Month: June 2015

Dr. No – Review #33

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I have no idea what’s happening to me. After a peculiar episode of a peculiar show, I am finding myself in a spy craze.So, to ease my sudden craving, I decided to go back and watch a film from an era when Sean Connery still had hair and Daniel Craig was just a gleam in his mother’s eye.

Dr. NoDr. No, directed by Terence Young, tells the story of James Bond, a secret agent working for the MI6. One night, as he is playing poker, he is called upon by his superiors. An SIS station chief has been killed in Jamaica, and he is sent to find out what happened. What follows is a tale of beautiful babes and tactical espionage that started the Bond obsession that continues to this day.

James Bond. Men want to be him, woman want to be with him. He seduces females like a normal person eats dinner and he can kick all sorts of ass. Of course, our image of this testosterone-in-a-body did not just appear in our minds. It had to had originated from someone, and who else is better fit than Sean ‘Sexiest Man of  the Century’ Connery? He is everything you would expect from James Bond. He’s suave, charming, witty, and any other synonym from ‘handsome’. However, as this was the first film, he doesn’t quite yet hold his scenes like he will in later pictures. Sometimes you can sense that he doesn’t feel quite sure about what he says. Not a bad performance by any means, just not a flawless one.

The rest of the cast ranges from pretty good to below average. The Bond girl, Honey Ryder, is a beauty for the eye to look at, and somewhat set the standards for future buxom babes in the films, both in physique and weird name. The villain,  the titular Dr. No., is also a joy to watch, although he’s not the most memorable one. The worst has to go to John Kitzmiller though, as his constant shouting of the word ‘Captain!’ and stereotypical portrayal of a Jamaican goes from amusing to annoying rather quickly.

You know, as I was watching this movie, there was a thought that kept lingering in my mind.

‘This doesn’t feel like a James Bond movie.’

After re-analyzing the film, I understood why I thought that. This movie doesn’t have the ‘Bond’ feeling, because this was the film that would start it. The nifty gadgets and doo-dahs that he would have had are not present. The jazzy openings, with blaring trumpets and violins, is not present, instead we’re greeted with a calypso song, ‘Three Blind Mice’. With the music that we’ve associated Bond with, hearing this instead of something like ‘Goldfinger’ by Shirley Bassey threw me for a bit of a loop, especially so since it followed the iconic James Bond Theme. I cannot compare the attitude of Bond in this movie and in the later Connery-less sequels, because frankly, I have no watched any of them, minus Skyfall, but Bond is a more realistic and grounded character here. This movie was trying to show Bond as an actual agent, rather than the luckiest man alive that I’ve heard he becomes.

In conclusion, Dr. No may not be the slickest of Bond films, but by itself, it’s an entertaining watch. I recommend it to anyone interested on how James Bond started, but Goldfinger is the film to go to if you want to see Connery truly capture the role of 007.


The Fall – Review #32

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This movie accomplished its mission in making sweet, sweet love to my corneas.

fall_ver2The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh, tells the story of a young girl named Alexandria, whose in a hospital for an arm injury. There, she meets a stunt-man named Roy, whose in the hospital for messing up a stunt. What follows is a tale told by two people of adventure, love, and deception.

Shot in 24 countries for 4 years, this film made it priority number 1 to please the eye, and it did so with flying colors. Showcasing the beauty of Earth’s natural and man-made wonders, the film is a visual masterpiece. Deep and bright contrasts, vibrant usage of both synthetic and natural coloring, The Fall is what I define as an ‘art film’.

The rest of the movie though, could’ve fared better. The plot is actually much darker than one would expect, involving manipulation of children and suicide. I have to say, considering that this movie was shown as this gorgeous epic that must be seen in the highest resolution, it was annoying when you are grounded back to reality and the more realistic backgrounds and color.

If there was one part of the movie that I objectively didn’t like, it would be Alexandria. I realize that critics criticize child actors with a lot more forgiveness, as they are new to the ‘game’. I completely understand that and have no problem with it. However, with much forgiveness comes more errors, and in my opinion Catinca Untaru was an error, if not just a tiny misfire. Yes, she is very young in this film, and the amount of acting she does is really impressive, but the way she talked and her occasionally just breaking the intrigue of the story just did not work for me. I’m not saying she’s a bad actor-she’s not, but when I want to see a visual stunner of a movie, I don’t like it when I’m transported back to the real world by a young girl.

With an ending that briefly shows Tarsem’s love for movies and the visual spectacular that it is, The Fall is something that I would watch again gladly. I wholeheartedly command to watch this movie in the highest fidelity possible, and truly absorb the colors and brilliant directing. You just have to sit through a bit of drama to get there.

The Untouchables – Review #31

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Good lord this movie is so dramatic, but in a supremely awesome way.

untouchablesThe Untouchables, directed by Scarface director Brian De Palma, is based on the group of the same name way back in the days of Prohibition. The group, led by Elliot Ness, was famed for taking down one of the biggest gangsters ever lived, Al Capone. The story of the film is basically the same, just with some very noticeable differences that’ll only a history teacher will know.

Now, De Palma is known for being…what’s the word…flashy. No no, exhilarating. There we go, that’s it. Exhilarating, and boy does this film up the ante from Scarface. Not hating on Scarface, I love that film, but after seeing both, I have to say that this is the better of the two. The action is exciting, the characters have very good chemistry, and the soundtrack by Ernio Morricone is excellent. And, while Scarface have the heavy hitter that was Al Pacino, this film had the one-two punch of Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. More on them later.

De Palma was able to suck me into the time period. It’s obvious from the get-go that no expense was wasted on the production design. You see old-timey cars in the background, they actually shot most of the movie in Chicago instead of sets, and there was even a small scene with time-suitable racism, for a good cause.

The action was spectacular and visually stunning, as is with most De Palma films. Slow-mo is not used in my memory of the film, except for one particular downright amazing scene, and the gun barrels explode so much fire you would think it would explode. But no, they do not explode, and I’m happy for that.

The acting is pretty decent, for the most part. Kevin Costner’s usual ‘I-don’t-give-a-damn’ face is not as abundant in this movie as it was in…oh, I don’t know, Waterworld? The supporting cast was good too, but sadly, the two characters I actually found quite annoying are arguably the two most well known: Robert De Niro and Sean Connery.

What was up with Sean Connery’s accent? He’s Scottish in real life, and he was trying to be Irish, but with a mix of Chicago? If that was his take, he failed miserably. His accent just sounds like a jumbled up mess of American. I love Sean, but this did not work out in favour for him.

On De Niro, it’s not his accent that’s off for me, it’s his face and build. Al Capone was a stocky man, and De Niro just did not look the part. He’s quite lean, as proven in Goodfellas, and him trying to be Capone just made me emit an ‘ehh’.

All in all, this movie is very enjoyable, even if with the weird accents. It’s explosive in all the rights places, has a very good score and it can even be a history lesson. Just don’t think this movie is by the book accurate. After all, I don’t think a pram rolling down steps is very notable in the history of Prohibition. In the movie, however, well, that is for you to discover.

Reign of Fire – Review #30

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My only disappointment with the male dragon was that he wasn’t voiced by Sean Connery.

reign_of_fireReign of Fire, directed by Rob Bowman, starts off in, of course, the most notable place that has been entangled with dragon culture: Modern London. A young boy named Quinn goes into the London Underground to visit his mother, when suddenly all hell breaks loose. A f**king dragon appears and wrecks s**t up, all the while being the bad-ass it is. For 20 years, the dragons ruled and Quinn hid, all the while creating a small community, which has in turn created their own prayers and Star Wars rip-off. Of course, this all changes when one day, the giant eagle of patriotism and the only worse than a dragon, the Americans, come. They have a plan to bring down the male leader, and at least try to finish off the dragons once and for all.

One thing that the viewer will notice immediately is that how seriously this movie takes itself. Everything shot after the initial attack is in dark contrasts, and everyone’s performance-save for someone I’ll mention later-is dramatic and non-joking, except for Gerald Butler’s character, but that’s beside the point. The dramatic story this movie tries to make just feels out of place, because, well, it’s about freaking DRAGONS in modern times! I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but that needs some serious talent, and I’m sad to say that it doesn’t hit those notes. I don’t feel for any other characters besides Christian Bale and Gerald Butler’s. They’re under-introduced and quickly shoved aside to focus on Quinn and the Americans.

Oh yeah, speaking of the Americans, good lord does this movie bash the American South. And here’s where Matthew McConaughey comes in. He plays a U.S. marine. And boy does he spell U.S. with capitals. He plays the stereotypical “‘Murica! F**k yeah!” Southern, complete with beard and accent. This again, clashes with the overall tone this movie wants to set; a realistic portrayal of what would happen if dragons decided to mess us up.

One of the, if not THE most important part of a dragon movie is the portrayal of the dragons themselves. And I have to say, the dragons here are brutal. The CGI is mediocre at worst, and spectacular at best. I love the fact that the director decided to use practical effects instead of CGI for the dragon corpses. That adds to the realism that this movie tries to show, and you see Christian Bale interacting with it, piling to that sense of realness. The CGI only really shows in flying close-ups and the fire breath, but you will probably be so engrossed by the amazing scenes with said dragon that you won’t mind it.

This is a stupid movie, no doubt about that. The story is filled with plot holes, and McConaughey plays his role like he’s in a sit-com, but if you just suspend your disbelief, and watch this movie just for the bad-ass dragons, then you will be pleasantly amused.

Jurassic World – Review #29

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I like to imagine that this is the reaction most people have when watching this movie.

jurassic_world_ver2_xlg-720x1067Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow, is the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park series of films. The film’s time mirrors our time, as it is set 20 years after the events of the first movie, with the first movie being over 20 years old. The park has been re-branded and has officially opened, which in turn has caused the fascination with dinosaurs to decrease. How the hell do dinosaurs get boring, I do not know. To combat this, the park’s research team have decided to dabble in genetic engineering to create more fierce-some dinosaurs. Meanwhile, two children, Zach and Gray, take a trip to the park to meet their aunt Claire, who helps run the park. When one of the genetic experiments go loose, the two must find a way to re-unite with their aunt, all the while carnage 65-million years in the making ensue.

I’m sure that some of you, if not most of you watched the original Jurassic Park at a young age, before childhood innocence was destroyed by the real world. I am not one of you. I never got the chance to watch the film as a kid, and the first time I watched it was some time last year. With that being said, I still really enjoy the first movie, both for it’s story-telling and special effects, but I lack the nostalgia factor that some people have. Now, does that mean the film is bad? Heck no, it was awesome!

The moment that John William’s theme song hits, you know that you are in for a ride. From what I’ve heard, Trevorrow is a big fan of the original film, and he shows that love in this movie. There are various callbacks to the first film which I dare not spoil, and the acknowledgement to what happened in it. Some of the more famous shots from the first movie are mirrored and/or referenced, with the new technology added in. I am sure that this will bring tears of joy to anyone who have fond memories of the first film. I will freely admit, when the movie panned towards and through the opening gates, and I saw what the park has become, I felt my eyes begin to water. It that can happen to a person whom only watched the film last year, think how it would affect the guys who grew up with the original. They’re gonna have a blast.

There’s no need in comparing the special effects between the first movie and this one. It’s been done to death. So instead, let us see how the effects hold up to today’s standards. Overall, it is really good. The dinosaurs are given top CGI care, and Colin lets us bask in all of its reptilian glory. Feathers be damned. The rest of the CGI and practical usage of props are also very well handled. So, if you’re worried that the dinosaurs will look unconvincing, you can rest assured that they spared no expense.

See what I did there? Heh, I humor myself.

Anyway, for a PG-13 movie, it certainly has a substantial amount of bloodshed. I wonder how they were able to sneak that pass the board. I’m glad they did, though. It increases the already terrifying image of the new dino. Speaking of our beloved evolutionary ancestors, Colin knew what we wanted and gave us what we wanted, and what we wanted was the second coming of the T-rex! After our mighty overlord, or as I like to call him, Jurassic Mrs T., was shamefully defeated in Jurassic Park III, she returns in splendid fashion, even if it was only at the climax. She oozes awesome, and we are there to suck it all up.

Too bad the human characters had to spit in it first.

As I’ve said, no need for comparisons, but the characters are just plain boring. Chris Pratt plays the Raptor Whisperer, and he has no memorable qualities what-so-ever. Same goes for the rest of the cast. Sure, there’s a funny moment here and there, but usually they are just bland slabs of white. Vincent D’Onofrio and the celebrity cameos were just cringe-worthy. Not Chris Pratt’s best, really. At least the kids are okay.

Is Jurassic World better than Jurassic Park? That is for you to decide. Personally, I think Jurassic Park is the better family movie, while Jurassic World is the better action movie. It starts out slow, as our human characters have to be set up, but when the action starts, and the dinosaurs begin to feast, you are in for one hell of an amusement park. It’s like Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs. We are Harry,and we venture into Dino World once more to experience a new adventure.

I can’t be the only one that knows Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs, right? You all watched that cartoon, didn’t you?

Ex Machina – Review #28

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If only Nathan knew what the Three Laws of Robotics are.

Ex MachinaEx Machina, directed by Alex Garland, tells the story of Caleb, a programmer for Bluebook, the world’s biggest search engine. He wins a prize to visit Bluebook’s reclusive boss, Nathan. Nathan reveals to him that he has made a working AI, and asks him to be the human part of the Turing Test. What follows is a truly mesmerizing tale of trust, lies and maybe even love.

The movie is beautiful, plain and simple. Newcomer Alex Garland has the cinematic eye. The lighting, camera movement, editing, scenery and more gives it just the right amount of a mysterious vibe to the film. Speaking of the scenery, the mostly dull colours of Nathan’s house and the vibrant outdoors gives a brilliant contrast of technology and nature.

The acting in this movie is brilliant. Domhnall Gleeson, probably best known for Frank, a movie that I can’t say I liked, shows me his acting chops that I knew he had. Oscar Isaac is Nathan, who’s an eccentric genius. He created the AI, so of course he’ll be a bit weird. He’s ableto give the feeling of ‘I can screw you over if I need to but for now I’ll just treat you nicely’, which is perfect for his character. But, the best performance has to go to Alicia Vikander as Ava, the AI. She…I don’t even know how to describe it. Just calling it ‘great’ won’t cut it. It’s just pure brilliance.

Speaking of things that are brilliant, the CGI, or, to be more precise, the quality of it, is amazing. Even in the posters for this movie the CGI for Ava is seamless. If not for the fact that our technology isn’t this advanced yet, I would genuinely believe that she was real. The movie had me staring at her in awe.

In conclusion, Ex Machina is bleak yet still absorbing. It will take hold of your attention, grip it with an iron fist, and won’t let go. It may not appeal to those who prefer quicker-moving films, but for the people who like slow-burners, I heartily recommend it.

Fitzcarraldo – Review #27

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Klaus Kinski, or as I like to call him, the German Steve Buscemi.

FitzcarraldoFitzcarraldo, directed by Werner Herzog-no, I did not make that name up-tells the story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, better known as ‘Fitzcarraldo’. He loves the opera, and plans to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. Sadly, his recent bankruptcy prevents him from doing so, and to raise money he will need rubber, as it is the most profitable industry in Peru. The last unclaimed land with rubber trees is however blocked by rapids, and so Fitzcarraldo concocts a plan so absurd that it’s downright brilliant.

This is my first Werner Herzog film, and I realized that he has a distinct style. His frequent use of hand-held cameras and close-ups has decided me to call it ‘documentary-esq’. I quite liked it, how it made you feel as though you were actually with Fitzcarraldo and crew, looking in awe as the main climax of the movie happens.

Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog’s destructive but effective friendship off screen is well known in the film world, and I was quite surprised on how it turned out so well. Klaus Kinski plays his role spectacularly as this driven man who will do anything to get what he wants. He’s so good that he completely overshadows the rest of the cast. Actor-director confrontations usually causes a film to spiral down in quality, but Kinski’s ability to act and Herzog’s directing save it. Also, if staring could kill, Kinski would be a serial killer,

Besides the Kinski-Herzog matters, the film is also known for it’s production. The arguable main climax of this movie is of course the natives pulling the steamboat over a hill. Herzog and crew, instead of using miniatures or such other special effects, actually pull a steamboat over a hill. The effect that it had to me was astounding. Again, with his documentary-esq directing, it makes you believe that you are actually there, watching a freaking 10,000 ton ship being hauled across a hill. Nobody has done it before, and to my knowledge, nobody has done it since. Werner Herzog could’ve used scale models, but no, he loves the audience, and gives them what they want. He truly is, in his own words, ‘Conquistador of the Useless’.

I must also praise the cinematographer,Thomas Mauch. The places where he had to shoot, well, I’m surprised he didn’t say no to Herzog. ‘What, you want me to shoot in a boat that crashes into a cliff? No problem.’ That takes some serious courage, and I thank Mr. Mauch for having that courage.

With all the praise I’ve been giving this film, the flaws seen to be non-existent. And besides feeling that the last few minutes felt a bit dragging, there really are no flaws that I can find. Herzog truly is a master at his craft.

In conclusion, Fitzcarraldo is a combination of adventure, natives, boat-moving and a crazy German guy. If that sounds even remotely interesting to you, watch it.