Friday, 23 August 2013

Ben Affleck as Batman: My Thoughts

This morning Warner Bros announced that Ben Affleck would play Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Superman/Batman film to a massive uproar from fans. But, why? I can think of plenty of reasons why this could potentially be a good direction for Batman.

Firstly, Ben Affleck is not the first person to be cast in a Batman film that has caused a backlash from fans. I have two names that proves that you should give anyone a chance: Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger. Let's start with Keaton, shall we? When Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman in the 80's there was a huge uproar. Fans thought he was completely wrong for the role and even threatened to boycott the film, yet Keaton went on to play the role incredibly well and is actually my favourite to play the role (sorry Adam West!). Now onto Heath Ledger. Fans thought that he was "that pretty boy from 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight's Tale" and that he couldn't handle the sadistic side of The Joker....He went on to win an Oscar for his portrayal. Need I say more?

Secondly, Affleck has totally turned his career around since being in every bad Hollywood ever produced in the early 00's (little bit of exaggeration, perhaps). The Sum of All Fears, Hollywoodland, State of Play, The Town and The Company Men just to name a few prove that Affleck is a good actor. I've seen people moaning about the fact he was in a very bad Daredevil film. So? That film was awful - and it would have been awful without Affleck.

Thirdly, and most important in my opinion, Affleck is 41. Let's say Affleck goes on to play Batman for the next 10 years -there's plenty of potential for Warner Bros to use the awesome graphic novels that include an older Bruce Wayne/Batman. Let's not forget that The Dark Knight Returns, arguable the greatest Batman graphic novel, included a 55 year old Bruce Wayne.

I'm certainly not saying that Affleck is the best choice for the role, I can think of plenty actors who I would have preferred in the role (Wes Bentley, Karl Urban and Richard Armitage to name a few), I'm just saying people shouldn't write him off straight away. Just give him a chance.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Elysium Review

Neil Blomkamp surprised us all with his outstanding debut, District 9. What he managed to do on a small(ish) budget was astounding and he showed himself as one of the brightest sparks in sci-fi film making. His follow up, Elysium, sees him with an A-list cast and a much bigger budget. Does it live up to it's promise? 

Well yes and no. 

On one hand, yes: Neil Blomkamp has delivered another gritty, social-realistic science fiction film that has abundance of class and style. Visually the film is quite stunning and it has some great cinematography when it comes to the larger shots. The CGI effects are excellent and blend in well with the environment. The Earth of the film looks very gritty, believable and lived-in and the space station Elysium has this very sterile and futuristic look to it. You could really buy it that Earth could look like this with many decades of neglect and poverty. Everything's in disrepair and in decline. The action in this film is quite intense and it looks very impressive at times. The exoskeletons were fun and looked convincing.

Kruger, played by Sharlto Copley (who was also in District 9) is an absolutely fantastic character. He's sadistic, unhinged and one of the only interesting characters in the film. 

On the other hand, no: the other characters are one-dimensional. Matt Damon's Max is generic and ridiculously inconsistent. Sometimes he's the hero and other times he doesn't want to know. Disappointingly, the brilliant Jodie Foster has a smaller part than I thought she would and she's not at all fleshed out.

Secondly, I didn't feel like the themes of the film go as deep as they could have done.  Unlike District 9, which themes go way deeper with the Apartheid, the themes of Elysium only touch the surface. Questioning our handling with immigration, military power, our health care more carefully and precisely could have lifted this film to the levels of District 9, but alas it doesn't and it feels tacked-on. 

I actually really liked the ending to the film, as well. It was different and didn't fit with the usual 'summer blockbuster' mould. However, because of the generic characters it left me feeling a lot colder than I would have felt had I liked the characters I was supposed to. 

All in all, the film has decent action with absolutely gorgeous visuals and it moves along at a good pace. Sadly the writing, the plot and the characters aren't that interesting and it's hard to get emotionally invested in this film. It's watchable and probably quite entertaining if you're in the proper mood for it. 

This film also proves that Blomkamp has an outstanding touch for sci-fi and it's genuinely refreshing to watch an original science fiction film, with interesting ideas. Bring on Blomkamp's next film! 


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Super Review

Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) gets left by his drug addict wife (Liv Tyler) for a douchebag drug dealer that no one would ever date (a wonderfully hammy Kevin Bacon). So for some reason D'Arbo decides to suit up and be a superhero to get her back. But then he spends most of the movie just fighting random crime that has nothing to do with his wife. It's cool though, he ends up trying to get her in the end. James Gunn wants to focus on throwing his particular brand of outlandish, grotesque humor at the audience, like he so wonderfully did in Slither and his PG Porno internet series, but then he tries to give the film heart and emotion. This is where it completely falters and the whole thing ends up feeling like a really cheap, unevenly toned mess.

No matter what you're expecting this movie to be like, you're wrong: every ten minutes, like clockwork, it changes gears unexpectedly and bucks the audience. It defies categorization, seeming to take delight in confusing its viewers. The similarities to Kick-Ass are there, with the nerdy DIY superhero learning the world's a pretty dirty place after dark, but Super also manages to be as gratuitously gory and continuously off color as a Troma film. Its awkward timing and confounding sense of humor, though, make comparisons to both styles less apt. By the climactic, explosion-filled finale, its transgressions from goofball comedy to creepy drama leave its viewers debating whether they want to laugh or cry. An intensely uncomfortable experience you'll either love or hate.

I didn't like it. 

I mean, don't get me wrong, there are some genuinely hilarious scenes and Ellen Page is an absolute delight in a role entirely different from anything she's done so far, but the whole thing just feels off. Rainn Wilson is likable enough on The Office, but the guy just can't carry an entire film by himself and the supporting cast feels like they belong in a whole separate movie. The entire thing feels like it has no focus and the motivations of characters jump all over the place, never letting the viewer immerse themselves at all. One second our main character is all about getting his wife back, then he's just fighting insignificant crime that means nothing to the actual story, then he completely switches focus back to his wife. Just like the film itself, the guy has no focus and, despite some hilarious moments, it never gives the audience a good idea of what it actually is. It feels like something a couple of college kids threw together in a week and put online.

Nathan Fillion and Linda Cardellini are wasted as their collective parts last about 3 or 4 minutes. They shine when either is on the screen. Kevin Bacon is fantastic and Liv Tyler does a nice job. I was happy to see Michael Rooker as well. It disappointed me that the writers appeared to have a thought toward giving his character some depth and then pulled the rug out from under him. I was able to assimilate Ellen Page's incredibly over the top portrayal of a wannabe sidekick even with her undesirable characteristics, until it got too "real." Overall, this movie's message is simply not strong enough and seems to only act as bookends for the movie as a whole. The plot and events in between do not communicate that message and so it doesn't really pay off. This viewer was left feeling embarrassed for laughing at some of the earlier parts in light of the last half hour. Not a superhero genre movie and not strong enough to be a social commentary.

I wanted to like this film because it was trying to be different and it had a good premise, but it went way too far. It tries to be too different, and it can't decide what it wants to be. 


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Kick-Ass 2 Review

Kick-Ass was a very special film, indeed. Part comedy, part action and all satirical; Matthew Vaughn managed wonders with a low budget and an excellent cast. The sequel, Kick-Ass 2, looks to build on that without Matthew Vaughn and instead with Jeff Wadlow as writer and director. I have to admit, I was a little worried when I heard this news, but I was wrong. His sequel is just as funny, just as gruesome and even more satirical.

Kick-Ass 2 is more of a character piece than it's predecessor. Hit-Girl, the brilliant pint-sized superhero played by the Chloe Grace Moretz; who that took everyone by surprised in the previous film, takes center stage in this film. We see Mindy adapting to life at school under her new guardian, Marcus Williams, while, at the same time, trying to stop the craving of once again becoming Hit-Girl. It's surprisingly compelling stuff and does a good job of making us care more about Mindy as well as Hit-Girl.

Meanwhile, Dave is still struggling along being Kick-Ass, but this time he's been trained by Hit-Girl and found a team known as Justice Forever. This is where most of the comedy comes from and it is genuinely funny. The characters who make up this team are brilliant and most importantly memorable. They're headed by Colonel Stars and Stripes played by the wonderful, Jim Carrey. Carrey puts in yet another brilliant comedic performance, yet brings something totally different to this character. He's a total nutcase.

What I loved about Kick-Ass 2, though, was it's tone. It never takes itself seriously, yet there are some genuinely serious moments which totally shock the audience. Because of the mix of genre, it puts in the audience into a state of relaxation so when a serious scene comes it really hits us right in the face and makes a bigger impact as a result, it's excellent film making. The juxtaposition between serious and slapstick is perfect. The film has some really cringey lines, yet in this, they're not cringey. I'm not sure how Wadlow has done it, but he's managed to make someone dressed up in S&M gear a genuine threat. He's managed to make an old couple superheroes without making me question why. The tone of the movie is just perfect, and I don't think it can ever be recreated by anyone.

The action isn't as good as the original's action, but that does have incredibly high standards. We still get Hit-Girl taking out at least 10 guys from on top of a moving van, we still get Mother Russia throwing a gas tanker into a police car and blowing it up and flying a lawnmower of the back of a police car into two policeman. It's excellent stuff and not bad for a 'comedy'. It's all excellently choreographed.

One fault I could give this film would be that it just retreads ground that was trodden in Kick-Ass, but who cares when it's this much fun? You could also say that the film suffers from the lack of a big villain. I was never that convinced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse - but maybe that's because he's usually a comedy actor and that the last film had Mark Strong, one of the best villainous actors in Hollywood (#Strong4Luthor).

Kick-Ass 2 isn't as good as the original, but it's pretty damn close. It's everything I could have wanted from this film.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Monsters University Review

Monsters Inc came out when I was 6. I remember seeing it at the cinema and I remember crying at the end (and if you didn't you're dead inside!). It had a massive affect on me as a child and I still love it to this day. It's an outstanding piece of cinema, which can be loved by both adults and children.

12 years later and the prequel, Monsters University, comes out. My 17 year old self is reunited with Mike, Sully and Randall in a prequel about how Mike and Sully first met at university and how they didn't particularly like each other in the beginning.

The nostalgic element of the film is perhaps the most well written.The films opening, an infant Mike going on a school trip to Monsters Incorporated, nails it completely. We see Mike's eye sparkle at the scare floor just as my six year old self did in Monsters Inc. We're finally back in the universe. Every twist and turn reveals a huge or tiny explanation to the events and habits of the characters that I previously saw in the first film. It's a very well written piece and answers pretty much everything that needs to be answered including  

Monsters University is classically Pixar. It's funny, it's heartwarming, it's written well and the animation is fantastic. However, I still felt somewhat underwhelmed after coming out of it. There was just something missing from it, but I can't quite put my finger on it. 

It's definitely not as good as Monsters Inc. Of course this is no bad thing. As I said, Monsters Inc is a masterpiece, but I just feel that MU is superfluous. Sure, it answers questions about how Mike and Sully's friendship came about, but do we really need to know? I think that's what my problem with this is - it doesn't add anything to Monsters Inc and it doesn't take anything away. It's pointless, in the nicest possible way. 

The fact that there's no real villain in the film, too, makes the balance of the film not quite right. Monsters Inc had Randall and everyone hated Randall, he was a great villain. This time round, Randall is a geeky and shy nerd and massively underused. Some would say that Dean Hardscrabble was the villain, but is a headteacher really a villain? The same goes for the jocks in the film, it's just cliche. 

The new characters of the film are also pretty weak. Pixar did wonders in Toy Story 3 by bringing in Pricklepants, Lotso, Big Baby etc but in this, none of them are memorable. 

But don't get me wrong, I don't hate this film. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, it's just not needed, which disappoints me. I think that if this had nothing to do with Monsters Inc I would have enjoyed this film much more, but it does and I felt underwhelmed. 

MU is charming, heartwarming, funny and has Pixar written all over it, but it's just not needed.