Friday, 28 June 2013

Film Review: "Man of Steel" (2013).




"You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." This is the essence of this year’s DC epic Man of Steel. This superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, produced by Christopher Nolan, and scripted by David S. Goyer. Based on the DC Comics character Superman. A young itinerant boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he is forced to discover where did he come from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation, and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

Development began in 2008 when Warner Bros. Pictures took pitches from comic book writers, screenwriters and directors, opting to reboot the franchise. In 2009, a court ruling resulted in Jerry Siegel's family recapturing the rights to Superman's origins and Siegel's copyright. The decision stated that Warner Bros. did not owe the families additional royalties from previous films, but if they did not begin production on a Superman film by 2011, then the Shuster and Siegel estates would be able to sue for lost revenue on an unproduced film. Nolan pitched Goyer's idea after story discussion on The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Snyder was hired as the film's director in October 2010. Principal photography started in August 2011. Zimmer was confirmed to write the film's musical score. To completely distinguish Man of Steel from the previous films, the iconic Superman March by John Williams was not used in the film.

The film stared Henry Cavill in the title role with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Antje Traue as Faora and Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van. Cavill's performance was mixed, it has its share of pros and cons. His performance was brilliant on one hand in trying to portray Superman as a vulnerable being who has extraordinary powers and is trying to make the right decisions. But on the other hand, his performance was weak in terms of living up to the responsibilities that make Superman powerful. In addition chemistry with Adams was awful. Shannon's performance was imposing and determined, but just not ultimately threatening or even scary. The only one that was scary was Traue as Faora. She was scarier than her leader. When it should have been the other way round. Costner and Lane as the Kents were great performances on a human and emotional level, but failed to meet the onscreen chemistry in the film. Crowe's performance was somewhat of an improvement from Les Misérables (2012), but again suffered from lack of expression.

It's technically impressive and loaded with eye-catching images, but without real characters or a cohesive plot to support it, all of Man of Steel's visual thrills are for naught. With its quests to retrieve DC’s classic superhero, clearly demarcated story, and non-stop action, Snyder's clattering concoction sometimes feels less like a movie than an extended, elaborate trailer for its redundant comic book adaptation. It is the most boring, poorly put together, infantile, crass, adolescent, stupid, chauvinistic twaddle that I've sat through in a very long time since Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997).

Simon says Man of Steel receives:


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Film Review: "World War Z" (2013).




"Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better. Or more creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help the urge to want to get caught. What good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, why you spend a decade in school, is seeing the crumbs. But the clue's there. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch." Expect this when watching World War Z. This apocalyptic horror film directed by Marc Forster. Adapted by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film follows Gerry Lane, a retired United Nations employee who must travel the world in a race to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the film rights in 2007 and Forster (Monster's Ball (2001), Finding Neverland (2004), The Kite Runner (2007) and Quantum of Solace (2008)) was approached to direct. In 2009, Carnahan (The Kingdom (2007) and State of Play (2009)) was hired to rewrite the script to the film. In addition, Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek (2009), Prometheus (2012) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)) was hired to rewrite the third act, but did not have the time to finish the script and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield (2008) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012)) was hired to polish it. Filming began in July 2011 in Malta on an estimated $125 million budget, before moving to Glasgow in August 2011 and Budapest in October 2011. Originally set for a December 2012 release, the production suffered some setbacks. In June 2012, the film's release date was pushed back and the crew returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting. The reshoots took place between September and October 2012.

I could go on about how the cast were spectacular and gave brilliant performances, which they all did. But the one actor I would like to talk about is Brad Pitt. Pitt delivered a capable performance in an immersive apocalyptic spectacle about a global zombie uprising. His character was the central piece that drove the entire film forward. This kind of role reminds me of the performance in Se7en (1995), where he had a director and a script that pushed him as an actor to break out of his "pretty-boy" image and be convincing and capable as a true performer.

World War Z is a kinetic, violent and surprisingly worthy zombie movie that pays homage to other zombie movies while working on its own terms. The film works and it delivers just about what you expect when you buy your ticket. But it lacks some vital elements from the novel and the plot flatlines with the third act. Which, in some ways, was tricky, witty and smart.

Simon says World War Z receives:


Film Review: "Monsters University" (2013).




"School Never Looked This Scary" Which is what kids should excited for when Monsters University hit cinemas. This 3D computer-animated comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film was directed by Dan Scanlon, instead of the previous directors, Pete Doctor, Lee Unkrich and David Silverman. It is the fourteenth film produced by Pixar and the prequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc., the first time Pixar has made a prequel. Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn't always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn't stand each other. Monsters University unlocks the door and shows a look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University and how they overcame their differences and became the best of friends.

Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Bob Peterson, and John Ratzenberger reprise their roles as Mike Wazowski, James P. Sullivan, Randall Boggs, Roz, and The Abominable Snowman, respectively. The film also stars Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina and Nathan Fillion. The performances in this film were all as great and varied as their monstrous counterparts. Crystal and Goodman return just as humorous and great as ever. They brought the same enjoyable vibe from the first film. Buscemi's performance was a great performance but was not as strong as it was in the first film. Hayes and Foley brought a hilarious performance as Terry and Terri, the two headed Oozma Kappa fraternity member. Day brought a great performance and was impressed with his last performance in Pacific Rim (2013). Mirren brought one of her most chilling performances in a children's film. Her performance was the epitome of what you would expect from a stereotypical dean of a college: cold, methodical and frightening. Molina gave another unexpected performance in a tiny role for this film. His performance was an excellent example in the sense that you did not know it was him. As an actor that is a great achievement in itself. Lastly, Fillion gave a wonderful performance and it was great to see him on the big-screen since my days of following him on Firefly (2002), Serenity (2005) and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008).

Monsters University is as visually appealing as any other Pixar production, but all that dazzle can't disguise the rusty storytelling and scare tactics that has gone to waste. The movie is so stuffed with "fun" that it went right off the rails. What on earth was the gifted director-mogul John Lasseter thinking – that he wanted kids to come out of this movie was that was nothing more than a rehash of the original. The original was fun and was met with warmth and open arms, this film however is totally… average. The film does what many sequels ever do. It essentially remakes the earlier film and attempts to deem it a “sequel” or “prequel”, the creative team, at Pixar, fail somewhat to delve deeper into their characters while retaining the fun spirit of the original film.

Simon says Monsters University receives:



Also, see my review for Brave.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Film Review: "The Internship" (2013).


"Eight years ago, they crashed weddings. Now, they're about to crash the system" in The Internship. This comedy film directed by Shawn Levy, and written by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern. Billy and Nick are salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital world. Trying to prove they are not obsolete, they defy the odds by talking their way into a coveted internship at Google, along with a battalion of brilliant college students. But, gaining entrance to this utopia is only half the battle. Now they must compete with a group of the nation's most elite, tech-savvy geniuses to prove that necessity really is the mother of re-invention.

Vaughn came up with the idea after watching a 60 Minutes segment on Google's work culture, and subsequently brought the idea to Levy. Levy accepted and signed on to direct. By early July 2012, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella, Aasif Mandvi, Josh Brener, Dylan O'Brien, Tobit Raphael, Tiya Sircar, Josh Gad, John Goodman, Jessica Szohr, B. J. Novak, Rob Riggle, Joanna García Swisher, and Will Ferrell were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late September. Filming took place in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which posed as a double for the Googleplex, since the company normally does not allow filming on the actual Googleplex for security and productivity reasons. Google agreed to work with the film producers, with founder Larry Page noting that "computer science has a marketing problem." Google also felt it would help further explain their "Don't be evil" mantra. Although Reuters reported that as part of the deal Google asked for "creative control", Levy denied the company was involved with the script, insisting that Google only assisted from a "technical" perspective. CNN reported that the studio did give "some control" to Google over the depiction of its products. Google allowed the film to shoot for only five days at the Googleplex Headquarters. The film used one hundred real Google employees as extras.

The film stars Vaughn, Wilson, Byrne, Minghella, Mandvi, Brener, O'Brien, Raphael, Sircar, Gad, Goodman, Szohr, Novak, Riggle, Swisher, and Ferrell. The film's best element is the inspired casting of Vaughn and Wilson; their easy repartee helps to grease over the film's shortcomings. The likes of the sneakily subversive Wilson and Vaughn deserve better... but this is darn close to a perfect showcase for what they can do, and how much better they do it together. The two actors make a good contrasting team and bring an energy to the story that many romantic comedies lack. Vaughn and Wilson handle their comedic duties with the ease and flair of a seasoned team, maybe the second-coming of Hope and Crosby.

Operating on the principle that lame verbal and visual gags are funny if the audience is repeatedly pummeled with them, the film sorely lacks a strong script and the kind of inventive direction unworthy of its talented leads. Sadly, in spite of its cast and seemingly can't-miss premise, Wedding Crashers is at its best a succession of mild chuckles.

Simon says The Internship receives:



Also, see my review for Real Steel.

Film Review: "Mud" (2012).


"Entangled in his past. Running from the law. All for love." This is Mud. This coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. The film centres on Ellis and Neckbone, two young men, who chance upon a fugitive who is escaping from those who are out to get him. The boys decide to help the man and reunite him with his lover.

In the 1990s, Nichols came up with the concept for the film while he was still a student. Nichols began developing the story, inspired by Mark Twain's works, including the 1876 novel Tom Sawyer. He also sought to reflect the theme of love. Nichols always had McConaughey in mind, after seeing him in Lone Star (1996). In May 2011, Chris Pine was first in talks for the lead role. In August, McConaughey was cast, as well as Reese Witherspoon. For the local boys of a small Delta town, Nichols cast boys who could already pilot boats and ride dirt bikes, instead of ones who would have to be taught on set. For the role of Neckbone, over two thousand boys auditioned. By late September, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Joe Don Baker, and Paul Sparks. At the same, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late November. Filming took place throughout Arkansas, and was shot on Kodak VISION3 35mm film, in the anamorphic format with Panavision G-Series lenses, and utilised a Steadicam. The cast and crew numbered over a hundred people, around half of whom were Arkansas residents. Over four hundred locals were also involved as extras.

The film stars McConaughey, Witherspoon, Sheridan, Lofland, Shepard, Paulson, Shannon, Baker, and Sparks. The cast gave towering performances, especially McConaughey. It is the gift of actor McConaughey as Mud that while appearing to be a strange man and father figure with a genuine connection with Sherian and Lofland's Ellis and Neckbone, he also can evoke by his eyes and manner a deep unease. Witherspoon is just as preoccupying here as in the better films she's appeared in this year.

McConaughey gives a powerhouse performance and the purposefully subtle filmmaking creates a perfect blend of drama. Boasting a dramatic intensity throughout, the intensity builds to near unbearable levels in this effective and powerful portrait of unconventional connection and love. Dig beneath the surface and you'll find a sweet and very powerful tale about the strength that can be found in partnerships and the resilience of love. What makes Nichols' film so satisfying, at least until the melodrama of the final act, is the deftness of the characterisations and the constant sense that things are probably considerably more complex than they're perceived. Tight editing and pace make for a careful and thoughtful film that is a very strong piece of cinema. I would definitely recommend watching the film for the incredible dramatic sequences and the great performances. It will definitely leave you thinking and there's something to be said for that.

Simon says Mud receives:


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Film Review: "After Earth" (2013).


"Danger is real. Fear is a choice." This is After Earth. This post-apocalyptic science fiction action film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and written by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta. Legendary General Cypher Raige returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai. When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai's craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon.

After watching the television show called I Shouldn't Be Alive with his brother-in-law, Smith conceived the idea for the film. It was originally not a science fiction story but about a father and son crashing their car in the mountains or some remote region, with the son having to go out and get rescue for his father. Smith then decided to change the setting to a thousand years in the future. The film was also intended to be the first in a trilogy. Smith then hired Whitta to pen a script. Impressed with his idea and excited about the opportunity to work with him, Whitta fleshed out Smith's idea and pitched it to him, subsequently becoming the first employee on the project. In early August 2010, after the release of The Last Airbender, Smith persuaded Shyamalan to direct the film with his son Jaden as the star. In late October, Shyamalan officially signed on to direct after being impressed with the script, then entitled One Thousand A. E.. Sony Pictures Entertainment has a first-look deal with Overbrook, so it was expected to be the studio home for the film. In December, Sony signed Will and Jaden Smith to star in the film with Shyamalan to direct. The shooting of the movie was pushed back from September 2011 to January 2012. In September 2011, Sony set the film for a June 7, 2013 release date. By February 2012, Sophie Okonedo, and Zoë Kravitz rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in May. Filming took place throughout Costa Rica; Humboldt County; Aston, Pennsylvania; and Sierra County, New Mexico. The film was the first from Sony to be both shot and presented in the emerging 4K digital format. It was primarily shot with Sony's CineAlta F65 camera. In late April 2013, Shyamalan announced that the release date had been moved a week earlier to May 31, 2013. The original cut was a hundred and thirty minutes long. However, the film was vastly re-edited after performing poorly at test screenings.

The film stars Jaden and Will Smith, Okonedo, and Kravitz. The acting could have been less horrible, if it were not for the blatant nepotism displayed on screen that proved that Jaden is no where near as charismatic as his father. But Will made a film for film anyway. Good God...

Ugly, campy and poorly acted, After Earth is a stunningly misguided, aggressively bad sci-fi folly.

Simon says After Earth receives:


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Film Review: "Fast & Furious 6" (2013).


"All roads lead to this." They lead to Fast & Furious 6. This action film directed by Justin Lin, and written by Chris Morgan. It is the sixth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Since Dom and Brian's heist in Rio left them and their crew very rich people, they've scattered across the globe; however, they must still live as fugitives, unable to return home to their families. Meanwhile, Agent Hobbs has been tracking a gang of lethally skilled mercenary drivers whose second-in-command is someone Dom knows. Unable to take them down himself, Hobbs asks Dom and his crew for help in exchange for full pardons for everyone.

In February 2010, Diesel confirmed that production of Fast Five was commencing. In April 2011 it was confirmed that Morgan had already begun work on a script for a potential sixth film at the behest of Universal Studios. It was also confirmed that Universal intended to transform the series from street-racing action into a series of heist films with car chases in the vein of The Italian Job (1969) and The French Connection (1971), with Fast Five as the transitional movie. In late June 2011, Universal Pictures announced that the anticipated sequel was scheduled for a May 24, 2013 release date. Moritz and Diesel returned as producers and Lin returned to direct. In an interview with Box Office, Lin revealed that he had, after discussions with Diesel, storyboarded, previsualized and edited a twelve-minute finale for Fast Six before filming was completed on Fast Five. Lin said he shot the footage as he was unsure at the time if there would be a sequel or if he would be able to direct it, but he wanted to have input on how any sequel would end. In early May 2012, Michelle Rodriguez was confirmed to be reprising her role, and it was announced that Luke Evans had been offered a role as a villain. Shortly afterwards, Evans was confirmed to join the cast. In mid February, it was confirmed that Fast Six would begin filming in May, with some of the production to take place in the United Kingdom and Germany. By late July, it was confirmed that Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, and Sung Kang would return to reprise their roles, with Gina Carano, Gal Gadot, and John Ortiz rounding out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late December. Filming took place throughout England, Glasgow, Scotland, Spain's Canary Islands, and Los Angeles, California. In February 2013, it was confirmed that the film would be titled Fast & Furious 6.

The film stars Diesel, Walker, Johnson, Rodriguez, Brewster, Gibson, Bridges, Kang, Evans, Carano, Gadot, and Ortiz. Despite the actors being capable of doing absurd things with straight faces, they were just as one-dimensional as the last film, if that's even possible.

Sleek, loud, and over the top, Fast & Furious 6 proudly embraces its brainless action thrills though it doesn't inject new life into the franchise.
 
Simon says Fast & Furious 6 receives: