Tuesday, 9 September 2014

"As above so below" review: a promising but ultimately disappointing horror movie

"As above so below" is yet another disappointing found footage movie with an interesting premise. While the film does being with some intriguing thoughts, towards the end it escalates into predictable and unexplaining territory without knowing how to close the thrill ride.
One of the most annoying characters in recent memory. The main heroine that makes the audience to wish her a nice slow agonising death
The plot: Well, here we have a good thing and a bad thing. The good one is that we get an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/The mummy vibe as a bunch of archaeologists and urban explorers descend upon the catacombs of Paris to find the philosopher's stone. Interesting idea for a creepy setting that has not seen the cinematic light that it deserves (besides the horror film "Catacombs" with Pink! in 2007). The bad thing is that the story goes nowhere remotely fascinating. There are glimpses of what could lurk in the catacombs (serial killers, ghosts, hell, other supernatural stuff) but nothing really gets explained fully or at least partially. Even with the power of (minor) suggestion the films fails to impress and the film resolves everything in the final act that lacks believability :P

The characters: ... are doing one stupid mistake after another since the plot requires it and when they meet their demise it is actually rewarding. They are pretty much stock characters with zero development or emphasis in their psychosynthesis so it is very difficult to give a damn. In particular, our heroine - a blunt copycat of Lara Croft in ANY WAY - is such an annoying spoilt brat that practically begs annihilation so we can proceed with our lives. Everyone else gets pretty much limited screentime with basic yelling and confusion summarizing the acting in a gloomy and dark environment.

The cast: Most of them have beautiful faces enough with the acting ability of a cuccumber. Add on that hilarious dialogue - "what we will find down there?"-"do I look like a tourist?" and you have a recipe for laughter.
One of the interesting ideas of the film here (abandon hope all ye who enter here) but never gets explored or mentioned ever again.
Catacombs: One of the few positive values of the movie is undeniably the setting. The catacombs of Paris (that contain the bones of 6 million people) are a terrific place to shoot a horror film. Ideal to create such thick tension in the hands of a competent director that you could cut it with a knife; there are bones everywhere and the darkness that covers miles and miles of underground passages with Christian rites assigned in the walls can scare the living shit out of you. If you take into consideration that the filmmakers were allowed to shoot in the off limits of this bony labyrinth...come on this is screaming for horror! Such a shame then to discover that not much of the real catacombs can be seen in the final product as when we descend more at the core of the place, we get to see (although well made) sets rather than the actual terrifying corridors.

Direction: As with any found footage horror movies, this relies on the typical cliches when the camera turns out and something jumps in front of you. Basically if you have seen one, you pretty much expect the scares here besides one well placed in the beginning. As I mentioned above at the hands of a competent director, this could have been one of the scariest films of all time. I personally would have loved to see if these are pieces of imagination or actual supernatural stuff or some elaborate prank and would utilize in maximum effect any sounds - like a distinct laughter or a hissing or the wind etc to put well placed terror in the hearts of cinema goers.

Set pieces: Does this contain any quality set pieces? Not really, just the actors and actresses going from one rocky place to another. The jump scares are scarce and between idiotic scenes of dialogue and anytime that something does occur, it is (obviously) so dark that you can barely see it which makes you wonder why go the found footage approach? Certain elements have been lifted straight up from the superior and far terrifying "The descent" so minus points for originality.

Summary: "As above so below" comes with a fantastic idea - combination of real time horror with archaeology but has no clue what to do with it. The characters are flat out unexisting, the story does not progress as much as you want to and given the terrific setting, this should have left me breathless and crying for my mommy. Instead I was looking forward to go home.

+ one well placed jump scare
+ fantastic and authentic setting
+ interesting idea
- awful characters
-  ... if they happen to have one
- story goes nowhere
- ideas are being thrown all the time with no effect
- lifting up scenes from "The descent"
- catacombs are severely underused


Friday, 5 September 2014

"Lucy" review: an over the top actioner/thinker?

"Lucy" the latest cinematic idea of Luc Besson includes all the director's trademarks - tough female leading character, action, violence, gun fights, doses of black humour, interesting ideas, style - and flaws - no substance, overblown third act, graphic villains.
A better than the usual performances of SJ.
The ideas: "Humans are more concerned with having that being". My new favourite quote and one of the themes that Lucy tries (and kinda succeeds) to explore. Rather than just being a typical action movie, it has surprisingly despite the rather generic and idiotic trailer, more thought that you might expected. The film deals with the complex scientific issues of evolution, brain development and the way technology affects our lives, the responsibility of vast knowledge and more. Certainly there are some clever flashback scenes regarding the human evolution - the discovery of fire - that aim to highlight the contrast in our every day technology infused life. Besson - always trying to have a meaning in his films, like it or hate it - at least attempts to make a comment regarding the mental evolution of humanity. The bad thing here is that it feels underdeveloped in certain parts as if he had reached a 2 hour movie, the audience might have been bored. 

The plot: Nothing new here besides the above mentioned concepts - action heroine has to evade police and baddies. And that's it really. The film starts feelings the ground falling apart in the third act where Lucy reaches 100% and it delivers some truly bizarre screensho

The cast: Scarlett Johansson gives an above than average performance in that film, with in particular, two stand out scenes (her fear for the gangsters was quite real as well her phonecall to her mother) showcasing more acting ability than usual. On the other hand, Choi Min Sik is wasted as the Korean gangster. An actor of this magnitude should have been used more and he does not have any particularly moment to shine in an one dimensional role. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman and that is not a bad thing.
Choi Sin Mik is an excellent choice as a gangster but tremedously underused. 
The action: There is not enough action here as the trailer suggests. The final act does get a bit action heavy but nothing is particularly memorable. It reminded a bit of Leon but there was a proper mayhem and a screaming Gary Oldman.

Visuals: The great surprise here are the visuals. "Lucy" is quite a visual movie the moment the whole transformation occurs and how different the world is being seen through Lucy's eyes. Besson have not displayed such a memorable visual style since the 90's. From connecting living dots, to de-molecularization and colourful voice threads in a vast city and x-ray vision, Luc here delivers the gods.

So what is "Lucy"? While it does have interesting ideas and themes, a further 20 minutes of a film would have definitely made it better. While by no means horrible or average, it feels it could have been more! With better written characters (we almost know nothing about Lucy so we hardly care) and a combination of the nice touchy visuals, it could have been a superb intellectual actioner. Instead it is simply sufficient with good performances and some floating ideas.

+ good visuals
+ interesting themes and ideas
+ not too much action
+ good cast
- underused actors
- not enough exploration of themes
- last act feels overblown


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

"The expendables 3" review : more than disappointing, a mess

"Expendables 3" is by far the worst movie of 2014. Considering the talent gathered for the third installment, it should have been the most awesome guilty-free action pleasure of the 21st century. However, how much I was deceived by Stallone's effort. While the first two had still terrible flaws (effects and cgi bullet holes), they still packed some stuff that midly intrigued me - Jean Claude Van Damme as the baddie (despite his limited screentime) or the fight (almost wrestling) sequences in the first movie. Part 3 is just balls. Allow me to elaborate below as I summarize the main points of displeasure.

Mel Gibson steals the show. A great performance is a terrible film
The plot: Of course I am not expecting a ShakeSpearean proportions drama or the character level of Tarantino. I am aware of that. But when you actually do not even have a plot to a supposed action oriented movie, then your film is clearly a mess. We start as usual in an off the main plot mission while we get to see glimpses of Gibson's big bad buying a painting (?) and walking into a house (?) - segments that add nothing to the plot or to his character. They are so much filler that makes you wonder the level of professionalism behind the camera. In addition, the old team is saying goodbye because the plot requires it so we can pave the way for new recruits. Instant mistake! I paid to see Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas not to witness their sidetracking for new losers that nobody knows or cares about! Finally, everyone shows for the final act and you know that you have missed the air of siliness and self satire that the original "expendables" bring. The new guys are too cool for school, all covered in nice tattoos, with absolutely model looking baby faces that are supposed to know the ugly side of the world  - good one. Remember that ACTING bit of Mickey Rourke in the first film? While it came out of nowhere, it was a welcome touch that offered a bit of insight in the hearts of mercenaries like them (the horror of this lifestyle and sublte nod of choice). There is at one point some spark when the old recruits are makng fun of the newbies but that does not last for more than a minute. I would have gladly paid to see an entire movie of the youngsters being made fun off and repeatedly getting humiliated by their older counterparts (just like in RED). But no they go all way too serious! Awful choice!

The cast: Fake advertising! Wesley Snipes, Harison Ford and Antonio Banderas are there for mere minutes. Particularly, Antonio Banderas is wasted in a terribly written - disgraced is a probably better description - role that does not showcase his classic Desperado style. Who was the puppet master behind these stylistic choices? Jet Li - ha, he is more of a cameo without an action scene to shine and Arnie has become a caricature that is not even funny anymore. The old team are all solid but the newbies deliver such bad performances that makes you wonder what Stallone was thinking. All awful with no exception and they seem to take the proceedings way too seriously for a film of this magnitude.

The villain: The saving grace of this flop is Mel Gibson. Clearly having a blast as the big bad, Gibson actually brings some gravitas to his rather one dimensional role. You actually believe this guy's word but of course at the hands of Stallone, he never moves into a solid character territory since we never spent time with him despite some interesting touches e.g., feeling betrayed by Barney, left for dead, etc.
A gang of psychos - Snipes and Banderas underused tremendously
The action: You think this type of film could have some decent action? Well you guessed wrong. The action is not particularly memorable and the stunts are laughable. It feels even worse than straight to dvd productions with poor pacing, staged action sequences and obvious stunt doubles that are parkouring themselves whereas any fight choreography displayed lacks real punch since everyone does not even struggle to defeat any bad guys. They can kill millions with one hand scratching their ass and with the other kung fuing and firing a bazooka AT THE SAME TIME. True story.

Special effects: The most atrocious bit of a 90 million movie with fake CGI helicopters and other vehicles. The badly designed CGI explosions are a sight for laughter whereas people are spraying bullets that apparently are not killing the characters in front of their aim and also fail to hit the walls too! They are passing these things for action these days.

Direction: A souless piece of direction belongs to Patrick Hughes. I am not sure if this turd is his fault but he definitely has to take some blame for the generic framing, staging and directing pretty much this vast cast. Clearly not confident to shoot action, he poorly tries to showcase gunfights, parkour display, stunts, explosions, crashes. How much of a hack you can be to make all the above boring? When the final fight between Sly and Mel last 45 seconds what do you expect??????? HACK! And he is directing the remake of "The raid". Fuck off.

Violence: The most controversial element of E3. You took out the gore to attract a wider audience and who laughing now bitch? Not only the youngsters do not know who Wesley Snipes is, the old losers like myself said no to kid friendly gun totting mayhem. There is such a high body count (more than 300 bodies) and it is evident that every single expendable is a psychopath. The lack of blood makes the entire thing a glorification of violence as a videogame with heroes that show no remorse for their actions. Remember the first bit where Jet Li fought Lungdren because he wanted to kill one Somali pirate and the rest of the team made a case against him as well? These were the days where the Expendables felt like a decent throwback to the action pieces of the 80's. Here everyone is killing a private army and they are happy with it because SPOILERS Mel Gibson injured one of their friends. Talking about lethal consequences. Imagine what they would do if we tell that Santa Claus is not real - they will probably use nuclear weapons or something. 

Conclusion: Expendables 3 is one of the worst films of 2014. Bloodless, horribly written, unthrilling and anti-climactic. Gibson is fantastic and at the hands of a more competent action director and with an actual script, this could have been a blast - excluding any young cast members of course. Stay away. This is the type of film that masterpieces such as "The raid" and "The raid: berandal" destroy with only one scene. And Hollywood dares to remake them. What a bunch of a-holes.

+ Mel Gibson as the villain
+ Great (old) cast
- no violence
- lacks any punch
- terrible action
- terrible characters
- the young cast - awful actors and actresses
- souless direction
- zero thrills
- poor stunts
- no final fight between Mel and Sly
- Wasted Banderas and Snipes
- Jet Li who now?


Saturday, 2 August 2014

"Guardians of the galaxy" review: enjoyable but formulaic Marvel film

Good cast and great representation of Rocket Raccoon and Groot
Apparently, everyone is raving about the "guardians of the galaxy". Strange thing, this comic book and film geek will not. For some reason, I felt that GOTG was an effort to recapture what made the "Avengers" such a huge hit with pretty much the same jokes, spectacular special effects and a decent cast. There are many problems with GOTG that although some of them do appear in other Marvel films, here are more evident and literally do not immerse you the way previous installments did. 

Firstly, there is a tremendous amount of weak characterization. Starlord has some emotional development but his introduction scene on Earth is ludicrous as we do not get to see why he does the (rather miserable) thing that he does. Then all of a sudden an out of the blue romance blossoms it is getting now pretty annoying in each Marvel chapter to have characters fall in love through peculiar circumstances (see Thor). 

In the antagonist department (my favourite), Ronan the accuser is a joke. While Lee Pace tries desperately to make Ronan creepy and badass (the make up is spot on), he does not have enough material to work with. The same thing occured for Red Skull and Malekith, both amazing visually villains with lack of dramatic depth (see Loki) and motivations. So Ronan is the typical "I want to destroy my enemies and perform genocide" for whatever the hell he wants to do that for. And to my biggest disappointment, we do not know what he can do and what he can't. Is he a god? Is a superpowered dude? Why people fear him? We never get to see him shining in an action sequence and it is really embarassing the way he goes out of the picture. 
Pleasantly surprised by Chris Pratt's performance. He has enough charisma to make Starlord role his own.
James Gunn has tried to inject humour in the vibe of Firefly/Serenity and although it is a welcome addition, some of the jokes fall flat - as there is a joke every 3 minutes adding a childish layer in the proceedings. The script is moving at a fast pace with lots of satellite characters (Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reily, Glenn Close totally wasted) that have minimal or zero effect to the plot and although it is admirable that the guardians decide to save the galaxy as a group of misfits, the plan still lacks conviction. There is not even a dramatic moment - this is a movie where a guy wants to wipe out an entire planet. The heroes are invicible, there are no real stakes with everyone surviving explosions, spaceship crashes, fights and even bazooka blasts! And the biggest disappointment though was the reveal of Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin). This is a CGI monstrocity that looked so fake and felt it was inserted last minute to perform fun boy service. 

The action is servicable but there is nothing that is totally memorable or outstanding. One of the biggest problems I have so far with Marvel is that they are terribly weak in the fight department. So far, only "The winter soldier" has revealed proper (outstanding) choreography. I feel like that Kevin Feige and Co are mostly interested to showcase brilliant special effects and technicalities rather than a breathtaking fighting sequence (still waiting for my Thor vs Loki epic clash). Ronan as I mentioned above pretty much is wasted in the entire film and does not have a single action scene!!!

Having said everything that I was annoyed with the GOTG, do not lose hope despite my whining. Technically - with the aforementioned Thanos - the film is superb. The production design values are beyond exceptional as they bring a Star Wars vibe and the make up is truly outstanding - particularly on Drax and Ronan. The effects are spectacular and everything else from the designs to the cinematography serve the film really well. It is always good to see a film set in space as these days, let's be honest sci-fi is kinda a dull field to attract investements.

The cast is surprisingly good with Groot and Rocket Racoon - brilliant vocal performance by Bradley Cooper - stealing the show. Chris Pratt makes the role of Starlord his own and is charismatic enough to generate likability and Zoe Zaldana establishes herself as a proper badass. Certain laughs are guaranteed and some of the action is well staged, particularly a humourous prison escape that involves a prosthetic leg. 

But the Marvel formula starts here to wear thin. If you liked the previous films, you will like this one. There is nothing tremedously bad here (except that stupid CGI Thanos) but nothing memorable either besides...Rocket Raccoon and Groot. This is point A to point B Marvel flick - laughs, effects, weak villain, big cast, wasted acting opportunities, happy ending.

+ good cast
+ Rocket Raccoon and Groot
+ production design
+ make up values - truly outstanding
+ spectacular special effects
- ... and then you have Thanos
- most of the humour falls flat
- wasted talented cast in the supporting roles
- one dimensional villain
- ... who has not a single shining scene
- formulaic film


Saturday, 26 July 2014

"Hercules" review: passable blockbuster entertainment

Reasons to see this: The rock! and the cast
Brett Ratner is just an average director. He does not have a particular style, he does not rely on special effects or overuse of music, he simply directs the actors and actresses sufficiently enough but does not go any further. In other words, his films will go down as passable entertainment that can never reach the masterpiece status or the so bad it is so good cult legacy. In fact, his whole filmography cannot even quantify as very good movies, merely forgettable and servicable entertainment. Some of them had potential that led to disappointment - the family man, x-men the last stand - others were simply ok - rush hour, rush hour 2, tower heist. 

"Hercules" falls into the second category. It is not bad, it has some good moments in it but it could have been so much more. But let's talk about it with more detail. The story has taken a few liberties regarding the myth of Hercules and I am not against that (despite being Greek). When someone is referring to the legendary deeds of Hercules, the reply is "what a load of crap". So here the filmmakers from the first minute have established the reality that the movie takes place. Sometimes the script does tease a bit of mysticism and the existence of gods but follows a similar route that "Troy" displayed 10 years ago. While this is not a wise decision - as the legend of Hercules is enough to create mesmerising set pieces and has lots of blockbuster potential, it does not have as catastrophic consequences as one might think. In fact, there is some clever humour regarding the whole thing implicating that the filmmakers are not taking seriously the occuring events.

The script while it remains for the majority of the movie predictable with every cliche being ticked along the way, does offer a bit of a surprise flavour towards the end and enriches with more pathos the (later) proceedings. I would wonder why it took so long to perform this since if more of these stuff were in the beginning, "Hercules" might have been a pretty damn good movie.

For a sword and sandal epic, Hercules does contain a handful of decent action scenes with some elaborate fight choreography from the heros' companions but they are all so awesome that the film lacks any real danger of them getting hurt or killed. In addition, despite being well made and edited and avoiding the trap of insane edit, there is nothing here that we have not seen before. Take for example the fight scenes in "Troy". Love it or hate it, the choreography was simply outstanding and the use of sound brilliant. Here pretty much everyone is like a god - either with a spear or with a knife - that can take dozens of soldiers within minutes. The rock does have some moments to show off his physique but I think he did it better in ... wait for it... "The scorpion king" bouncing like a crazy ninja turtle. As if Ratner was not ready enough to show off his charisma on camera. 

The battles on the other hand (only two), disappoint as again they contain nothing refreshing or exciting. They are dull, with not as many as you think soldiers just marching and forming Roman! shield walls to protect themselves. Taken into account that lots of mere mortals are meeting their makers, having a PG-13 rating does not help either as we definitely do not realise the horror of war. There are certain moments that push the rating to 15 but not much has been shown.

Dwayne Johnson is still a likable force (and person) and does everything he can to bring some gravitas and emotion to the role of Hercules. Certainly he looks the part and he does carry the film on his (broad) shoulders. I just wish he can be directed by a more sophisticated director - imagine Quentin Tarantino guiding him through an action scene - and with a script that dares to be a bit edgy. The rest of the cast are clearly having a ball with their one dimensional roles - particularly Rufus Sewell as Autolycos, a tremendously underrated actor and Ian McShane as Amphiaraus. What annoys me here is the non existence of a threatening villain - and I will not name him/her. Simply there is no visible threat for Hercules in this film or a clear objective that he has to complete or overcome. If we get a bit more related to a absolute douche who wants to kill him or another fictional demi-god that wants to take over the world so we can understand the stakes that our meythological hero has to face, it instantly elevates his character in the audience eyes  and makes us believe in him (see for example when Neo stood equally against Agent Smith).

So that was Hercules. There is not much to hate here but not much to love either. The film is recommended during the long winter evenings but once you have seen it, you probably won't see it again as there is nothing really that stands out besides the Rock destroying minions and the thoughtful art direction. Other Greek adaptations had more memorable set pieces - battle scenes in "Troy", Cronos in "Wrath of the Titans", style in "300" and insane art palette of "Immortals". Unfortunately nothing like that is around but who knows perhaps on a sequel and with a more capable director, we might get something worthy of the Hercules legacy.

+ Dwayne Johnson
+ some (minor) script surprises
+ the cast
+ well made...
- but nothing memorable
- or super exciting
- PG-13 / Greek epics need to be bloody. Period
- boring villain
_ 80% predictable script for characters and situations


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

"Transformers: age of extinction" review : a thrilling yet overblown sequel

A bit more cinematic justice for the autobots this time around
"Transformers: age of extinction" is exactly what you would expect from a Michael Bay directed "Transformers" flick. A loud, most of the times overblown sequel with stellar special effects, almost no plot and cool shots. However, much to my surprise, this is by far the best sequel in the franchise. This time around, Michael Bay learnt from the previous mistakes and seemed  more restrained here (not on action) when it comes to misplaced humour, racist stereotypes, too many human characters that add nothing to an already empty plot, souless autobots and weak villain characterization - elements that so gracefully were seen in the previous films.

First of all, Mark Wahlberg is a way more interesting choice thatn Shia the Douche. While, Sam Witwicky was a teenager we could relate to in the original movie, in the latter proceedings he became a whiny (overacting) bitch that has no reason to frankly bitch about. Therefore, by shifting the attention towards the far more charismatic Wahlberg was the right thing to do. In addition, the whole father-daughter dynamic is cliched and terrible predictable but at least is a winning formula that has worked for ages. This is a "Trasnformers" film. Better to have formulaic narrative rather try to shoehorn a billion subplots that go nowhere and contain zero intrigue (see Dark of the moon). The other standout here is Stanley Tucci - where clearly he is having a ball with the role and comes close to a solid performance than anybody else. His inventor character has a surprising depth(!) and avoids the trap of one dimensionality towards the climax. Everyone else is doing just ok for what they are supposed to do - looking badass, goofy or scared - and there are no annoying characters. Shame for Li Bingbing as I think she is a talented actress (and gorgeous to look upon) who gets limited screentime and for Kelsey Grammer portraying a rather blunt human villain . So acting part has been fixed at the blockbuster medium range.
As for the autobots here themselves, they are presented nicer with redefined character models and more personalized moments as their number is shrunk down from 10+ to only 5. This allowed the screenwriter (the who) to focus on more what-cool-stuff-this-robot-can-do rather than show generic gun firing and surrounding explosions. Particularly fan favourite Bubblebee steals the show with his child-like persona something that was solely missing in the previous trilogy.

The plot itself is still difficult to understand; the why's and the how's are inexplained as we are taking a leap of faith after 4 years since the battle of Chicago took place with a McGuffin concept called "the seed". Interestingly, the proceedings have a more sinister and serious tone that plays in favor of this installment. There are real stakes here and a proper badass robo-villain with tones of equiment, moves and minions. Sure there are funny moments (most of them do hit the spot) but there is a more menacing atmosphere as the Autobots are being hunted down by Decepticons, humans and alien bounty hunters. No place is safe. There are tones of ? during the film's running time and sense of geography (going from Beijing to Hong Kong by car in the same day?!) but to be honest, do I need to care?
One of the thrilling set pieces in AOE
Which brings me to the main attracting point of "T4". The action. I personally love Michael Bay. Nobody stages mayhem the way he does and his camerawork is fantastic. Despite some quick edits during the chase scenes, he cleverly utilizes the slo-mo during inventive car crashes or destructive set pieces powered by long steady shots. Assisted by 3D, the Imax presentation was simply mesmerising and it is a shame really that he does not get the recognition he deserves. He is one of the few filmmakers that does not go overboard with the CGI when it comes to stunts and chases and there is tone of breathtaking stuff. From a skyscraper escape through suspended cables, to a showdown in the overcrowded apartment complexes of Hong Kong to a Texas car chase, Bay throws cars upside down packed with explosions, loud special effects and moments of picture clarity. So much mayhem is impossible not to be appreciated, and with each action scene Bay goes bigger and bigger reaching such an overblown assault in all senses towards the end that would make your ear drums shutter and your eyes feasting on all these disasterous sequences (the ships falling from the sky is a set piece that has to be seen to be believed). The Chicago battle is tiny in comparison with the action in here. Yes, it is brainless but in contrast to the former films, it is not overly insulting with terrible gags or dialogue but towards a step to the direction that made the first one such a good film.

Bay's films have always excelled in performance when it comes to technical stuff but the production design has more character here than the entire (rather generic in this field) previous trilogy. Lockdown's ship should be considered for the respective awards giving a completely alien vibe and it is shot with exquisite cinematography. And speaking of the cinematography, I think by far this is the best looking film of Bay. The capture of sunsets, the swooping shots of the Texas desert, or the crowded streets of Hong Kong are wonderfully lighted by Amir Mokri.

The way I have written this review could imply that I consider the film a masterpiece. Hardly. At least half an hour with the human element could have been left in the editing room and the rather long running time of 3 hours can be quite exhausting even for a fan of the series (like me). While certainly it did not bore, I did think in some occasions that the carnage and mayhem is too much! And again Galvatron has been reduced to a limited screentime (ultimate blasphemy) with a one dimensional personality who shouts a lot of orders but does nothing. Finally, the much rumoured appearance of the Dinobots although it does include certain "awesome" scenes, it has pretty much no depth or any sort of background whatsoever.
Optimus Prime gets an update
And pretty much that summarizes AOE. If you like any of the previous films, then you will probably think this one is the best. The cast is way better, the satellite characters have stopped to exist - both humans and Transformers - and the serious tone is more than a plus. Despite the long running time and the overstuffing of action, T4 did not disappoint me. Perhaps because my expectations dropped significantly after T3 and here I found more redeeming values than in the other two. Bay won me over with the fourth installment and made the Autobots look cool again in exquisite action set pieces. Because this is a Trasformers film. If it fails in action, there is no point.

+ breathtaking action
+ great stunts
+ gorgeous cinematography
+ likable although typical main characters
+ Mark Wahlberg, an update in good protagonist
+ great camerawork
+ technical aspects are state of the art: brilliant special effects, production design
+ Bubblebee is cool again
+ sinister tone 
+ humour hits the spot
- long running time, easily cut half an hour
- rather blunt human villain
- climax - either will send you away with such an assault or keep you in your seat
- Galvatron - still Megatron has not been seen as awesome


Saturday, 5 July 2014

"Edge of tomorrow" review: a fun and forgettable fun ride

Good casting choice for TC and a bit different characterization as well. 
"Edge of tomorrow" comes with the premise of "Groundhog day" with a sci-fi twist. Althought, at the beginning, it seems intriguing to see Cruise's coward! character keep reliving the same battle every time, the final pay off is inclining towards disappointment. Doug Liman used to handle action scenes surprisingly well ("the Bourne identity", "Mr and Ms Smith") but here it seems that he has lost his mojo. A theoritically thrilling Normandy-style battle between humans with exo-skeletons armed with lots of weapons and matrix-like squids is a blurry mess with lots of quick cuts and fast pacing edits that you do not know who is shooting who. Additionally, during the final segment of the film, the cinematography is so "dull" that you can barely see anything exciting on screen.

The film is not supported by the fact that a huge amount of defying physics heroics exist and while everyone should be dead, they are not. The filmmakers desperately try to do and show a realistic, modern take on the alien invasion but the way the exposition is being handed over by a scientist starts to get upsetting as movies with the same context have performed the same trick in the last couple of years.

On the positive side, the cast is surprisingly good and especially Cruise playing a character with a complete disregard for the lives of those around him besides well, his own. It is good to see him portraying against type and I have to admit, in the first half of the film he does it really well. Emily Blunt is severely underused as the ultimate badass soldier against the Aliens and it would have been great if she had any character development besides being at the end the love of the hero's life. Among the rest, Puxton and Gleeson are having a blast with their small roles but they do not have enough material to do something.
Emily Blunt is stunning as the most badass soldier in the alien-humans war - shame she does not have a scene to shine.
Much to my surprise though, EOF is surprisingly funny. There are many scenes where you will caught yourself giggling and laughing with the unexpected outcomes of Cage's actions on screen trying to get through this busy day. Clearly, this is a segment where the writers are not taking things seriously (in contrast with the ending) with the implications of Cage dying and suffering horrible fates only to avoid them the next time and anticipate some worse ones. This is by far the best moment in the entire film and the most creative. Nevertheless, as we witness people exploding, impaled and crushed, there is not a single drop of blood. This probably to capture a wider audience decision hurts the film's intentions, and makes the movie even more unrealistic with no real feel of actions or gravitas.

It is such a shame then that the aliens lack any personality, the supporting cast are reduced to one dimensional characters and the happy to the point of honey ending comes out of nowhere with no stakes or significant consequences. Perhaps if the film had more focus to the journey of Cage from the ultimate coward douchebag to a fearless hero, it would have been way more interesting. Instead, we get a mix of intriguing but underdeveloped ideas and a triumphant return of Cruise to the blockbuster. But others have done it better before hand anyways.

+ Cage's tactics to get through the day like a videogame
+ supporting cast
+ interesting concept
- poor execution
- uneven tone
- terrible alien designs
- quick cut and shaky cam editing in the action scenes
- PG-13