Linklater pushes aside any notion of melodrama, thus allowing the… MoreLinklater pushes aside any notion of melodrama, thus allowing the characters and stories to reveal themselves in their own way. He has found in Coltrane an exceptional talent, and it's a talent that helps transform his novel idea into an outstanding film that transcends the usual drama paradigm into something that exciting and exhilarating in its own incomparable way. Just go in with an open mind and you'll come out with an open heart.
It obviously goes without saying that if you are anyone other than a… MoreIt obviously goes without saying that if you are anyone other than a teenage girl listening to One Direction, most of what is happening in If I Stay is likely going to be a struggle to take too seriously. Like every other teen-lit adapted, soapy melodrama, this is yet another example of a film perfectly constructed to deliver exactly what you'd expect. Every 'young love' cliché and every formulaic narrative beat are trotted out in obvious, succinct succession, that it's virtually impossible for the less enamoured portion of the audience to procure any real surprises.
Like 2014's equivalent, but arguably superior, A Fault in Our Stars, this also won't win over the detractors. Yet despite how clearly melancholy tinged this is, If I Stay does at the very least provide some decent enough, semi-wholesome characters and a semi-interesting story to tide over those so inclined.
It's easy to assume you've seen every type of devastating dystopian… MoreIt's easy to assume you've seen every type of devastating dystopian future that cinema has to offer. Currently, the trend is a broken future through a YA perspective; Divergent, The Hunger Games, upcoming Maze Runner. But thankfully, there are glimmers of hope. One such, is this strangely alluring film. It's a grim, violent, graphic, sincerely more adult interpretation of the genre, and honestly, it's as welcome change.
But one devastated future is pretty much the same as all the others, and fundamentally, Snowpiercer treads some familiar ground. Like many others, it has the oppressed attempting to overthrown the wealthy privileged of the society. But this is actually where the comparisons end.
The backdrop here is the first unique aspect of the film; the world has pretty much already ended, blanketed in an eternal ice age that has killed all living things, except the few who survive and dwell within the carriages of a train that endlessly circles the world and is driven by a perpetual motion engine.
Say what? Well, to say anymore would be giving too much away. But its bizarre premise is only driven by an even more bizarre visual aesthetic. Director Bong manages to overcome the limitations and claustrophobic confines of such a small environment to surprisingly engage a narrative that is completely imaginative and utterly absorbing. He flits from gritty steampunk, to gloriously decadent excess as various carriages in the train are ventured into as the film moves along at its brisk pace.
Despite its length, it doesn't at all feel over-long. The cast are great; Cap America's Chris Evans is great in a non-Hollywood role here, along with an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, and great supporting turns from Octavia Spencer, John Hurt and Jamie Bell. The effects aren't high-end, but feel right at home amid the unglamorous surrounds of the film at hand. Its offset with some great action set-pieces and fight sequences laid down through Bong.
Snowpiercer certainly stretches its credibility when it tries to explain itself scientifically; but unlike this year's Lucy, the science isn't forced front and centre so it's easy to dismiss and just enjoy the ride - pun intended of course.
Thankfully, despite the flawed premise of the film, you don't need… MoreThankfully, despite the flawed premise of the film, you don't need more than 10% brain function to be able to enjoy Lucy. While it certainly isn't all that original - a drug trip that causes the user to transcend space and time; what drug trip doesn't? -writer/director Luc Besson has the popcorn science to maintain the thin veil of credibility needed to sell the movie to wider audiences. Of course, it helps to have Scarlett Johansson on board to push the merchandise into foreign markets.
If Lucy has any real problem it's that it has been mistakenly - read intentionally - marketed in the same vein as Besson's muscular Taken and The Transporter franchises. That's reaching. This isn't an action driven film; it's a faux science-FICTION film. Notice the emphasis on fiction. As Lucy begins to use more and more of her brain capacity, scenes that would typically erupt into a gun battle of epic proportions become a literal example of mind over matter.
Besson pushes his fringe science frivolities a little too strongly as fact at some points, so it's often hard to tell if he's serious or just having fun. It comes down individual viewer discretion how that's ultimately perceived, but personally, Lucy is far too superfluous to take as anything other than guilty pleasure entertainment.
Where he really shines though is behind the camera. His unique perspectives and inventive cinematography are still mightily impressive, despite not helming a westernised film in over a decade. Even a mostly pointless driving sequence is an exhilarating rush. The special effects are functional and suited, but nothing hugely ground-breaking. And while some of his visual metaphors are as subtle as a sledgehammer, they do play into his cinematic wheelhouse. Some parts tend to drag, and admittedly the film takes a little while to warm up, yet there are certain scenes you almost wish were longer or there were more of.
Johansson holds the film on her own quite well. Lucy certainly doesn't call on her incredible acting talents all that much, but she still embraces the part; providing welcome sparks of gravitas, often despite its needlessness, as well as the more brawny set-pieces Besson throws her way.
Lucy will have its critics, and it's easy to see why. But both Besson and Johansson are impressive enough to make this worth your while, proving they can still be better than decent on a less than perfect affair. Lucy isn't going to wow any audiences, but with a slender running time and enough left-of-centre quirks dotted throughout, there is plenty here to whet your appetite.
If you need reminding why Scarlett Johansson is one of the most… MoreIf you need reminding why Scarlett Johansson is one of the most accomplished female actors of her generation, then look no further than Under The Skin for proof.
Compared with last years Her where her role was all talk, here she resides in the opposite end of the spectrum. Distinctly pensive, coolly aloof, with an esoteric absence of the verbose, Johansson is never anything less than breathlessly mesmerising in what is unquestionably the most fearless performance of her career. The dialogue is sparse and arcane, but she unfurls onscreen with literal visceral execution that will polarise many audiences. Considering she holds the film all on her own, she is blisteringly hypnotic despite its lethargic pacing.
Of course, Under The Skin will have its detractors. Many will find this needlessly abstract to the point of sheer frustration. It's a slow burn tapestry of filmic art that is an absolute acquired taste and not for all audiences. Yet for those attuned to the erotic science-fiction skewed drama here, there is a haunting beauty in the darkness that hangs over the film like an intoxicating inky black vacuum. It's an impressive visual feat of bold filmmaking for the curious and the eccentric lovers of cinema that's certainly not to be missed.
Guardians is, after a run of success with Iron Man, Thor and Captain… MoreGuardians is, after a run of success with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, a gamble. Not an enormous, gargantuan gamble like The Avengers was, but a gamble nonetheless. There is always risk in adapting a comic series that isn't even all that well-known or loved amongst comic aficionados.
Then of course, many would have baulked at the idea of schlock director James Gunn helming and writing. His most notable film is Slither, and a few screenplays for various Hollywood b-grades. Is there enough good-will built up amongst Marvel film-fans to take on this concoction of the unknown?
Well, like his outcast of misfit characters that make up his Guardians, Gunn has proven you shouldn't count someone out until they've been given a chance to shine. His studio-guided adaptation couldn't be more surprisingly charming, witty and immensely pleasurable to indulge in.
Ironically, Marvel trading off on the special effects budget has made it all the more enjoyable. It's a refreshing change to see the effects secondary to the film itself; its low key but still apart of the film, especially in the rousing finale, but doesn't overwhelm the screen with its spectacle.
Which is where Gunn fits in perfectly. His previous experience in lo-fi directorial abilities is an excellent asset to keeping things behind the scenes a little more thrifty without sacrificing the entertainment quality on screen. He strikes the balance perfectly, with typically exhilarating set-pieces and Marvel's quick-witted humour striking perfect chords again and again.
The cast too are perfect. Pratt was born for this breakout leading man role; his Peter Quill is a perfect modern equivalent to Star Wars' Han Solo, gruffly funny, out-for-himself space adventurer. Cooper and Diesel as CGI raccoon Rocket and walking tree Groot are unrecognizably excellent; Saldana and ex-wrestler Bautista provide the more serious supports, but still provide great comedic fodder to keep things pretty well balanced.
At this stage in the game, and with Guardians so damn good, it's almost impossible to think what the boffins over at Marvel HQ still have up their sleeves in regards to the next big thing they want to roll out of their Hollywood-dominating franchise machine. Seriously, put your hand up if you had your doubts about Guardians of the Galaxy? Yeah, there would have been a lot of hands in the air.
You would think the thought process must have been something along the lines of "Hey, if we can get this to stick, these people will watch anything!" Well, maybe - maybe not. But regardless the secretive behind-the-scenes boardroom chicanery, one things for sure; they've yet to put a foot wrong.
It's certainly reassuring to see DreamWorks backing a quality film in… MoreIt's certainly reassuring to see DreamWorks backing a quality film in their animation canon, and they've done an excellent job with this follow up to the rousing, entertaining adventure How to Train Your Dragon. When the uninspired title is the only boring thing about the movie, you know you're onto a winner.
Needless to say, everything else is of the highest standards yet again. The young characters from the first film may have gotten older, but they've got an entertaining story with laughs, emotion and rousing adventure keeping the familiar spirit of this series alive and kicking throughout. The plot certainly benefits from being a little grittier than the first film, but it's a natural progression in the rich storytelling traditions of family and loyalty that the films are entrenched in.
The animation of course is top shelf, which only helps ensure an immersive experience for the film, in 3D or 2D. The voice work is great as well; all the cast have returned, as well as some new ones, and all have an easy going chemistry that translates well on-screen.
DreamWorks may not have the strongest pedigree in the animation stakes, but Dragon certainly makes up for its lesser titles, and is much better than a lot of Disney's more recent overly-commercialized family fare. More of this is always welcome.
Just hearing the title Bad Words inevitably creates an image of Bad… MoreJust hearing the title Bad Words inevitably creates an image of Bad Santa, and it's not a stretch to compare. Bateman's directorial debut is as snarky, cynical and vulgar as the Bob Thornton vehicle, so it all depends on the viewer's disposition as to whether you're interested in such a volatile concoction.
Bateman's direction is efficient and uncomplicated; the film doesn't require much more than that, but it's a decent effort for a simple enough debut. His performance is great; a pulled-back maniacal cool, yet still obscene, undiluted and tactless. Better are his supports who do very well to deal with Bad Words' protagonists antics.
Its bitterness is an acquired tasted, and won't sit well with many, but Bad Words is an interesting choice in debut for actor now director to take.