Tag Archives: review

A deathly perspective.

So I started writing this particular review about two months ago when I actually went and saw the film but for whatever reason, (let’s call it “self imposed creative stuck-in-the-mud syndrome”) I didn’t publish it. It’s only a short one but here goes anyway.

I have a confession to make: I haven’t read the book. Usually I’m one of those people that will refuse to see the film adaptation of a book until I’ve finished reading it but I really couldn’t stop myself this time. I saw Brian Percival’s rendition of Australian novelist Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2014) about two weeks ago (now two months) and am still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about it. The film itself is, in my humble opinion, Oscar worthy for a hundred different reasons – the performances given by the actors were captivating, the cinematography was expertly executed and the costuming was superbly put together. Geoffrey Rush, as always, gave a performance that was nothing short of perfection and I wasn’t able to tear my eyes away from newcomer Sophie Nelisse, who plays the film’s protagonist Liesel. There was just something so innocent yet slightly haunting about the character as well as in the performance given by Nelisse.

Now not having read the book prior to seeing the film, I didn’t know much about the story aside from what I could glean from the trailers but I was totally engrossed. The entire film is narrated by Death and there’s just something so eloquent and interesting in what Death has to say. Like God, Death is omniscient and so has a greater perspective on death and indeed, on life. I think that the opening lines to the film really say it all. Death says “Here is a small fact: You are going to die.” Simple and to the point but alas, I’ve become distracted.

The Book Thief (2014) as a film has been brilliantly and expertly put together to create something that is both intensely emotional but also educational. Being one who hasn’t done a whole lot of study on a period of time that has so epically changed the modern world, I discovered a new side to Nazi-Germany and those who suffered through it. I have a new and deep respect for those German families who risked their lives to hide those who were being persecuted. I think that the film’s tagline “Courage beyond words” is supremely apt in the telling of this story so if you haven’t already, please go and see this film and read the book. You’ll be surprised by it.

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Another reason why vampire’s suck.

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So it’s been an age since I last published a post and seeing as I went to the movies last night, this review is as good as any to post. WARNING: There may or may not being some harsh and potentially foul language from here on in. Just saying.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!! Now I love a good vampire movie as much as the next girl (*sigh* Edward) but what I witnessed last night was possibly the most ridiculous, horrendous and atrocious perversion of the genre that I’ve ever come across. The film, Vampire Academy (2014), is based on a series of bestselling novels written by Richelle Mead and is what I can only begin to describe as an almost incoherent retelling of forbidden love, treachery, danger and blood-sucking teenagers. Sure the locale (a private “vampire” school called St. Vladimir’s Academy), characters (Rose, Lissa, Dimitri and Christian) and categories of vampire (dhamphir, moroi and strigoi), are all new but the film is just plain pathetic and if I were Richelle Mead, I’d be pissed. I haven’t even read the books but I can assume that they’re better written and put together than this entire film. The film’s director, Mark Waters, hacked, shredded and tore the throat out of an otherwise good narrative with a new take on teenage vampire stories. I mean sure, Waters tried but despite what I’m sure were good intentions, the whole thing is just a fucking mess.

I must admit, I didn’t have high hopes when going into the movie theatre but then Vampire Academy (2014) began and I thought “You know what, this might not be so bad.” I don’t think I’ve ever been so hugely, incredibly and massively wrong in my life. The film leaps, bounds and jumps from one genre to another without even flinching and without an ounce of subtlety or grace. One minute it’s a fast-paced action film with explosions and acrobatic, well-rehearsed fight scenes, the next a D grade attempt at witty one-liners and dry American romantic humour and just when you think that you’re brain is about to explode into a pink spray on the back of your chair, elements of a horror film encroach on your viewing “pleasure”. It’s like the director, producers, writers, actors and pretty much anyone else involved all had different ideas about the kind of film this should be and none of them achieved synergy. Not even a little bit. Seriously. I find it absolutely incomprehensible that at some point during the editing process Waters or one of his executive producers didn’t take a moment, look at what they’ve produced and say to themselves, “Let’s just take it back a notch and re-focus because this is a piece of shit.”

Now not all the blame should fall on Waters’ shoulders. He needs to own about 96% of the blame, 2% needs to go to the executive producers and the remaining 2% needs to be hoisted onto the shoulders of pretty much every actor and actress involved. Overall, the epitome of the cringe-worthy and tear-my-hair-out performances goes to the character of Dimitri, played by Danila Kozlovsky (a Russian-born hottie), simply because he’s a complete and utter creeper. There really is no better descriptor. I mean, the man-actor is a good enough looking guy under normal circumstances but for some unknown and bizarre reason, the film turns him into a short, Russian-30-something-year-old gymnast with creepy, sweaty mid-length hair that makes my stomach squirm and me want to hide under my bed and pray to god that he doesn’t find me. Sure he probably isn’t the worst Russian-fighter-mentor-protector-type guy, but man, he’s up there with the best of them. Mills and Boon writers would be so proud.

At this point, I’d also like to just give an honourable mention to Lucy Fry. She plays Lissa Dragomir, an obsessive-revengy-power hungry-princess-vampire-orphan, who, in the final moments of the film, gives an Oscar worthy performance and speech that triumphs over those who have pitted against her. I mean the attempt at crying alone was enough to make me want to gouge my own eyes out and eat them with a side of bacon. Would it have killed them to give her some water to splash on her face or something so she looks even a little bit credible? Jesus fucking christ.

All in all, I really don’t recommend that you see this film but I suppose that if you feel like you must, be warned – you will encounter weird, girlish laughing because with this film, all you can do is laugh. There really aren’t any words that can truly capture my personal horror. However much like in the conclusion of the film, I’ll leave you with this threat: If you think this one was bad, just wait… Vampire Academy 2 is coming to a movie theatre near you.

Eyes bright, chins up, smiles on. I’m talking to you, Katniss.

I think I’m obsessed with The Hunger Games. So obsessed that last night I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) for the third time and I’ll undoubtedly buy the DVD to watch it another hundred times. J-Law  and her insane archery skills just get me every time.

The film itself is a great adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ 2009 novel of the same title. It must be noted that while the director of the first film, Gary Ross, did a good job, Francis Lawrence (director of Catching Fire) surpassed his predecessor by leaps and bounds. I don’t know if it was because the material was better at capturing audiences or if Lawrence is just a better director but I enjoyed the second film vastly more than the first. It probably also helped that I knew more of the back story and had spent the last twelve months eagerly anticipating its release. Simply put, I freaking loved it! My sister made the comment after seeing the film for the first time last night that the whole thing made her feel stressed. Not stressed in so much that she didn’t thoroughly enjoy the film (she definitely did), stressed in that she can’t believe that one person, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), can be put through so much and still be kicking. I think that it’s a testament to both the character of Katniss Everdeen as well as the performance given by Jennifer Lawrence that this series has become so globally successful. I also think that it can be unanimously agreed upon that President Snow is an evil son of a bitch. Anyway back to the film.

As we saw in the first film, the costuming, make-up and sets were all above reproach and Catching Fire (2013) is no different. From the simply leather jacket and boots Katniss wears in District 12 to the lavish gowns she wears in the Capitol, each costume is perfectly matched to her character. The same can be said of the characters of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). The costume, make-up and set departments on this film definitely earned their paychecks. In combination with all of these other departments, the special effects and digital effects departments also did a great job of seamlessly blending the computer generated action with the live action. The poisonous fog and the tidal wave are only but two shining examples of that amazing work and I cannot wait to see what the future films have in store for audiences.

I also feel that I need to mention the performance given by Elizabeth Banks as Effie because in the scene when she’s handing out the gold tokens to Haymitch and Peeta before the games, she says how both Peeta and Katniss deserved so much better and no matter how many times I see this scene, I cry. It just makes me wish that the movies were real so I could go and give Effie a hug. Maybe one day I’ll get to meet Elizabeth Banks and I can be that weirdo fan who says “I just really loved that part in Catching Fire when… I cry every single time!”

Now this is usually the point where I express my less-than-satisfied opinion of one or two aspects of the film but I have to be honest, I loved this film that much that I have nothing negative to say about it. Every facet of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) was an absolute pleasure to witness and I’m waiting on bated breath for the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One in 2014.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Sorry, what’s that? You have a ticket. Oh ok, go on through.

Elves, dwarves, men and goblins not to mention a talking bloody dragon! Dear God yes! All of the mythical and mystical creatures that pique my imagination and sense of adventure are all rolled into the latest installment of Peter’s Jackson’s film franchise based on J.R.R Tolkien’s phenomenal novel The Hobbit (1937), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). Now I know that there’s been much debate as to Jackson’s decision to split the novel into three films but I really couldn’t care less. Yes the story is dragged out but seriously, why wouldn’t you do it this way? The shameless capitalisation of a canonical text for popular and sci-fi/fantasy culture is money well spent I think. You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t do the same thing given the opportunity? (If you say that you’d stay true to the text and only release one film, you’re deluded. Money people. And lots of it.) So in keeping with my 2014 New Years Resolutions, here’s my riveting review. Enjoy.

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided to treat myself to a film experience like none other. Well not really. It was the middle of the day and I was escaping the heat wave by sheltering in the air-conditioned cinema along with about half of Brisbane. It was just a happy coincidence that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) was on at the same time and I kind of knew what to expect having seen the first Hobbit film as well as all of The Lord of the Rings films. Alas, I’m getting off track.

The cinema lights darkened, the music began to play and then we were off into the wild and mysterious world of Middle Earth. Within the opening few minutes of the film, audiences find themselves transported back to Bree and The Prancing Pony twelve months prior to the beginning of Thorin’s quest to reclaim his homeland. For those who have read J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, you have an idea of what can be expected. What I didn’t expect to see was a 3 second spot of director Peter Jackson eating a carrot and then exiting the screen stage left. I must admit, it made me smile and I hope that others found the cameo a little amusing as well.

Now on to the film itself. As with every Peter Jackson film, the costuming and sets didn’t fail to impress in terms of their grandeur and intricacies as did the special effects. However, there were a few times where I didn’t think that the effects were up to par. For fear of spilling the beans for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet I won’t go into too much detail but I will say that some of the computer graphics felt a little dated. I don’t know if it was because of the kind of effect is was or the technician who created it but it really didn’t feel as seamless as previous effects. I think that digital special effects and computer graphics have now come to the point where it’s possible to blend them into the live action without blatantly pointing out “HEY! Look at me! I’m a computer generated action sequence!”. For the most part, the film’s computer graphic technicians did a great job of doing this but there were definitely a few instances where it looked more like a video game than a film.

I think that it must also be mentioned that despite my love for Orlando Bloom, Legolas looks like he’s aged a bit since The Lord of the Rings films. I know that the aging process is an inevitable part of life but this is the movies people! Surely something could have been done so that he doesn’t look older in the story that predates The Lord of the Rings.

In more positive news, the cast and performances were excellent not to mention the riveting fight scenes between the dwarves, elves and orcs! The unparalleled acrobatics of the elves alone was enough to get my blood pumping and make me want to immerse myself into the world of Middle Earth forever and always. The fight scene when the dwarves were escaping the clutches of King Thranduil as well as the advances of the orcs was, and I’ll say it again, excellent! Who knew that a barrel could work so effectively as armour?

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) was, in my opinion, pretty much everything I expected it to be and I cannot wait for the final installment The Hobbit: There and Back Again to be released at the end of 2014.

Do the hustle.

American Hustle (2013)

Last Friday night my friends and I made the spur of the moment decision to go and see David O. Russell’s new film American Hustle (2013). The all-star cast (featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) promised a riveting film following the “last con” for con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), a middle-ages overweight and blading man, and Sydney Prosser (Adams), a vivacious young woman with a taste for risky business ventures. The couple are forced to work for the FBI to avoid jail time and as such, are forced to work with the wild and unpredictable Richie DiMaso (Cooper) to bring down corrupt politicians (Renner’s character Mayor Carmine Polito) and ultimately, the mob. I don’t want to give the plot away so I won’t delve too much deeper into the story but as you can imagine, tense situations and vulgar language ensued with a barrage of predictable plot twists and a typical cameo of Robert De Niro as a the ever-allusive mob boss.

I have to admit when I first saw the trailer for this film on YouTube, I was pretty stoked and I couldn’t wait for the release date. I got the impression from the trailer that it would be a fast-paced action-drama film with an absolutely stellar cast and an interesting view of the world according to con artists. So I got my ticket and my popcorn, got comfortable in my chair and eagerly anticipated the start of the film. Two and a bit hours later, I emerged disappointed. While each actor gives a great performance and David O. Russell does a great job of directing, I thought that the overall pace of the film was too slow. I was more focused on how uncomfortable my seat was making me than the story. I felt like there was nothing new or exciting about the overall story line and I know that all films have to follow a certain narrative trend but I was neither shocked nor surprised by the events portrayed in the film. Now I’m a HUGE film lover and for me to sit through a film and be thinking “DEAR GOD when will this be over?! Is this the worlds longest movie?!” probably isn’t the ideal or intended response the director was looking for. It’s a rare thing for me to have this reaction to a film that I was really looking forward to seeing so I was rather taken aback when I departed the cinema with “Thank God that’s over!” running through my less-than-impressed brain. What is a 138 minute film could have been reduced, in my opinion, to 90 minutes and still get the point across while also encompassing all the directorial flourishes attributed to a O. Russell film. I was not what you would call a “happy chappy”.

Now that what I believe to be the cons (oh yeah, I did that) of the film have been identified, it’s time to look at what I believe to be the pros of American Hustle (2013).

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the performances given by each actor were great. They each explored and maintained their individual character types and allowed the audience to easily follow character development and progression throughout the film. The rare moments that did get a bit of a giggle out of me was when Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn Rosenfeld (married to Irving), had a bit of a melt-down and danced like a crazy person in her 1970’s living room in front of her young son and how she continuously seemed to be setting her home on fire. Particular attention must be also paid to the scene where she puts a metal take-out container in the “science microwave” and sets her kitchen alight. Classic. In addition to these things, the costume and set designs were excellent. Sure you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing anything either Sydney Prosser or Rosalyn Rosenfeld wore and Irving’s taupe is gross but without these elements, the film definitely wouldn’t feel like an authentic representation of the 1970s. So I applaud those clever people who got it right in the costume and set design departments.

The sheer size of the collated acting and directorial chops (Academy Awards nominees and winners, Golden Globe nominations and winners) was enough to get me, and no doubt thousands of others, through the cinema door, wanting to see American Hustle (2013) but upon re-entry into the real world, I was left deflated and disappointed. Judge for yourselves though.