Monday, 29 August 2011

Film Review: "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011).

The movie's tagline "First contact. Last stand" makes Cowboys & Aliens an unusual movie. This science fiction Western film directed by Jon Favreau; written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Osby; based on a screen story by the latter two along with Steve Oedekerk; based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The main plot revolves around an amnesiac outlaw, a wealthy cattleman, and a mysterious traveler who must ally to save a group of townspeople abducted by aliens.

The project began development in April 1997, when Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures bought film rights to a concept pitched by Rosenberg, former president at Malibu Comics, which he described as a graphic novel in development. After the graphic novel was published in 2006, development on the film was begun again, and Favreau signed on as director in September 2009. By April 2010, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig were cast. Favreau had cast Craig and Ford in the film because they were actors who suited the action-adventure roles so the characters would be less seen as comedic. On a budget of $163 million, filming for Cowboys & Aliens began in June 2010, in New Mexico and California. Despite studio pressure to release the film in 3-D, Favreau chose to film traditionally and in anamorphic format (widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film) to further a "classic movie feel". Measures were taken to maintain a serious Western element despite the film's "inherently comic" title and premise. The film's aliens were designed to be "cool and captivating", with some details, such as a fungus that grows on their wounds, created to depict the creatures as frontiersmen facing adversity in an unfamiliar place.

The film stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine. The cast gave lacklustre performances that were borderline comical and silly. Craig and Ford unintentionally drew silly caricatures of themselves when they intended to deliver two new additions to the list of great action heroes. Wilde just seemed to be nothing but eye candy for the men in the audience, especially with that one scene. Her character lacked real personality and purpose even though she was the key to the whole film.

Cowboys & Aliens is a middling sci-fi / western crossover fodder, at best. As a kid, I would enjoy this movie much more than I would as an adult. Aliens and cowboys in a single movie. It seems contrived and dull. Pretty much the end of Favreau's career for serious filmmaking. It starts off really well, stalls a little toward the middle, goes bonkers for one really odd scene, and then derails completely at the end. In the end, it doesn't deliver all that much of what the title promises.

Simon says Cowboys & Aliens receives:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Film Review: "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011).

"Whatever happens… you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man." This is at the center of Captain America: The First Avenger. This superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain America. It is the fifth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Joe Johnston, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Set predominantly during World War II, the film tells the story of Steve Rogers, a sickly man from Brooklyn who is transformed into super-soldier Captain America to aid in the war effort. Rogers must stop the Red Skull, Adolf Hitler's ruthless head of weaponry and the leader of an organization that intends to use an artifact called the "Tesseract" as an energy-source for world domination.

Captain America: The First Avenger began as a concept in 1997 and was scheduled for distribution by Artisan Entertainment. However, a lawsuit, not settled until September 2003, disrupted the project. In 2005, Marvel Studios received a loan from Merrill Lynch, and planned to finance and release it through Paramount Pictures. Directors Jon Favreau (Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010)) and Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk (2008)) were interested in directing the project before Johnston (The Rocketeer (1991)) was approached in 2008. The principal characters were cast between March and June 2010. Production began in June 2010, taking place in London, Manchester, Caerwent, and Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and Los Angeles.

The film stars Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper and Stanley Tucci. The cast gave spectacular performances. Evans was magnificent as the iconic American hero and epitomized Justice and heroism in the most American sense. Jones, in his second superhero outing, first being Batman Forever (1995), gave an superb performance as Captain America’s general and ally. Weaving, like his other villain portrayals, gave a brilliant performance as Captain America’s most famous adversary, The Red Skull. He is just so good at playing villains, it is though it is what he is best at. Atwell gave an incredible performance as Agent Carter, Captain America’s partner and love interest. She brought confidence and sexiness to the role. Which made her as every bit appealing on screen. Stan gave a terrific performance as Steve Rodger’s best friend. Though his role was rather cut short. Cooper gave a brilliant performance as genius inventor Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark. He was able to meet the level of Downey. Laslty, Tucci gave a fine performance as Dr. Abraham Erskine, the scientist who created the Super Soldier Serum. He gave Captain America emotional depth as his voice of reason. And he pulled off a great German accent. However, I felt his role was cut too short.

Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American superhero movies ever made. It is the ultimate Marvel action adventure–a film so funny and exciting it can be enjoyed any day of the week.

Simon says Captain America: The First Avenger receives:

Monday, 8 August 2011

Film Review: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011).

The film’s tagline "Evolution Becomes Revolution" sums up the premise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This science fiction film directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. It is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes series. A substance, designed to help the brain repair itself, gives rise to a super-intelligent chimp who leads an ape uprising.

In 2006, screenwriter-producer Rick Jaffa was searching for a script idea. As Jaffa searched a newspaper articles clipping, one about pet chimpanzees that become troublesome to their owners and heartbroken for not adapting well to the human environment intrigued him. As Jaffa eventually realized it fit the Planet of the Apes series, he called his wife and screenwriting partner Amanda Silver to express his ideas of such a chimpanzee eventually starting the ape revolution, and then the couple started developing the character of Caesar. Jaffa and Silver then wrote a script and sold it to Fox. The script added other elements which the couple had researched, such as genetic engineering. Several tributes to specific scenes, characters, and cast and crew from the previous Apes film series were added in the script. In a 2009 interview, Wyatt said, "We've incorporated elements from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in terms of how the apes begin to revolt, but this is primarily a prequel to the 1968 film...Caesar is a revolutionary figure who will be talked about by his fellow apes for centuries...This is just the first step in the evolution of the apes, and there's a lot more stories to tell after this. I imagine the next film will be about the all-out war between the apes and humans." Filming began in July 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Filming also happened in San Francisco, California and around Oahu, Hawaii. As the animals in film were meant to be actual apes instead of the anthropomorphic simians of the original franchise, the producers decided not to use actors in make-up or animal suits. After considering real apes, instead Weta Digital created the apes digitally in almost every case through performance capture. 

The film stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton and Andy Serkis. The cast gave amazing performances. But the true praise goes to its unlikely star – Caesar, played by Andy Serkis. He gave an amazing performance that genuinely allowed the audience to see the whole movie through his eyes and understand where he comes from and what are his motivations. He made this movie, without him there would be no movie. Full stop.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes summons up moments of great eloquence and power. It's not just the birth of Caesar we're seeing in this triumphant interpretation, it's also the dawning of the beginning of humanity’s end. Here's how any great franchise should start: with care, precision and delicately wrought atmosphere. It's a refreshing approach to the genre, even when revisiting years later, in an era inundated with science fiction movies where each tries to better the last's visual effects budget.

Simon says Rise of the Planet of the Apes receives: