Archive for the ‘Action Films’ Category

h1

Does Navi mind-melding work with mountain biking?

February 18, 2010

Huh. I can’t believe I haven’t made a post here for so long. That’s pretty shameful. What I really should do is write some more movie reviews. I got sidetracked doing some reviews for a magazine (wow, lucky me!). Also, I’ve been playing with my other site. Hey, you should visit it!

http://towerofturtles.com

No, really, you won’t regret it. I’m telling you.

And just to make sure this post is at least someway film related, I want to make this comment about AVATAR:

The ‘plug-in’ capability that the Navi use – you know the one in their ponytail? Where they plug in to their horse-beast things? It is awesome! How excellent would it be to understand truly the inner mind of other beings? That concept is a philosophical problem that has entertained thinkers throughtout the ages – how do we really understand what others think? Do they see orange as the same orange that we see?  Is the pain that they feel the same kind of pain that we feel? Etc.  You can never really know unless you can plug in to their mind.

Also, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, the Navi have sex using that same ponytail method. Does that mean there’s some strange bestiality going on?

Anyway, on a different note, I like to think that when I clip my cleats into my mountain bike pedals, I have established a special understanding with the bike, my steed. Doesn’t seem to be working that well though. I still keep falling off. So, to answer the question in the title of this post: No.

Navi mind melding does not work with mountain bike cleats.

Navi mind melding does not work with mountain bike cleats.

Advertisements
h1

QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2009)

March 31, 2009

Quantum of Solace Review

James Bond, Quantum of Solace
James Bond. “Mm, that chocolate cake was delicious”

Adam: Three stars

Length: 106min

Review by Adam:

The latest in the Bond films has what I think is one of the better titles for a film in this franchise. Not that it makes all that much sense, but then again, neither does the film. For those who haven’t seen the first Bond film with Craig Daniels playing the world’s saviour, then you’ll be in for a rude shock. Bond has changed. Gone are the cheesy one liners, the elaborate spy gadgetry, the promiscuity. We now have a brooding, jaded, and rather ruthless spy killer.

This movie picks up where the last left off. Heart broken, betrayed and out for vengeance, Bond is hunting the people who brought this upon him. Turns out there is a highly organised entity called “the organization” that is apparently running wild schemes and the British secret service knows nothing about it. So the hunt is on. Who is a traitor and who isn’t?

The hunt takes Bond to a guy who is using a land conservation charity as cover for an elaborate scheme to overthrow governments and gain control of water resources. There is one great scene where it’s explained to a General who is plotting a coup that if he doesn’t cooperate, then someone else will. Hello corporate hegemony!

As far as a mindless action film goes this isn’t so bad. Bad guys abound (and they’re typically bad shooters!), as do car chases, fisticuffs, tuxedos, and product placements. For anyone expecting more than that, maybe don’t bother. The film falls prey to too many sub-plots. There are two stories of revenge going, one about what the bad guys are planning, and the other about whether or not Bond is off the rails. You end up walking away wondering exactly who x person was and why they did what they did.

Of course, the politics in this movie is very average. But seriously, it’s James Bond, what were you expecting. I would write about the gender representation but really, it’s not too hard to imagine what it was like. It is Hollywood after all. As long as you remember that and leave your political analysis at the door you could find something to enjoy here.

h1

HANCOCK (2008)

September 6, 2008

Hancock Review


Adam:

Length: 92min

Taglines:
There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there’s…
Bad Behaviour. Bad Attitude. Real Hero.
Meet the superhero everybody loves to hate.
He is saving the world whether we like it or not.

Review by Adam:

I wanted this movie to be good. I don’t know why really. Maybe I’m just sucker for hype, and apparently the Fresh Prince is now one of the most bankable and successful (in terms of ticket sales) stars around. That, and I love a good story of redemption.

Hancock (Will Smith) is an alcoholic super hero who spends his time being jaded, getting wasted, and seemingly only responding when people call him an asshole. He’s despised by the local population for his reckless acts of kindness, that is, smashing everything in his way to stop criminals. As the only one of his kind, he’s built some pretty distant people skills, which haven’t been helped by the vicious serves he receives from the general population. Eventually Hancock saves a struggling PR man (Jason Bateman) who offers to help him change his “public interfacing”. Thus a story of redemption starts…

The characters in this movie are as shallow as anything we would have seen on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The plot is about the same depth, save for one nicely unexpected twist. Smith manages to crack some good jokes, but it all gets swallowed up by the weak storyline. By trying to get a balance between action hit and comedy hit, the filmmakers managed to avoid them both. Even the ‘baddies’ are pathetic in this film (and everyone also knows it’s the PR people that are pure evil, not the Hispanic gangsters!).

Before I saw Hancock I wondered what would be the evil counterbalance to Smith’s superhero. This is the film’s problem. There’s no great rivalry. No Superman and Lex Luther. No Spiderman and the Green Goblin Family. No Keanu Reeves and Anthony Kiedis from Point Break. There’s only a weak love story that moves this film forward, and even then it doesn’t move it very far.

We can only pray that there is no sequel.

h1

HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)

September 5, 2008

Hellboy II Review

Matt:
Adam:

Length: 120min

Taglines:
Saving the world is a hell of a job.
Good never looked so bad.
Believe it or not – he’s the good guy.
From the visionary director of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Précis: Lighthearted action fantasy about a grumpy hellspawn and his mutant friends, battling to save humanity from a magical evil threat.

Review by Matt:

There’s a big red demon, a looming threat to humanity, and scary gun-toting freaks all around. Is it the 2008 Republican Convention? No, it’s Hellboy 2, the new film written and directed by much-admired Mexican filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro. He’s dropped the nightmarish atmosphere that characterised his recent films. Hellboy 2 is a fluffy action/fantasy flick about FBI-employed mutants saving the world from a mythological army of death robots.

Ron Perlman is Hellboy, a macho, half-human hellspawn who is a bit like a bigger, redder Han Solo. He’s out to save humanity from the villainous Elf Prince Nuada (played by Luke Goss, who has already endangered humanity once, as part of the awesomely rubbish 80’s band, Bros). Hellboy is helped by key team mates: his pyro-kinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), and a psychic creature called Abe (Doug Jones), who has an uncanny resemblance to C3PO in a fish suit. Further assistance comes from a German ectoplasmic spirit called Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane, emulating Klaus from American Dad) and the beleaguered human minder of the group, Agent Manning (Jeffrey Tambour, who is wasted in this excisable role).

Robots, monsters, Bros. It might sound great to you. But be clear about what you’re getting here, because Hellboy 2 won’t be for everyone. There are things to enjoy. Most noticeably, the film has a hammy likeability, unselfconsciously displayed in Arnie-like one liners and other silly, sometimes funny, dialogue. It also sports an impressive visual style; Del Toro has a talent for composition, and a rich imagination. You get a sometimes crazy mesh of towering monsters and flashy fights, and even a liberal promotion of interspecies marriage (there goes the Republican Convention comparison). You have to admit that in some respects, this is a film that has got it going on.

But the film’s bad side soon engulfs the positives. Hellboy 2 just lacks the qualities to make us invest in its story. The plot is recycled, rushed and disjointed. In some places it is jarringly sloppy. Behind the characters’ striking appearances, they are truly shallow, and most of the acting is accordingly stilted. The romances and conflicts are annoyingly clichéd, and may as well have been left out. The more it goes on, the more it feels over-busy and self-indulgent, as if Del Toro was obsessed only with his scattered ideas and ingenious style.

When even Guillermo Del Toro’s fantastical style starts to appear decidedly undazzling, you know there is something missing. I am an enthusiast of monsters, robots and other curiousities. But Hellboy 2 is a reminder that you’ve got to put them in the right vehicle before you have a winning film.

Review by Adam:

I didn’t even know this movie was coming out until I saw it previewed at The Dark Knight. My company immediately complained about how lame it looked. From that moment I was convinced that this would be awesome, and it kinda is. I was hanging to see this movie and at the end of a busy weekend. I even ended up dodging a dinner invitation with a visiting foreign celebrity so that I could see it with an old flatmate.

So the story doesn’t really pick up from the first movie. There is no reference to the previous happenings, or to the fate of the previous human agent assigned to Hellboy. Maybe he just died of an obscure disease.

The plot happens all very quickly and you’re guaranteed to think that it went from the first instance of slaughter to the final battle with very few events in between. The beauty of the film is in the characters, or better put, the creatures. If you’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth you’ll know the beautifully creative mind of Guillermo Del Toro. This film gives him plenty of opportunities to showcase that. Kind of like that Tatooine bar scene in Star Wars Episode 4 (you know, the one where that dude tells Luke what all of us are thinking – “I don’t like you” – and then Obi Wan sabres him). It’s also nice to see that not everything these days is computer generated and some nice work has gone into the costumes.

Despite the supernatural realms and the whole threat of total destruction of humanity, this film is pretty light on. It never seems to take itself too seriously, and that’s a strength. The love stories are hammed up in all the right places (including one unforgettable sing-a-long) and only at a few moments are a bit over the top. The theme to the love story is that the destruction of the earth is fine, just as long as you are with the one you love. Easy to say if you have super-awesome mutant powers I guess…

Basically, go and see Hellboy 2 if you want something light. Don’t expect much and you’ll be delighted with a film that is entertaining, funny, sometimes beautiful, and has guns and big red dudes. Apparently there is another one planned – I can’t wait.

h1

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

September 2, 2008

The Dark Knight Review


Adam:

Length: 152min

Taglines:
Why So Serious?
I Believe In Harvey Dent.
Welcome to a world without rules.

Review by Adam:

Ever since I saw the previews for this movie I knew I was going to see it on the opening night. When the night came, I managed to drag along my flatmates on the promise that this was ‘arguably’ the best Batman ever. I told everyone that they weren’t excited enough. The level they needed to be at was “oh my god, I HAVE to have the giant Batman cup.” Thankfully common sense prevailed and no one paid a ridiculous price for such plastic crap.

The movie itself is pretty awesome, thanks largely to Australia’s latest deceased movie star, Heath Ledger. Basically his Joker character is an extension of the troubled Aussie kid, Patrick, he played in 10 Things I Hate About You. You know that scene where he is playing with the bunsen burner? Well, the Joker is what would have happened if Patrick had ended up with a broken heart (and had needed major facial surgery from an accident). Heathy plays the Joker so well it makes you squirm in your seat. He manages to adopt all the mannerisms and expressions you would expect from some maniacal, super villain. He captures the chaotic logic that is central to the Joker, and it’s that unpredictability that makes you uneasy. Without doubt, if it wasn’t for Heath, this movie would only be average.

The Dark Knight has quite a complex plot that always leaves you guessing as to exactly what is happening and if it is being deliberately planned. The only down side to this is that the film tries to cram a bit too much in. Two villians in one movie – doesn’t that undermine the principles of a movie franchise?

Christian Bale may be the greatest Batman yet. He carries the worries of the metropolis like only a billionaire playboy could, with lots of brooding looks and a special voice for when he’s in his Batgear. What makes him great (like Michael Keaton) is that he exists in a grim time. From this, the story becomes one about redemption and the attempt to make things right. From heroes that is all we can ask.

The extras in this movie are also fantastic. Gary Oldman, as the police commissioner, is probably my favourite character in the whole movie. There’s just something so wonderfully incorruptible about him. Maybe it’s the moustache.

The movie deals with issues of uncontrolled power, fear, and what it is that drives us as humans (it’s not bat-mobiles). I thought the ending was mostly good, except for the moralising about society needing leaders/good examples. To hell with that! The Dark Knight shows us that the most respectable characters are in fact those society is willing to lock up.

4.5 Batmasks.

h1

CLOVERFIELD (2008)

June 24, 2008

Cloverfield Review


Matt:

Length: 95 min

Taglines:
Something has found us.

Précis: Energetic monster-mayhem in NYC, filmed through a first-person account.

Review by Matt:

One of the main characters in Cloverfield, Rob (Michael Stahl-David), is having a farewell party. It is being filmed on handycam by Rob’s friend, Hud (T J Miller). It is this “home movie” that we the audience are seeing. Pretty mundane. Rob is leaving Manhattan the next day for a new life in Japan. Unfortunately, before he goes, Japan comes to him … in the form of its favourite city-smashing giant lizard, Godzilla!  BOOM!!

Actually, the enraged creature that suddenly descends on the Big Apple is not exactly Godzilla (and in a remarkable display of copyright compliance no character ever utters the world “Godzilla”). But it could well be Godzilla’s cousin. In any case, it is just as good at pulverising a cities as the famous reptile . Naturally, it quickly scares Rob and his party out into the panicked streets.

Hud keeps his handycam running. The result is 90 minutes of shaky, first-person footage documenting a small posse’s attempts to find a lost friend and escape Manhattan, while chaotic monster-action goes down all around. Cloverfield’s style basically parallels the infamous Blair Witch Project. We only see the perspective of one person and one camera throughout the entire account. Doing away with the constructed, edited narrative of other monster movies makes Cloverfield a much tastier film. We’re as confused and uninformed as our cameraman. We’re only given glimpses of the invidious invader and of the army’s desperate attempts to contain it and evacuate the city. Some viewers might find it frustrating that we do not receive a complete picture, but I liked the fact that the horror is left to brood in our minds. There are scores of other “invaded city” stories if you want to go and see a plotted explanation. I was mostly on-board with the turbulent “oh my god what’s happening?!” style because I appreciated that within the framework it sets up (mysterious monster crushes city), the action in Cloverfield is fairly realistic.

What the film has going for it is that it has picked a simple story and style and just pumped it out in a tense and exciting ninety minutes. Explosions, monsters, deaths, panic. Repeat. It’s not groundbreakingly original but that doesn’t really matter. One influence that Cloverfield has obviously plucked from the zeitgeist is the 9/11 world trade centre tragedy. The visual parallels are striking, as Manhattan buildings collapse and dust spews through the streets engulfing the city’s shocked denizens. The film’s effects are done brilliantly and for the most part it really looks like the footage of a hapless victim stuck in the thick of it. I didn’t find the bumpy hand-held style annoying or nauseating (as some viewers apparently have). If anything, the camerawork was probably too steady and convenient, considering the amount of city-stomping monster-mayhem going on around these poor sods.

The film’s biggest problem is its characters. Often acting is only ever noticed if something is amiss. Here, it is noticeable. Cloverfield’s band of twenty-somethings seem incurably two-dimensional, even though the film gives us twenty minutes of “home movie” with them before the monster even comes a-knocking. Somehow our guides through devastated downtown don’t look like everyday people who’ve stumbled into a spontaneous documentary. They just look like actors whose attempts at appearing realistic are a bit hammy. So Cloverfield’s relationship/romance strands swirl away in the New York dust, along with our potential empathy. But at least you won’t feel too guilty if you cheer a bit for the monster.

In any case, the immersive sci-fi action is still ample for a good cinema experience. Cloverfield delivers an exciting monster film that is much better than your standard “city under threat” blockbuster. Provided you don’t demand a conventional narrative and you can take a bit of mystery, shaky camera and hammy characterization, Cloverfield is worth a look as an enjoyable piece of fluff-entertainment.

h1

IRON MAN (2008)

June 7, 2008

Iron Man Review

Matt:
Adam:
Tracy:

Length: 126 min

Taglines:

Mark 1. Mark 2. Mark 3.
Suit up.
Launching May 2 2008.
Armor up. Fully charged.
Armor up.
Fully charged.

Précis: Superhero film rockets far above others in the genre with a smart, contemporary story about the origins of an eccentric self-made hero.

Review by Matt:

Iron Man is the latest piece of popular culture (a Marvel comic book from the 1960s) vacuumed up by Hollywood’s all-devouring machine, and reconfigured into a blockbuster film. ‘Here comes the crap’, you say, and you’d be right to be dubious – Hollywood’s action blockbusters are too often like a showbag: they promise so much, but ultimately they’re a bag of junk. But – holy superheroes Batman!Iron Man is actually a rare exception where Hollywood hits the mark. Sit back and enjoy a big-budget, comic-book-action extravaganza which also manages to be smart, exciting and relatively believable.

That’s not to say it’s a masterwork of depth. In a nutshell, Iron Man is a fairly simple ‘origins’ story (a la Batman Begins) augmented with some slick action and sly humour. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a high-tech weapons whiz and and amoral playboy who’s earned billions by arming the good old USA with the WMDs it needs to rule the world. Stark suffers a traumatic epiphany (so often the catalyst for a superhero transformation) that melts his patriotism and spurs him to put his techno-prowess to better use. So he constructs a flying armoured exo-skeleton suit and starts thinking about how he can do good in the world, starting by disentangling himself from his profit-hungry company.

It’s a story that is fun and interesting for most of it’s length. The best thing Iron Man does plot-wise is to lay a proper foundation. Most superhero movies would busy themselves by having their guy face off against some monstrous villain or other threat. In Iron Man, the meat of the story is the birth of the character and his transformation into a unique hero. It’s refreshing to see a story more focused on the realities that would nettle a superhero. How do you invent your super-technology? How do you deal with the messy company/military/media pressures? etc.

Spending most of your viewing time with the jocular and fast-talking Robert Downey Jr is also a joy. He brings a naughtiness to the superhero stereotype and an arch tone to the film. It contrasts to the heaviness of other superhero flicks like Hulk and Batman. The contemporary setting also provides a nice touch of realism that is sometimes missing in the genre. The technological advancements featured in Iron Man don’t require a huge leap of faith – it’s modern military technology boosted by a bit of sci-fi imagination (that’s right, his suit isn’t actually clunky old iron – technically he should probably be called High-Tensile-Polymer Man”, but that’s not as catchy). The film uses contentious contemporary issues (war, weapons, insurgents etc) as decor, but the commentary on them is fairly light-on. Also, in true Hollywood style it gently questions the profit-focus of companies, but then shoves Burger King and Audi products in our faces (please note, Hollywood: I’m not going to buy an Audi and drive it to Burger King no matter how much you show them).

Amazingly, Iron Man was one of those productions written then rewritten and assembled by a cast of scriptwriters. So how does it work so well? It’s saved by the shining centrepiece of Iron Man/Stark and the intelligent directing by John Favreau. Get away from this core and it gets a bit jumpy. Some of the more Hollywood-esque elements are disappointing. There are a few moments of questionable reality, a bit of a truncated action-ending, and some watery support characters. Poor Gwyneth Paltrow has the worst deal – and the worst name – as ‘Pepper Potts’, Stark’s prim assistant/romantic interest. The almost unrecognizable (big, bald, bearded) Jeff Bridges has the best of the secondary roles as Stark’s paternalistic business partner who starts to flip when Stark switches sides.

Jumpiness aside, the movie is done smartly, maturely, and with gusto. Which makes it easy to get into and lifts it well above your average superhero movie. Hey, who doesn’t want to see a profiteer-of-war snap out of it, acknowledge his complicity, and then start kicking butts with giant rocket feet?

Review by Adam

I went to see Iron Man on its opening night such was the grip that the hype had on me. I tried to convince my five flatmates to come with me but none would. So I went solo. When I got there the session I wanted to go to was full and I faced a 50 minute wait till the next one. I sat and waited. Boy was it worth it!

I never got into the Iron Man comics nor the little I saw of the cartoons. For some reason it just seemed lame compared to all the other mutants and super powered freaks out there. The movie however transcends that , and it’s the personal connection that viewers have with Iron Man (aka Robby Downey Jr) that makes this movie smooth to watch. RDJ carries the wit and arrogance (and later the passion) that only a weapons billionaire could, and he does it with ease. There’s something all fuzzy and warm about seeing a purveyor of death turn into a defender of freedom and all that’s good in the world. For a second it makes you think that if all the weapons manufactures in the world saw this, the world would be a better place. Then you realise that that won’t happen and you start to plan how your robot exoskeleton would hunt them down (mine would land on the bonnet of their car, freaking them right out!).

A personal highlight for me in this movie was Jeff bridges, with his bushy beard and bald head. Fifteen bucks worth it right there! Gwenyth Paltrow is kinda average in this but really her part wasn’t ever going to be much more than sexual tension and the role of precarious attractive human facing death by villains. She does face death well though.

Ultimately I wanted this movie to be everything it was. Simple plot, superhero moral complexities, explosions… Did I mention simple plot and explosions? It delivered on all these fronts in a wonderfully enjoyable way. Don’t expect more than that, and boy oh boy will you be rewarded. 4 out of 5 Robot Exoskeletons.