Day 59 – Dawn of the Dead – 2004

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In 2004 Zack Snyder released his remake of Dawn of the Dead onto the world. It was realistic and had human characters which the audience could relate to. The beauty of the plot was that the virus came out of nowhere with no explanation. And that’s the beauty of it.

After the flurry of superhero movies such as Spiderman and The Hulk bringing back the zombie apocalypse to the masses was dearly needed after the terrible second resident evil film with Milla Jovovich. It was refreshing to see a bunch of people living in the last place you would hide out in a mall.

The opening of the film is fantastic, seeing Sarah Polley’s character Ana being chased out her home by her husband and daughter. They have been turned by the virus into flesh eating zombies. It’s both surreal and realistic because of the grounded approach Snyder used with the plot. Using the original script from George A Romero, he used the base concept and then added a 21st-century twist on it with the technology we have in today society.

The contemporary look and feel of the film is warm and also very scary. Outside the mall, their are various zombies who have gathered for flesh, as the living inside has dashed outside all the dead humans who were bitten by the zombies inside. There are thousands all scurrying around for flesh.

The action is nonstop, kinetic and furious. The action once is begun doesn’t stop until someone dies and usually, it’s a gruesome death for certain characters. The main star is the setting of which the world the characters are living, it feels like hell has been filled up and the dead now walk the earth. Some of the actors from the original have cameo roles in the film such as Ken Foree, Tom Savini and Scott Reiniger. It’s a lovely touch that Snyder has asked them to return, and shows that he did care the source material early in his directorial career (I am looking at you Batman Vs Superman).

Overall a fantastic remake, of which the action doesn’t stop. It’s energetic, action-oriented and the story isn’t half bad considering the film mainly takes place inside of a mall.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 58 – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – 2015

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Some reboots can be bad, some reboots can be good. The reboot of Fantastic Four was terrible, however, Batman Begins was a fantastic reboot. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was originally a TV show from the 60’s about two agents from different sides of the world working together to take down an evil organisation. It was really fresh and vibrant and worked incredibly well with other spy serials such as Mission: Impossible and the James Bond movies.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on the same premise, set in the 60’s featuring two leads. An American agent called Napoleon Solo played by the incredibly charismatic Henry Cavill and Illya Kuryakin the Russian played by Armie Hammer. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the master of style brings the set pieces, the style and charisma back to the silver screen with a fun and energetic original story. The film is set in the 60’s so has all the things the 60’s would have. It’s sophisticated and sleek thanks to the two leads who engulf their roles to showcase their acting in a different light with some fantastic comedic moments.

The showcase for me in the film was the opening sequence. It was all meticulous timed in a fashionable matter, making Napoleon Solo very suave and sophisticated ushering the same qualities of James Bond. I think it was edited in the same way that they used to do in the 60’s with the jump cuts. It works very well, and it is a shame that more films aren’t set in that time period. The border between east and west germans makes an appearence, with Solo saving the femme fatale from the clutches of the enemy.

The plot is pretty fun, the engaging agents have to locate a nuclear warhead from the villain, who BTW is forgettable from the first instance we meet them. They have no presence on screen. Elizabeth Debicki is a fantastic actress, who starred in the incredible The Night Manager but her role in this film, unfortunately, doesnt add to her expressive skill set in any way or form.

As this is a Guy Ritchie film, it has a lot of special effects in particular the end chase sequence on the motorcycle and jeep. Using overhead footage of the terrain, the camera zooms on the characters taking the viewer out of the scene momentarily. It’s a bad way of showcasing a chase sequence. It should have been handled more appropriately.

Overall the film is fun, energetic and sophisticated. I would definitely recommend it!

Should you watch it: YES

Day 57 – Fences – 2016

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Fences was originally a stage play written by August Wilson in 1983. It was incredibly successful on Broadway gaining a large following. It was then revived in 2010 by Denzel Washington and starred himself and Viola Davis winning numerous awards including the prestigious Tony Award. In 2016 Denzel Washington Directed himself in the starring role, from a screenplay by Wilson who completed it in 2005 before his death. Is it any good? Let’s find out.

Denzel Washington is an incredible actor. He has starred in some fantastic roles in his career such as Philidelphia, Crimson Tide and Training Day (of which he gained his second academy award). In this film, he plays Troy Maxson who is a garbage man in 1950s Pittsburgh with his wife Rose (played by Viola Davis) with their son Cory. The story is about Troy and his personal struggle against life. It is a character story, with each one having a demon in the film to face. Troy is his father, and how much he doesn’t want to become him, while still maintaining a life for his family who is secretly dispises. He is also dealing with the racist US. Troy is 17 and is at college on the football team. His father doesn’t want him to play, rather him get a job and start providing for the family. They always argue. Rose is the peacemaker, and Viola Davis shows incredible compassion and emotion towards her cinematic comrades. It’s a powerful film, taken directly from the source material.

It’s a character-driven film, with an incredible script and even better cast. Viola Davis is superb as Rose, the always smiling positive figure to Troy’s subjugated look on life. She received the prestigious Tony award for her acting on stage alongside Washington. The same cannot be said for Denzel. He is a good actor, but in this film, I felt he wasn’t great. His fortitude for life is depressing, thanks to his alienating personality his character has. It is a shame, yet he won the 2017 SAG Actor Award but lost the Bafta to Casey Affleck. It’s just not a powerful performance when compared to Caseys Manchester By The Sea.

The film I felt was a little boring, as it was a character driven film. There was little plot development and that’s what made it a little tedious for me to enjoy. I wanted to like this film, but it didn’t click with me. It’s a little boring at points and some of the dialogue does go too deep. Some stage to screen adaptations pulls off the transition correctly such as Les Miserables, and Chicago. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t enter the same terrortory, thanks to the slow pacing and the forced perspective. It has all the signs of a play, being set in the back garden of a home, and rarely moves location thanks to the title being called Fences (as in garden fences). The dialogue can be tedious at points, but it does tell the story quite informatively.

Overall it’s a long film, with little to none plot development, placing its cards on the characters and their depressing lives. It deserved the Oscar Nomination for Viola Davis for Best Actress (glad she won), but unfortunately Denzel portrayal of Troy with his depressing outlook on life. It shouldn’t have been nominated for Best Film.

Should you watch it: NO

Day 56 – Croupier – 1999

 

 

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I love noir, the bleakness is something I feel like certain film-makers can only pull off with certain actors. It showcases the underbelly of society, and what makes them tick. It’s dark, grungy and a perfect fit for this film.

Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a down on his luck writer whose career is going nowhere. His father, a man with his fingers in many pies manages to get Jack a job at a casino as a Croupier. Using an inner monologue of Jacks third person look at life, it parallels early noir films of the early 50’s. It is also a dark twisted look into the mind of a man who is trying change his life, not necessarily for the better.

It’s an intelligent movie, as it the cynical outlook of Jack showcase Clive Owens talents as an actor. I love the look of the film, as it’s set in a basement of a hotel casino somewhere in central London. The entire casino is walled in mirrors making it feel like the place is endless. As the film was shot in 1998, smoking was permitted inside. It is like a filter of the criminal underworld, as the casino brings in a variety of different people across London.

The voice over by Clive Owens shows us what his character is thinking. As he was a former writer, he clever assesses situations and uses is to his advantage. It’s a lovely moniker and with noir films, they utilise a variety of ideas from days of the past. Zooming in the eyes of the character to connote he is witnessing something very crucial to the plot. It is slow but brings attention to the character. Clive Owns eyes tell a whole different story. His character is always waiting for the end to happen like he awaits death. The internal fire of his eyes tells the viewer he is raging inside, comparing to his incredible cool and suave external behaviour. Alex Winters also stars as the South African Jani De Villiers. She is the femme fatale, trying to seduce the reluctant hero to a dark path that would effect his career.

Clive Own is incredible. The direction from Mike Hodges is amazing. It’s a shame the film wasn’t able to get an Oscar nomination for Owen and Hodges. It’s because it was shown in Singapore early and then thrown out of the Academy for breaking the rules. If it didn’t do that, the film would have made a large impact at the 2000 Academy Awards. Shame.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 55 – Spawn – 1997

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Spawn is a comic book character from the mind of Todd McFarlane. It is about a soldier named Al Simmons who is double crossed. He is resurrected and becomes Spawn, leader of hell’s army. He is an anti-hero. It’s an interesting concept behind a comic book character when compared to Iron-Man and Captain America they stand for truth and freedom compared to Spawn’s hellish ambition to destroy evil with evil. The comic is published by Image Comics who also publish Witchblade, The Darkness and in recent memory The Walking Dead. This meant the filmmakers had more jurisdiction in regards to story and character developments compared to DC and Marvel.

With Michael Sheen, John Leguizamo and Michael Jai White (playing the title character), you would think the film would be good thanks to the fantastic talent of these actors and script from the man who created Spawn himself. Unfortunately not. This film is bad. It’s really bad. The acting is sub-par, the story is long winded and the visual effects are abysmal.

Michael Jai White plays his role as an angry assassin/soldier who can’t get out of the killing ring. When he becomes Spawn, the makeup for his burnt skin ruin his role completely as it looks terrible, and you can see Jai White’s lifeless eyes trying to escape from the makeup. We have John Leguizamo’s character, The Violator. At least he is trying to have fun with him. The makeup isn’t bad, and his wisecracks try to liven up the dull script. Michael Sheen plays the generic antagonist and businessman. Nothing to report on his behalf. As this is a revenge movie, revenge is paid.

And we get to the visual effects. Jesus, they are terrible. Let me start with the chroma-key scenes. They are lit incorrectly creating a shadow upon the greenscreen. Secondly, the background is not lit on par with the actors. Next, we have the characters. As Spawn was created from the depths of hell, it would only be suitable that his scenes down there look good. Wrong. They are bad once again. The demons, the creatures and even the live action bits all look like they were made by someone who didn’t care. When you compare it to Star Wars Episode V: Return of the Jedi which was made 14 years earlier it shows you how far the filmmakers had fallen off the boat.

My personal opinion thinks the main thing wrong was the plot. There was no direction, no cohesive story, and no end goal for Spawn to attain. It was a wasted opportunity. I think in the 90’s studios made comic book adaptations to grab hold of the viewer’s attention thanks to the big things actually happening in the comic books such as the death of Superman. Unfortunately, Spawn did not. It cost $40 Million to make, and back in 1997 was a lot of money. It made $57 Millon in the US, which in comparison broke even. So not a major loss. Still a bad film, though.

Should you watch it: NO

Day 54 – The Long Kiss Goodnight – 1996

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Back in 1996, Shane Black sold the script to the studio for a record-breaking $3 Million. It was unheard of back in the 90’s. Was it worth the money from the biggest scriptwriter in Hollywood?

In short, yes. Directed by Renny Harlin and starring his then-wife Geena Davis it tells the story of amnesiac Samantha Caine who lives an idyllic life in the suburbs. Little to her knowledge she was an undercover agent working for the government tasked to take out a suspect. Her life catches up to her, and her former life returns. Also starring the legendary Samuel L Jackson, as private investigator Mitch Henessey, who brings the fun to the party.

Shane Black’s script is pretty good, as it blends emotion, action and wit into a fun movie that very rarely stops with the humour. As it was directed by Renny Harlin, who in the previous year directed Cutthroat Island to critical failure many critics and even Hollywood thought he couldn’t ignite the flame that he lit many years with Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. He did bring it back and restarted his own career mainly thanks to this film and Shane Black’s superb script.

The action is intense, with large set pieces being the showcase of the film. The shootout in the train station is completely insane. I think Samuel L Jackson can’t be killed thanks to Geena Davis character being a badass. At one point they jump out of the top floor of the train station as the explosion ignites behind them. As they fall onto the frozen river, she shoots the ice in a circular motion and they land into the ice safely. It is completely absurd, but then again its totally fun. In another sequence, Geena Davis is trying to take down a helicopter and propels herself into the air, by shooting a cable and takes down the helicopter by grabbing a gun off a dead person hanging to the side of her. It’s insane, something that only Shane Black could write.

It’s a rush to see Geena Davis take out so many people in the 2-hour runtime. She brings the sexiness to the film, with the multiple shower sequences shown, but I think it’s thanks to her husband playing around. It was interesting to see her transformation from Mum with the long locks of golden hair and natural makeup. The seeing her cut and die the hair bleach blond and have a muted colour pallet in her makeup. However, she pulls it off!

Should you watch it: YES

Day 53 – Strange Days – 1995

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Back in the 90’s, James Cameron was king of the world. He released the T2: Judgement Day and audiences across the world went insane for it thanks to the visual effects, explosions and adrenaline pumping storyline. He married Kathryn Bigelow in 1989 and asked her to direct his next big film, Strange Days in 1994. It was a commercial failure, of which many attributed to Camerons influences behind the camera of the film. I think the story was clever and was a little ahead of its time being made in 1995.

The plot is about Lenny Nero, a 21st cop turned street-hustler dealing in SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device) discs that allow the user to experience the memories and physical sensations of the person who originally recorded it. He comes across a disc of which a murder takes place, and propelled into the underbelly of the LA as he tried to find out who murdered the victims. All before the Millenium approaches. It’s a great story by James Cameron and I have to say the acquisition of actors in the film that Kathryn Bigelow has chosen is fantastic on a $30 Million budget.

Leading the cast was Ralph Fiennes playing Lenny Nero, Angela Bassett as Mace the driver, and Juliette Lewis as Faith Justin, the ex-girlfriend of Nero. Also in the squad were Tom Sizemore, Vincent D’Onofrio, William Fichtner and the always scary Michael Wincott. They all work very well together, in particular, Fiennes and Bassett as friends who want to become lovers, the chemistry on screen palpates a fantastic culmination of friendship and honour. Also in the mix is D’Onofrio and Fichtner who play corrupt cops inserted into the story as a subplot. They have no morals or ethics and it shows via anger and rage they both possess on screen. At one point they are shooting into a large crowd, gunning quite a few of the public down onto the ground as the other cops just watch.

I love this film, it encompasses everything that the future could have been. The ability to jump into someone’s thoughts and feelings was impressive, that only the man who created The Terminator could think of. Bigelow stretches her shooting capability with some groundbreaking cinematography. She worked over a year with cinematographer Matthew F.Leonetti to miniaturise a camera system to fit on a head to emulate the first-person camera technique we see on screen. It streamlined the transition to creating realistic first person camera techniques as it emulated the human eye and how the body moves without being fake to a certain degree.

Music in the film is varied, as the filmmakers wanted an international soundtrack with a mix from all over the globe. Rock, trance and rap are heard throughout the film. It does a good job of creating the bizarre culture of which Lenny works in, showcasing talents from across the globe. Personally, I would have preferred to have a single style of music in the film, to identify with audiences, but then again 1995 was a different time.

Overall another great blockbuster from 1995, science fiction at the forefront of entertainment. A goal for James Cameron.

Should you watch it: YES