Posts Tagged ‘Movie review’

Hello friends! It has been a while. But I recently had an almost lethal overdose – of movies (did you think I was going to say something else then?) and so it is time to empart my wisdom once again about the one thing in this world that I can talk insenently about, even if you tell me to stop. And you probably will. But I am stubborn so there.

When I first saw the trailer for Elysium, I though it was right up my street. Post-apocolyptic. Space. Robots. Its like the movie equivalent of an orgasm. Anyway, it was clear they chucked a lot of money at this film, the special effects were top notch – and the cast impressive. Matt Damon – I’m guessing – doesn’t come cheap, and neither does Jodie Foster (despite not really bringing anything good to a film since Contact back in 1997). Also in the starring line up was City of Gods Alice Braga who has done some interesting films since her big break, and as an actress I think she does the whole damsel in distress well. But the best thing Elysium had going for it was it’s concept. In the not so different future, earth has become inhabitable due to over-population and pollution, and using up resources. As a result, those with the means, moved to Elysium, a space station in Earth’s orbit that is basically like the astro version on Bel-Air. The people in charge are all on Elysium. And they rely on robots back on Earth to govern the people with a literal iron fist. The world has become unjust, third world dictatorship, where the people with means (the 1 percent) live in paradise while trampling on the 99 percent back on the ground. On top of that, people on Elysium have health pods that – from what I gather – can make people live forever. They can heal any person of any ailment. And the rich use that to prolong their lifestyle while the poor have no decent healthcare.

It’s not difficult to see that the whole movie is a metaphor for what we ourselves have become. There is still a huge class divide by where 5 % of the population controls 95 % of the worlds wealth. And those in the developed world are okay with that – a bold statement, I know. But it’s all fine writing a check to a charity every once and a while when you saw the starving child covered in flies on TV, but when the solution to the problem becomes something that impacts on our actual way of life – we start to have a problem. People question how much the government spends on foreign aid when there are domestic crisis’ that are in need of funding. We have our flat screen TV’s, and our games consoles, and our holidays abroad – not because we need them, but because we can and we feel we deserve them. It’s an ugly side to human nature that we all share.

Anyway, back to the movie. The concept of Elysium interested me. And the film had potential in spades. However, I think the execution was flawed. In terms of direction I think Neil Blomkamp did well, but his script was lacking. There was no big finale, just several events that didn’t really climax in any meaningful end. The action was not as exciting as it could have been and in terms of the story development, the whole thing felt very much like it was plodding along at an uneven pace. I enjoyed Elysium, and it definitely wasn’t a bad movie, but it never really excited and enthralled like a big budget action movie should. It is possible that this was purposeful, in order to not overshadow the films message, but the ending wasn’t really moving enough to be memorable. Matt Damon’s character wasn’t particularly likeable, and I hated Jodie Fosters Delacourt much more than I liked him. All the performances were good, and I think the actors did their best with what they had, but there was no winning spark that would have made this a mega movie.

Overall, this movie didn’t live up to hype. But still delivered as a weekend blockbuster.

6/10

Well here we are, another movie that is loaded with controversy. I must admit, when I first saw the trailer for The Impossible, I myself did think, “Um… it’s a movie about white people… when hundreds of thousands of Asian people died.” It is pretty hard not to think that when you see what they did with the trailer. But I still wasn’t exactly surprised. I figured this for a Hollywood movie – where the American people always get the centre of attention. I was wrong. There, I said it. Don’t make me say it again. 

Firstly, this is a true story, based on a Spanish family. Secondly, it is actually a Spanish made film. And thirdly, the family are actually portrayed as British. Although it is never actually said in the film. I figured they attached the actors and then cast the kids so it made sense. The real Maria – portrayed by Naomi Watts – was actually adamant that they were seen as people, not as any nationality. Still, I can’t help but thinking there was a million stories to be told, and they told this one. About a family of Westerners. There is barely any references to the native population that was killed. In fact, all we really see of the locals is them briefly helping people – all unscathed themselves like it was some sort of isolated event to only effect white people. Don’t get me wrong, The Impossible is a very moving film. I just feel as though it isn’t a true and fair portrayal of the Tsunami. I guess it isn’t supposed to be – it is about one family’s struggle. But there is no reason that family couldn’t have been Thai. I get that they wanted to market the film to an English speaking audience, hence the Britishness, but still – they could have just made the family speak English. Simple. People have been making Ancient Romans, Musketeers and Aliens speak English for years in movies when it didn’t make sense. It would have been overlooked. Also, I can’t help thinking that yes the family were obviously scarred about their ordeal. But they get to go home. The Asian people don’t. Their plight was only just starting. What about the clean up? The hunting for dead? Rebuilding homes?

Anyway… rant over. I suppose I should review the film. I will try to be unbiased! If you look at The Impossible without prejudice and just see it as a story of one family, then it is a good film. I pretty much cried from start to finish. The direction really helped to bring a sense of hopelessness and panic to an already good script. And I was highly impressed by all the actors involved. Special mention goes to the young Tom Holland who played the eldest son Lucas. Wow. What a job he did. When you steal scenes from Naomi Watts, you know you’re a talented lad. Ewan McGregor was, as usual, fantastic – surely one of the most underrated actors working today. Naomi Watts gave every bit the performance you would expect from her, and the casting of the family overall was spot on. They gelled as a unit, and despite little screen time altogether, you really believed they were a family.

For what The Impossible sets out to do – move you – it succeeds. But I stress that, although you do get a view of the Tsunami itself, it isn’t really a retelling of the disaster. I hope that a film properly portraying the Boxing Day Tsunami will follow shortly. Overall, this is a quality, well made film. But ethically, I feel they should have waited to make it. The first movie about the Tsunami should have represented the main people effected by the tragedy.

7.5/10

“What? You’re reviewing an Anaconda sequel? Oh dear God, Hannah – you’ve hit rock bottom!”

I ain't high fiving that bro

I ain’t high fiving that bro

That is pretty much how I imagine you are judging me right now. But you know what, its a film about great big fucking snakes eating people. That means I have fun reviewing it. So screw you, unnamed person!

Really though, it isn’t that bad. Giant CGI snakes? Check. Evil British dude who had an affair with Sally in Corrie? Check. Hilarious black guy? Check. Seriously, what more could you want in a film?! A monkey!? Oh well you are in luck, as we have one of them too…

Anaconda – The Hunt for the Blood Orchid follows a group of people who have gone into the jungle in search of a flower that only blooms once every seven years. The flower also seems to be the pharmacological version of the fountain of youth – in that it can make you live longer. As a Pharmacology graduate – See… I’m a true geek, not just the pretending kind – I find the whole concept a bit far fetched. I mean, sure there would be billions for anyone who could develop such a drug, but if it came down to being eaten by a great big fucking snake, or a flower that could only potentially work (I mean we are talking Phase I and II drug tests, FDA approval… all of which would probably take years anyway…) than no thanks, I will take the living, breathing non-horrifying death option. Thanks.

I mean, for a Pharmacologist, 7 years is nothing. Just wait, come back next time with some grenades and shit and voilà .. But noooo, Corrie bad man (whose name fails me, and at this point I refuse to Imdb an Anaconda film) is a little bit crazy and kind of can’t see the bigger picture. So basically a whole bunch of people get eaten… some quite hilariously – and it all ends in tears.

So why did I watch this movie? Well it wasn’t because I was so blown away by the first one. Any movie with J-Lo in is questionable, but one that also has a lacklustre Jon Voight and man eating snakes… yeah its not gonna work. Hell, Snakes on a Plane only marginally worked because Samuel L. Jackson is awesome. J-Lo is by no means the female equivalent. I cannot stress that enough.

So what was it? Well, I will confess – sometimes you do need to intentionally watch an Anaconda type movie. It almost cleans the pallete. Like having melon as a dessert. Its bland, it won’t win any awards, and you won’t be raving to your friends about it. But every now and then you can get a little tired of the good movies. Probably because ultimately all of them require an actual functioning brain. Every now and then, it is nice to switch off. And so this is sort of a criticism on your everyday published, and occasionally on the TV/radio movie reviewers. Don’t bad mouth the blockbusters and the big cheesy action flicks. Because no matter who you are, you don’t want to be watching Citizen Kane after a long week in work. And if you do, I am pretty sure your an alien. Get tested. I’m sure there’s a test.

Anyway, for what it is – a sequel to an already crap movie – it aint that bad. And I like Kaydee Strickland.

So a solid 5/10.

One of life’s great mystery’s is how Nicolas Cage has a job. Now don’t get me wrong here, I think he can sort of act – at times. He does the psycho person pretty well. But what I just can’t get past is that he is a leading man. And constantly keeps getting cast as the leading man. Especially in action films. Now the guy didn’t exactly age well. He may have looked attractive to some in his early years, but now he looks like my old physics teacher, wearing a wig. <— That, is not a compliment. But from the off, the guy was never the action star kind of guy. He didn’t have the charisma of Bruce Willis. He wasn’t strangely (and perversely) sexy like Tom Cruise. He had some muscles, once – in the nineties, but those have long faded. Now he just frowns constantly to the point that I’m pretty sure he’s had a few ‘Trip’s to the Dentist’ to sort out those head wrinkles. I’m not saying he hasn’t made some good films. But he was never as big an action star in his youth to take him through to still being one now. Bruce had Die Hard.  Stallone had Rocky and Rambo. Even Segal had Under Siege. Nick Cage had… um… 8mm? Yeah, its not exactly a great record. I suppose he did make Face/Off, which is actually a pretty good 90’s action flick, but like I said he plays the crazy guy well. In fact, I liked him a lot better when he was the crazy guy then when he became John Travolta… If you have not seen that movie, you probably think I am insane right now. Point is, he somehow became the good guy. The leading man in movies where we were supposed to root for him. The only decent film I have seen him in in recent years was Kick Ass – and that film was basically just awesome thanks to Chloe Moretz. Anyway, I guess I should really stop bashing him now, and get on with reviewing the movie. And silently contemplating how we managed to put Curiosity on Mars, found the Higgs particle, and made Nick Cage an action star.

Trespass, as a premise, is a movie that we don’t make very often anymore. The early 2000s and the 90s were littered with smart little thrillers about home invasions and crazy people coming into your house, or kidnapping you. It seemed to be in fashion. Recently, they have stopped making these kind of films. Or at least, they’ve stopped making them well.

Trespass tells the story of couple Kyle and Sarah Miller (played by Nick Cage and Nicole Kidman). Kyle is rich. Which is probably how he hooked a gal like Sarah. Because he looks like my boyfriends knee. Anyway, the couple have one child – Avery – played by Liana Liberato and a pretty strained marriage. Well obviously. She’s married to Nick Cage. One day, the couple are at home when they’re house is invaded by four armed individuals. I say individuals as one of them is a woman. A so very annoying woman. I want to kill her myself. They want something – in these films they always do – except for the Strangers and Funny Games, those are just creepy. Kyle doesn’t want to give them it. Because he’s an ass who would rather protect his fortune than his family. Chaos ensues. 

So is it worth a watch? Hmmm… well it does have Cam Gigandet in it. Which, in my eyes, is always a plus. What a pretty boy. But the performances from the cast are pretty poor all round. I do think Liana Leberato is going to be a really huge name one day, one that she will no doubt deserve because at just 16, she really has the acting chops. But for the pro’s, the whole thing felt flat. The performances were shoddy all round, the script was nothing new and there wasn’t enough action to compensate for the rest of its failures.

That’s right… Hug it out.

I honestly think we don’t make these thrillers as well as we used to. Obviously, pretty much nothing is going to top the Dial M for Murder’s and the Rear Window’s of this world. But in the 90’s we sort of had these movie’s down. They were exciting, well written, and the cast was always nailed. Trespass ultimately feels tired, and something I could have watched in your average episode of prime time action TV. Maybe that there is the problem. With the ante upped in the small screen, movies have to try so much harder to cut it these days. You have to be original, have a great script, be flashy or give some great performances. Otherwise, it doesn’t compare to some of the high quality television beamed to us on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, TV is far from flawless either. But when you have the Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead of the world, movies need to step it up a notch. Trespass didn’t do that at any point. And what materialized was a predictable yawning yarn.

Overall, a pretty poor thriller.

3.5/10

I know what you’re thinking. I really do, I’m psychic. 

“What?! They made another one? Again?!”

Yes they did shielded soul. They did. Not content with pointlessly making a trilogy out of an already mediocre original film, the folks over at Screen Gems decided they could milk more money out of the Underworld franchise… and to be fair – they were right – and so here we have it. The fourth film – Underworld: Awakening.

I don’t want to sound mean here. I really don’t. But I can’t be the only one who has thought these movies keep getting made because of Kate Beckinsale’s relationship with frequent director and writer Len Wiseman. Can I? They’re married, they want that new house in the Hamptons… so they make another Underworld. Bang a script out in a couple of weeks – there you go, Underworld 4. I should say, this is all allegedly. Don’t sue me.

But with that in mind, contrary to the norm, Underworld 4 – as I will now be calling it, because I’m still in shock they made FOUR – isn’t too bad a flick. The premise of the film is that now all the humans know about the existence of Vampires and Lycan’s and they become the hunted. A culling occurs and the numbers of both dwindle. Selene wakes up in the future with no concept of how much time has passed, and basically sets about figuring out what the fuck is going on.

Now, before I delve deeper into this. I just want to say that although I may occasionally slag off the Underworld franchise, it definitely isn’t the worst in the genre. How they are still making Resident Evil movies, I honestly have no clue. None of those films make sense anymore. Actual tangible sentences have been replace by knives and bullets coming out of the screen to get me. Compared to that, well Underworld 4 is like the best action flick of the year. But it is not. I can not stress that enough…

While some people will argue Underworld 4 is lacking the usual Underworld gloss – “It just doesn’t feel like a Underworld movie…”  – I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. The last two films, were painfully bad. Underworld 1 was okay in parts. Being a life long Buffy fan, I felt the back story and the plot were weak given I was used to Joss Whedon’s masterpieces. But the action was good in parts, and the whole film did have a Gothic sort of feel. Flash forward three movies and we have Underworld: Awakening. Not only do we get to see Selene broken hearted and lost, we see her as a mother. Also, I kind of liked the idea that the Vampires were beaten and forced underground. However, lets not forget the one thing all the Underworld films have had going for them to some extent – action. In this most recent film, we also have a big bad boss monster lycan who looks like he uses vampires to floss with – especially ones as skinny as Kate Beckinsale. The fight scenes are flashy, and the plot has a twist that actually surprised me… that never happens. As long as you go in expecting an Underworld film, and want to pretty much leave your brain at the door, it is an average action flick. Especially if you take into account the fact it is the fourth film in the franchise… Honestly, I can’t get over that.

Seriously... eat something.

Seriously… eat something.

Overall, a not bad popcorn flick, whose strong points lie in its action, and for once, an okay plot. But it is still an unnecessary Underworld film.

5/10

Check out the trailer below.

NB. Also, studio’s? Stop making films in 3D. Unless they’re an avatar movie, its pretty much a given that they’re gonna be shit. 

The first thing I should say about the movie ‘Righteous Kill’ is that good actors don’t necessary make good films.

De Niro. Pacino. Spagetti Carbonara. Oh wait… 

‘Righteous Kill’ is a movie about two cops, on the hunt for a vigilante serial killer. And my biggest beef with it? It makes no sense.

If you’re looking for one of those reviews that spoils enough so you know whether to watch the film or not – please leave now. This isn’t one of those reviews. Instead, I am systematically going to pull the film to shreads. Because it feels like the right thing to do. So obviously, expect spoilers.

Firstly, a film that has managed to get arguably two of the best actors of their generation on board, well not even God himself could stop it getting made.

Idiot 1: Terrible script?
Idiot 2: Meh, it won’t matter. People will be too blinded by their acting genius.
Idiot 1: Well hold on there buddy. This movie actually makes no sense.
Idiot 2: We have De Niro and Pacino. Why are you not giving me millions of dollars to make this?
Idiot 1: Do you accept American Express?

…That, right there, is probably how the studio execs came on board. On top of that, once it got the green light, we got other quality actors muscling in too. Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo and 50 cent (okay, maybe not that last one) all signed up to be in this surely Oscar winning master piece. And the cherry on the cake of the cast was the highly underrated actress Carla Gugino, who – rather grossly – plays De Niro’s love interest (especially considering she played his daughter fifteen years earlier in This Boys Life).

"Daddy? Can I have an ice cream? ...Oops, sorry - wrong movie."

“Daddy? Can I have an ice cream? …Oops, sorry – wrong movie.”

But through it all, no amount of Hollywood royalty could save this sack of shit. I saw an interview with the script writer Russell Gewirtz saying that when he writes a screenplay, he figures out the twist at the end and works backwards. Russell? Did you also write it standing on your head and in Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics? Because I think a few things were lost in translation. Firstly, we start the movie hearing De Niro’s character Turk presumingly confessing to be a serial killer. Its a voice over that goes on through out the film. When the movie basically follows the path of your usual murder mystery, it becomes pretty clear its obviously not De Niro. Why else would it be a murder mystery? If it isn’t De Niro, who else could it be?! Well obviously his partner Pacino! It’s so god damned obvious I spent most of the film asking my TV if it thought I was an idiot. We know De Niro can’t be the killer. By having him ‘video confessing’ in the first fucking scene, it is so obvious it cannot be him. Otherwise we all may as well go home, get a refund and get in the bloody tardis to get the last two hours of my life back. In reality however, that is still a tempting thought. Because in less than the time it takes to say, ‘wrinkly old men’ I knew the killer so obviously had to be Pacino. No grade A actor like him is going to sign up to a project were he either a) Isn’t the killer or b) The main suspect. It just wasn’t going to happen. And so in that way, having these two solid actors, actually meant it screwed itself from the get go.

I know Bob, I can’t believe what he’s saying either. Who wrote this shit?!

But even if I put the ridiculously obvious ‘twist’ to one side, the rest of the film makes no sense. Firstly, when Rooster (Pacino) feels he is about to get caught, he says he needs to do something unforgivable. So he rapes – or at least I think he does, its a bit unclear – Carla Gugino’s character, who is also a cop. This made no sense. Until he did that, he had deniability. Maybe, just maybe it would be a plausible thing to do if Rooster was satisfied with the fact he was going to get caught, and wanted to hurt partner Turk (De Niro) by raping his girlfriend, as one last ditch offence before he went down in a shower of bullets. But he didn’t. At the end of the movie, Rooster is very much trying to escape. He threatens to shoot his partner in order to do so. It just makes no sense. He had no reason to do something ‘unforgivable’. He’d already killed 14 people. And when Turk found out, he didn’t seem particularly bothered. Not a word was uttered about it.

And then there’s this. Turk shoots his partner Rooster at the end of the movie to avoid getting shot. But wait, Turk was disarmed by Rooster. Obviously, lifelong cop and clever serial killer Rooster isn’t going to leave his partner armed when he’s trying to escape. He doesn’t want to kill him, as he respects him, but he isn’t an idiot. You don’t give a cop a gun when you’re an escaping criminal. And that’s where Karen (Carla Gugino) conveniently comes in.

Turk runs after Rooster, despite being unarmed. Meanwhile, while all this was going on, a very pissed off and distraught Karen – still reeling from her rape – decides to track down Rooster and deal with him herself. Cue her turning up armed, threatening to shoot the ‘sick prick’. She’s too upset to do it though, and Turk takes her gun, goes after Rooster and ultimately kills him.

Are you kidding me?! 

Was it that hard to write that you had to bring in an unplausable, totally unnecessary rape scene just to get a gun in the room with Turk so he could kill his partner? Really?! The final few scenes play out in a friggen gangsters night club. Why couldn’t he have found a gun there? Or at least, if you wanted us not to empathise with Rooster, make his reason for attacking Karen more clear. “I needed to do something unforgivable” is not a reason! Especially not when he wanted to escape and could have done so easily at any point in the film. Instead of doing something unforgivable – he could have been half way to Timbuktu. But no alas, the writer was either too lazy, or too stoned to realise the script made no sense.

Furthermore, there is a scene were Karen comes home to find a poem, not dissimilar to those written and left by the murderer at the scene. Except it wasn’t written by the killer. It was written by Turk. We are not told what it said, nor why he wrote it at any point in the film. Nor the reason for the scene.

The whole film is laced with questions like this. Not because the plot was too intricate or complex. This isn’t Inception we’re talking about. Instead we have a film with more holes than a pack of polo’s, and that makes less sense than a midnight drunken text message.

I’m not saying the actors didn’t do well with what they had. They did okay. But with what they had in terms of script, the whole thing was destined to fail from the beginning. If you are going to write a murder mystery – firstly, make sure its actually a mystery. Secondly, ensure that you are not taking illegal drugs while writing. And thirdly, friggen proof read and check the whole thing makes sense and is realistic.

Here endeth the lesson.

Overall, a very disappointing 4/10. And Carla Gugino pretty much earned all four of those stars. Because she’s awesome.

Anyone who has the sass to be in both Sin City AND Watchmen… well they are my heroes. Period.

I will let you in on my worst kept secret. I have a rather irrational fear of worms. Well, at least people tell me it is irrational.
“They can’t hurt you Hannah, they’re only worms. I don’t get why they frighten you so much?!” – Annoying person who loves me, yet fails to understand me.

Yeah – well, you know what? It isn’t irrational.

Yeah, that’s right. Take a good long look at that worm. It looks like the real life version of a Sarlacc… except its real, and it doesn’t rely on ugly, fat slug men for its main source of fibre. 

Still think I’m crazy? Well, you’re entitled. And kind of right.

But, it was this fear that stopped me watching the Horror flick – and I use that term loosely – Slither. If you’ve seen it, you will probably debate with me as to whether the little critters are actually worms, or more like slugs. Point is, it didn’t matter. The were long and icky and they inserted themselves into your mouths. I didn’t need to know much more.

Alas, I eventually changed my mind. Why? Well, I like Nathan Fillion. And I like Elizabeth Banks. Both of whom are in the movie. So six years later, I battened down the hatches, grabbed my Anakin Skywalker replica lightsaber (Hey, it worked against the Sarlacc…) and set about watching the film.

The best thing about Slither? It knows entirely what kind of movie it is. So many films fail because they try to pigeon hole themselves into one genre or another, or try to be something that from the plot, premise or cast, it definitely can’t be. But Slither knows the kind of people who are going to go see it, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. To the point, in fact, that it is almost a parody of itself. Slither picks up all those gross and absurd parts of movie’s like Alien, The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and shows how hilarious the whole thing really is. And, quite simply, that is why it works.

Slither starts with some sort of alien ‘pod’ firing a harpoon kind of thing at the all American, hill billy-type character called Grant (played by Michael Rooker). Grant has a trophy wife named Starla (Elizabeth Banks) who is a school teacher with unresolved feelings for local Sheriff, Bill (Nathan Fillion). When Grant comes home after his alien encounter, he is acting strange, but by all accounts looks the same. It is only after a few days that his behaviour starts getting stranger, and his face and body start morphing. Eventually he turns into what I can only describe as ‘something I made with play-do one time in nursery’ and sets about infecting the town. How does he do this? Well that right there is the really icky part. Even more than the worms. Seriously! These two worm penis things come out of his chest and pump alien spunk into his unwilling victims chests – impregnating them with his worm juice. It’s all very disturbing! And had parallels with Alien. I mean, if you know anything about Sci-Fi, you know that the face huggers in Alien were always supposed to be a metaphor for male rape. Well guess the guys over at Slither thought, “Fuck that, we can be well more hard core!” And they were.

Once impregnated, you become so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so hungry you end up like this:

slitherYeah, I wasn’t kidding about the hungry part.
And as if that wasn’t enough, you then explode and thousands of little worms/slugs come out, and then face rape you by jumping into your mouth and infecting your brain until your basically one big alien Grant. What a lovely way to go. Honestly, I can’t decide which way is worse. Becoming this guy:
Having this come at you:
…And then exploding, or swallowing one of these bad boys:

Wow.

If this thing was real, it would make Alien look like a pest control problem.

But it isn’t the movie monsters that makes this a good film. It is the cast and the script. With lines like:
“If I weren’t about to shit in my pants right now, I’d be fuckin’ fascinated.”
And:
“He looks likes something that fell off my dick during the war.”
You can’t go wrong.

Nathan Fillion is at his loveable best as Bill, and gets a lot of laughs with his sarcastic Sheriff routine. Elizabeth Banks proves she should get to do more lead roles – and now, thankfully, she does – as Starla, and Tania Saulnier plays the traumatised, young teen who survives and sets about helping the pair save the world.

Overall, if you want a real Friday night, popcorn movie with a few laughs and moments of  “Ewww…” then Slither is totally up your street. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, it won’t either and you are bound to enjoy this campy, cult horror flick as it was meant to be enjoyed.

A solid 7/10.

Which is MASSIVE given the kind of film it is! I must be feeling generous.

 

If you know anything about John Madden’s espionage thriller, The Debt, then like a lot of people you probably grumbled over the premise. Another Holocaust movie, really? Again? Well, actually that couldn’t be more wrong. The Debt isn’t the tale of the holocaust, there isn’t an SS uniform in sight. It isn’t the tale of the struggle of the Jews, and those who tried to shield them. Instead, it tells the story of three Mossad agents, sent to Berlin in 1965, to track down and kill a Nazi doctor known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, Dr Vogel. There is obviously supposed to be some parallels with Josef Mengele – who performed horrifying experiments on Jews in concentration camps, often without anaesthetic – and is probably the most famous SS doctor.  Mengele himself, avoided capture until he drowned in 1979 in Buenos Aires. The Debt tells the story a little differently…

From the off, you have to be impressed by the ensemble cast. Dame Helen Mirren’s name carries a lot of weight in show business, and I was very impressed with her performance as per usual. Joining her was Jessica Chastain, who has had a rather undulating career. That being said, she is still young and does has the acting chops, and if she keeps picking roles like this – she is sure to gain a lot of respect within the industry. Mirren and Chastain play the same character, just 32 years a part. Rachel Singer was the young, inexperienced, yet highly trained Massod agent sent to Berlin to join the two other agents in capturing their target and bringing him back to Israel for trial.  And while I really don’t think Chastain and Mirren look at all a like, the performances from both actresses made the whole thing believable. Rachel, of the three agents, had the hardest task. She was to go to the Surgeon, now a gynaecologist under an assumed name, and confirm his identity. Once this was done, they would strike and smuggle him out of Germany and back to Israel. Given he is a gynaecologist, that involved several, unnerving trips to see him with fertility problems.

If you’re female, you will know that any trip to the gynaecologist is unnerving. You’re at your most vulnerable, and its not a pleasant experience. Couple that with knowing the guy whose poking around in your special place is a man who has committed unspeakable atrocities – and he doesn’t want to get caught and keeps asking his patient questions… well, saying Rachel was on edge would be an understatement.  Jesper Christensen did a really good job playing Vogel also. He had just enough bedside manner and charisma to make him seem both normal and sinister at the same time. Knowing who he was and what he had done, and seeing the veil he was portraying only excelled his latter performances when he revealed his true colours.

But The Debt isn’t just about the mission, and what happened on the mission. Ultimately it is about the mistakes we make when we are young, that we still come to regret and hold on to years later. Kieran Hinds (who seems to be in everything at the moment) and Sam Worthington played David, the second of the Massod agents, and the one with clearly the most intent to see the mission through. When things go wrong and the group are forced to lie about the Surgeons fate, this leads to a lie that haunts all three of them for three decades. None more so than David, who lost his whole family in the gas chambers, and at one point says all he wants in life is for the world to know and accept what really happened. And that can only happen with a trial. The regret that David feels is ultimately intertwined with his love for Rachel, and the relationship they never got to have.

In the end, the problem is clear. It is not that they lied about what happened to the Surgeon, it was that they were still doing it thirty years later. I don’t want to ruin the film if you haven’t seen it, but eventually a crisis in conscience occurs, and culminates in Rachel meeting the Surgeon one last time, all those years later. If you didn’t already know, Helen Mirren is bad ass and she proves it here once again. And somehow I found her fight scenes much more exciting than the Bourne-esque Chastain fights scenes from earlier in the film. Maybe its just the fact that there is such a good essence of time in the film, and that Madden has managed to precisely nail the thirty year crescendo on the head until it exploded. I find similar films often have a good twisting build up, but the finale is never as good as the journey. For me, The Debt waited just long enough to build the tension and for us to watched on nervously as we saw what became of Rachel and Vogel’s fate all those years later.

For the most part, the only bad things people have to say about The Debt is:
a) Why do none of the young/old versions of each other look alike? They do have a point.
b) And why is this movie called The Debt?

Seriously, who do they owe something to? If you really think about it, that is such a lousy name. Had the film just been about the mission, I’d have said that the debt was what the Mossad agents were repaying Vogel – by bringing him to justice. On the other hand you could have a bear sized stretch and say it was a debt they owed to society in telling the truth.

Overall, a good solid performance from all those involved. The plot was a bit weak at times, but what it lacked in the writing it made up for in the direction. The Debt is a holocaust movie with a different twist, yet without sacrificing the gravity behind the situation. I recommended watch. Check out the trailer below.

8/10

Before you get confused – I said Foxfire not Firefox. Thankfully no one has become that creatively barren that they feel the need to document the history of the web browser. There is hope for us all.

I’m going back in time just a smidge today in order to review Angelina Jolie’s seriously intense Foxfire. Never heard of it? Well you wouldn’t be alone. It is one of the first films she ever made, and isn’t even available on DVD in Europe much to my pain. The film follows four teen girls who would normally not associate with each other, brought together by the transient Legs (Jolie) who inspires them to stand up for themselves. The group learn a lot about life and friendship along the way, and also about their sexualities. And it is a story of female love and friendship.

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Angelina Jolie has played several intense characters over her long career. But none are more intense than Legs. It isn’t just Legs blatant lesbianism, which inevitably initially intimidates members of the group, that makes her intense. But it is also her fearless attitude intertwined with her fragile vulnerability. It’s a match up few could play convincingly, but it oozes out of Jolie’s pours with ease.

Legs is the catalyst in the chain reaction. She spends most of the middle of the film pretty silent, riding the wave of anarchy and teenage destruction that she started. You get the feeling that that is what Legs lives for in a way. She brings people out of their normal selves and then watches them. But her intentions are definitely not negative. While she may have gone to the school initially looking for trouble, when she found her group of girls – she cared about each one of them intently. And was even willing to kill for them.

After the group overcome a common foe, a bond is formed. It is a bond that is unbreakable once it had started. The girls were ‘running with foxes’ – a note made by their principal – and it meant they were a pact, loyal and protective until the end. But with the foxes comes the carnage. The girls, once they felt persecuted for righting a wrong, set about doing increasingly more reckless things. With the notion of “why not…?” they had free reign on what they could achieve together, and a lengthy suspension to experiment.

Possibly the most intense scene of the film involves Legs, semi-nude, tattooing a fire into her right breast in order to remember the night forever. Jolie’s effortless acting means there is a extremely believable transition from feisty transient to vulnerable young woman, who has been brave enough to expose herself to these virtual strangers. The girls reaction is of shock, awe and then agreement as they all get matching tattoos too. And despite Legs lesbianism, the scene isn’t sexual – just sensual and gives a real feel of sisterhood.

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Like all the best teen films, Foxfire is funny and warm when it wants to be, and it will make you laugh out loud. The chemistry between the five leads makes the film and I often found myself longing for my own teenage pals.

The end of the film ends with a choice for Maddy, the girl closest to Legs. She is forced to choose between her old life and the unknown adventure she could have. At first glance it could be seen as a choice between her love of Legs, and playing it safe, but really that’s only half the story. It’s the classic tale of youth. We’ve all sat back and wondered about what would happen if we ran away somewhere. If we had an adventure that never ended and surrendered the up and coming responsibilities of adulthood. Really, Legs was that reality. But I ultimately think it was the realisation that Legs was running from herself and her own life that made Maddy choose…

Overall it is a classic 90s movie with a lot of messages, a big heart and buckets full of coolness even after all these years. A definite must watch for any Jolie fan.

8.5/10

We’re getting serious today people. Don’t worry, it won’t happen too often… so bear with me! 

I have a unique perspective on today’s film that I am reviewing, as its a story very close to my heart. ‘The Lady’ starring Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis is a biographical film based on the life of Aung San Suu Kyi. For those of you that don’t know her, she is the Burmese pro-democracy leader who spent 15 years under house arrest while trying to fight for democracy in a country heavily weighed by oppression due to the many years of military rule. It was a story I knew well as I myself am half Burmese, as my father was born in Northern Burma, in the mountains in a place called Bawdwin. He immigrated when he was just five years old with his nine brothers and sisters, and his mum and dad. Despite the fact that my dad was so young when he left, I very much feel the Burmese part of my heritage thanks to growing up surrounded by Burmese family. It is a part of me that I am very proud of. And so, when I discovered they were making an Aung San Suu Kyi biopic, I was honestly thrilled. I promoted it on every social network site I could in order to raise its profile, as I felt that the more people who watched the film, the more people would be aware of Burma’s plight and therefore there would hopefully be a greater push for change.

Aung San Suu Kyi; The resemblance between her and Michelle Yeoh is quite remarkable.

My expectations therefore were high. And in some ways it meant that I was likely to be disappointed when I finally saw the film. But really, there was only one thing I wanted – it had to do Aung San Suu Kyi justice. Not necessarily her story, as its a story the majority of the world will be familiar with. What I felt was more important, was that they captured Suu’s essence. That they showed her true intent, and the person she was despite the extent of the turmoil she’d gone through. And in some ways this was achieved, however in others – it was not.

‘The Lady’, at its core, is neither a biopic or a pro-democracy film, its a love story. And I can’t really stress this enough. If you go into this film expecting to see Suu in every scene, with a huge emphasis on her time under house arrest, you will be disappointed. Instead, we are shown, through back and forth scenes between both parties, the struggle Suu and her husband, Michael, endured throughout her time fighting for democracy. Why? Well, this is a hollywood style movie, directed by Luc Besson and starring actors who are all too familiar with the big screen. Every movie takes an angle, especially in hollywood, even when that story is true. And so the plight of possibly the greatest living humanitarian turns into a love story. Its not really a decision I agree with in all honesty. However, it was one I expected. I have seen the same thing happen before. Take ‘Hotel Rwanda’ – a film about the Rwandan genocide. It doesn’t really give a full story of what really happened, and hides behind the sheen of hollywood. ‘Sometime in April’ – its low budget, indie counterpart, is a much better film. And I don’t mean this in terms of enjoyment, ‘Sometime in April’ is probably the single most horrific film I’ve ever watched. It literally scarred me for days, and I still think of it often. And as much as it was an unnerving and unpleasant experience, I am grateful for that. Because ‘Sometime in April’ really told the story of the Rwandan genocide. It did what it had to to show the truth, and pull the viewers in so they knew what it felt like to be there. The fear, and the horror seemed to translate so much more strongly than in its Hollywood counterpart.

Burma VJ

Now, I am not a masochist – by any means – but I can’t help feel that a film about such a subject matter, needs to make you hurt. It needs to make you feel helpless and yet empowered all simultaneously. It needs to make you want to act. ‘The Lady’ didn’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very well made film. Michelle Yeoh is absolutely stunning throughout the film, and she gives the performance of her life. David Thewlis is so effortless in transforming into Michael, Suu’s husband, that you believe every ounce of pain that is etched on his face. And their scenes together look like they came together with ease, which just helps translate the love the pair had for each other. And there are moments throughout the story where you can’t help feel real pain, and even tears. However, ‘The Lady’ is a movie of two halves. The first half shows us Suu’s beginnings, and rather the endings of her father – Aung San, a leading figure in Burma who achieved independence. It then cuts to her life, with her two boys and Michael in Oxford, England. It is only when her mother has a stroke does she return, and driven by the atrocities she witnesses while visiting her mother in Rangoon, she begins on her long road to democracy, leading to several powerful scenes including Suu’s first speech announcing her leadership of the NLD, and a scene where she stands up against a row of heavily armed soldiers when they stop her meeting. However, eventually, the film becomes more about Suu and Michael than it is about Burma. In fact, the penultimate scene shows Suu reacting to the news of Michael’s death – a scene very well acted by Yeoh I might add. It is this fact that hallmarks ‘The Lady’ as a love story.

Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi, confronting some Junta soldiers.

I would personally have liked more of Suu’s political story and less of her relationship with Michael. I am in no way belittling their plight – the personal sacrifices she made for the benefit of her country and her people are ones I doubt many could make in her place. And it was an important part of her story. However, I felt there was something missing by the end of the film. And thus I was left disappointed.

That being said, the rating of this film depends on Luc Besson’s intentions. If this was meant to be a love story than he did a very good job. If this was supposed to be a biopic and tale of the oppression in Burma, than a lot is left lacking.

So should you see this film? Yes. Despite its downfalls, it does give a good view of the sort of woman Suu is, and a picture of the plight she has overcome. And it may teach you a few things you didn’t know about the 1991 Nobel Peace prize winner a long the way. But, if its a true view of Burma that you want – watch ‘Burma VJ’ – the documentary made by Burmese video journalists despite the danger weighing on them.

To conclude, ‘The Lady’ is a film that could have been so much more. However, I believe it does achieve what it set out to do. And for me, it does capture the essence of Suu Kyi, and that was all I asked, if nothing else. To be frank, I applaud any film that raises the profile of the political situation in Burma. However, it is important to remember that ‘The Lady’ is the Hotel Rwanda to ‘Burma VJ’s’ ‘Sometime in April’.

8/10

NB. I do urge you however to watch either ‘The Lady’ or ‘Burma VJ’. It is always good to educate ourselves about what is going on around the world, whether that be a Hollywood version or the truth straight from the horses mouth. And given the low level of journalistic coverage in Burma in the last two decades, its important to see the truth. Please check out both trailers below.