Tag Archive: movie


Spacewalk in the park.

Spacewalk in the park.

G R A V I T Y

★★★★☆

Released: June 2013
Certificate: 12A
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

[THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS]

We’ve finally reached the point where CG looks real. Peter Jackson’s studio claimed we had reached that level 12 years ago during production of the  Lord of the Rings trilogy, but technology has moved on significantly and the odd cartoonish bit we all pretend not to see would not now be forgiven.

Gravity could not have been produced on the same scale until now, and the effect is genuinely awesome to behold. Spiraling and spinning, moving sickeningly from every conceivable angle over alarming distances, the viewer becomes immersed in space.

Every now and then it would shift – in manic computer game style – to the astronaut’s perspective which added to the feeling of sheer terror.

The effects take centre stage, and that’s just as well.

The story is secondary but simple –  Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) goes on her first mission into space to fix a radio (or something), the shuttle is hit by debris and she must make it back to earth alone.

George Clooney plays the experienced brave, doomed, smart-alecky mission Lieutenant Matt Kowalski and most of the dialogue is between these two characters.

Their relationship and the script are rather disappointingly obvious. The by-the-numbers writing comes close to ruining the experience in that it’s neither boring enough to be the speech of dull space people nor interesting enough to engage us. Every anecdote or comment is called back later on almost by rote to remind us we’re watching someone’s composition.

“Hope I get to break Anatoly Solovyev’s spacewalk record.”

“Looks like I’ll have to break Anatoly Solovyev’s spacewalk record another time.”

“At appears as though I’ll break Anatoly Solovyev’s spacewalk record after all.”

As is often the case, the use of mega-famous actors  means that the viewer may end up empathizing less than they could have with unknowns. Much of this reviewer’s time was spent thinking ‘SANDRA-BULLOCK-IN-SPACE-SANDRA-BULLOCK-IN-SPACE-SANDRA-BULLOCK-IN-SPACE’ which meant I couldn’t really take her seriously.

But that’s my own bias.

Gravity is an extraordinary film despite it’s shortcomings and definitely worth the price of admission for the effects alone. However, like space, there’s very little weight to anything here.

Read more film reviews – HERE

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Burt & Anton. You've been wand.

Burt & Anton. You’ve been wand.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Released: March 2013
Certificate: PG
Director: Don Scardino

 

Here we have a famous magician who takes the easy route for a number of years, his performances becoming increasingly stale, until finally he loses the magic that made him great to begin with.

And that’s just Steve Carell.

Was he aware of this allegory as he toiled away at this swollen, weeping sore of a film? Could he have let this go on considering the damage he was doing to his worshipping audience?

The viewer certainly had ample opportunity to ponder such questions between supposedly poignant moments and awkward pauses where the jokes should have been.

This was a non-film. Two magician friends, Burt & Anton (Carell and Steve Buscemi), get bored of performing their show and it stagnates. They then fall out, rediscover their enthusiasm for magic and get together again.  It’s not clear why anyone should be interested.

Flouting convention, the filmmakers  insert a good-looking, tough-talking, independent woman (Olivia Wilde) who is also interested in magic for some reason and dislikes Burt. Oh, those two really hate each other…then they’re in love, without explanation.

Jim Carey pops up as a rival magician and has a couple of funny moments as a suped up David Blaine, but his character outstays his welcome pretty quickly. It would have been far more enjoyable in 2003 when Blaine was topical.

This is an attempt at a Will Ferrell film without him in it, right down to the ‘ludicrous’ premise. Carell performs a Ron Burgundy impression throughout but without a fleshed out supporting cast or any jokes to shout about.  You can almost feel Steve Buscemi straining to run off the set and back onto Boardwalk Empire where he’s respected.

There is a lot of talent in this cast but there really is nothing to work with. You could be more forgiving if it was a film for children, but there are far too many adult references to make it such.

This film is poorly scripted, undirected and just as outdated as the magic show performed by the title character.

There’s no rabbit-out-of-a-hat moment, it’s just hat. 100 mins of hat.

 

The Trilogy to begin all Trilogies.

The Trilogy to begin all Trilogies.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Released: December 2012
Certificate: 12A
Director: Peter Jackson

 

The Hobbit trilogy has been a long time coming. Numerous delays in production meant we’ve had to wait 9 years since Return of the King, yet strangely it still feels too early to launch back into Tolkien’s world.

The film itself is almost exactly what you might expect. It contains more humour than it’s (future?) predecessors and Martin Freeman is an excellent, likeable Bilbo Baggins. The Dwarves are a welcome addition to the screen as their race had only one representative in LOTR but the rest of the film is basically a light-hearted remake of The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Howard Shore score is the same, the CG is the same, the characters are largely the same, and the story (for this part at least) is identical. Suddenly, as our heroes stop to have an interminable chat with the elves, I feel the need to escape. Having devoted almost 9 hours to the original trilogy, it dawns on me that we’re all going to be trapped in this unsatisfying 3 year cycle of films and probably will again when someone buys the rights to The Silmarillion.

One issue with the original trilogy was Jackson’s propensity to linger on certain (often elvish) parts of the story and gloss over more compelling parts of the books. The Hobbit travels at a more brisk pace and appears to take itself less seriously. It would be churlish to complain about similarities as there are bound to be some. It’s up to the viewer to decide whether they are prepared to retread old ground in order to rejoin this world.

The Hobbit is more of a childrens book as is reflected in the cartoonishness of the action, yet there are surprisingly graphic scenes midst the capers which seem out of place and are actually more resonant as a result. As is usually the case with prequels, some of the tension is deflated by our knowing the fate of our heroes but it doesn’t interfere with what is a hugely enjoyable journey. Jackson brings the story to life in a faultless, assured manner and leaves the audience wanting more. Shame we must wait a year to get it.

It makes financial sense to release the films over 3 years, but it’s awfully frustrating for the viewer. There is something to be said for waiting until 2014 and watching them all at once.

Can someone remind me to do that next time?

 

 

 

Snowtown (2011)

Snowtown – Not a barrel of laughs

Released: November 20 2011

Certificate 18

Director Justin Kurzel

One important point to note from the beginning is that this film, despite its title, is not a throwaway seasonal romp in the tradition of Elf or Jingle All the Way.

I stress this as I myself entered the cinema without the first notion of what it was about. I arrived armed with a hangover, peanut M&M’s and the potential to see good in people. I left with my hangover and M&M’s intact.

Snowtown is the gruesome true story of the ‘Bodies in Barrels’ Murders set near Adelaide during the late 90s and depicts the development of John Justin Bunting into Australia’s most infamous serial killer.

In his first feature length film, writer/director Justin Kurzel tells the story through the eyes of Jamie Vlassakis, a troubled youth from a disadvantaged background who, it soon emerges, is the victim of abuse. The neighbourhood shudders with suspicion and fear amid stories of paedophiles running amok. Soon Bunting emerges as their charismatic saviour, somebody willing to take a stand against evil.

Softly spoken and wearing an almost comical bushy beard, the people soon warm to Bunting and he begins to gradually exert his influence over Jamie’s family and friends. His character becomes more forceful as the film progresses and he ceases his intimidation tactics to begin a campaign of torture and murder.

Kurzel is not afraid to linger on these scenes, taking the brutality to graphic heights and almost punishes the audience for taking the time to see his film. He takes the same unhurried approach throughout and this – combined with the atmospheric score – leads to a gripping sense of foreboding.

Snowtown is probably the most thrilling, least enjoyable film we’ll see this year. If you’re into graphic filial rape or kangaroo carcasses, this is for you. If you are looking for lowbrow Christmas fun, do some basic research and avoid seasonal films rated 18.

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