Friday, 3 May 2013

Film Review: Cloud Atlas (2013)

Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant
Running time: 172 minutes
Age Rating: 15
Release date: 17th February 2013 (UK)

Cloud Atlas is a triumphantly beautiful mess. By no means is it a bad film, it just doesn’t quite work. Cloud Atlas is based on a book of the same name. The book tells six short stories about seemingly un-related characters through different eras in time. The film also tells these stories but with a twist, it is telling them all at the same time. While the novel divided them into chronological order (i.e. after one ends, the next begins) the film runs them all in parallel, cutting between them at key points. Directed by the Wachowski's (The Matrix Trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola Run), it’s probably best to see Cloud Atlas with as little knowledge of the plot as possible.

It's quite staggering that Cloud Atlas even exists. Originally considered to be un-filmable and without Hollywood investment, the chances of the film being made seemed slim. However, thanks to the passion of its directors and a primarily German investment it finally got a release. One of the main reasons I like Cloud Atlas so much is because how unique and ambitious it is. It is a big budget experiment in film narrative and storytelling.  It's far more interesting than most big budget Hollywood films these days. Transformers 4 anyone?

The great thing about six different stories is the variation in genres and tone. One moment it’s a serious period drama then it shifts to science fiction, to suddenly change into a light hearted comedy. Jim Broadbent's comical escape from a retirement home cross cut with a exciting hover bike chase through the skyline of future Seoul is genius. This is held together by the editing, which manages juggle six stories unfolding and keep it interesting. It could be argued that it would get confusing, but surprisingly it does not. The individual plots are relatively simple and can be enjoyed without having to read to much into them, they become deeper and more complex with the accompaniment of all the others.

Part of the film's charm, is its dynamic use of well-known actors in multiple roles. While the stories are not connected by direct plot points the use of actors in different roles, thematic similarities and props all contribute to the feel that things are connected in a spiritual sense. For example, a pair of horn rimmed glasses appears on certain supporting characters suggesting how they are connected to from previous stories. In fact, reincarnation is a point the film explores and part of the fun is figuring out who the descendants of previous characters are. This isn't made easy either, as actors constantly shift types of roles. Tom Hanks begins the film as a villain, but with each story he is eventually brought down by his crimes and becomes a protagonist. The trick is that the directors want you to recognise the actors, even if at times they play characters of different genders or race. It adds to the sense that each story connects to the others.

The problem with Cloud Atlas is that it's much too long and drawn out. The six stories are each predictable. That isn't a bad thing, but when they slowdown in pace it feels like they are wasting your time. The punchy editing actually doesn't help in this case, as the slower scenes actually disrupt the flow of the film. The slow moments unfortunately also remind you that the film is missing that special something. It lacks the iconic edge that would have made it feel less generic than it is.

Cloud Atlas is the best kind of disaster. While it seems to be a financial flop, it’s an absolutely outstanding big budget experiment. It's a clunky creation that is fun to watch. While not a film that will be regarded as a classic, it's certainly a satisfying film that will leave you with a great big smile. Make sure you stay for the credits, as the film shows you who actors played. It's genuinely shocking and you realise that some people have been hiding in plain sight through the entire film.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Film Review: Hanna - (2011)

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett
Running time: 111 minutes
Age Rating: 12A
Release date: May 6th 2011

Now lets be honest. The whole one-man army on the loose, with government agents trying to hunt them down thing is pretty old now. Countless movies have done it with varying success, but none have done it better then Hanna.

Hanna is the tale of 15 year old... Well, you know. Hanna. Living in the wilderness of Finland with her father, she's mastered hand to hand combat and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world. It's soon revealed that her father has had past as a spy and somebody (mainly CIA agent Marissa Wiegler) wants him and Hanna captured. Hanna knows that she and her father must soon leave, to learn of the world she had been secluded from and defeat the wicked witch. Cut to Wiegler who is revealed to have a past with Hanna's father, picking up on his trail and seemingly out for blood. Cue a intense game cat and mouse and a lesson on how to make a original action thriller.

Hanna takes something we all know and adds depth to it. The main character not a masculine superman, but a young girl. Yet she's never what you'd expect, as she has to be the least physically vulnerable person within the film. What makes her interesting is her struggle to fit in with other normal people. Throughout she meets several characters who don't quite understand who she is, assuming her to be a normal girl. The most significant of these being a family, seemingly traveling the globe. Between them they represent a cross section of cultural ideologies and lifestyles. It's interesting to see how director Joe Wright presents this misfit family as a comparison to Hanna's upbringing. The film deals heavily with this theme and what childhood really means. It's really a character driven film where the performances are great, put into the model of a Hollywood action film.

The film feels very grounded and realistic. Its cold and violent, so you won't see any over the top fights or explosions. Yet it implements elements of fairy tales and fantasy throughout. This changes the feel of the film significantly. It adds a dynamic flow to the movement of characters allowing them to move freely through environments, the highlight of this being Hanna's escape from the dim and muted CIA installation. It matches the character movement with the flashes of light and beat of the soundtrack. The effect of this makes it feel like a lucid dream, as if its not quite within reality. For such simple techniques, it has a really powerful and iconic effect.

The music used in the film is really powerful. As Hanna has never heard music in her life, the soundtrack imitates this. It never really kicks in or is properly formed until Hanna becomes involved with the outside world. Its a purely electronic soundtrack (created by the Chemical Brothers) that fits with the style of the film. It comes off as a modern day fairy tale. At the same time the soundtrack adds an extra layer of energy and excitement. Chases seem faster and action seems even more brutal.

Going into Hanna, I really wasn't expecting much. A few fight scenes, a chase and a lot of men in suits looking angry and confused as to why they cant catch the run-away lead character. The film was so much more. Its a smart, tense and compelling film that does something that similar films don't. It made me care. The result of a strong and talented female lead, expert film-making techniques and stunning soundtrack has crafted a amazing film. I know a lot of people missed this film first time round, so here is your chance. Go out and see Hanna. Go see how a great action film can have substance behind it.

So yeah, it's really quite good.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Film Review: Serenity - (2005)

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher and Summer Glau
Running time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 15
Release date: 30th September 2005

"This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then - explode."

Serenity is the film adaptation of the cult American TV show Firefly, both being created by the geek mastermind Joss Whedon. It tells the story of six outlaws who take in two fugitives trying to escape the grasp of the evil empire,the Alliance  The biggest question I had before seeing Serenity was if the TV show could be turned into a much bigger scale science fiction film. The series and director are known for the large cast of characters and how interesting they are. With a TV show, specific episodes can be used to explore each character and present their personalities to the audience  Films can't really do this, as while longer than a single episode they don't have an entire series to make the audience care.

Fortunately Joss Whedon knows what he's doing. There is a grand plot in the film, but you care much more about what happens to Serenity's colourful cast of characters. It all takes place in a unique setting where American and Chinese cultures have merged together, giving a unique vision at what could happen if the political powers came together to reach space. While it has a few elements social commentary, it is truly a fun and action packed science fiction adventure movie. And it is fun.

So like I was saying, this is a character driven piece and all of the original cast return in full form. Leader of the group and captain of the ship Serenity, is Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). Second in command is the battle harderned Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), who is also married to the humorous pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk). The  mechanic is Kaylee (Jewel Staite) and muscle is  Jayne (Adam Baldwin). Finally there is Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau), brother and sister on the run from the 
Alliance. These actor all have the advantage of having great on screen chemistry because they have done this all before. The dialogue that drives the plot is a little bland, but banter between different people at times is amazing. Its no wonder the director is renown for witty and clever writing.

My biggest issue with Serenity is that it doesn't handle action very well. The punch ups are a little dull and apart from one scene the space stuff looks a little cheap. Admittedly a few memorable scenes are pretty well choreographed, but they don't have much impact or meaning. A verbal confrontation between people is far more interesting then a flat fight scene. This is a small complaint, as that's not really the point of the film. Its about characters coming together and making a stand against something far greater then themselves.

At this point I understand that I am somewhat bias after watching the TV show before the film. I went into it already attached to the characters and aware of the back story. For a fan of the show its a perfect send off for it's cancelled predecessor  The problem is that it comes of as a bit underwhelming for everyone else. Its still a good film, but it misses the emotional punch for everyone who doesn't understand why certain things are important. I still highly insist you check out Serenity. Its a fun film with very witty dialogue and a great cast.

"I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar."

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Film Review: Argo - (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
Running time: 120 minutes
Age Rating: 15
UK release date: 7th November 2012

I've got to give it to Argo. It makes what could have been a really slow film with an uninteresting ending, one of the tenses pieces of cinema this year. Yes Argo is a good film; it may even be a great film. But I'm not spoiling that just yet.

Argo is based on the actual events of the 'Canadian Caper' operation back in 1979. For those of you who don't know what that is, it’s basically where six American diplomats were rescued from Iran by pretending to be Canadian filmmakers shooting a science fiction film. It’s a pretty interesting story, though it never seemed like great film material. This is because it basically involved a lot of waiting round and concludes with the diplomats getting on a plane and flying back. In the film Ben Affleck (who also directed the feature) is Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who is tasked with getting the diplomats out of Iran. And that's all you really need to know, it’s a really accessible film that a wide range of audiences can enjoy.

The greatest achievement of Argo is how well it handles tension and suspense. This is one of those films where you can probably tell what will happen from the beginning, yet it really draws you in during some of the later scenes. The film has a ticking clock element, where the diplomat’s identities are slowly being pieced together. This is cut in throughout the film and even makes the planning stages of the escape feel tense. You'll be on the edge of your seat by the time it gets to the finale.

Argo is essentially a thriller, but evokes elements from classic spy films and heist movies. On top of that it's both a realistic retelling and has distinct comical elements. While this mix sounds cluttered it's actually really well put together. In fact one of the film's greatest strengths is the contrast between the Hollywood scene and the more serious ones in Iran. One problem with the may be the historical accuracy of the piece. I can see that there are aspects left out, however I feel that in service of the overall story this is a fair trade off.

It’s not often that a film like Argo is made. It’s serious yet equally as fun. I'd highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a great thriller, combined with aspects of spy and heist films. And a special mention goes out to the great performance from Ben Affleck's Beard.

"........." - Ben Affleck's Beard.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Film Review: Indie Game: The Movie - (2012)

Director: Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky
Starring: Johnathan Blow, Phil Fish, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes
Running time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: N/A
Release date: 12th June 2012 

"My whole career has been me, trying to find new ways to communicate with people, because I desperately want to communicate with people, but I don't want the messy interaction of having to make friends and talk to people, because I probably don't like them"

I'd love to say that I watch loads of highly sophisticated 
documentaries about really intellectual subjects. But I don't. I find that a lot of documentaries are based on boring subjects that don't really resonate with me. This is possibly the best documentary I have ever seen.

So that last statement is pretty bold. I'll admit that it probably isn't the best documentary in the world, but for me it has a much closer connection than any of the others. I love video games and when I'm not watching films you can be pretty certain I'm playing games, so as you might expect I really like the topic of this film. Indie Game: The Movie follows the stories of three different groups of independent game developers. The first is Johnathan Blow, the developer of Braid and at the point the documentary had already released his game. The second group is Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, the two creating the game Super Meat Boy. The film follows them during late stages of development and the game's release. The final indie developer is Phil Fish, who during shooting is developing the game Fez. 

For a documentary the cinematography is extremely exciting and dynamic. Its colourful and interesting to watch on purely a visual level, which is a great achievement for such a low budget documentary. Great detail has gone into finding nice locations and establishing shots in each of the developer's home towns. The lighting is used effectively for setting the mood, with more lighthearted interviews having a warm glow and the ones that are darker having a grey and bleak feel. This is a great use of techniques for presenting the content of the film to an audience.

The documentary is really compelling as a whole. The three stories are interlaced with each other, cutting between each one. It manages to build them into a dramatic climax for the ending. This is the result of expert editing and a clear sense of how to properly structure a documentary. On top of that, the personalities of each developer really is what drives the piece. It's comical and heartbreaking, but never makes fun of or condescends these people. It's truthful and honest about the people who makes video games. They are people. They struggle with money, work and other people.

I know that I enjoyed this as much as I did because of the subject matter. I'd highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in indie games or game development. The difficult part is deciding if an audience could enjoy this film without having knowledge of the subject.

I've come to the conclusion that overall its a really great film. I feel that anyone who can open up to the concept will enjoy it. its a moving, compelling and eye opening documentary that details the lives of struggling game developers trying to create something truly personal to themselves.

"Part of it is not trying to be professional. A lot of people come into indie games trying to be like a big company. What those company's do is create highly polished things that serve as large as an audience as possible. That creation of a highly glossy commercial product is the opposite of making something personal. Things that are personal have flaws, they have vulnerabilities  If you don't see a vulnerability in somebody, your probably not relating to them on a very personal level. So its the same with game design. You know making it was about, let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game."

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Film Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World - (2010)

Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin and Jason Schwartzman.
Running time: 112 minutes
Age Rating: 12A
UK release date: 27th August 2010

"Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it."

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is the tale of a 22 year old named... well, Scott Pilgrim. He is jobless, completely devoid of motivation and still hasn't recovered from being dumped by his ex girlfriend. Scott is not exactly your traditional heroic protagonist. At the beginning of the film we learn that there are only two things really happening in Scott's life, his band and his new girlfriend (Knives Chau), who is only 16. But then something happens: Ramona Flowers. The mysterious American arrives in Torronto , and of course Scott falls for her. Now this is where things get weird. To get the chance to be with Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes.

Now I'm going to admit that I absolutely love this film. I had never read the graphic novel before seeing the film, but this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of it. The genre of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is difficult to pin down. I'd say that its a romantic comedy with elements from kung fu action films and geek culture. Director Edgar Wright is well known for blending genre elements together with his previous films (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and it works just as well in Scott Pilgrim. After reading the graphic novels, I found that it isn't that faithful to the six book series. There was just too many back stories and side characters to fit in to a 112 minute feature. This isn't a bad thing though, in fact its much more interesting because it is different. You don't have to wait for an endless amount of sequels with the final book being split into two parts! It's a self contained story with a definite conclusion. Which in my opinion, we need much more of.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is truly unique. It's a film that feels equally like a graphic novel and video game through the uses of the visual style. During fights a combo meter will appear counting up successful hits, punches impacting with people will have exaggerated sound effects and neon backdrops will appear when two characters charge at each other preparing to battle. At one point a character is thrown through a wall into another area and the divide between the two looks like the space between comic book panels. This film is so colourful and exciting that you'll never want to look away. The cinematography supports this by being just as slick as the action, it follows the action and wants you to see it unlike the recent rise in shaky cam action scenes.

The actors all seem pretty appropriate for their roles. I know that's not exactly glowing praise so I'll say this, everyone does a good job and the film isn't ruined by any performances, but I don't see anyone winning an award any time soon for starring in it. Michael Cera plays the title character and does a good job of carrying the movie. However a lot of the side characters truly stand out for great comic performances. The biggest example of this is Kieran Culkin, who plays Scott's roommate. He always has a one liner about something and is Scott's voice of reason (Even if 90% of the time he's being sarcastic). A few celebrities have cameos as evil exes, such as Chris Evans, Brandon Roth and Jason Schwartzman who have great fun playing over the top villains. I'd say that the casting choices are pretty good, the actors are all very faithful to the one's in the graphic novels

This is a tribute to the people who grew up with video games, comics and cartoons. This film is so packed with references and call backs, you'll need multiple viewings to catch them all. Yet it never makes them the primary focus of the film. Edgar Wright understands that there needs to be substance as well for it to be a great movie. I can completely relate to Scott Pilgrim, even if he is a terrible person. The film is basically about how young people (ie Scott Pilgrim) deal with relationships and most importantly, get over themselves. This film isn't just a bunch of fan service, it has a heart as well.

So then, here we are, I'd highly recommend Scott Pilgrim to anyone. Its a love letter to geeks, but doesn't alienate other spectators. Its got fun action scenes, laugh out loud humor, quirky soundtrack and a genuinely heartfelt message. This film has been crafted with love. Its more than worth your time.

And just a quick note: If The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter, Mega Man or No More Heroes means anything to you then you need to have seen this film yesterday.

"No. I want to fight you for me."

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Film Review: Prometheus - (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce (...just why?)
Running time: 124 minutes
Age Rating: 15
UK release date: June 1st 2012

(Just as a word of warning, this review contains spoilers. So don't say I didn't warn you.)

So here we are. Its coming to the end of the film and at this point I just want it to end. Noomi Repace's character, Shaw, is pleading with the captain of the ship "Prometheus" to stop another ship leaving the planet. For some reason he agrees (which is completely out of character) and begins preparing the Prometheus for flight. The two extra pilots refuse to leave and they all share a moment before manically pressing buttons and mashing on touch screens. In a spectacular visual moment, the ship takes off and begins rapidly approaching the other ship. We know that they wont stop. At this point the music is reaching its peak and at the last moment the captain shouts "Hands off!" as all three characters throw their hands into the air as they smash into the other ship. The result of this is, an explosion that is truly remarkable on a technical level. And in a way, that's sort of a good way to desicirbe what I think of the production and result of the actual film.

Now unless you've been living under a rock this year, you'll  have heard of Prometheus. The totally not a prequel, but is a prequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien. I've found that the reception to Scott's return to sci fi is extremely mixed, with people either saying they love it or hate it. I fall on the dislike side, yet I feel that the film does posess talent and elements that are truely unique.

Sorry about the extremely long introduction, I'll make the plot synopsis quick. So the story follows Elizebeth Shaw, as she and her husband travel to an uncharted world in search of an alien race thought to be the creators of humanity. Of course they are funded by the mysterious Weyland corporation who seem to have an alternative agenda (I think). So they get to the planet and everything is fine... No of course it isn't, everything goes to hell. My major issue with the film is the plot. It feels completely thrown together and at times makes absolutely no sense at all. Characters do things that are completely illogical and make no sense what so ever. Now I could sit here naming plot holes and dumb character motivations but we'd be here for a very long time. The problem with these is that they are so jarring and obvious that its near impossible not to notice them. This really doesn't help when trying to get into it, I mean even films like The Dark Knight Rises has plot holes but because their so un-noticeable it really doesn't break the flow of the film.

Now I must admit that the visual aspects to the film are impressive. The CG created environments and the ship look stunning, while the use of practical sets is really immersive. This is the man behind Blade Runner and Alien after all. The sci-fi elements of the film are all very fitting, especially the overly bulky space suits that are strangely fashionable. These elements of the film are really well constructed and very atmospheric. The performance of a lot of the cast is also very good. Michael Fassbender is exceptional and stops the film from being as much as a train wreck.

What really gets me about the film, is the complete lack of tension. The original Alien is a master at this, with a slow build up that gets the audience on the edge of it's seat. In Prometheus things just happen. There isn't really a build up or any suspense. For such a big and epic film, it falls down on the most basic elements.

Prometheus is a mess. I'll be the first to admit that it does have a few good elements and talent behind it, but when it all comes together it fails. I feel that the film was made worse by the fact I'm a fan of the original Alien, which Prometheus doesn't even come close in terms of quality. At this point the Blu-ray has been released and it claims to have answers to all the questions. But I doubt that it will answer my question, where did it all go wrong?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Film Review: Beasts of The Southern Wild - (2012)

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Starring: Quvenzhan√© Wallis, Dwight Henry and Gina Montana
Running time: 93 minutes
Age Rating: 12A
UK release date: 19th October 2012

"The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece... the whole universe will get busted."

It's not often that a film makes me emotional. I find that a lot of modern cinema tries to force us to form emotional connections with characters, but I find that only distances me from them.

Beasts of The Southern Wild truly got to me.

Hush Puppy lives in a place called Bathtub. She's six years old and seems to understand more about life and death than anyone else. Everything seems fine for her and her father, Wink, but soon life starts to fall apart. Wink is suffering from an illness unknown to the audience and his daughter, while the rising water and destructive storms constantly attack Bathtub. This film is pretty bare bones in terms of story, being more of a character driven film. But this is far more compelling than most of the things Hollywood are up to these days.

The film can be grim and difficult to watch at times. Its shot to look extremely grainy and old, with a grey and brown colour scheme dominating most of the film. However, this isn't a visually dull film. The use of this grim style makes the limited use colours truly stand out. I was more visually impressed with this film then big Hollywood blockbusters that spend a fortune trying to make their films look nice. This film understands that beautiful imagery stands out when it balances it with the opposite.  The cinematography of the piece is very good. It is mostly done in a handheld/shaky cam sort of way, but it contributes to the very realistic and naturalistic style. The plot is built to be very believable, which works well when trying to make the characters feel relatable.

I don't quite know how to describe the sound track, other than its used perfectly and is awe inspiring. It has elements of nursery rhymes mixed into big epic instrumental pieces. Slow emotional pieces that are really uplifting. Just an overall amazing score that fit so well with the tone and feel of the film. It really helps the film define its overall identity and give the audience something to remember.

Like I said, this film is a character driven film. And the performances are mind blowing. The two leads have absolutely no experience in acting and yet inject so much life and energy into the film. Quvenzhan√© Wallis is the heart and soul of the film. Considering how old she is (Six!) makes the impact of her performance even more fantastic. Dwight Henry is equally impressive as Hush Puppy's father. The two work together so well and the relationship between the two is what drives the film. The point of the film isn't for some goal or objective to be achieved it's about the characters living and surviving together. While it may bother some people that there isn't really an end goal in the film, I don't see a problem. It's a compelling film that's about the relationships between its charters.

This film is held together by its awe inspiring performances, lush visuals and absolutely beautiful music. It's as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking and constantly keeps you engaged in its narrative. You'll never see anything like Beasts of The Southern Wild, So please don't miss this film.

"I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right."

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Film Review: John Carter - (2012)

Director: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Running time: 132 minutes
Age Rating: 12A
UK release date: March 7th 2012

I really can't help but enjoy John Carter. I have a complaints list as long as my arm, yet something about this film just makes me smile.

This is the part where I write a quick plot overview to get you interested in the film and give a bit of context for what i'll write later. But it's a bit difficult this time, because John Carter is mad. Its based off a series of books written way back in 1917. What happens is... Well... A soldier from the American civil war is transported to mars where he meets a princess and then fights in a timeless war against other people on mars. Yeah. I'll admit that I skimmed quite a few details, but this film's plot goes beyond confusing. It's not that the plot itself is bad, its that everything has a weird 'alien' name that are never explained. For example they live on Barsoom where the Tharks, Therns, Zodanga people and Helium citizens are all in some sort of conflict with each other. Also Carter somehow has super powers on mars because of the different gravity and something about bone density. Well, that's what I think because the film never stops to explain this, a problem this film seems to be full of.

On a technical level, John Carter is a pretty good looking film (which is good considering the $250 million budget). Mars looks vast and the aliens are visually distinctive. Mars and Earth contrast each other thanks to different colour filters, with mars being a hot red and earth cool blue. This makes each environment feel distinct and interesting and its especially effective in a scene where they would be cutting between the two rapidly. I must admit that the alien race, the Tharks, were really interesting. Led by Tars Tarkas (played by the wonderful Willem Dafoe), its actually quite interesting to see their tribal like traditions in a sci-fi scenario.

The action in this film is ridiculous. John Carter has the ability to jump really high (because he does) which means action scenes will involve he leaping around the environment having sword battles. Its not serious in any way, but its quite amusing to see large scale action scenes play out and John Carter leaping about doing cheesy action guy stuff. Don't expect a deep and meaningful piece of art when going to see John Carter, just bring some popcorn and don't really think about it. You'll have a much better time.

Now onto the bad stuff. The film never even attempts to explain stuff and that really detracts from the overall experience. A film can sometimes over explain stuff, but John Carter never even tries. Which is made even more confusing considering how long the film is, as there is huge gaps in the film where absolutely nothing interesting happens. I feel that the film could be cut down and be much more interesting and have much less wasted time in it.

John Cater is a mess. It was over budgeted, a financial flop and was questionable in quality. Yet I do not regret seeing it. It’s not intellectual and the world won’t end if you don't see it, but I'd still recommend John Carter. Sometimes a big dumb action film is just what you need.

"Did I not tell you he could jump!" 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Film Review: Looper - (2012)

Written and directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt
Running time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 15
UK release date: September 28th 2012

Believe it or not, 'Looper' is a story about loops. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe Simmons, an assassin who has his targets sent back through time by the mob so that he can kill them. Yes that's right, in the future its so difficult to get away with murder the mob use time travel to kill people. Life seems good for Joe, but as it turns out the mob have to close the loops created by the assassins. This means that every assassin will eventually have to kill their future selves to close the loop. Of course when Joe's future self (played by Bruce Willis) is sent back, he escapes. With Younger Joe and a very angry mob on his tail, Old Joe sets out to change his own and younger self's future.

My very small issue with the film lies within the concept. This is a time travel film and it relies on the audience not reading into the logic of time travel. For example, there are surely much better uses for a time travel machine other than using it to kill individual people. To the film's credit though it refuses to get tied down trying to explain how time travel works and just creates more issues. In fact Joe's future self flat out won't explain it because "I could be sat here all day making diagrams out of straws", clearly a joke about other films that go into depth trying to explain the trope.

Other than this minor issue, the film is very enjoyable. The film paints a bleak vision of the future, where major cities are rife with poverty and crime. This sci fi environment mirrors our own world making the film feel accessible but intriguing for fans of the genre. However, certain environments and props give a distinctly western feel to the film. For example some characters wield old fashioned revolvers and possess a cowboy like presence in the film. These two distinct genres succeed in giving the film its own unique style. While its not completely original it contributes to the overall experience.

The film can be extremely brutal and shocking, more than earning its age 15 rating. This keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times, making stand offs between characters even more nail biting. Whats most effective is the presentation of Young Joe and Old Joe. While they are the main characters, its never clear who the hero of the story is. They both do some dark and brutal things throughout the film and I found myself constantly switching sides between the two. You never quite know who should be the rightful victor of the film and in the end its quite shocking how the story is resolved. Even for the more eagle eyed viewers, you may not see the ending coming.

The action is fast and brutal, with both Willis and Levitt talking part. Characters get shot, beaten up and thrown around throughout but the violence never loses its shock value. However one of the most effective scenes doesn't actually show much gore or direct violence, it only suggests extremely disgusting and inhuman torture to a certain character. I personally felt quite sick when I figured out what was happening on screen and that had a much bigger impact than directly seeing what happened. I won't spoil it, but look out for the character Seth. While this may sound like a straight up action film, its not. The film explores numerous themes that are relevant today, such issues such as single parents, moral ambiguity and fate.  This is perfectly balanced with all the mainstream conventions so it makes it a film a large diverse audience can enjoy.

'Looper' is a fantastic and intriguing science fiction film. It has a great setting, strong characters and a tense  climatic plot. This is very much a contender for one of the best films of the year. I wasn't expecting what 'Looper' turned out to be, but I loved every second. Do not miss this film.

 "The only rule is: never let your target escape... even if your target is you."