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Absolutely fantastic, exhilarating sequel.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 25 May 2013 02:53 (A review of Star Trek Into Darkness)

In 2009, J.J. Abrams surprised us with his marvelous reboot of the Star Trek franchise and once again, he embarks us on another spectacular ride into space with this sequel. There have not been many Hollywood reboots that have played kindly to audiences in recent years and, quite frankly, neither have many sequels. However, because Abrams’ work on Star Trek was so successful, expectations were even higher for the sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness. In addition, the majority of cast and crew were returning; therefore, it appeared a promising follow-up. It contains the same large-scale production elements as its predecessor and deservedly marks its place as another breath-taking roller-coaster installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise.

The most successful aspect of Star Trek: Into Darkness, like its predecessor, was how director J.J. Abrams had a much broader target audience instead of aiming only toward the avid Trekkies. The original elements from the TV series, such as characters, visual effects and plot, were still included and they would satisfy Trekkies. However, Star Trek: Into Darkness delivers those features at a more advanced level, which does not go over the top like many Hollywood films today. The eye-popping visual effects bring an even more exciting and fresh experience than its predecessor. In addition, the darker and visually clearer tone behind the film makes it appear more realistic and follows many conventions of human drama; consequently, expanding a wider audience.

Evidently, the two Star Trek reboots have advanced the entire franchise on a visual level but more importantly, it has now become an emotional series that is not just to satisfy the fans with the original concepts. Particularly in this sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness keeps a firm grip on the audience with his emotional delivery from the plot, particularly when the film is often portrayed from Kirk’s perspective and intends the audience to emotionally connect to him. Surprisingly, this illustrates signs of friendship that progressively gives audiences a hint of warm satisfaction, such as the chemistry between Kirk and First Officer Spock. On the other hand, it has a realistic touch to it as psychological themes are included, particularly when the character of “John Harrison” gets into the film. Therefore, Star Trek: Into Darkness has truthful morals behind it and illustrates ugly signs of humanity, which do not occur often in the science-fiction genre.

The majority of the ensemble cast from the 2009 reboot reprise their roles in this sequel, but it also introduces new characters that make it a different installment in the series. Chris Pine returns as Captain James T. Kirk. Knowing Hollywood these days, many of them cast actors in their films purely based on looks in order to gain a wider audience. In a sense, Pine follows in similar footsteps to Chris Evans but the former proves that he can be somebody more than just eye-candy. Also, the role of Kirk is a big responsibility as many Trekkies would expect Pine to portray him in honour of William Shatner’s long-time performance as the character. Still, Pine’s role of Kirk is impressive who still follows the trademark features of the original character that would satisfy, yet at the same time, applies the performance at a newly reformed level of acting.

Although Zachary Quinto is arguably the only actor to possibly portray Spock due to his identical physical features to Leonard Nimoy in the role, Quinto’s performance was also remarkable. Like Chris Pine as Kirk, Quinto successfully balances the features of Nimoy’s role but makes a difference to the character. Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Antony Yelchin return in the roles of notable Enterprise crew members. Considering the performances are above satisfactory, the stand-out actor in Star Trek: Into Darkness is Benedict Cumberbatch. He portrayed “John Harrison” and gave a sinister, manipulative performance. This character made the film more psychologically engaging that followed down an identical route to The Dark Knight. Cumberbatch appeared cold from the very beginning; therefore, he added a more chilling effect that made Star Trek: Into Darkness a darker successor compared to the previous film.

Unlike almost every other franchise installment, Star Trek: Into Darkness and its predecessor were much-needed reboots that extended the originals further. This sequel progressed further than the previous film due to the further development of emotional drama and visual effects whilst still fulfilling the wishes of Trekkies by including various references from the originals. From start to finish, Star Trek: Into Darkness is filled with excitement and will leave you demanding more. Therefore, the film does not run out of steam. Finally, the announcement of Abrams’ next project Star Wars: Episode VII had initially received a mixed response from worldwide audiences, but following the success of Abrams’ two Star Trek films, we could be in for a breath-taking seventh Star Wars installment.

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Impressive third installment.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 16 May 2013 10:49 (A review of Iron Man 3)

In addition to serving as the third installment in the Iron Man series, the events of Iron Man 3 take place soon after The Avengers. Following the success of that film, expectations were exceedingly high of what audiences were to expect in Tony Stark’s next adventure. However, Iron Man 3 underwent a number of changes compared to the two predecessors, particularly Shane Black replacing Jon Favreau as director and judging by the trailer, it had an eerie and more personal touch to it. Considering the changes compared to the film’s predecessors, Iron Man 3 is a fantastic installment into the trilogy and is another Marvel triumph.

Director Shane Black’s deliverance of creative humour and dialogue in his debut feature Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005 was displayed once again in Iron Man 3. The character of Iron Man/Tony Stark has been the central source of the trilogy’s black humour throughout the past two Iron Man films and The Avengers. So, particularly through this character, Black’s style of dark humour worked. However, in terms of Iron Man 3’s narrative structure, it appeared somewhat flat on occasions, particularly in the middle. Without giving too much detail, the story has a Dark Knight Rises concept behind it and the repetitive structure creates a distinctively flat and more predictable touch.

Just like every Marvel film, the visual effects and action scenes are key points as they embark audiences into it all and, consequently, raise a high level of excitement. While specific effects and action sequences are impressive, there are some that appeared either mindless or forced. Particularly in the unique climatic build-up, the inclusion of several technologically-controlled Iron Man armouries as well as Stark and Rhodes, it became very clear that it forcibly aimed to be as intense and exciting by throwing these characters on the screen. Quite frankly, they didn’t even need to be included at all. Despite this, it was great to see Iron Man and War Machine/Iron Patriot in action again and to be introduced to new characters.

Although previously stated that the story of Iron Man 3 felt a tad flat on occasions, it exposed characteristics of the Iron Man character that had not been portrayed in the predecessors or The Avengers. Iron Man 3 illustrates the character as vulnerable, not an all-powerful force and more importantly – a closer, personal analysis into Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. marks his second collaboration with director Shane Black and once again portrays Tony Stark/Iron Man with a memorable performance. While still an arrogant hero, Downey Jr becomes the most emotional in any film that he’s been in since rebooting his career. Therefore, a little twist was added and we could be in for something extraordinary in The Avengers 2 and possibly Iron Man 4.

Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role as Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts. Their relationship is tested in Iron Man 3 and on occasions, becomes more important to the story than actually saving the world from harm. In that sense, it added a romantic-drama touch to it. In addition, Don Cheadle returns as Colonel Rhodes with the same War Machine armour. However, the upgraded armory transformed him into the Iron Patriot. While the performance and re-interpretation of character is likeable enough, he is still overshadowed by Stark and new figures. On that note, Guy Pearce’s portrayal of Aldrich Killian was great with a psychotic touch and has a scramble for power, like any comic book villain. As for Ben Kingsley, he easily became the best actor in the entire film in terms of performance. While avid Marvel fans could be disappointed with the twist of the Mandarin character in Iron Man 3, Kingsley’s performance was so exposed, free and unstoppable in relation to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Thus, while everybody wanted to see Iron Man 3 as a follow-up to The Avengers, we got a superb third installment in the Iron Man series that certainly triumphed over the disappointing second film and has become a solid build-up to The Avengers 2. It was a slight bend compared to other Marvel films as it became less a superhero film but more of a crime-thriller. Nevertheless, Shane Black’s work on Iron Man 3 was impressive and the hopes of a possible Iron Man 4 could be worth taking.

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Fairly decent prequel but could've been worse.

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 28 April 2013 11:17 (A review of Oz the Great and Powerful)

For this prequel to even come close to the timeless magic of The Wizard Of Oz was virtually impossible, especially when Hollywood are loaded on remakes, sequels and prequels with CGI effects. However, Oz The Great And Powerful is a telling of the story leading to the events of the 1939 classic; hence, we get an insight to how Oz became the Wizard and the relationship between the witches. With this in mind, there was a great deal of curiosity about Oz The Great And Powerful but like many films that focus primarily on visuals, expectations were average. Despite the film was corny regarding script and narrative structure, it was still a visual delight that marks a satisfactory return to Oz.

Oz The Great And Powerful had so much going for it regarding visuals, but there was more against it in terms of narrative structure, characters and plot. So, in order for it to succeed, an experienced and recognised director was required. Sam Raimi already took a huge turn in his career from the director of Evil Dead to Spider-Man, but Oz The Great And Powerful had become an even more unusual addition to his filmography. However, on a visual level, Raimi can deliver and his representation of Oz could be an interesting transformation. However, while his work on Oz The Great And Powerful is fantastic, visually, and is worth paying to watch in 3D, there is quite a number of flat, bland elements that does not make it the experience that it should have been.

After 73 years, Oz The Great And Powerful clearly was not going to be the same as the 1939 classic starring Judy Garland, but portraying some kind of contribution would satisfy fans. Also, due to the high number of films today in a similar category to Oz The Great And Powerful, a hint of originality needed to be included. Therefore, audiences would rely on the film to capture the breath-taking visual experience along with using tools of originality from the 1939 version. However, it was difficult because the film was not going to achieve both at the same time and unfortunately it didn’t. The narrative structure was not in a word ‘shambles’ but it did have a similar idea behind the story like in Alice In Wonderland and The Chronicles Of Narnia. That is what audiences are used to now with technological advancements and Oz The Great And Powerful severely lacked the imagination of a new adventure and became extremely predictable.

James Franco makes his fourth collaborative appearance in a Sam Raimi film, but this time in the leading role as Oscar Diggs, a small-time magician who enters the Land of Oz and makes his path to become the Wizard. Following Frank Morgan’s eccentric portrayal of the character in The Wizard Of Oz, James Franco would not be at the top of the list to portray the Wizard at a younger age. However, Franco is at the prime of his career so he must have been cast in the role of such a big character for a reason other than as a box office booster. Unfortunately, Franco’s performance was disappointing. There was a severe lack of charisma about his role and at times, it was just James Franco playing himself in a fancy costume. The character of Oscar Diggs is suitable in Oz and the pieces fit which lead to the original version but Franco’s mediocre performance does not completely fulfill what we should have seen.

In supporting roles were Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams as the Three Witches of Oz. First, there’s Kunis, most certainly a cash-grabbing selection in the cast, as Theodora who transforms into a certain witch that we have seen before. Very much like Oscar Diggs, Theodora as a character was handled rather well but again, it was the actor who failed. Kunis’ attractive appearance is bound to catch the eye of the audience but there was just nothing beyond that. In fact, her role came across as boring and even the character development was not getting anywhere and suddenly altered without telling the audience. However, Rachel Weisz is the complete stand-out performer as Evanora, who becomes a scheming, beautiful character who seduces the audience with her magic and totally sweeps away Julia Roberts’ performance in Mirror Mirror. Michelle Williams delivers a great performance too as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. In a nutshell, some of the characters should have had a better cast and the inclusion of CGI characters should have been excluded.

Audiences will come to the conclusion that Oz The Great And Powerful is your ordinary 3D, large-scale blockbuster but has a large, old-fashioned background behind it. The film was playing with fire as it had to become a film by itself but at the same time, pay some kind of homage to The Wizard Of Oz. Nevertheless, while Oz The Great And Powerful uses specific references from the classic and becomes at least a decent effort, it is still a mixed bag that ignites how much miscasting and bad screenwriting can jeopardise the quality of a film as a film.

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A dazzling, charming homage to video games.

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 25 April 2013 11:20 (A review of Wreck-It Ralph)

As opposed to many of the live-action films that we see today from Walt Disney Pictures, animated feature films within the organization have been on a roll following The Princess And The Frog, Tangled and Winnie The Pooh. At this moment in time, faith in Disney animation has been restored and in 2012, we have their latest feature hoping to continue the run - Wreck-It Ralph. Just by judging the still images and trailers it aroused excitement and, therefore, a geeky approach to it as it takes audiences into the imaginative world of video games. With this in mind, Wreck-It Ralph fulfills the video gamer ambitions as it certainly does take you on a breath-taking visual and imaginative adventure but is also a genuinely creative and original film.

In terms of storytelling and narrative structure, Wreck-It Ralph is evidently one of Disney’s most original animated films which in many ways, goes down a relatively identical route to Pixar Animation Studios. In their stories, they charm audiences, they emotionally engage them, they make them laugh and behind their films, there is always a sense of sophistication and signs of knowledge within the specific themes. In that sense, Wreck-It Ralph fulfills all of those categories and becomes distinctly close to feeling like a Pixar film. In addition, as opposed to many animated features Wreck-It Ralph is an immensely colourful film that is not selective with target audience. It becomes a magical adventure for kids that expand their imagination, like video games in general, but also an enchanting film for adults too. Sure, it involves very child-friendly characters but along with its wacky humour, Wreck-It Ralph gives the slightly older viewers, arguably those who grew up with older video game characters within the film, an experience to remember.

It is important to note that Wreck-It Ralph is a 3D-animation feature, a style that has been on-and-off with Disney in recent years. Amazingly, it works as a breath-taking visual journey but the humour along with it makes it such a delight. The majority of laughs in Wreck-It Ralph came from slapstick humour, especially from the leading character Ralph as he gets into situations and witty one-liners. Following in similar footsteps to Pixar’s past films, Wreck-It Ralph has the charm between characters and emotional connection to the audience that Pixar themselves are slowly drifting from as of late.

Although audiences see iconic video game figures that merely make cameos, we see some warm, delightful, original characters. Without being too much of a fanboy about it, Ralph is a superb leading protagonist that is literally a smash hit on the film’s target audience. He is hilarious and he’s clumsy which is what kids want to see but at the same time, he’s emotionally engaging and has a strong personality. Ralph’s fascination to go into other video game worlds is the equivalence of the audience being dragged into this exciting world. Therefore, in a sense he becomes part of the audience.

Each supporting character comes from different backgrounds in the world of video games. First, there is Fix-It Felix, who is truthfully the “good guy” in the entire film who Ralph has been inspired by to become good. On a similar note, the little girl Vanellope von Schweetz becomes the key to opening Ralph’s warm-hearted side. Similarly to Boo from Monsters Inc, Vanellope is an adorable additional character that kids will feel emotionally related too and adults will be humbled by. Meanwhile, other supporting entries Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun and King Candy are worth noting as they expand the audience’s imagination even further.

Similar to Toy Story 3 in 2010, Wreck-It Ralph gives the audience a film of pure entertainment but manages to provide emotional warmth as it pays homage to classic video games and, therefore, seals satisfaction among viewers following prior expectations. Wreck-It Ralph is almost everything that an animated Disney film has been before and should always be. It’s charming, it’s funny, it’s imaginative and it embarks the audience into a world that they will never forget. Wreck-It Ralph is the type of wake-up call that Pixar really need now!

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Solid but requires knowledge of the facts first.

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 24 February 2013 03:07 (A review of Lincoln)

Just by judging the title alone, Lincoln became a potentially huge project that required a substantial amount of sophisticated figures in front and behind the camera. The legendary Steven Spielberg, arguably the most iconic filmmaker in the history of cinema, takes charge of directing another war drama, after Schindler’s List in 1993, that deals with complex human emotions on a grand scale. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably the greatest living actor, makes a triumphant return to the screen to play Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, considering that Lincoln is an extremely large film with a lot of history behind it, it works with outstanding performances from the ensemble cast and superb direction from Spielberg but occasionally had a few issues with narrative structure.

After already succeeding with his World War II masterpiece Schindler’s List, Spielberg returns to direct another historical bio-pic about a human symbol who changed the world. Throughout his career, Spielberg has handled all genres but has almost always provided that grand scale of raw emotion and realism behind them. Along with superb cinematography, art direction and costume design, Spielberg literally sent the audience back into the Civil War and managed to grasp the dark tone of its time setting in a realistic, truthful format. Therefore, Spielberg is arguably the only one who could have pulled off Lincoln.

Just like many bio-pics and other stories related on history, Lincoln has a story where audiences know the beginning and the end, but has a complex plot in-between. Lincoln is meant to tell the audience about the final four months of Lincoln’s life before his assassination and perhaps the final few weeks of the Civil War. With this in mind, the political dialogue and the substantial amount of characters from different sides and organizations can make Lincoln hard to emotionally engage with. However, that did not always matter because it was merely a build-up to the obvious finale and just aroused curiosity of how Spielberg was going to handle it. As well as being based on true stories, Lincoln is also based on a biography so reading about these events before seeing this film is highly recommended.

Daniel Day-Lewis has limitations as an actor when selecting films to star in. In 20 years, he starred in approximately 9 films, 2 of those which he won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor. Although originally handed over to Liam Neeson, Day-Lewis literally becomes Lincoln in another breath-taking performance. The nature of the character was power and symbolism and Daniel Day-Lewis signifies this through his own powerful qualities as an actor. The audience gained a deeper understanding beyond Lincoln’s presidential status where we got an analysis of Lincoln as a human being like the rest of us. Nevertheless, Day-Lewis delivers another one of his gifted, trademark performances that should gain him his third Academy Award for Best Leading Actor.

Although the film focuses primarily on Lincoln and Daniel Day-Lewis almost carries it by himself, he is supported by a group of veteran actors in memorable performances. First, Tommy Lee Jones is absolutely perfect in a stand-out performance as Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican Congressional Leader. He represents the bitterness of human beings within a political society and Lee Jones’s general physical approach has a somewhat cold touch and it worked brilliantly as Stevens. Furthermore, Sally Field also illustrated her strengths as an actress as she took on the role of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. It was her most vital performance in many years and she, along with Daniel Day-Lewis, provided the power and the sense of support within each other to win the Civil War and abolish slavery once and for all. David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have important roles in Lincoln too and make their presence worth praising.

Evidently, the immensely heavy load of dialogue within Lincoln does not make it an easy film for audiences to watch for 150 minutes. In that sense, its primary target audiences would be those who going in with an open mind or ones with a strong view of the facts during that period. Therefore, it is complex and unusual for those expecting another Spielberg adventure within a historical setting. Nevertheless, as a film, Lincoln works with the technical praise going particularly to the cinematography and music but is also a bio-pic, quite a rare one today at that, which features some of the greatest performances from actors that capture almost exact resemblances, physically and emotionally, of the real-life figures that they were portraying.

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The Impossible becomes possible.

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 9 February 2013 09:08 (A review of The Impossible)

Behind the majority of tragic catastrophes in the modern age, we are provided with a film based on those events featuring a story that becomes a symbol of hope and leaves the audience a lot to reflect on. The Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 appeared out of nowhere and shook us all. In fact, it became one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history. So, The Impossible examines the horrors of these events through an innocent family’s real-life experience and also leaves the audiences with a leap of faith within humanity. Therefore, although it is hard to watch on many occasions, The Impossible is an incredibly powerful motion pictures that is filled with suspense, emotional drama and is quite possible one of the most courageous disaster stories adapted put to film.

Besides having a wide historical background, The Impossible had issues as a film. Over the years, disaster motion pictures have been over-killed by Roland Emmerich, a director who succeeds on a visual level but totally misfires in terms of realism, heartbreak and emotional drama. However, the superb direction from Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) fulfills the purpose of The Impossible at a both tragic and inspirational standard. While he has already worked on scaring and making audiences feel uncomfortable, he expresses something that hadn’t been done before. The tsunami itself is evidently an immensely powerful force of nature upon the innocent in a civilized society, but is exposed as a sin that totally tears the ordinary, peaceful lifestyle apart.

Furthermore, the actual disaster killed thousands so the biggest challenge was to illustrate a balance of respect as well as involvement between those who lost their lives and those who survived. While Bayona pulls this off beautifully, he gives the audience a very gripping in-sight to the disaster, particularly during the tsunami. The creative use of camera movement during the sequence created an uncomfortable illusion that the audience were as close to the tsunami as the victims within the film, and it did not need 3D effects. Therefore, Bayona’s direction in The Impossible is among the list of most underrated and overlooked works of modern film-making.

In front of Spanish director in a Spanish-made film based on a Spanish family are two British actors taking the roles of young parents Maria and Henry (Enrique in real-life). First, there is Naomi Watts who delivers a very powerful performance as an innocent wife and mother who becomes on the verge of death and must take a large step in order to survive. Watts’ role is not entirely shown in a powerful form through dialogue and chemistry with other actors but particularly during the second half of the film, we saw her emotionally and physically suffering through her eyes and figural expressions. Watts is an underrated actress anyway but her performance as Maria is one of her best to date.

On the other hand, Ewan McGregor portrays Henry (Enrique) who becomes separated from his wife and eldest son following the tsunami. McGregor has always been a Hollywood star but despite that and a few exceptionally great performances, he mostly fails to grasp the realistic touch of his roles. He is more of a supporting actor in The Impossible as child star Tom Holland (who portrays the eldest son Lucas) overshadows him but when we do see McGregor, he is good enough. As for Tom Holland, yet another child newcomer in the film industry, shines out of nowhere in the role of Lucas. As Watts’ appearance slowly drops whilst McGregor’s increases, Holland literally carries the film and becomes the symbol of innocence and courage behind it all. So, in some ways he is the bigger priority in The Impossible than the more sophisticated McGregor and Watts.

Despite The Impossible evidently showed signs of courage within humanity, the film is still gut-retching to watch as it shows the horrors of that shocking, devastating Boxing Day. It has a very similar set-up to Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center but Juan Antonio Bayona created much more realistic drama through impressive camera movement, editing and managed to capture the heartbreak of the hundreds and thousands who perished through a single story about a civilized family. Nevertheless, ‘the impossible’ becomes fulfilled here and is a dramatic journey that sets up a new benchmark in disaster cinema.

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A powerful visual lesson on human psychology.

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 5 February 2013 08:11 (A review of Silver Linings Playbook)

Before seeing it, Silver Linings Playbook has the approach, like your traditional romantic comedy, where it is colourfully filmed and looks to contain a high level of predictability within the plot, mediocre performances from the actors and has nothing to show for it. However, it does not contain elements that forcefully add gross-out gags and sexual references. Based on the debut novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic-drama that does have its elements of dark humour but more importantly, it demonstrates psychological issues within human beings in general. Supported by the sublime direction and script from David O. Russell as well as breath-taking performances from its ensemble cast, Silver Linings Playbook is a dark but at the same time, light-hearted and hilarious film.

After providing us with The Fighter in 2010, David O. Russell displays human drama, particularly the psychological bi-polar disorder, in another form of genre and expresses it through the emotional and most tender themes – love and friendship. In addition, Silver Linings Playbook determines a lot about fate, particularly through the relationship between Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and their emotional connection. In that sense, we get thought-provoking messages about the human mind. It has so much depth, mentally, but the added humour within the film really comes into play. As opposed to intentionally making us laugh out loud like in most comedies, Russell adds the laughter in certain situations (mostly in ones that spark awareness of bi-polar) where the audience occasionally feel bad for laughing. Nevertheless, in almost every aspect, Silver Linings Playbook becomes another fine achievement from David O. Russell.

Despite Russell’s direction and screenwriting skills are sublime in Silver Linings Playbook, the film’s strongest field is undoubtedly the acting from its ensemble cast. Each of the characters, particularly the four central ones, illustrates some kind of mental conditions. First, there is Bradley Cooper who literally gives us his breakthrough performance as Pat and becomes an entirely different actor compared to his past roles in comedies. His role in Silver Linings Playbook does contain the odd moments of humour that he is known for but more importantly, he fills the mental instability of a troubled man looking to change, become a stronger person and try to get his wife back. Similar to fellow Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman, Bradley Cooper cracks out of his shell and goes to new depths as an actor following his performance.

Alongside Bradley Cooper leading the film is Jennifer Lawrence, a young actress at the prime of her career. Most recently recognising her as the innocent girl turned hero from The Hunger Games, Lawrence becomes a woman in her role as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Tiffany is also troubled who is a widow and has a sexual reputation. Lawrence goes into this character with such strong force where she fits in every physical and emotional feature. She’s incredibly attractive, she’s a rebellious youngster and she has a strong heart. Meanwhile Robert De Niro, without a doubt the most sophisticated actor in the film, delivers without a doubt one of his strongest performances in a long time as Pat Sr. We see signs of psychological disorder in Pat Sr. too and knowing that De Niro has portrayed similar characters throughout his career, nobody could have pulled it off better. Finally, Jacki Weaver is the innocent one in the center of it all as Pat Sr’s wife and Pat Jr’s mother Dolores who also delivers a superb performance.

In many ways, Silver Linings Playbook has many concepts of human drama and comedy that we saw in Little Miss Sunshine in 2006 where it goes into the mindset of each character and gives the audience an outcome full of emotions. It is not a psychological drama. It is simply a drama that deals with psychology in other forms of romance and comedy. Silver Linings Playbook amazingly crafts the romantic sequences at a dramatic and humorous level without it being corny or clichéd. It’s emotionally engaging and progressively leads to teach the audience a few lessons about human psychology. Thus, Silver Linings Playbook is another incredible film from David O. Russell and is undoubtedly the best film of 2012 in terms of ensemble cast performances.

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Could and should have been much better.

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 31 January 2013 03:49 (A review of Hitchcock)

For decades, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has been a vital film of study as well as being arguably the original source of modern horror. It was also the first of a 30-year long but remotely pointless franchise and has been remade. However, the story behind the making of how it all began has yet to be made as a cinematic adaptation. Adapted from the non-fiction book by Stephen Rebello, Hitchcock’s memorable work on Psycho finally comes to the screen for the first time. In the film, we have been expecting to see all the facts based upon the making of Psycho and to understand the cast and crew as ordinary people. Therefore, it was bound to excite avid film fanatics and as a result of this, Hitchcock had overwhelmingly high expectations. However, considering that it was fascinating regarding the facts but as a film, it was a disappointment.

As everybody knows, Alfred Hitchcock was one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema but to make a film about him is challenging and perhaps requires an equally sophisticated director to take charge of behind the scenes. The privilege eventually went to Sacha Gervasi, whose only previous experience as director was for documentary Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. Therefore, he is making Hitchcock his directorial debut. A heavy weight would be on the shoulders of whoever was chosen to direct Hitchcock, but Gervasi's lack of experience really got the better of him here. Of course, he tried and his visual interpretations of some facts during that time were convincing but still, the project was too big for newbies in the film industry.

However, the film does not suffer entirely because of direction. The structure of the film is poor. It is a mixture of two central stories – the making of Psycho and Hitchcock’s own marital problems with his wife. Therefore, it becomes a bio-pic and a romantic-drama that sends the audience in unknown directions and becomes a shamble. Furthermore, why does Hitchcock see and talk to Ed Gein? Psycho itself is based on a book from a few crimes that Gein committed and many moviegoers should know this by now, but screenwriter John J. McLaughlin adding that sub-plot into the script was pointless and served no meaning. The film clocks in at approximately 90 minutes and because it has mixed stories, it could have lasted for 2 ½ hours in order for it to work. In that sense, it was flat and very rushed.

On the somewhat brighter side of Hitchcock were the performances. The great Sir Anthony Hopkins puts on a body suit and undergoes complicating make-up procedures to consequently become an almost exact replica of the Master of Suspense. Just like a strong director would be needed to make Hitchcock, an extremely talented actor is essential when playing Hitchcock himself. In the role, Hopkins expresses the features of Hitchcock through the same facial and figural expressions but in terms of on-screen chemistry between characters, he lacked the bitterness as well as the talent and commitment that Hitchcock put into Psycho. However, although the film has poor structure, it helped us see Hitchcock as a person, not only as a great filmmaker, through the marital storyline. Still, Hopkins was probably the best choice to play the Master of Suspense and he overall delivers in the role, but he was still a tad shoddy at times. Meanwhile, Dame Helen Mirren delivers a great performance as Hitchcock’s wife Alma. Compared to Hopkins and the majority of supporting actors, Mirren’s portrayal of Alma is perhaps the only one that is considered ‘normal’ and is almost like everybody else who does not have a popular celebrity status among Hollywood. Still, Mirren’s performance is impressive despite portraying an highly repetitive character type.

Furthermore, the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh was an unusual but at the same time, curious decision. Of course, Johansson was a beautiful choice when portraying the beauty of Leigh, but in terms of performance, it was literally like she was playing herself and expressing her sex symbol reputation, not performing as a talented actress going into arguably the greatest thriller of all time. Therefore, she did not entirely fit into Janet Leigh’s character. However, James D’Arcy is without a doubt the most accurate performer of the entire film as he was absolutely marvelous as Anthony Perkins. Although, he does not get much screen time, D’Arcy almost brings Perkins back to life with his timid and shy mannerisms. He even performs as Norman Bates on occasions through these sensitive ways that Perkins possessed. Jessica Biel makes a decent supporting appearance too as Vera Miles.

As previously established, Hitchcock is a large project that has many trails behind it and has so much going for it. It may have been challenging to pull off but it still had the potential to be a truly great film. Unfortunately it became rather dull that progressively reached a flat end. Admittedly, audiences can become over-psyched with this and expect it to be as superb as how Alfred Hitchcock himself would film it, but for that reason, the film should have been placed in the hands of a more experienced director and screenwriter. Nevertheless, despite that Hitchcock provided enough facts to keep the audience interested and most of the acting was a hit, it was still a let-down and, thus, did not become the great film that it could and should have been.

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A highly intense and amazingly executed thriller.

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 26 January 2013 02:59 (A review of Zero Dark Thirty)

It has been less than 2 years after the actual death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and we have already been provided with the feature film that re-tells the events on the big screen. Following their Academy Award winning triumph in The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal collaborate once again to tackle Zero Dark Thirty, another thriller set during an on-going war. In terms of historical accuracy and whether Bigelow and Boal can improve even further than The Hurt Locker, expectations were high. Considering this and that Zero Dark Thirty has a few issues of over-complicating dialogue and slight lack of character development, it still displays the history behind such a controversial event in fine forms of suspense, psychology and drama.

Although we knew from the beginning what the ending was going to be, one of the most impressive aspects of Zero Dark Thirty was pacing. Clocking in at approximately 150 minutes (excluding the ending credits), the film amazingly jumbles in 10 years of history illustrating what bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have done without being slow or rushed. In that sense, the film keeps a firm grip upon its audience that helps them follow along the mission to that fateful night on 2nd May 2011. In the opening few minutes is merely audio from the day of 9/11. After only 12 years, we have already seen footage of that day's events expressed in different ways. So, in an interesting move, Bigelow leaves the audience to imagine through the discomforting sounds what is happening.

Furthermore, suspense within Zero Dark Thirty remains intact throughout the 2 ½ hours and we see this through the film's central theme - entrapment. It is displayed from both perspectives. Of course, Bin Laden himself is trapped because he is the most-wanted man in the world and the CIA are progressively closing in on him. On the other hand, we see the CIA in vulnerable, trapped situations. They can't leave Pakistan without catching Bin Laden but whilst there; they're still being under attack. Therefore, Bigelow's work on Zero Dark Thirty is much stronger than in her previous effort The Hurt Locker as she adds a much more realistic tone and provides to the audience the ugliness of the events occurring in the War On Terrorism today.

At 35 years old, Jessica Chastain only began her film acting career in 2008. Before Zero Dark Thirty, she had been in mostly supporting roles and had not been given the opportunity to shine as a leading actress. However, Zero Dark Thirty marks her first major leading role as she delivers an outstanding performance as young CIA officer Maya. Although we get a rather low supply of Maya's background story, the physicality of Maya is somewhat cold that adds a cooler chill to the film. She is obsessed with catching Bin Laden and she will stop at nothing to achieve that. Chastain deserves the Academy Award for Best Leading Actress. Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty's supporting cast are overshadowed because of Chastain's performance but a solid entry was from Jason Clarke as Dan, Maya's fellow CIA officer. This guy is often displayed as an American slowly losing his humanity through interrogation and torture of Pakistani suspects in order to provide information. So, we get a supporting character with bitter coldness to him. Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Ehle become other decent additions into the supporting cast.

The whole idea behind Zero Dark Thirty can be misunderstood for a film that makes Americans feel somewhat justified after 9/11 as well as being a lesson behind the complex history of Bin Laden's demise and Al-Qaeda. However, it went beyond that. Not only does Zero Dark Thirty deliver on every technical level, particularly editing, and still manages to be a beautifully-executed thriller, but it could have worked as a documentary. Kathryn Bigelow's work on The Hurt Locker was impressive but she does an even better job here. Finally, Zero Dark Thirty is a challenging film to endure for 150 minutes due to the coldness of the plot but the overall satisfaction that the film brings is not only towards Americans.

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Another Quentin Tarantino masterpiece.

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 22 January 2013 12:45 (A review of Django Unchained (2012))

Django Unchained marks the second film from Quentin Tarantino that mixes his old-school trademarks of violence, recurring themes, creative dialogue and badass soundtracks within a setting loosely based on historical events. Tarantino already interpreted his own climax of World War II in Inglourious Basterds through his passion for cinema and in his latest feature, he provides a similar story structure. This time, he tackles a story set in Deep South America where he adds his own adjustments about black slavery, a widely controversial subject. Despite this, Tarantino used elements from his past films in Django Unchained which leave their mark and, therefore, adds more oppressiveness as well as originality to the storyline. Furthermore, it is important to note that Django Unchained does not focus on historical accuracy of that era, but in his own way Tarantino creates a second revenge-fantasy masterpiece which at the same time, pays homage to classic spaghetti westerns.

Quentin Tarantino has caused a series of controversies making Django Unchained as he has had accusations of racism thrown at him due to storyline and dialogue. However, the beauty of Tarantino's screenplay in Django Unchained is that he is simply presenting, in his own creative style of writing, the animosity from white people towards blacks during that period and the general horrors of slavery. Therefore, Tarantino twists history and forges it into his movie-maniac mind, which is what we have with Django Unchained. Furthermore, he continues with his old-school elements of black humour. As proved in many of his previous films, humour has been one of Tarantino's strongest points because he somehow makes funny jokes that are not always considered that way. It becomes worthwhile in Django Unchained as he still makes violence humorous to watch but at the same time, he doesn't deliver all the dark comedy that we have seen before. The film contains a mixture of witty one-liners, particularly from Dr Schultz, and at times hilarious jokes that don't have to step above the bar to be funny. Therefore, it has climbed above Pulp Fiction to become Tarantino’s funniest film to date. However, the only major Achilles-heel of Django Unchained were the last 20 minutes. The pacing was slow and it almost meant nothing to the rest of it.

Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx delivers his best performance in years as Django. Originally, the role was offered to Will Smith but Foxx ultimately displays the true nature of this character. Django is a newly-freed slave who becomes a deputy bounty hunter along with Dr. King Schultz but has the desire to rescue his wife from the ruthless Calvin Candie. So, along the journey, Django becomes this badass individual that we all want to see and was seen in spaghetti westerns. On the other hand, regarding his wife he is at times a sensitive being. Still, the purpose of Django is not spilling out emotion with his wife and thankfully, Tarantino does not make this his key focus. He is merely on a mission of revenge against his former enemies as well as to make something of himself. Nevertheless, Jamie Foxx takes a little while to get into the role of Django but when he does, he was absolutely fantastic! It's just a shame that he was overshadowed particularly by Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Christoph Waltz literally carried Tarantino's previous film Inglourious Basterds and deservedly earned an Academy Award for his role as Colonel Landa. Waltz stars in his second Tarantino feature and delivers another stand-out performance as dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Although the character was written purely for him in the first place, Waltz's charisma as an actor made him fit perfectly into the role. In that sense, Waltz does this through hilarious one-liners and the simplicity he beholds. The film is surrounded by oppression and animosity but Schultz represents the conscience of the human mind and becomes a character that is balanced and a non-judgmental figure. Furthermore, Leonardo DiCaprio suddenly jolts away from his heart-throb status as an actor and goes into a much dirtier, sinister and racist role as he portrayed antagonist Calvin Candie. The name 'Candie' and his plantation location 'Candieland' sounds quite friendly but how Tarantino handles it is quite sadistic. Like Colonel Landa, Candie is a charming psychopath and DiCaprio did this incredibly well. Therefore, you can now see why Tarantino originally wanted him as Landa. Samuel L. Jackson delivers one of his greatest performances as Candie's black house slave Stephen and Kerry Washington is fantastic too as Broomhilda, the woman in the center of it all. We also get great cameos from Jonah Hill, Franco Nero and Don Johnson as well as a mediocre one from Quentin Tarantino.

Evidently, Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino's most controversial film to date but like the truly great artist that Tarantino is, he manages to take it to whole new depths through his gifted old-school style and sends us on this Old West journey where he pays his own respects to spaghetti westerns. Django Unchained is, of course, horrifying and pretty gut-retching due to the racism and slavery but it unusually contains heart-to-heart moments (very unlike Tarantino) and sparks a bond of friendship between Schultz and Django and finally, very much like Tarantino, it is hilarious to watch. Nevertheless, Django Unchained perhaps isn't on the same level of creative brilliance as Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, but it is still another Tarantino masterpiece that his biggest fans should enjoy.

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