Being the only $200 million budgeted film this summer to feature no… MoreBeing the only $200 million budgeted film this summer to feature no stars and a horrible trailer marketing it as a "Transformers vs Godzilla" knockoff, Pacific Rim has a long uphill battle ahead of it. Hopefully, word of mouth will get around to sell the damn thing, because it's a pretty decent blockbuster. Like most of this year's summer movies, Pacific Rim is heavy on special effects and light on story. But what makes the movie worthwhile is director Guillermo del Toro. The man behind the brilliant masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro's focus is on developing a truly unique and believable world, while telling a story we actually care about.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the film is that the robots can only be programmed by two people through the process of mind-melding, which literally connects two people through their minds, memories, and thoughts. In other words, finding the right co-pilot requires mutual trust, respect, and friendship. This dramatic stuff is what Del Toro excels at, and while the script glosses over a lot of potential character development that could have been explored in greater detail in relation to this concept, he knows how to get his actors to communicate feelings with subtlety. The robot designs look great and their slow movements mimic a sense of realism in relation to their size. Some of the monsters look a little goofy, suggesting that this material may have been better served in the anime format, but Pacific Rim kick starts a potential franchise about as good as Man of Steel and Avatar respectively did. Only time will tell if the masses agree.
In the wake of four heavily dated movies and that travesty known as… MoreIn the wake of four heavily dated movies and that travesty known as Superman Returns, this hero is in certain need of an upgrade. In response, Warner Bros has opted to give Superman the "Dark Knight" treatment, bringing in Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, and Hans Zimmer as producer, writer, and composer respectively. Zack Snyder of 300 and Watchmen fame helms from the director's chair. With huge names behind and in front of the camera (the cast is packed with A-list actors), does Man of Steel live up to the hype? Not in my opinion, but others will certainly disagree. There are reasons to like this film, and reasons to hate it. The action and visual effects are amazing. The story, however, is virtually non-existent. Flashbacks into Clark Kent's childhood are executed in broad strokes where his Earth father provides textbook words of wisdom that never really resonate with the character later on. There's maybe about half an hour of plot development and two hours of random shit blowing up. Though I'm not gonna lie, these explosions looked freaking cool. Whether this is the Superman movie you've been waiting for or just another run of the mill popcorn flick is something you'll have to decide for yourself. The acting is top notch and the visuals are mighty impressive. If that's enough for you, then you'll have fun. If you're looking for a more character focused origin story, you may be disappointed.
It's difficult to describe how bad Red Mist really is. But let's just… MoreIt's difficult to describe how bad Red Mist really is. But let's just say this is one of those movies that you'll probably find at the bottom of the DVD remainder bin or gloss over on Netflix without feigning much interest in watching. That's probably for the best.
The story primarily plays out like a "I Know What You Did in Med School" with a paranormal twist. A group of medical interns get carried away one night with drugs and alcohol and decide to play a prank on creepy loner Kenneth by giving him a hefty mix of these toxins. To their surprise (and keep in mind these are supposed to be med students who should be educated in the outcome of overdosing and mixing drugs and alcohol), Kenneth falls into a deep coma. Terrified for their futures, they make a pact to swear they had nothing to do with it. Soon enough, one by one they're all slaughtered, as Kenneth starts having out of body experiences by possessing other people to do his murderous bidding.
If this premise alone doesn't sound ridiculous/cliched enough to detract you, think about watching the dumbest and least interesting characters parade around trying to figure out what you already have. Or having to sit through botchy medical science. Or very lame and poorly constructed kill scenes. Or a really slow paced film devoid of anything suspenseful or scary. Needless to say, do not watch.
Thor: The Dark World is easily the best Phase One/Phase Two film since… MoreThor: The Dark World is easily the best Phase One/Phase Two film since the original Iron Man (not including The Avengers of course). While the story isn't as thematically complex as some of the other superhero films in this universe, it manages to reignite the awe and imagination that recent superhero outings like Man of Steel and The Wolverine were lacking. The best thing is the humour. There are many seriously dark points, but the film always manages to wink at itself. Every character gets a sufficient amount of screen time, particularly Kat Dennings who plays one of the most charming comic relief characters in recent memory. Among an incredible cast of great actors stands Tom Hiddleston, who plays everyone's favourite villain Loki. Hiddleston steps up his game and almost steals every scene he is in.
Director Alan Taylor, known for directing multiple HBO episodes for Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire, stages exciting fight scenes and lavishly detailed worlds. Since most of the action takes place off Earth, the fantasy elements run high as does the filmmaker's confidence helming such a creatively detailed production.
Along with some great cameo appearances, an incredible post credit sequence, and undeniably clever writing, Thor: The Dark World raises the stakes and sets the bar high for the remaining Phase Two films, proving that Marvel still knows how to entertain its audience.
I won't lie; I love the first thirty minutes of this film. I have the… MoreI won't lie; I love the first thirty minutes of this film. I have the film on my phone and occasionally play parts of these first thirty minutes when I need a good laugh. The rest of the film, however, is more or less rubbish and lacks much of the wit and satire that Da Ali G Show so often displayed.
Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G is a brilliant character, particularly in the way he criticizes cultural stereotypes and subverts anyone who seems to have a superiority complex over people. The show featured real life politicians and celebrities, whereas Ali G Indahouse is a fictionalized story centred around Ali G and the life he most likely would be living. The film's set up (the first thirty minutes) is intriguing because it shows him as a middle class suburbanite who actually fears authority and respects his grandmother. He isn't the most intelligent person, so it's possible that his decision to dress and act as a thug reflects his inability to fit into society on "normal" terms. However, the film doesn't do much with this premise. It transcends into a series of unfunny dick and fart jokes set to a ridiculous plot that barely holds the story together.
Ali G fans will still want to watch this. There are some funny lines that will/have become very quotable, but the film itself does not have that much merit beyond the first act.
The Dirties is a complex fabric of fresh insights into school… MoreThe Dirties is a complex fabric of fresh insights into school violence. Written, directed, and starring Matt Johnson, the film's title character is a social outcast and an aspiring filmmaker with very little actual talent. He decides one day to up his game by planning the most sensational climax to his newest film: killing those who he calls the "dirties," which is pretty much anyone who has bullied him throughout high school. Like Gus van Sant's masterpiece Elephant, The Dirties presents a series of vague reasons that forces the viewer to reflect on what could or could not have led to the character's decision to do what he does. Sure this is a topic that has been the subject of arguably one too many films, but it is still relevant, and The Dirties is above all a character study that unravels with a dark sense of humour and realism.
The high school students all feel like real people. They can't be easily classified into archetypes, which makes for an incredibly complex film. The insights into school bullying delve into territory that last year's documentary Bully seemed a little too scared to even tread. The Dirties is a strong directorial debut that might actually inspire some deep critical thinking and could certainly warrant more than one viewing.
Before he conquered Hollywood with great films like 50/50 and Warm… MoreBefore he conquered Hollywood with great films like 50/50 and Warm Bodies, director Jonathan Levine made a little horror movie called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. It premiered in Toronto back in 2006, got picked up by a distributor, then sat on the shelf for seven years and is now finally getting a release.
There's been a fare bit of hype being built from those fans who did see it way back when. Now that I've seen it, I'm not so sure where the hype is coming from.
One thing I did admire about the film is the premise. Mandy Lane, who just one year ago was an average nobody, suddenly blossomed into the hottest girl at school. She's still a shy, quiet, "virgin-like" girl, but now all the boys want to get with her, persuading the "in" crowd to invite Mandy to come with them to a quiet cabin for a weekend of partying. The story definitely touches upon how superficial teenage relationships can be, and on the pressure teenage girls feel to look beautiful from both boys and their fellow female acquaintances. But the film doesn't explore this theme with much depth. The script is too shallow to extract any meaning.
Soon enough the teens are dispatched one by one at the hands of a serial killer. The violence is gory, but the execution is predictable and lacking any suspense. I never felt engaged towards any of the characters, and couldn't care less about the outcome, which by the way makes no sense in comparison to the rest of the narrative. As a slasher film, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane lacks scares and tension. As a critique on teenage life, it's a missed opportunity.
Earlier this year, Arnold and Sly couldn't quite recapture their glory… MoreEarlier this year, Arnold and Sly couldn't quite recapture their glory days with their starring vehicles The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head respectively. Now they're teaming up to star in a film in which the posters, tag lines, and title scream B-movie silliness. This is not a bad thing, and there are many moments where Escape Plan does exactly what it sets out to do. But for a good chunk of its 116 minute run time, it feels like a chore to get through.
Sly plays Ray Breslin, a professional break out artist who detects flaws in the country's maximum security prisons. He's double crossed and left to rot in a prison called The Tomb, where he meets Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). The two unlikely pals quickly begin to plot their escape. It takes almost 90 minutes for this escape to take place, and it feels longer than that. Stallone and Arnold's one-liners also fall flat way too often. Not to mention the convoluted subplots and logic that begins to start sounding ludicrous even in "turn off your brain" mode. Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill, Amy Ryan, and 50 Cent are all underused.
But the big prison breakout scene in the last thirty minutes is hella fun. Arnold and Sly do what we paid to see them do and the big, burly, macho testosterone runs so high, it almost makes up for all the tedium that came before it. Almost.
Like many of this year's best films - 12 Years a Slave, Captain… MoreLike many of this year's best films - 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, and to an extent The Conjuring - Gravity is about characters facing seemingly impossible odds while holding on to the basic core of their humanity. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt (George Clooney)'s will to survive is put to the test at every turn. The story is not overly complex but it develops these characters enough to make us care wholeheartedly about them and their terrifying situation.
Visually, Gravity is in a league of its own. The CGI, green screen effects, and sound design are groundbreaking. Some of the sequences last for over ten minutes without a single cut. The cinematography is breathtaking. From minute one the tension is high and for ninety minutes does not let up even for a second. Sandra Bullock deserves another Oscar nomination for her work here. She holds this film together. Director Alfonso Cuaron needs to be commended for creating another visual masterpiece that easily puts Avatar to shame. See this in IMAX 3D if you can. The film is a masterpiece in any format but the 70mm screen will add even more marvel to the visuals.
Don Jon is yet another reason why great actors make great directors.… MoreDon Jon is yet another reason why great actors make great directors. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's passion/vanity project is a wonderfully offbeat look at disconnections in relationships, and how the "typical" perceptions of sex differ between men and women.
JGL shows a confident ability behind the camera and in front of it. He's managed to get solid performances out of costars Scarlett Johannson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza. When spoken by the cast, JGL's dialogue flows in the same manner as a Scorsese or Tarrantino film, which is mighty impressive.
Ending on a deliberately ambiguous note that - spoiler alert - criticizes and undermines the usual climax of sappy romantic comedies, Don Jon is smart, thoughtful and doesn't shy away from the reality of its subject matter.