Friday, 27 June 2014

Film Review: "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (2014).

“Stand together or face extinction” is the tagline for the new Hasbro Transfomers/Michael Bay clusterf***, Transformers: Age of Extinction. Based on the Hasbro Transformers Action Figures and is the fourth installment of the live-action Transformers film series. The film takes place four years after Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) where an automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots and Decepticons - and a paranoid government official - on them. Like its predecessors, the film is, sadly, once again directed by Michael Bay (Mr. "umm... umm... umm... I'm sorry I can't do this" and Hollywood's b*****) with a screenplay written by Ehren Kruger, who served as screenwriter since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009).

The film stars Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. All of the cast's performances were ineffective. They couldn't be any duller than the last cast. Wahlberg who plays Cade Yeager, had a ferocious case of stupid cheesy comedy when it came to portraying the role of a father. After two minutes into the introduction of his character, his character's idiosyncratic humor and personality wasn't funny or cool anymore. After a few hours of seeing Wahlberg get dissed, overlooked and mistreated, the message becomes clear: Wahlberg is, now, a new stand-in for Michael Bay. Replacing Shia LaBeouf. And Bay is showing us just what it felt like to deal with the ocean of Haterade—the snarking, the Razzie Award, the mean reviews that Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon unleashed. He and the cast have sunk to greater levels of incompetence here. It's hard to call their performances 'acting'. Peltz's acting' doesn't exactly make herself look like Meryl Streep in comparison to Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is a noisy, underplotted, and overlong special effects extravaganza that lacked a human touch. The film is a in-your-face, ear-splitting and unrelenting piece of sh***. It's easy to walk away feeling like you've spent 3 hours in the mad, wild hydraulic embrace of a car compactor. It was a horrible experience of unbearable length. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination. The day will come when this film, its predecessors and Michael Bay's other films will be studied in film classes and shown as a horrible example of what Hollywood has become. It will be seen, in retrospect, as marking the end of an era. It will be seen, in retrospect, as marking the end of an era. Of course there will be many more CGI-based action epics, but never again one this bloated, excessive, incomprehensible, long or expensive. It has a shot at the title Worst Movie of the Decade. It takes the franchise to a vastly superior level of mental retarded-ness. But in order to achieve the goal of gaining superior filmmaking, they must have three key elements which Mr. Bay always seems to lack in all of his films; story, characters and COMMON SENSE! This has to be not only the worst film of 2014, but the one of the worst Michael Bay films and one of the worst Hollywood films ever made!

Simon says Transformers: Age of Extinction receives:

Also, see my reviews for Pain & Gain and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Film Review: "What We Do in the Shadows" (2014).

Every critic has called this movie “Hilarious”, which is what you’d expect from What We Do in the Shadows. A New Zealand horror comedy film about a group of vampires who live together in Wellington, New Zealand. It was directed and written by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, who also star in the film.

The film is nothing more than the brainchild of two of New Zealand’s great comedy talents, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. Taika Cohen, or better known as Taika Waititi, is a filmmaker, writer, painter comedian and actor. He first came into prominence with the 2003 short film Two Cars, One Night. Which was nominated for an Academy Award. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with the 2007 film Eagle vs. Shark. His 2010 film Boy was a major hit, eclipsing several records, and became the highest grossing film in New Zealand. Jemaine Clement is a comedian, actor and musician best known for the musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords with Bret McKenzie. And also starred in Eagle vs. Shark. The two collaborated again for the 2006 short film version of What We Do in the Shadows.

The film follows the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) - three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life's obstacles-like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection-modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts. The performances in this film, even though it was not my type of humor, were all hilariously outrageous. The hats go off to Waititi, Clement, Brugh, Darby and Gonzalez-Macuer who carried the film's quirky journey into the Vampire underworld... as well as the Were-Wolf world.

Side-splitting, blood-sucking and gloriously gory horror comedy, What We Do in the Shadows is a good vampire comedy. But there were times that the film's broader moments fell flat, some genre fans who prefer the silly to the satiric may bite, but the anemic pic isn’t remotely weird or witty enough for cult immortality. But it boasts a script crammed with quirky gags and is pacily directed and nicely acted. Clement and Waititi's horror-comedy boasts a unique ad quirky premise – a group of vampires flatting in Wellington, New Zealand - that gives the budding auteurs plenty of room for gross-out visuals and absurd cleverness. The film is so off the beaten track that it makes Black Sheep (2006) seem mainstream. To conclude, it is extremely bloody and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Clement and Waititi's affection for the tastelessly sublime. There is nothing more I can say about this particular New Zealand film.

Simon says What We Do in the Shadows receives:

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Film Review: "Million Dollar Arm" (2014).

"Now small boys all over Indiacan do what I couldn't. They can dream." Which is what Million Dollar Arm is all about. This American biographical sports drama film directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay written by Tom McCarthy. The film is based on the true story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who were unconventionally recruited by sports agent, J.B. Bernstein, after winning a reality show competition to play for Major League Baseball.

In 2008, television sports producers and brothers Neil and Michael Mandt began, supposedly, documented the training and tryouts that Singh and Patel undergone at the USC campus. Using original footage they had shot and created a nine-minute trailer as a presentation piece for a projected movie about the two players. In December 2008, the Mandts began a collaboration with producers Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray and Joe Roth. In early 2009, the screen rights to Singh and Patel's life story were purchased by Sony Pictures Entertainment for development at Columbia Pictures, which hired Mitch Glazer to write a screenplay. However, the project was eventually put in turnaround and in 2010, producers Roth and Ciardi set the film up at Walt Disney Pictures. Upon acquiring the film, Disney hired Tom McCarthy to write a script. In May 2012, Jon Hamm was cast to play Bernstein. Alan Arkin and Suraj Sharma were cast in April 2013, with Allyn Rachel joining the cast the following month. Principal photography began on May 30, 2013 with filming taking place in Mumbai, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

The film stars Jon Hamm as Bernstein, Bill Paxton as pitching coach Tom House, Suraj Sharma as Singh, Madhur Mittal as Patel, and Alan Arkin. The cast in the film gave great performances, especially Hamm. If you love Hamm from Mad Men, then you'll probably love him in this. He is surprisingly good, delivering a likeness to the real J. B. Bernstein that is uncanny. As well as Sharma and Mittal, who played Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who gave fine performances. Their performances, along with Hamm’s, guides this cliche-ridden tale into the realm of inspirational, nostalgic goodness.

It may not break new ground, but Million Dollar Arm is somewhat an entertaining film, awash in clichés but leavened by the charismatic performance of Jon Hamm as J. B. Bernstein. When it's good it's good. When it's bad - well, it's bad. It may seem that the film takes too long to get to the baseball. But by the time it does get down to it, we've just barely invested enough in Hamm, Sharma and Mittal to give a damn about the outcome of the all-important Big Show. Though familiar and clichéd it may be, the film succeeds in spite of itself. The film is a Walter Mitty tale, but a true one, a fantasy come to life. The latest in Disney's line of films about real-life sports figures never settles for easy answers. It is a well-made studio effort that, like The Rookie (2004) of a few years back, has the knack of being moving without shamelessly overdoing a sure thing.

Simon says Million Dollar Arm receives:

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Film Review: "22 Jump Street" (2014).

“’We Jump Street, and we 'bout to jump in yo ass.’ ‘Mmmm-hmmm.’ ‘Right in the crack.’”
Which is what is going down in 22 Jump Street. The sequel to the 2012 film 21 Jump Street, based on the 1987 television series of the same name by Stephen J. Cannelland Patrick Hasburgh. This American action comedy film is once again directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This time, after making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.

On March 17, 2012, Sony Pictures announced that it was pursuing a sequel to 21 Jump Street, signing a deal that would see Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall return to write a script treatment that would be again developed by Bacall. The film was originally scheduled to be released on June 6, 2014. On May 8, 2013, it was announced that the film would be pushed back a week until June 13, 2014. In June 2013, it was announced the film would be titled 22 Jump Street. In July 2013, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller confirmed they would return to direct the film. On September 6, 2013, Amber Stevens joined the cast of the film. On September 27, 2013, Kurt Russell mentioned that his son Wyatt turned down a role for The Hunger Games sequels to star in 22 Jump Street. Principal photography and production began on September 28, 2013, in New Orleans, Louisiana, with shots in San Juan, Puerto Rico as well (acting for the shots in the movie as the spring break in "Puerto Mexico") and ended on December 15, 2013.

The film co-stars Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens and Jillian Bell. Who all gave outrageously hilarious performances. But the real credit goes to the two main stars - Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. What makes it all work is the chemistry between Hill and Tatum, which in turn, of course, is a rich source of the film's humor. Hill's neurotic-motormouth act and Tatum's lovable-lunkhead shtick still shoot giddy sparks. Hill and Tatum have a Laurel-and-Hardy-like implausible chemistry that keeps you laughing pretty much no matter what they're doing.

22 Jump Street dishes up more of the graphic humor and some of the insight that made 21 Jump Street a hit. What makes this film both winning and (somewhat unexpectedly) moving is its fidelity to the original ethic of buddy cop action, talking trash and refusing all worldly ambition. If anything, the sequel is more defiant in its disdain for the rat race, elevating the buddy-cop-picture prerogative from a lifestyle choice to a moral principle. New, well-developed characters add dimension to this batty satire, creating a comedy much more substantial than the original. There's simply too much glee on the screen, thanks to a cast and visual conception that were perfect in the first place, and a screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman that specializes in delightfully arch, subversive humor. To conclude, it is impossible to dislike.

Simon says 22 Jump Street receives:

Also, see my review for 21 Jump Street.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Film Review: "The Faults in Our Stars" (2014).

“Hello. My name is Hazel Grace Lancaster. And Augustus Waters was the star-crossed love of my life. Ours is an epic love story and I probably won't be able to get more than a sentence out without disappearing into a puddle of tears. Like all real love stories, ours will die with us, as it should…” This is what fans and non-fans alike will come to expect in The Fault in Our Stars. An American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Josh Boone, based on the novel by John Green. The film is told from the point of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who has a acerbic wit and a disdain for the conventional. She is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters, who shares her wit and disdain. Together their love sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg.

Speaking of the book, for this blog, I have added something extra to make this blog special for this film. For our first of, hopefully, many collaborations, I have partnered up with my good friend Ashleigh Neame who has a blog that reviews books. So she has reviewed the book on her blog at Check it out!

The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Nat Wolff, with Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, and Willem Dafoe in supporting roles. The performances in this were all superbly acted. All the actors were blessed with a great script. The cast and especially Woodley and Elgort give all-star performances, doing just enough to hand the reins over to the pros, who take what's left of the film and finish the audience off with some touching scenes that don't leave a dry eye in the house. But the film’s two leads were both suitably attractive and appealing. Woodley was soulfully committed to the suds in the story and fiercely attentive to the other actors.

Ultimately, no matter how many innovative and unconventional flourishes it applies, the success of any adaptation of any modern teen-romance novel is determined by two factors: the competence of the director and the ability of the main cast members. Boone, Woodley, and Elgort places The Fault in Our Stars in capable hands. The film is striking in its rich, saturated story. Amid the sentimental and tearjerker nature of the film, Woodley and Elgort emerge spotless and beatific, lending a magnanimous credibility to their scenes together. These two pros slice cleanly through the thicket of sap-weeping dialogue and contrivance, locating the terror and desolation wrought by the inevitable truth of death. Overall, the film is surprisingly good and manages to succeed where many other "teen romances” fail. So Audiences craving big, gooey over-the-top romance have their must-see summer movie with this film.

Simon says The Fault in Our Stars receives:

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Film Review: "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014).

“What I am about to tell you sounds crazy. But you have to listen to me. Your very lives depend on it. You see, this isn't the first time.”
Which is what Edge of Tomorrow is all about. This science fiction film is directed by Doug Liman and is based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The film follows an officer who finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.

The novel, Ōru Yū Nīdo Izu Kiru (All You Need is Kill), is written by Sakurazaka with illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe. The story is told from the perspective of Keiji Kiriya (William Cage in the film version), a new recruit in the United Defense Force which fights against the mysterious 'Mimics' which have laid siege to Earth. Keiji is killed on his first sortie, but through some inexplicable phenomenon wakes up having returned to the day before the battle. This continues and he finds himself caught in a time loop as his death and resurrection repeats time and time again. Keiji's skill as a soldier grows as he passes through each time loop in a desperate attempt to change his fate. The novel was Sakurazaka's breakthrough science-fiction novel, earning wide praise from fellow novelists including Yasutaka Tsutsui and Chōhei Kanbayashi and was entered in contention for the Seiun Awards, Japan's counterpart to the Nebula Award. The book was published in Japanese by Shueisha under their Super Dash Bunko imprint in December 2004, and was later released in English by Viz Media under their Haikasoru imprint. A manga adaptation, written by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, began serialization in Shueisha's Weekly Young Jump magazine in January 2014 and is also published by Viz Media in its Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. A graphic novel adaptation was released in North America in May 2014.

The film stars Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. The performances in this film were all spectacular. Cruise and Blunt gave the best performances, especially when they were together, and were able to carry the film forward. The film also proves that Cruise was still more than capable of starring in an action film. Finally, I also loved the performances given by Gleeson and Paxton.

Edge of Tomorrow is an ingenious blend of Hollywood action cinema, innovative visual effects and an imaginative vision. If Doug Liman claims no originality of message, then he is a startling innovator of method and astonishing images. Liman's Japanese inspired plot manages to work surprisingly well on a number of levels: as a dystopian sci-fi action piece, as a brilliant excuse for the film's gritty and hyperkinetic action scenes, and as a pretty compelling call to the masses to unite and cast off their chains. However, the promising premise is steadily wasted as the film turns into a fairly routine action pic. But there’s an appealing scope and daring to the Liman's work, and his eagerness for more action and more crazy images becomes increasingly infectious.

Simon says Edge of Tomorrow receives:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Film Review: "Maleficent" (2014).

“I will not ask you for forgiveness. What I have done is unforgivable. I was so lost in hatred and revenge. I never dreamed that I could love you so much. You stole what was left of my heart. And now I've lost you forever.” Which isn’t isn’t exactly what you’d expect from the infamous character, from the famous fairy tale, but Maleficent is not that story. This dark fantasy adventure film is directed by Robert Stromberg from a screenplay written by Linda Woolverton. The film is a live-action re-imagining of Walt Disney's 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, and portrays the story from the perspective of the antagonist, Maleficent. It tells the story of a vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous Disney villainess herself, Maleficent. In this film, Angelina Jolie's magnetic performance outshines the film's dazzling special effects. And unfortunately, the movie around her fails to justify all that impressive effort. The whole film rides on the strength of Angelina Jolie's performance and she is, in a word, magnificent. This is Jolie's film because of the Maleficent she had created. Everyone else, even Aurora who all gave brilliant performances, fade in her presence.

Robert Stromberg's Maleficent sacrifices the original 1959 classic's narrative coherence and much of its heart but it's an undeniable visual treat. The film works for its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. However, it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years, much like other films such as Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Stromberg has delivered a witty, brilliantly cast, whimsically appointed dazzler that also manages to hit all the emotionally satisfying marks. Ultimately, it's the visual landscape that makes this film the newest incarnation so dull, as technology has finally been able to catch up with Disney's endlessly fertile and magical imagination. It suffers from some tonal inconsistency and a deflated sense of wonder, but the film still packs enough visual dazzle and clever wit to be entertaining in its own right. If there are post-Harry Potter children who don't know or care about Sleeping Beauty, they might be at sea with this story about a complex female hero/villain in a magic land, but long-term Disney watchers will be enchanted and enthralled. But no movie ever can, or will, replace the 1959 film, this eye-filling fantasy is an derivative riff on how Maleficent became the infamous character she is known today and how she is ultimately misunderstood. The film is expansive and larger-than-life in scope overall. Jolie in particular hams it up and is often playing to the balcony. The 3D is utilized just as it should be in a children's fantasy epic such as this – overtly, but with skill. Fireflies, magic forests and mysterious animals all leap through the screen towards the audience as the story unfolds.

Simon says Maleficent receives:

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Film Review: "A Million Ways to Die in the West" (2014).

“Some people are born into the wrong time and place. This was the American frontier in 1882, a hard land for hard folk. Food was scarce, disease was rampant, and life was a daily struggle for survival… To build a home and a life in this harsh, unforgiving country required that a man be bold, fearless, and tough as iron. The men who were courageous and resilient were the men who prospered. But some men were just big giant pussies.” Which is what A Million Ways to Die in the West is all about. The American western comedy film co-written, produced, and directed by Seth MacFarlane. The film is set in 1882 Arizona and follows a cowardly farmer as he lost his beloved girlfriend as a result of his withdrawal from a duel. He begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town and he soon realizes his true potential. But he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.

The film features an ensemble cast including MacFarlane himself in the lead role, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, and Liam Neeson. The film is the perfect example of an ensemble cast's careers hitting a whole new low. The performances in this film were, how can I put this, absolute Mother-f@#*ing s*#@! There is always a film were you can single one great role, actor or performance, and this film offers absolutely nothing! What we have here is a failure of craft. MacFarlane can't direct action, or even handle scenery well. He can't set up a visual joke properly without resorting to head-butting and bone-crunching, and he doesn't know how, or when, to move his camera. He's not good enough as a romantic lead to anchor a picture. MacFarlane's comic performance was actually surprisingly bland. As well was the other cast members'. Let's hope their next efforts will not be as detrimental as this one. Or hope they don't take a huge swan dive permanently.

A Million Ways to Die in the West has no dominant personality, and it looks as if it includes every gag thought up in every story conference. Whether good, bad or mild, nothing was thrown out. MacFarlane’s comedy, though very much a product of our modern society, recalls the wonder and discipline of toilet humor and fart jokes. MacFarlane’s sights are very low. His brashness is nothing special, his use of anachronism and anarchy recalls not the great film comedies of the past, but the disgusting and simple minded ones like South Park. With his talent he should do much better than that. To conclude, it is a crazed grabbag of a movie that tries everything to keep us laughing except it ultimately just hits us over the head with a rubber chicken. Mostly, it fails. It's not an audience picture; it doesn't have a lot of classy polish and its structure is a total mess.

Simon says A Million Ways to Die in the West receives:

Also, see my review for Ted.