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A breathtaking return to Middle-Earth.

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 15 December 2012 06:55 (A review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

After going through pre-production hell and waiting for many years, the first prequel of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is finally here! Maximum expectations for The Hobbit had already been raised following the critically acclaimed reaction of The Lord Of The Rings all those years ago. Since then, audiences have wanted more. However, those who have read Tolkien’s novels will realize that although there are some clear connections, they are still very different. In addition, technology and filmmaking in general has advanced rapidly over the course of a decade, particularly the continuous use of CGI, the re-birth of 3D and now the new frame-rate of 48 per second. Therefore, it is important for audiences to not expect to see everything in The Hobbit that was seen in The Lord Of The Rings. Considering that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does not quite grasp the epic scale of human drama like its predecessors, it is still an absolutely fantastic return to Middle-Earth.

Originally Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) was to direct The Hobbit series but continuous delays of the project and his desire to work on others, Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson replaced him and makes his sensational return to Middle-Earth. With this decision, questions were raised about whether any similarities from Fellowship Of The Ring would be added into The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to kick off the trilogy. In that sense, An Unexpected Journey is similarly structured through a prologue, a long build-up to the forthcoming adventure and we meet many new faces that emphasizes a new but past Middle-Earth. The breath-taking advanced technological effects, particularly the 48fps and experiencing the film in 3D (methods that we never saw in Lord Of The Rings), helps provide a visual difference that grasps the feeling of a past setting. In addition, the source material of An Unexpected Journey (the original novel) is a children’s book. The more colourful tone of An Unexpected Journey overshadows the dark atmosphere. Therefore, Jackson using new techniques in terms of art direction, cinematography and visual effects, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey provides not only a new cinematic breakthrough but also gives the audience another side to Middle-Earth.

Like in the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the ensemble cast of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is almost entirely filled with male actors. These consist of new additions into Middle-Earth and some are returning. In the leading role is Martin Freeman as younger Bilbo Baggins. Freeman’s performance accurately exemplifies the simple-minded and nervous yet brave, heroic and intelligent nature of Bilbo that was portrayed within the book. Plus, Freeman is identically a younger Ian Holm, who made a brief reappearance as elder Bilbo. Therefore, Peter Jackson did not go wrong with selecting his young or old Bilbo Baggins. Richard Armitage portrays Dwarf warrior and pack leader Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage expresses Thorin as a bitter and grumpy individual with a lot of hatred towards Elves and deep desire to reclaim Erebor. However, at the same time, like most warriors, he is a brave, heroic soul, which clearly indicates that he is the Aragorn of this Hobbit trilogy. In Thorin’s company are twelve other Dwarves. The large number of them raises a curious question but Jackson marvelously gives each of these Dwarves an equal amount of on-screen time. None of the other twelve outshine one another and they all feel part of the group and each serve a genuine purpose.

On the other hand, we see many of those returning to the cast from Lord Of The Rings. First, there is Ian McKellen who reprises his role as Gandalf. This time, he is back as Gandalf the Grey who we knew from Fellowship Of The Ring, where he is a more emotionally engaging wizard with his own trademark image - his grey beard, pointy hat and wooden staff. Another addition who makes his return in An Unexpected Journey is Andy Serkis as Gollum. He is still the same scheming and sinister creature that we experienced in Lord Of The Rings. However, there is a slight comedic touch to Gollum which slightly enlightens the dark, suspenseful scene in a story, primarily for children. We also see cameo re-appearances from Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins and Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman before his betrayal.

An Unexpected Journey concludes on an exciting and mind-blowing note with a fantastic cliffhanger ending that, like Lord Of The Rings, taunts the audience by wanting more. Although there are some dark moments in this prequel installment, it works amazingly well as a film for all audiences to enjoy and it stays true to the novel. Film adaptations based on books do not always work purely because what we see on the screen can become more the director’s work than the original author’s. In the case of An Unexpected Journey, containing at least half of the book, it works at a balanced level featuring pieces of Tolkien’s storytelling as well as Jackson’s creativity to bring that work to visual life. Nevertheless, they have together opened the gates for more forthcoming adventures in Middle-Earth.

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A fantastic sci-fi with creativity and brains.

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 13 December 2012 10:30 (A review of Looper (2012))

Being one of two genres that are jackpots of numerous remakes, prequels and sequels, the world of science-fiction is severely lacking in entirely original concepts with intelligent stories and characters. We have seen the odd one original, sci-fi hit throughout recent years, such as Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Now we have been provided with Looper, written and directed Rain Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom). Viewers may go into Looper believing that it is another sci-fi with complex dialogue and badass characters in a dystopian setting. Although it is exactly that and contains one or two similarities with Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys, Rain Johnson’s Looper is a marvelous, creative homage to the science-fiction genre.

What we have with Looper is basically concepts of time-travel and telekinetic powers in a world of a specific authority. Many of these methods have been used many times in crime and other science-fiction films but Johnson’s creativity in plot and screenplay s sublime. In a marvelous move, he transforms a film that initially seems to have a complex, science-fiction story into a feature with a genuinely creative, original and at times, rather simple story. In that sense, Johnson’s work on Looper felt loosely connected to the great Christopher Nolan. Also, Looper is staged in the future but the majority of the film is about the past. Therefore, Johnson expresses how the current day and the future. Furthermore, he provides a story that is science-fiction today but with technology advancing rapidly, it could be our future. However, the only issue with Looper was that it became two films merged into one, story-wise. For the first half, it became about Joe, his career as a Looper and what mistake he made and the second became all about a young woman and a little boy with telekinetic powers. It was a very enjoyable second part but that sub-plot could have been a sequel idea.

Following roles in Rian Johnson’s debut feature Brick as well as (500) Days Of Summer, Inception, 50/50 and The Dark Knight Rises, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has now become a popular Hollywood star. Looper becomes another addition to his successful young career as he takes on the role of younger Joe. In this film, we witness a side to Gordon-Levitt that we have been waiting to see for a long time. Following his sidekick supporting roles of powerful characters in the past, he finally comes out of his shell and becomes a badass actor in his own right. Further to that, Gordon-Levitt has really matured as a grown-up actor now which is what we see in Looper and will hopefully see in other future projects. However, he is not the only protagonist of the film, let alone the only performer of the same character.

In the role of older Joe was Bruce Willis who once again does not run out of steam from his status as a symbol of the action genre. Although he was not introduced until about 30 minutes, we follow his journey as much as younger Joe’s. Together, Gordon-Levitt and Willis perform as a character which expresses two sides to somebody. Although we see young Joe as heroic and brave, we see older Joe with more psychological issues. Therefore, audiences see a new dark side to Willis where in his role as elder Joe but he is still the great action star that he has always been. Meanwhile, Emily Blunt is the innocent and rather normal addition into the cast as Sara, a single parent protecting her child and her land, with a solid performance. Finally, Jeff Daniels makes an appearance as Abe, Joe’s boss. In this role, Daniels is expressed as a dominant, powerful figure, which we really do not see very often seeing as he is famed for his appearances in comedies.

With the science-fiction genre expanding on remakes, sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Looper is a rare science-fiction film that is a symbol of creativity and intelligence that doesn’t appear round the corner anymore. People could misunderstand Looper for being a traditional time-traveling film but it is a film that shows the audience how it came about and how characters deal with it. The entire film could have been split into two parts but despite this, it still works. Nevertheless, if Rain Johnson became a more regular and recognized film director, which he should be now after Looper; he could eventually become a highly respected and influential director. Chris Nolan now has a competitor following his trail.

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A fun, solid stop-motion picture.

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 11 December 2012 07:44 (A review of ParaNorman)

Before jumping into conclusions about the title, it is highly important to note that ParaNorman is not intentionally a children’s adaptation of the Paranormal Activity franchise. The title is merely a reference to the series and is different in almost every way. When it comes to animated children’s films with a dark tone, there are boundaries that must be met in order for them to be suitable for their target audience. ParaNorman may not provide anything new that we haven’t seen before in animated comedy-horrors but it is still a film with absolutely stunning effects and is an awful lot of fun for all audiences to enjoy.

From the studio that bought us the horrifying yet beautiful stop-motion feature Coraline in 2009, ParaNorman contains many roots of those same breath-taking visuals that send us on an eerie, surreal adventure. Its deliberately mature visual approach is an attempt to progress to an even higher level of children’s horror that we hadn’t seen before. It still remains an incredibly fun film but it slightly suffers from a vital piece. As well as being a children’s horror, ParaNorman is supposedly a comedy that is supposed to set their minds at ease for the scares that are seen on screen. It slightly lacks the comical humour that makes a comedy-horror, even aimed for children, great. However, ParaNorman surprisingly engaged the audience on an emotional ride that will melt hearts.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is another fantastic child actor of this generation who has been dragged into the world of animation. In this film, he voices protagonist Norman Babcock, a young boy who communicates with the dead. You could look at this character and think that he is a parody of Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense but Norman takes his supernatural abilities to a new level and is very much a character on his own. Norman’s lack of friends makes his ability to see the dead friendly for kids and is seen as a gift, as opposed to a curse. He is still an extremely likable protagonist with a big, brave heart and is bound to win over audiences of all ages.

Supporting characters consisted of a mixture between humans and supernatural forces. Tucker Albrizzi voiced Norman’s friend Neil Downe, Anna Kendrick as Courtney Babcock, Norman’s elder sister and Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann as Norman and Courtney’s parents. These characters create a sense of not only modern society in ParaNorman but also innocence by feeling the wrath of these zombies and ghosts. In addition, Christopher Mintz-Plasse goes down a different route, not only into animation but character type. He has usually portrayed a young geeky kid in the past but he plays the school bully Alvin in a very comical, humorously idiotic manner. In addition, in an interesting but unexpected move, Neil Downe’s older brother Mitch becomes the first openly homosexual character displayed in a children’s animated film.

Of course like most animated films, ParaNorman is strong in terms of visual effects and is a heap of fun. Furthermore, despite its predictable climax it has strong character development. In some ways, ParaNorman is “the Coraline of 2012” due to its dark visual approach but when comparing the two, ParaNorman only slightly lacks the charm and the heart that was so breath-taking in Coraline. Nevertheless, for kids and adults to sit down and enjoy, especially during the Halloween season, ParaNorman is a high recommendation.

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Decent Burton stop-motion film.

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 5 November 2012 06:02 (A review of Frankenweenie)

Once upon a time there was an eccentric filmmaker who developed his own creative and visionary style that became a huge influence within a generation in aspects of cinema, art and the way that a lot of people live today. Tim’s most recent works consisted of Alice In Wonderland, a totally misinterpreted feature with great visuals and Dark Shadows, another film with impressive effects but went totally out of hand. He needed another breakthrough and things have not been going too good for him. However, upon learning that his next motion picture will be another one of his stop-motion animated features, hope was restored. There have been high expectations since then and although Frankenweenie does not quite become the film that we should have had; it is still another decent addition to Tim’s successful stop-motions list.

Of course, any stop-motion film involving Tim Burton is going to receive a wide audience and has successfully achieved this over the years. His newest work, one that is, in fact, a remake of his own creation, is filmed in a much darker tone than his previous works with the animation technique. The black and white picture made Frankenweenie much scarier for kids, especially when its release was approaching the Halloween season. Also, the slightest bit of colour would have killed the film’s dark touch. However, certain moments within the story and some of the characters felt a little out of place on occasions. For example, the build-up to the science fair and the somewhat romantic connection between Sparky and poodle Persephone were rather awkwardly shoehorned into what, at times, appeared a shamble. Considering this, Frankenweenie still provides a lot, effects-wise, and is worth seeing in 3D.

Whether physically or emotionally, Tim Burton has given us some very bizarre characters in almost every film he has done. In Frankenweenie, we're introduced to another hero – Victor Frankenstein, an ordinary but extremely creative young boy. ‘Victor’ follows after the protagonist in Burton's previous stop-motion feature Corpse Bride and short Vincent as well as his former collaborator – Vincent Price. Also, he relates to Burton’s reinterpretation of Charlie in his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel. In that sense, Victor has a kind but big heart. His relationship with his beloved dog Sparky was very cute, which the kids would love. However, there was something slightly missing. It wasn't quite emotionally engaging or realistic enough. Both are interesting characters but when united as one, it did not quite connect and it was rather underwhelming.

Following the absence of recent, frequent collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, the supporting cast includes more of Tim Burton’s on-screen associated; most of whom he hadn't worked with for many years. Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short took on the roles of Edward and Susan Frankenstein, Victor’s parents, as well as two additional supporting characters between them. Furthermore, Winona Ryder reunites with Tim Burton for the first time since Edward Scissorhands in 1990, but only provides her voice as Elsa Van Helsing. Unfortunately, her presence within the film as well as Elsa’s character was not necessarily relevant. Victor’s relationship with Elsa was not developed enough and isn't the film really about the friendship between a young boy and his dog? On a more positive note, Martin Landau makes his presence known once more in a Tim Burton's feature. He portrayed Mr. Rzykruski, Victor's unique but wise science teacher. This character plays homage to Burton’s childhood hero Vincent Price as well as Landau's own Oscar winning performance as Bela Lugosi. Therefore, Rzykruski is the strongest character in Frankenweenie and is a rather original addition from Burton.

Despite Frankenweenie was originally a short film, this feature remake unusually works to a certain extent. The film has a lot to offer, effects-wise, and is Burton's darkest stop-motion project since Vincent. Furthermore, if you are an avid of Burton's past works, you would recognize the familiar concepts of particularly settings within Frankenweenie and appreciate them. The film may have squeezed past Alice In Wonderland and definitely Dark Shadows, but we still aren't getting the old Tim Burton. Finally, it may not have surpassed The Nightmare Before Christmas nor Corpse Bride, but Frankenweenie is still a satisfactory treat for kids and adults to enjoy.

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A big thumbs-up to precursors & dawn of a new era.

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 27 October 2012 03:36 (A review of Skyfall)

Since the birth of the franchise, Ian Fleming’s secret agent has blown the minds of worldwide audiences over roughly two generations as have the actors in the role along with symbolic props, iconic quotes, action and creative supporting characters. If we refresh our most recent memory of the James Bond series, we’d recall that it almost came to waste with the slippery, chaotic, baffled mess known as Quantum Of Solace. With this in mind and with the 50th anniversary of the franchise approaching, the next installment in the series had a lot going against it. Amazingly, Skyfall became a breath-taking thrill-ride that is not only a very modernized James Bond film, but is also very traditional that serves as a big thumbs-up to notably the Sean Connery, George Lazenby and early Roger Moore classics.

Sam Mendes taking the seat as director of Skyfall was, initially, a little unusual. The man won Best Director in his directorial debut but it was his lack of action film experience at the time that created a few uncertainties. With Skyfall, Mendes might have still followed from certain traces within his previous works, such as breath-taking cinematography, art direction and emotional drama (which has only really come into play with Daniel Craig’s Bond’s) but action-wise, he delivers exceptionally well and regenerates his own career as well as the James Bond series. The screenplay that was written by Robert Wade, his long-time collaborator Neal Purvis and Oscar-nominated writer John Logan go somewhere totally different compared to past James Bond films. There is a sense of creativity about it as it is written in styles of two different time settings. It beautifully mixes the modern and, at times, hilarious gags alongside the use of impressive technological effects with the traditional re-development of iconic Bond villains and girls.

In comparison to his five predecessors, Daniel Craig is easily the most emotionally engaging actor within the role. His performances in Casino Royale and, reluctantly, Quantum Of Solace, we saw a very different James Bond with a genuinely heartfelt yet cold-hearted nature. However, in Skyfall, he becomes another different Bond. This time, he establishes a connection to Sean Connery’s portrayal of the character. For example, Craig’s seductive, charming and sometimes sarcastic approach to women in Skyfall becomes a bit of a more unrealistic and comical touch, which thankfully leads it further away to making its mark as a romantic-drama. Surprisingly, we also get a glimpse at Bond’s young life and childhood where we can visualize him as a normal human being as well as a MI6 agent on duty. Nevertheless, Craig’s remarkable return in the role has really helped redeem the series after its previous mistake.

With quite possibly the most highlighted supporting cast out of all 23 James Bond films thus far, the newbies in the series deliver fantastic performances as do the returning actors. Javier Bardem, the Oscar winner for No Country For Old Men, in the role of a Bond villain is truly a match made in heaven. He took on the role of Raoul Silva/Tiago Gonzalez, a former MI6 agent hell bent on vengeance against those who betrayed him. Bardem’s performance unusually connects with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Silva is sadistic and gets laughable enjoyment from seeing others suffer. Bond villains are normally comical, gangster/mafia kingpins or terrorists but Silva establishes dark psychological issues, which is possibly the first time in the series. Furthermore, Judi Dench beautifully delivers in her 7th role as M. Like Bond, we get a closer insight to her personal character from the past and Dench has more involvement in Skyfall than in any other Bond film. Bond girls Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris make their beautiful presence known in the film with the latter in a very crucial role. Nobody could ever replace Desmond Llewellyn as Q but unusually, a much younger actor - Ben Whishaw is chosen. Whishaw reinterprets the creative and ingenious personality of Q and will look forward to seeing him return in future projects. The icing on the cake was, of course, the great Ralph Fiennes making a highlighted but very important role as Gareth Mallory.

With this 23rd James Bond installment going through pre-production hell, similar to The Hobbit, Skyfall almost became the film in the series that we were never able to see. Admittedly, there were some very slight, dreary pacing issues but despite that, there is no doubt that it is one of the best films in the series and rightfully deserves some recognition at the upcoming Academy Awards. To cut it short, Skyfall honours the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s franchise in a creative and remarkable fashion alongside what we have today and has become the dawning of another new era.

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Not one of Allen's greatest, but still decent.

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 15 October 2012 09:47 (A review of To Rome with Love)

To Rome With Love marks an impressive 43rd Woody Allen feature film and becomes yet another addition to the list of romantic-comedy that he has been symbolized for throughout his career. After his critically acclaimed hit Midnight In Paris last year, Allen's latest immediately does not show the natural essence of beauty, originality and storyline that he is capable of doing. However, because it is, after all, another Woody Allen romantic-comedy, he was bound to provide something new to the table. To Rome With Love may not be one of his most enchanting or funniest film that you’ll see but it is at least satisfactory to watch.

Regarding multiple number of storylines, To Rome With Love could have suffered massively due to predictability, lack of performance/character development or without serving a meaningful message or meaning. However, there was surprisingly a sense of creativity within To Rome With Love as each of the storylines featured a various number of unexpected twists and turns. Therefore, we weren't quite as prepared for what was going to happen as we have been with films such as Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. On the other hand, To Rome With Love still has its downfalls, production wise, that only makes it average. Each of the stories felt somewhat incomplete, the ending was very rushed and at times, scenes were a tad overlong, overwritten and overdramatic. Nevertheless, Woody Allen can do so much better than To Rome With Love but at the same time, he can do ten times worse.

Allen may not have delivered at a very high standard in terms of directing and writing, but he returned to acting for the first time since his 2006 film Scoop and makes a triumphant comeback and is, therefore, the star of the show. You could compare Allen to Clint Eastwood who makes on and off roles in his films as director but, Woody Allen's role as Jerry, an aging father, with a high IQ and possibly autistic disorder is simply extraordinary. Jerry is awkwardly funny to watch and you can very easily relate the character to the symptoms of autism. There wasn't an official leading actor in To Rome With Love but if there's one that is a 'leader', regarding top performances, it belongs to Woody Allen. Furthermore, Jesse Eisenberg performed once again in his trademark student-like approach as Jack. A more than satisfactory performance in a role related to Eisenberg's character at a high level of acting is rather difficult to pull off. Eisenberg is still a very talented actor who manages to maintain a satisfactory love triangle storyline.

Ellen Page stars alongside him as the proclaimed highly sexually active Monica. Although she is a pretty young girl, Page was slightly miscast for the role because she lacks that sexual desire that illustrates the character. Among the rest of the American and Canadian cast are another wide range of other continental performers. First, Italian actor Roberto Benigni, most notably the star and Academy Award winner of La Vita É Bella (Life Is Beautiful), portrayed Leopoldo Pisanello - another 'leader' of a third storyline. Pisanello is an ordinary clerk who out of nowhere becomes a national celebrity. His character adds a slight comical touch to it and arouses a message that being a celebrity doesn't always make you happy. In addition, fellow Italian actor, Alessandro Tiberi's role as Antonio became the final 'leader' of each storyline. That story is told of a young, newly married man who's expecting his wife at the hotel but is instead confronted by a prostitute (portrayed by Penelope Cruz). Having said that, his new wife ends up winding in a bewildering adventure herself and uncomfortable outcomes await. This does not deliver on any messages or grasp any raw emotion but it is quite possibly the most unpredictable story of the four. Therefore, that story deserves a small ounce of credit.

Unfortunately, Woody Allen's current motion picture could be immediately criticized due to the multiple of storylines and having the approach of a typical Hollywood rom-com. Still, it does have its rather crucial flaws in terms of dialogue, direction, pacing and partially acting, there were some surprisingly interesting and unique plot concepts and characters that makes it worth at least one viewing. Allen manages to bend round what could have been a chronological mess and, thus, makes another romantic-comedy that perhaps doesn't quite make the list among his greatest films but is still decent enough to enjoy.

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A unique but cute Anderson delight.

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 13 October 2012 02:48 (A review of Moonrise Kingdom)

You could look at Moonrise Kingdom and think to yourself that it is another one of Wes Anderson's eccentric but simple stories in a dream-like setting. In addition, it can quite easily fool a lot of viewers by giving this cute, colourful and perhaps somewhat innocent touch to it. Indeed, Anderson gives the film a very glistening and shiny tone, especially the cinematography, it is a charmer and he does take you on another one of his unorthodox adventures. However, at the same time, he goes to new depths and creates a very emotional film with a thought-provoking message about love and family.

Like many great directors, Wes Anderson has his own visionary style but unfortunately, it is not widely recognized or entirely appreciated. If anyone can direct and write a film with that approach but transform it into a rather adult-minded feature, it is Anderson. At times, Moonrise Kingdom had the capability of balancing the cute and enlightening atmosphere of a traditional live-action family film (or even a cartoon-ish feature) with incredibly personal and psychologically uncomfortable dialogue. Anderson and Roman Coppola's creativity with the script had ultimately paid off. Together, they unusually, but at the same time, remarkably altered the innocence of young children into behaving like fully-grown adults without it becoming offensive or misleading.

For the roles of the two young lovers, Anderson could have typically cast popular and experienced child actors from the likes Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Asa Butterfield or Elle Fanning. Instead, he selected a duo of newbies who were both making their on-screen debut. First, there's Jared Gilman in the role of emotionally-disturbed, sensitive 12-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky and Kara Hayward as Suzy Bishop, a young girl who lives with her three brothers and two estranged parents. Anderson toys with the relationship between Sam and Suzy. He, of course, establishes a very cute connection between the two, but goes as far as to almost expose a sexual and rather forward relationship. This, however, doesn't go beyond any horrific boundaries. It's not vulgar, offensive or awkward to watch. It is somewhat natural and at times, humorous. Therefore, Anderson expressed a true notion that even kids can become attached to one another.

Among the two youngsters making their debut are a much more sophisticated and talented group of actors. In fact, all of the performers in the supporting roles make it as an impressive ensemble cast. Edward Norton portrayed Scout Master Randy Ward in a rather natural role with a very simple-minded and warm-hearted nature. Even Bruce Willis, a regular badass action hero, as the local sheriff Captain Sharp was a very simple and emotionally convincing addition to the cast, which added more warmth but at the same time, unorthodox touch to the film. Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzmann make solid appearances too. Within the supporting cast, the hats go off to Bill Murray, who marks his sixth collaboration with Wes Anderson, in the role of Walt Bishop, Suzy's dominant father. He is the key source of the small amount of laugh-out-loud humour that we get in Moonrise Kingdom and is, as always, a delight to watch.

Moonrise Kingdom is not your vintage laugh-out-loud funny that will crack up the audience, but it still contains key elements of dark humour in relation to the Coen Brothers. There is always something about Anderson's work that makes his films in one way or another feel a little off-colour compared to regular Hollywood features. In the case of Moonrise Kingdom, it's a film that's not about money and the director simple uses his own specific, original style of production. Therefore, Anderson really is one director on his own. Moonrise Kingdom is a genuinely creative feature for the eyes and for the ears that will leave you grinning from start to finish.

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Dredd is back and makes 3D worth the money!

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 3 October 2012 09:49 (A review of Dredd)

First of all, before jumping into conclusions and criticizing Dredd for how it looks, it is important to note that it is a very simple film which serves a simple purpose. Its intention is purely to provide the maximum amount of entertainment by mixing these eccentric and cool characters with hardcore, comical violence and action within a futuristic world. You could assume that Dredd is roughly the same type of action sci-fi film that has been repeated many times but, quite frankly, they are the ones that are usually the most entertaining. Still, what you see with Dredd is what you get. It may not have those marvelous plot and script qualities like many other films do, Dredd is still a tremendous package of fun that is simply there to just entertain you, the audience, with its provided action, violence and badass characters.

John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s creation of Dredd and film adaptations based on said character have not been played very kindly onto the big screen. The 1995 version may have had its action hero (Sylvester Stallone) in the leading role but reception was overwhelmingly negative. Now, 17 years later, we have now got the hit that we have been waiting too long to see. Pete Travis, who only for the second time in his career due to various projects with television, took on the role of the director, and who surprisingly delivers. Dredd contains the dark and dismal outlook on society and the natural world like how we have seen in film adaptations based on Frank Miller’s work. However, in terms of filming and the settings, Dredd has a sense of both fiction and realism, which was demonstrated absolutely marvelously in District 9 and was ironically filmed in South Africa too.

For years, since gaining recognition in The Lord Of The Rings, Urban had been a key element in later action and/or sci-fi films but had still played a crucial supporting role. However, with Dredd, we have been waiting way too long for Karl Urban to come out of his shell, so to speak, and be that action hero. Urban fitted into the badass, mysterious and rather cold-natured hero and, thus, became the Judge Dredd that we have been waiting to see on the big screen – shallow hearted and almost unbeatable. Most of all, Urban achieved a near impossible task - go to a higher depth in character and action than Sylvester Stallone, of all people, and provided us with a much darker and cooler tone.

In the supporting roles were Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, Dredd’s rookie accomplice. Her role was a vital key figure in the film as due to her reputation and that she doesn't wear one of the Judge masks, she more or less established an even balance between a possibly considerate and thoughtful Dredd and a cold-hearted and shallow Dredd. Finally, Lena Headey totally sold the role of the ruthless and sadistic gang lord Ma Ma. In action films, it is usually a male antagonist but Headey made a stand for ‘girl power’, so to speak and proved that women can be badass and hardcore in the genre too.

Films like Dredd can critically suffer because of its predictable, clichéd dialogue and that it lacks originality due to its many connections with past action hits. Still, there really is no need to think too seriously about it and should just appreciate that the film has a very clear intention to just entertain and excite the viewers. It is also a high recommendation for avid video gamers as Dredd is quite literally watching a story sequence from a video game for 90 minutes, and actually makes the 3D experience worth your money. Dredd never runs out of steam, there is not one boring moment and, unlike many action films, has the potential to continue and, therefore, deserves to be the start of an explosive and gruesome franchise.

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A very corny & unrealistic re-telling of the tale.

Posted : 11 years, 5 months ago on 23 September 2012 04:19 (A review of Mirror Mirror)

Mirror Mirror is the first of two 2012 films based on Snow White by The Brothers Grimm (the other being Snow White And The Huntsman). Both films bought something new to the table as we saw the tale told in different set pieces that could have supported each one by overpowering the other. As opposed to Rupert Sanders feature but like the original 1937 animated classic, Mirror Mirror had a much more colourful and child-friendly approach and with a few interesting additions within the cast. Unfortunately, Mirror Mirror went totally out of proportion and, thus, turned into an incredibly corny, unrealistic and chaotic mess.

It is important to note that most feature films based on a book, play or any other source have their own one or two minor adjustments, whether it is plot, characters or even style of filming. In the case of Mirror Mirror, it is particularly the dialogue and sense of atmosphere within the film that is completely altered. For example, it totally stepped away from the Grimm world and felt like a new instalment in The Chronicles Of Narnia franchise. Furthermore, the plot, the corny humour and the majority of the production design bought back bad memories of last year’s Your Highness. Therefore, in that sense, as you’re watching Mirror Mirror, you don’t know whether it is genuinely ripping off the tale or is simply adding its own adjustments. Still, some films work in either of those ways but it went totally wrong for Mirror Mirror.

With Mirror Mirror and Snow White And The Huntsman both as films that are related but illustrate different perspectives of the Brothers Grimm’s tale, the character of Snow White is expressed in another way by Lily Collins. Of course, Collins has the beauty of a traditional Disney Princess, which regarding this, helped her fit into the character. However, her performance was nothing short of bland. There was not any threatening animosity between Snow White and the Evil Queen and definitely no romantic or emotional bond between her and the Prince. In the role of the Prince, you could name a large number of actors who could fit into the role in almost every sense; looks, charm, age and sophistication. In the end, it was Armie Hammer (The Social Network, J. Edgar) who was cast as said Prince. Hammer, who can be a solid actor when selecting the right films, totally went out of proportion in Mirror Mirror. He seriously lacked roughly everything that the character required and at times, became an idiotic laughing stock under the influence of the Queen. Plus, what is with the love triangle relationship between the Queen, Snow White and The Prince?! It’s meant to be a re-telling of a classic story, not a soppy teen-comedy!

Now, Julia Roberts taking on the role as the Evil Queen was initially an interesting idea as we could have been in for a different Roberts on the screen. However, due to appearing in various romantic comedies and having still got that innocent look about her despite currently 45 years old, it was very unusual. Unfortunately, it became a rather daft decision to cast Roberts as the Evil Queen. Admittedly, she may have been dazzling eye-candy in the costume for a woman in her 40s, but she was simply too sweet looking and was nowhere near as evil or scheming as Charlize Theron in Snow White And The Huntsman. None of the actors were superb in Mirror Mirror but Nathan Lane was worthy enough as Brighton who added certain comedy traits from his career into this film. Finally, Sean Bean made a cameo appearance in a role simply known as the King.

Mirror Mirror may have had a much clearer and colourful Disney-esque tone to it and could have been on the same superior and fresh scale as Enchanted back in 2007. Unfortunately, director Tarsem Singh goes from re-telling a beautiful fairy tale into a film that, quite frankly, turned into a parody; not only of the story, but perhaps to Disney as well. Mirror Mirror is just a total chaos as certain set pieces are awkwardly joined together that simply did not mix, expressed laziness to the project and just kills the charm and cuteness of the film. If you either love the 1937 Disney classic or are an admirer of the play and are expecting Mirror Mirror to stick to its original sources, then you will be greatly disappointed.

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Almost as terrible as The Cat In The Hat.

Posted : 11 years, 5 months ago on 14 September 2012 10:09 (A review of The Lorax)

Considering that the children’s books by the late Dr. Seuss have been classics over the years, adaptations of these stories have not been entirely well-received critically in the film industry. Following previous adaptations How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat In The Hat and Horton Hears A Who!, The Lorax follows in the footsteps of those films as it makes its mark as the fourth film on Seuss’s work. The film’s immediate approach was that of a much more colourful, child-friendly feature; maybe even at a pre-school standard for infants. Still, The Lorax unfortunately transformed itself into a complete misinterpretation of Seuss’s book and, therefore, sinks to an incredibly low level that almost merges with the other Seuss adaptation disaster - The Cat In The Hat.

For anybody to make a film based on a children’s book will always either hit the nail on the head or simply flop, which has been the case with Dr. Seuss’s work. There are the basic animated family films that serve meaningful messages with a tender and exciting story as well as lovable characters. In the case of The Lorax, it was not really anything at all. For example, like the 1972 TV special, it is stationed as a musical and even the songs did not enlighten the tone of the film and they just did not flow with the story. Furthermore, this whole scenario regarding the environment and protecting it may be a soft spot for under-4 kids but it is still serves a very unrealistic that, quite frankly, nobody even cares about. However, the animation was, of course, remarkable and the crew behind Despicable Me did a good job with that, but even that didn’t save The Lorax.

You can quite easily tell that The Lorax is attempting to aim high towards its target audience (young children) by typically casting two popular symbols for that age range as the leading male and female characters – Zac Efron as Ted and Taylor Swift as Audrey. Both of these characters very closely define both of these actors and, like what has been the case on a number of occasions with Seuss film adaptations, it lacked the charm and wit of the characters from the original source. The decision to cast Danny DeVito in the role of the Lorax was absolutely typical as the short and stocky appearance of the character is identical to DeVito himself. Seuss has introduced characters where you cannot explain what type of creature they are (whether they’re a form of extra-terrestrial or human). Still, despite that and that the Lorax, quite frankly, is not really a form of anything; he is one of the least funny and most unrealistic and corny children’s characters. However, the biggest controversy of the film in comparison to the book was the completely different transformation of a crucial supporting character - The Once-Ler. There have been the minor adjustments in almost every film, such as events that occur and what is said, but going beyond the limit is altering the physical representation of a character. Of what we saw of the Once-Ler in the film, he is identified as a human, but in the book, he is a mysterious creature which, therefore, left the audience something to think about.

Although the studio behind Despicable Me obviously provided very colourful and impressive animated effects, it still did not in the slightest save the film. Watching The Lorax was literally like experiencing an empty and incredibly corny direct-to-video feature. It takes incredibly poor preparation to transform another Seuss adaptation into a complete disaster like the agonizingly painful The Cat In The Hat and despite The Lorax may have the slighter edge due to effects, it is still a complete and utter failure. This is a solid example of why certain books should not be made into films.

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