problem is that, in order for a philosophical movie to be good, it has to make sense and not contradict itself over and over.  Oblivion fails miserably in this.

It was marketed as an action film and inferred that Morgan Freeman would be a central actor in it.  Freeman doesn't show up until almost an hour through (I checked my watch) and the action is almost non-existent except for very close to the end.  By then, you just want it to end quickly.  It's almost as if the executives knew they had a horrible movie on their hands and the only way to get anyone to see it was to completely deceive the viewing public.

Right from the start, there is nothing to keep the audience motivated.  The characters of Jack and Julia are so boring that you really don't care if they live or die at all.  Then, Jack puts on a Yankees hat and, in a world where if you're a baseball fan, you either love or despise the Yankees, all they do is make a large portion of the audience hate him even more.  So, you start thinking about the story.  Maybe that will be good.  But, as I said, it is so full of holes that you just roll your eyes for most of it.  Here's an example that won't spoil the movie because it happens very early.  Jack has had his memory wiped.  The only thing that keeps coming back is a vague dream with some bits and pieces.  He's completely cut off from the memories of history.  Yet, he is able to describe, in great detail, the final play of the last Super Bowl ever played which he acknowledges, happened before the war.  Granted, he tells Julia that this memory comes from reading about it.  But she's not supposed to know about his little "man cave" haven that he goes to.  So, either she's too stupid to ask him where he got access to this book or his mind isn't wiped.  And it just gets more ridiculous from there...

Don't see it.  I paid $3.50 to see it and even that was too much.  The Sci-Fi genre is so rich with better movies that this will never be worth your time.

Sherlock Holmes Review

A recent trip to London and a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum combined with the new show, Elementary, caused me to want to wach these movies again.  I knew I already liked it from the first time.  I wasn't surprised because I do like most of what I see from Guy Ritchie.  I always like the lighting and cinematography in his movies.  Normally, I am not a huge fan of slow motion action but, for the most part, in this movie, he limits it to what is going on in Holmes' head before he actually engages his opponent in a fight.  So it actually is used very well to show how Holmes can predict how things are going to play out.

The best part of this movie is the dynamic between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.  Both are fine actors to begin with.  Downey was basically born to play the over confident jackass and his portrayal of Holmes is basically Tony Stark in Victorian England.  But he does it well.  Law plays the frustrated Watson to a T.  And while he can carry a film on his own normally, he is a great David Spade to Downey's Chris Farley (or any other movie duo you can think of).  Their timing and chemistry is some of the best you will see.

The only real problem with this movie is that the story is a bit convoluted and hard to follow sometimes.  This is often true of detective/mystery films because they have a very finite amount of time to show you the things you came to see (action) while still making the story tight with its twists.  So the viewer really has to accept that there will be confusion for some time but it will all make sense as long as you remember all the stuff that has gone on along the way.

After my trip to London, I did notice a few other problems with how they worked through the city and portrayed it.  First, the Boudicca statue on the North end of the Westminster Bridge wasn't erected until 1902 and this takes place well before that due to the construction of Tower Bridge.  Also, the characters would have to have the speed of the Flash to get from parliament to Tower Bridge through the sewers in the time that they did.  But those are small continuity errors that happen in every movie and are largely ignored for dramatic effect.

See it.  It is a fast paced and very well acted detective tale that keeps you intrigued even if a little confused as well.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Ned Kelly Review

I'm a fan of history so I tend to like historical movies especially if they are based on true events.  I had never heard of this one until I got Netflix and I thought I should give it a try.  I grew up in Central Saskatchewan so the story is actually quite familiar to me but with different names.  The story of Ned Kelly is eerily similar to that of Louis Riel.  So is the attitude towards the characters over a century later.  A man in an oppressed minority rises up against the ruling class and is labeled an outlaw.  The troops come in and a series of bloody battles ensue.  To this day, both Kelly and Riel are viewed as either folk heroes or traitors depending on how you view the story.

There are two ways this movie could have gone.  It could have been upbeat and fast moving like Young Guns 2 or it could have been brooding and artistic like The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.  While it is almost a hybrid of the two, it leans more towards the former and that is a good thing.  There are times in this film where they try to delve into the mind of Kelly through Heath Ledger's mannerisms and scenes with no dialogue.  But they do it sparingly and, for the most part, the plot progresses through a well written and acted story.  This does lead to some inconsistent pace which can be a bit distracting to the viewer but it isn't enough to make it poor.  Sadly, I think they may have stuck to the truth a little too much because, overall, the movie lacks any fantastical drama that movies like to have.  It took a good true story and kept the whole thing plausible.

The acting in this film is really what makes it good.  There are no poor performances right from the stars through to the minor characters.  Gregor Jordan was able to get what he needed out of everybody to make it believable.  Heath Ledger gives a fine performance as Ned Kelly and, while it wasn't his absolute best work, it was very solid.  He truly was a very good actor that we lost all too soon.

See it, especially if you like historical movies and those set in the 19th century.  It's an interesting twist on a western-like movie being set in rural Australia.  But is still has the feel of a good old western.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

I don't read a lot of comic books.  When I do, I tend to lean more towards the heroes of the DC universe.  So my understanding of the entire Avengers franchise is really limited to the movies and what I read on  I can't compare this to the comics and have no idea if Iron Man 3 is staying true to any canon regarding villains, heroes or other such things.  I can only review it as an action movie and judge it against the numerous other films about the Avengers characters.

Looking at it in that light, I would have to say that this one lies in the middle of the road.  The main problem with it is that it takes forever to get moving into any kind of real plot.  The introduction and exposition into the actual crisis is really quite long and boring.  The best action movies are able to build these elements while throwing the action at us throughout the whole movie.  This one spends a little too much time brooding on Tony Stark's mental issues in dealing with the events of the Avengers.  While it does humanize a superhero character somewhat, it causes the movie to wait a little too long to give us what we paid our money to see.  But when it does start to deliver that, it does it very well.

Like the other two in this Avengers vein, it delivers on a strong mix of action and comedy.  We've come to expect a certain level of wit from Tony Stark and Iron Man 3 is able to bring that.  I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of his witticisms just like in the other two movies.  Another performance that I thought was done very well was that of Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.  I would never say that Pearce is the cream of the crop in Hollywood but he has the look and attitude to play this character quite well: the guy who was ignored and bullied but has done good with a chip on his shoulder.  Him and his band of Extremis powered villains provide a very chilling evil that is played perfectly.

The rest of the performances are decent but nothing to write home about.  I've come to make peace with Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodes and with the amount that the character is actually in this movie, they're pretty much interchangeable.  I normally find Gwyneth Paltrow to be rather annoying but she was tolerable here.  Ben Kingsley is quite entertaining as the Mandarin and I would have liked to have seen more of him on screen because he is such a great performer.

Ultimately, these movies are about watching Robert Downey Jr be Robert Downey Jr while a lot of stuff blows up in your face.  It takes a little long to get there but it does.  See it.