Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Review for Hanna

Interest grew for Hannah after the news that director Joe Wright (director of Atonement) was set to film the script by Seth Lockhad and David Farr and that The Chemical Brothers were set to record a soundtrack for the first time in their career. After some slow burners the British film-maker has done in the past, he has finally steps up to direct something fast paced and fun.

In the snow covered wilderness of Finland lives ex-spy Erik (Eric Banna) and his young daughter Hanna (Saoirse Ronan). At the beginning of the movie we see the super kid Hanna, take down a wild dear bringing back memories of the recently popular young girls kicking ass crossed with a Luc Besson movie. This sets the tone as the story develops into a chase movie. The reason for their hidden location is made clear to Hanna upon Erik asking if she is “ready”? For reasons unknown to us at first, Hanna is being haunted by some government headed by Marissa (Cate Blanchett) who is looking to capture and dispose of her. As the race begins we see Hanna traverse different continents in a classic secret agent style which has been simplified for younger audiences.

Despite Hanna appearing to be another James Bond for kids it is more a cross between the Bourn trilogy and Besson’s Nakita. The film does over all feel like a simple, non-Parisian Besson film on the whole which is one of its likable qualities. Whilst the quick cuts do thrill on the most part, Cate Blanchett does another great performance as the OCD government boss who has more character then a lot of super spy badies we see now a days and even though Eric Banna disappears for some part of the movie his role is interesting enough to keep audiences entertained.

Also surprisingly for an action adventure, director Joe Wright does include a lot of poetic shots which work well. The director whose previous movies, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice as well as The Soloist  have all been at the very least visually impressive, and Hanna is no exception.

The movies biggest floor is one which could have been dramatically shortened and would have had a better effect over the film.  The part I am referring too happens to be that of the travelling British family who hang onto the action in the movie like a bad smell which won’t leave. Now at first it is easy to see that their obnoxious daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) is suppose to be the contrast to Hannah as we see a normal girl compared to this outrageous killing machine that Hanna is. However in the end they just entertain the hordes of young audiences.

Over all Hanna is an enjoyable movie. Despite some setbacks with the family, the movie is both visually entertaining as well as adding a touch of Bourne to keep the action fresh. But don’t get me wrong, there is very little in it that is original but with the Chemical Brother’s fast beats the movie transcends more than most spy action thrillers.

* * *

Monday, 9 May 2011

Review for Thor

For comic book geeks, the horizon looks very bright as comic book adaptations are beginning to be taken a bit more seriously after the recent success. With the unknowing success of Jon Favreau’s two Iron Man movies, Marvel Studio’s are heading to bigger names with both the Thor and Captain America movies lined up for this summer. The first of this summer is Kenneth Branagh’s high anti superhero flick before we get to experience Captain America: The First Avenger this June.

As the movie begins we meet Jane Foster (Natilie Portman) an enthusiastic (to say the least ) astrophysicist with her mentor Erik (Stellan Skarsgård) and the ironically unfunny comic relief Darcey (Kat Dennings) as they are searching for a cosmic occurrence which is unlike anything they’ve seen. What soon follows in the wake of it all is the discovery of a mysterious man they hit with their truck. The movie then truly begins at Oden (Anthony Hopkins) gets the audience up to day on a brewing war between Asgard and the Ice Giants. At first we see Thor as a war hungry warrior with little regard for life but between the squabbling with brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the arrogant behaviour, Oden is finally left with banishing Thor to Earth in order to prove himself.

First thing to say about Thor is that you get everything you wanted (which I don’t mean in a good way). It is another dumb comic book movie with little real characters and very little staying power. Unlike The Dark Knight or Road to Perdition, which had a lot of character even though it was adapted material, Thor feels very safe and family friendly. It is understandable seeing how the budget was through the roof, however Branagh original vision was for Thor to be an art movie and it is hard to imagine what a movie like Thor would have been like in an art house cinema.

Whilst being completely stupid one moment, the movie is actually enjoyable in parts. Despite the heavy expository dialogue which is needed to keep the audience up to speed, when the movie is set on Earth everything feels very dumbed down. One moment we see an interesting story set in a fairly interesting world of Asgard only to be ironically disappointed like Thor himself when sent to Earth. It almost becomes a tease after we see impressive sets such as God-like halls and beautiful (but artificial) vistas only to going to middles of Arizona with annoying mortals. This is a problem when all the Earth sections equal up to roughly forty percent of the movie, and during that time the audience is left wondering what is happening in Asgard rather than the action on screen.

The story on Earth does potter along and grow more appealing towards the end after some unsurprising twists and turns as the two world merge. With the odd unfunny joke and a un-amusing racist remark (you’ll know it when you hear it) the film does take itself a little too seriously as S.H.E.I.L.D, who look like a bunch of idiots, attempt to look ‘cool’ in front of the superheroes. And with the comic book references and nods to The Avengers movie, fans of the source material will enjoy looking out for all the little secrets which does make the movie more appealing.

It is strange seeing a now prestigious actress such as Natalie Portman (after the recent award season) take a role so easy as Jane the one dimensional character but it is her co-star Kat Dennings who takes the award for being one of the most truly annoying on screen appearance in cinema this year (and after Nick & Noah’s Infinite Playlist she is turning out to be an very obnoxious actress). Chris Hemsworth (who was last seen in Star Trek) does a believable job as the God of Thunder and appears to have fun with it. Along with him Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Idris Elba as Heimdall the movie is redeemed and pulled together.

Apart from some stupid set scenes and boring action sequences, the scenes in Asgard do revive the movie and make it worth a watch. Marvel fans will go on multiply viewings but they will be alone with a lot of the children audiences as the movie only asks for the one viewing before Marvel Studio’s next summer blow up Captain America: The First Avenger.

* * *

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Review for Sucker Punch

After adapting material from great writers and director’s such as Frank Miller, Anal Moore and George A. Romero, the 300 director Zack Snyder is back for his first film from a none established source in the seemingly beautiful Sucker Punch. This being Snyder’s fifth film and third screenplay you would have thought he’d be competent enough to whip up at least a half decent movie. However this is not the case as instead he throws up this childish dribble.
                Set at an undisclosed time, the story begins with a nameless character (Emily Browning) going through difficulties at home as her abusive father torments her and her sister after the death of her mother. Shortly after this nameless character is sent to an insane asylum come night club after she is blamed for the death of her little sister.
When at the asylum, she receives the nickname Babydoll as she finds that dancing is taught to the patients to help them overcome their troubles. However Babydoll is special (why wouldn’t she be), when she begins to dance she begins to enter a world of her imagination where she has to defeat some generic obstacles such as dragons, Nazi zombies, robots and so on. Babydoll is quick to realises that she can paralyse men when they watch her dance and she begins to form a simplistic and naïve plan to escape from the power crazy owner Blue (Oscar Isaacs) before the doctor arrives to lobotomise her in a few days time. With the help of a few other inmates such as Rocket (Jena Malone), her uptight sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), the ironically named Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and the unfortunately boringly named Amber (Jamie Chung) they set out to collect four various item which in some way will aid their escape.
In quite a surprising turn Snyder, who has made some good pieces of work, has out done himself as Sucker Punch is one of the most stupid and insipid movies you’ll see this year. The terrible plot is covered by flashy fight scenes which resample an anime sooner than a comic book. The visuals are quite impressive but I falls flat as the context is so preposterous it’s ridicules. The thought that when a character dances she fights generic looking robot is so contradictory it just makes it feel as if Snyder has no respect for dancing and replaces it with a twelve year olds wet dream.
When watching the movie it’s hard not to notice the portrayal of both sexes which Snyder puts forward. If it wasn’t offensive enough to cast only beautiful women from different cultures (one for everyone) who blame men for all the evil in the world, the men in the movie are at times so blinded by their penis’ that they boil down to nothing more than dumb fifties archetypes of a manly men. The machismo is through the roof like the skimpy outfits the women wear when running around the imaginative world. It seems Snyder was aiming more for Sin City in tone then his last audience splitter Watchmen.
Then when you begin to see the characters more clearly you begin to realise that none of the girls are even slightly insane. It isn’t made clear if this is an intentional One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest similarity but it seems it’s more down to a bad script. But that obviously isn’t where the criticism on the script ends. A lot of things are so contrived in the script such as the insane asylum come club (which is more a whore house) who’s workers only gain a sense of morality towards the end after some futile sacrifices and murders of the patients.
The only redeeming fact is that some of the antigravity like fight scenes are impressive which doesn’t compliment Snyder as it does the fight choreographer. The stylish sword swinging as well as the artificial visuals which looks to be mostly green screen do make the film worth seeing but audiences will become restless and soon bored of the subtle distraction to a very flawed movie.
With all it’s flash visuals and smooth choreography, Sucker Punch is nothing more the a horrendous pop corn movie. The film will sell tickets though and audiences will feel cheated as the advertisement promised a better movie all round. All that is left is an immature portrait of mental health which merges into a twelve year olds wet dream. It’s uninspiring and boring. It appears that the genre for a character who deals with troubles in an insane asylum (ala Girl Interpreted, I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok) is over as it has become as cut and paste as the last film.

* * 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Review for SUBMARINE

Was it just me or did most people grow up believing in the back of their minds that they where the stars of their own movie? For the sixteen year old Oliver Tate this happens to be the case, as the lead character in Richard Ayoade’s new feature debut Submarine, based on the book by Joe Dunthone. The movie which played at a number of film festivals has been picking up speed since its debut at Sundance, and has proven a success in both the UK as well as the US as the Weinstein Brother’s have picked it up for one million dollars.

Set in Swansea, in an undisclosed time period the movie follows Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) an over-thinking adolescent whose biggest worries are keeping his parents Jill (Sally Hawkins) and Lloyd (Noah Taylor) dying marriage together, whilst trying to woo an anti-romantic girl in his class Jordana (Yasmin Paige). For Oliver it appears he is having a sort of mid-life crisis (even at the young age of sixteen) as he pulls all the strings of his life together, but on the arrival of new next door neighbour Graham (Paddy Constantine), an old flame of his mother’s, Oliver’s depressed dad begins to lose interest in saving the marriage which proves harder then he first expected.

Submarine is the story of a boy trying to grow up before his time. Whilst attempting to keep his family life together, he bullies the easy target at school to impress Jordana. His almost selfish tendencies do become comical as he imagines the repercussions of his death whilst bored in school. The dark subjects of the movie are made comical whilst keeping the respect they deserve, which is shown in one scene as a timid Oliver sits uncomfortably eating dinner around Jordana’s house as the family cry over the possible death of Jordana’s mother after being diagnosed with cancer.

The film has also been compared to the works of Wes Anderson and Francis Truffaut and it is easy to see why as the film holds its heart on its sleeve. Its kooky edge will be appealing to some but annoying to others who aren’t so much a fan of American Indie cinema or the French New Wave, however the film is extremely funny in a way that will please all.

Richard Ayoade (whose popularity arose whilst he played Moss in The IT Crowd as well as Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) really has done an impressive job as the film looks timeless whilst mixing in 16mm footage of Oliver and Jordana’s blossoming love. Accompanying the two naïve teenagers is a soundtrack by Arctic Monkey’s lead Alex Turner, which is a slow and gentle collection of melancholy tunes which is worth listening to outside of the movie. This all adds to a film about young love which many of us expected and wanted all the while, consistent with the theme of girls growing up faster then boys.  

All in all Submarine is an unbelievably cool and funny British flick which has a lot of staying power. The funny moments are highlighted by the artistic visuals and witty voiceover of an adolescent teenager fighting to grow up, much like Jim in Rebel without a Cause. The film is likely to entertain all, even though nods to Rohmer, Truffaut and Anderson will fly over most audiences’ heads.

* * * *

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Review for Norwegian Wood

Adaptations are never an easy task, at one point you’ll always upset a die hard fan in one way or another. Luckily for Norwegian Wood’s director Anh Hung Tran, this isn’t the case. The only problem is that fans of the original source will enjoy its pace and mood, whilst others might be left slightly bored.
Based on the famous Japanese book by Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood tells the story of Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), a student in 60s Tokyo who falls in love with his dead best friend’s girlfriend Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) as they attempt to over come their shared tragedy. However as depression and teen angst sets in, so does Naoko’s mental illness, forcing her to leave Tokyo. In this time Wantanabe meets free-spirited girl Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) in his class who is a light in the dark tunnel of his life.
The first problem the movie has is its slow nature. However this is a conscious factor that the director clearly wanted for the movie. Long shots of the beautiful Japanese meadows are littered throughout, juxtaposed with close intermit shots inside Japanese flats. The melancholic pace the film has might bore some audiences and entertain others who are used to it. The film clocks in at over two hours keeping in all the importing quirks the book has which fans will latch onto, such as the character of Storm Trooper (Tokio Emoto).
The slow pace is also thrown in with a lot of silent sections which almost makes the content we are watching awkward, as if we are intruders on their lives. This isn’t a fault; this makes the audience feel more involved in the movie as we see Watanabe’s struggles with growing up. When the soundtrack is present its orchestral numbers and electric tunes (done by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood) are mixed in with songs from the time period such as The Doors. These give it an authentic feel and set it in its time period.
Even though the Vietnam-born director couldn’t speak Japanese, Rinko Kikuchi (who received an Oscar nomination for her flawless performance in Babel) steals the show as the mentally fragile Naoko. The movie is really at its high point when we are with Naoko and drops when Kiko Mizuhara plays an awkward Midori whose playful edge (which is present in the book) is slightly downplayed. Kenichi Matsuyama performance as Watanabe may look dull on the outside but actually hits the nail on the head as he is witness to a world changing around him which he can’t seem to do anything about.
Norwegian Wood is a near perfect adaption of an amazing book. The film has a personal feel from the director which people get when reading a Murakami book. All the little traits and jokes from the book happened to make it in which will entertain some audiences but confuses and bore many others however Anh Hung Tran’s beautiful visuals and believable characters  already has it’s audiences as the movie is playing on limited screens.

* * * *

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Review for Rango

When you look at a directors back catalogue, such as Gore Verbinski’s, and see the trash they’ve spewed, it’s finally nice to see something off worth and merit shine through. The Pirates of the Caribbean director is back with Johnny Depp in a story of destiny that will have Pixar shaking in it’s boots.
Rango tells the story of a lonesome but charming chameleon (Johnny Depp) who after a literal bump in the road is forced to survive in the harsh climates of the Mojave Desert. Before long he meets Roadkill (Alfred Molina) a mysterious travelling Armadillo who points him on his journey. After some psychogenic trips in the desert our charismatic hero finds himself in the town of Dirt and after some confrontation in the local bar becomes a character he creates named Rango. After taking care of one of many of the towns problems, Rango is promoted to town Sherriff where in he begins to discover the mystery of where all the towns’ water has disappeared to.
As to be expected along the way there is betrayal and redemption which all add up into a somewhat generic story similar to this years terrible action movie The Warrior’s Way, however adds elements from other movies such as Chinatown and A Fistful of Dollars to make it shine.
And that’s really all the negative thinks you can say about the movie. The animated visuals done by Industrial Light & Magic (which is a division of Lucas Arts) are the easily one of the best that’s been seen in the cinema, hands down. Where Pixar balances it’s content with beautiful visuals, Rango’s visuals are heavily impressive with a easy going plot. The detail on the many verities of animals and environments is impressing and leaves the audience in awe.
The voice work by celebrated actors such as Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone and Ned Beatty is on top form with Johnny Depp stealing the show (which was needed after the travesty that was The Tourist). The film will play to both children as well as adults as there are references to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy.
Rango ends up being a very enjoyable film which entertains nearly everybody. Even though the story is lacking in originality the visuals, jokes and characters give the movie what it needs to not be forgotten anytime soon. As well as the LSD implied trips and plastic yellow fish it’s nice to go back to the Wild West.

* * * *

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Review for ‘The Fighter’

Before you even sit down and watch The Fighter it is already apparent that this movie reflects Christian Bales career. He has had some ups (such as the American Psycho) and some downs (need I remind people of the on set freak out). However as he has shown he is once again back on top form along with Mark Walberg and Melissa Leo in David O. Russell’s story of someone following their dreams.
Based on a true story, Micky (Mark Walberg) a small time boxer who’s trainer is his older brother Dicky (Christian Bale) has only been a steppingstone for other boxers. But that’s not Micky’s only problem, whilst battling his latest opponents he is also battling with a controlling mother (Melissa Leo), a crack addicted brother Dicky, an ex-wife who won’t let him see his daughter all the while trying to keep everything in his life together. After loosing an important match, Micky feels as if his career is over as he is being pulled at by several separate things in his life. After meeting Charlene (Amy Adams) a college drop out from a bar, she is soon to boost the fighters moral and help him accomplish his dreams.
Despite the movie being compared to Rocky, The Fighter doesn’t feel too much as if it is living in the shadows of it’s older brother. There is enough in the movie about family conflict to keep the audience focused on the important issues rather then simply the fighting. It goes without saying that it won’t be remembered like Rocky or Raging Bull however that doesn’t mean it’s bad, just very forgettable.
One of the most impressive parts of David O. Russell’s directing involves the sections in the boxing ring as the camera jumps to an ESPN style of live sporting to add authenticity. And the authenticity doesn’t end there; Micky’s training gym is the actual location where the real boxer spent his time training for fights and to add to that Mickey O’Keefe (one Micky’s trainer) plays himself with some dignity and surprising talent.
            At one point The Fighter had Darren Aronofsky’s name attached (before he decided to make Black Swan), and it’s easy to see why as some of the issues which we saw in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler are seen here but without the sheer brutality as we saw with Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. The Fighter feels much more like a Hollywood by the numbers film with little originality. O. Russell never goes to much extremes as the film doesn’t take much thought about the effect boxing has on the body, even though Micky is constantly being beaten for rounds on end he seems to shrug of the bruises.
            All in all The Fighter is no where as edgy as films such as Raging Bull or The Wrestler and doesn’t have the apple of lasting effect however is still an enjoyable movie as Bale shows he’s back on top form as some major slips.

* * *