OLDBOY REVIEW

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Oh Boy!

Now firstly, I am a huge fan of Park Chan-wook’s 2004 original cult classic, and was devastated to hear a remake was in the pipeline. However, I felt somewhat assured knowing that Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing and Inside Man) was at the helm, with Josh Brolin and Samuel L (The L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson in the cast.

But what I just watched was a travesty, everything I feared in a Hollywood remake by the bucket load. The opening half hour did pay homage and pretty much covered the same set up as the original, which did not bother me in the slightest, with Brolin with his Southern drawl playing the part to perfection and establishing early on that the character is asking for trouble. For those unaware of the original plot, I will try not to spoil too much but I’m so riled up after watching this, I cannot promise anything.

Basically, the main gist is that Joe Doucett (Brolin) is kidnapped and held prisoner in a hotel room for 20 years, until one day he is released thus putting him on a murderous vengeance-seeking path with a hammer in tow. (That’s right. A hammer). Original fans – I’ll get to that. What I liked was the little touches. The fact that Lee included the mystery umbrella woman. However, he focuses, if a little too much, more on Doucett’s entrapment. Although it allowed the scenes to provide more depth and encapsulate (Word of the day!) his vulnerability and ever-growing psychosis, it could have been condensed a lot quicker.

(Plus was I the only one thinking, Jesus Brolin, put on some pants son?). The Cast Away-inspired pillow companion was a nice touch.

Oldboy was always a strange and violent film but what I loved about Chan-wook’s original was that it was suspenseful, intriguing and hypnotic, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen (and no! Not because it was in subtitles!). But once Doucett is freed from his motel confines, Lee seems to throw away everything that made the original a classic for me, leaving a big, bloody mess. This is settled in one ridiculously unnecessary violent scene, in which Brolin pretty much kills a high school football team for getting in his way. And with that very moment, went all logic and interest.

The cast do their utmost to provide a dimension to their wafer thin characters. A notable exception being the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (I didn’t realise the Olsen twins had another sister, my goodness, steady now). You know you’re onto a losing streak when even Samuel L Jackson can’t save the day (he was the Spirit bad. Bad). Jackson just come across as a whiny, cross dressing weirdo with a stupid blonde Mohican, not even his motherfuckery was funny. Just plain irritating.

The lines fall flat, Brolin the powerhouse actor that he is, can only grumble and pull stupid faces. The dumpling scene, my God! At one point, in an attempt to find his captors, he knows that the food he was given was from a Chinese restaurant. So what does he do? Go to every restaurant and literally fill his face with dumplings until he recognizes the taste.

The whole thing borders on self-parody. At one point, Josh Brolin is riding a tiny Chinese bicycle while chasing after a Jeep frantically waving a hammer and Sharlto Copley (District 9) as the villain. Oh my word! What was the deal with his accent? Now, the villain was always an eccentric and a flamboyant dresser. But Copley’s portrayal comes off as a really naff Bond villain from the 70s Moore era. It was laughable. There was genuine suspense when the two protagonists finally meet but with Brolin and Copley, it was comical.

The hammer scene, the infamous hammer scene. Terrible. Lee films it all in one take, like the original, but instead of leaving the camera static and the action unfolding around it, the camera pans around, following Brolin. He only uses the hammer for thirty seconds, then swaps to every possible weapon. The violence is OTT, ridiculous and stupid. He’s running around with a knife in his back while being slapped about with 2×4’s! One big Saturday Night Live piss take.

No squid eating, just a passing reference. And the umbrella woman, just disappears. My friend who has not seen the original did not get the point to her at all and frankly there wasn’t one in this rehash. Oh and the twist. Well, there is a twist for those unfamiliar but for those familiar, it’s different, they stay true but go a little bit more messed up.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons, especially to a film that was, and still is good. It did not need to be remade.

On it’s own merit, it’s a stupidly gory and OTT watchable mess that is so-so at best, and I mean best. Worth a gander if you’re a gore nut but the tone is all over the place, just like everything else with this movie. A real mess, a beautifully shot mess but oh boy 1.5/5

Currently ranked 176 out of 178!

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GODZILLA REVIEW

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Godzilla? God help us. I really wanted this to work but yet again another reboot fails to hit the mark by it’s hero’s gargantuan tail. A drawn out, plot holed mess that if not for a promising 15 minute finale would have been a complete fossil. This poor piece of dino doodoo goes out with a yawn than a ROAR!

When I heard that Gareth Edwards, the man who gave us the low budgeted apocalyptic cult creature feature Monsters, had been green lit to direct the Godzilla reboot, I was excited. Monsters gave us a taster of his visual brilliance. Granted the story was nothing new but give him the right material and a bigger budget and Godzilla could be something. It is such a shame that I report that even with an impressive cast, this film will sink and should stay in the underwater prison that kept Godzilla away for most of the movie (You read that right).

Bryan Cranston does his best to make the technical mumbo jumbo sound interesting and plausible. Hell, the guy even speaks Japanese. But you can’t help but feel it’s just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle as an engineer. Especially when he is running, panting, and screaming quite high pitched. It’s all unintentionally hilarious. I mean it was always going to be hard for Cranston to find a suitable follow up project after the excellent Breaking Bad.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually preferred it’s ridiculously corny and OTT 1998 blockbuster brother, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. It deliberately poked fun at the hokey concept while this takes itself far too seriously (which wasn’t a problem to begin with. I mean if Christopher Nolan can do it, why not?). It just highlights the number of plot holes in the loose story line to give the humans something to do. Look I don’t care about the concept of a giant dinosaur causing havoc on the world’s major landmarks. But the problem when you have giant dinosaurs or robots (I’m looking at you, Transformers) that can survive nuclear bombs (pretty much the biggest weapon we can launch at the buggers), the only thing the human race can do as Ken Wantanabe rightly says, “Let them fight.”

Edwards obviously intended to wet our whistles, stalling the inevitable appearance of the gargantuan giant. I’m fine with that but not when we are left with naff, generic character regurgitating scientific mumbo jumbo that bores the living stuffing out of you. I mean a beautifully shot scientific expedition with Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai/Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) that skims across The Philippines and Japan teases us with a dino skeleton here, a trail of destruction there but as you’re waiting for the hero, you realise there is no point in the scientist’s journey as it makes no sense and is completely necessary. That big budget being put to use. Alexandre Desplat’s score is suspenseful and pacey but there isn’t much suspense or tension to keep you hooked.

I mean the opening sequence with the redacted 1950s footage was a complete rip off of the Emmerich rehash. I won’t spoil too much. That being said, there wasn’t much to spoil. This was advertised all wrong. The main creatures that we are stuck following are mutated parasites, well giant cockroach things that feed off radiation and it’s up to good ol’ Zilla to sort them out. At a two hour running time, there just isn’t enough going on. Every time we see those cockroach things, we get two minutes of carnage then they fly off to another expensive location for more blockbuster budget spending. When Godzilla finally appears, the animation and visual effects are impeccable, from his expressions to his incredibly loud roar. Seriously I nearly went deaf in the cinema.

But every time he looks like he’s going to do something. The camera cuts away or flashes to the aftermath. Screw that, I want to see it! Instead we get a rather hench looking army chughead Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) sleepwalking through his lines as he suffers daddy issues with his paranoid skeptic of a father, Mr Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s angry scientist was the only thing worth watching in between the creatures popping up as if to say, “We will be fighting . . . eventually”. An unexpected twist got my attention, only to leave it open for more . . . monotonous drivel that went nowhere. Wantanabe looking white as a sheet petrified of Godzilla just becomes a parody in itself. The talented David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum/Alphas) plays a stocky grunting general that asks the main question every film goer is thinking, “Where’s Godzilla?”. A character that has spawned numerous movies and hit movie history is left making a short 15 minute appearance for the “big finale”.

The little details soon irritate. When you first see the tip of his spine arise out of the ocean like something out of Jaws, a smile cracks but after half an hour, you end up screaming (quite ironically), “Get out of the water!”. When Big G gets to fight, the special effects are brilliant. But I can’t help feel that it’s a little too dark (in the visual sense, literally) to see what’s going on.

The fighting does appeared laboured and mechanical but that’s where the fun came from the classics. The special effects do nothing to spoil that. In fact they improve it. I wouldn’t waste your money on 3D, apart from the opening, where smoke and ash rains out the screen, everything else is just a little more prominent but not a massive investment.

The HALO jumping sequence was decent, especially when it flicked to the first person angle, in which we see the soldiers dive out of the plane into the ensuing fog and debris left by Godzilla and co. However, when you think back, they didn’t need to do it. Seriously.

Unfortunately, before people realise the mess that this film is, it will have already made its money and a sequel has already been green lit. But this offering has not heightened my excitement to fish out the next one. Edwards excels at the effects yet again but the love of God, give us some characters we care about.

It doesn’t offer anything for the leading ladies at all. I mean Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) had such a pointless part, anyone could have played her. The same can be said for the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy remake), who was left either staring blankly, screaming or waiting on the phone. A shame. This had all the potential to start the blockbuster season with a BANG but only went with a BOO! Let’s hope X Men or Transformers can reward our patience. 2/5 for me.

As a side note, how cool would it have been if Heisenberg squares up to Godzilla and screams, “SAY MY NAME!”. To which Godzilla roars in subtitles, “HEISENBERG”. Then skulks away. “THIS IS MY TERRITORY!”. Maybe it will be in The Director’s Cut?!

Currently ranks #117 out of 174!

ENDLESS LOVE REVIEW

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A story we’ve seen done endless times before but surprisingly enough with a light touch and a good cast, quite watchable. Not the worst love story going, but not the best. If you love all that predictable guff, give it a go. The spiel is nothing new. Privileged, if isolated, high school loner  Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls in love with the charismatic rogue mechanic/car valet David Elliott (Alex Pettyfer), against her controlling father’s (Bruce Greenwood) wishes. SHOCK!  What follows is a predictable luvvy duvvy affair that occurs over the summer as the pair fight against their parents and the paths that lay before them.

There is great chemistry between the two leads; the beautiful (if a little skinny) Wilde (who featured in the shambolic Carrie remake and St Trinians franchise) and (I’m sure the ladies will say beautiful) Pettyfer (I Am Number Four/Beastly/Magic Mike). They make two likeable characters, even if you worry they’re going to choke on all the cheese they’re guzzling. I was surprised to see that the two leads were British. Their accents were spot on. It was also interesting to see the number of British actors popping up in this film; Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Emma Rigby?! The girl has gone far from her Hollyoaks days, featuring in all sorts now (The less we say the better Ridley Scott disaster The Counsellor and the US TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Was it just me or did she have her lips pumped? I digress.

It’s all very easygoing and at times hammy with the OTT speeches of (truth, freedom and above all things . . . ) love but the cast make something that should make you cringe watchable and at times engaging. The awkward glances and exchanges blossom into a summery romance with the usual check list; riding on bicycles together, lying in the field blowing daisies, check, check. Ice cold bitchy girl jealous of loved up couple and intent on tearing them apart in the form of the alluring, if lipped up Rigby. Check. Well, kind of. She doesn’t really kick off until late on. More could have been made of her character. Dayo Okeniyi plays David’s best friend/comic relief Mace (not the spray) very well which splits them the luvvy duvvyness. Richardson and Robert “T-1000” Patrick play their parts well, even if they’re a little too soft and supportive for my liking.

The real star for me is the underrated Bruce Greenwood (the Star Trek reboot franchise/I, Robot) as Mr. Hugh Butterfield. The friction and tension between him and David makes up for all the cheesy romance stuff. He works well with Pettyfer and shows why he should be in more films. His presence, his expressions makes his encounters very watchable and makes for a fiery finale as he fears his influence over his family is fading. There was one unexpected moment and it gets a little more interesting when David’s checkered past is revealed but because of the tone of the film, it’s not as bad or as sinister as you think or could have been. It gets OTT, cheesy, but it’s easygoing, watchable and if you like romance and dramas with cheesy predictable guff, then give it a go. Not as bad as I prepared myself for nor as good but it missed out on a treat releasing this during the summer. More a summery film if anything with the well-shot sun lit locations and bright soundtrack. Could have gone a little darker and been stronger for it 2.5/5

Currently ranks #88 out of 145.

PLEASE NOTE: You might have gathered I’m not a romancey movie guy. Apologies for my terminology. I did my best 😉

What is wrong with films this year? Best and worst of 2013? Tough on both counts.

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Had a little rummage through Empire, The Guardian and Time’s best and worst of 2013. Now interestingly, I shared with my friends that I had seen 120 films so far on my Unlimited card. They asked me what was my top 10? And you know what, I actually struggled, not to say I couldn’t do it. But the ones I did finally put in there were not perfect by any means, personally there were only a few I would consider a very good film. Many were good but . . . or watchable if you’re in the mood, I couldn’t give a solid recommendation. Too picky? Don’t be silly.

 

I can’t help but feel that critics these days are falling for the overindulgent hype that surrounds many films these days. Most irritatingly, however is that this year is not over yet, with the Christmas period being one of the biggest targets to draw audiences with their bigger films. Guessing that The Hobbit, Anchorman 2 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be in there somewhere is not good enough.

 

In all fairness, despite being heavily plugged and advertised the last few months at our local Cineworld, as an Unlimited member I was invited to a secret screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. A truly beautiful, easygoing film with a lot of heart, not without its flaws but a surprise, nonetheless and one of Stiller’s most ambitious efforts.

 

 

All this buzz about Gravity. Best film of the year? Certainly not, might just scrape my top 20. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of everyone involved. A stunning visual masterpiece but at its core, a slow-burning drawn out survival story that has been done a hundred times before and much, much better. At first harrowing with Bullock spinning frantically with limited oxygen, it soon got old very quick. Much like Open Water. You could argue I don’t like those sort of films but yet I loved Alive and Buried. Gravity just seemed to be the same rubbish in a beautiful decorated visual wrapper.  It may have taken seven years for Cuaron to make but it took Kubrick twelve years to do Eyes Wide Shut, one of his weaker entries, but it was still more riveting than this.

 

Certainly not, might just scrape my top 20. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of everyone involved. A stunning visual masterpiece but at its core, a slow-burning drawn out survival story that has been done a hundred times before and much, much better. At first harrowing with Bullock spinning frantically with limited oxygen, it soon got old very quick. Much like Open Water. You could argue I don’t like those sort of films but yet I loved Alive and Buried. Gravity just seemed to be the same rubbish in a beautiful decorated visual wrapper.  It may have taken seven years for Cuaron to make but it took Kubrick twelve years to do

 

My markers are based on story, performance, pace, interest, and most importantly, would I buy that and would I watch that again? For most of the 120 films, I would find it a chore to endure them again if they appeared on my TV. Granted people have different tastes, but this constant focus on big pictures that fail to impress or surprise is a joke, regurgitating a checklist of sorts. Romance? Sex? Special effects? Needs to be an epic so make it three hours? Wait, guys, what about plot, story and acting? Shut up!

 

Nothing is original. That is true. But what is important is seeing the same story in a different way, which most of these films haven’t even tried to do. Irritatingly, The Guardian selects films that are of a particular niche or arthouse field. I am unlucky to be in an area where mainstream Hollywood films dominate. We don’t have an independent cinema, as such and if we do, then the choices are sparse and even more expensive to see than the usual 3D turd offering.

 

It doesn’t help with this current economic climate that Blockbusters have collapsed. It’s now only online rental, which I couldn’t stand in the first place, sending everything I asked for months ago. Or I have to travel 30 to 45 minutes to Milton Keynes or Leicester just to see these “Oscar tipped movies”. Either that or I have to find that them on demand and pay silly amount. There is even another alternative, but I don’t want to go down that path. I want to support this industry.

 

Conflicting on the three sites about one film, Only God Forgives. Personally, only God will forgive the people that made that movie. Now Refn delivered a sensationally visual feast but couldn’t hide the surprisingly unwatchable Ryan Gosling in a bizarre, stupidly violent, boring, ridiculous affair. Problem, I can see a cult following emerging. You could decipher the religious imagery and connotations but believe me, there are films that have deeper meanings that aren’t as strenuous. In one scene, a bloke is being brutally tortured, I felt his pain by just watching this film despite only being 90 minutes if that. You want deeper readings, watch Blade Runner and Donnie Darko, much better!

 

Worst films for Time, a few surprises in there. The Hangover Part 3 and Oz: The Great and Powerful? Now, granted. The Hangover 3 was not perfect and I was slightly disappointed and quite a lot of the laughs were revealed in the trailers but I saw a lot worse and liked the darker action-y route that it took and it wrapped up quite well, considering how mental the films were. Oz, on the other hand, very surprised. Franco played the part well, unlike Spring Breakers (Gangsterrrrr!) and Raimi brought a stunning, visual world that was worth seeing in 3D. Granted it was never going to top the original classic. The Counsellor, definitely a poor show. Needed counselling after watching that. (I know, lame, but come on, the chance was there and I took it!).

 

Grown Ups 2 hardly a surprise. Sandler’s recent endeavours have been a guilty pleasure for my brother and me. Overly panned, these silly films have always managed to make us giggle like a pair of numpties but after a funny hour, the film went downhill badly. Even we wanted to walk out at one point.

 

What annoyed me with Empire was many of the films I would have considered in my top 10 are ranked in their 30s section of the top 50. Django? Star Trek? Really? Captain Phillips at Number 2? It was a number 2, more like. A gripping opening hour fizzled out in a drawn out two and a half hour affair, felt like I was kidnapped by the pirates myself. Would have preferred it. (No, I wouldn’t). The complaints go on.

 

It seems film production companies are aware of this decline and instead of investing in new material, they’re going back to the old stuff and rehashing, sorry, remaking it. Oldboy, Total Recall, Robocop, Spiderman, rumours of Lethal Weapon? Why, why, why? Now because of the success of the brilliant Breaking Bad, they are flogging more money at TV shows. Are they going to kill that too? 2014 needs a serious reboot. Provide stories, humour, interest, not the same old crap, at least put a different spin on it. My best and worst will follow once I got rid of the cramp in my hands (Steady now).

 

http://www.empireonline.com/features/films-of-the-year-2013

 

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/06/top-10-worst-films-2013-time-magazine