Tag Archives: 6.5/10

Cloud Atlas (2012)

“Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. I feel like something important has happened to me. Is this possible?”

Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a long, twisting tale consisting of 6 stories, told over a time period from the mid-19th Century to a post-apocalyptic, distant future. Using the belief that one person can impact the life of another in the past, present and future, we are shown an array of different people, each having to deal with a situation related to someone else in a different lifetime.

Based on the novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas was dubbed the ‘unfilmable story’, and given the synopsis, it should be quite clear to see why. Films like this can go one of two ways, either swimmingly well or sink under its own weight. With the bill of actors including the likes of Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent, it seemed the film was going to fall under the former.

Tom Hanks is obviously the best actor in this line up, and unsurprisingly gives the most consistent performance. With so many different characters in the film each actor played about 4 or 5 people overall, it certainly helped establish who affected who in each era and was a clever way to keep the audience in the loop. Though with this it’s also easy to see who isn’t that great of an actor, Halle Berry springs to mind. She did okay, though I knew not to expect too much from her. Hugo Weaving was brilliant, especially as Tom Hanks’ ‘devil’, and Jim Broadbent is another to keep an eye on, providing some of the more light-hearted laughs of the film.

Being such a long tale, Cloud Atlas sees a lot of varying components rolled into one film. From fluctuating emotions to completely different worlds and drastically diverse situations, you are always being thrown something new. Each world is very individual, some more subtly distinctive than others, but nevertheless, beautiful to look at. Given its length and explorative nature, some will deem it a bit pretentious too. While it is a bit arty and sometimes tries to be more than it is, I’ve seen a lot worse.

One major issue I had was with the length. In some lights, it seems to try and justify this with the fact that the story is so heavy. Admittedly there is a lot going on and many different strands to follow, but it could have been at least half an hour shorter. You start asking yourself when the film is going to end after 2 hours in front of the screen, and when you think the film is drawing to a close, it doesn’t. This ruined it for me slightly, as I started getting to the point of hoping it was going to finish.

This film isn’t for the light-hearted. If you’re going to watch it, you need to commit your time and attention; a few times I felt lost along the way and I think that was due to my declining interest.

Star rating:  6.5/10

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

Running time 172 minutes.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

“True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

Cast:  Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage

220px-The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey

One of the issues about hyping up films is that expectations are high for everyone involved, and most of the time, the hype surrounding a film exceeds the actual quality itself. With avid fans of the book and The Lord of the Rings trilogy praising its efforts from the outset, it’s no wonder that The Hobbit had been built up into this marvel to behold. It sounded like Peter Jackson had outdone himself with this masterpiece and although I knew it would be slightly naive to accept these (probably) biased views, I was still pretty amped up about how good it was meant to be.

Now for the shocking part: I wasn’t all that impressed with the result.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Based on the book, the film follows a young Bilbo Baggins in one of his first adventures, 60 years before LOTR’s takes place.

When Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party, 13 Dwarves arrive on his doorstep with empty belly’s and a dangerous adventure ahead. Due to a dragon taking up its resides on their land and all of its inhabitants being cast far and wide, Thorin and his company of Dwarves have taken it upon themselves to slay the horrible creature. Reluctantly Bilbo agrees to help them out as “hobbits can pass unseen by most if they choose”, and so begins the first film of The Hobbit trilogy.

The first thing that needs to be said about The Hobbit is how bloody brilliant Martin Freeman is as Bilbo Baggins. He seems so right as Bilbo and I can’t fault him on his acting at all. It’s not a role I thought he would fit in so well with, but he really did bring some good elements to the film. A good job too as he is the main focus throughout the trilogy. The Dwarves were also fun to watch, obviously there were far too many for us to get to know in this film alone but it was long enough for us to get to know a few. I’m sure they will be further explored in the next 2 instalments and I’m looking forward to that. We also get to see the revival of some of our favourite characters: Gandalf, Frodo, Elrond, Galadriel,  Saruman and a few others. It’s nice to see these characters back in action and how they related to each other back then.

As with LOTR’s, The Hobbit was absolutely beautiful to watch. The cinematography was breathtaking and was one of the features about the film I was really looking forward to seeing. Also the choice to shoot the film at 48 frames per second meant the whole movie was really sharp and clean too, it ran so seamlessly and was a decision Jackson made that I applaud. It was also really nice to see how The Hobbit sets up events that unfold in Lord of the Rings. The scenes with Gollum and the ring, which is obviously the reason behind the events in LOTR, were really clever. They were probably my favourite parts of The Hobbit.

One of the things I can’t really get my head around is the length of the film(s) compared to the length of the book. The 1937 novel by J.R.R Tolkien is a mere 300 pages, while the films will stretch to a total of 9 hours in length. I just don’t understand how is this possible. There were a lot of moments throughout The Hobbit that I thought could have been tighter or more restrained, and I believe there were a lot of unnecessary scenes. It sometimes seemed this was just another chance for Jackson to show off his talents and take advantage of such a large platform, but I don’t think it really worked in the film’s favour.

Another issue I had was that there are a lot of things that happen in the film that I find just too unrealistic. Yes, I know it’s fantasy but it just feels too convenient how all of the dangerous situations Bilbo and the Dwarves happen upon are so easily escapable for them. It annoyed me at times and I think there should have been more situations with more fatal outcomes.

As a fan of the LOTR trilogy I was looking forward to seeing this film. However due to the expectations I had built up about it, it wasn’t that masterpiece I was expecting, therefore I felt a little disappointed. The way it has been shot is beautiful and it still has that magic essence that made the sequels such a success, but I was expecting much more in terms of story. To look at it simply, it literally is a fairytale: An evil dragon has taken over the castle (being the Dwarves’ land), someone needs to go a slay him (Bilbo and the gang). It definitely deserves a watch but remember that this is a Jackson film, there are a lot of drawn out scenes and you do have to commit an evening to watching it due to its length, though the cinematography should be redeeming in a sense – it certainly was for me.

Star rating:   6.5/10

Directed by Peter Jackson.

Running time 169 minutes.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

“Thirty-eight of New York’s finest, versus one guy in a unitard.”

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans

It’s only been 10 years since the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man franchise hit cinema screens but Hollywood just loves to cash in, as we all know. While I regard it as quite soon to be doing a remake, perhaps even too soon judging by the finished product here, Spidey swung back into action this year with an unfortunate, not-so-new look.

We all know the story of the boy who got bitten by a mutant spider and became a superhero, right?

Peter Parker, a quiet, geeky boy who lives with his aunt and uncle has a change of personality after he is ‘poisoned’ by a genetically enhanced spider. Taking on its spider-like abilities, Peter goes through a transformation which sees him become the city’s vigilante. Of course we then throw in a couple of baddies, some sort of love interest and frequent, high-paced action scenes and we have ourselves a Hollywood blockbuster.

The Amazing Spider-Man is not that much different than its prior franchise. Though this time it’s apparently ‘amazing’, the story follows the same type of path as before – hence giving it the remake feel, not the reboot. Obviously it’s bigger and better thanks to the always improving CGI but we have the same product in essence. Instead of Mary Jane we now have Gwen Stacy and instead of the Green Goblin we now have a mad scientist, but put the films side by side (Spider-Man, 2002) and you can practically check the same boxes.

There are some welcomed differences though. One thing I noticed immediately was the emotion within the film. Most probably due to the cast, I felt there was more behind each character, mainly Peter’s and Gwen’s. Rather than being a bit flat like Maguire and Dunst’s characters, Garfield and Stone bring more of a personality to their respective parts. I definitely felt more inclined to become drawn in which was a great start. There are also some humorous scenes as Peter is getting to grips with his new found abilities, again, grounding the characters and making them more relatable. A very important thing to do in order to engage the audience which I feel the 2002 version just missed the mark with.

Another great point is how true to the comics the film stays. We are also given more of a backstory and the whole build up to who Peter is has been further explored. Garfield does well in his role. Not only is he believable, but he manages to convey the right sorts of emotions rather than give a deadpan performance (I’m looking at you again, Maguire). He pulls off geeky and then rises to the challenge of turning ‘buff’ quite suddenly. Stone also does well in her role. Her performance as Gwen is just as good as Garfield’s as Peter, maybe even just pips it, and this further shows there is no slowing this woman down! She doesn’t overplay her role as ‘damsel in distress’ and she’s not all ‘I don’t need no man’ either, she’s got the balance right, which is very refreshing to see from young actresses these days. The same thing lets this movie down as with all previous Spider-Man movies, the bad guy. Rhys Ifans’ character as the mad scientist-come Lizard mutant just doesn’t cut it. He’s not as scary as he could be (though we can blame CGI for that, a little), and to me, he remains as camp as the Green Goblin. It’s the one main issue I see teenage-superhero films falling short for, time and time again.

In all honesty this film did not need to be remade. Yeah there is improvement with CGI, the film’s authenticity in regards to the comics and we have a bit more of lucid and able cast, but in all essence there isn’t enough of a change to deem it viable. I’m rating it at a lower score mainly due to principle. There are a lot of good bits in the film but along with this, there are also too many bad choices that don’t see it becoming something new but rather, just a bit more polished.

6.5/10

Directed by Marc Webb.

Running time 137 minutes.

Melancholia (2011)

“I smile, and I smile, and I smile.”

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland

Thanks to a massive planet called Melancholia soaring through space and heading for Earth, the end of the world is near and there’s nowhere to hide.

Melancholia debuted at the Cannes Film Festival just as The Tree of Life did. Both tackling issues about the universe and the course of human nature, it’s exciting to see how each film approached the subject.

Melancholia is split into two halves, the first being ‘Justine’. Primarily focused on the wedding reception of newlyweds Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), we are introduced to Justine’s dysfunctional family. Filmed in a documentary-like way by a hand held camera, we watch as this just-married couple appears to be tearing at the seams already. As Justine’s estranged parents openly argue in front of the guests, her disapproving mother (Charlotte Rampling) announces: ‘I wasn’t at the church – I don’t believe in marriage’. Far from the idyllic setting that a wedding reception would usually take, it appears this marriage was doomed from the get go. As Justine runs around the grounds becoming evermore depressed and desperate, there is no doubt she is an unstable girl with some deep setting issues (which normally makes for good film).

The second half of the film is labelled ‘Claire’. Occurring maybe a few weeks after Justine’s car crash of a wedding reception, this half centres around Justine’s dull and monotonous sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland). After the quick dissolution of her marriage, Justine moves in with Claire who insists she needs to be with family while Melancholia passes by Earth. However as time passes, the rogue planet appears to be closer to Earth than ever before, so we watch on as the end of the world becomes more of an imminent threat.

Melancholia is quite a depressing concept for a film but one that has a lot of potential to explore humanity, right down to our faith and hope in times of, literally, impending death. While I loved The Tree of Life, Melancholia feels like less of an achievement to me. Yes, some scenes are beautifully shot, but it’s so boring to watch. I expected a bit of excitement and a sense of frantic desperation but with such a boring cast – excluding Dunst who at times had me gripped – it was hard to stay interested for 2 and a half hours.

Though it has been praised for it’s artistic direction and sense of humanity, it didn’t feel new or evolutionary. The characters weren’t as fired up as I’d have been if this were to happen in real life, so how can we take this as a real depiction? No character’s reaction resembles that of a real person’s to news so huge like the end of the world, maybe perhaps Sutherland’s, but even that was underwhelming.

While I get it’s meant to be a beautiful, artistic depiction of the end of the world and on some level, a sense of realisation and acceptance that nothing else can be done, Melancholia was boring and uninspired. Lars von Trier rallied up more interest and questionable thoughts from me when he made those comments about Hitler in his press conference for Melancholia.

Star rating:   6.5/10

Directed by Lars von Trier.

Running time 136 minutes.

Ghost (1990)

“Why don’t you go haunt a house? Rattle some chains or something.”

Cast: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg

Ghost

Patrick Swayze stars as Sam Wheat. After a night at the theatre with girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore), a mugger shoots him dead on the streets of NYC. Though his spirit leaves his body, his love for Molly see him trapped between two worlds as a ghost. In his ghost form he watches over his grieving girlfriend, but also discovers that his case was no accident and he was actually part of a murder plot.

Sam finds being a ghost terribly frustrating as he can’t communicate with people, he just seems stuck on Earth unable to do anything. He decides to visit spiritual medium Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) to see if he can actually communicate with a ‘professional’. Just as he suspected she is a con artist, though surprising to both she can actually hear Sam criticise her job. After considering that she may be going crazy, Oda settles with the fact that this is something her family have been doing for generations, so she must have ‘the gift’. Having this new found ability, the film follows Sam as he tries to solve his murder case and communicate with his sceptical girlfriend.

Ghost is a great love story. It’s entertaining throughout and the twists of the murder case keep the audience’s interest in the film up. Again this is another predictable film, yet even with its clichés it still manages to pull at your heartstrings. Aside from the lovey-dovey stuff, Goldberg provides the many laughs of the film. Her ability to play the medium in such a funny style, like she does in most of her roles, makes it another great reason to watch.

Some people claim it’s the best love story of all time. While I wouldn’t go as far to label it that, I do agree it is up there with the best. It is a very romantic and heart-warming film about true love transcending the seemingly finite end that death brings. The chemistry between Swayze and Moore make it all that more conceivable, so I can see why it leaves this lasting impression on people.

Ghost was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi Goldberg.

Star rating: 6.5/10

Directed by Jerry Zucker.

Running time 127 minutes.

Paul (2011)

“We’re just a couple of regular guys, walking down the street, with a small cowboy.”

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seth Rogen

Paul

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up once again to give us Paul, a comical science fiction film about an alien trying to get back to his home planet.

When two British comic book geeks travel to America for Comic Con, they plan a road trip on the way back that will see them pass through all of the top UFO hotspots. Always curious and interested in extra-terrestrial life, Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are astonished when an alien named Paul appears and asks for refuge in their RV Campervan. They agree to take Paul where he wants, yet all the while being chased by the FBI who want to capture and kill him.

Obviously with Pegg and Frost in a film together it’s a definite recipe for comedy, though I don’t think Paul is their best. Their earlier films – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – were brilliant, so my expectations for Paul were quite high. I didn’t find myself laughing as much as I did with the others though and when it ended I was a bit disappointed with the overall result. It was still full of humour, but more of a crude type that I didn’t really enjoy. With clever references to other sci-fi flicks spread throughout the film, it will definitely please the more genre specific people in audience who love anything to do with aliens and out-of-this-world subject matter, or just appreciate the genre as a whole.

The CGI was fantastic. Paul looked so real and it was consistently believable, just as if he was another actor on set; having Seth Rogan do his voice over was a brilliant choice too. We also see notorious Alien actor Sigourney Weaver take the role as the agent leading the operation to catch Paul, although she isn’t revealed in person until the end. It’s a nice little surprise for all die hard sci-fi fans though her performance, albeit clever and self-referential, wasn’t all that memorable.

Whereas with the previous films that Pegg and Frost have fronted Edgar Wright had directed, Paul saw them step more into Hollywood with Greg Mottola as the man with the plan (he had previously worked on Superbad and Adventureland). The film moves at quite a slow pace and not much happens with the plot line, it’s a constant back and forth between the Campervan and FBI with not much action in between. This is where it differed again with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Sometimes it lost my attention and I think the film could have done with a bit more going on with the plot.

Overall Paul is a good, comedic, science fiction film. With many references to both well known and underrated science fiction films, it will sit well with audiences that watch due to its genre. While it isn’t as good as other Pegg-Frost collaborations, Paul has great CGI and humour that still deserve a watch – if you like that type of thing.

Star rating:  6.5/10

Directed by Greg Mottola.

Running time 104 minutes.

No Strings Attached (2011)

“You know, I don’t want to freak you out, but I’d love to hang out with you in the daytime sometime.”

Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Kline

No Strings Attached

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star in a film, quite frankly, about sex without commitment. However they soon begin to realise that they start to feel something more for one another, which was strictly against the rules when they first came to this ‘friends with benefits’ agreement.

When this physical connection becomes something deeper, they don’t really know how to act on these emotions and your typical Hollywood romantic comedy unfolds. What’s that? Oh you predicted it? Yeah, me too.

No Strings Attached is a predictable film, but that doesn’t make it any less of a funny, light hearted romance that really draws you in. While some may slate the premise as weak and without real substance, you can’t deny that you had no idea that this is what the film was really about. Trailers, interviews and the synopsis gave all of this away, there was no hiding or deception involved in the film’s promotion and you really get what you expect from this film.

While some may think Portman has lowered her standards to be in such a flimsy film compared to her last performance in Black Swan, give the girl a break! It can’t all be heavy drama, and it was actually nice to see her have some fun with her role. The chemistry between her and Kutcher is great; you can really see that they had a blast filming this. Their connection is so conceivable and they each play their parts well – even if there are some monotonous performances mixed in with theirs.

No Strings Attached is honestly what it says on the tin. Watch it to escape from the world, as a fun chick flick or to just chill out with. We can’t always watch the heavy stuff and it’s films like this that give us a break.

Star rating:  6/10

Directed by Ivan Reitman.

Running time 110 minutes.