Oculus


Viewed – 17 June 2014  Cinema

Some movies it’s good to go into totally blind.  No viewing of trailers, no reading of reviews.  Although I had heard this was meant to be pretty good as far as the glut of supernatural horrors of late, ala Insidious and The Conjuring.  This tells the tale of a young twenty something guy (James Van Der Beek look-a-like Brenton Thwaites) freshly released from a psychiatric hospital following an incident in his childhood.  Reunited with his sister, she reminds him of a promise they made when they were younger, and following an auction, sets up a night of observing what happens in the company of an antique mirror, that may or may not hold within a dormant, malevolent entity.

OCULUS

The movie skilfully and cleverly jumps back and forth from the present and to that fateful night when the siblings were just children, and the events that lead up to the guy’s incarceration.  This is spooky, has some great ideas and two very strong performances, especially from the gorgeous Karen Gillan (yes, former Doctor Who assistant) as the guy’s elder sister.  It plays on your perceptions, twists your head into wondering if what you see is happening or just in the character’s heads, and throughout various red herrings and freaky encounters really got me questioning what was going on.  It’s certainly a horror that keeps you on your toes, and some hallucinations, including a memorable light bulb / apple mix up as well as some Ring-like creepy woman moments all made for a genuinely unsettling experience. 

It doesn’t get as nasty or as disturbing as some horrors can be (probably a good thing), and could be seen as more an exploration of the adverse affects of a childhood trauma and the transition into adulthood.  Yet the always scary concept of a possessed mirror and along with the time jumps … meant this horror fanboy came away rather impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Godzilla


Viewed – 22 May 2014  Cinema

Ah, the blockbuster, that high concept thrill ride usually packed with special effects and not much depth (cough, Michael Bay, cough) but every now and then we get a summer event picture that at least tries to have an engaging story or half decent acting, and this somewhat throwback to 50s b-movies and Japanese sub-culture casts Bryan Cranston, fresh from his iconic turn in the multi-award winning Breaking Bad as a scientist who following a nuclear meltdown at the plant he works at, becomes obsessed with a government cover up in Japan and desperate to find out what really happened.

godzilla-2014

Not hard to guess it’s all really a cover up for the discovery of a very big lizard as well as a bunch of ready to hatch monsters, with the biggest smack-down in history just on the horizon.  This is fun, hokey but very well done entertainment.  Cranston, a very emotional and believable actor is as expected very good here, as is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Cranston’s soldier / bomb-expert son in a more mature role than I’ve personally seen before.  The story is packed with conspiracy theories, cover ups etc …and I love that sort of thing, and when we finally get some monster action (about an hour or so in) it’s full on, superbly staged and awe-inspiring to the point of actually being quite scary.  The views from the people and soldiers as giant monsters loom overhead, or close by is nerve-shredding – achieving a sense of greatness and magnitude.  Effects are also first rate with the destruction of cities, explosions and just general mayhem all packing a visual and emotional punch. 

Other than it’s b-movie routs however, the movie has little else to say and I felt the first half was stretched out … we’re not here after all to look at readings on a screen and talk about nuclear testing, we want monsters!  But for a blockbuster that does exactly what you might expect, with a decent, if a little under-used cast (Cranston) and some genuinely powerful moments … you still can’t go wrong.  Just don’t expect much else.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Bad Neighbors


Viewed – 08 May 2014  Cinema

This movie starts with a couple having sex on a table as their baby watches … an ‘I can’t do it when she’s lookin’ scenario.  So that pretty much sets the tone straight away for this mostly juvenile, crude and typical comedy starring Seth Rogan (Knocked up) and Zac Efron (High School Musical).  The story such as it is, has a happy couple, complete with a baby girl whose idyllic suburban paradise is wrecked when the house next door is taken over by a fraternity – cue parties, drugs, alcohol, bangin’ tunes and twenty somethings acting like idiots in the name of fun and excess.  What to do?  Put up with it, or wage war?

Neighbors

This is a funny concept, I’ll admit and Rogen and also Bridesmaids actress Rose Byrne etc give it their all – and moments like Byrne getting er, milked and a nunchuku fight using a rubber dildo caused a few belly laughs, revealing the teenager inside me a bit too often.  But a scene involving the baby girl finding a condom (!) on the lawn, and then various other overly sexual and crude situations just felt forced – should I be laughing or offended?  It’s difficult to tell sometimes.  Rogen is basically the same as he always is – the immature potty-mouthed middle aged fella, and Efron sheds his formerly squeaky-clean teen movie image (which I’ll bet was tarnished before this) to little effect other than his many shirtless moments (please, control yourselves ladies…).  Oh and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass) is in this … and utterly wasted.

Funny if you’re into very adult humour and jokes about sex, sex toys, pregnancy and drugs … but if you’re after anything with a message (it sort of dodges a potential ‘should have studied harder in high school’ sub-plot) or even the slightest depth, look elsewhere.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

86th Academy Awards


So the Academy Awards has been and gone and did I take much interest?  Not really.  Awards ceremonies over the years have returned increasingly diminishing results,oscar I mean isn’t it all just about what movie has the best PR??  Many movies, many very good movies have often not even got a nomination, let alone had a chance at winning – and the ones that do?  Not always very deserving.  Looking at the results below, I would say it’s been a fairly predictable year.  12 Years A Slave getting best picture?  Considering the subject matter it was a simple choice, probably hitting home more than Captain Phillips.  Cate Blanchet was very good in Blue Jasmine, even if it seemed a very academy-friendly performance.  Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and The Wolf Of Wall Street never stood a chance – too much tits & coke.  Oh and who didn’t see the technical and directing nods going to Gravity?  That movie’s marketing campaign was all about the experience, the visuals etc.

Yet I mainly haven’t taken an interest in this year’s awards (or awards season) as simply put, I haven’t seen a great majority of the movies nominated, so difficult to really give an opinion.  I hope to see Dallas Buyers Club at some stage, because of being a growing fan of Matthew McConaughey and Gravity is on my list for the near future (look out for a review sometime this weekend).  So I will leave you with this year’s main winners, a few of the smaller categories omitted, because really, who concerns themselves with those?

Best Picture

12 Years a Slave

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Animated Feature

Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)

Best Cinematography

Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)

Best Directing

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Best Foreign Language Film

The Great Beauty (Italy)

When casting goes wrong


We’ve all been there, the anticipation, the excitement for a new adaptation of our favourite book or a continuation of a much loved franchise, only to have our hopes dashed when they announce who is playing who.  See below a few such roles I think were badly miscast.  Do you agree?

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns

kate bosworth

There may be many things wrong with this misjudged sequel to the much loved Superman franchise, even if Kevin Spacey is kind of great as Lex Luthor … I’m sure few can forgive the overly moody, personality-free performance of Kate Bosworth as one of comic-book worlds most loved characters.  Thankfully rectified in Man Of Steel’s Amy Adams.

Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

shmi skywalker

This is another movie that has many problems, but none more so than the meant to be earnest and emotional but actually wooden and amateurish performance of Anakin’s slave mother.  Surely this could have added much needed weight to young Anakin’s story instead of just making this viewer cringe.

Val Kilmer as Batman / Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever

bruce wayne

Personally my least favourite Batman movie, Jim Carey aside and yes I actually prefer Batman & Robin!  But Kilmer here had no presence, no charisma and just didn’t suite either the dark knight or the playboy millionaire persona.  Shudder.

Julian McMahon as Dr Doom / Victor Von Doom in The Fantastic Four

Dr Doom

Yes he’s from Nip/Tuck and kind of pulls it off as a charming nutjob – but the Dr Doom of the comic-books was a hulking, muscle-bound overlord that no matter how much he tries, McMahon just can’t pull off.  A poor-mans bad guy in what turned out to be a poor-man’s X-Men movie (that wasn’t an X-Men movie).

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights

james bond

The looks, perhaps, but the wit and charm of either Connery or Moore?  Not a chance.  The follow-up movie Licence To Kill was at least a good story but Dalton was on borrowed time from the start and just didn’t deliver anything resembling the spy many of us grew up loving.

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

dragon tattoo

Hot off the set of Bond, where he was surprisingly good, he steps into the shoes of actor Michael Nyqvist and lacked much of the believable emotion of Nyqvist’s performance in what turned out to be one of the most disappointing remakes in a long time – even in the hands of David Fincher.

Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd

MSDJUDR EC009

As the recent Dredd proved this character demands a no-name star beneath that iconic helmet to truly become judge, jury and executioner.  At the time Stallone was big business and he transformed what should have been a faithful comic-book adaption into another Stallone action-fest.  Not a good one at that.