Ant-Man

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 4
July 22nd, 2015 No comments

Ant-Man, 2015, USA

ant-man-movie

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from prison on burglary charges, and is trying to rebuild his life. He can’t see his daughter, Cassie, (Abby Ryder Fortson) and he can’t hold down a job. When his friend Luis (Michael Peña) tells him about a house with a large safe, he reluctantly agrees to break in, where he discovers the Ant-Man suit. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the reclusive inventor of the technology, is impressed by Scott’s skills and recruits him to be the new Ant-Man so he can break into Pym Technologies and steal the Yellowjacket suit being developed by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), the unstable former protégé of Hank’s. Helping out is Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank’s once-estranged daughter.

The first half of Ant-Man plays out very much like your typical superhero origin story. But the second half of the film is endlessly creative, with one of the best climactic fight scenes ever seen in a Marvel universe film. It’s hilarious, but no less thrilling, as it makes perfect use of the shrinking abilities of the two suits. And, despite it being, literally, on a smaller scale than battle scenes in previous Marvel films, we never feel that there is less at stake.

When original director Edgar Wright dropped out, I was quite concerned about this film. I am curious about what his vision was, though I see pieces of it remaining in the film, particularly in the latter half of it. But director Peyton Reed, with the help of Rudd and Adam McKay, took Wright and Joe Cornish’s original screenplay and made it work beautifully within the Marvel universe. From what I’ve heard, the issue with Wright’s vision is that it simply wouldn’t have worked within the MCU. But the final film does work very well. And, be sure to stick around throughout the credits for mid-credit and post-credit scenes!

I loved Rudd as Lang. He plays the typical “burglar with a heart of gold” character, but his desire to be reunited with his daughter makes the story quite moving. Ultimately I did find Pym and van Dyne to be far more interesting. I liked seeing their relationship develop and change throughout the film, as they learned how to be a family once again. And Pym is the slightly more interesting Ant-Man – I’d love to see a Cold War era prequel someday.

Ant-Man is a far stronger film than Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was ultimately a little bit disappointing. It’s a lot of fun, and a great introduction to a series of new characters within the MCU. I ended up seeing it in IMAX 3D, but I wouldn’t call the 3D necessary. It’s perfectly fine to see it in 2D – I didn’t even notice the 3D much anyway. But it’s definitely a film that begs to be seen in theatres so be sure to catch it in the theatre!

Big Eyes

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 3.5
July 17th, 2015 No comments

Big Eyes, 2014, USA

BIG EYES

BIG EYES

Big Eyes is based on the true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), the painter of portraits with big eyes. As a single mother in the late 50s, she marries Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a struggling painter and real estate agent. Walter has some marketing skills and manages to find success selling Margaret’s paintings, but he passes them off as his own, as “people don’t want to buy lady art”. Margaret initially reluctantly goes along with this, but her guilt grows, as well as her desire to get recognition for her own work.

This film is director Tim Burton’s second biopic. It’s not in his usual filmmaking style, though he is an avid fan of Keane’s paintings. It’s quite nice to see Burton do something different from the films he has been churning out in the last decade. Both Adams and Waltz are good in their respective roles. I have a great deal of respect for Adams’ performance in particular. Margaret has a quiet dignity to her, and develops a strong sense of self and her own value in a time when women who divorced their husbands were looked upon with suspicion. It wasn’t money she wanted: it was acknowledgement.

As I watched the film, I could not help but think of the state of contemporary art in all of its forms. During the period this film took place, Walter’s argument against women’s art may have been socially acceptable and nowadays it would not be acceptable to say that in most circles. But, there are still precious few opportunities for women to create art, particularly in Hollywood. Just look at how few films are directed and written by women, and of those, how few are major blockbusters! I feel that through this film, Burton was providing his own commentary on the state of women’s art within Hollywood, and the need to open up more opportunities for women filmmakers. We need to embrace art created by women, consume it, and provide avenues for women filmmakers to make their voices heard.

Overall, Big Eyes is Burton’s strongest film in several years. I’d love to see him do more of this sort of film and fewer Alice in Wonderlands.

Big Eyes is now available on iTunes.

The Rover

Movie Rating:
July 12th, 2015 No comments

The Rover, 2014, Australia

the rover

Years after an economic collapse has brought world as we know it to an end, it’s every man for himself in the Australian Outback. Eric (Guy Pearce) is a mysterious loner whose vehicle is stolen by a group of thugs. He immediately goes after them, desperate to get back what is his. He meets Reynolds (Robert Pattinson), the injured and dimwitted brother of one of the thieves, and they form a bond as they ride together.

The Rover is a very slow moving drama that examines what humanity would be like following societal collapse. Like so many others, it predicts an ‘every man for himself’ mentality, a bartering system, and a need for basic supplies such as fuel, and weapons. It’s unrelentingly bleak and dark, and doesn’t have many good things to say about humanity.

Pearce’s Eric is theoretically the protagonist of the film, but he’s never very likable. He speaks little and commits many brutal acts. In many respects, he isn’t much different from the thieves that stole his car, and we root for him merely because he is the lead character. Pattinson gives a career best performance as Reynolds, a character you can actually empathize with. He’s slow, and desperately relies on others to make it in the world. You get a sense that this young man is not built for the world he lives in, and that he could not possibly survive without Eric’s help, and the help of his brother before that.

The film is problematic in some respects. The opening few minutes are incredibly tense, but then it boils away and becomes a dry road trip sort of movie. It meanders on without purpose for a little bit too long before reaching the engaging climax. The audience, which once wondered why this car means so much to Eric, loses interest and by the time the revelation comes, no longer cares.

If you’re looking for a minimalistic post-apocalyptic film featuring engaging performances from the two leads, watch The Rover. It’s available now on Netflix.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 1
July 9th, 2015 No comments

Transformers: Age of Extinction, 2014, USA/China

age of extinction

This was a hate-watch – I want to make that very clear going into this post. I knew this film would be pure trash, but occasionally when I’m in a masochistic mood, I want to watch something bad and write snarky things about it.

In the 4th edition of “robots fight other robots and blow shit up”, the original human cast is gone and replaced by Mark Wahlberg, playing a native Texan with a shockingly thick Boston accent, and his daughter, played by Nicola Peltz. Cade is weirdly obsessed with his daughter’s dating/sex life, and doesn’t take it well when she reveals that she’s dating Shane (Jack Reynor), who is supposed to be dreamy, I guess. Cade is an inventor and comes across Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and patches him up. The world has turned against the Autobots, and Optimus must prove they’re not evil. By blowing more of America and China up, of course. Because that will win them the affections of all of the people.

Transformers: Age of Extinction was by far the worst film in this already pretty poor franchise. It makes zero sense, and Michael Bay’s use of slow motion was laughable and bizarre. The worst thing is that this film plays it completely straight: it would have been enjoyable had the actors had a sense of self-awareness of what they’d signed on for and camped it up a bit, but apparently robots blowing shit up is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Bay’s willingness to sexualize a character who was meant to be 17-years-old was also incredibly disturbing. He has a reputation for sexualizing women needlessly in his film and treating them as empty objects, and he definitely does so again in this film. It’s offensive and creepy.

And it’s also the movie that never ends. It’s almost 3 hours long, and I guarantee you will feel every minute of that time. The first half an hour or so makes a bit of sense and then all sense and respect for basic plotlines is thrown out the window in an effort to create the messiest, most explosion-ridden film in existence.

If you fail to respect yourself and your time the way I did, don’t go into this movie expecting it to make any sense. Just watch it for the explosions and the admittedly excellent special effects. And, better yet, invent some sort of drinking game out of the movie. It may actually make it an entertaining use of your time.

Inside Out

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 4.5
July 3rd, 2015 No comments

Inside Out, 2015, USA

After a few years of decent but not especially noteworthy films, Pixar has hit a home run with Inside Out. It’s a beautifully melancholy tale of growing up, loss, and change.

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy-go-lucky kid who has grown up playing hockey in her beloved Minnesota. Her dad has to move the family to San Francisco for work, and her happy-go-lucky nature is challenged by the strange new environment. Her mind is controlled by five emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader). Core memories make up aspects of Riley’s personality, and are all joyful memories. When a sad memory becomes a core memory, Joy panics, and her and Sadness end up in long term memory storage, where they must get back to Headquarters with the core memories before Riley’s entire personality crumbles.

The strengths of Inside Out are the same strengths as many of Pixar’s other amazing films: they work as children’s films, but feature surprisingly adult themes and metaphors missed by younger viewers. This means their films often hit adults like a sack of bricks and Inside Out is no different. It made me weep unrepentantly during several key sequences, and I’m not the only one who was crying in the theatres. Expect sniffles to act as background noise in the theatre. Of course, there are lighter moments and great moments of humour to lighten the mood throughout.

Inside Out handles the concept of depression in an incredible way. It’s honest, and I think it will start a discussion about mental health, specifically in young people, where such things are often glanced over or underestimated. And most beautifully is that the film acts as a stunning argument for emotions, and emotional honesty. As humans, we need emotions – all emotions, and there’s no shame in feeling any emotion at any given time. Pixar’s writers, directors and animators understand emotion, but they also understand the way a young girl’s mind works.

I can’t speak for the quality of the 3D as I saw the film in 2D but the animation itself is wonderful. The emotions are all gorgeously designed – particularly Joy, who is effervescently beautiful. Sadness is her contrast in every manner: low key, melancholy, and blue (literally). Poehler and Smith are perfect in their respective roles. Watch for Richard Kind in an incredible role – one that will be remembered for years. I don’t want to say anything more than that.

There was a bit of nervousness for awhile when it came to Pixar, but they’ve shown us that they still create the most thoughtful, and creative films in Hollywood. I urge you to see this one in theatres, and rest assured that Pixar is back on top. I can’t wait for their next films.

The Salvation

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 3.5
June 27th, 2015 No comments

The Salvation, 2014, Denmark/UK/South Africa

salvation_a

In the 1870s, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) brings his wife and child over to America from Denmark. Upon their arrival, they are murdered in cold blood by associates of Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a local gang leader. Jon kills the murderers, which enrages Delarue, who embarks on a manhunt in order to find the person responsible. Jon, receiving no support from his fellow townsman, decides to pursue Delarue himself.

The Western genre is sadly out of vogue nowadays, so you don’t really see too many of them. I was intrigued by the idea of a Danish western film, and I adore Mikkelsen, so of course I had to watch this film. For anyone averse to subtitles: this film is mostly in English, save for the opening few scenes.

Mikkelsen is excellent as Jon, a man who has experienced heartbreak at the hands of cruel men, and is hellbent on justice. Eva Green is Delarue’s mute sister-in-law, and her performance is intriguing. I was disappointed that her and Mikkelsen did not share many scenes together, however. Morgan was a formidable villain, much in the vein of other classic Western foes.

The Salvation is a slow burn of a film. It moves slowly, until the final climax, which is breathtaking. It’s all the more exciting because of the slow build-up towards it. Like so many westerns before it, The Salvation really takes advantage of its landscape. It’s shot beautifully. There’s grit and dirt everywhere, offering a sense that this area is a rough, unforgiving part of the world. It’s as ugly and rough as Morgan’s face.

Kudos to director Kristian Levring for delivering a gripping Western featuring characters that felt like homages to classic western characters, yet retained their own individuality. And, in an interesting twist on the genre, it focused on the immigrant experience through Jon, and his brother (Mikael Persbrandt), Danish immigrants and former soldiers.

You can rent The Salvation off iTunes.

RIP James Horner

Movie Rating:
June 23rd, 2015 No comments

Yesterday cinema lost a real artist. James Horner died in a plane crash. Horner was responsible for some of the most iconic soundtracks of the last few decades, including Titanic, Avatar, and Braveheart.

For a number of years I’ve been really into film soundtracks, and Horner was one of my favourites. Whenever I watched Titanic, his music set the tone for the film. Everyone recognizes the music in Titanic.

Horner, like many composers, reused motifs and pieces of music from film to film. As these pieces of music are used to tell different stories, their meaning and emotion changes. From time to time, I recognized notes and small segments of music from one Horner film to another. A number of years ago, just after Avatar came out in theatres, I did hours of research into Horner’s scores and blogged about this phenomena of his. You can read this blog post here.

What a real loss – I was so looking forward to the music he would presumably compose for the Avatar sequels, as well as any other films he would craft music for.

Jurassic World

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 3.5
June 19th, 2015 No comments

Jurassic World, 2015, USA

jurassic world

This movie is the culmination of my childhood dinosaur dreams. As a kid, I desperately wanted to watch Jurassic Park, but for years my parents told me I was too little and that I’d have nightmares. When I finally watched it, I was enchanted by it. It was the perfect movie: the T-Rex was the perfect type of menacing and the Velociraptors were frightening troublemakers.

So, needless to say, I saw Jurassic World opening weekend. Years after the nightmare that took place on Isla Nublar, a fully functional theme park, Jurassic World, opens. It’s an immediate hit, but Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) wants to continue to see a spike in profits, so park scientists have come up with a hybrid dinosaur, Indominus Rex. She has the park’s Velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) examine the enclosure. While doing so, the Indominus Rex escapes and, predictably, wreaks havoc on the park.

Jurassic World follows the plotline of Jurassic Park a little too closely. It’s the exact same formula, down to the ‘kids in trouble’ plotline. It’s still entertaining as can be, but it is a little repetitive, and I would have liked to see the filmmakers branch out and tell a more original story.

That being said, the action is exceptional. The final climactic fight is intense, and one of my favourites from the entire series. It explores some interesting ideas, such as the attempt to ‘tame’ Velociraptors, which can be seen as a metaphor for humanity’s attempt to tame wild and dangerous creatures to use them for our own purposes. Pratt’s character exemplifies the need to respect nature, and recognize its danger.

For me, the highlight of the film was Howard. She was excellent as the Park’s Operations Manager, who is torn between her duty to her job and her need to save her nephews. She displays tremendous growth throughout the film, and I thought she was captivating to watch. I loved her performance. While, in spirit, I suppose she could be compared to John Hammond in Jurassic Park because of her job and her familial dilemma, but Howard does a magnificent job of creating her own character that genuinely could not be more different from Hammond.

I saw the film in IMAX, and I would recommend doing so if you can, because the sound quality and picture really add to the experience. There’s nothing like a giant dinosaur filling up the screen, and hearing the sound of a roaring T-Rex in IMAX quality surround sound. The 3D was less impressive, but that’s just a given, as few films nowadays are worth seeing in 3D.

Jurassic World is the blockbuster film of the summer, and one you should definitely be seeing in theatres.

Pitch Perfect 2

Movie Rating:
June 15th, 2015 No comments

Pitch Perfect 2, 2015, USA

pitch-perfect-2

Pitch Perfect 2 has been a resounding success, thus far. In its opening week, it made more than the first film did during its entire run. Evidently people discovered the first film via word of mouth after it was released on DVD.

Like the first film, Pitch Perfect 2 focuses on the Barden Bellas. After Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) inadvertently flashes President Obama at his birthday celebration, they are suspended from competition. The only way to win back their dignity and their right to compete is to win the World Championship. The bad news: an American team has never won, and their competition is a talented and wildly intimidating German team. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the leader of the team, also finds herself distracted by an internship at a record label.

The film has much the same tone as the first one: the humour is similar, and it contains the same excellent musical arrangements. I enjoyed the overall theme of moving on and finding your own place in the world: many of the Bellas are struggling with the thought of graduating and having to start their careers. I also greatly enjoyed the addition of the German team, which led to some brilliant jokes, and some entertaining confrontations between them and the Bellas. Kendrick’s humour is especially on point during these scenes – and apparently she improvised more than half of her dialogue. I wouldn’t be surprised if these scenes were improvised, and they really speak to her comedic ability and timing.

Also excellent is Wilson, who steals the show once again. She’s amazing at awkward, uncomfortable humour and the opening scene is proof of that.

My only quibble with Pitch Perfect 2 is that it is a little bit overlong. It wears out its welcome just a tiny bit, and the climax of this film feels just a little too much like the climax of the first film. The journey and the main problem of both films is very similar, but that is to be expected, given the nature of this film. There are only so many stories one can tell about a capella singing.

Overall, director Elizabeth Banks has created a fantastic film and a wonderful directorial debut. I look forward to seeing more of her films.

Pitch Perfect

Movie Rating: This entry has a rating of 3
June 11th, 2015 No comments

Pitch Perfect, 2012, USA

pitchperfect

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is just starting school at Barden University, home of the Barden Bellas, an a cappella group. Beca’s dream is to move to Los Angeles to try to make it as a DJ, but her father insists that she join a school club and try out school for a year before he will pay for her to move out to LA. Reluctantly, she joins the Barden Bellas. The group is in disarray after leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) vomited on stage at their last competition. Aubrey and Chloe (Brittany Snow) end up picking an eclectic group of women, and they must learn to work together to beat their rivals, The Treblemakers.

Pitch Perfect is one of several female-driven comedies from the last few years. Its success (and its sequel’s current success) does my heart good, because we need to see more films, comedy or otherwise, led by women. The ensemble cast is excellent and has wonderful chemistry together. Rebel Wilson is a particular standout as “Fat Amy” – she is consistently hilarious. It’s no wonder her career has exploded since this film was released a few years back. Camp took a potentially unlikable character and gave her heart. She manages to make the audience sympathize with her, despite some of her unappealing personality traits and actions.

I have to give praise to the musical numbers, as well. They’re fun, creative and make good use of music from a variety of genres. I really enjoyed them. The plot itself is a little bit predictable, but the jokes and the musical numbers are the real highlights of the film.

At this rate, I’m probably the last person to have seen this film! Once the second film was released, I decided I was well overdue to watch it, and I’m glad I did. If, like me, you’re late to the party, Pitch Perfect is available on Netflix.

Powered by Netfirms