Day 31 – The Crow – 1994

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I can’t believe I have reviewed over 30 films in a month. Thanks for reading the blog everyone! Anyway, let us get to the review.

The Crow. Brandon Lee’s last film. Shot on set by accident. A beautiful but flawed superhero film.

Directed by Alex Proyas, the man that gave birth to last year car crash Gods of Egypt, based on a comic book from the 80’s. The crow is about a man who was murdered, then brought back by a crow to seek vengeance on those who killed him.

It’s a fantastic visual spectacle, based in a dark and grungy city where it’s always night time. The soundtrack is also dark and broody, thanks to excellent music from The Cure and Rage against the Machine.

As the film is based on a property that was a former comic book, Proyas has brought us a revenge fantasy film, and it shows from the outset. As Eric Draven gets his revenge, the more the viewer feels like he is doing the right thing. Unfortunately, it’s classed as an anti-villain. This is kind of a cliche as the archetypal hero shouldn’t kill.

The look of the film is great, originally supposed to be shot in monochrome, Proyas and DOP Dariusz Wolski (who also worked with Ridley Scott on various projects) but instead shot in color with a muted color palette of grays and blacks adding to the thematic tension of the plot.

The villain in the film played by the enigmatic Michael Wincott and his woeful voice shed light on the characteristic of a fantastic villain. His voice is scary, his hair is scary and his eyes when on camera show that he can look into your soul. He is, without a doubt, one of my favorite villains on screen.

The main news around this film production was the accidental death of the main Actor, thanks to a blank bullet being shot at him, killing him. Similar circumstances which parallel his father’s death (Bruce Lee).

This film is a love letter to the American Gothic and Edgar Allan Poe kind of horror. It’s scary in its own sense. RIP Brandon Lee.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 30 – Limitless – 2011

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This was a major release in 2011, Bradley Cooper as the man with everything. The ability to take a pill, making you a genius instantly. Don’t you wish it was real?

Back in 2011, the film made a large impact on Hollywood thanks to its great direction from director Neil Burger (who also brought us the diabolical first Divergent film). He makes a man with great intelligence into a superhero thanks to his heightened abilities and its great. Everyone I talk to about this film has great things to say, and I think it’s down to Bradley Coopers interpretation of his character Eddie Moira.

Visually the film looks fantastic thanks to great cinematography from Jo Willem, who went onto to work with Francis Lawrence on The Hunger Games films. It showcases his talents at equilateral shots with the characters always in the center of the lens and this is something I quite enjoy. Using the blue filter on the city of New York adds to the pristine representation we always come to think about when we think of the city. No longer is it a vibrant city with life, but rather a central hub for finance and business. It looks great.

The story is ok, a substandard tale of a mortal man who takes a pill and becomes a god in a flash. His life is turned upside down, and a variety of things happen to him, but gradually it will slow him down unless he finds a cure.

There is one shot in the film that I find incredible, and that’s the opening shot of the camera moving through the city. It looks like still photography but is actually video footage being zoomed into. It looks incredible, and I have to give it to Cinematographer Jo Willems for creating the Infinite Zoom Lens shot. Using 45 shots of New York footage, and then merging them together creates this fantastic shot. Google it to believe it.

Acting wise, the cast is vast but not the best. Cooper and Robert De Niro bring their A-Game however, Abbie Cornish and Anna Friel are wasted as the damsel in distress and the former girlfriend. Friel, in particular, has been wasted, watching her performance in Marcella early last year proves she has moved a long way from her acting days in Brookside. Marcella was an excellent TV btw.

The music in the film is a little cliche, Paul Leonard-Morgan brings the twangs and the digital effects too much into the score taking me out of the film ever so slightly at pivotal points throughout the film. A little less acid, Paul!

Should you watch it: YES

 

Day 29 – Lion – 2016

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As you can probably tell, I am reviewing a lot of films that are new. That’s because the Oscar nominations have been released and I wanted to watch as many films that have been nominated so when the show comes around I have the best possible idea of which film is worth the award (Not American Honey, thank god).

Lion is about a 5-year-old boy from a small town in India named Saroo who gets lost following his brother (Guddu) on the train. He is lost and placed in an orphanage for 3 months unable to pronounce his hometown thanks to local dialect, he is adopted by 2 Australian people. Growing up in Australia and becoming a local citizen he moved to Melbourne and discovers his new girlfriend and the ability to locate places on Google Maps. He then discovers his hometown and plans a trip to travel there and locate his lost family.

It’s an incredible tale of self-assurance and the acting is superb, Dev Patel in particular with his long hair, Tasmanian dialect, and his above average height plays an incredible version of someone we have never seen on camera. Empathy is something Patel is great at conveying, undergoing a 7 month period of research for his character.

As this is based on a true story, some elements were changed because of the runtime, such as the girlfriend played by Rooney Mara who was based on several girlfriends that Saroo had over the course of his discovery. Nicole Kidman and David Wenham play the adoptive parents Sue and John Brierley, showcasing the vulnerability of adoptive parents and how their lives can affect their children significantly, but at the same time show that being a parent can be a shared responsibility, as in the film showcases in much detail.

Overall it is a fascinating tale of discovery, with the locations of the film the true victor. Cinematographer Greig Fraser, whose previous work include Last Ride, Foxcatcher and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. His fantastic portrayal of hues and oranges to showcase the warmth the film adds to the integrity of the script.

Is it a tear jerker? Ever so slightly yes. Not as bad as 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen from 2013.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 28 – Moonlight – 2016

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Moonlight is a story about a boy, growing up in Miami. It’s a personal struggle for the boy and what he endures during his lifetime. An incredible piece of filmmaking from director Barry Jenkins who based the story on his own life.

The film follows Chiron through 3 stages of his life, starting when he was a child, teenager and then finally an adult. It chronicles the struggle of his upbringing with his crack-addicted mother and dangerous Miami neighborhood. It’s a very dark place when we meet Chiron thanks to the storytelling from Barry Jenkins and the bleak cinematography from James Laxton. You really feel bad for Chiron when his mother is shouting at him down the hallway. Meeting the heroic yet flawed Juan (Mahershala Ali) during this time is a very dramatic period, as he saved the child from the depths of bullying becoming a father figure to him. The child playing the young Chiron is fantastic, showcasing his ability to act with no confidence like Chiron does. During this time period, we are introduced to his friend Kevin, his best friend.

The second stage of Chiron’s life is him as a teenager and his struggle with his sexuality. It’s incredible to see such actors portray broken characters with so much heart, thanks to Jenkins screenplay and direction. The best part is when Chiron is an adult, showcasing the acting talents of newcomer Trevante Rhodes. A large, rough drug dealer who life parallels with the one Juan had in his childhood. He plays Chiron as a man hiding from his feelings and past and it shows in his persona, and the way he interacts with other characters with his large frame and figure, yet his personality is still the broken young man from Miami. His feelings for Kevin still linger and it shows in the scenes with them both in. Incredible story telling from Jenkins and his team, considering they only had 25 days to shoot over.

Mahershala Ali and Naomi Harris’s performances are incredible, showcasing the talents of both actors in intricate detail. Ali with his performance for Juan, the man that climbed into the role of the father figure whilst still trying to fight the demons of his previous life. Harris throwing out her archetypal role of the good samaritan and playing the aggressive, volatile and abusive mother of our protagonist Chiron through the 3 stages of his life. Her performance is spectacular and definitely worthy of achieving the academy award she received for her performance.

This film is incredible and definitely worth your time. Check it out before the Oscars come around. It’s worth the 8 it has been nominated for.

 

Should you watch it: YES

Day 27 – Terminator Genisys – 2015

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The Terminator franchise was in turmoil in the recent years with the release of Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and Terminator: Salvation. They were both terrible in comparison to the incredible Terminator 2: Judgement Day with its superior characters, locations, and overall plot.

Terminator Genisys tries to bring back some charm from T2. The actions, the suspense and (my personal favorite) the visual effects. There are so many, they all look fantastic.

The film mixes the old with the new which is delicate touch. The scenes in 1984 are reminiscent of the original terminator with care taken in getting the shots identical to finding actors who resemble the ones from the original film including clothing and vehicles.

The subtle layer of digital distortion when we are in 1984 is fantastic, it adds the realism as if we were really watching footage shot in that time period. The fact that the film-makers even shot some of the footage with the proper aspect ratios is amazing. They didn’t use any original footage because it would have looked terrible when compared to the digital print (which makes sense when upscaling 35mm to 70mm digital IMAX resolution).

The story is well told, with Kyle Reese being sent by John Connor to save his mother from execution from the Terminator but in actual fact, the timeline had been altered and Sarah Connor saves Kyle Reese as soon as he arrives in 1984. I found that spin on the story was a nice touch by screenwriters Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis, with the original terminator trying to be a father figure to Sarah Connor, with her aptly naming him ‘Pops’. As he said to Kyle Reese, he is “Old, not obsolete” canning in on Schwarzenegger,s age. They have to stop Skynet from changing the timeline further and have a hell of a job doing it. It’s a fun adventure and worthy of the Terminator franchise, unfortunately, the world didn’t join in with the celebrations. Critics said the story was convoluted and the acting was bad praising only Schwarzenegger as the titular role.

Overall this film is great, I really enjoyed the story and the action sequences. It’s a shame that audiences around the world didn’t.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 26 – 21 & Over – 2013

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Back in the late nineties a lot of film studios decided to make a lot of teen sex comedies such as American Pie, Not Another Teen Movie, and Van Wilder: Party Liason. At the time they were fresh, funny and downright gross. Something that the world of cinema was craving since the Disney Renaissance in the early nineties.

21 & Over is about 2 characters who are meeting an old friend who’s going to turn 21. Another story of party animals helping their friend release some steam before going off to their chosen career path; in this case becoming a doctor. The main problem with this kind of film is the way the main characters are written. The plot is thin, and the outcome of their adventure is guessable until the last couple of minutes which is a surprise in 2013.

The main problem with this kind of film is the way the main characters are written. You have the college dropout hoping to rekindle his party days with old friends, then you have the graduate who has a nice stable job looking to move on from the old days but comes back one last time. I find it a little cliche as this film was released a year after the successful Project X, of which was produced by Todd Phillips. He directed the wildly successful Hangover movies of which this film tries to copy ever so slightly. The writers may have done well previous on the Hangover, but it was down to the direction of Todd Phillips that made it great. Miles Teller, Skylar Austin and the titular 21-year-old Jeff Chang (who was 32 at the time of filming) are bland as they come. They have no soul in this film and it made me feel quite sad for them as actors. Was it for the money?

The jokes are lame, the acting is bad and the finale is completely random. Mixing mental health with comedy is dangerous territory, irrelevant if the stage is set in the 80’s, 90’s or 2000’s. It’s a lackluster adventure of which has the most laborious ending and I recommend that you spend your time watching La La Land a second time.

Should you watch it: NO

Day 25 – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – 1997

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Mike Myers is a funny man. I remember watching Wayne’s World for the first time and literally laughing my ass off. The comedic timing of Myers and co-stars is what makes this film great.

Taken as a James Bond spoof, the film is about a spy from the 60’s frozen in time until his arch-nemisis comes out of hiding to destroy the world. It’s essentially all the James Bond films merged into a single film. It’s quite funny at points. Dr Evil as the Blofeld-esque villain, based on the Donald Pleasance version from You Only Live Twice.

The film is a spoof. A joke of films of past.It’s childish humour and gross comedy make it either hilarious or just down right silly to the point where you find it not funny. I call people who think this film as not funny: boring.

This is another classic.

Should you watch it: YES