Suffragette Review

I’ve been meaning to watch Suffragette for a while now. It came out on the 12th October, nearly an entire month at the time of writing. But finally, after ploughing through the rest of the films and reviews that I wanted to get done, I managed to watch Suffragette. Does the film stand up to the Best Picture and Actress nomination rumours that have been circulating recently?

Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw and is directed by Sarah Gavron. The story follows laundry washer Maud Watts (Mulligan) as she is slowly dragged into the Suffrage movement, led by Emmeline Pankhurst (Streep).

While the film centres around the very real struggle in the early 20th century for women’s right to vote, the film uses many fictional characters, including our main character, Maud, to focus in on. I’m in two minds about this decision, on one hand I like the idea of Maud being the “one-woman-swept-up-in-history” style character, a stand-in for all the nameless women that were part of the fight, but on the other hand, it means her interactions with real-life people and incidents feels a bit incongruous. It’s like Assassins Creed by the end of the film, with Maud stumbling across real life suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison just in time to watch them do the things they are remembered for in history.

Carey Mulligan gives an alright performance as Maud Watts. Some of the time Mulligan shows what a brilliant actress she is, with scenes such as the infamous Epsom Derby or in one of her incarcerations where she is force-fed while on hunger strike, but apart from these fleeting scenes she’s rather bland. Her voiceover throughout several stages of the film is very reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s in Blade Runner, with Mulligan sounding thoroughly disinterested in her role. Ben Whishaw on the other hand as her husband Sonny is very good, playing against type as a patriarchal figure who can be cruel to his wife, and not the loveable geek that he usually plays. Brendan Gleeson is solid as police officer Steed, who is assigned to track down the militant suffragettes. His interactions with Mulligan, along with him trying to help her despite her being a fugitive add to a more morally ambiguous character who won’t just arrest someone because he has been told to.

The main problem I had with Suffragette is the cinematography. The DOP is Edu Grau, who’s worked on several shorts, documentaries and a few big budget films such as an early 2015 film, The Gift. After coming out of the cinema, I was left with a giant headache from Grau’s camerawork, mainly due to his use of handheld cameras. Throughout Suffragette, the camera moves up and down like a bobble-head, giving me an intense feeling of nausea due to the motion blur on screen. Sometimes the camera thankfully settles down for a few minutes, but apart from a few second-long shots, the camera looks like it’s being operated by a man who has springs for limbs. Grau also has a strange tendency for intense close-ups of Mulligan, which are obstructive in terms of hampering the viewing of scenes and are infuriating.

I can’t fault Suffragette for its message or its cast/crew. The main cast, the director and the writer are all female, a rare occurrence in a major cinema release these days, as well as opening at the London BFI festival. And even though the film is set over one hundred years ago, the message is still shocking relevant, as a scrolling text at the end of the film shows at what time voting for both genders was made law in countries, as well as the countries that still don’t have equal voting rights. But even with all the excellent cast, a seasoned director and a serious subject matter, the rather un-engaging main character and incredibly annoying camerawork stop it from reaching great heights.

Score: 6/10 An important film, but it really could have been crafted better.

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Everest Review

We’ve had some biopic films this year. We’ve had some disaster films this year. Now, Baltasar Kormakur, director of Cotraband and 2 Guns (the latter being a guilty pleasure of mine) has brought together both genres, for a disaster biopic, Everest.

Everest stars Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Jake Gyllenhaal and is directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Based on the real life 1996 Mount Everest climbing disaster, the film follows professional climbers Rob Hall (Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal) as they team up with other climbers to reach the summit of Everest.

The cast list for the film is spectacular. Along with the four great actors that were mentioned above, the film also stars brilliant actors and actresses such as Emily Watson, Kiera Knightley, Sam Worthington and Robin Wright. It’s a very good cast list, and each actor and actress plays their part well. Clarke and Gyllenhaal have a great chemistry as competitors Hall and Fischer, with their conversations at base camp over who is the better climber or their ability to read each other’s mind to help each other out when trouble strikes on the mountain.

The cinematography is extraordinary. Credit to director of photography Salvatore Totino, who captures fantastic panoramic and aerial shots of the trek through the Nepalese countryside to the base camp at the foot of Everest. It’s a film much like Wild, it makes you want to go on a trek to see the beautiful sights that are captured in the film. However, it becomes quite apparent in the film when the climbers have started their ascent, that a lot for the shots are of soundstages or are CGI. While the cast and crew did go to the Himalayas, The Alps and the wilds of Iceland to shoot some scenes, in the second half of the film you can see the difference between the real landscapes and fabricated ones.

The deaths are handled very matter-of-factly. In a more conventional tick-the-boxes disaster film such as San Andreas, where deaths are signposted, Everest just let’s people slip off into the ether, one second they are there, the next they’re gone. It’s very tactfully done and hammers point the home of that it is a true story and not a fictional, Hollywood-style drama.

The music, by Dario Marianelli fits the films perfectly. Instead of using a usual symphony-style orchestra, the music is just one or two instruments at a time, switching from brass to strings and then to woodwind seamlessly. This effect of using less instruments is more effective and a lot more charming than if there was a bombastic soundtrack like usual disaster films. Rhythmic chanting and woodwind notes are used, symbolising the wind and monasteries that are littered throughout the film, and then the single violin or cello being the isolated climber. I’m listening to it right now while I’m writing this review and it’s still as moving as it was in the film.

The film does have some problems. At two hours the film does feel a little overlong, with the build-up and training for the ascent at base camp being the majority of the film, instead of the actual climb. Even while feeling overlong, the film also cuts together scenes that are meant to be hours apart (seen by the time counter in the bottom corner of the screen) meaning that certain scenes feel rushed and losing some of the momentum and sense of danger since it’s only been a few seconds of on-screen time since the stranded climbers last radio message. This might have been to deliver all the facts of the event, but it was still an odd choice to edit the film like this.

The film also does jump around several of the members of the climbing crew, and with most of their faces covered by oxygen masks or balaclavas, it sometimes hard to remember who everyone is. This, as well as the fact of the many loose ends in the film make the latter portion of the film sometimes very confusing to follow.

In summary, while Everest is sometimes a feast of the eyes and ears, it’s desire to stay factual means that the story doesn’t feel up to par. It’s one to watch if you’re a fan of the two novels that tell the story, or if you’re a fan of “Travel Cinema” (films that revel in the great outdoors).

Score: 6/10 A very competently made film, but not much more to it than that.

Dick Tracy Review

Preface

I was looking through a long forgotten drawer in my room and came across a selection of videos and DVDs that I didn’t even remember owning. Filled with mostly forgettable films like The Tuxedo (a Jackie Chan/James Bond knock-off) and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, one film stood out; Dick Tracy. I picked the film out of the drawer and decided to watch it.

Review

Dick Tracy stars Warren Beatty, Madonna, Charlie Korsmo and Al Pacino and is directed by Warren Beatty. Based on the classic 1930s comic strip of the same name, the film follows police detective Dick Tracy (Beatty) as he takes on a colourful array of gangsters led by “Big Boy” Caprice (Pacino).

I did a bit of research on the original comic strip before I started this review, and I can say that the film sticks closely to the characters from the comic in look and design. In the comic, each character is over-designed with a specific feature and colour, making them instantly recognisible. It means with get characters with names like Lips, Little Face, Flattop and The Brow, each one grotesquely different and easily identifiable, with their name being their general description. Praise should be given to the make-up department (who won an Oscar for Best Makeup) who create these fantastic prosthetics that look very similar to the comic strip origins, giving many of the secondary characters memorable looks.

The connection with the original comic strip can also be seen in the overall design of the film. As director, Warren Beatty chose to try and make the film with a palette of only seven colours. This, along with the matte paintings of the skyline of“ The City” (no really, that’s it’s name) makes the film feel just like a moving comic strip, almost fifteen years before Sin City made waves in the film industry for doing the same thing.

Dick Tracy is apparently set in the 1930s, but the film plays mostly as a pastiche of the old Hollywood films from the era of hard-boiled detectives and private eyes. Warren Beatty plays Dick Tracy as the same hard-nosed, soft hearted cop that you’ve seen a thousand times, and Madonna plays the role of the femme fatale Breathless like one of Hitchcock’s infamous blonde beauties, meaning she can’t act but looks great on screen. The film continues it’s pastiche style when Al Pacino (known for his violent gangster roles such as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone from Scarface and The Godfather respectively) turns up as head gangster Big Boy Caprice, chewing scenery and quoting historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in a bid to look cleverer than he actually is.

But for all the amazing visual design and the large ensemble cast made of great actors, (the previously mentioned Beatty and Pacino, but also Dustin Hoffman, Paul Sorvino, Mandy Patinkin and Dick Van Dyke) the film feels really plastic and fake. The sets look like they could be knocked down by a gust of wind, and the seven palette colour tone, while striking at the beginning, makes the some of the sets interchangeable.

The acting is of two halves, with some actors being monotone and wooden and some overacting their little hearts out. Beatty and Madonna fall into the former category, coming off as boring and disinterested in everything that happens around them. The rest of the cast, mainly the gangsters, police officers and the journalists are just rolling with the daftness of the film and playing it up to eleven, meaning there is this strange dissonance when the two styles of acting meet. But the main problem with Dick Tracy for me is that it just drags. The film is 105 minutes, but it feels a lot more than that. The final act, while thoroughly entertaining, just keeps going and going until you stop caring about the machine gun fire and explosions that litter the final twenty minutes.

In summary, Dick Tracy is fun in the beginning, but begins to slow down past the halfway point. If you’re a fan of the Hollywood films of the 30s, or looking for a comic book adaptation that isn’t about superheroes, then I would recommend it.

Score: 6/10 Looks good, but is a bit forgettable.

Paper Towns Review

I have never read a John Green book. I have had many friends who have read them and read the blurb’s to see if they would interest me. But like I said, I haven’t actually got round to reading one yet, and I didn’t see John Green’s other adaptation, 2014’s The Fault In Our Stars. It therefore seems I would be the most inept person at reviewing Paper Towns, since I have no grounding in the author or his style. Let’s give it a go anyway, shall we?

Paper Towns stars Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith and Halston Sage and is directed by Jake Schreier. Based off John Green’s bestselling teen book of the same name, the story follows Quentin (Wolff) as he follows clues left by his next-door neighbor Margo (Delevingne) to where she has gone. Teaming up with his best friends, Quentin goes on a road trip to try and win Margo’s heart.

The story sounds as clichéd and sickly as it can get. Guy goes on a road trip with his kooky best friends to find an even kookier and manic girl of his dreams. Even though it has original source material, the film feels like it’s a patchwork of other better works. Annie Hall, The Spectacular Now, (500) Days of Summer and even Studio Ghibli’s Ocean Waves, Paper Towns is an amalgamation of them all. But maybe that comes with the fact that the two writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have written two out of the four films listed above, along with the other John Green adaptation The Fault In Our Stars. Neustadter and Weber know how to write post-modernist romances, whether it is original or an adaptation. But therein lies Paper Towns’ biggest problem, it feels like it’s trying to imitate the some of the greatest romantic comedies of recent times, even as going so far to get the same writers. But it never feels more than that, just an imitation, a pretender.

That’s not to say the script is bad though. There are some very personal, intimate conversations between our three leads and two of their girlfriends. The characters are a few weeks away from leaving high school, and the film capitalises on these feelings of the ending of great friendships. It leads to the idea that the end of school shouldn’t be about doing things for the last time, but for doing things for the first time. These small moments are littered throughout the film, with my favorites being a fun, little conversation that takes place while two characters are sat in a bathtub and another where two characters are looking out over a city at night. Neustadter and Weber are masters when it comes to creating these small, dialogue heavy scenes, and while that may come from the genius of John Green and the original work, the screenwriters do an excellent job of translating it to screen. It’ll affect and speak to today’s young audience in a way that (500) Days of Summer and Ocean Waves resonated with me at the same age, as the characters talk like real human beings, rather than sounding like a Lifetime Movie of the Week.

The acting seems to be a mixed bag. Most of the time Nat Wolff and his two friends Austin Abrams and Justice Smith fall into tired character tropes lifted straight of earlier films such as Revenge of the Nerds or Animal House. Their characters do grow once the film gets onto the third act road trip, including a raw outburst of something akin to borderline obsession by Wollf over finding Margo, we’ve haven’t seen anything of note during the first two thirds of the movie, making them feel a bit bland.

The actresses fair much better, with Halston Sage and Jaz Sinclair seeming to be much more confident in their roles than the three guys are. Cara Delevingne, however seems to be in a state of flux throughout the entire film. While it looks like she is revelling playing the part of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, it feels a bit overdone. She shares some nice moments with Nat Wollf in the beginning and near the end if the film, but we hardly get to see her throughout the rest of the film’s run time. Her final scene with him however feels a bit slapdash and feels like the director needed to just hit all the story points and didn’t properly allow the film to explain it’s ending.

The final thing I have to say about the film is it has an excellent soundtrack. The music is woven into the film perfectly, accentuating beautiful, crisp moments. One moment near the beginning of the film, where Margo and Quentin are driving through the streets is accompanied by Lost It To Trying by Son Lux. It’s just a small touch, but it elevates the scene to one of the my favorites from the entire film.

In summary Paper Towns divides me like no other film has in recent times. While I like the overall message of the film as well as the dialogue heavy sections where the characters contemplate the lives outside the warm, safe bubble that is high school, it also infuriates me that it just feels like a retelling of formal romance tropes while adding nothing else of it’s own to the remix.

Score: 6/10 Might just be one for the John Green fans.

Pain And Gain Review

Preface

Pain And Gain has been the source of controversy between film critics. As a film it has been criticised as one of the most loathsome evil films of all time while others say it is a hilarious crime caper. I finally got a copy and now two years after it came out, here is my response.

Review

Pain And Gain stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson and Antony Mackie as well as Ed Harris and Rebel Wilson and is directed by Michael Bay. Based on the true story of The Sun Gym Gang, Pain And Gain follows Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg), Paul Doyle (Johnson) and Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) as three steroid abusing bodybuilders, who kidnap a local businessman and extort his millions of dollars from him.

Let’s start with the positive. To me the film looks lovely. Michael Bay is usually criticised for his overuse of saturated colour within his films, but here it works. Being set in Miami, the film is awash with suntanned people driving bright-coloured supercars and wearing even brighter, garish clothing. It’s the epitome of excess and greed, and the film capitalises on it to no end.

The acting by all is well done. While Wahlberg is doing his trademark “bro” character that we’ve seen in nearly all of his films, he balances it out with a healthy dose of menace and outright evil at some points in the film. He would be scary if he weren’t so pathetically idiotic. Antony Mackie does well as Wahlberg’s sidekick, and is somehow even less intelligent, but Mackie does a good job of showing how frustrated his character is at always being number two to Wahlberg’s. Our third criminal is Dwayne Johnson, who is probably the most likeable of a group of robbers and murderers, because he is so earnest and almost has a childlike innocence. Ed Harris meanwhile does a role he could do in his sleep, as a nosy private eye, and is probably the sanest and most level headed of anyone in the story. The chemistry between all these actors is brilliant, and it’s in these interactions where most of the laughs come from rather than the sometimes over-bloated set pieces.

The music is also of highlight in Pain And Gain. Being set in the mid 90s, we have a wide selection of classic rap songs, such as Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. The main theme of the film is also of note, as a sort of faux-inspiring guitar solo that seems to be right at home with the eccentric bodybuilders we spend the film with.

Now to the bad. The main point of contention I and many other critics have with the film is the set up. As the film is set up as a comedy, things take a dramatic and jarring shift in tone when the bumbling gang kills real people. While director Michael Bay wants us to laugh at these three fools messing up, it’s hard to go along with the joke when a man they kidnap is set on fire and then ran over with a van. It’s this jarring shift in tone that set it apart from other comedy films that are based on true stories. For example, The Wolf Of Wall Street. The Wolf Of Wall Street is one of my favourite films, despite it being about the scummiest people on earth stealing people’s money. But I believe because we don’t see their victims, we don’t get a grating shift in tone as we do in Pain And Gain.

Another annoying trope of Michael Bay’s is his almost pornographic sensibilities. Bay’s camera seems to fawn over his various female actresses assets for creepily long periods of time and it becomes distasteful incredibly quickly.

In conclusion, Pain And Gain is a film that pulls in me in two directions. While it’s comedic chemistry between its leads left in nearly crying with laughter at several points the fact it takes so much pleasure in trying to portray real death as comedy makes me feel a little bit disgusted.  It’s a film of two halves; you just have to take them both while watching it.

Score: 6/10 The comedy is almost enough to cover up the hideously vile and evil side of Pain And Gain.

Mr. Holmes Review

There have been an estimated 250 adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous British detective Sherlock Holmes. There have been several new versions of the character in the past few years, such as BBC’s Sherlock, CBS’s Elementary and the Guy Ritchie films. Does the new incarnation, Mr. Holmes stand up with its great predecessors?

Mr. Holmes stars Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes, Milo Parker as Roger and Laura Linney as Ms. Munro with Bill Condon directing. Based on the novel A Slight Trick Of The Mind by Mitch Cullin, we follow Sherlock in his later life as the ravages of time starts to deteriorate his fantastical mind.

The setup of the film is what got me interested in seeing Mr. Holmes. I don’t think I remember seeing any incarnation of Sherlock Holmes before that has focused on his later life. Part of the appeal of Sherlock Holmes is that he is untouchable, he is smarter than any situation, and so the idea that we get to see his brilliant memory start to fade and him trying to come to terms with his mortality, it sounds like a brilliant concept to write about. This theme, while never fully fleshed out enough for my liking, is mentioned in a few scenes. One of the more memorable is how Sherlock notes a mark when he can’t remember something, be it a name or a place, and eventually we get to see the book in which he marks his notes in. It’s almost heartbreaking to see a once great mind broken down by time. This does mean that though we don’t get to see the great Sherlock’s amazing mind at play, we do get to see Sherlock’s emotions finally catching up with him, and that is something we don’t really see in the new incarnations.

As we have a Sherlock that is near the end of his life, we don’t sadly get any of his entourage of famous friends. While we get fleeting glimpses of Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson, all we really get is Sherlock, which in my opinion is a brilliant choice. While it is weird to see Sherlock working by himself, it means we get to know him more as a character, rather than high-functioning madman that we saw through the lens of Dr. Watson.

In the BBC’s Sherlock, we are introduced to an almost sociopathic character, but with Mr. Holmes we have a main character that is much more rounded. Ian McKellen shows off his great acting skills as he flits between the calm, sophisticated Sherlock who is never comprised, to a Sherlock who is frustrated with his failing memory and breaks down into tears during the latter of the film. To continue with the acting, Laura Linney is good as exasperated housekeeper Ms. Munro, but Milo Parker as her son Roger is a bit too over eager. Maybe it’s just his character, as the young boy is mesmerised by Sherlock, but there is a small part of over-acting nestled somewhere in there.

The story is three pronged, with three different times of Sherlock’s life we have to keep up with; his “controversial’ last case that made him retire, a trip to Japan to receive a mysterious plant known as the prickly ash, and his later retirement as he tries to remember that last case, rather than the way Dr. Watson wrote it. The story never get’s twisted or convoluted, as we can tell very clearly which period in time we have gone to, and in the first time period we get to see a small part of Sherlock’s unique gift as well as a nerve-tingling scene which gave the film a PG certificate.

The big problem with the film is that there is just not enough going on. With the running time being an hour and 45 minutes, the film starts to feel a little bit baggy, meaning a few of the more quieter scenes that have no bearing on the story could have been cut. And while we move between the three stories, the Japanese section seems to have no true bearing on the story until the final scenes, meaning we have to wait quite a while to get a payoff.

In summary, Mr. Holmes is an interesting character piece of one of the most enduring British literary creations, but still stumbles a few times with it’s story points.

Score: 6/10 A bit too long for what it asks, but a mesmerising performance by Sir Ian McKellen brings it home.

Jurassic World Review

It’s been 22 years since the first Jurassic Park wowed audiences with its CGI/animatronic dinosaurs, even if some of it was historically inaccurate. While the first film is dearly beloved by many people, the sequels The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 were not as well received. But now, 14 year after the last Jurassic Park film, can Jurassic World strike dinosaur gold once again?

Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire and Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as brothers Gray and Zach respectively. Jurassic Park has finally opened 20 years after being started in the first film, but with attendance dropping, a new hybrid dinosaur is created to coax audiences back. Unsurprisingly the dinosaur escapes, rampaging through the island with over 20,000 visitors trapped on there with it.

While the first Jurassic Park famously mixed CGI dinosaurs with animatronic dinosaurs to extraordinary effect, Jurassic World is mostly set on the CGI plain, with only one or two scenes with very little animatronics. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but it is sometimes very obvious that the actors are fighting/interacting with thin air. The detail however is exquisite, with the new dinosaur (named the Indominus Rex) as well as the batch of raptors that feature in the film, have brilliantly detailed features, making them a feast for the eyes.

Chris Pratt is our hero Owen Grady, an ex member of the military, who trains the four raptors that featured prominently in the trailers. While he’s no Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill he does have a likeable personality that seems to just exude from him. Bryce Dallas Howard is all right in the film, but has no real personality traits unlike past female characters in the franchise, making her slightly forgettable. The two child actors though, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson raise the bar for annoying child actors in the films. Sure, the kids in the first film were kind of annoying, but at least they we quiet for many moments in the film. The two brothers Gray and Zach scream at every available moment, as well as shout really obvious things (the word “Drive!” is the majority of their combined dialogue). For me the film kept falling apart when it moved to these two characters, as we aren’t really that bothered with what happens to them.

The script is pretty weak, with several supposed jokes falling flat, as well as plot points that are never developed or brought up once and then discarded. The only really memorable lines come from Jake M. Johnson (who many will recognise from New Girl) as Lowery, a tech support character that is the comedy relief in a film that stacks a pretty high and visceral body-count. To continue with the violence, for a 12A I did feel it was pushing the boundaries pretty far. While some of the violence happens off screen, in the second half of the film we get more lingering shots over people being mutilated, with blood splashing across the screen in an almost Tarantino way. In a film that is full of people being swallowed whole, pecked to death and whose arms are being ripped off by wayward raptors, the stuff that is actually shown is quite brutal.

While some people may not have been fans of the raptors being on the side of the humans in this instalment, I have to admit they were my favourite part of the film. Chris Pratt’s scenes where he is training and communicating with them, as well as the action scene where he and the raptors track the missing Indominus Rex is thrilling and exciting but is sadly do not continue for very long. The training scene is hardly five minutes long, and the tracking scene is even less, meaning these brilliant creatures who have been talked up nearly the entire movie are in the end used poorly.

The fleeting action scenes, both man vs. dinosaur as well as dinosaur vs. dinosaur are done very well and very kinetic, with the camera swirling around before zooming in close. Several scenes used in the other films are reused in the action scenes, such as the blurry silhouette of a dinosaur seen in the back ground as well as the film becoming totally silent just for a load roar to rip through the soundtrack and a dinosaur to appear. In fact, many scenes from the earlier films are recreated, such as the T-Rex flare run and an entire segment dedicated to the old abandoned research labs. These are some of the better parts of the film, which does speak volumes about how there isn’t anything as memorable in the new version.

In summary, Jurassic World is your average blockbuster popcorn film. It has all the ingredients for one; a brand name with stellar pedigree, spectacular special effects and a stupidly contrived romance plot along with a big name star in the lead role. It’s just a shame it doesn’t do anything more than your average blockbuster.

Summary: 6/10 Fleeting fun scenes but nothing really to write home about.

San Andreas Review

I never really liked disaster movies. I was not all interested in the likes of The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon or Independence Day. So when I heard about San Andreas I was more than a little sceptical that it was just going to be scene after scene of destruction. I was right in my deduction, but it didn’t stop the film from being a fun ride that wouldn’t let up until the very end.

San Andreas stars Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, Alex Daddario, Carla Guggino, Ioan Gruffudd, Paul Giamatti and oddly enough Kyle Minogue. When the famous San Andreas Fault line on the west coast of America finally gives, a massive earthquake stands between Ray (Johnson) from his ex wife and his daughter.

If you’ve even seen half of a disaster movie in the past ten years you know the gist of the story. Absent dad, divorced mother, child in need, evil new stepdad, contrived romance, old people dying together, annoying kid you wished would get swept up in the destruction, yadda yadda yadda. It got to the point where I was fighting the urge to laugh in my cinema seat when some clichéd disaster movie story stereotype was brought up. But we all knew San Andreas’ story wasn’t going to be its strong point, we are here for the stunning destruction Mother Nature leaves in her wake. And it’s awesome.

Steve Yedin, cinematographer of Looper and the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII gives us several gorgeous panoramic shots of San Francisco being destroyed again and again throughout, with aerial photography being one of the greatest achievements in the film. Even though CGI fills in most of the fire, smoke and rubble, it wouldn’t look half as good if the entire thing was CGI. You can still spot it in certain occasions when close-ups on actors betray the green screen behind them, but overall the effects are well done.

The acting is deliciously overdone, with everyone seeming to just role with it and have fun while the world burns around them. The Rock gives a solid performance as basically himself, a super powered beefcake who is the nicest person anyone can ask for as well has being a Fire and Rescue operator, just in case you weren’t 100% on his side. Carla Guggino plays his ex-wife (very important to remember she’s his ex-wife, if the film doesn’t bash you around the head with that idea within the first couple of minutes) and Alex Daddiaro is his daughter, who has been taught by her superhero father how to save herself from the worst of the earthquake. We are also introduced to two young men, Ben (played by Colton Haynes) and his kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), neither of whom are from England in real life but both sporting stereotypical English accents in the film.

To go along with the over-the-top acting, the screenplay is delightfully hammy, with several lines making me crack up/shake my head in disbelief. The final line of the film is its best, sending several members of the audience into laughter. The film is one step short of just shouting “’MURICA” at the end while punching the air, but it pulls back just enough to be the clichéd Hollywood ending that most disaster films take.

The science of the film, given to us on a drip feed by a super serious Paul Giamatti seems to be accurate. The film creates a more realistic disaster than whatever 2012 threw at the audience, but it’s all still tied up in science techno-babble. All you really need to know is that big numbers are really bad and usually come with severe ground-shaking.

The film at 107 minutes feels a bit long for such a simple set up, and with only a few minutes where the pace drops to a snails pace so that we can find out how much The Rock loves his family. The film moves along at a fairly quick pace, even though it does starts getting repetitive after a while.

In summary, San Andreas has nothing new in its characters or its story arc. It’s a once-a-minute thrill that doesn’t let up, but there is really nothing that will make it any more than what it is, a simple disaster film. But if you are looking for the next wave of destruction on a cinema screen, look no further.

Score: 6/10 Fun while it lasts, but nothing below the surface

David Lynch Collection Review

Preface

This review has been a while in the making. I first teased this collection on my Twitter feed nearly a full month ago, but I finally thought I should start now, after finishing the last film I wanted to feature on this list. This collection review will work much like my Bruce Lee one, yet this time focussing on the director David Lynch.

I love David Lynch. I believe he is one of the best directors alive today, with his creation of epic-spanning surrealist nightmares and non-linear narratives getting him both lauded and criticised in the film world. The seven films I chose for this review are:

  • Dune
  • Eraserhead
  • Blue Velvet
  • Lost Highway
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Inland Empire
  • Wild At Heart

A brief warning, nearly all of these films contain copious amounts of swearing, violence, nudity, and a few contain some of the most unsettling and foreboding moments in cinema. Watch them at your own discretion.

Dune

Lynch’s first big-budget studio film, Dune is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel of the same name. Featuring Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, a son of the Duke of Atreides, one of the several warring partners in the empire of space. The film focuses on the struggle over the planet Dune, which is rich in the spice required for interstellar travel. Featuring a vast array of talented actors, Dune also features some impressive miniature work, with Herbert’s giant Sandworm being a standout attraction. Also be on the lookout for Lynch’s cameo and the soundtrack composed by Toto.

Score: 8/10 It’s a bit like Game of Thrones in space.

Eraserhead

Lynch’s first feature film, and one that is made of nightmares. Eraserhead is about a man named Henry (played by another Lynch regular Jack Nance), who after his wife gives birth to a deformed mutant, leaves him and the new baby to fend for themselves in the post-apocalyptic dystopia. Shot in stark black and white, this is the start of Lynch’s surrealist imagery, with stop-motion chicken breasts, gruesome body horror, and a chilling song with the famous Lynch line, “In heaven, everything is fine.” The constant crying of Henry’s child is laced throughout the film, making the film one of the most disturbing of the bunch.

Score: 7/10 Not one to watch before you go to sleep

Blue Velvet

Probably the sanest and easily to follow of the film on this list. Kyle MacLachlan returns again, this time playing Jeffrey Beaumont, who returns home after his father is hospitalised. While on a walk, Jeffrey discovers a severed ear in a field, and starts his own investigation into the mystery, when the police go nowhere with the case. Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of sadistic criminal Frank Booth is one of the most memorable villains within cinema history, while Isabella Rossellini portrayal of his abused plaything Dorothy is unnerving. Video game fans will get a kick out of several scenes within the film that were recreated in Silent Hill 2.

Score 10/10 Lynch’s best film by far.

Lost Highway

A twisting narrative of parallel lives and invasions of privacy, Lost Highway features Bill Pullman as jazz musician Fred, who keeps receiving tapes of him sleeping in is bed. Again featuring an all star cast, with an unnerving performance by Robert Blake as the Mystery Man, Lost Highway has some of the more frightening flashes of Lynch’s filmography, (viscerally similar to the hells scenes from Event Horizon), yet stumbles around the halfway mark with some rather boring story points. In the end it all comes together, but this one you might need to read several internet theories to eventually get.

Score: 5/10 Visceral and unsettling in places, but it’s not one of Lynch’s greatest works.

Mulholland Drive

After an attempted assassination/car crash on the eponymous street, a woman called Rita (Played by Laura Harring) is left with amnesia. She stumbles across aspiring actress Diane (played by Naomi Watts) and together the two set off to find what actually happened to Rita on Mulholland Drive. With several Lynch cast alumni featuring, along with an odd bit of casting in the form of Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Drive is a brainteaser that answers more and more questions with each repeat viewing, with everything drenched in symbolism. With several startling moments and foreboding imagery, it’s a feast for the senses.

Score 10/10 This is one you’ll keep coming back to.

Inland Empire

Lynch’s most recent work and also his longest, at just under three hours. Inland Empire could be considered a very loose adaptation of anime classic Perfect Blue, with Laura Dern playing actress Susan, who while filming her latest film starts to lose her grip on reality. The closest thing to a horror movie that Lynch has created, with several scenes making me jump out of my seat with fright, Inland Empire has many of Lynch’s scariest moments. The three hour run time might be a bit too long for some, along with the meandering story, which feels like it’s about to end before going on for an extra half an hour. Plow through it though and you’ll have some of the most frightening and surreal images ever committed to film burned into your psyche forever. Stick around for the credits and you’ll be treated to nearly all the cast singing and dancing to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman.

Score: 6/10 The run time kicks the legs out from Inland Empire, but it is still a clever and enjoyable (in a horror way) film.

Wild At Heart

A romantic/crime road trip based on the novel of the same name, featuring Nicolas Cage as Sailor and Laura Dern (again) as Lula. While some of the subject matter discussed and shown, including, childhood abuse, murder, shotgun injuries and a ridiculous amount of sex can be off-putting to several audience members, what is left is a darkly funny script about two people who are in love. Nicolas Cage is as crazy as usual, and extra praise should be given to the bad guy Bobby, played by Willem Dafoe, who exudes menace. Throw in a superb rock and roll soundtrack, and you got yourself a pretty good movie.

Score: 9/10 A fun neo-noir thrill ride.