While I really enjoyed Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman was a miss (though a close miss) for me. The trailers looked like a low-rent James Bond, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a satirical subversion of the secret agent genre, featuring a working class yob making good. There were many great elements in the movie, but the “hacking solves all the plot problems” and the shallowness in most of the characters were too much for me. I couldn’t get my head around Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine – he seemed too much like a cartoon character, and not a scary one – though it was interesting to hear how the stutter was Jackson’s own idea, from when he actually had one. Gazelle was very cool though.
I used to be a huge Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, but the Michael Bay movie didn’t do it for me.
Occulus was a horror flick with an interesting premise – it starred Karen Gillan, but too much is allowed by the power to cause delusions.
The original Dumb and Dumber was a long time ago, and I didn’t expect to be as entertained by the extremely late sequel to the gross-out comedy as I was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely dumb and your brain cells will receive a punishing, but I laughed.
Big Eyes is an unusual Tim Burton movie, obviously born from his love of the artist. Waltz’s performance carries the movie, and while some elements were a bit on-the-nose, the movie’s gentle mockery of the art world was pretty funny. It was interesting how Margaret agreed but later changed her mind. The self-cross-examination was the highlight of the movie.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was very pretty movie, and one in which Ben Stiller had to act rather than mug for the camera. I enjoyed the excursions to different parts of the globe, and the themes of going out and living life.
These Final Hours is an Australian end-of-the-world flick following a man who just wants to party away the apocalypse but stumbles upon a girl being attacked. I really enjoyed the movie and the questions it posed about how you act under certain doom. Apparently they’re remaking it as an American flick.
Into the Woods is a movie adaptation of a musical, and unfortunately it shows, with an overcomplicated storyline, profusion of characters, confused tone, limited visual effects, and weak ending. Oh, and all the singing too. I was disappointed.
I’m around three dozen movies behind so I’ll give some short reviews of a bunch of them at once.
The Collection is the sequel to the grisly horror flick The Collector, and is a bit more action and less horror than the original, which suited me fine. Aside from the disgusting parts I thought it was decent, and liked the ending.
The Jewel of the Nile is an old adventure romance featuring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner – apparently it was widely disliked but I didn’t mind it. Though I couldn’t work out how old the leads were supposed to be – Turner was in her 30s and Douglas in his 40s at the time!
Ridicule is an unusual French film about the Court of Versaille and how important “wit” is to social position. While the historical setting and concept is interesting, there is disappointingly few witty remarks over the course of the film.
Oneechanbara The Vortex is based on the Japanese beat-em-up videogame and suffers from being a zombie B-movie, a video game adaptation, and a low-budget Japanese flick. The visual effects are annoying, the story is senseless, and most of the fighting is plain boring.
I watched this quite a while back but went out of my way to see it, having heard a lot of praise for the series. I was well-rewarded by this intricately-plotted time-travel anime starring a nutty chuunibyou protagonist who goes around in a white labcoat and (deliberately) talks like a mad scientist. He takes some getting used to, but by the end of the series I regarded him quite fondly. That’s actually quite true of most of the characters, who tend to have… eccentric personalities.
The story is primarily set in the otaku Mecca, Akihabara, and there’s a great sense of place and identity generated – running around the streets, hunting down old computers, meeting above an electronics store, playing cardgames with idols, and surfing the net. In many ways, Steins Gate is a homage to otaku/geek culture.
The series begins with the characters screwing around for a while, tying into a real-life internet time-travel hoax (fictionalised for this story), before taking a sharp turn into pretty dark territory, revealing unpleasant sides of things and people you saw before. The resolution is pretty strong, though I wished for stronger comeuppances for the villains – who are more like troublemakers rather than true antagonists.
The main focus is on the time travel, and while I’m generally sceptical of its use in a story, there was a decent amount of effort placed into the development of the mechanism and I had no trouble with it in the end. I also really enjoyed the OP and ED, which communicated the sometimes bleak
Strongly recommended for sci-fi anime fans who understand otaku culture.
And yet again I’m watching strange indie movies; The Babysitters is about a high school girl who starts a prostitution ring with her friends for the fathers whose kids they babysit. She deals with rogue “employees”, competition, feelings for and by clients, and the question of how far she will go with her business. While implausible (but what do I know) and taking a strangely mild treatment of its topic, I enjoyed the depiction of messy lives and messy feelings.
Cloud Atlas is an ambitious big-budget indie film by the Wachowskis, featuring big names such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving. Apparently Tom Hanks pushed hard to keep production going even when the film had financial troubles – it’s a labour of love, and has an amazing scope. The film is adapted from a novel that has six nested layers, each referring to a story of the past; there are some symbols that link characters in the different timelines, but the film has the ability to go further – the same actors characters in each of the movie’s six timelines (though this may deviate from who the novel links). Characters are good in one timeline but malicious in another (except for Weaving, who is pretty much evil all the time!), and the makeup department does an amazing job with a couple of overreaches – the Asianised Caucasians fall short (the Westernised Asian also looks rather strange), and this led to some politicised complaints at the time of release. Tom Hanks as a criminal thug and Hugh Grant as a cannibal barbarian are hilarious to see (if you can recognise them).
The book visits each timeline roughly twice (the middle one is twice as long), but the movie crosscuts repeatedly between them, a technique that is especially effective in film. Each timeline has a different tone – a travel journal contemplating the “ladder of civilisation”, the melodramatic encounters of a bisexual artist, a mystery action-thriller, a screwball comedy, a sci-fi romance, and a post-apocalyptic tale, and it’s a delight to see one film attempt so much across hundreds of years of history and speculated future.
Quite appropriately, the music is breathtaking, and something else that’s only possible in this medium. The author was apparently extremely happy with the film, and I can understand why: the medium is used so well to tell the story, employing techniques impossible in the original book.
Cloud Atlas is a tough film and certainly not for everyone – it’s long, convoluted, and required a few attempts – but if you enjoy a story that sweeps across time, and an epic endeavour that brings together lots different elements, you’ll love it as I did.
I’m a massive Chloe Moretz fan, and while her delivery can sometimes be off (Hugo, 100 Days of Summer) she picks a lot of interesting roles. Hick is a film adapted from a semi-autobiographical novel by the screenwriter, depicting a girl running away from a neglectful family and falling into some dark circumstances. It begins brightly with Moretz quoting Dirty Harry into the mirror, but things get serious and disturbing fast. Moretz, Redmayne, and Lively put in excellent performances as damaged and disturbing people. The ending is abrupt, but given what happens in the movie it fits well enough.
If you like a slice of very troubled life out in rural America, Hick is for you.