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Simply unnecessary

Posted : 4 years, 3 months ago on 6 April 2014 03:17 (A review of Old Boy (2013))

"Heaven make me free of it. The rest is silence."

Park Chan-wook's 2003 thriller Oldboy is, simply putting it, a masterpiece of revenge cinema. It's a cult classic and is regarded by many as one of the great Asian films of all time. So obviously Hollywood thought it'd be a great idea to remake it for a western audience. Many fans, including myself, were against this, but once news was released about the cast, my interest was suddenly peaked. With a cast including Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen, and the controversial Spike Lee directing, it looked as if the Oldboy remake could legitimately be a quality film. My god, that is not the case. Lee's Oldboy is just an appalling film which doesn't know what tone to take. Initially I was interested to see what Lee would bring to the project, but at the end of the day, this is a shallow and pointless film. It's simply another unnecessary remake that doesn't come close to the original.

Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is a businessman who is kidnapped and locked away in solitary confinement for 20 years. He is given no reason as to why and is subjected to the same routine throughout his stay. During his imprisonment, he learns that he has been framed for the murder of his wife and that his daughter is now living with a foster family. Once released, Joe is given the mission to find out why he was imprisoned and who is responsible, with the added motivation of saving his daughter. It is during this time that he befriends Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), a young nurse who wants to help Joe with his search for the truth.

Written by Mark Protosevich, Oldboy's biggest flaw is that it does not know what tone to take. When the film opened, it seemed as if Lee was going for a different approach to the source material, with a much more gritty style. However, that soon changes when he starts taking imagery seen in the original and unnecessarily shoe-horning it into the remake. It doesn't gel together. The original wasn't exactly a gritty movie - it was stylised and had a Hitchcockian element to it. The remake tries to be both but it simply does not work. For example, the scene in which Joe is released is done quite closely to the original, where he finds himself inside a suitcase, this time on a grassfield. In the original, it worked as the whole film had a surreal tone. With the remake, they've established a gritty style, and thus someone being locked into a suitcase just looks out-of-place.

To be fair, Protosevich doesn't completely follow the original story, and does make a few changes to the story. One of the most memorable aspects of the original Oldboy is the twist. The remake has one too, except with a few changes. While I don't think the result was good, I respect the decision of the writer. However, Protosevich's script has absolutely no subtlety at all. The character of Joe is just too one-sided. He's not exactly an interesting protagonist. From the opening of the film, Joe is a horrible person, who doesn't seem to care about his ex-wife and daughter and is an alcoholic. He just doesn't feel like a human-being. In the original, the protagonist Oh Dae-su was an alcoholic, but he still loved his daughter. He felt more relatable and human. A lot of his character is left to the viewer's interpretation, and whether he's a total jerk or not is not shoved into our faces. That's something this remake doesn't take into account - show, not tell. Everything is spelt out for the audience as if they're kids. Once Joe's imprisoned, the film starts to become a redemption story for him, which just feels so forced in my opinion.

Josh Brolin is definitely one of the best things about the movie. When I found out he was cast as the hero, I clapped. This was excellent casting, as he fit the bill perfectly. While he doesn't have much to work with considering how shallow his character is, he gets the job done and delivers an engaging performance. Elizabeth Olsen, who I've got a massive crush on, is also terrific as the Marie, even though her character is criminally underdeveloped. Sharlto Copley plays the villain of the film, and he is just awful. Now I think Copley is great actor. However, he is so mis-cast as the villain here. This is another aspect that just clashes with the gritty tone. Many of the villains are just cartoons. It isn't just Copley, but his character's henchmen, who all look like they belong in a fucking kung fu film. Samuel L. Jackson is also unbelievably hammy in his role. While he delivers the kind of performance fans would want to see from him, it doesn't work in this film.

It blows my mind that the original Oldboy was made for a budget of $3 million, while this remake cost $30 million. This movie looks cheap. While it's shot well by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, a lot of the sets and locations just feel cramped. Lee's also taken many visuals from the original, but has no idea what to do with them in his remake. Nothing looks interesting here, even when it tries to be stylish. The film is also shockingly edited, with cuts that just leave the audience confused. That being said, those who are looking for violence will get it with Oldboy. All the violent special effects look convincing, and the fight scenes are handled well. A highlight is a one-shot brawl where Joe must fight a whole gang of crooks. While it's a sequence that is literally taken from the original, which to be honest did it a lot better, it's an enjoyable action sequence.

It's really impossible for me to recommend this version of Oldboy. If you're someone who doesn't mind subtitles, then I'd tell you to go watch the original classic. Even if you hate subtitles or just don't like asian cinema, I still wouldn't recommend this to you. Lee has stated the original film was supposed to be over 2 hours and that the studio cut his film down to around 90 minutes. While that version may be superior, I can only review the film I saw. The Oldboy remake is just a shoddy thriller that doesn't know what its doing most of the time.

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A bloody instant classic!

Posted : 4 years, 3 months ago on 29 March 2014 03:31 (A review of The Raid II: Berandal)

"It will be a few months. You can't know where I am. And I can't be seen anywhere near you."

Back in 2009, Welsh director Gareth Evans made the Indonesian martial arts film Merantau, starring new talent Iko Uwais, who was working as a deliveryman for a phone company. The film registered positively with both critics and audiences, and gave Evans a chance to pursue a more ambitious project. Evans had planned to direct a crime saga he had written called Berandal, but due to a lack of budget, he put that on hold and made The Raid: Redemption. With Uwais again as the lead star, The Raid: Redemption became a cult hit when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. This gave Evans the opportunity to finally direct Berandal, which would serve as a sequel to The Raid: Redemption. With a significantly larger budget than the first film, The Raid 2: Berandal may prove to be an instant classic. It improves on everything we saw in The Raid: Redemption, from story, production value, cinematography, and of course the action sequences.

After fighting his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen, rookie Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais) thought it was done and he could resume a normal life. He couldn't have been more wrong. Formidable though they may have been, Rama's opponents in that fateful building were nothing more than small fish swimming in a pond much larger than he ever dreamed possible. And his triumph over the small fry has attracted the attention of the predators farther up the food chain. His family at risk, Rama has only one choice to protect his infant son and wife: He must go undercover to enter the criminal underworld himself and climb through the hierarchy of competing forces until it leads him to the corrupt politicians and police pulling the strings at the top of the heap. And so Rama begins a new odyssey of violence, a journey that will force him to set aside his own life and history and take on a new identity as the violent offender "Yuda." In prison he must gain the confidence of Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of the local kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), to join the gang himself, laying his own life on the line in a desperate all-or-nothing gambit to bring the whole rotten enterprise to an end.

Early in the year, I posted a list of my most anticipated movies of 2014 ([Link removed - login to see]). The Raid 2 was right at the very top. I couldn't wait to see this film, and when the film opened with rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival this year, I was expecting something spectacular. Having finally seen it, I can say I was not disappointed in the slightest. The Raid 2 is simply spectacular. Many have compared it to The Dark Knight and Terminator 2, as it proves to be a sequel that's a huge improvement over the original. While The Raid: Redemption had a really simple premise, The Raid 2 is an epic crime saga in the vein of The Godfather. Written by Evans, the screenplay is solid throughout the film. It's a classy mobster story, with twists and betrayals. Some have criticised the plot for being too complicated, but I completely disagree. While it's got more going on in terms of story than the first film, The Raid 2 is still easy to follow. The screenplay is still suitably simple, as the story is really just an excuse for the action sequences.

While The Raid: Redemption wasn't interested at all in character, the sequel is filled with different heroes and villains alike. There are so many characters in The Raid 2, and Evans has handled them all well. While Rama is the hero of the film, a lot of the focus is on Uco, who develops in the course of the film in really dark ways. Bangun is a memorable mob boss, while the villainous Bejo, a gangster who is trying to gain control of the criminal underworld, is a great bad guy. If I had one gripe about the film, it would be that some of the characters have no personalities whatsoever. I'm basically nit-picking at this point, because this is The Raid we're talking about. However, it comes to the point where you really don't care what happens to these characters. This really falls onto the Yakuza characters. From the trailers, it suggested that Japanese gangsters would play a huge part in the film, but in all honesty, they're only featured in three scenes and have little to no lines. The same applies to Bunawar, the cop that put Rama in the undercover unit - has very little screen time, and thus we really don't care about him. I get the impression that Evans wanted these characters to play a bigger part in his film, but with a 2 and half hour running time with action taking up most of it, these characters were kind of left aside. With all this being said, these are merely supporting characters. Essentially the focus is on Rama and his recruitment into Bangun's gang.

When I went into The Raid 2, I wanted one thing: action. It gave me exactly what I was looking for. I honestly think this is one of the most action-packed movies ever made. As a I left the theatre, I heard an audience member complain that the film was too slow. It shocked me because to me the film was never dull in the slightest. The pacing is brisk throughout the film, and it really kicks into gear during the second half. The Raid is known for basically not-stop action, and this sequel delivers on that. Choreographed by Uwais and Yayan Ruhian and edited by Evans himself, every martial arts fight sequence in this film is brutally violent and enjoyable. Shot with creative energy by cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, the fights always keep you on the edge of your seat, and deliver on the same brutality that The Raid: Redemption had already established. A truly memorable sequence involves Bejo's assassins doing his dirty work, where a girl with claw hammers fights her way through a subway train, and another killer uses a baseball bat and ball as a weapon. While The Raid 2 is mainly focused on martial arts action, the film also serves up some great shootouts, and an amazing car chase sequence that rivals anything Hollywood can spit out at the moment. A warning though with the action - it's very violent. The man sitting next to me in the cinema actually walked out halfway through. I really do think that this is the most violent action movie I've ever seen, and while I love bloodshed in my films, it may prove to be too much for some movie-goers. Still, I love that Evans has opted for an R rating and all throat slitting and skull crushing is truly gleeful fun.

As I mentioned earlier, the production value has definitely improved since The Raid: Redemption. While that film was confined to an apartment building, The Raid 2 takes us to grand locations, from a prison to one of the classiest restaurants I've ever seen. Shot with RED Epics and Scarlets, the film looks magnificent, using much more slow dolly and crane shots when there isn't a fight erupting on screen. Lastly, the cast is terrific. Uwais is still a true badass as Rama, delivering the emotional and physical requirements of his role. Newcomers to the franchise are also solid, from Arifin Putra's over ambitious Uco to Tio Pakusadewo's calm and collected Bangun. A true standout is Julie Estelle, who plays Hammer Girl, a ruthless assassin who fights using claw hammers. Delivering a performance with intensity and a touch of innocence, she's sure to win over audiences. Fight Choreographer Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the original film, appears this time as Prakoso, one of Bangun's loyal assassins, and he also does a great job here, both with his acting and fighting.

I really can't imagine anyone not liking The Raid 2, apart from those with a weak stomach. It basically delivers on everything you could want in an action movie. There's variety in the action sequences, from fights to car chases, and at the centre it's got a great gangster story. While I do think some characters were really underdeveloped, especially the Yakuzas, I do think Evans will give them a bigger role in the future as The Raid 3 has already been announced. It's hard to see Evans topping The Raid 2 though, as every single action sequence here is pretty much nothing you've ever seen before. While it's no surprise that Hollywood has already started developing an American remake, I can't imagine them re-doing The Raid 2 successfully. What more can I say at this point? The Raid 2 is an action movie masterpiece! Any fan of the genre must see it!

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A visually stunning coming-of-age story

Posted : 5 years, 2 months ago on 27 April 2013 06:28 (A review of Xing kong)

"Before letting go, hold on, as tight as you can."

Starry Starry Night is an adaptation of the popular Taiwanese illustrated book of the same name by Jimmy Liao, and a rare Taiwan-China co production. Since I've never read the book, I can't comment on how faithful it is and how it compares, but as a standalone film, Starry Starry Night is truly something special. Written and directed by Tom Lin, Starry Starry Night may not be perfect, but it strives for subtlety and realism, despite having many elements of fantasy in the mix. I also can't stress enough how beautiful the film is to look at, and at the center of it all, there's a sweet yet mature story about childhood and young love, working in unison to create a visually amazing coming-of-age film.

Mei (Xu Jiao), a 13 year old girl, used to live with her grandparents up in the mountains where the stars were most beautiful. After she was taken back to the city, she has been having a hard time both at home and at school. Her only escape is through her memory of those starry nights. One day, Mei meets new student Jay (Lin Hui-min), who seems more detached from the world than she is. Together they try to face their problems, but things only get worse when Mei's parents announce their divorce and ask her to choose who to live with. Mei and Jay decide to run away from home to see the stars she missed so dearly.

From what I've been told, Liao's book was aimed mainly towards children, and thus it never explored its characters and themes with depth. It's always tricky adapting picture books as they're usually quite short. Praise must go to Lin for being able to craft a screenplay with a lot of depth and heart. Comparisons between Starry Starry Night and Moonrise Kingdom are assured as both films deal with young love and childhood themes, along with similar storylines. I was one of the few movie-goers who thought Moonrise Kingdom was overrated. One of the main reasons I couldn't connect with the latter film was that the lead characters never felt like real children - it was hard to relate to them. Luckily, Starry Starry Night doesn't fall under this problem. Mei and Jay are easy to relate to, and their individual storylines are beautifully written - Mei has to deal with the death of her grandfather (which is established in a tear-jerking scene), and her parents are getting divorced, while Jay has had a traumatizing experience in the past.

Starry Starry Night aims for subtlety, which is something a lot of these kind of films don't do. It never breaks the rule of film - "Show, not tell." Under Lin's skilled direction, the film explores themes of heartbreak and happiness with depth, but it never truly shoves it into the audiences' face. That being said, there are a few monologues that work just as well, such as the final narration Mei makes towards the end of the film. Lin carefully structures this film from a child's point of view, making Starry Starry Night a film that's so easy to connect with, regardless of age and culture. Although some of the elements of the story are somewhat conventional, you'd have to be a complete cynic to feel the film tugging at the heartstrings.

There are so many things I love about Starry Starry Night, but the one thing that keeps me from deeming it a masterpiece is this - the ending. Without spoiling too much, I can tell you this. It ends on an ambiguous note, something like Inception. In some ways, it works well. It's not a particularly bad ending, but I can see it not satisfying some audiences. I absolutely hated the way this film ended, and the all the scenes building up to it were superb. Did the film need a vague ending? In my opinion, no, it didn't.

On a more positive note, the performances were top notch. Xu Jiao, who made her breakout performance playing the little boy in Stephen Chow's CJ7, is fantastic as Mei. Xu essentially has to carry a lot of the film, as Lin's screenplay actually focuses on her storyline the most, and she's definitely able to. She's cute, charming, and convincing in the role. As Jay, Lin Hui-min makes his impressive debut performance. While he isn't perfect (there are moments of awkwardness), he has several moments to truly shine. Xu and Lin share a good amount of chemistry, resulting in a lovely and convincing friendship - the audience roots for them. In the supporting cast, René Liu and Harlem Yu are terrific as Mei's parents, and Kenneth Tsang delivers are moving performance as her grandfather. There's also a small cameo appearance by Gwei Lun-Mei.

On a technical aspect, Starry Starry Night is a masterpiece. Visually, it's simply amazing. Cinematographer Jake Pollock (who shot one of my favourite Chinese films Wu Xia) is shaping up to being one of my favourite cinematographers working in China these days - his camerawork and lighting is out of this world. Every frame is ridiculously beautiful to look at. Another element of the film I haven't really touched on is the imagination of Mei and Jay. This is where the visual effects are used in a very creative way. The VFX artists have done a splendid job of using this technology to capture the imagination of children, and uses it in a somewhat adorable way. This is where the fantasy genre finds its way into Starry Starry Night, and while it may not effect a lot of the story, it definitely adds a cute little charm to the film. Also worth mentioning is the gentle score by World's End Girlfriend (yes, this is the stage name of the composer). Without the score, the film wouldn't have been quite as moving - it's a superb mix of charming mischievous tunes, adding to the depiction of childhood, and touching pieces that truly tug at the heartstrings. Art Director Pei-Ling Tsai must also be given praise - the sets and props all look fabulous.

Starry Starry Night was shot on a budget of $7 Million, but only grossed around $400 thousand. It's such a shame that it never got noticed outside of Taiwan - it's a gorgeous little film. There are so many themes and messages I could go on about, but then I'd be spoiling half of the movie for you. It's not perfect, but it comes pretty close to being a masterpiece. It's cute, it's beautifully to look at, and it will no doubt move you to tears. Although it's a family film, it has a true sense of maturity running through it. There's a haunting quality about Starry Starry Night that will stay with you long after the film has finished - it really reminds you of your own childhood, and thus, it's a film I instantly connected with.

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God, I wish my parties were this fucked up...

Posted : 5 years, 11 months ago on 13 August 2012 01:08 (A review of Project X (2012))

"Dude, people are stealing shit, breaking shit. I mean people are probably stealing shit."

Before watching Nima Nourizadeh's Project X, I absolutely thought I was going to hate it. Everything about it just looked cliché, obnoxious, and just down-right stupid. Well, after seeing it, I can confirm that it ticks off on all the points I just mentioned. This film features characters we've all seen before, with some that are very unlikeable, and some truly silly moments - but that's where all fun comes from. Yes, I had an extremely good time with Project X, and no one is more shocked than I am when I say that. This is the very definition of a guilty pleasure. There's nothing deep, morally decent or witty about this comedy - all the humour comes from how insane the film becomes. Shot in the found-footage style of filmmaking, Project X made me wish the parties I went to were just as fucked up and insane.

Thomas (Thomas Mann) is celebrating his 18th birthday on the same weekend his parents go away for a wedding anniversary trip; he and his friends Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to have a party in Thomas' family home in suburban Pasadena. Invitations are sent out through social media, and the party soon spirals out of control.

Written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall, Project X doesn't spend any real time in making us care about its characters - like I said, there's nothing deep here at all. Mainly, the film just builds up momentum, basically keeping us entertained with how insane Thomas' party gets. I've taken a real liking to Michael Bacall lately, after his writing work on 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Bacall has a knack for really giving younger audiences what they want, and he does so perfectly here with co-write Drake. The character of Thomas can be related to by many audience members as he is basically depicted as a nerd and an ordinary guy. Any one who's had to throw a party will notice similarities between them and Thomas, as he himself experiences certain feelings that most of us have dealt with. For example, stressing out if anyone will show up at the party, and trying to keep everything under control.

On the down side, there are moments in the film where you can tell that the film is so obviously scripted. The found-footage style should give the film the illusion of realism, but there are so many sub-plots that go against this. The character of Costa in particular is so unlikeable, and he's a basic rip-off of Stifler from the American Pie franchise. A certain key sub-plot in the film revolves around Thomas and his friend Kirby, who has a crush on him. However Thomas fancies popular girl Alexis, and thus, this causes tension between the three characters. We all know where this is going, and clichés like this just shatter the whole realistic angle of the film. Along with that, the ending just doesn't give off any real consequence for any of the characters' actions. Yes, the film isn't supposed to be morally correct, but selling the idea that one can just throw a cataclysmic party and get away with it just seems a bit silly to me.

The three lead actors are actually quite good in their roles. Thomas Mann is naturalistic in his line delivery, and definitely slips into his teenager character with ease. Oliver Cooper plays the stereotypical obnoxious friend, but he does it well. Likewise, Jonathan Daniel Brown is the cliché fat character, but like Cooper, he pulls it off and makes us believe that he's a real person. The great thing is that all the actors here are young, and thus they've experienced many things these characters are going through. All the extras definitely give off the vibe that they're having a great time, and they were even allowed to record moments during production on their phones, allowing Nourizadeh to have a ton of footage to work with.

At the end of the day, Project X just wants to have fun with its audience. The best part is that everything is so over-the-top that you just tend to forget about all the atrocities and go along for the ride. Thomas' party just gets so out of control, and that's the real fun of it. None of the humour is in the dialogue - it's the events that make you laugh. I won't say this is the most hilarious film I've seen all year, but I definitely enjoyed the sheer amount of chaos that erupted at the party. Like I said earlier, the filmmakers had so much footage to work with, and they make excellent use of it. Edited by Jeff Groth, the film uses News footage shot from a helicopter, security cameras, and camera phones. All this is mashed up together perfectly, and there are a few montages that just add to the fun of the film. It is a bit strange to see a montage in a found-footage film, but let's face it - a montage with perfectly licensed music is a staple in any party film. Speaking of music, the soundtrack was terrific and definitely gives the film a real youthful energy. Also, I liked the fact that the film really embraced its R rating - there's constant references to booze and drugs, a lot of nudity, and a ton of swearing.

Overall, I enjoyed the living hell out of this film. I know it's not for everyone, and if you don't like films like this, then stay away. Project X is targeted for those who can really ignore all flaws and just enjoy the ride. There's stopping how insane the film gets, particularly during the climax. If you're expecting witty humour and deep messages, you are a total idiot. However, if you're looking for an insanely fucked-up time at the movies, look no further than Project X.

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An epic finale to a perfect superhero trilogy.

Posted : 6 years ago on 19 July 2012 09:37 (A review of The Dark Knight Rises)

"You think this can last? There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

After Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman film franchise with his 2005 film Batman Begins, he's had nothing but praise from movie-goers and has built an enormous fanbase. Nolan established a dark, gritty, pessimistic, and even scary tone to his Batman films, and after the release of his amazing sequel, The Dark Knight, it was clear that his dark style worked so well with the character of Batman. Now, Nolan plans to finish off his trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. There's been a lot of hype behind this conclusion to Nolan's trilogy - it's definitely the most anticipated film of 2012. The question on every movie-goers mind is whether or not this will be anywhere as good as The Dark Knight. The latter had one thing that made it so successful - Heath Ledger as The Joker, who is without a doubt an amazing villain. Due to Ledger's death, the character of The Joker could not make an appearance, and there's a lot of speculation to whether The Dark Knight Rises can deliver on the sheer complexity that made the previous film such a masterpiece. However, in my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises is nothing like the two previous films in Nolan's trilogy, and it's still an amazingly epic finale to an absolutely perfect superhero trilogy. Fuck The Avengers, this is how a superhero movie is done.

It has been eight years since Batman a.k.a Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of cunning cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who hides a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

Written by Nolan and his brother Jonathon, the screenplay will mostly bother those who thought very highly of The Dark Knight, as it is no where near as deep as the latter. The Dark Knight had a truly complex structure, thought-provoking themes, and an amazing villain, all of which doesn't register quite as well as The Dark Knight Rises. Although it doesn't reach the same level as complexity as the previous film, the film still has an interesting story to engage, and it is a smart film. Hell, it's a lot smarter than another superhero movie released earlier this year (The Avengers, anyone?). What makes The Dark Knight Rises so different from all the other films of Nolan's trilogy is that so much of the focus is centered on Bruce Wayne. We don't actually see a great deal of the other key characters in the Batman story, such as Alfred, Gordon, and Lucius, and this will bother some movie-goers. To be honest, the film acts slightly like a character study of Wayne, and outlines his rise to his original status as the hero of Gotham. The film spends a lot of time developing Wayne's character, but rarely does so with those in support. However, there's some truly moving moments between Alfred and Wayne that push their relationship to places we've never seen before, but still, it could've been developed a lot more. Like I said, The Dark Knight Rises is mainly interested in developing Wayne's character, and although there is a sag in the middle of the film (this is still a key part of Wayne's development), Nolan and his brother have done a solid job of constructing a journey for Bruce Wayne's rise.

The new characters to the mix are all beautifully established and characterised by Nolan. There's been a huge amount of speculation behind the character of Bane, as The Joker was such a brilliant nemesis for Batman. Truth be told, bane doesn't stand up to The Joker in any way. The Joker offered complexity to The Dark Knight, and while Bane is an intellectual character, The Joker's character was really what made the previous film so amazing. Still, Bane is an effective villain regardless of whether he's any better than The Joker. What works so well about Bane is his physique - he truly is a threatening character. The amount of necks and faces he breaks in the film is endless, and by the half-way mark of the running time, it's clear that anyone crosses Bane's path is dead. He's also a worthy adversary for Batman, both with the brains and physique. He's just as cunning as Batman is, but has the sheer brute strength to destroy Batman in a heartbeat, and I think this made for some brilliant tension due to Batman's absence from crime fighting - can he still fight like he used to is the question.

Another new addition to the endless list of characters is Catwoman, a.k.a Selina Kyle. Having never seen any other portrayals of this character outside the comic books, I have nothing to compare Nolan's take on the character to, but hell, I thought he did Catwoman justice. This isn't a slutty, bitchy Catwoman that I've heard was present in Tim Burton's Batman Returns. She was established so well to the audience, and was shown to not be a cold, soulless criminal, but an actual damaged human being. Catwoman's dialogue is also flawlessly written by Nolan, and it captures that seductive and slick nature of her character beautifully. Also, the banter between her and Batman is gold, with Batman's serious and rough attitude colliding with her own flexible and care-free personality. I was on the fence about the other new female character to the cast, Miranda Tate, as I felt that she had nothing to do and was there just to be a love interest for Wayne, but her character plays a big part in the climax of the film, and that definitely gave the film a nice edge.

Christian Bale returns to the role of Batman with ease. He's pretty much got the role down perfectly, and since this is by far Bruce Wayne's most difficult ordeal seen in Nolan's trilogy, he really brings a strong determination to his performance that makes the struggle of Wayne all the more convincing. Tom Hardy, meanwhile, is terrific as Bane. There's no point in comparing him to Heath Ledger as Bane and The Joker are two extremely different characters. Hardy pulled off Bane well, and while his face is covered by a mask the whole time, his eyes express much of the emotions for him. If there's one thing Hardy does well, it's delivering a threatening performance, and with his physical size and the intensity he emits in his eyes, he makes for one hell of a fierce villain. However, in my opinion, Anne Hathaway steals the show as Selina Kyle. She did everything perfectly right in this role - she's sexy, she's funny, she's smart. There was so much speculation on whether or not she was the right choice for the character of Catwoman, but hell, she delivered an amazing performance. Selina Kyle in the film was never really characterised as a true criminal, and Hathaway managed to pull off a sly and seductive performance, while still radiating humanity and heroism beautifully. Also, she works really well with Bale, making for some hilarious moments between Catwoman and Batman. Michael Caine, meanwhile, may not have a great deal of screen-time, but he pulls off a tear-jerking performance as Alfred. The other veterans of the cast, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman, may have little screen-time like Caine, but they're always good value. Another new addition to the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a small-time cop who strongly believes in justice. He's fantastic in the role, and gives off an admirable screen presence.

The spectacle may very well be the strongest point of the film. Even Nolan himself has stated that this is the biggest film he's ever had to direct, and it shows. All the set-pieces are massively constructed and staged, with thousands of real extras and superb special effects. It's a shame I never saw this film in IMAX (although I did see the six minute prologue behind Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX) because everything was so spectacularly staged and shot. If there's one thing The Dark Knight Rises does better than its predecessor, it's with the action. One of the main issues I had with the previous two films in Nolan's trilogy is that the fight sequences were so poorly put together. In Batman Begins, they were edited and shot poorly to the point where you couldn't really tell what was going on half the time, and in The Dark Knight, Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister opted for a handheld style of camera movement, which in my opinion, made the fight scenes look plain. In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan and Pfister have definitely improved on shooting their fight sequences, using a lot more dolly shots for smoother movement. The editing by Lee Smith is also perfect. A highlight of the film is first confrontation between Batman and Bane, which results in a magnificent fight sequence between the two. There are also a few chase sequences which are, as always, brilliantly staged by Nolan. He's no stranger to perfect car chase sequences (the car chases in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are some of the best I've ever seen), and with the addition of the Batwing, the chase sequences in The Dark Knight Rises still bring freshness and excitement to the film. Hans Zimmer's score is way above average, and I'll definitely be picking it up as soon as possible - the way it flows with the action and dialogue is just flawless. Lastly, I have to mention the production design. Like with The Dark Knight, there are sets built to be blown up - with The dark Knight Rises, it's a spectacular sequence set in football stadium where the field blows up. All the sets are sensational, with update of the Batcave and the look of Gotham towards the end of the film when things go to ruin. Also, the costumes are fantastic. Bane's mask is well-designed, emitting a threatening look, and Catwoman's leather suit... I'll be honest, it's amazing, and Hathaway slips it on like a goddamn champ.

"See, I'm a man of simple tastes. I enjoy" explosions, lots of action, and... hot girls! "And you know the thing they have in common? They're" all abundant in The Dark Knight Rises. I personally think this is my favourite of Nolan's trilogy. Sure, it doesn't have the complexity of The Dark Knight, but I really want to avoid comparing it to the latter. There's something truly different about this finale, and I still think it delivers on the 'epicness' that is so crucial to a conclusion of a franchise as successful as this. When the end credits role, you do feel a bit sentimental as this is the last film in Nolan's trilogy, although a reboot has been confirmed (Nolan is attached as producer and writer). I will definitely be seeing this again in IMAX. This is one of the best films of 2012, and probably, in my opinion, the best comic book movie ever made. I love this film. If you were let down by The Avengers like I was, this is the film for you.

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Haters be damned - I loved this movie.

Posted : 6 years ago on 13 July 2012 12:34 (A review of The Amazing Spider-Man)

"You found my weakness! It's small knives!"

I'm gonna get hell for this - I was rather disappointed with The Avengers earlier this year. Although I thoroughly enjoyed it, I was expecting it to be the best Marvel movie I'd ever seen. My favourite Marvel film so far is Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, which is truly spectacular in my opinion. I love the character of Spider-Man. He's my favourite superhero of the Marvel franchise, and when I found out they were rebooting the series so soon after the first Spider-Man, which was released in 2002, I was one of the few who didn't mind the idea. Sure, it's only been 10 years since the first Sam Raimi movie, but after the disappointing Spider-Man 3, that series had run out of its original charm, and thus a fourth sequel would just make it worse. Directed by Marc Webb, who previously made one of my favourite movies, (500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man is a decidedly more darker take on the character than we're used to, and as a reboot, it offers slightly different origin story. There are many similarities between Raimi's Spider-Man and Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man in the scripting department, but I can't stress enough how enjoyable this film is - there are elements here are that absolutely perfect in my opinion.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a high school student, has lived with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) since his mother and his scientist father abruptly abandoned him as a child. Peter discovers a briefcase containing secret documents of a scientific theory his dad was working on, and during a visit to OsCorp, the facility run by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father's former partner, he's bitten by a spider - as a result he starts to become immensely strong, impressing Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the schoolgirl on whom he has a crush. When Uncle Ben is shot by a gunman, Peter takes one step further to becoming Spider-Man.

Written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy), and Steve Kloves (Harry Potter franchise), the screenplay has its ups and downs. These three screenwriters are all extremely experienced, so it is a shame that this script isn't entirely flawless. Many movie-goers have criticised the film's first half, which basically outlines Peter's transformation into Spider-Man, for basically revisiting much of the original Spider-Man. This didn't particularly bother me, as I did think the dark tone was a lot more different than Raimi's original film. However, there are sub-plots that were handled a lot better in the original Spider-Man. For example, the death of Uncle Ben - there's a sense of sheer guilt and tragedy in the way Raimi handled this moment in the film. Webb and his team of writers, however, rushed through this moving part of the story, and thus, it just doesn't make much of an impact - there's no guilt, and nothing about it registers as truly moving. However, Uncle Ben's character was established perfectly, although I can't say the same for Aunt May. The death of Uncle Ben leads Peter to take on the role of Spider-Man and find his uncle's killer, which is well established to the audience, but as soon as the film moves to the second half, his motivation suddenly disappears, and this quest to find the killer of his uncle is never mentioned again. It's a real shame there are flaws like this in the script considering how great these writers are. On the other hand, they nailed the personality of Spider-Man perfectly - the moments with the superhero wise-cracking and acting like a smart ass are the best parts of the film in my opinion, and Spidey's dialogue is simply hilarious.

On the plus side, the romance is infinitely better than that of Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. The reason why I never really got into the whole love story in the original Spider-Man films was the character of Mary Jane. I just hated the girl - I thought she was simply a bitch. Gwen Stacy on the other hand is so much more likeable. She's cute, she's smart, and she's nice as well. The character of Gwen was introduced in Raimi's Spider-Man 3, but that take on the character just didn't resonate well. In the comics, Gwen was basically an innocent damsel-in-distress. Webb and his writers nailed this personality of her character, and I absolutely found the romance between her and Peter adorable. While it could've been slightly improved on the intensity of their relationship, I still prefer the love story introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man than Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.

The villain is a slight disappointment. Dr Curt Connors is the baddie of the flick - he transforms into a giant reptile known as The Lizard after experimenting on himself. The sheer monstrosity of the villain is effective, but the human side of Connors is hardly explored at all. There could've been some exploration into the relationship between Connors and Peter's father, and this just makes him feel rather shallow. The Green Goblin of Spider-Man had two great sides to him, with a human living in fear, and the alter ego of a menacing villain. It's a shame this couldn't translate to The Lizard, although again, he does make for a fresh nemesis in the Spider-Man film universe - we've never seen a villain quite like this.

The cast is maybe the film's biggest plus - everyone is so well-cast. Andrew Garfield, in my opinion, makes for a superior Spider-Man in comparison with Tobey Maguire's. Maguire was fine in the role, but I feel that Garfield has a lot more range, and also handles the wise-cracking attitude of Spider-Man perfectly. Emma Stone is absolutely adorable as Gwen Stacy. I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't like Stone - she just has such a likeable screen presence that works in whatever role she's cast in. Also, she shares a great amount of chemistry with Garfield, resulting in some truly lovely romantic moments between the two actors. Dennis Leary is magnificent as Gwen's father, who is also the chief of police. Leary manages to adopt both a humourous and threatening tone to his performance, and it works wonders. Rhys Ifans brings class to Dr Curt Connors, and handles the transformation into The Lizard with skill. Martin Sheen is pitch perfect as Uncle Ben, but Sally Field doesn't have a great deal to do as Aunt May. Her character pretty much disappears during the second half of the movie.

Shot natively in 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man looks amazing There's a rich dark vibe at work here, and Webb uses the 3D technology in very creative ways. This is one of the best 3D movies of the year so far, and it just shows what you can do with the format in terms of action. The visual effects are simply mind-blowing, complete and convincing, and every action set-piece utilises these effects well, with visceral use of sound. The creation of The Lizard is also quite impressive, as Webb and his crew used motion capture technology to bring the villain to life. The Spider-Man costume is actually pretty excellent, and I'm glad they at least tried to make it different. Also, the web shooters are a nice addition, as it both stays true to the comics and gives the film a sense of tension - what if he runs out of web fluid? Edited masterfully, you can always tell what is happening during the action scenes, and surprisingly enough, they're very fast paced. This is thanks to the great visual effects and the newly improved Spider-Man, who cracks jokes at almost every moment he can. James Horner's score may not be as memorable as Danny Elfman's music for Raimi's Spider-Man films, but it captures that heroic tone that is necessary for any comic book movie like this.

Hate me for it, but I loved The Amazing Spider-Man. Hell, I loved it more than The Avengers. It may have huge flaws, but it's not as if Sam Raimi's trilogy was flawless. Marc Webb has done a spectacular job with this much darker reboot of Spider-Man, and he is served well by his excellent cast and crew. Although this isn't better than Spider-Man 2, I have hopes for the sequel, as the post-credits scene hints that there is more to come from this reboot. Let's hope that Spider-Man 2 can finally be dethroned from my number one spot.

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Delivers on what it promises.

Posted : 6 years ago on 2 July 2012 10:33 (A review of Contraband)

"You think you're the only guy with a fucking gun?"

Critics and audiences alike have slammed Contraband for its unoriginality and the so-called 'convoluted plot'. I personally loved the film. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Contraband is based on the Icelandic film, Reykjavík-Rotterdam, which Kormákur starred in. This is a visceral thriller jam-packed with nail biting set pieces. It is understandable to call this just another generic Mark Wahlberg movie, but this is well-above the standard offerings from Marky-Mark. Maybe I'm being a bit generous with my praise. This isn't a perfect film by any means, but there's nothing obnoxious about the way it's been made. Contraband was marketed as a gritty and suspenseful thriller, and on this part, it certainly delivers.

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a former world-class smuggler, has retired to the suburbs to go straight for the sake of his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. When Kate's younger brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) dumps a load of cocaine overboard during a customs raid, drug boss Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) is not a happy man. He wants compensation, nearly a million dollars worth and the only way to get that sort of money is one last smuggling effort from Chris. Things, however, don't go to plan when the job comes to action.

Having never seen the original film, I can't really compare it to anything. Like all films of this kind of style, Contraband is basically about a job gone wrong. From Inception to The Town - this style of storytelling is thrilling to witness. As Chris and his team put their plan into action, things just go wrong at every turn. Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski can't be targeted for being 'unoriginal' as this is the classic set up for heist thrillers. Also, the plot is well structured - I have no idea why people keep saying it's convoluted. The film is filled with twists and turns, with the risks and urgency of the job constantly raised, keeping the audience engaged. The dialogue captures the context of the film perfectly, and the film also breaks its gritty tone with some humour - and it actually works! I laughed out loud a couple of times through the film.

Flaws are few but I'll have to name them since this is a review. First off is the character of Kate, who doesn't have a great deal to do. For most of the film, she is often characterised as a damsel in distress. She's extremely vulnerable without the aid of Chris, and it's really up to him to fix her brother's issue. Still, although vulnerable, her character has a feisty and strong-willed attitude that at least keeps her interesting. She's a realistic and it's easy to relate with her, and thus you end up caring for the woman. Also, the relationship between Chris and his father, which is established before the heist begins, never really resonates effectively.

Mark Wahlberg is no stranger to tough guy roles like this, and while he seems to be making an entry into the comedy genre just recently with Ted, there's no denying he plays these kinds of characters well. He's a competent as Chris, and carries much of the movie terrifically. Kate Beckinsale looks gorgeous as always, and delivers a convincing performance as Chris' wife. Ben Foster is undeniably subtle and cool as Chris' best friend Sebastian, but one who lacks that kind of subtlety is Giovanni Ribisi. He is absolutely over-the-top in the role of Tim Briggs, and while many would say that's a negative, I quite liked the tone he decided to take. He's not subtle in any way, but it's so much fun to watch him perform like he's on drugs. Some of his line delivery is also mildly amusing.

What shocked me most is that Contraband only had a budget of $25 Million. I've seen films with double that for a budget, and they always end up being shockingly bad. Contraband is amazingly well put together. The editing of all the spectacular shots is masterful, and this combination comes into play terrifically in the nail-biting heist sequences, all expertly staged by Kormákur. A highlight of the film is a spectacular shootout in the streets of Panema. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is no stranger to handheld camerawork, and although I've dreaded it films like The Hurt Locker, it comes to effect brilliantly in Contraband. The gritty and dangerous feel of the locations are captured well through the shaky-cam, and Clinton Shorter's score adds to this.

Overall, Contraband is a brilliantly thrilling film. It's easy to criticise the plot, but there's nothing too mindless about it. There are plenty of unexpected plot developments, and every single action sequence is thoroughly entertaining. In a year full of mindless action movies that just have eye candy to offer, it's refreshing to watch a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Yes, I loved Contraband. Don't hate me for it.

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An amazing debut album from Christina Perri.

Posted : 6 years ago on 27 June 2012 05:58 (A review of lovestrong.)

I'm not usually one who reviews music - it's movies I review. However, after listening to Christina Perri's , I just felt this was an item I had to talk about. So, let's do this.
Christina Perri's debut studio album, lovestrong., is truly beautiful. No, beautiful doesn't even compute the whole set of gorgeous songs. It's never breaking news when a musical artist writes songs about a big break up or something similar to that, but Perri takes this theme and adds her own soft and delicate style to it. Her voice is lovely - it's calm and peaceful, and none of her songs ever go over-the-top. I personally found Arms to be masterful - it's definitely one of favourite songs of all time. Also, no one can go past Jar of Heart, her debut single of the album.

Perri is one to watch. Another single, that isn't featured in lovestrong., is the sweet love song A Thousand Years, which was actually written and recorded for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. Yes, the movie totally sucks, but the song is beautiful, romantic and delicate. Even if you haven't heard of Christina Perri before, you'll never regret picking up lovestrong. - it is just brilliant, and one of my favourite albums of all time.

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A complete waste of time.

Posted : 6 years ago on 25 June 2012 08:06 (A review of One for the Money)

"Ranger Manoso. He's like the statue of David by Michelangelo, if you dipped him in caramel and strapped some heat on him."

Katherine Heigl's career is going no where at this point, and with the release of her latest movie One for the Money, that statement has hit home. Heigl had a positive start with a rom-com I actually liked, 27 Dresses. However, lately she's been playing the same character over and over again - the annoying woman who spends the whole film screaming and acting like a complete lunatic. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson, One for the Money is based on the popular novel of the same name by Janet Evanovich. Having never read the book, I had no idea what this film would be about. Obviously anything featuring Heigl these days is a chick flick, but the inclusion of action, crime, and other elements from different genres makes One for the Money a confused experience. As a comedy, which it tries to be for the most part, it's an utter miss. With so many funnier and better films out there, One for the Money is simply a waste of your time.

Jersey girl Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl), after losing her job, is broke. Needing a job she is told that her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), a bail bondsman, needs someone to help out in the office. But all he has are skip tracers. She learns that Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara), a cop she knew intimately years ago, is one of them. To prepare for the job, bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) tries to teach her, giving her a gun and showing her the tricks. After many encounters with Morelli, Stephanie starts to suspect that he may be innocent of the crimes he's been accused of.

Written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray, and Liz Brixius, the screenplay is simply generic and unfunny. Even fans of the original book have complained about the film's treatment of it. The main issue is there's no reason to care about any of the characters or what they're trying to achieve. Stephanie isn't particularly unlikeable, but she's not interesting in any way. The way her search for Morelli unfolds is so predictable - the film tries way too hard to be a crime mystery, and although it is in the book, there's no reason to care about what happens while watching the film. Morelli does give the film somewhat enjoyable banter between him and Stephanie, and Ranger is a fun character. In all honesty, the male characters definitely bring some sense of joy to this chick flick. There is a moment in the film where Stephanie develops a friendship with a pair of hookers, and when one of them is injured by a criminal Stephanie is tracking down, there's supposed to be a big emotional response in the audience. Problem is we haven't spent enough time with these characters to really care what happens to them. Like I said earlier, the film doesn't try in any way to give you something to care about, making it real chore to get through the whole film.

Katherine Heigl may be amazing eye candy, but she brings nothing interesting to the role. For the most part, she acts like a lunatic. Still, Heigl is competent enough to the point where she doesn't truly get on your nerves. The same goes for the rest of the cast. Jason O'Mara is decent as the token love interest, and there's fun banter between him and Heigl. The two share a certain amount of chemistry, but it still doesn't add a lot to the experience of the film. I really liked Daniel Sunjata as Ranger, giving a cool and badass performance. Yes, you could say he was wooden, but I thought it suited the role well.

When One for the Money moves into territories outside the rom-com genre, it becomes a complete mess. The mini action beats are decently put together, but the comic music played over them give the sequences no sense of tension. There's really nothing left more me to say. This review may very well be my shortest ever, and for good reason. One for the Money has nothing to discuss about. It's not obnoxious in any way, but there's nothing I can recommend about it. I guess if you are a fan of Katherine Heigl, then it could be fun movie to watch, but for anyone else, it's a waste of time. There are better rom-coms out there - try Crazy, Stupid, Love. or (500) Days of Summer.

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There are better fairytale movies out there...

Posted : 6 years, 1 month ago on 22 June 2012 12:32 (A review of Mirror Mirror)

"It's important to know when you've been beaten. Yes?"

I'll admit, when Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror received decent reviews from critics and audiences alike, my mind was blown. From the trailer, it looked like the silliest garbage ever made. I'd heard the film had witty writing, great acting, Oscar-worthy costumes, and truly beautiful visuals. Boy, why did I listen to these reviews? As you can probably tell already, I hated this film. I'm well aware that this isn't a film made for me - it's made for kids. It's supposed to be a fun, over-the-top family film; a total re-imagining of the classic fairytale of Snow White. Mirror Mirror is completely different from the other Snow White film released this year, Snow White and the Huntsman, with the latter being a superior film. I understand this film isn't for me, but there are so many better fairytale movies you could watch. Snow White and the Huntsman isn't a family movie, I'll admit that, but there's another Snow White adaptation that's perfect for the family - it's called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!

The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) has let her kingdom go to wrack and ruin after her husband the King, and Snow White's father disappeared many years ago. Now Snow White (Lily Collins) is becoming a beauty in her own right, a threat to the Queen's plan to marry the rich prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). Angered, the wicked woman orders Snow White to be killed. The Queen's servant Brighton (Nathan Lane) was supposed to murder the young princess in the dark woods but he let her go, and that's where she meets up with the seven dwarves.

Written by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller, the screenplay plays itself on extremely cheesy humour for the entire running time. I respect the film for that - they stuck to their tone. Problem is, the writing isn't that great. I read in a review that the dialogue was smartly written - that's bullshit. The humour here doesn't come from the dialogue, which isn't witty in any way, but from the silly gags the film has going. Mirror Mirror features the most over-the-top moments that will entertain children, but will adults rolling their eyes. Let me give you a few examples - the prince is cast under a spell by the Queen to be act like puppy who is madly in love with her; Brighton is transformed into a cockroach; the Queen bathes herself in disgusting substances to make herself look prettier. I didn't find anything funny about these gags, but I will admit, I am guilty of chuckling a few times at the character of The Prince. There are moments of banter that are good fun between him and Snow White, and while their love story is cliché, it does give the film at least a bit of humour. Also giving a slight bit of joy to the film are the seven dwarves, although I didn't care for them in any way. They still have a mischievous attitude that adds to the humour.

The character of the Evil Queen is what really got under my skin and drove me nuts. She's just not funny in any way, and the writers seemed to have been pushing for her to be the leading comical force. Sadly, her dialogue is just lame, and I ended up cringing rather than laughing out loud. Also, she's not the most effective villain - in Snow White and the Huntsman, the evil queen was a dynamic force of villainy. In Mirror Mirror, she's a bimbo to put it lightly. You get the feeling that she's more bitchy and evil, and the way she lets her kingdom rot away doesn't register a lot to the audience. However, her servant Brighton has moments to shine. From time to time, he will bring amusement to the film. Another character who has been handled in a pretty poor way is the heroine Snow White. At one point in the film, she's supposed to become a leader and warrior for her kingdom - it's not fleshed out enough, and to be honest, the character is extremely insipid. There's no great deal of development, and the idea that she is the 'fairest of them all' doesn't resonate at all.

I feel bad for the actors due to the crap they had to perform. To their credit, each one of them managed to keep a straight face and appeared utterly shameless. Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen annoyed the hell out of me. Roberts dives straight into the role with gusto, but her performance just feels irritating, and the accent she speaks in may be the reason. Lily Collins is a pretty girl, and she certainly looks the part, but makes no attempt to bring anything unique to the role of Snow White. Armie Hammer, who has proven to be an amazing actor in The Social Network, manages to bring slight joy to the film, as he essentially fits the role of the prince. He was really well cast in this, and actually carried most of the scenes with him and Collins present. Also worth mentioning is Nathan Lane, who like Hammer, steals most of his scenes.

I really don't see the big deal with the costumes. Yes, they're amazingly out-there and suit the film's over-the-top tone, but they really didn't register as Oscar-worthy in my opinion. To be honest, they all looked incredibly cheap to me. Same goes with the sets, which all looked small and miniscule. This film looks a like TV-movie, and although Singh is well-known for his visual style, the look of the film isn't the most breathtaking I've seen in this kind of genre. However, cinematographer Brendan Galvin has framed most of his shots incredibly well, with precision and a sharp eye from Singh. The animated opening is impressive, and it was a nice way to introduce the characters we already know. When the film tries to be an action film, it fails dramatically. There are sequences of sword fights and acrobatic stunt-work, and while credit must be given to the performers, none of the action ever registered as exciting or suspenseful. The climax is actually a battle sequence with a monster. Yes, that's correct - Snow White and her companions fight a ridiculous looking monster (which looks incredibly fake), which ends up being dull and joyless. The final scene is a Bollywood musical number, and although I understand Singh is an Indian director, it literally had no place in the film.

Overall, Mirror Mirror is as cheesy, over-the-top, and 'cartoony' as any fairytale movie you could think of. Again, I understand that this film isn't made for guys like me, but there is a far better family movie based off the Snow White story - and I love it. Do yourself a favour and skip Mirror Mirror. If you're looking for a truly sensational re-imagining of the story, go see Snow White and the Huntsman. If you want a family friendly version of the tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is worth a watch. Mirror Mirror is a film I simply can't recommend, even to little kids.

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