A Cure for Wellness, Something New!

Finding an original film nowadays can be quite a challenge, it seems most big releases are either a sequel or remake! A Cure for Wellness aims to be a fresh new spin on the horror genre.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is your typical high rolling Wall Street banker, who has earned himself a place at the top table at his firm. His employers uncover the underhanded methods he was using to close his high profile cases, which if reported to the SEC, will most certainly lead him on the path to prison. But there is a way out, if he can retrieve the company’s CEO, Pembroke, from a retreat in Switzerland, they can pin the blame on him. Though Lockhart may not be clean,  his employers realise the potential for more money to be made, and in the process, get rid of the CEO who they believe has lost his mind.

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It’s at the Swiss retreat, where Lockhart suffers an accident, waking up to find himself with a broken leg, and having been admitted to the facility. The trailer for the movie gave off a definite Shutter Island vibe, and that can only be a good thing! The Spa retreat at the centre of the movie’s plot is magnificently eerie. From all the endless rooms, corridors and gardens, the Spa is a great setting for this film. It’s here where our protagonist encounters Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs), the director of the Spa, and a mysterious young girl, Hannah (Mia Goth) who spends her time wondering the facility grounds.

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The film does wonders for Swiss tourism! As this has to be one of the most beautiful looking films I’ve seen. The castle is a spectacle, and some of the visuals that are obtained with the stunning Alpine backdrop is divine. One scene is which Lockhart & Hannah are talking by a water fountain, with the Alps reflecting off the waters surface is one of the many wonderfully shot scenes spread throughout. The cinematography here is outstanding. Director Gore Verbinski has executed a visual treat for movie goers!

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The first two acts of the movie are pretty well done, DeHaan does a fine job as the unlikable money hungry executive,  though he does a few things out of character during the film. Would someone as meticulous as him, just randomly sign a document without reading it through? As impatient as he may have been, it seemed strange to just sign something off, though I suppose, plot development! The entire Spa has a creepy vibe to it, all the patients here, seem to be more than happy to be here, a bit too happy! and its not long before Lockhart eventually discovers the hidden secrets behind everything. The movie does good to avoid relying on too many jump scares, preferring to slowly build up to the reveals, though at times, it feels like it’s dragging on. The film is pretty graphic, warranting it the 18 certificate. If your not a fan of the dentist chair, you may want to look away during one specific scene!

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It’s at the end, where the film totally goes off the rails, and almost feels like a parody. Whereas the everything before the finale, was a wonderfully shot, enticing horror. The inevitable plot twist, is the twist that anyone paying any attention during the film would have called. The fact this is pretty much spoiled to us in a scene earlier on in the film makes it just that much more annoying.It’s disappointing that there wasn’t a swerve, and they went with what everyone thought they were going to go with this. From a macabre mystery, the film turns into an all out action finale, including the final showdown in the backdrop of flames! It feels very much out of place in a movie which spent so much time building things up.

Speaking of time, Wellness is full of filler. A run time of over 2 hr is certainly excessive, and the film could have been cut by 30 minutes easily. One scene spends about 5 minutes, in which Lockhart stumbles into a dark room and discovers what resides in there. There’s building suspense, but then there are scenes that could have easily been reduced significantly.

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The ending aside, Wellness is still one of the better movies out this year, and you have to give the director credit for trying something new and original. Personally, the final act of the movie did taint it somewhat, but that’s all down to personal opinion. If your looking for something different to watch, and don’t mind being freaked out, by all means, give this a try!

 

 

Episode 11 is up!

Hey everyone!

It’s time for another episode of the Silver Screen Show! Almost an hour long, it’s a bumper show.

We discuss The Oscars, our picks for the new 007 and what films we’re looking forward to in the Summer.

La La Land, Split & Return of Xander Cage make up our reviews.

Enjoy 🙂

 

 

Ringzzzzzzz

It was back in Summer, I noticed a poster for Rings while at the cinema. Even back then, I was sceptical if this was even worth making, for a franchise that’s been dead in the water for years. My doubts were proved right, as Rings has to be one of the dullest horror movies I’ve seen for a very long time!

Rings is a reboot of the original 2002 release The Ring, the successful American remake of the cult Japanese horror Ringu. For anyone not familiar with the lore, The Ring revolves around a mysterious videotape, anyone who happens to watch the tape receives a phone call soon after, a voice telling them that they will die in 7 days’ time. The film is iconic for the vengeful spirit Sadako/Samara (depending on the region of the movie!) emerging from within the TV screen of the victim. The latest release aims to bring the movie into the current generation, a decision that takes the edge off what made the original so great.

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Matilda Lutz as Julia and Johnny Galecki as Gabriel in the film, RINGS by Paramount Pictures

So the plot, our main character, Julia, sees her boyfriend Holt, move to college. After losing touch with him after a couple of days, she decides to go to the college he attends to see what’s going down (instead of simply calling the college and finding out what has happened!). It is never explained why his mates are angry at her, but they are! For some reason. It’s here she discovers a morbid experiment that is being run on campus by one of the Science professors in secrecy, and Holt has been dragged into it. After Julia ends up watching the tape too, it’s a race against time to save herself before the 7 days are up!

For anyone who hasn’t watched the previous films, the only way to avoid your inevitable death, is to pass the curse on to someone else, by making a copy of the tape and making someone else view it, a selfish move, but one you make out of desperation. This concept plays a central role to the film, and while it’s a nice twist, it just feels abit rushed. We start off by seeing the Professor discovering the tape, and the next time we see him, not only has he converted the VHS to digital media, but he has uncovered the trick to getting past it, how exactly did he know this? We don’t know, it’s never explained!

The second half of the movie is incredibly dull & sluggish, as it becomes a mystery movie, we follow our couple to a town in the outskirts, as they dig up clues to unveil the truth. It’s here where the film just goes into 2nd gear and cruises along, the characters are just not charismatic enough for us to be bothered about their journey, and it’s a lot of talking, with random lazy jump scares thrown in every now and again.

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The switch to modern media has definitely hurt the franchise. There is just something incredibly eerie when it comes to VHS, with its static and poor audio & image quality; it simply gives off a far creepier vibe than a high def movie file on a laptop!  The CGI in this movie is another downer, it’s shockingly bad. It’s so overdone, that Samara loses her aura, and looks like a character from a PS3 game! When she first appears out of a plasma TV, it’s so poor, you will end up laughing at how this quality was deemed OK for a big Hollywood release!  The abundance of CGI across the entire movie looks cheesy, and ruins the atmosphere.

The characters are utterly forgettable, Julia goes from ‘you’re so stupid for getting involved in this mess’ to ‘risking her life for this guy’ in one night! We don’t even know how long they have been together! The boyfriend is entirely useless in the movie; Julia does all the work. He hardly contributes anything, and even in the final showdown, he gets knocked out and plays no part whatsoever!  Johnny Galecki aka Leonard from Big Bang Theory seems miscast as the devious professor, and you just can’t take him seriously!  Vincent D’Onofrio does what he does, and is probably the best character in the movie; at least he got some backstory to his role!

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Though it may not be intentional, the move does rip off a scene from Don’t Breathe, which reminds you off a far superior horror film! The plot is predictable, you know when there will be a jump scare, and the choice of music is a curious one. A good score can make a good film great, but here, the soundtrack is overdone. It feels more like a video game than a horror movie. The opening scene on the plane is pretty hilarious, which sets the tone for the film! It would have done better to have more scenes with Samara, and less time seeing our couple wonder around digging up clues.

One other flaw is the blatant sequel baiting at the end, the film could have ended without it, and to end it with a nod to more potential films is poor form, considering how disappointing this film is. The ending is also shown in the trailers, which was a strange decision. So if anyone watched the trailer, they would know what scene is yet to come, another damaging hit to the films credentials. The trailer is also misleading in how the film is portrayed. We don’t see her suffer through 7 days as the curse develops, instead, she seems fine as she goes carries on with her mystery adventure, with no idea how many days have passed.

Rings is by far one of the worst horror films to come out in recent years, even beating The Forest from last year! Even The Forest had an original concept to play with; Rings had some great source material to work with, which is what makes it so crushing to see the movie stumble around.

Split Shines

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan” is a phrase that’s been associated with several cinematic disasters. The less said about the likes of Avatar, The Happening, After Earth and The Lady in the Water have all been savaged by the critics & fans alike. A roll of dishonour! It wasn’t until The Visit (2015) that his slow climb back up to redemption started. Split is the latest release by the eccentric director, will this movie prove that Shyamalan has still got it, or if The Visit was just a one off?

Split, as the name suggests, is about Kevin (James McAvoy), a person with split personalities, 23 of them to be exact! Kevin abducts 3 girls, and it’s via his interactions with his therapist, that we come to find out the sinister workings of our conflicted figure.

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McAvoy is by far the strongest aspect of the film, and does an outstanding job in portraying his various alter egos. Obviously the movie doesn’t show all 23 egos in the film, but the ones that do get screen time are wonderfully unique in their own way. We have ‘Dennis’, the intimidating alpha male, ‘Ms Patricia’, the caring mother, ‘Hedwig’, the immature 9 year old boy & ‘Barry’, the colourful fashion designer. It’s not just the simple costume changes that convey each character, but the body language and mannerisms that McAvoy manages to assign each persona. It’s a great shame the film missed out on the Oscar nominations for this year.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) our main protagonist, and the wisest of the three kidnapped girls, does a solid job as the calm, collected, yet emotionally scarred heroine. As her past is slowly revealed, you do feel for her, and care for her survival. Her other two friends though, feel disposable, and their lack of smarts pretty much makes them forgettable. Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher makes a challenging foil to Kevin, it’s her interactions with our psychotic kidnapper that really opens up the clashes within his mind.

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The film is essentially told in 3 segments. Kevin, Dr Fletcher and the girls.  The scenes with Kevin & Dr Fletcher are the most intriguing, and provide the best parts of the movie. It’s the scenes featuring the trapped girls, where the film tends to fall into the horror cliches. It’s pretty predictable what will happen to them in their scenes, and slows the movie down a lot.

Split is by far the best movie that Shyamalan has released in well over a decade, after a string of disasters; it’s relieving to see a throwback to his earlier movies, such as Signs, Unbreakable & The 6th Sense, when his directing was more visionary than sporadic. Split builds up the suspense in is tremendous ways, and this is mostly due to the charisma of McAvoy, the plot does well to weave in the multiple personalities, but the ending is quite hit & miss. It’s not as dramatic as The 6th Sense, the finale is a lot more subtle. I can see viewers either loving the ending, or being disappointed by it. Long term fans of Shyamalan will be delighted by the cameo at the end, so stay seated after the final scenes!

January hasn’t been a stellar month for releases over here in the UK, and Split isn’t the perfect movie, but it is by far the best film to hit our shores at the start of this year!

Ghost In The Shell, Iconic

With the release of the live action remake of  Ghost in the Shell this year, I had the opportunity to watch the original 1995 anime at one of the few limited screenings at the cinema. Even though a fan of anime & manga, I’ve never got round to watching this film, so it was time to see what the hype was about!

Following on from 1988’s Akira, GITS follows on with the cyber-punk genre, with a captivating foresight into the future, with a movie that still holds up today. The film was such an inspiration, that the Wachowski’s showed the film to producers when pitching their idea for The Matrix!

GITS revolves around Major Motoko Kusunagi, an android who works for Sector 9, a branch of law enforcement; she is joined by Batou, her partner, and Togusa, the only human in the force, as they attempt to track down the manipulative ‘Puppet Master’ , but things are not as they seem, as they uncover a hidden government conspiracy!

Although I watched it last week, I decided to wait a couple of days before writing about it, as it’s a movie that requires some level of thought, and you may not grasp everything immediately afterwards! Similar to Your Name, it’s a movie that requires some time to go over the finer points!

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The film takes place in the not so future 2029! But considering this film was released over 20 years ago, it does manage to predict what society would be like, and frankly, what it’s like now! The central plot to the movie is that the entire world is interconnected by a computer network, which controls most things, and enabling the authorities to go as far as using wonders such as satellite tracking. Sound familiar? This was all before the internet was really a thing, where a concept of satellite tracking was pure fantasy! How people access this network is via their cybernetic bodies, their ‘shells’, via the ports in the back of their neck. A concept The Matrix franchise used as inspiration for its own lore! The film even inspired the ‘code rain’ that The Matrix films used to great effect, the falling screen of green numbers.

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The very concept of androids and life is the vocal point of our protagonist’s internal conflict, though the Major is an all-powerful robot, who very much looks and thinks like a human, she comes to realise, that at the end of the day, she isn’t. Her ‘ghost’, who is the term used to describe someone soul, is just something that has been programmed into her, and it’s this that eats away at her every night. The search for being human is so concerning for her, the she goes diving underwater in her free time, in order to feel human, knowing if there was any equipment failure, it would doom her in her metallic shell.

It’s important to understand that this is not an action film, though it may be emblazoned with guns on the cover! It’s very much a thriller, with its action set pieces. There are the standard police chase scenes, and stand offs, but don’t expect it to be all guns blazing for the entire run time.  It’s also a slow paced movie, and depending on your personal taste, this may be something you may not be a fan off. The film has a tendency to cut to scenes of the city, showing everyday life, this may not bother you, but others may find it abit too much.

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Let’s for a moment, discuss the sheer beauty of the movie. The animation is gorgeous, for a film made in ’95, it still looks lush now. The detail in the scenery is immaculate; the backstreets of the city are bought to life, simply due to all the signs and colours! The accompanying score is majestic; Kenji Kawai does a magnificent job in telling the story through music. The opening credits to the film are haunting and chilling, in which they depict the creation of the Major, without the music, the scene would be nowhere near as memorable. Showing the Major being created in a factory, gives the character a lot more depth, when it comes to her existential crisis.  It’s great to see that the Hollywood remake will use the same piece of music in its film, a tribute to how iconic the music is.

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The final act is very melancholic and  dialogue heavy. As our hero and villain engage in conversation, regarding their purpose of existing.  It does delve into some very engaging points such as requiring genetic variation, in order to survive. It does require intense focus; otherwise it may just end up as one big mess to the viewer. The ending of the film does film rather abrupt, as it sets up subsequent chapters to the saga. It feels like the movie could have run on for an extra half hour, just to make things a bit easier to grasp, just as you feel like the heroine is set up to make one final charge, it ends!

Ghost in The Shell is not the perfect movie, nor will it appeal to everyone. But the theme and motives of the film were far ahead of its time, and it’s gone on to influence several films since its release.  If you’re a fan of science fiction, even if you don’t have an interest in anime, this film will certainly give you a lot to think over!

Xander Cage…Stupidly Fun

Director : D.J.Caruso

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev


Return of Xander Cage is the 3rd in the series of xXx movies, starring Vin Diesel as the titular character. It’s been 12 years since the last instalment, State of the Union, which was pretty forgettable; can the latest release bring the franchise back to the forefront?

xXx, for those not aware, is a spy organisation, with the aim of recruiting extreme athletes for the purposes of espionage. This film picks up following the apparent death of the legendary Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), who decides to return back into the game following the death of a close friend.

We follow Xander Cage, as he attempts to retrieve Pandoras Box, a device that can control and drop satellites from the sky at will. The device is stolen by a group of mercenaries from the hands of the government, and it’s a race against time before the device ends up in the wrong hands.

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The story is very generic, and there isn’t anything mind-blowing. There is the usual McGuffin that is the goal of the film. In this case, Pandoras Box. The item itself has very little storyline, who created it? Why does it exist? It just does, for the sake of the film. The eventual betrayal in the film is shockingly predictable, and you can see it coming quite early on in the film. The  villain isn’t very threatening either, it’s just a random character in the background, who gets like 10 minutes screen time the entire film! They don’t really explain a motive behind why they are doing it, apart from, because they are! Is it for money? for power? for justice? Who knows….

This film is attempting the copy the highly successful template that the Fast films have deployed, using a diverse cast of characters, high octane stunts and  a total lack of logic when it comes it any resemblance of a story line! The movie itself is pretty safely nestled under ‘dumb action movie’, if you don’t take the film seriously at all, then you will enjoy it, try to analyse it, and you’ll be left dumbfounded!

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The main strengths of the movie is in the characters themselves, especially the scheming Xiang (Donnie Yen), who brings his vast charisma and action to the role, his character is by far the best, and probably even outshines the main star! The rest of the cast are big hitters too, but it’s a mixed bag regarding their characters. Xiang’s team is supported by Serena ,played by Bollywood superstar, Deepika Padukone, making a solid debut in Hollywood and legendary fighter Tony Jaa. But unfortunately Jaa is reduced to very little screen time, and portrayed as comic relief, a waste, considering the potential action scenes with him & Yen.

On the side of Xander Cage, are a bunch of ragtag rebels, but it does feel like most of them could have been cut out form the film. Ruby Rose is wonderful as sharpshooter Adele Wolff. Who is both witty, and highly useful in combat!  The other two, ‘getaway drive’ Tennyson (McCann) & DJ Nicks (Wu) feel pretty redundant, and only there to even up the so called teams. With the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Nina Dobrev & footballing superstar Neymar on board, the big doesn’t lack in big names!

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If the plot is nonsensical, the action is even more outrageous. If someone isn’t jumping across skyscrapers, and shattering thick glass ceilings, their upper cutting soldiers with a motorbike. If they’re not skating on the side of a bus, their exploding satellites with a plane!  It reaches a level where you just know no one will die, they even have the action cliché of two people standing back to back, shooting at all the enemy soldiers that have them surrounded. It’s utterly pointless, but it looks awfully slick. The film is very tongue in cheek, and even demeans itself by referring to the fact one of their new recruits for xXx thought he was joining the Avengers!

The film has the habit of trying to force us to believe the Xander Cage character is wanted by every women that sees him, the opening third shows him with several women, and it does feel like they are trying a bit too hard to make him look so desirable. They also really try to force on the one-liners, which just don’t work with this character. There’s one line that the film pretty much sets up at the start of the film, and when the moments arrives near the climax to use it, it just falls flat.

Overall, the film is nothing special, but it does have several moments that will probably make you laugh out loud, simply due to the sheer audacity of some of the stunts they pull off! With films like this, you tend to overlook the plot & character development, in exchange for the mindless action, and it’s here that it delivers. If you go watch this, knowing what you will expect, than its just harmless cinema fodder, that will pass a couple hours in the dreary January chill!

 

 

 

Episode 10 is Out!

New year, new set! First show of 2017, and we have a lot to catch up on! This show, we go all the way back to the start of December with Moana, Rogue One & Passengers.

We also have a recap of 2016, what impressed us, what disappointed us, what surprised us?!

Enjoy 🙂

Assassin’s Creed……Needs more Assassins!

Assassin’s Creed marks the latest Hollywood foray into the world of Video Games. A genre that has long been much maligned with dire releases, but with a powerful cast including the likes of Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard, can this movie finally break the mold?

 Though I am a fan of video games, I haven’t played the Assassin’s Creed series, so I’m not entirely familiar with this franchise, but I shall review it as a standalone movie, rather than simply comparing it to the source!

 The film revolves around Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a prisoner who is saved from execution by the Abstergo Foundation, a group claiming to have links to the Templers. Their goal is to retrieve the mythical ‘Apple of Eden’, an item which is said to possess the genetic code for free will, and vital in their mission to eradicate violence from society. The key to their mission is Callum, who by using their Animus Machine can use his genetic memories to relieve the events of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, to hunt down clues to the location of the apple.

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 The films main strengths lie in all the scenes taking place during the flashbacks, which occur during The Spanish Inquisition in 15th century Andalucía. These are the scenes that fans were looking forward too, and it’s here that the film delivers. The intensity in there scenes is fantastic, and the action is relentless. You also get a Game of Thrones vibe from here, which is always a promising sign! The rooftop chases are a series trademark, and they are executed with great precision, even featuring the infamous ‘Leap of Faith’.

 Sadly, this is the highlight of the movie, and for some reason, the Assassin scenes are very limited, on my count, there were 3 scenes in the Iberian. The film mostly focuses on the present day, and the events that take place at Abstergo. How Abstergo are under pressure from above to fulfill their mission, to a messy story line regarding Callum’s father. This is where the film slows down to a horrible crawl, the scenes are too long, and very dialogue heavy.

The supporting cast is supremely talented, Cotillard as the head scientist at Abstergo. Jeremy Irons as the chief of the foundation, and Micheal K Williams as one of the fellow assassins held captive. But they don’t really add anything, none of the characters are charismatic, nor do you really care about them. If anything, the film should have been set in the 15th century, with occasional cuts to present day. Of course you require some back story, but it shouldn’t be taking precedence over the action in such a film! The final act of the movie takes place in modern London, where an epic Assassin showdown would have been more climatic and fitting.

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The violence was also toned down, with rarely any bloodshed, the games are targeted towards mature fans, but it’s obvious to see that the film was toned down for a more lucrative 12A rating. Considering the nature of the fights, the scenes are rather tame. You can’t help but feel that the rating was one of the key reasons why the action scenes are so infrequent and lacking any real brutality.

 Overall, the film isn’t in the same league of Street Fighter or Doom, in regards to disappointing video game adaptations. It’s still an adequate movie, but with the cast on hand, and a compelling source material, it’s a shame they couldn’t produce a film to rival the games. In this regards, definitely needed less talk, more action!

Passengers : Style over Substance

Fortunately, we have seen a revival of good space ferrying films, some of my favorites of recent years have been Interstellar and The Martian, so I was highly anticipating watching Passengers with the cross genre between Romance and Science Fiction.

Set on the self-navigated spaceship Avalon, 5000 people are travelling in hibernation pods to start a new life on the colony Homebound 2. The trip should take 120 years but due to an unexplained jolt in space, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and then Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are awoken 30 years too early. The story revolves around Jim and Aurora accepting their 90-year journey together forming a deep and meaningful bond. However, not all is quite what is seems when a series of supposed malfunctions put the lives of the 5000 unconscious human beings under threat, and it’s up to the only human passengers, Jim and Aurora to save the day. There is a short guest appearance from Laurence Fishburne which keeps the film ticking along, but the most notable performance goes to the Android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen).

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The overall premise of the film is compelling, but the first 30 minutes of the film is a disappointment mostly due to Chris Pratt’s lacklustre performance, as he tries desperately to illustrate the highs and lows of living alone. From waking from his chamber, Jim tries to make the most of his unfortunate circumstances and turns his attention to the delights of the ship including holographic dance offs to indoor space basketball. This quickly dissipates into Jim becoming depressed knowing he would never speak to another human being again. It reminded me a little of the loneliness portrayed by Tom Hanks in Castaway, a forlorn soul longing for human contact becoming more disheveled in appearance as the days go on. However, Chris Pratt is no Tom Hanks nor can he shine in stand alone scenes.

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The story becomes a lot more watchable when Aurora steps into the picture. Jennifer Lawrence stuns in every film, not only visually, but her wit, charisma and has a good backstory to her character. As a writer, Aurora start to narrate the story of her life on board the starship, telling the viewers she wanted to travel to Homebound 2 to be the only writer  on ‘overrated Earth’ to share the experiences of colonist life. Her character has purpose, momentum and sass, in stark comparison to Jim’s weak performance and lack of character development. There is some chemistry between the two main leads, but you quickly feel that the plot was designed to showcase two beautiful individuals on screen together.

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The saving grace of this film is the android bartender Arthur. Michael Sheen effortlessly conveys a witty and heartfelt performance still maintaining mechanical expressions, which is a difficult feat in itself. Even Michael Sheen said it was hard to ’make drinks and not look down’. I especially loved how Arthur had a human body and electronic legs to remind the audience that Arthur is a part of the Ship and Jim and Aurora are really alone.  The film also uses Arthur as prop to become a sounding board to the main characters, which allows the film to explore the depths and questionable ethics the characters must face, being the only conscious human beings in space.

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Overall this film fails to be a cutting edge science fiction debut or memorable romantic comedy. I think the film’s greatest strength was the notion that perhaps one day that we will be able to travel in space cryogenic-ally frozen, but for now as the film likes to remind us, that we are simply passengers on this journey, and its far better to be happy to accept our surrounding than long for a life that’s unobtainable. Would I see this film again, no, but if you want to sit and watch two beautiful stars for 2 hours then by all means watch this film.

 

TBT : Tropic Thunder!

If you think of 2008 & Robert Downey Jr. your first though may be Ironman, which saw the stock of the star rocket into the stratosphere! But there was another film he starred in that year, the ensemble comedy Tropic Thunder.

Tropic Thunder is personally one of my favorite comedy films, and it’s a film I can happily watch over and over again! The film packs in numerous A-Listers, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise & Matthew McConaughey and produce a hilarious satire of  Hollywood.

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So whats it all about? Tropic Thunder is the story of a group of actors, who are thrown together into the jungle of South East Asia to film an adaptation of the story of a Vietnam veteran. Tugg Speedmen (Stiller), our lead star, is the washed up 80s action hero. Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) is the ultra intense method actor. Jeff Portnoy (Black) is the type cast comedian, who is forever associated with his toilet humour. You also have the fresh faced new actor, who none of the experienced actors take seriously, and the rapper looking to crossover into films for that extra income.

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What the film does well is how it portrays how ridiculous Hollywood can be. How some actors will go so far into character, that it’s borderline ludicrous. Which was the point of making Downey Jrs. character undergo skin pigmentation therapy to portray an African American. He even says ” I don’t drop character ’til I’ve done the DVD commentary”, just to hammer home the point! The film also makes a point on how hard it can be for a director to control highly strung actors with their diva like behavior! Or how actors will take part in cheap PR opportunities to appeal to fans .

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One surprise in the film, was the appearence of Tom Cruise as Les Grossman. The arrogant, overtly crude, and on one crazy power trip,  big shot Producer! The fact many didn’t even notice him until the end credits made the cameo even better! His expletive exchanges over the phone are by far some of the most memorable scenes his filmed! Full credit to him for trying a role which is so out of his norm, and totally nailing it!!

The movie is full of quotes that made you laugh out loud!

” I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”

”I know who I am! I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!”

”And we’ll weep for him… in the press, set up a scholarship in his name, eventually – and I’m talkin’ way, way down the road – we file an insurance claim.”

Sure there are a few more quotes, which are more explicit, so I wont share them here 😛

The film has small touches that gives it a lot of charm, such as the spoof trailers of the in film stars playing before the start of the film. Their so well done, for a moment you believe that the trailers are real!

So if you’re a fan of Ben Stiller, and the kind of humour his films usually deliver, then I would most definitely recommend you dig it up from the archives and give it a watch! You’ll love it! 😀

 

 

Rogue One ends 2016 in style!

The Force Awakens, managed to bring back the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy, together with making Star Wars a huge Box Office draw once again. Rogue One was announced as the first of a collection of stand-alone films, known as the Star Wars Anthology. The Force Awakens (TFA) strongly lent on the influences of past movies, but could Rogue One replicate its success without using past foundations to build upon?

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Rogue One is the story of an intrepid group of rebels, who attempt to steal the plans which would aid the resistance to take down the impending creation of the apocalyptic Death Star. Our protagonist, Jyn Erso (Jones) is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mikkleson), who as a child, witnesses her father being taken away by the Galactic Empire to assist the completion of the super-weapon. Several years in the future, fate has her confront the consequences of the father’s actions, and plans one final assault to save millions of lives.

She is joined by several resistance fighters, who are all willing to go into a battle against all the odd. Cassian Andor (Luna), a member of the Rebel Alliance together with his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Tudyk). Defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), who has the vital intel for the mission. Chirrut Imwe (Yen), a blind fighter, who believes that he has ‘The Force’ and his best friend, Baze Malbus (Wen), who provides the firepower and muscle for his blind friend!

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The biggest challenge facing director Gareth Edwards was to take a group of virtually unknown characters, and make them work in a Star Wars film with very little Jedi & Lightsabre action! The film even goes as far as skipping the iconic ‘opening crawl’ during the opening credits, nor does it have the triumphant John Williams score at the start. What’s important to know here, is that these heroes do not have ‘The Force’, they are not Jedis, nor do they have any kind of super-power to make them stand out from the crowd. They’re just a group of regular (in the grand scheme of Star Wars!) people.

What we get, and it’s a huge compliment to the director, is a wonderful addition to the franchise. It’s a departure from the norm, and that’s what makes this film shine brightest. The overall tone of the movie is very dark; death and tragedy are a big part of the film. Even the Stormtroopers look like they mean business! There’s just something about the black uniform that makes them feel that much more imposing.

The casting here was on point. Donnie Yen as the blind warrior was a master-stroke! Providing not just the fine choreographed fight scenes he is well known for, but also giving the film some of its more humorous moments. Speaking of humour, Tudyk is a show stealer as the Droid devoid of any empathy! Regardless of the situation, K-2SO will give his brutally honest opinion. It was also nice to see Riz Ahmed get a role differing from his usual typecast, which allowed him to show another side to his acting calibre.

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One casting decision that did raise a few eyebrows was to digitally recreate the late Peter Cushing to reprise his infamous role as Commander Tarkin. The director believed that only Cushing could portray the villain, as controversial as the decision was, we had to admit, that the CGI technology has come a long way! Considering Tarkin has a considerable amount of dialogue in the movie, it could have looked awkward, but the result is mightily impressive. Apart from the longer moments of dialogue, it shouldn’t bother viewers too much. There is also one brief cameo from another character CGIed to look like their selves from Episodes 4-6. It’s only a few seconds, but I believe it was worth it, the scene would not have had the same impact had it only been filmed from behind.

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A quick mention regarding a spoiler from the trailers. Yes, Darth Vader does appear in Rogue One! James Earl Jones once again reprises one of the most iconic roles in all cinema! His presence in the movie is minimalist, only appearing in 3 scenes. The last of which is simply outstanding, and will leave all fans in awe! From a critical standpoint, does he really need to be in this film? Not really, like the Joker from Suicide Squad, his role could have been removed entirely. But unlike Suicide Squad, the decision to put him in was justified just for his final appearance!

So we have a dramatic storyline, a likable bunch of heroes and a new sense of danger not seen before in any SW move before, but what’s going against the film?

One criticism has to be that compared to TFA, the characters here are just not as memorable.  Even after just one film, Rey, Finn & Poe had a chemistry that the characters here just did not have.  We also didn’t get enough time to build up each of the team. Why did Rook decide to defect? The reason is never fully explained. Baze & Chirrut are just stumbled upon and join the team a few scenes later.  The film takes a while to get going, and it would have been better to use some of that time to give the team abit more of a backstory.  Another point to mention is that several scenes from the trailer were removed in the final cut. Will these scenes be in the extended edition? Or were they simply edited in to tempt viewers? Regardless, it’s become a worrying trend recently in Hollywood.

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With those gripes aside, Rogue One may have entered the year very late, but it’s already laid a marker in being the best film of the year. The supporting cast, including the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker & Ben Mendelsohn, all deliver stellar performances. TFA was impressive, but it did lack a spark of originality, it was more of a tribute to the films from before, also relying on bringing back past characters to help. What Rogue One manages to do is create a brand new film, without any major assistance. It also answers a burning question fans have been asking ever since A New Hope, which actually makes this film rather important in Star Wars lore!

Is it the best film if the year? Personally, Captain America : Civil War takes that crown. But Rogue One pushes it mighty close! Go and see it now!

 

 

 

On Set : In Japan

 

After spending a week or so, over 9000km away in the land of the rising sun. I thought I would share a few of my holiday photos here. Be it famous locations from movies, or just any movie related snap I happened to take! So enjoy! Maybe we can make this a feature whenever one of us go overseas! 😀


Neon Tokyo, It’s bound to appear in any film that is shot in Tokyo. Shibuya District is area that many film fans will recognise instantly! With all its buildings lit up like Christmas  and the legions of buzzing crowds, it’s synonymous with metropolitan Japan. It’s the go to backdrop for Tokyo nightlife in movies! It’s very prominent in The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift and also appears in Lost in Translation, The Grudge and Kill Bill Vol 1 to name a few. Usually in the ‘staring out the back seat of a taxi’ scenes they love to shoot!

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The tower that has been on the receiving end of several attacks from Godzilla & Co. It does get destroyed a lot! The iconic Tokyo Tower is a common sight in the backdrop of any film shot in Tokyo. Like how the Eiffel Tower always appears in any Parisian scene, regardless of where in Paris the film is being filmed!

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We found an antiques store in the markets of Osaka, they was selling these posters/scrolls of classical films from back in the days. A lot of Samurai that’s for sure! Loved the vintage feel to these!

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Capsule Machines are all the rage over there, found this awesome Harry Potter version! Shame I had no coins on me at the time to get one as a memento! I noticed that the Harry Potter franchise is absolutely massive there.

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Some great Star Wars wooden dolls in Kyoto! Frozen also sneaking into the shot! A bit pricey though…………

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A cinema! Apart from Girl On The Train, no idea what their showing!!…………


A DC movie stand in one of the many department stores, on the Suicide Squad hype!

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Although not the exact location, but the bamboo groves in Kyoto are most definitely reminiscent of the memorable Bamboo forest scene from House of Flying Daggers.

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After a couple of hours drive west from the capital, we arrived in Kyoto. The old capital of the county, and filled with so much charm! There’s are no shortages of temples and shrines here. The 2005 film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha‘ had a few scenes in Kyoto, using the majestic Kiyomizu Dera Temple (Top) and the iconic red gate tunnels at Fushimi Inaro Shrine (Bottom)

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