Monday, May 10, 2010

Update

I've been very lax with this so I am thinking about starting it up again and adding to it more frequently fromnow on!

Shutter Island


*1/2 / *****

A clumsily made movie, horrible on all technical points, with a seriously miscast Di Caprio in the lead, this film spirals downwards in a fray of the over dramatic nonsense, caring too much to focus on set pieces and attempted atmosphere than story and plot.

It will leave you disinterested in the characters and the film within the first 20 minutes. An amateurish effort which is surprising for Scorses.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Alright Now TED!

It is not strange news when i say that not everybody is creative. Some people don't like being artistic and are perfectly happy to live life not doing anything but their typical daily routines. But for those of us that like to create, to dream of possibilities, to insipre others or to ask that question that tingles the mind at every asking "What if?" we know that creativey comes in many ways, shapes and forms. We each have our own method, or own areas of interest, a different sandbox to play in.

But where does our creativety come from and more importantly what ideas of ours fuel our desire to be artistic?

TED is an amazing institute where creativty and productivity collide in a shared understanding. I strongly urge anyone who is anyway curious about the workings of the human mind or who likes to daydream to check it out.

It is a site rich full of ideas and passionate speaches from many creative and artitsuc people the world over.

They preach ideas worth sharing.

http://www.ted.com/

Two of my favourite recent watched speaches



Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Haunting In Connecticut


The Haunting in Connecticut

***/*****

While the “based on a true story” premise is always a pull for most non horror types, those of us who frequent horror movies know this means absolutely nothing other than a cheap attempt at money making. This film while ably serving up jumps and frights is let down by predictability and cheap thrills.

It's the usual story of tried and tested scare tactics, ghostly reflections, strange noises, ominous shadows and weird scary dreams. It is the sheer abundance of these occurrences that leave you wondering why the characters basically “reset” as if the next scary encounter is their first. What lifts this film above the rest are the strong performances from the two leads Virginia Madsen and Kyle Gallner. They invested a lot emotionally into their respective characters of mother and son and really their relationship was more interesting and gripping than the ghostly happenings around them. The film also conveys a sense of family values and the tough decisions and sacrifices which need to be made when your son is suffering from cancer. However the efforts are forced.

The film is packed full of neat ideas and tricks but the directors inability to weave them together into something coherent and original resulted in a sloppy rendition of every haunted house horror movie we've already seen. The priest who is able to see and vanquish the ghosts is surprisingly human and his gift for his ability is actually rational and makes sense.


The haunting in Connecticut is a decent horror film if a touch cliché with the twist at the end as something you could see coming from as far back as the opening credits. Horror fans will have a blast but will someone please teach the composer that horror music is more than a punch on the piano or a quick string pull across a fiddle.




Knowing


Knowing


****/*****


Fifty years ago a young girl heard voices and when it came for her class to contribute something to the school time capsule she wrote two pages of seemingly random numbers. Now, in the present day we meet Nicholas Cage who plays Dr Kesler, a depressed astrophysicist who is a raising his only son alone following the death of his wife. His son of course is given the paper from the time capsule covered in numbers. In a drunken stupor Kesler matches the numbers to every major global disaster around the world. They tell him when and where it happened and how many people died. But there are still some matched numbers left whose events have not yet transpired and so the race is on for Kesler to try and avert these catastrophes

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But his son is seeing strange people and soon he starts hearing the same voices as the little girl did in the beginning. He is given visions of the end of the world and also a choice he must be make.

Knowing is a thoroughly enjoyable ride that's part thriller, part sci-fi, part ghost story, it’s a film that actually does what it says on the tin by serving up what last year’s “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and the alien invasion horror film “Signs” failed to do.


Its main focus is on its characters, however Nicholas Cage' acting skills mire this somewhat endearing effort to make this film more than just special effects. Sadly he plays himself, again. However this is not all for the film is too sentimental, underlining the family aspect several times and drawing needless side plots and repeated character back-story into the foreground when something much more interesting could be shown or elaborated on. The film clearly tries to make us sympathise with the characters but sadly they just aren’t that interesting

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What makes this film good is that it is a sci-fi disaster flick that actually and finally follows through on its premise. The ending which has divided critics is somewhat fitting if not a little cheesy, but it does in a way make perfect sense however it is that very last scene that does nothing for the film and leaves you wondering if the writer and director were smoking something good...





Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Frak'n End!


DAYBREAK - Parts 1,2 & 3

***/*****


*BELOW THERE BE SPOILERS*

So last Friday (or tonight at 9pm on Sky 1 in the UK and Ireland) Battlestar Galactica aired its series finale, the last episode ever. After a five year run the epic journey of survival came to an end. All those dangling plot threads were tied up and the show was given a definitive end. There will be no more. However, while critics adored it and showered the finale “Daybreak” with praise, the way in which it was handled has split the fan base down the middle, those who love it and those who hate it. I am in the later camp.


First of all I must take my hat off to Universal for putting up the money and allowing the show runners to finish out the series on their terms, which in television is quite rare. Instead of wrapping everything up in a one hour episode Ron Moore penned a script that ran over three hours. The studio agreed to let it go ahead and not only did they not say “this needs to be cut” or “loose that, it costs too much” they stepped up to the plate and budgeted the finale as though it was four episodes long and not three. The money that was invested can clearly be seen throughout the episode and gives it a movie quality feel.


So what happened? Adama mounted a volunteer only rescue mission for the child Hera who was being held by Cavil or Number One on the Cylon colony. Of course most of the characters go and an all out battle takes place in what is probably one of the best hours of action television I have ever seen. Without spoiling the action scene I will just say that they win and Starbuck jumps the ship, but the Galactica went through so much that when she arrives to wherever Starbuck took them she ruptures and “breaks her back”. She won’t be going anywhere ever again. But where did they jump to? We zoom out to see a very familiar looking moon and as we pan up, yep, we see the Galactica cruising towards Earth, our Earth. So what was that planet they found back in “Revelations”? Apparently that was the real earth and our earth is really Earth Two, named so because Earth was always a dream and nameless planet deserved to be named in homage to the dream that gave the crew and people hope for so many years.


They arrive at our planet and land in Africa at a time where humans are only starting to band together in tribes, they can’t speak and have rudimentary instruments as tools. Now, here is where it all goes downhill. Instead of building a city they decide to disband to different parts of the planet, abandon technology and have their fleet of ships autopilot into the sun. They give the Basestar to the last remaining Cylon centurions who jump away. The humanoid Cylons stay with the humans to procreate. It is a touching idea and a heartfelt one but there is no way 38,000 people would all agree to leaving technology behind and live their lives with only the clothes on their backs. Although the issue was addressed it stretches plausibility to its limits in fact I would go one step further and say it was “jump the shark” material.


Next up is the resolution to Starbuck, you know the one who died and came back to life. We were told she was the “Harbinger of Death” and had a divine destiny. However, when push came to shove for her to have some resolution, it merely came down to her and Lee in a field, only for him to turn around and “poof” she was gone, vanished!. This worked for me, it was left rather ambiguous, she was the Holy Ghost as it were seeing as Harbinger of Death can be interpreted many ways, such as the angel of life, especially in paganism whereby death is a sign of hope. This resolution didn’t irk me as much as it has others. We had been told all along what she was, it was stated by both Leoban and Baltar as to what she was – an Angel of God, who unlike the Head characters was actually corporeal and could be seen by everyone. My annoyance with the story was that if that’s all she was and her destiny was to realise All Along The Watchtower held within it musical notes, the co-ordinates to earth, and all she had to do was punch them into a computer, why then was such a BIG deal made over her? Especially when the conclusion to her story arc was something minor.


The main problem with Battlestar over the years was probably that it got too convoluted and complex for its own good. It’s not a show like LOST where such mysteries are its driving force, they are the plot. Because of this we had many things that were difficult to put a cap on and were in due course left dangling. Battlestar has always had a very strong religious element to its story telling, with Head Six and Head Baltar taking on the guise of Guardian Angels. So ultimately all these things that one could surmise as coincidences were resolved by saying that it was in God’s plan which unfortunately has all the credibility of “A wizard did it!”


But that’s not all, we flash forward 150,000 years to modern day New York and Head Six and Head Baltar are walking through Times Square discussing the legacy of humanity and how all human beings are related to Mitochondrial Eve, a woman who shares the same DNA with all of human kind, this woman is Hera. As they walk through the streets of downtown Vancouver er… I mean New York, they discuss the plot of the show “All this has happened before and all of it will happen again”. Six says that this time she thinks no because it’s in God’s plan that something interesting will inevitably happen if a complex system repeats itself. We of course get a sly reply from Baltar who says “you know he doesn’t like that name”, they then continue their stroll and All along the Watchtower begins playing.


The shows fades out over a montage of shots about the advances in robotics. A not so subtle hint that screams “be kind to Artificial Intelligence or it will slaughter you!” which in reality makes you think that they didn’t break the cycle but merely stalled the inevitable, it will all happen again or maybe we are to be consoled by Six’s throwaway reassurances at the end.


Although many characters ends were touching and sad, such as Roslin’s death and Adama’s farewell sitting on a cliff top staring out over the plains of Africa, it was a pity to end Battlestar on a divine, almost metaphysical note rather than serving up a clear and concrete conclusion.


The whole point of Battlestar and what made it so good in terms of its storytelling was its disassociation to our universe in anyway shape or form save the name Earth and the issues it addressed. I felt that that last scene mired the entire show but I must say that I can also see the merit in it; it is a nice gesture or point to make about the endless cycle etc but a futile one at the same time.


While I hate to love the ending I also love to hate it for it reminded me too much of the Matrix. Every “ending” was a good idea but they were too disjointed and out of place to all serve the same story so when you string them together we get a forced resolution that becomes a major let down, which is a shame given the extremely high standard Battlestar set over the years, not just in Sci-Fi but for serialised drama.

All in all most things were left rather ambiguous. The audience is mired in a grey area, it's up to us to decide what may happen in terms of the cycle and basically dwell on our own thoughts or interpretations rather than getting handed a definitive "this is what happens" conclusion.



Who knows, maybe this is another Soprano’s type ending whereby it will grow on you over time, so far I have grown to like it a little more but only time will tell.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Daybreak

The end is nigh, after one miniseries, four seasons and two tv movies (the second due to premiere later this year) Battlestar Galactica wraps up it's epic tale of desperate survival this Friday March 20th. The Emmy and Peabody award winning show has garnered much attention over the years and has only faltered in quality less than a handful of times. It has established itself as one of the best sci-fi shows ever produced and has been labeled "The Best Show on Televison," according to TIME Magazine aswell as been branded "The only award-winning drama that dares tackle the war on terror," by The Guardian.

It is a difficult entity to review as the series plot is told in a multi-season story arc, perforated by side plots and mini story arcs, in other words, you need to watch from the beginning. As such my opinions will have to be withold until it wraps up completely.

Below is the promo for the finale as well as the trailer for the prequel series pilot "Caprica"


Flash Reviews

The Black Balloon

***/*****


A charming film about two brothers, Tomas who is "normal" and Charlie his autistic older sibling. The Black Ballloon is well written and the scenes potraying the family's life and struggle to cope with an ADHD autistic son never feel cliche, they do occassionaly tap dance close to "drama for drama's sake" but such instances are few.

The actors give strong performances, Tomas' difficuties and struggles are portrayed with amiable subtlty until he explodes in rage. Toni Collete is on top form as the mother but it is unfortunate she doesn't have as much screentime as the rest of the cast. It is Luke Ford's portrayal of Charlie that is admirable and well crafted. Gemma Ward also establishes herself as a young actress to watch. The film is beautifully shot and the story is an endearing one, though it does feel like it wishes it was something more than what it actually is.


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The Last House On The Left

**/*****


A remake of a remake... that doesn't sound too promising now does it? And you would be right to assume that it isn't. Why do all films in this genre, regardless as to whether they are remakes, feel the need to follow such a tired formula? While Last House is a tiwst on the typical horror story, it quickly falls into the same traps as every other film before it by offering up cheap shocks, obvious plot twists and one dimensional characters who behave without any rational thought. The film is an enjoyable ride however if you enjoy gruesome death scenes in all their glory without the flashy, MTV quick-cut style editting of the Saw films.

Edging it further downhill, it is one half kidnapping story, second half revenge story, the film is split in two giving you the impression of watching different stories unfold.


See under the influence of many a whiskey






Watchmen


Watchmen

****/*****

Watchmen is a superhero film of a different calibre compared to the likes of the Hulk, Spiderman and X-men movies. Even the newly rejuvenated Batman franchise could be considered another genre altogether. Based on the graphic novel of the same name published in 1986, Watchmen is a sprawling tale about masked vigilantes set in an alternate reality 1985. Nixon is still president, America won in Vietnam, and the cold war with the Soviet Union still looms large with both countries on the brink of nuclear war.


In development since 1994 the property has been bounced between studios until it finally ended up at Warner Brothers. Now 15 years later the film which consumed over three years of director Zack Snyder’s life finally hits theatres. Sadly it lands in multiplexes with a whimper instead of the roar we all expected.


Watchmen is a good film, it is entertaining and offers up one of the best opening sequences perhaps ever shot on film. It has a solid script and the actors serve up strong performances, though Jackie Earle Haley as the sociopathic Rorschach and Billy Crudups’ Dr. Manhattan are the scene stealers. When they were off-screen I found myself longing for their return, their characters and respective portrayals were certainly the most interesting; complex and memorable.


The cinematography is inspiring and beautifully captured. The visual effects are impressive and breathtaking to watch with the overall production design a testament to the many people who invested long hours crafting an alternate reality into something completely believable.


Snyder directs with a flare so precise and so in tune with the source material it’s hard not to admire his devotion to achieving something faithful. But Watchman is perhaps too faithful for its own good and that’s where it falls from grace.


Like all films based on other mediums, be it video games or novels, the film counterpart, while remaining loyal to the story and plot, is at its core, a different entity, and should be constructed and treated as such. Having not read the novel I was like so many audience members who were alienated. We could watch, but we could not connect for we did not have the Watchman aficionado’s wealth of knowledge necessary to fill in the gaps.


The film moved at a pace reminiscent of an injured hare, fast at one point, then clumsily the next. The narrative was chunky and fell in bits rather than flowing like a stream. Some scenes were too short, others were far too long, and some even seemed pointless, wrapping up plot threads that were already resolved but the extra scene gave depth and detail.


Yes, there is a further hour of footage to be edited in on top of the already lengthy 2 hour 40 minute running time of the theatrical cut and one could argue that my criticisms will be rendered nonsensical once said DVD is released. But a film should be whole and feel complete regardless of how many incarnations there are or will be.