Sunday, 30 November 2014

Movie Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

Directorial debuts are kind of a bizarre thing to see happen yourself. Sure, looking at films like Alien 3 or The Pleasure Garden can be interesting considering what their respective directors David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock would go on to make, but that’s only because of the gift of hindsight and knowing that they did go on to make more movies and become regarded as great directors. It’s another thing to see a directorial debut and it being the only thing to go on: It could be a great film and then the director drops off of the radar; it could be awful and yet the director goes on to make even more like it; or any happy medium between the two scales. A recent example of this going right would be Chronicle, an excellent found footage movie (Yes, those exist) whose director Josh Trank is currently working on the new Fantastic Four movie. Will we get such a success story with this? Only time will tell, but for the time being let’s look at today’s film. This is Nightcrawler.

The plot: Lou (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small-time thief who, after seeing a cameraman (played by Bill Paxton) film the scene of a car crash to sell to a news channel, decides to get into the business himself. However, the more dedicated he gets to the line of work, the more unhinged he becomes.

This movie is very centered on Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, and as such it is pretty much the key talking point here. Lou, on paper, is a very neurotic, career-driven and sociopathic person. His dialogue is blunt and very direct, almost to the point of being non-human. Given how much of this character takes up the running time, along with how he’s written, the director seriously needed to pair the character with a capable actor. Gyllenhaal, in 2013’s Prisoners, showed that he was more than capable of playing a character that is perpetually toeing the line between calm and break everything and everyone in sight, something that he readily puts to use in this film. Gyllenhaal as Lou is cold, calculating, adorkable, funny, sharp, sinister and creepy, sometimes all at the same time. It is an impressive feat of acting to be able to pull the character the way he does here. Think if Jeff Goldblum played Patrick Bateman and you’re in the ballpark of how this character comes across: Awkward and terrifying all at once. A lot of his dialogue involves him negotiating with people for various reasons, as if he was selling real estate every second of every day of his life and he was damn good at doing it. His dialogue, in lesser hands, could’ve come across disastrously, but despite his directness the character is repeatedly able to convince people to take his offers, no matter how insane they may be, and you easily believe it because of Gyllenhaal’s delivery. Not only that, he is downright scary in the majority of this film too. Because of how unpredictable Lou comes across as, you’re gripping at the armrests of your seat because you have no idea what he’s going to do next; even better, the writing is done in such a way that they manage to look the most obvious option Lou has in some scenes and then goes several steps further, making for a genuinely intense character to watch.

How are the rest of the cast? Well, that’s the other thing: The cast list here is relatively small. In terms of recognizable actors, we have Rene Russo as the news director for a TV station and Bill Paxton as Joe, Lou’s inspiration and later rival, both of whom do very well in their roles. Other than that, aside from rapper Riz Ahmed as Lou’s assistant Rick, there isn’t anyone of note. Then again, given the powerhouse performance from our lead, you could have had anyone in the supporting cast and they would still be overshadowed.

After watching Gone Girl not that long ago, I honestly thought I would have had my fill of movies that involve manipulation of the mass media, but here comes Nightcrawler to give us some more from a different angle: Manipulation of the news as product, to be processed, packaged and delivered to the masses. This film does a great job at showing the disconnect between the reality as seen through the TV and the reality as seen through our own eyes, not to mention some nice subtle commentary on the difficult economic times and what it can drive some people to do out of desperation for a living. The best possible example of the disconnect at work is in how it portrays the more violent crime scenes on film: Aside from one or two moments, it's never directly through the real-life camera; it’s either through the viewfinder of an in-universe camera or being played back as already-recorded footage. That, on its own, would be enough to praise this movie for, but through some key scenes at the news station, we get even more helpings of this with real-time manipulation of the news anchors by Rene Russo’s character into building up the story being shown in Lou’s footage. Going back to what I was saying about directorial debuts and what they might hold, going by this movie alone, I really hope that Dan Gilroy sticks it out in the director’s chair and brings us even more films of this high standard.

All in all, this is an extremely tense and nail-biting thriller, mostly driven by Jake Gyllenhaal’s jaw-dropping performance in the lead role; this is something that is right up there as one of his best to date, if not the best. This goes above Saving Mr. Banks, as the thrills here are more engaging, but just below These Final Hours, whose bleakness keeps a constant feeling in the viewer throughout whereas here it has definite peaks where the tension gets to its best heights. I urge everyone who reads this to check out Nightcrawler for themselves.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Movie Review: Fat Pizza Vs. Housos (2014)

Whether it was watching TV standards like The Late Show and Kath & Kim, seeing stand-up gigs by the likes of Adam Hills and Carl Barron, or just by living in this country myself, I can’t think of a single time in my life when I wasn’t being influenced by Australian comedy. To quote (as best as I can remember) the comedian Vince Sorrenti: “We don’t need to protect the Australian way of life; the Australian way of life is our fucking protection. It’s the most benign existence on Earth.” We are easily the most laidback people on the planet and it shows in our collective comedy styling, given how quick we are to take the piss out of ourselves and everyone else within earshot. To carry on this tradition, we have today’s film: This is Fat Pizza Vs. Housos.

The plot: Bobo (played by John Boxer) has just been released from his 15-year stint in jail, only to return and find that his pizza shop has been shut down. Along with his mother (played by Maria Vanuti), they both buy a new pizza place in the town of Sunnyvale.  If this sounds abrupt, that’s only because that’s as much coherency as I can muster for what loosely counts as a plot here. Seriously, this film is so scattershot that I am barely able to put it in words. Not that it’s hard to understand, but that it is very difficult to articulate what exactly happens in the 90 or so minutes of run time; it probably doesn’t help that this is my first time experiencing anything involving either Pizza or Housos.

For my international readers, going through the cast list for a movie like this would just be ringing on deaf ears, but needless to say we’re dealing with some real unsung comedians here: Tahir, Garry Who, Nick “The Wog Boy” Giannopoulos as well as the previously mentioned Vince Sorrenti.  We also get some Aussie radio talent like Jonesy as the political punching bag Premier Campbell Abbott as well as Kyle Sandilands… okay, maybe ‘talent’ isn’t the best word to use to describe him but it was least fun seeing him get beaten up with a thong. For the record, that's another word for flip-flip; this wasn't some weird thing involving underwear slingshots... although that would have been hilarious to see.

Okay, might as well tackle the flannelette-wearing elephant in the room: The comedy. This takes the South Park road of satirical comedy: Bury whatever commentary you want to make under layers upon layers of political incorrectness. This movie pretty much tackles every Aussie stereotype in the book (Not ‘Crocodile Dundee’ stereotypes, I mean the ones that actually exist): Coppers, polies, wogs, lebs, bogans, bikies, boat people; you name it, director/writer/actor Paul Fenech has it vivisected and on display somewhere on screen. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with Fenech’s works like Pizza or Housos, but if this is anything to go by than I definitely want to see more. The dialogue is thicker than concrete with Aussie slanguage, the physical comedy mostly focuses on smacking people in the face, and the plot itself is all kinds of bizarre… but that’s not to say that it’s stupid. The most obvious satire here would be on current Prime Minister Tony Abbott through the Premier, a man who focuses more on the one guy who embarrassed him in front of the cameras instead of the ensuing gang war going on in Sunnyvale. Given Tony “Let’s see how badly I can make my own country look to everyone else at G20” Abbott’s track record of late, even this might be a bit lenient. We also get some running commentary on the treatment of the unemployed in Australia, the racial profiling at work in various departments of government and law enforcement, as well as a sly jab at people’s overuse of mobile phones, and this kind of batshit story honestly feels like the best way to deliver this kind of satire.

The story here is very episodic, in that very little of what happens seems to correlate with one another: We have a bikie gang, a guy dealing drugs out of his pizza deliveries, an Italian mother influencing the government through creating Centerlink schemes to further her son’s business and the thongarang, the most effective non-lethal weapon in history. It’s all over the place but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t consistently make me laugh. The pacing is just right so that the small jokes rush by and pave the way for more to come by and smack you in the face. Really, the only problem with the comedy here is how dated some of it feels: References to Schapelle Corby (who I swear is actually in the film, but I couldn’t find confirmation on that), 9/11; the plot intentionally takes a 15 year gap between Bobo’s arrest and his release, supposedly so they can make jokes about how some characters don’t know how to tweet or use Facebook, but it does stick out a fair way whenever it happens.

The soundtrack, put simply, is awesome. Maybe it’s my weakness for Aussie hip-hop shining through, but the handful of tracks by rap group Funkoars sound great here, as well as some nice pub rock tunes by local acts like Heaven The Axe. Some of the lyrics to the songs are kind of goofy, given how a lot of them talk about pizzas, but the beats underneath them are serious bangers. Even when we’re dealing with returning Pizza character Sleek the Elite and his rhyming, there’s just something organic about it that fits with the style of the film overall; he's like an Aussie Biz Markie.

All in all, I had a blast with this movie. I’ll admit that I went into this not expecting to like it at all, but leaving it I was completely confused as to why I would ever think that in the first place. For my fellow Aussies, no question: See this movie and help support Australian filmmaking. For my international readers, if you’re capable of cutting through both the accents and the Aussie slang in the dialogue, you might just find something fun in this. It ranks higher than The Maze Runner, as this has me even more hyped to see a sequel than that did, but lower than Dallas Buyers Club because as funny as this was, my soul would never stop gnawing at me if I ranked this above that heart-twister. It's 'very good-to-excellent'; go an fuckin' watch it already, will ya?!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Movie Review: Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)

Sometimes, we see movies for reasons that are in no way rational; the fact that I have seen The Room in cinemas twice this year is proof enough of that. I’ve said before that I try not to let my expectations dictate how I anticipate a movie, but every so often I’ll get kind of hyped for a movie just because an actor I like is in it. This is… a weird case. I say weird because the actor I wanted to see here isn’t even one of the main characters. In fact, I had no idea just how much screen time he was going to get. Who that actor is I’ll get to momentarily. For now, this is Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… long title is long.

The plot: Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould) has had a bad day, like every other day. However when he tries to get some sympathy from his family, he gets none since they haven’t had any bad days. So, as a birthday wish, Alexander wishes for them to know what it feels like. His wish comes true and *sigh* hijinks ensue.

As much as I would love to be making mocking comparisons between Alexander And The Long Name and Liar Liar, given how the two both have main plots started by a birthday wish, I will try to avoid that as best as I can. One reason for that is because Alexander And The Word Salad makes the wise move and has the plot play out in such a way that it makes sense as just an unfortunate sequence of events without having to bring birthday wish mumbo jumbo into it. The other reason is that this isn’t even close to being as funny as Liar Liar. The comedic writing here has two modes: Mild chuckles, and so telegraphed that even the child sitting the row behind me at the cinema could see them coming (And, for once, I’m not kidding). The only other movie from this year that had jokes I could see this far ahead was Keith Lemon: The Film, and I will at least give this film credit for having the comedy be better than that piece of trash (Then again, not hard to do). The plot, not to mention the title, kind of gives away the sort of comedy we get here: Murphy’s Comedy, where everything bad that can happen does. However, most movies tend to work around this obvious framework with creative writing so that, when you know that something will happen, you’re still not entirely sure what will happen and the anticipation built up on that makes for some spontaneous laughs. Here, for the most part, all we get instead is a mild variety of how far away you can see the jokes from, with some being less obvious than others. A good example of this early on is when Alexander is leaving his house for a car pool to school. You know those played-out slow motion scenes when our main character walks towards a love interest but ends up tripping on something? Yeah, we get that here too.

In a movie that relies prominently on comedy, if your writing falters then you can make up for it with good performances. Thankfully, we actually do get a bit of that here, mainly from Steve Carell who plays Alexander’s dad Ben. The man’s dry delivery, relentless optimism and great sense of comedic timing helps pick up more than a few of the dud jokes he’s given, allowing him to raise a lot of the scenes involving him. I mean, anyone who is able to be a flaming pirate on screen and sell it has to be given props (Once again, not kidding). Actually, a lot of the acting from our main cast is good: Aside from Alexander and his dad, we also have Jennifer Garner as the mother Kelly, Dylan Minnette as the older brother Anthony and Kerris Dorsey as the older sister Emily, all of whom do the best that they can with what they have. We also have some rather… interesting bit parts that elevate things as well: Jennifer Coolidge as a driving instructor, Burn Gorman as a school play director, Dick Van Dyke as himself (Your guess is as good as mine on that one) and Donald Glover as a game designer that Ben has a job interview with. Yeah, I’ll admit, I just wanted to see this because I saw Donald Glover in the trailer; I love his stand-up, his work on Community and his rap music, oddly enough for the same reason in that they are all legitimately funny. It’s a dumb reason to want to see this movie, but at least I got some decent mileage out of his scenes. Since he’s connected to Ben’s storyline, his scenes were mostly of just him and Carell bouncing off of each other which worked surprisingly well. One final note on the acting: Alexander's best friend is one of the most blatant token black characters I've seen in a long while. Blerg.

Actually, since the father is one of this film’s saving graces, I might as well talk about his place in the plot and try to read into it a bit. From the very beginning, he is touted as being the optimist of the family and shows it in more ways than one. While the family gets bad crap happen to them all day, which range from minor to you’re going to be having bad days for a while as a result of this, his day remains relatively fine. Hell, his ultimate breaking point, when he stops looking at the glass half-full and more as the glass to pour on someone’s head in anger, is the flaming pirate bit I mentioned earlier, a moment that could have ended up a lot worse than it did and he’s lucky for it. Given the movie’s overall message about taking the good with the bad (I still can’t get the Facts Of Life theme out of my head), maybe Ben’s character is meant to show another message about staying positive throughout and your day will be better because of it. Given how trite the main message is, having something buried a little deeper in the text is really surprising, not to mention appreciated as someone who loves reading too far into things. Of course, there are more than a few story issues here, not the least of which being that because of how realistic the damage caused on the titular day is, they could have easily left out the birthday wish and just left it ambiguous. Seriously, considering it’s supposed to be the main plot gear for the movie, it’s swept under the rug fairly quickly and only vaguely alluded to throughout, before being mentioned flat-out once and never again. Also, the mother’s plotline is wrapped up way too conveniently; there’s no way in hell that she would have gotten away with what had happened the way she did and the resolution is weak in it of itself.

All in all, while not a bad movie per say, it would only serve as a mild diversion for families. I can at least safely recommend this as a family film, because there are a few jokes that are aimed at adults, but don’t be surprised if you barely remember a thing about it the day after seeing it. This ranks higher than Let’s Be Cops, as the main characters aren’t nearly as unlikeable initially, but lower than The House Of Magic, which while also pretty forgettable has better entertainment value as a family film. It’s mediocre; maybe wait for the DVD on this one.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

As I write this, I am also working on a presentation about film tastes for a class I’m taking. In it, among other things, I make mention of critical hype and how it can ultimately damage a person’s film experience: You build up too much hype about how good (or bad) something is and you could end up giving someone else expectations that cannot possibly be met; this is the Detox Effect at work. With how much I was looking forward to today’s film after my last review, as well as how much talk I’ve seen involving this movie both in and out of the internet, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was cautious. Nevertheless, this is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

The plot: After literally destroying the Hunger Games at the Quarter Quell, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) has been chosen by the resistance against President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) to be their symbol: The Mockingjay. While creating a counter-campaign against Snow, the President has also enlisted Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) to be the spokesman for the Capitol. Amidst the battle of the P.R. campaigns, the rebels and the Capitol are preparing for civil war, one that will decide the fate of Panem.

As with the rest of the series, the acting is outstanding: Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress with her intense and emotional performance; Philip Seymour Hoffman shows great humour and intelligence in his portrayal of Plutarch, the head of the rebellion’s propaganda campaign, bringing to mind Robert De Niro’s character from Wag The Dog in his political manipulations; Donald Sutherland reaches new levels of creepy and intimidating here as President Snow; Sam Claflin, despite his role as Finnick being reduced, still does great as the cocky yet loyal ally; Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks continue to shine in their returning roles as Haymitch and Effie; and Jeffrey Wright does exceptionally as Beetee, the sarcastic tech whiz of the group. We also get some newcomers such as Julianne Moore as President Coin, leader of the rebels, Natalie Dormer as Cressida, the director of the propaganda campaign, and Mahershala Ali as Boggs, one of Coin’s top soldiers. I have to give special mention to Ali’s performance because, despite Boggs mostly being a background character, he has that air of badass surrounding him that just sells it through and through. If there’s any slight I can make against the acting here, it’s that we didn’t get see more of Johanna in this one.

I would also like to make a slight addendum to my review of Catching Fire: I feel like I haven’t given nearly enough credit to Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and here is where I rectify that. Hutcherson has previously done very well in his role, having great chemistry with Lawrence as well as playing a very convincing spin doctor in building up his and Peeta’s initially false relationship. Here, however, he goes through the wringer. I won’t say exactly what happens for spoiler reasons, but needless to say the man gives it his all here and I am highly anticipating not only his performance in part two, but also in Escobar: Paradise Lost.

One of the main criticisms I’ve seen thrown at this movie is that it’s not as heavy on the action as the last two, and to be fair that is true. However, the story being told here and the way they tell it more than makes up for it. I made special mention last time of the great-looking computer effects in Catching Fire, but there is substantially less of that here. Instead, most of the effort seems to have gone into the set design and practical effects, both of which are very well done. The practical effects in particular, as seen in the locales of District 12 and District 8 where we get some seriously harrowing and stomach-churning visuals. As a whole, this plays out more like a political thriller than the action-adventure films we’ve been getting so far, but at least those films had this thread consistently running through them so this is in no way jarring. If anything, not having as many action set pieces so that they can put more emphasis on the writing is a good thing because this is a very well-written script. It does start off with a couple of clunky metaphors (“You electrified the nation” and the like), but before too long it really kicks in with its depiction of the many shades of grey involved with war, specifically civil war, as well as a look into the filmmaking process through the filming for the Mockingjay campaign. There’s one scene where Katniss has to recite her lines for one of their promos, and the way it’s shown is almost like being a fly on the wall at an acting audition. We have Katniss and Peeta essentially being the poster children for their respective sides, and what’s fascinating is how what they’re both saying makes sense: Katniss is right in that Snow’s regime is bringing nothing but destruction, but Peeta is right in that the rebellion is leading to even more people dying as a result. Given the usual pedigree for YA adaptations we’ve been getting of late, having a conflict that is this far from one-sided is very refreshing.

Something else of major note here is the music. The series has had a very good score throughout, but it’s here that it transcends that into becoming something truly beautiful. Lawrence’s rendition of the Lumineers’ song The Hanging Tree has already made a big splash online, but within the context of the film proper is when it makes that transcendence. Again, I won’t spoil it completely, but needless to say that the scene surrounding it might be one of the most powerful cinematic moments of the year… and it is here that I begin to realize how hypocritical it was of me to start this review with how critical hype can ruin a movie for some people. Oops.

All in all, I don’t know how this is happening but this film series seems to be getting better and better with each installment. While not as heavy on action as before, this decides to up the ante on its political undertones, transforming the already prevalent commentary on the cult of celebrity into one on iconography as a whole; all with a great cast to deliver it all. Aside from the lack of Johanna, the only real downside here is the year-long wait for the finale. This ranks higher than Only Lovers Left Alive, as the writing has a bit more meat to it, but just below Predestination, which I suspect is only because I have more familiar with that movie’s source material than this one’s. If you haven’t seen this already, I highly advise you do so. If the reason you haven’t is because you haven’t seen the other films yet, then I recommend you watch them also. Of course, I would love to hear your own opinions on this movie. Do you agree? Disagree? Why, and by how much? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Upon hitting cinemas, The Hunger Games ushered in what I like to call the ‘Third Wave of Modern YA Adaptations’. The first wave was caused by the early Harry Potter films and created a desire for stories involving destined child heroes in fantasy settings (well, a more immediate desire for them at any rate) with adaptations of The Chronicles Of Narnia and the like. The second wave was caused by the simultaneously over and under-abused punchline that is the Twilight series, creating a want to see romantic stories involving the undead. Such films that fall under this would include Red Riding Hood, The Host and Warm Bodies, along with many other trite bits of fluff. With the third wave, we have a sudden influx of apocalyptic settings, veering more into science-fiction than fantasy, and the ever-growing need to be taken seriously. A lot of overlap exists between these three. In 2014 alone, we’ve had Divergent, The Giver and The Maze Runner as by-products of the Third Wave, not to mention The Hunger Games’ own Mockingjay which has just come out. Before I get to that movie though (and yes, I will be reviewing it soon enough), I figured I should catch up a bit on the series, having only seen the first movie for 2012’s list (It was really good, but mostly because of the second half). As such, today’s film will be The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

The plot: In the wake of Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) winning the previous Hunger Games, murmurs of revolution against President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) are starting to rise, along with Katniss having to go through a chaotic cycle of traumatic memories of the Games and her fabricated relationship with Peeta. In the midst of all this, both Katniss and Peeta have been drafted to once again take part in a special edition of the Hunger Games, where all of the competitors are former Victors of the Games. Katniss and Peeta must work together to make it through the Games alive once again.

Rule Of Sequels #44: If you can’t make it, remake it. Time and time again have we seen film sequels just rehash the original to make a quick buck, and given how the story here also involves repeating what we saw in the first movie, I was immediately skeptical about this doing the same. However, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t the case here. If anything, this seems to have improved on a lot of what made the original work, as well as ironing out some of its problems as well. For one thing, I personally found quite a few of the special effects in the original to be a bit obvious, but I was willing to overlook that at the time because in-story they were supposed to be computer effects. Here, given how much better the fires and wildlife look in comparison (among other things), now I feel like I was a bit too forgiving to the original. Then again, Weta Digital (who, among other films, worked on The Lord Of The Rings, Avatar and the new Planet Of The Apes movies) is listed as one of the companies who helped make the effects for this movie, so I guess it’s to be expected.

I’ve already mentioned how the second half of the original is where it gets really good, but here it’s a lot more consistent. In the first half, we get the usual running commentary on the cult of celebrity that annoyed me slightly before, but here it builds on what has already been established and comes out better for it. We have Katniss having to deal with a lot of events due to her becoming a Victor of the Games: Needing to continue the charade of being in a relationship with Peeta, trying to stay off the President’s kill list given how she has become a source of inspiration for the rebellion, not to mention the PTSD she’s going through as a result of all the death she witnessed in the Games; all of this while she has to keep a happy face in front of the cameras for the public while she’s on her Victory Tour. On top of this, we have a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale… and it’s here where we get one of this movie’s big snags. There are very few things in this world that are able to make a love triangle not being an annoying plot thread that I usually skip over when re-watching movies and TV shows. Unfortunately this isn’t one of them, and given how the love triangle ties into the relationship between Katniss and Peeta, a major plot thread, it is also unavoidable. However, in its defense, this does handle it better than most, as all parties involved are at least aware of the different sides of what’s going on rather than keeping things secret and just making it worse, a la most romantic comedies with this plot line, but all the same. Then in the second half, we get the Game itself which was initially worrying given how similar it looks to the first (Traded in a forest for a jungle? Really?) but between the character interactions, the new mechanics at play, as well as the overall story, it actually comes out stronger than the first’s already high benchmark.

Now, to one of the bigger points for this movie: The performances. This has an immensely impressive cast, with everyone giving a great portrayal of their character: Jennifer Lawrence continues to shine as Katniss, Woody Harrelson is funny and endearing as Katniss’ mentor Haymitch, Donald Sutherland is subdued and intimidating as Snow and Stanley Tucci hits that sweet spot of both annoying and funny as the zany talk show host Caesar. Along with this, we also have some newcomers to the cast: Sam Claflin as Finnick, the cocky but loyal pretty boy; Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, the tech whiz who comes up with some really good ideas to win the Games; Lynn Cohen as Mags, Finnick’s silent mentor; Jena Malone as Johanna, the Valkyrie Bitch who makes for some of the best moments in this film; and the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch, the new Gamemaker replacing Seneca from the original, among others. While they do very well with their roles, the most exceptional thing of note is the fact that the characters who participate in the Games actually have roles. In the original, all we got was Katniss, Peeta, Rue and a group of sociopaths. Here, it feels more like the cast have been fleshed out a bit more and are legitimately fun to watch on screen.

All in all, this is a damn good movie. Even though we are currently in a mild state of Jennifer Lawrence overexposure, given how good the movies she’s in are (including this one), I can only see that as a good thing. This is one of those rare sequels that actually manages to improve on the original, while still holding onto what made it good and not just flat-out copying it to the letter, continuing with its strong acting, writing and story themes of how simple actions can lead to much larger outcomes. This ranks higher than Captain Phillips, purely because I got more enjoyment out of the sci-fi setting here, and but lower than Django Unchained, which as a whole still made for a more fulfilling experience of a film. On the 2013 list, this one ranks among the best of the year. Even if you haven’t seen the original yet, I highly recommend checking them both out. As for the new one… we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Movie Review: I, Frankenstein (2014)

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword seeing Australian names in mainstream cinema: Sometimes you get James Wan, director of The Conjuring as well as the original Saw; and sometimes you get Baz Luhrman, director of Moulin Rouge and Australia, among other pieces of pretentious dribble. I love seeing this great (at times) country I live in being represented in Hollywood, but it doesn’t always yield the best results. With today’s film, we have Stuart Beattie as writer/director who’s had a very murky track record of late, having been a co-writer on G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, the aforementioned Australia as well as a re-writer on Punisher: War Zone. This is I, Frankenstein.
The plot: Frankenstein (played by Aaron Eckhart) has been on Earth for 200 years, being hunted by demons under the command of demon prince Naberius (played by Bill Nighy). Naberius wants Frankenstein for his plans, and the Gargoyles, the group that fights against the demons, have to keep Frankenstein out of their grasp while the monster himself just wants answers.
I feel like a bit of a broken record here, as once again I have to emphasize how bad the special effects are in a film I’m reviewing. What makes this even worse is that, somehow, this movie manages to top The Legend Of Hercules in terms of cheap looking computer effects. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, looks like it even belongs in the same cutting room as the film it’s attached to. This isn’t just Asylum mockbuster-levels of cheap; this looks like someone took the animations out of one of those free action movie effects apps for smartphones and used them for the effects. Even going past the computer effects, the make-up work here is haphazard at best as well. Eckhart in no way looks like he has been composed of miscellaneous body parts, and looks more like he has just been in a couple of nasty fights. At the risk of invoking some weird derivative of Godwin’s Law, this is actually less believable than when Edward from Twilight was trying to convince people that he was a monster. Put simply, with Eckhart, it’s even more obvious that they were trying to sell his character, a walking corpse in essence, more as being sexy than being scary.
If there’s one thing I can at least give this movie, it’s that the acting is decent. Eckhart was a damn good choice to play Frankenstein and he gives a certain gruffness that fits how the character is written here. Nighy does well enough as Naberius, being authoritative and threatening as his role requires, although in quite a few scenes his natural air of danger is somewhat dampened by the bad demonic vocal effect they put on his voice. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, guys. The rest of the cast, like Jai Courtney (who at this point seems to naturally gravitate towards crap movies) and Miranda Otto, do okay with their roles, but this is where we get to the biggest problem with this movie: The acting is fine, but it’s not enough to turn this script into anything worth watching.
While the dark urban fantasy setting is getting more than a little overused in the last ten years or so, I would be willing to let it slide if they gave something that could fill that setting and make it interesting. Unfortunately, we get wildly inconsistent characters, a prologue that seems tacked on because I’m guessing Beattie still wasn’t sure what era to set the movie in at that stage, an extremely derivative villain plot and various other subscriptions (continuous streams of issues). We keep getting characters contradicting themselves, sometimes in the same scene, mostly from the gargoyle queen Leonore and one of her soldiers Gideon, played by Otto and Courtney respectively. Hell, even with contradictions, their actions are usually stupid for their own reasons, not the least of which being that the gargoyles had no idea just how close the demons’ headquarters were to their own until they tricked into following Frankenstein to them. Not only that, the villain’s plans for Frankenstein? It’s the plot of Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman copied and pasted. Seriously, it is literally the same plot; just replace ‘vampire babies’ with ‘possessed corpses’ and the plan and Frankenstein’s role within said plan is the exact same. You know, as much as Van Helsing gets flak with many critics, at least the writing and effects in that weren’t nearly as bad as they are here. There’s also a romance that’s hinted at more than a few times between Frankenstein and Terra Wade (played by Yvonne Strzechowski), one of the scientists working for Naberius, but it’s just dropped at the end of the film with a loud thud that I’m guessing was meant to be explained in a future sequel. Given how badly this movie did at the box office, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that ever surfacing.
All in all, this is Taliban-brand terri-bad. Sure, it may have better actors than LoH, but between the incessantly horrid writing and the lazy special effects, this actually turns out worse at the end of it all. It ranks lower than And So It Goes, as at least that had Diane Keaton’s singing voice to distract me from time to time, but it’s still higher than Planes: Fire And Rescue, which was more consistently annoying. This shoves it right into the worst films of the year so far section; I can't even recommend this as a movie to watch and laugh at

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Movie Review: The Legend Of Hercules (2014)

The story of Hercules and his Twelve Labours is one of my favourite ancient legends, so much so that the only good essay I ever wrote back in high school was on it and the reasons behind the longevity of the story. It's a tale that has been adapted numerous times before and with good reason: It's a great story with lots of potential, full of action, cunning, darkness and redemption. However, even with that in mind, I find it kind of odd that we got not one but two movie adaptations of it this year alone. We’ve had Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson, which took a different spin on the story and looked more at the idea of Hercules being a literal legend, something I found quite fascinating. True, it didn’t completely succeed at that idea, and it had more than a few narrative issues, but overall it was a decent watch. Prior to that, we also had today’s film which was a relatively more straightforward telling of the origin of Hercules. This is The Legend Of Hercules.

The plot: Hercules (played by Kellan Lutz) is in love with Hebe (played by Gaia Weiss), a woman betrothed to his brother Iphicles (played by Liam Garrigan). Upon objecting to her marrying his brother, Hercules is sent to battle by King Amphitryon (played by Scott Adkins) and is captured as a slave. With everyone back home believing him dead, he must fight his way back to Greece and bring the reign of Amphitryon to an end, fulfilling his purpose as a gift from Hera to destroy the King.

As much as I don’t want to take the easy route and just bash the male lead because he had a major role in the Twilight films… Good God, you’d be hard-pressed to find a less charismatic portrayal of Hercules anywhere. He shows all of no emotion in every scene, whether he’s rousing his army for battle or hearing of his mother’s death. Speaking of rousing his army, he has that little charisma that I doubt he could get one guy to follow him in a conga line, let alone an entire army against their king. I had a lot of similar issues with Sullivan Stapleton as Not-Leonidas in 300: Rise Of An Empire, but at least his character had good blocking in the sex scene (No, seriously, that fight-fucking scene is the best part of the whole movie). Hercules here is called Alcides more times than he is Hercules, and there’s a reason for that.

Speaking of Not-Leonidas and 300, it's kind of amazing how badly this movie wants to be 300. From the fight scenes that also make heavy use of speed ramping to the costume design that is near identical, to the fact that King Amphitryon looks exactly like Leonidas; this can’t all be coincidence. Well, talk about fighting above your weight class, because this is nowhere near that good. For starters, the effects work is absolutely awful. I mean, this is Asylum-level crap right here and sometimes falls short of even that. The green-screening is outright laughable and makes most internet shows look like Avatar; any scene that involves actors falling looks horrible. The CGI and practical effects look just as bad; there’s one scene where Hercules and his brother are fighting the Nemean Lion and it looks like a friggin’ sock puppet. We also get some mediocre fight scenes; sure, they do a lot to ape 300’s camera work but none of the brutality or finesse. Admittedly, there is a cool moment when Hercules uses an enemy soldier’s bow while it’s still on his back, but nothing else works in that regard.

One of the best parts of the story of Hercules is the wide variety of tasks he has to undertake, not to mention the strength and cunning needed to carry them out. I mentioned before that the Nemean Lion is in this, and unfortunately it is the only thing from the Twelve Labours that we see in this movie. To make matters worse, when Hercules does kill the Lion, his brother takes credit for it and it's never mentioned again. You know, Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules didn’t even really do any of the Labours he claimed he did, but even then we still got to see most of them. No such luck here; instead we get a very generic love story with bland supporting characters (alongside our very cardboard main character) that has several moments where it tries its hardest to sound lyrical with its dialogue, but instead comes across like high school poetry writings. The legend itself is all sorts of mangled here too, with Hera actively wanting Hercules to be born and allowing Zeus to impregnate Hercules' mother. That, on its own, is so far removed from pretty much every other telling of the story that it is astounding. Yes, I know that variety is needed especially with a story this well-worn, but don't replace what we've already seen with stupid. How Hercules finally gets his divine powers is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the laziest plot points I've seen in any movie.

All in all, this is all kinds of bad: The effects, the acting, the writing, the direction; it all sucks. This is better than And So It Goes, as at least no-one made any uncomfortable rape jokes in this one, but it scores lower than Deliver Us From Evil, which was also terrible but had me laughing throughout because of it. This just falls short of being one of the worst movies of the year, and that is literally the nicest thing I can say about this movie.

But what did you think of the movie? Think I was too harsh? Agree with me? A bit of both? Let me know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Movie Review: God's Not Dead (2014)

I am not a purely religious person, but I don’t identify as an Atheist either. Since I don’t think what I believe falls under agnosticism either, I have taken to calling myself a ‘cynical spiritualist’. I believe that everyone is free to believe what they want without being persecuted. However, if someone uses their religious leanings as their reasoning for doing stupid/vile things (this counts for Atheists as well), for example the Westboro Baptist Church, I believe that we are all well within our rights to mock them for doing so. Punish for what they do, not what they think. My own personal philosophies have been brewed over time from a mixture of tenets from different religions (e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Ancient Egyptian), and they continue to build themselves over time. I have, at different points in my life, identified as a Christian and a rather militant Atheist, so I like to think that I can look at today’s film with some level of objectivity. Then again, talking about religion on the internet is like coating yourself in gasoline: You’re kind of asking for flames. Nevertheless, we press forward. This is God’s Not Dead.

The plot: Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper) is a freshman in college who starts in a philosophy class led by Professor Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo). Radisson asks all of his students to admit that God is dead as part of his class and Josh, as a Christian, can’t bring himself to do it. Josh is then asked to, over three seminars, convince Radisson and the rest of the class that God isn’t dead, or else he will fail the class.

The acting is extremely bland for the most part, with only Kevin Sorbo bringing in an actual performance as a character. Sorbo, even if he has a penchant for not choosing the best material, is by no means a bad actor and proves here with serious conviction and charisma. The rest of the cast really phone it in, which is honestly fair enough given how most of the cast is made up of pretty unknown actors. The one exception to this is Dean Cain as Mark, Radisson’s brother-in-law, who ultimately gives the same performance he does with pretty much everything else he’s been in: Cardboard. It’s sad that he had more screen presence as the host of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not then he does here (or in anything else he's been in, for that matter). We also have a few cameos in this film, like Willie and Korie Robertson from Duck Dynasty along with Christian pop-rock group Newsboys, and they are pretty standard in terms of “celebrity” cameos. The music, while pretty Hallmark-production quality, is passable for the production we’re dealing with here. We even get the lead actor singing on the soundtrack, where… he gives about the same conviction as his on-screen performance. The movie ends with a big concert by Newsboys, for very weird plot reasons, and honestly that concert was easily the best part of the movie purely because of the music.

Okay, time to bring the ugly stick and ugly is easily the best word to describe this truly reprehensible piece of propaganda. As you could no doubt tell from the plot, this film is very far removed from anything like reality, but it gets worse the further you dig into it. Radisson, the ‘Atheist’ that this film paints so vividly as a villain that even the blind can see it, is such a straw man caricature of what Atheists actually are that it’s kind of offensive, even as someone who doesn’t identify as that anymore. He’s totalitarian in the classroom, demanding that everyone agree that God is dead, constantly making snide comments about how BS Christianity is and how everyone who believes in such an archaic fairy tale are stupid. This is like saying that every Christian acts like Pat Robertson, in terms of horrific stereotyping. In the real world, this man would not have a) a job, b) a wife (who is a Christian, to make things even more surreal) or c) anyone willing to actually speak with him without throwing things at him. In fact, I reckon he would probably be in jail if he carried on like he does here. And to make matters even worse, judging by how he’s carried himself off in interviews, this is actually what Kevin Sorbo thinks Atheists are like. He’s gone on record saying that Atheists just have to believe in God, or else they wouldn’t be getting so angry about him. Maybe that’s why he plays the role so well: He thinks it’s the reality… and if that is the case, I begin to suspect that his many years on the sets of Hercules and Andromeda have seriously warped his version of reality because, barring a few exceptions, Atheists are not like this in the real world, and even the ones who are aren’t so to this ridiculous degree.

If Radisson was the only putrid character in this film, then maybe this film could have limped on its way. But no, we get a few non-Christian bad guys in this film, the only other one coming close (or possibly surpassing him) in terms of being a bag of dicks would be Mark, a man so vile that he dumps his girlfriend after she says that she has cancer… seriously. We also get a couple of Muslims with Ayisha and her father; Ayisha is a closet Christian who hides it from her father, and from the look of things she was right to as he savagely beats her upon finding out. I’d be aiming all of my hatred towards the Christians for making everyone look bad, if they weren’t also making themselves look bad as well. Here, based on how Josh Wheaton (God, what I wouldn’t give for Joss Whedon to be involved and make this at least a bit better) is portrayed as the hero of the story, Christians are shown to be hypocritical, self-righteous bigoted assholes with severe inferiority complexes. Through Radisson, they keep pushing this idea that Atheists are trying to dominate over Christianity and make them conform to their beliefs by force, an idea so stupid that even the depths of low-budget Rapture movies would call it out. Josh even says in one line that “God wants someone to defend him” when he’s asked why he doesn’t just leave the class and avoid all this idiocy. It’s kind of hilariously pathetic to think that, in a world where God-believing people vastly outnumber Atheists/agnostics/etc., there are some that feel the need to defend themselves against an enemy that doesn’t even care about their beliefs. I’ve mentioned before how much I hate the phrase ‘First World Problems’, but here I honestly can’t help but use the term ‘First Faith Problems’ to describe this mindset.

Worse still, even ignoring the theology of the script, the story is riddled with holes that you could drive entire fleets of cars through. In one scene, we have Josh debunking Stephen Hawking’s theory of the origin of the universe due to circular logic, and yet in another he says “Creation happened, because God said it should happen”. Anyone else want some cake? The entire point behind the debate is a whole other bucket of stupid, as Radisson’s stated reason for wanting them to deny God is to avoid debates of his existence in class. You know, even as someone who hasn’t gone to a philosophy class before, that sounds exactly like the kind of thing you would discuss in a philosophy classroom, but hey what do I know?

Also, we have three separate crises of faith to deal with here: Firstly, we have Amy (the one Mark dumped for being so selfish and not thinking about him while she went out and got cancer) a reporter who is also an Atheist, the only relatively sane one but that might be because she becomes born-again by the end of the movie. Now her story, in a vacuum, could have made for a decent movie all on its own, removed from all this ‘proving that God does/doesn’t exist’ nonsense, as the framework is solid enough: She starts as an Atheist, a rather militant Atheist but nowhere near Radisson’s level, but after learning that she has cancer begins to think otherwise about her beliefs. It’s been done before, sure, but at least it would have given something that isn’t as bankrupt as this. The second is of Radisson himself, who it turns out was a Christian until his mother died of cancer (connection to Amy?) and he grew resentful of God. It is with this revelation that Radisson’s atheism, the entire reason for the main plot essentially, dissolves into a big puddle of poor ideas, but it definitely conforms to Sorbo’s own beliefs on Atheists, showing yet another weird bit of circular logic. Lastly, we have undoubtedly the weakest of the three: Reverend Dave can’t get any of his cars (His own car, and then a few rentals) to start working. Don’t worry, though, it gets fixed once he and his friend pray to God for it to work, which it does. So, in this film’s universe, God is more of a mechanic than a healer. Good to know(!) God also apparently couldn't spring for decent sound effects for his universe, because the numerous cars that fail to start in no way sound like real car ignitions. The biggest issue is definitely the end ‘message’ that we’re supposed to take from it: You should have the freedom to believe whatever you want to. Noble gesture… completely ruined by your obvious Hobson’s choice in making everyone except yourselves out to be horrible human beings, but a noble gesture nonetheless.

All in all, short of quoting Deuteronomy, this ticks all the boxes for terri-bad religious propaganda, only it does worse than that by painting Christians themselves just as badly if not worse than it does non-Christians. What Reefer Madness did for marijuana, this film does for non-Christians. I could write my own book full of just how morally and structurally ugly this trash is, but I personally think that this review is long enough as is. What makes it even worse is that, buried somewhere deep inside this mess, is at least one idea for a film that could genuinely work. This is worse than The Best Of Me, as at least that film had better acting on average, but it still fares better than Any Day Now, which offended me on a more personal level. Yet another entry for one of the worst movies of the year, and probably one of the very worst I’ve seen since starting the lists.

Also, before I get people putting words on my page: No, I don't see this as an accurate depiction of Christians. I don't even see this as an accurate depiction of humans.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Movie Review: Love, Rosie (2014)

Even though I have been listing all the movies I watch each year for a couple of years now, I have only really started dedicating myself to seeing all the ones I could in the last several months. One of the key events that lead me to doing this was when my therapist recommended a movie for me to watch as part of my therapy. It was a British rom-com called About Time, which I thoroughly enjoyed and got me thinking more about the idea of movie-watching as a form of therapy, something I might revisit at a later date. Anyway, it was a short while later that I decided to go with my current plan of watching all the new releases, as well as revisiting as many of the movies from the last few years that I can, and with that I gained a certain… relationship with romantic comedies. While every other critic has cinematic PTSD, given how bad most rom-coms get, I look at new releases in the genre as a little reminder of something that got me to where I am now as a critic. Doesn’t hurt that today’s movie also comes from the same general geographical location: The Irish rom-com Love, Rosie.

The plot: Rosie and Alex (played by Lily Collins and Sam Claflin respectively) have been best friends since they were little, and Rosie gets the feeling that she might love him. However, through a series of events, they start to drift apart and she wonders if she missed her chance at being with her one true love.

The reason why most critics have such a low opinion of romantic comedies, generally speaking, is because there is not a whole lot of variety within the genre. To quote one fellow critic, Matthew Buck AKA Film Brain of the web series Bad Movie Beatdown, “… there’s only so many ways that you can get two people to come together.” Very few films actually manage to stand out from the rest, and only do so by adding something fresh to the mix: About Time added a minor sci-fi twist to the proceedings and came out with something genuinely touching; Silver Linings Playbook has an entire scene that acts as a big middle finger to one of the biggest problems with most rom-coms, and we end up with what I consider to be one of the best films I’ve seen since doing these lists. Of course, you often get films that wear every cliché on their sleeves, and we end up with the irritating mess that is ‘The Best Of Me’. However, what we get here is none of these. Instead, we are met with something possibly even worse: Normality.

This is about as bog-standard as you can get for a rom-com without directly lifting scenes from Sleepless In Seattle. The entire plot is hinged around a lot of coincidences and bad timing: Every time Rosie finally works up the courage to tell Alex her feelings, something happens that makes her unable to and vice versa. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a big ticking clock that counts down to the inevitable moment when the two finally come together, with tension so thin you could cut it by breathing on it. If you’ve seen the trailer for this, you’ve essentially seen the entire movie; no surprises, no fresh ideas, just standard romantic fluff… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in it of itself. If all we wanted to see was just new films every time, the home video market wouldn’t have ever gotten off the ground. Within the confines of the genre, the innards are serviceable: The two leads have good chemistry together; the plot goes through the motions we’ve seen before, but it doesn’t do anything largely offensive and/or boring; and the dialogue is actually rather cute and funny. There is one part, writing wise, that did make me scratch my head a bit though: There’s a running motif involving pointing to locations on a globe that hints at some sort of metaphysical connection between the two that shows up in only a couple of scenes and then completely forgotten. It feels out of place, but at least they didn’t take it as far as Best of Me in terms of trite romantic destiny bullcrap. We also get the usual rom-com trope of the disposable love interests, with some seriously transparent jerks on display here.

Probably the biggest talking point that I can see with this movie is the music, which is… interesting, to say the least. This has got some of the bizarrely fitting music I’ve seen this year outside of Bad Neighbors: While the traditional score hits all the notes it needs to, the soundtrack has some seriously weird additions. How weird? Well, when Rosie gives birth to her daughter, the song ‘Push It’ by Salt-N-Pepa is playing. I’d make a joke about that, but the fact is that this is pretty damn close to a reference joke that I’d make in one of my video reviews. Most of the music is like that; it has a heavy favoritism for hip-hop (which suits me just fine) as well as Lily Allen, with one of her songs being used in a very cathartic break-up scene that almost feels like self-parody with how well the song fits the scene. Kudos to Ralph Wengenmayr (And thank god this isn’t a video, ‘cause there’s no way in hell that I could pronounce that) on that front. Aside from the music, something else that stood out to me was the cinematography. This has quite a few ‘home-video’ moments in term of camera work, with needless shaky-cam in fairly basic scenes and, I swear to Rodriguez, the most awkward zoom-in I have ever seen in an officially released movie that isn’t found footage. Seriously, it looks that bad.

All in all, this is okay for the movie it is. If you need a new date movie to check out because you’ve watched all the others, this will work as a new title to get into but you won’t get anything all that new either. I am officially getting annoyed with my own list at this point, because this is yet another movie that falls just short of the cinematic roadblock that is ‘Edge of Tomorrow’. I swear, I don’t intend for this to keep happening; it just does. Not as good as EoT, but better than This Is Where I Leave You, as at least I didn’t go into this with any expectations that could leave me disappointed.

But, as always, I would love to hear what you thought of it. Comment with your own thoughts on the film, or you can just tell me how wrong I am about this movie and how much I suck with as much vitriol as you can muster. Either way, feel free.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

As a critic, I’m always fascinated to see a film that has other critics divided, and as of right now there is no better safe bet on getting a film like that than one that has Christopher Nolan involved. While a lot of my contemporaries were slamming The Dark Knight Rises, I personally loved the hell out of it; when Man Of Steel had the world either loving it or hating it, I was safely in the latter even without putting my general disinterest in Superman into the equation. This is yet another movie that really could go either way in terms of my reaction to it: Interstellar.

The plot: With the world being ravaged by dust storms that threaten to wipe out the human race, Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) is assigned to a manned space flight to find a new habitable planet for humanity to move to, leaving behind his children and father-in-law.

The definitive stand-out with this film is the effects work, which is absolutely gorgeous. Special effects studio Double Negative has developed a very healthy relationship with Nolan, having previously done SFX for several of his films including Inception, and it’s here that we see more of that tree bear fruit. A great showcase of this is the initial wormhole Cooper and his crew use to travel to the galaxy where several potential new home planets reside, which they show as a three-dimensional object in space as they travel through it. The result is a very trippy, but amazing, effect that shows a lot of care and effort. I will say this, though: I didn’t see this film at IMAX, and given how disorienting the effect is at first, I think I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much on that larger screen. We also get to see an alteration of the effect used in Inception where the landscape folded back onto itself, only used here to form a cylindrical structure that looks really impressive.

We’re dealing with a typical all-star cast, given this director’s pedigree, and for the most part they do a great job. McConaughey, who is experiencing one of the best career revivals possible given his track record over the last few years (Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club, Killer Joe, The Wolf Of Wall Street), maintains his pace here with his usual Southern wiseass with a heart of gold routine, which he pulls off flawlessly. In the scenes where he comes face to face with how much his daughter has aged back on Earth, he shows real heart-crushing intensity that will surely bring a tear or two to the eye. The actresses who play Cooper’s daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Fay, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn) all do great jobs of portraying the character at different stages of her life, with Mackenzie (AKA Reneesme from the Sparklepire series) being one of the few child actors who’s actually able to act alongside the adults; Jessica bringing her usual skill to the role, only in a film that deserves it unlike The Tree Of Life or Zero Dark Thirty; and Ellen, while having a very small role, doing well also. We also get a great performance from a certain surprise actor (Won’t say who because *SPOILERS*) that definitely helps elevate this film even higher during the second act. The only bad spot that comes to mind on the acting front is Cooper’s son Tom, whom as a teenager is initially portrayed as a major asshole, but that would be more a fault of the writing than the acting, since Timothée Chalamet does fine with the role he’s given.

Now to talk about my favourite part of the movie, since we’re talking about actors/characters: The robots TARS and CASE. Their design is very Jenga-blocky and their movement is both complex and yet rudimentary, given the multiple purposes they fulfill as part of Cooper’s crew. Their in-story programming, on the other hand, is seriously something I wish other SF stories would touch upon; these robots have not only been built with the ideas of honesty and humour (among other things), but with degrees of each: They’re mostly honest but not entirely, because we as irrational beings aren’t 100% honest with each other either for various reasons; and they have senses of humour, but not to the point where everything they say is jocular. This, as far as I’m concerned, is genius; Having artificial intelligence interacting with humans requires them to be more human in order for the interactions to succeed, so giving them these kind of human personalities and traits makes perfect sense. Having them tweaked in such a way so that they are more in line with how we show them in regular conversation makes it even better. That and their quick and funny jabs are greatly welcomed given how bleak this film can get. Also, for those of you who read the works of Asimov, it looks like the Nolan brothers did as well.

Now for the script side of things, which means *SPOILERS* though I will try to keep them to a minimum. Having one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists as a consultant on the film, as well as one of the people who originally conceived of the idea behind the film, lends a lot of credibility to the scientific aspect of the plot, and for the most part it works. This isn’t absolute hard science, but it is a lot harder than we usually get in films, save for maybe Gravity. Actually, Gravity is a good place to go with this since this movie takes a good first step and also refrains from sound effects in space much like that film did. The writing, when dealing with the time dilation involved in their journey and its effect on the relationships of the characters, feels very reminiscent of the anime Voices Of A Distant Star, a 20-minute OVA that I highly recommend readers check out, even if they didn’t like this film. However, unlike a similar situation I ran into with Transcendence where the plot of the film felt similar to a TV show episode I remembered watching, this isn’t a simple matter of the show did it better; this is more the show did it differently, which is acceptable. Not to say that this film is derivative, as both go about the concept in differing ways; this is just something that caught my attention, plus it gives me a chance to flex that otaku muscle. We also gets some nice development of the world in the wake of the unknown disaster that is inches away from wiping humanity out: There’s a rather cute scene where Murphy’s teacher explains to Cooper about the Moon landing being faked in order to bankrupt the Soviets, which shows some real depth in terms of this film’s world-building. With their survival at the forefront of their concerns, they need as many people farming crops for food as possible (Considering how most types of crops have completely failed by the time the story begins, they need all the help they can get), so they change some things around in order to keep people focused on surviving on Earth, rather than ‘wasting their time’ fleeing to another planet; nice seeing the Ministry of Truth still doing what they do best. The rest of the dialogue and plot is well done, although I really did sick and tired of Michael Caine’s character repeating the ‘Do not go quietly into that good night’ poem before too long.

Then, we get to the final act, where the science takes a very sudden turn. Whereas the rest of the film stayed relatively realistic, we then enter into Star Trek territory in terms of scientific plausibility, specifically Star Trek Voyager given that show’s fascination with spatial anomalies. The explanations they give for it, and in turn some of the main elements of the plot, is a little too hard to swallow, although I will give the film credit for one thing: Trying to portray fifth-dimensional space, on a two-dimensional plane, is easily one of the biggest challenges for a filmmaker, but through an incredible bit of effects work, this film managed to pull it off. The science of the thing isn’t the issue, but more the plot that it’s wrapped around; the rest of it is perfectly serviceable and very engaging, and again what exactly happens isn’t the issue but more the reasons why it’s happening, which I found myself calling bullshit on a bit. If you want to see the sort of story we get here in the finale, but more fleshed out and done a hell of a lot better, go see Predestination if you haven’t already.

All in all, this is a really good bit of speculative fiction, if flawed around its multi-dimensional edges. It won’t get you thinking too hard about its themes, but its visuals and acting, along with some solid writing behind it all, should keep you more than engaged for its seemingly cumbersome three hour running time. This is better than The Judge, as this has a lot more interesting ideas to play with, but it falls short of The Lego Movie, which definitely has more universal appeal. This goes into ‘very-good-to-excellent’ on the list, with a hearty recommendation from me.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Movie Review: Pokémon The Movie - Diancie And The Cocoon Of Destruction

Pokémon: A franchise that is so big that it may one day topple Japan’s own government; a TV show that is one of the few anime series that everyone knows about, guaranteed; and a game series that has a special place in the hearts of children and man-children alike. Yes, Pokémon is all of these things and I am a fan of the games myself. I specify ‘games’ because the TV show isn’t really my thing. Honestly, out of all the different anime titles that we grew up on (Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, etc.), as a show Pokémon would have to be the weakest. Don’t get me wrong: The games are still awesome, even though with the advent of ‘Mega Evolutions’, my mother’s outcries that Pokémon and Digimon are exactly the same is starting to make too much sense, and while I haven’t played any games past Emerald (I kind of fell out with portable gaming somewhere down the track), I do still find myself playing homebrews on my computer (Zeta/Omicron is pretty damn good). So, with the 17th installment of the Pokémon movie series coming out at my local cinema, I decided to head out with a couple of friends and check it out. This is Pokémon The Movie: Diancie And The Cocoon Of Destruction.

The plot: The Legendary Pokémon Diancie, unable to create a new Heart Diamond to keep her people safe, journeys outside of her Diamond Domain to the over world to find Xerneas, another Legendary, in hopes that it can unlock the power within her to make one. Along the way, she encounters Ash and his friends, whom agree to help her find Xerneas, all the while Diancie is being hunted by several groups because of her power to create diamonds.

Let’s start with the animation; it’s a mess. While some of the CGI work is surprisingly good (The diamonds seriously look like real diamonds), the line animation is standard for Pokémon, in that it is very cheap in places. The amount of detail on the characters’ faces gets extremely minimal in places, and the character models on default are pretty basic as is. Hell, at one point, the outlines on the character models gets about twice as thick as everywhere else in the movie with a very jarring and noticeable effect. Even ignoring the budget-cut moments, the more traditional animation and the CGI look as far removed as they possibly can while sharing the same screen with each other, making for a very disjointed look.

There’s a specific line that caught my attention: It’s where Ash tells Diancie not to cry because crying doesn’t solve anything. I found this to be rather ironic, considered what happened to Ash in the first Pokémon movie. I originally thought that this was some sort of sly jab at the original, as an in-joke for the viewers, but I quickly discovered that this film is nowhere near clever enough to be making that kind of reference. I’ve made brief mention before about there being a difference between a family film and a kid’s film, but at the core of it, that difference is that family films are enjoyable for everyone due to it not feeling like it talks down to children, and thus to adults. With this in mind, Cocoon Of Destruction is one of the kiddiest kid’s films I’ve seen in quite some time. If it isn’t shoe-horning in messages about friendship like this is Care Bears all over again, it’s blatant exposition on the plot. If it’s not exposition on the plot, then it’s just plain re-explaining events that we saw only a few minutes earlier, or repeating what another character has said for pointless clarification.

Even ignoring the facepalm-worthy dialogue, the plot is all over the place as well. The running time is cluttered by all of these different groups trying to catch Diancie, like Ninja Riot, which is a name so on-the-nose even Steven Seagal wouldn’t touch it; Marilyn Flame, which sounds like a drag queen; and Argus Steel, whose heel turn is so telegraphed that I don’t even feel the need to place my usual spoiler tag on this, and yet the film expects us to be surprised by it. We also get Team Rocket, who are hands-down the best part of the entire film, because they actually have jokes written into their lines as opposed to everyone else; they aren’t the best one-liners, but they were welcomed all the same. Seeing the team’s Wobbuffet do its schtick is great as always, and it was kind of funny watching James swim on air for a few seconds. There is also a major problem with the resolution, involving a deus ex machina that not only stuck out like a sore thumb when it was introduced, but doesn’t even do anything of significance when it’s first used; *SPOILERS* It involves Diancie and her Mega Evolution, which… doesn’t really do anything of use during the big battle with Yvaltal; it only becomes useful in the epilogue when she uses the Mega Evolution’s power to create the new Heart Diamond, AFTER Yvaltal is defeated by Xerneas without the assistance of Diancie. This makes the entire affair just a massive fan-wank that could have had some purpose, but they blew their load too early and we end up with just a mess for the climax. I swear, that sentence wasn’t meant to sound that way when I started it.

As for the battle scenes, they are decent enough: The finale with Yveltal decimating the forest and everything in it is pretty spectacular, and Pikachu’s Thunderbolt is still as iconic as ever. Given how little I know about the new generation of Pokémon, seeing some of the newer ones in action was pretty cool, especially Ninja Riot’s Greninja. If I ever start playing Pokémon X/Y, I know which starter I’M going with.

All in all, this is… not good. If you’re a diehard Pokémon fan, and I mean “You would commit acts of international terrorism to get your hands on a legit Pikachu Illustrator Card” level fan, you probably won’t get much out of this aside from some fanservice involving the new Legendary Diancie (No, not THAT kind). This is better than Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, as this actually feels like a movie, but it falls short of One Direction: Where We Are, which had better music… no seriously, the new version of the original Pokémon theme is so weak sauce that it’s unbelievable. ‘Mediocre-to-bad’, meaning not recommended although a special addendum is put here for Pokémon fans, whom might like it.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Movie Review: Let's Be Cops (2014)

The trailer for this movie made it look absolutely awful; the premise at face value is one of the worst for a film this year, if not the last few years; the comedy bits we got were limp and just not funny; and when the best part of the whole thing is a Method Man song being played over it, you’re not doing a good job at selling your movie. But I have written before about my expectations with movies and how they aren’t always on par, so really this could go either way.

The plot: Two roommates, Ryan (played by Jake Johnson) and Justin (played by Damon Wayans Jr.), dress up as cops for a high school reunion. They soon discover, after a walk on the town, that people mistake them for real cops. Liking the attention they’re getting, they continue the charade, complete with fake police car, and end up getting tangled with real criminals.

We’re dealing with buddy cop movie here, and this is where most of the good points are brought up with other critics: The chemistry between Johnson and Wayans. Admittedly, they do work well together (Certainly better than Kevin Hart and Ice Cube), but the material they’re given isn’t great most of the time. This feels more like a collection of skits in terms of the jokes, and I’ll definitely say that Wayans comes out the better of the two. True, more than a few of his jokes are about him being black, because God knows that those jokes never get old, but overall he gets the better material. His best scenes are when he has to go undercover to find out the main antagonist’s plan, showing off one of the funnier portrayals of a guy off his tits on drugs that I’ve seen (Still no DiCaprio), and when he pitches his idea for a video game to his company, which almost makes this movie feel like it’s trying to say something of significance about the difference between the public perception of police work (i.e. from video games, movies, etc.) versus the reality. Of course, the latter is hurt by not only the fact that it is somewhat out of place with the rest of this movie, not to mention the fact that the game company seriously just poo-poos a game about being a policeman (L.A. Noire ring any bells?), but these scenes still work regardless.

I will give this film credit in that it isn’t nearly as stupid with its premise as its trailer made it look: We see scenes of Ryan getting properly into his role as a fake police officer, looking up protocols and self-defense techniques that cops use (From YouTube of all places, but it shows he’s at least trying), and Justin looking into the laws involved because, you know, imitating an officer of the law is all kinds of illegal, not to mention the other shit they get up to and get hold of. I was expecting to completely hate these two, but they actually came off rather well: Ryan is a bit of an asshole, and a failure to boot, but you can at least understand why he would want to be a policeman for more than just the possibility of hooking up with sorority sisters (Yeah, that scene from the trailer still looks bad in context, I’ll admit that); and Justin is a good straight man to play off of him, being a lot more self-aware of just how ridiculous this entire situation is, but also allows Ryan to be the enabler and convince him to join in against his better judgement to get some fun in his life (not to mention getting away from his dick of a boss), which I can understand as far as his character is concerned.

I referenced Ride Along earlier, and since my knowledge of buddy cop movies is pretty limited, I’ll make a few more comparisons between the two. For starters, I will say that the bad guys in both movies are pretty cool. Whereas Ride Along got an unexpected but welcome extended cameo from Laurence Fishburne, here we get James D’Arcy, whom for some reason I kept mistaking for Ethan Hawke for most of the film. D’Arcy does a great job as Mossi Kasic, giving the character a very manic yet intimidating air to him. We also get Andy Garcia as his partner in crime, a casting decision that I slightly scratched my head at but for no other reason than that it started giving me Little Fockers flashbacks. All the same, he does well with his role with a calm yet unsettling demeanor. One final note while we’re talking about actors: Keegan-Michael Key as Pupa is a definite scene-stealer here, and I’m glad for it.

All in all though, despite how positive this all sounds, this is just okay. Keep in mind that the comedy is a lot more miss than hit, and it does take a while to really get going with more of the hits, and all these positives aren’t exactly floating as easily as they were. This fares better than Maya The Bee Movie, as at least this film felt like it had some point in existing, but it’s not as good as The House Of Magic, which was a lot more consistent. This is in the ‘mediocre’ section, but that’s mostly because it isn’t consistent; it wanders a lot between being decent to just boring.

Also, a side-note: If you’re going to see this movie, expect to hear the exact same piece of dubstep in a lot of the scenes.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Movie Review: John Wick (2014)

Keanu Reeves, in my opinion, gets a bad rap. Everyone just seems to gauge his performances with either Bill & Ted or The Matrix, as if the guy hasn’t made any other movies apart from them. His method of acting, which is definitely low-key but not as banal as others make him out, did him well in movies like Devil’s Advocate, My Own Private Idaho and A Scanner Darkly. Hell, I even liked him in the much-maligned Constantine, which I seriously think people were too harsh on as a whole. Then again, even I can see his duds: Much Ado About Nothing, while excellent, proved that Shakespeare isn’t Keanu’s style in any way, The Day The Earth Stood Still was phenomenally dull and 47 Ronin from earlier this year was just plan terri-bad. So, where does his latest effort John Wick stand?

The plot: John Wick, a former New York mob hitman, gets assaulted, his dog killed and his car stolen, a few short days after his wife died due to illness. With everything giving him hope now gone, he decides to get back to the life he left behind and carve a bloody trail of vengeance to the people who attacked him.

Keanu does a brilliant job with his role, no ifs ands or buts about it. It’s actually kind of surprising the nuances in his performance (seriously): The shaking of his hands as he reads a note written by his wife, the twitching of a vein in his neck just before he loses his cool; the man knows what he’s doing. He delivers all the action hero one-liners with the poise of a veteran and his angry roar against the main antagonist in one scene, the father of the thugs who attacked him, is pretty damn cathartic. As far as the action heroes of this year go, Keanu as John Wick is up there. The rest of the cast don’t slouch either. Michael Nyqvist as the main antagonist Viggo Tarasov plays a great yin to Wick’s yang as his performance gets more and more manic as the movie progresses; Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo do well with their smaller roles; and Adrianne Palicki does a fine job as Ms. Perkins who, unlike Palicki’s performance as Wonder Woman in the unaired TV pilot, is supposed to be cold-hearted and psychotic.

The writing does a lot of work building up Wick’s character and how much of a badass he is, and the action scenes prove every word. It’s a difficult job to give someone that kind of air and not have it come across as standard action hypermachismo, and granted this does dip into that territory at points, but it never feels undeserved. The motive for Wick’s rampage, on the surface, seems like major overreaction… which it kind of is, but the way the film explains it gives it some gravitas and allows you to buy into it. The action scenes are superbly handled, with Wick using what looks like an entire Army surplus store against Viggo’s goons with great cinematography and music to back it up. If it seems like I’m glossing over it, know that that’s only because there’s only so many ways I can say “The action scenes are awesome”. Don’t discount them in any way.

The definite highlight of the film, bar none, is the setting and the atmosphere it exudes. The way that New York’s criminal underground is portrayed in this movie, through its distinct locales like the Continental Hotel to the Red Circle nightclub, to the hushed tones they speak about ‘the management’ and how people dare not to cross them and break their rules, makes it feel like this was adapted from a novel in a very rich series. However, this isn’t the case: This is one of the rare few movies to have come out in the last few years that ISN’T a remake, reboot, sequel, or adapted from a pre-existing source. From the tiny glimpses we get into the world of John Wick, it looks like there is a lot to work with for future movies. I rarely, if ever, actively hope for a sequel to a film, but this is definitely one of those times. Hell, at least give us some spin-off novels.

All in all, this is damn good. All the pieces come together (The action scenes, the direction, the acting, the writing, even the lighting) to create a very stylish, yet very brutal, look into the tried-and-true story of one man and his quest for vengeance, and come out with something truly awesome. This ranks higher than Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods (Dub), as this has far superior action beats, but just short of The Maze Runner, the only other movie that I want to see a follow-up to from this year. It’s in the ‘good-to-very-good’ section, meaning that it gets the thumbs-up from me and you should go see it.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Movie Review: Maya The Bee Movie (2014)

Starting this habit of seeing every movie available to me has been simultaneously the best and worst idea I’ve ever had. Best because it’s given me a chance to see movies I wouldn’t normally check out and broadening my cinematic horizons, for better or worse; Worst because it frequently puts me into weird positions of being incredibly out of place amongst the audiences for some movies. Today’s film represents one of those situations, where I’m the only guy in the cinema who doesn’t have a child watching the movie with him: This is Maya The Bee Movie.

The plot: Maya (voiced by newcomer Coco Jack Gillies) is a wild and carefree bee who, upon an evil plan by the royal advisor (voiced by Jacki Weaver) to take over as Queen, has to stop her with the help of her many insect friends, all the while trying to prevent all-out war between the bees and the hornets.

The main message of the film is one of tolerance for people who are different than you are, while I can certainly appreciate the sentiment, this is as worn-out a message as can be found in mainstream cinema. It is one of the easiest to convey because, quite frankly, it’s a matter of common sense: Be excellent to each other, party on dude! I have seen it done countless times before, and seen it done better countless times before. Not that the execution is bad or anything; it’s just lesser by comparison.

The production, as a whole, is… average. It’s a film adaptation of an animated TV show and it looks like it, with animation that barely passes DisneyToon levels of quality; all the characters looks extremely rubbery, like you could just bounce them off of the walls for hours unabated. It’s full of nice bright colours that, considering the intended age range, is meant solely to keep the kids occupied for its relatively short running time, giving the whole package an extremely processed and sugary feel to it. The voice acting is passable, with a few recognizable names but none of them really bringing the energy you would expect. Richard Roxburgh, whom say may remember from his hamtastic roles in Van Helsing and Moulin Rouge, does okay with his role as Flip the grasshopper but doesn’t really bring anything special to the part. The rest are just as okay, although Miriam Margolyes gives a certain regal dignity to her role as Queen of the hive that shows her experience in voice acting over the others. Don’t get me wrong, Kodi Smit-McPhee blew me out of the water with his role as Norman in Paranorman, without a doubt one of the best family films in recent memory, but here he just does what is needed and nothing more. The writing is quite punny, although nowhere near the level of Planes: Fire And Rescue and also nowhere near as painful to listen to since some of the jokes actually got a chuckle out of me, but overall it’s just baseline humour that will mostly appeal to kids and no-one else.

Some people may give me crap for choosing to review a kid’s movie, since they can’t be held to the same standards as other movies, but I personally don’t think that’s true. In the last few years, we’ve had films like The Lego Movie, Frozen, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls and the How To Train Your Dragon series prove that family films can stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. However, they also show why there is a clear divide between ‘family’ films and ‘children’s’ films, and this most certainly is one of the latter. If you’re going to see it at all, wait for it come out on DVD and distract the little ones while you do other things, because trust me there is very little that adults will get out of this movie. It’s better than Annabelle, as this at least doesn't fail at what it attempts by the virtue of just not trying, but it's not as good as The House Of Magic, which has far superior music, animation and is just all round a film you should take the kids to instead. This is in the ‘mediocre’ section.

Could someone kindly teach some better grammar to whoever it was that named this movie?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Movie Review: The Best Of Me (2014)

Everyone has different ways of celebrating Halloween: Some go trick-or-treating even past the intended age range for the activity, some set up elaborate pranks to scare the crap out of their friends (and hopefully get some views on YouTube) and some stay in to watch horror movies. I, on the other hand, went out to see my movie, but it was something that even the grisliest of horror films wouldn’t be able to conjure up: A Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation. This is ‘The Best Of Me’.

The plot: Dawson (played by James Marsden) and Amanda (played by Michelle Monaghan) reunite after their high school romance 21 years earlier (where they are portrayed by Luke Bracey and Liana Libretto respectively) and they start to rekindle their relationship.

While I’m still capable of being charitable, I will admit that the actors do alright with the material given. Gerald McRaney, who plays the resident father figure of the film, actually does a good job with his role and makes for the best part of the movie whenever he’s on screen. My patience ends there, however, as this is a movie where the writing is the grave that it lies in. I will refrain from using the words ‘chick flick’ in the rest of this review since it keeps being used as a put-down term when it really shouldn’t be; The Fault In Our Stars undoubtedly fits into that category and yet I found it to be a very good watch. However, know that The Best Of Me is definitely one of them in the worst possible context: Easy and mindless wish fulfillment romance shlock.

How bad does the pandering get here? There is a gardening scene involving young Dawson that exists for no other reason than for him to get his shirt off. The writers seem to have really loved Dawson, because he gets the most backstory in this movie at the other characters’ expense. Come the end of the movie, we know a fair amount about Dawson and his upbringing in a redneck criminal family, and yet we learn very little about Amanda aside from her parents being rich. That’s a problem with almost all of the characters here, including Dawson: They’re all incredibly flat and unengaging, save for Gerald McRaney as Tuck whom might have saved this movie if he was in more scenes. The clichéd writing feels like it pooled from every single romantic film ever made to give them ‘character’ (You know that scene where the love interest’s father tries to bribe the male lead to stay away from his daughter? Yeah, we get one of those here too), epitomized by the ever-present theme of ‘destiny’, an idea so hackneyed that even most modern romance films make fun of it themselves. Even though the idea of destiny and how unlikely it is that two people who are true soul mates would meet each other is shown in many films that involve a romantic interest, this film takes it to such ridiculous degrees that you would need near-superhuman strength to suspend your disbelief enough to buy into any of this. We’re talking ‘She dreamed that I was singing to her while I was actually in another country singing that exact same song and thinking of her’ levels of convolution.

What about the relationship between the leads, the core of any good romantic movie? Well, suffice to say, I have seen better chemistry in the making of ecstasy tablets than in our leads. It’s actually at that point where Amanda has better chemistry with her own son than she does with Dawson… and you have yet to realize just how bad that sounds. Throughout the majority of the flashback scenes of the two when they were young, Dawson keeps insisting that she should stay away from him because of his family (which, in all honesty, is a legit point to bring up), but she stays with him because love is stupid. It’s only when Dawson ends up in jail, when Amanda has pretty much proven that she will stand by him no matter what happens to him, that he officially breaks it off and doesn’t see her again until the story picks up 21 years later. What’s worse is that Dawson being this oblivious to how much Amanda loves him is intentional and even admitted to in the dialogue. Flaw or feature, it still makes him an idiot.

So, aside from the writing and mild acting, what else is wrong? The editing, which is oddly enough something I don’t often get to complain about with movies. The transitions between the past and present are incredibly awkward and feel like the editor for Game Grumps hijacked the production at times with how abrupt they are, although there is one exception with Dawson and a record player that was well done. Also, there was a scene where the ADR for Amanda was at straight-to-DVD levels, where she was talking and yet her mouth clearly wasn’t moving. I can say, without a hint of irony, that I could have done a better job editing this myself.

And now, the big one: The ending, which means *SPOILERS*, although trust me you’re missing out on all of nothing. This has to be one of the most rage-inducing endings I’ve sat through in a long while. One of the writers, Will Fetters, was also the writer of the also-saccharine rom-drama Remember Me starring Robert Pattinson, which just goes to show that the man has a flair for surprisingly awful resolutions to his movies. Okay, so Amanda’s son gets into a car accident and needs a heart transplant; at the same time, Dawson gets into an altercation with his father after he tries to rescue a friend’s son from him. Dawson ends up shot dead, and his heart is transplanted into Amanda’s son. I don’t know what’s worse: The fact that this stupefying resolution was given the go ahead, or that it is so intensely telegraphed that I spent most of the third act praying that they wouldn’t be that stupid. The only way this could be worse is if this movie went in the direction of ‘Return To Me’ with David Duchovny, which had a similar plot point about heart transplants, and Amanda and her son suddenly developed a romantic relationship because of that connection to Dawson. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, that might make for a better movie than what we ultimately get. We’d have had a more interesting love story at the very least.

All in all, this is an absolutely horrible movie to sit through. It’s not even the kind of bad that’s riffable, so you could sit down with your friends and just make fun of it as you go; it’s just plain awful. This is better than Any Day Now, as this movie didn’t insult my intelligence quite as much as that movie did, but it’s worse than Into The Storm, as that movie at least had decent weather effects. This gets a rightfully deserved position among the worst movies of the year so far. Even if you’re being dragged along to it by a significant other, avoid at all costs.

But… I don’t want to be the final word on anything, so if any of you have seen this movie, what did you think of it? Did you like it, or did you hate it as much as I did? Either way, I’d love to hear your opinions on it.