Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Film Review: "Iron Man 3" (2013).

"My armor was never a distraction or a hobby, it was a cocoon, and now I'm a changed man. You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys, but one thing you can't take away - I am Iron Man." This is the essence of Iron Man 3. This superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Iron Man, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to Iron Man 2 (2010), and the seventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Shane Black directed a screenplay he co-wrote with Drew Pearce, which is based on the Extremis story arc by Warren Ellis. The film pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible.

After the release of Iron Man 2 in May 2010, Favreau decided not to return as director, and in February 2011 Black was hired to rewrite and direct the film. Throughout April and May of 2012, the film's supporting cast was filled out, with Kingsley, Pearce, and Hall brought in to portray key roles. Filming began on May 23, 2012 in Wilmington, North Carolina. The film was shot primarily in North Carolina, with additional shooting in Florida, China and Los Angeles.

Robert Downey, Jr. reprises his role as the title character, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Favreau reprising their roles as Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, and Happy Hogan, respectively. Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley round out the film's principal cast. The film presented some solid, strong and comedic performances from the original cast members; Downey, Paltrow, Cheadle, and Favereau. In the mist of these great and solid performances, however... there are those performances that were either poorly performed or lacked so much in characterization. Pearce: even though he gave another chilling and villainous performance as Aldrich Killian, the creator of the Extremis virus, the founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics and the film's main antagonist. His performance felt the same old type of performance that I have already seen so many times, such as Peter Weyland in Prometheus (2012). Hall - even though her performance was solid enough, her performance lacked depth and characterization. But the most disappointing performance of all came from Sir Ben Kingsley, who portrayed The Mandarin. His performance lacked power to evoke, poorly portrayed, lacked characterization and, most of all, it lacked... authenticity from the original character.

Iron Man 3 somewhat feels rather soulless and is nothing but nearly all chases and no expositions. However, the Cartoonlike villains of the past have been replaced by more genuinely frightening ones led by Sir Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce. To conclude, with a few more script touch-ups and more loyalty to its source material, it could have been the wildest and wittiest Iron Man of them all.

Simon says Iron Man 3 receives:

Also, see my review for The Avengers.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Film Review: "Antiviral" (2012).

"What If You Could Feel Like They Do ..." This is Antiviral. This Canadian-French science fiction horror film written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg. The film centres on Syd March, an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. Biological communion - for a price. Syd also supplies illegal samples of these viruses to piracy groups, smuggling them from the clinic in his own body. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills super sensation Hannah Geist, Syd becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. He must unravel the mystery surrounding her death before he suffers the same fate.

Cronenberg has stated that the genesis of the film was a viral infection he once had. More precisely, the "central idea came to him in a fever dream during a bout of illness." Cronenberg elaborated, "I was delirious and was obsessing over the physicality of illness, the fact that there was something in my body and in my cells that had come from someone else's body, and I started to think there was a weird intimacy to that connection. And afterwards I tried to think of a character who would see a disease that way and I thought: a celebrity-obsessed fan. Celebrity culture is completely bodily obsessed - who has the most cellulite, who has fungus feet? Celebrity culture completely fetishizes the body and so I thought the film should also fetishize the body - in a very grotesque way." It was further shaped when he saw an interview Sarah Michelle Gellar did on Jimmy Kimmel Live!; what struck him was when "she said she was sick and if she sneezed she'd infect the whole audience, and everyone just started cheering." By early November 2011, Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, and Malcolm McDowell were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early December. Filming took place in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. During production, Gadon and Jones both decided not to meet or rehearse prior to the filming of the hotel room scene where Syd takes a sample of Hannah Geist's blood. They both felt it would help preserve the separation of the characters within the story.

The film stars Jones, Gadon, and McDowell. Tour de force performances were given by the cast, where each of them gave a sharply authentic edge.

Visually audacious, disorienting, and just plain weird, like his father's 1983 body horror classic Videodrome, Antiviral's musings on technology, entertainment, and politics still feel fresh today. It is a perfect example of body horror. The film is a radical look at celebrity culture, celebrity obsession, and the increasingly violent state of celebrity and entertainment at a time when such subjects aren't up for cultural debate. The film shows us a world of our making should we continue a dangerous relationship with celebrity in its various forms, the images it puts into our brains. The film envisions a coming world of celebrity addiction.

Simon says Antiviral receives:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Film Review: "Oblivion" (2013).

"Earth, before the war. New York, before I was born. A place I've only seen pictures of… I know I'm dreaming. But it feels like more than that. It feels like a memory. How can that be?" This is at the heart of Oblivion. This science fiction film co-written, produced and directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his unpublished graphic novel of the same name edited by Radical Comics. One of the few remaining veteran and drone repairmen assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources from its surface, devastated after decades of war with aliens, discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents and begins to question everything what he knows about his mission, he believed about the war and himself. This thus may put the fate of mankind in his hands.

The film presented two worlds - first, the Skytower, 150 meters above the ground, safe and "dreamlike." The feel is very reminiscent to Stanley Kubrick, an Arctic world of shimmering technology Kosinski described as "almost ideal". Second is the abandoned world, that was once Earth, below. Below lies the soiled glamour of Ridley Scott, a "Blade Runnerian" wilderness of petrified skyscrapers, rusted factories and eye-popping and visually stunning horizons. As well as the school of '70s films of loneliness, the heaven and hell worlds of Kubrick and Scott. The Bubble Ship operated by Cruise's character was inspired by the Bell 47 helicopter, a utilitarian 1947 vehicle with a transparent round canopy that Kosinski saw in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and which he likened to a dragonfly. Daniel Simon, who previously worked with Kosinksi as the lead vehicle designer on Tron: Legacy (2010), was tasked with creating the Bubble Ship from this basis, incorporating elements evocative of an advanced fighter jet with the Bell 47 to create a light, functional vehicle that was both practical and aesthetically pleasing, much as he observed with the ships in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Rather than employ digital models, Wild Factory, a Camarillo concept car company, built The Bubble Ship as a 25-foot-long, 4,000 - 5,000 lb., mostly aluminum prop. Elements of the cockpit, such as the placement of the joystick and pedals, were customized for Cruise, who is a pilot in real life, and who had some input into the design. The craft was also made to be easy to disassemble and assemble, in order to facilitate transport to the Iceland shooting locations, where it would be mounted on a gimbal for shots of it flying.

It stars Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo. Cruise gave an incredibly performance. Kurylenko gave an incredibly emotional performance. Riseborough gave an incredibly human and yet cool performance. Freeman, as always, gave another brilliant performance. Finally Leo gave a cool and enigmatic performance.

Oblivion boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design. This is a movie of astonishing high-end gloss, fused to a pounding M83 soundtrack, populated with futuristic vehicles and mysterious alien creatures, boasting a post-apocalyptic and primal landscapes to make Blu-ray viewers weep.

Simon says Oblivion receives:

Film Review: "Bullet to the Head" (2012).

"Revenge never gets old" in Bullet to the Head. This action film directed by Walter Hill, adapted by Alessandro Camon, and based on the French graphic novel Du plomb dans la tête written by Matz and illustrated by Colin Wilson. The film follows Jimmy Bobo, an assassin, and detective Taylor Kwon who join forces to take revenge on Robert Nkomo Morel, the person responsible for killing their respective partners.

In February 2011, Wayne Kramer was originally direct the adaptation of Nolent's graphic novel with Camon penned the script, and Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Jane to star, under the working title Headshot. However, he ultimately life the project when his vision of the film was darker than Stallone wanted. When Kramer left the project, Jane suggested Stallone to hire Hill. In early April, Hill was hired to replace Kramer after he had a film fall apart six weeks before that he had been trying to do for a year. This marked Hill's first directorial effort since Undisputed (2002). After Hill took over directorial duties, producer Joel Silver came on board the project and fired Jane because he wanted an ethnic guy for the other lead role. Sung Kang was subsequently cast. Stallone and Hill performed uncredited re-writes. By late June, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, and Holt McCallany rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late August. Filming took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. In late August, it was announced that the film would be released on April 13, 2012. In late February 2012, the release date was moved back to February 1, 2013. Shortly before the film's release, many trade and industry publications published stories that the studio had taken the final cut away from director Hill and they had given the film to Stallone to make an all new cut. Hill and Stallone have both denied the story.

The film stars Stallone, Kang, Shahi, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Momoa, Slater, and McCallany. Wry, cold and confident, the cast, especially Stallone, squint and blast their way through the film, a blazing pistol in each hand. Stalone does good work in this dusty action flick.

Bullet to the Head makes no excuses about what it is: an old-fashioned shoot-'em-up with an invincible hero. However, the film chokes to death on Walter Hill's dusty artistry. A Walter Hill dud with super cool Stallone. The film is an overcooked action picture that poorly blends the Western and the gangster film. For all the gunplay and assorted violence, there is nothing between the action scenes to engage the audience. The film is such a desperately cheerless film, so dry and laconic and wrung out, that you wonder if the filmmakers ever thought that in any way it could be... fun. This film is nothing more than a time-filler, something you can have on in the background while you're doing something else, and can glance at whenever the shooting starts. One of the dullest gunslinger movies of the new generation.

Simon says Bullet to the Head receives:

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Film Review: "Evil Dead" (2013).

The tagline of the film reads "The most terrifying film you will ever experience." This is what you’ll expect when viewing Evil Dead. This horror film co-written and directed by Fede Alvarez. It is the fourth installment of the Evil Dead franchise, serving as both a reboot and as a loose continuation of the series. It is the first not to be directed by Sam Raimi. The film is the feature debut of Alvarez, whom Raimi selected. It was produced by Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert G. Tapert: the writer-director, lead actor, and producer of the original trilogy respectively. The film follows five twenty-something friends who become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.

Like Raimi before him, Fede Alvarez made his feature debut with this film. After showing a copy of Alvarez's short film Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!) to Raimi. Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues co-wrote the script. The film was produced by Raimi, Campbell, and Robert G. Tapert — the producers of the original trilogy. Raimi and Campbell had planned a remake for many years, but in 2009, Campbell stated the proposed remake was "going nowhere" and had "fizzled" due to extremely negative fan reaction. However, in April 2011, Bruce Campbell stated in an AskMeAnything interview on Reddit.com, "We are remaking Evil Dead. The script is awesome [...] The remake's gonna kick some ass — you have my word." On July 13, 2011, it was officially announced, via a press release, that Ghost House Pictures would produce the remake of The Evil Dead, and Diablo Cody was in the process of revising the script and Fede Alvarez had been chosen as the director. Bloody Disgusting reported that Lily Collins would play the lead female role of Mia, but on January 24, 2012, she dropped out of the role. On February 3, 2012, it was announced that actress Jane Levy, star of the television series Suburgatory, would replace Collins in the lead female role as Mia. Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore, and Jessica Lucas later joined the cast.

The performances were all scary, horrific, disturbing, darkly humorous and terrifying as the other. Levy gave an incredibly provocative performance, conveying the most human emotions and human fear, and, most of all,... demonic terror! Her performance as Mia, in demon form, was the equivalent to Linda Blair's performance as Regan in The Exorcist (1973).

Evil Dead is probably the grisliest well-made movie of the year. Along with the original, it might be one of the few the exceptions to the usual run of low-budget horror films. Even though it lacked the absurd humor that underlined the original. But the film emerges as the ne plus ultra of low-budget gore and shock effect, the film emulates the powerful and inventive camerawork of the original and was key to creating the same sense of dread.

Simon says Evil Dead receives:

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Film Review: "Trance" (2013).

"The choice is yours. Do you want to remember or do you want to forget?" This question is asked by the time you have viewed Trance. This British drama thriller film directed by Danny Boyle. The film centers around a fine art auctioneer who becomes mixed up with a group of criminal partners and then joins forces with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting. As boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur the stakes rise faster than anyone could have anticipated.

The inception of this project began after director Danny Boyle filmed Shallow Grave in 1994, Joe Ahearne sent the director his screenplay for Trance, seeking Boyle's encouragement. Boyle thought that the project would be "quite difficult" for a beginning screenwriter. Ahearne later turned the script into a 2001 television movie. Boyle never forgot it, and almost two decades after their original conversation he contacted Ahearne about turning it into a feature film. Trance underwent script doctoring by screenwriter John Hodge – marking the fifth motion picture collaboration between Hodge and Boyle.

The film stars James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel. The performances in this film were outstanding and equally complex as the other, challenging and deceiving each other with their own secrets to hide. McAvoy, who has never been better as the tortured hero, draws you in with a love story that will appeal even to non-sci-fi fans. Giving one of his best performance since The Last King of Scotland. Dawson gave a dramatic and emotionally driven performance as the hypnotherapist who plays the main character's key to unlocking his memories, and the woman with a dark and complicated secret. Finally Cassel gave gripping and cool performance as the film's gang leader.

Smart, innovative, and thrilling, Trance is one of those rare film that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually. The film is a wildly ingenious chess game and the result is a knockout. It is a conceptual tour de force. It applied a vivid sense of procedural detail to a fiendishly intricate yarn set in the labyrinth of the unconscious mind, Boyle has devised a heist thriller for surrealists, Inception-like, that challenges viewers to sift through multiple layers of (un)reality. It feels like Stanley Kubrick adapting the work of Carl Jung. Boyle delivers another true original: welcome to an undiscovered country. It is all about process, about fighting our way through enveloping sheets of reality and dream, reality within dreams, dreams without reality. It's a breathtaking juggling act. Boyle has shown us one of the best in terms of modern filmmaking. If you're searching for smart and nervy entertainment, this is what it looks like. Boyle, like Nolan, regards his viewers as possibly smart—or at least as capable of rising to an inventive level. That's a tall order. But it's refreshing to find a director who makes us stretch, even occasionally struggle, to keep up.

Simon says Trance receives:

Film Review: "The Croods" (2013).

"With every sun comes a new day. A new beginning. A hope that things will be better today than they were yesterday. But not for me. My name is Eep. And this is my family, the Croods. If you weren't clued in already by the animal skins and sloping foreheads, we're cavemen. Most days we spend in our cave, in the dark. Night after night, day after day. Yep, home sweet home. When we did go out, we struggled to find food in a harsh and hostile world… Anything new is bad. Curiosity is bad. Going out at night is bad. Basically, anything fun is bad. Welcome to my world! But this is a story about how all that changed in an instant. Because what we didn't know was that our world was about to come to an end. And there were no rules on our cave walls to prepare us for that." Which is what you’ll expect when watching The Croods. This 3D computer-animated adventure prehistoric comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation. The film is a set in a prehistoric era known as The Croodaceous, a period which contains fantastical creatures. The film follows the world's first family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime, with the arrival of a prehistoric genius who comes up with revolutionary new inventions (like fire), when the cave that has always shielded them from danger is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods discover an incredible, dangerous but exotic new world filled with fantastic creatures in search of a new home and their outlook is changed forever.

It features the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman. Cage gave a humorous and emotionally driven performance as Grug Crood, a caveman who is the well-meaning, overprotective but old-fashioned patriarch of the Croods family. Stone gave a witty and empathetic performance as Eep Crood, a cavegirl who is Grug and Ugga's eldest daughter and is filled with curiosity and a desire for adventure. She and Reynolds had a great and quirky chemistry as he played Guy, a nomadic caveboy who is not as strong as the Croods, but prefers using his brain and comes up with various ideas and inventions. His performance was also witty and empathetic. Keener gave an emotional performance as Ugga Crood, Grug's wife and the more open-minded mother than Grug. Duke gave a comical performance as Thunk Crood, the dim-witted, uncoordinated but sweet caveboy who is Grug and Ugga's son. Finally, Leachman also gave a humorous performance as Gran, a very old and ferocious cavewoman who is the mother-in-law of Grug and the mother of Ugga.

The Croods is one of the most charming feature-length cartoons of recent years -- funny, sassy, startling and original. A refreshingly high-tech cartoon. A raucous comedy/adventure and easily one of the strangest products to ever emerge from the DreamWorks Animation pipeline. It's not in the same league with the likes of Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, but it's much better than, say, 2010’s Shrek Forever After.

Simon says The Croods receives: