cinaphile

Pacific Rim Review

7 August 2013 at 23:32

Pacific Rim is the exact opposite of most movies I rate poorly.

That is, I often review films I see as having not lived up to their potential or not having delivered in the ways they ought to have through production, even if the concept was good.

Pacific Rim was a gloriously produced, fantastically acted and graphically stunning film with an absolutely unforgivably idiotic basis. 

Set against the backdrop of using giant humanoid robots to have fist fights with Godzilla, was a story with a surprising about of emotional depth and character developement. Though it often strayed into the cliches of action films by using formulaic character architypes and situations, Pacific Rim delivered enough flesh on those bones to still make it an extremely enjoyable movie.

Pacific Rim into some unique ideas, such as thought-sharing for the pilots of said giant-fist-fighting-robots-of-death, and how that intertwined into the story in fairly unexpected ways. However it also used so many cliche action movie points in the story. Who was going to die and how was easily knowable from essentially five minutes after they were introduced. With only a few surprises, although all of those coming far after they were guessable given the re-ingineered character dynamics.

I love me some Idris Elba, and he, as with the entire cast, was quite excellent, and most definitely created some quite enjoyable interactions, banter, and quips. 

The main problem with this movie lay in the fact that no amount of engaging story, watchable characters, and mindblowing effects could illeviate the absolute ridiculousness that lay at the base of the concept. 

All of the robots, save for one which had a grand total of 3.9 minutes of screen time were ridiculously designed. They would have looked cool as an exo-skeleton, or as a six foot tall android, but not as a 80 story-tall battle machine. They were top heavy, and ill equipped to battle the aliens. (Seriously, we can’t give them anything better than fists to fight with??) That being said, a good bit of fault on that front lies in the story pace, as what weapons they did have were left entirely unmentioned or unused until the exact perfect as-dramatic-as-possible moment to use them. (That did make those moments entirely epic. But also made you wonder why they didn’t, eh, START the fight with the super uber effective weapons.)

The cinematography was noteworthy only in a very few parts, Del Torro opting for size and scale over framing. There were several times when the composition of shots drove me entirely insane as it left much too little of the action is frame, thus making it extremely hard to follow. There were also a few specific shots I would happily frame and hang on my wall. This balanced out to a simple….”eh.” in the filming department.

Worth seeing if you catch it in iMax, 3D or any sort of big screen really, or if you are a fan of cool sci-fi sequences. But don’t expect it to ever read out and GRAB you with its awesomness as the concepts just caused action to be far too slow, and too massive for an audience to read.

Expectation: 5/10

Reality: 7.5/10

World War Z Review

21 July 2013 at 01:08

World War Z is my all time favorite book. It is a deeply intellectual thriller with incredible social and political insight merely set against the backdrop of an all-too-believable zombie apocalypse.

The film adaptation of World War Z had barely a hint of a taste of excellence in those areas. What it did have, however, was a cast full of interesting and compelling characters, and a rethinking of the zombie genre in a way that could quite possibly breath new life into the genre entirely.

Brad Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, was the single most intelligence and quick thinking character to have ever appeared in a film of this type. From the get-go he was on the ball with getting his family to safety, taking every opportunity of safety offered, and not in either a desperate way that led them into harm, or an overly wary, paranoid way that caused a lot of unnecessary tension. He was smart, calculating, and ingenious. He developed some very very basic yet incredibly effective tools for getting his family to safety, and keeping himself out of harm’s way, that should have occurred to any number of characters in absolutely any zombie story since their seventies.

Overall, the entire cast were well rounded and intelligent characters, most definitely under developed, yet absolutely fitting their parts in the story just right, and not causing or begging for their own death.

Also, for the first time I have ever seen, World War Z actually had soldiers using SILENCERS. I nearly stood and applauded in the theater when I saw that.

While still on the subject of characters, I ought to mention also that this film had an incredible grasp on the potential beauty of self sacrifice. It managed to make characters who had only five or six minutes of screen time matter, and their choices seem natural, and incredibly brave.

Visually it was striking, mostly in it’s creature design of the zombies, who were absolutely gloriously horrifying. The transformation process was almost definitely the most painful and unsettling I have ever seen, and the speed with which it occurred, while straying far, far from the book, allowed for the fast pace and unparalleled hordeing effect this movie absolutely killed with.

I will mention that there were several places while I noticed clear errors, not in story or characters necessarily, but in actual movie making. Objects changing between shots, things of that nature, and for me they were distracting, but I hardly doubt most moviegoer would even notice.

The ending was a tad bit silly, and as I mentioned previously, many of the characters could have used some more development, but honestly considering the pace at which the movie ran, they did an excellent job in that area.

There were serval incredibly tense scenes, and even once jump scare that caused me to actually shake my entire seat it caught me so off guard.

The acting was brilliant, particularly in the zombies who had extended screen time, and truly made them look better than any I have ever seen.

All in all, though it strayed far from the book, and did not deliver the same social brilliance, or even some of the more memorable moments from the book (Remember Yonkers) it did pay homage to it, while managing to stand quite strongly on it’s own two feet.

Expectations: 6/10

Reality: 8.7/10

Man of Steel Review

by Josiah Muskrat (Notes) on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 03:12

I hate Superman.

I have always hated Superman, because he is a stupid, uninteresting, overpowered character.

However, I love Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder, and as such have been anxiously awaiting Man of Steel for the last two years since I found out who was attached.

Zach Snyder did was he does best.

Man of Steel was visually brilliant, stylistically superb, and had some of the best action and scale of any superhero movie to date.

That being said, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen all the story and character developement this movie has to offer.

The entirity of the origin story was crammed into the first twenty minutes of the film, which is a blessing, since there was no more substence in the script than there is milk in the average man’s teet. 

Amid a scramble of pointless, uninteresting story, contrived romance, and just a tiny taste of the kind of soul searching we saw from Logan in X-Men One, rolled tons of skull blasting action and a decent bit of beautiful cinematography.

The cast was perfect, and I couldn’t have asked for more of a performance from anyone, except perhaps Kevin Costner who fell hopelessly short of the depth of character Johnathan Kent had in Smallville; (Which is one of maybe three good things I will ever have to say about Smallville.) which I can forgive given that the man had a total of less than five minutes screen time in this two hour movie.

Zod and the Kriptonians were fantastic. They had the scale to really deliver the impact that a race of super strong, super smart beings having a tussle on the planet Earth should have had. And their suit/armor redesign was delicious. Even if the rest of their technology was some what silly visually and most definitely was nothing we hadn’t seen before. Michael Shannon’s performance was almost uncontestedly the best in the movie.

All of the potentially most impactful scenes lost all their steam due to poor writing, cliches in storytelling, and just a severe lack of screen time for the characters that could have really given this movie the humanity feel it needed. I found myself rooting for character’s deaths, not because I really wanted them to die, but just because I longed for any sort of impact that would leave me with any sort of taste in my mouth.

I feel like at some point in the writing process David Goyer and Chris Nolan simply threw up their hands and said “Fuck it. Even WE can’t make Superman compelling.” and just handed in the first five pages of a script and went out for drinks.

Definitely worth seeing for the intense and beautiful action, costumes, and cinematography, and an ending to the action that definitely more than redeemed the character of Superman for the future films, even if it did not make him all that interesting.

I’m excited to see what they do with the film series now that the origin story is out of their way, and I hope to see some more developement of the brilliantly cast supporting characters in the future, as I think that is the only way they can ever hope to make this character worth caring about.

Superman Returns had more emotional impact than this film. Think about THAT.

Expectations: 9/10

Reality: 6/10

Score: -3

Oblivion Review

by Josiah Muskrat (Notes) on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 03:31

I chose to address Olivion based on its own merit as a film, not based on the knowledge that its lead production and acting team are all scientologists.

Based on that, Olivion was BRILLIANT.

It perfectly addressed the question of what makes a story worth telling. Without revealing too much, which will be hard, given that this movie had more unexpected twists and turns than any I’ve seen in a LONG while, I can simply say that this story existed to be told, in and of itself, and it did that excellently.

The first twenty minutes is set up as almost the perfect romance setting. The two lone scientists living on one of the most romantic locations on the planet, the scenes setting this up were perfect, and I found myself feeling bad for Andrea Risebrough’s character, because she had fallen so deeply into this beautiful love story she was living, and Jack merely searched for a way out.

The production of this film was lovely. No work of art, but not near from, either. The visuals were fantastic and the composition better than merely good. The destruction of the planet was eye catchingly beautiful. It showed the return to earth in a way that not a lot of films of this nature manage.

All of the cast were perfect, and Sykes in particular was one of the most well developed bit parts I have seen in an action movie in some time.

As I said, I cannot address the story much without spoiling things, but sufficit to say, if you have watched the trailer and think you know the story…you don’t. I was blindsided by certain aspects, and that does not happen often.

The ending was a bit weak, and more than a little derivitive of a certain popular late 1990’s film, which anyone who sees them both can’t help but see, but it was effective, and conclusive, and didn’t leave anything to desired, even if it did have more room it could have grown.

The antagonist in this was particularly interesting, as it existed in and of this story, while simultaniously out of it, and that was definitely a mind f—k more likened to slow sensual love than a casual fling.

I went in expecting a Tom Cruise vehicle with a plot that looked like Freddy Kreuger’s sheets, and a line up of stale repititious action cliches that were old in 92. I was extremely pleasantly surprised.

"Are we going to die??"

"NO!   …Maybe." 

Expectations: 5/10

Reality: 9/10

Score: +4

Evil Dead Review

by Josiah Muskrat  on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 at 01:12

The thing with horror movies is they are not scary if the characters do not make decisions that are at least vaguely rational, and don’t leave the audience screaming in anger at the screen.

To be fair I ought to mention at this point that I have never seen the original 1981 The Evil Dead. If that is an atrocity for you, then you might as well stop reading now; but I wanted to be clear that I am judging this film based on itself, and not as part of a tradition or happy childhood memory to be obliterated.

Evil Dead is lucky it was produced with such brilliance, and acted fantastically, or else the ridiculous story and shamefully poor decision making on the part of every single character would have killed it entirely, instead of just leaving it hanging like any of the multiple half-severed arms at any given point in the movie.

The cinematography was brilliant. Absolutely beautiful. Several of the shots were so perfect I will buy the DvD just to freeze frame and screen cap them for wallpapers. Absolutely the most artistic and professionally shot horror film I have ever experienced. 

The score and effects were that perfectly balanced recipe for the type of film it was. Nothing extraordinarily worth mentioning, *SPOILERS* save for the final “chainsaw deep-throat” shot, which was pure cinematic brilliance. (And also the shot of the burning girl in the opening sequence, which was absolutely fantastic.)  *END SPOILERS* but definitely not lacking in any way, either. There were several sequences that caused me to cringe.

The story was idiotic. Timeless, but idiotic. The characters, to a man made stupid decisions that no one with an ounce of sense would make. Brotip: WHEN THERE IS A BOOK WITH LATIN WRITTEN IN HUMAN BLOOD IN IT, DON’T READ THE LATIN OUT LOUD. 
Seriously, has no one heard of an inner voice?

I understand that certain elements are necessary for furthering the story, such as, SOMEONE has to summon the beast, somehow. But I do believe there are other ways to arrive at that place, that do not include compromising the audience’s respect of a central character. And especially to have that same motif occur over, and over, forcing each character to cause their own death through a series of completely unforgivably idiotic choices.
It’s not horror, it’s disaster comedy.

The deaths were mostly good, and in a film like this, that is extremely important. The central character, David’s hesitance in disposing of the most important women in his life was perhaps the most believable and forgivable thing in the entire film. *SPOILERS* The moment when his girlfriend returned to her own personality, just after he has shot her with the shotgun, particularly hit me hard. *END SPOILERS* It delved into the idea of what would it really be like to be forced to kill your own sister, or girlfriend, something that is often touched on by zombie-type films, but usually dismissed due to the age old “It’s not her anymore” argument. Evil Dead actually forced him to see the result of his choices. 

All in all, though, the film was solid, extremely enjoyable, and had timeless cinematography worthy of an award or so. Worth a watch, and if you’re a horror film, or production value fan, possibly worth a buy.

Also?
SO.
MUCH.
BLOOD.

Expectations: 8/10
Reality: 7/10

Score: -1