THIS WEEK IN nEoFILM ~ 5/12/2014

December 5, 2014

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013) (3D) – 7/10

star_trek_into_darkness_ver21Thanks to J.J. Abrams, Star Trek has now been about a dumbed down as possible, managing to turn its most nerdiest charm into blockbuster currency. I’ll give him credit for that but he has approached the franchise with nothing but contempt, boiled it down to its base elements and managed to create something which is great fun but only a shallow representation of the classic series. Visually stunning though and the editing is some of the best in the business.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) (3D) – 9/10

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_ver6_xlgBeautiful and the polar opposite of the above. Also taken from 1960’s Sci Fi, They have managed to take the Planet Of the Apes franchise to new heights, with a downbeat story told with maturity. The acting is phenomenal across the bored, Understated and yet thoroughly convincing. The VFX are groundbreaking and redefine the term “photo-realistic”. My only problem is that the story is too simple and doesn’t keep up with acting or visuals. No surprises or twists. This film relied on its aesthetic and it does so with confidence but I wonder what this could have been with a more complex story. It is almost a masterpiece… but is that component short for me

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THE MONUMENTS MEN (2013) – 5/10

monuments_men_ver2_xlgInteresting premise based on the true story of a group of art experts who volunteered to go to the front-line in World War 2 in order to protect the art work stolen by Hitler throughout the war. But the tone is confused. It is not quite Saving Private Ryan (1998), it is not Inglorious Basterds (2009) and I get the distinct impression that they’re going for a Hogan’s Heroes vibe, but no. This is a sombre version of what Ocean’s 14 could have been. Not particularly engaging either. A real shame.

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ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (2013) – 7/10

anchorman_two_ver2_xlgHaving only discovered Anchorman a couple of years ago, my exceptions where lower than many of the those who had been waiting for a decade for this sequel. So, I liked it. It’s barmy, fun and still manages to offer a modicum of insight into the world 24 hour rolling news. It is crazy and nothing more substantial that series of loosely associated, yet well orchestrated gags. We’ll judged and great fun.

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-…And finally

I, FRANKENSTEIN (2013) – 2/10

i_frankenstein_ver4_xlgRubbish. Pure and simple. Little to say besides how ludicrous it is. What is was about I don’t know as I didn’t really care either.

 


THIS WEEK IN nEoFILM ~ 28/11/2014

November 30, 2014

JOBS (2013) – 6/10

jobs_xlgAston Kutcher takes on the mantle of the late Steve Jobs in a biopic, which whilst one hand is generic and predictable, it also has some artistic flare which can be overshadowed by the former. It is a well made film but only goes a far as to offer a linear and straight forward look at the life of the entrepeneur. It does attempt to cast him in a realistic light, as a man as flawed as he was inspired but it all seems to be a little too forgiving and beats us over the head with the notion that his genius was worth the sacrifice of so many others. Maybe it was, but this was a concept which was not explored enough to justify the thesis.

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HANCOCK (2008) (THEATRICAL VERSION) – 8/10

hancock_xlgA fresh take on the super (anti)hero as Hancock (Will Smith) must face up to his responsibilities as a superhero rather than bumming around, destroying the city every time he tries to help. This movie holds up better as the years role on. Not competing with any other franchise in the genre, this simply offers a fresh take and works as a stand alone film as others such as Unbreakable (2002) and Watchman (2009) have.

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THE GREEN HORNET (3D) (2012) – 6/10

green_hornet_ver2_xlgPanned at the time of release and I can see why. But whether it was simply that my exceptions were so low or this is a good romp, I don’t know, but it was amusing if not funny and was more entertaining that I expected. It has the feel of Kick-Ass (2010) but without the deeper social commentary. It is in absolutely NO danger of challenging the big hitters or offering anything new.

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JURASSIC WORLD TEASER TRAILER (2015) – 6/10

jurassic_world_ver2_xlgReleased a day earlier than expected, the long-awaited Jurassic World teaser has finally arrived. The VFX left a little to be desired and even though I love the franchise, the first being a masterpiece in my opinion, I’m not getting the greatest feeling about this. The feel of the park is too Disney World for my liking but I suppose that is correct but my main issue is with the casting Chris Pratt, who has made his name this year with Emmett from The Lego Movie and Peter Quill in Guardians Of The Galaxy and Bryce Dallas Howard, who I personally can’t stand, seemingly spending the film running from a yet unseen genetically modified super dino. I feel that the point of the original has long…

and finally…

STAR WARS: EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS TEASER TRAILER (2015) – 8/10

Star-Wars-7-The-Force-Awakens-Official-Millenium-Falcon-Photo-IMAXFriday saw the most anticipated trailer in almost ten years. Sparse, simple and filled with key and tantalising imagery, not least the Millenium Falcon, Tie Fighters, X-Wings and the new bad-ass Sith light sabre, I liked it. But there is still no real idea as to plot and my faith in J.J. Abrams in minimal thanks to his patronising efforts with Star Trek. His trailer for the 2009 reboot was great but nothing like the film in tone so I just hope that this trailer is more reflective of the film’s final cut. If so, this could be the Star Wars movie that we’ve been waiting for since 1983!


INTERSTELLAR

November 12, 2014

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CANDLES 7

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

May Contain Spoilers!

CINEMA REVIEW

Will we be adding this to our collection? YES

The long awaited Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar arrived with bang, not a whimper, on the November 7th. Clearly wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Contact (1996) and an array of 70’s Sci-Fi flicks. Moon (2009), which is in itself an homage to 70’s Sci-Fi also looms large over this epic.

Set in the near future, the world has been ravaged by a “Blight” which is systematically destroying the world’s food supplies. Corn is the last grow and Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, is one of those farmers still able to produce it. But through a series of strange events, “Signs” as it were, M. Night Shymanan’s Signs (2002) clearly another inspiration, Cooper finds himself piloting a mission to explore new words through a wormhole just off Saturn, with an aim to relocate humanity on a new world.

Firstly, I jumped at the chance to see this in IMAX, 2D, which was a nice change and not something I do often. In fact, I have a limited experience of IMAX and to be honest, I’m not really impressed having never left a screening particularly happy. Yes the large screen and the candle extinguishing sound is good but not spectacular, not when a background bass rumble was so distorted that I struggled to hear or understand the dialogue.

interstellar.black_.hole_ But the visuals were stunning, and evocative of the genre at its most elegant, basically pre-Star Wars era, in which due to technical limitations, made space travel graceful and space feel vast and empty. No air equals no sound but this real life detail only works with certain movies, but this 2001 inspired epic is one of them. Alot of the photography is fixed cameras on the hull of the space craft to give a sudo-documentary feel, clearly evocative of IMAX docs themseleves but with the added drama and Hans Zimmers Straussian score, this is a bold and ambitious take on the space opera.

But space is only half of the movie and in many ways, disposable in favour of its core plotting. This is about the love between a father and daughter across the vast distorting and perverted span of interstellar time, effected by worm and black-holes alike.

So this needs to be a tight story… and it is far from it.

Baggy is word and this is where Interstellar’s problems lie. Basically, Copper seeming chooses to leave his 10 year old daughter and 15 year son in order to pilot a mission to save the world. But it also clear that he is doing it because he WANTS to. He is only a farmer by fate, not by choice, with his real passions being engineering and flying in world which needs little of either.

interstellar_aSo in real terms, Cooper is fed up with his lot in life and abandons his to motherless children to pursue a life which he would prefer.

Deadbeat dad anyone?

Is this civic responsibility of parental irresponsibility? Are we supposed to get behind this man? Well, here comes the argument that will no doubt upset a few readers, but in my mind, there was more logic and empathy to get behind in Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998) in which we are expected to believe that it is easier to send untrained oil drillers in to space than train astronauts to dill a hole!

At lease when Bruce Willis and his crew risk and sacrifice their lives for mankind, there was some, if not troubled logic justifying their dissensions beyond simply wanting to go. But here, we are expected to believe that Cooper was needed to pilot the mission which was already manned and pretty set to go but had no pilot? What?

And this is the issue. The film is built around several elements and the plot details were clearly contrived later. Taking a realistic look at worm-holes and black-hole theory was clearly one of them, attempting to remake 2001 was clearlly another. Trying to make time tangible and bring the unquantifiable emotion of love into quantum physics was another.

But the plot contrivances to bring these element together were clumsy at best, with a baggy story and reasonable characters but nothing spectacular beside the visuals and some of the scope. But time has always been a key factor in Nolan’s work, namely his debut film, Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006) and more recently, Inception (2010).

But if you took out all the references to space travel, you would have had a nice, neat little indie flick about time and the fractured relationship between an abandoned daughter and her regretful father. And that’s the point. It’s quite episodic and fails to bring these elements together tightly enough for my liking.

But the ambition is laudable, as Nolan continues to redefine the blockbuster with every film, bringing mind-bending Sci-Fi to the masses and successfully dramatising some pretty complex ideas in very palatable way.


ZULU

November 11, 2014

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DIRECTOR: Cy Endfield

May Contain Spoilers!

Zulu: One of the greatest war films of all time. Period:

Following the true story, with reasonable accuracy, of a small contingent of British soldiers based at a Swedish mission in the heart of Zulu territory during 1879, Zulu one of the purest demonstrations of British grace under fire that there ever was. With the entire British column decimated, a plot dealt with in this film’s prequel, Zulu Dawn (1979) it is left to this group of mis-match troops, many of which were hospitalised, to defend not only the last British outpost, but their own lives from the onslaught of the 4,000 strong Zulu army marching against them.

There is the build up, the preparations and then they arrive. But after the first hour of build up, their arrival has been much-anticipated and they certainly live up their hype. What follows is a methodical display of both Zulu and British tactics, with a much grater force being repelled and repelled by a minuet one at that. It’s hard to image a war film which doesn’t do this now, but it is thanks to Zulu that we have films in which the true professional nature of soldering is well represented, where films take their time to establish the details of the events and to create a neat and subtle arch in which characters and the historical events can be mashed together to become something more theatrical. Nothing seems to be forced here, everything seems to fit into place, not least the respect for both sides.

This is summed up in the closing act in which the Zulu’s accept defeat and withdraw but not before honouring their counterpart’s bravery. The Zulu’s never come across as the bad guys yet we are clearly on side with the British, which is the result of skillful screenwriting and direction, let alone John Barry’s underrated score, which I would count as one of his very best.

Africa is the star of this too, but this can be said of any film set there at that time, as the Travelogue was big at the time and Africa was the place to go, virtually at least, but all the pieces fit together to create a flawless film and a timeless classic, let alone a war movie to which ALL other war movies need to be judged. The Zulu model has been well used since with nods as far into deep space as Starship Troopers (1997) and closer to home with my favourite war film, Black Hawk Down (2001). I’m sure that there is no doubt that Ridley Scott had seen Zulu once or twice in his life before making his also, underrated masterpiece…

An unreserved classic.


OBLIVION

July 23, 2014

oblivion_xlg2013

DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski

NOT A PART OF OUR COLLECTION

May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? YES

Decades after the world has been invaded and those invaders have supposedly been driven off but at the cost of the planet itself, Tom Cruise and his partner/lover, Andrea Riseborough, are the last humans on the planet, maintaining a series of vast machines which are draining the oceans in order to convert the water into a power.

This power will then be sent to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon which is now the home of humanity. But things may not as they first appear but that’s hardly a surprise.

Underrated: Was my first thought whilst watching this movie, which let’s face it, was hardly heralded as huge success at the time of its release. Granted, it is not perfect, its pacing is off, it feels derivative, most notably from the superior Moon (2009), but that said, this was an entertaining, old school Sci-Fi thriller, with a palpable threat, interesting characterisations and highly defined style.

Kosinski’s other notable project was the long-awaited sequel to the classic and ground breaking CGI adventure Tron (1982), Tron Legacy (2010), another underrated piece of highly stylised cinema, though like this, the story was thin and the substance was left wanting but there’s a lot to work with and a lot to enjoy. But the biggest issue it that Oblivion is so reminiscent of so many better Science Fiction films, such as Moon (2010), Solaris (2003), Planet Of The Apes (1968) and even Independence Day (1996) if the finale has anything to do with it, then your mind is wandering to other things, but that is shame as Oblivion has plenty to offer in own right.

Recommended for fans of real Sci-Fi but this is not the blockbuster that many would hope for and when it does descend into those tropes, such a high-speed air chase, the film actually falls into its weakest moments, which, to me, says a lot for the narrative. Back handed though that compliment may be.




GRAVITY (3D)

July 14, 2014

gravity_xlg2013

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón

May Contain Spoilers!

Nominated for the Best Picture gong at this year’s Oscars, but winner of Best Director, Gravity was a breath of fresh air, though be it in the vacuum of space, as for the Academy’s vision. Short and simple in both premise and execution, this is also one of the most stunning visual feasts that many of us will ever see.

With photo realistic CGI and 3D effects, which would even challenge the likes of Avatar, the 90 minute plot follows the plight of astronauts, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as they find themselves adrift in orbit of Earth after their routine shuttle mission is devastated by a catastrophic debris shower, caused by a chain reaction of satellites crashing into one another.

The visual style is what makes this movie, that and the growing tension as we wait for the next shower to strike. But whilst this film works on that level, its script is pretty clichéd, and the conclusion in which a capsule lands safely back on Earth, reduces the impact of the realism, both scientific and visual, leaving us feeling like we’ve watched just another regular Sci-Fi thriller.

But if you can look past Clooney and Bullock’s passé characterisations and several plot conceits which do enable the plot to fulfil an arch of sorts, this is the most realistic look at 20th/21st century space travel since Apollo 13 (1995). A 3D treat though, that’s for sure.



TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (3D)

July 11, 2014

transformers_age_of_extinction_ver12_xlg2014

DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

May Contain Spoilers!

CINEMA REVIEW

Will we be adding this to our collection? YES

We thought it was all over with Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, as they destroyed Chicago, killed off most of the main characters and generally wrapped up the Trilogy, but here we are with what has been toted as a reboot. But it’s not, It’s a soft reboot in tone but the narrative carries on naturally, with a progression from the devastating events of the last three films.

The world is as post Chicago as we are post 9/11, with the Autobots being secretly hunted down a destroyed by an elite CIA unit, Cemetery Wind in a supposed effort to rid the world the Transformers threat. But in fact, this is really a ploy to build our own Transformers etc… But let’s face it, the plot is only here to serve as set up for action sequences and both serve each other perfectly.

The action is huge, exiting and varied, with a new transforming effect for the earth based Transformers and there are a stronger and better defined set of Transformer characters than we’ve had before, but why we have a Cockney and Samurai Transformer is beyond me. But from the start to protected finish, with run time clocking in at over 160 minutes, this is an adrenaline filled ride.

The action does not become boring, the human characters might not offer too much depth but enough to service the plot and the overall tone is different yet familiar. This is, in many ways, what I would have liked to have seen as the first sequel, instead of Revenge Of The Fallen, in tone at least, but as it stands, it takes its place along side an ever-growing franchise. Though having said that, it is my second favourite behind the first movie.

Many would criticise the film’s pandering to the Chinese market, with the Eastern power coming off as good whilst the Americans are the bad guys but it hardly matters in the long run, as the kids will lap up the action for years to come, the politics will become nothing less than a trivial footnote.

Yes, its ludicrous and leery but it is also incredible fun and looks fantastic. But it was difficult to understand quite how to be feel when we’re told that our heroine, a supposed 17-year-old girl is not to be looked at as sexy young woman and we’re all paedophiles for even looking at her, whilst Bay’s 3D camera leers at her throughout! Mixed messages Mr Bay?

But overall great fun, take it as such and you should have whale of a time. Take it more seriously on the other hand, and you’ll be in for a disappointment. It’s called Transformers to god’s sake!


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