Interview – Bedouin Sea


Interview: Bedouin Sea

I, Frankenstein Review – Dead Movie Walking


Director: Stuart Beattie

Writer: Stuart Beattie (screenplay, Kevin Grievoux (graphic novel)

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto


Release date: March 20th, 2014

Distributors: Lionsgate, Hopscotch Films

Countries: USA, Australia

Running time: 92 minutes


 

1/5

Best part: Aaron Eckhart.

Worst part: The wafer-thin narrative.

Hiding in the shadows of Hollywood’s smallest studios, one screenwriter/producer/actor keeps on getting work. Despite the idiocy of the screenplays and productions he creates, his immense power and surprising intellect pay-off more often than they should. This man is Kevin Grievoux. Sound familiar? Nope. Okay, I’ll explain. Grievoux, delivering the Underworld franchise and now I, Frankenstein, doesn’t deserve his notoriety. However, despite my overt cynicism toward his work, his immense stature scares me. Playing a large Werewolf in the Underworld series and a scary henchman here, Greivoux, literally and figuratively, stands by everything he creates.

Aaron Eckhart.

At the very least, he bares commendable intentions. However, despite holding several degrees, graphic novels, and screenplays to his credit, this hard worker delivers nothing but B-grade fluff. No offence Mr. Greivoux, but you don’t deserve anything except for criticism. Judging by the lacklustre marketing campaign, everyone around him must be embarrassed by this dull action flick. Kicking off this ridiculous thrill-ride, the movie’s prologue glosses over Mary Shelley’s original material. As we all know, Dr. Victor Frankenstein created a monster out of 12 parts from 8 corpses. Realising he has conquered God’s true power, he strives to kill the monster (Aaron Eckhart). After Dr. Frankenstein and his wife’s death, the monster takes his creator’s body to the family graveyard to give him a proper burial. Inexplicably, to advertise the target demographic and potential for perplexing action sequences, demons ambush the monster and attempt to control him. However, as soon as the monster escapes his captors, Gargoyles attack and kill the demons. The Gargoyle forces, led by Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) and bodyguard Gideon (Jai Courtney), invite the monster into their labyrinthian lair. Convinced they can convert the monster (renamed “Adam”, for some reason) into a soulful warrior, the Gargoyles are fighting a losing battle. This goofy fantasy then jumps forward 200 years, and mysterious Benefactor Charles Wessex (Bill Nighy) pushes employed scientist Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski) to track down and study the monster. 

Yvonne Strahovski.

There are several reasons why these movies continually become box office bombs. Like the titular character of this uninspired effort, these action flicks are noticeably flawed. To further criticise the movie’s actors, director, and audience, I’m glad to announce that this year’s the Oscar season has overshadowed their efforts. Thankfully, post-Oscar season dreck, like this, is now looked down upon by the masses. Believe it or not, we are evolving beyond I, Frankenstein. The plot, such as it is, is flimsier than the casts’ agents and publicists. Suited for stupid 11-year-old boys, the movie will bore anyone with two braincells to rub together. In fact, those braincells will no doubt develop more chemistry than the movie’s performers. I’ll admit it, I fell for mega-flops like Van Helsing when I was 11. Similarly, I, Frankenstein‘s brainlessness and chaotic nature might bewitch some viewers. However, unlike similar fare, it forgets to have fun. Fittingly, Frankenstein’s monster represents this comic book adaptation’s execution. Like the mistreated creation, the movie comes off like several disparate parts awkwardly stitched together. From the get-go, the movie establishes itself as a no-nonsense action-adventure flick. Unfortunately, inexplicably overlooking its own stupidity, the movie takes itself way too seriously. Unlike Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire, I, Frankenstein doesn’t solidify its absurd plot mechanics or bizarre aesthetic. Hilariously, breaking through the movie’s straight-faced facade, the overwhelming  production issues hinder the final product. Cutting away from action sequences, limiting the scope, birthing generic creature designs, and delivering dodgy CGI throughout, writer/director Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow When the War Began) mishandles the premise’s most intriguing intricacies.

“I, descender of the demon horde. I, my father’s son. I…Frankenstein.” (Adam/Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart), I, Frankenstein).

Gargoyle vs. Demon.

Despite obtaining a $65 million budget, Beattie highlights the narrative’s more conventional and laughable aspects (hard to believe he wrote Collateral). Despite his previous screenwriting efforts, Beattie’s work here delivers contrivances, unintentionally laughable moments, and forced dramatic tension. Crowbarring the monster into this silly feud as a Christ-like figure, the movie even throws in symbolism. To be fair, kids would fall head-over-heels for ancient history if the Roman Empire/Barbarian war had involved Gargoyles and Demons. Beyond this, I should be angrier! Shot in Melbourne’s Docklands Studios, it’s nice knowing my taxpayer dollars last year went toward this banal Blade rip-off. Do yourselves a favour, save your money and re-watch the Blade and Underworld franchises. Whilst not being Oscar-worthy successes in-themselves, those movies deliver more intentional laughs, ambition, and memorable action beats than I, Frankenstein. Here, despite Beattie and Greivoux’s commendable intentions, their ideas stall this over-the-top action extravaganza. However, despite placing the best action sequence in the first half, the movie’s first few set pieces deliver slight shades of joy. Featuring sword-wielding Gargoyles and Parkour-loving Demons, these sequences almost elevate this brain-dead material. Sadly, the action and CGI, in the second half, become exceedingly more transparent and monotonous. Depicting Frankenstein’s monster as a baton-wielding vigilante, the martial arts sequences add nothing to the movie’s befuddling mythology. Flaunting his character’s nonsensically rugged aesthetic, Eckhart bolsters his frustrating role. Growling every line, his dark performance is, by far, the movie’s best asset. Unfortunately, the supporting players are underwhelming. Otto, Nighy, Strahovski, and Courtney deliver gormless turns in underwritten roles.

Despite the cheap thrills and fine cast, the movie falters because it doesn’t make sense. There are several questions left lingering after certain twists and turns. How is the human population so oblivious to this ancient war? Why is ascending to heaven this horrible? Why is the love interest’s apartment so decrepit compared to her impressive workplace? Thankfully, there won’t be a sequel charged with addressing these nitpicks. With a diminutive scope, derivative story and character traits, and dodgy CGI, I, Frankenstein‘s lead character is nowhere near as listless and pitiful as the movie around him.

Verdict: A trashy and pointless action-adventure.

The Raid 2: Berandal Review – The Ultimate Gut-punch


Director: Gareth Evans

Writer: Gareth Evans

Stars: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusawedo

The_Raid_2_Berandal_teaser_banner


Release date: March 28th, 2014

Distributors: Sony Pictures Classics, Stage 6 Films

Country: Indonesia

Running time: 150 minutes


Best part: The inventive fight choreography.

Worst part: The convoluted sub-plots.

Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

Verdict: A pulsating and revelatory martial arts flick.

The Monuments Men Review – Stuck in Trenches


Director: George Clooney 

Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov (screenplay), Robert M. Edsel (book)

Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman

monuments_men_xlrg


Release date: February 7th, 2014

Distributors: Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 118 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: The fun performances.

Worst part: The dreary pace.

What ever happened to the concept of ‘classic Hollywood’? The Golden Age of Hollywood was defined by artistic efforts created by influential and enviable crusaders…I presume. Having researched this part of entertainment history (I know, I’m a nerd), I’ve come to a predictable yet apt conclusion – Hollywood doesn’t make movies the way it used to. Literally and figuratively, this statement sports several obvious and subtle traits. Modern Hollywood, continually compared to what it was, doesn’t stand up to criticism. So, who better to boost Hollywood’s wavering reputation than national treasure George Clooney? From Tibet to Timbuktu, everyone knows who he is.

Matt Damon & George Clooney.

In fact, Clooney’s latest effort, The Monuments Men, strives to make gigantic and awe-inspiring leaps of faith. Unfortunately, the movie trips and falls more often than not. Tellingly, this movie contains the right ingredients. In particular, not to be overlooked, the movie’s A-list performers have boosted some of the past decade’s greatest works. However, this saccharine docudrama’s reach exceeds its grasp. Embarrassingly, the movie keeps reaching for Clooney’s previous efforts’ level of quality. His immense star power and determination fight to bring classic Hollywood back. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men comes off like an elaborate dress rehearsal. Needing one-or-two final look-overs, this mawkish dramedy fits great assets into awkward places. Admittedly, this is an inspirational and unique story. Based on Robert M. Edsel’s literary account The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (had me at the title alone), this kooky adventure flick can’t decide what it wants to do. Here, multiple characters take this troop’s intentions across harsh lands to all corners of Europe. Set during WWII’s final moments, the movie picks up with the Nazi’s retreating to Berlin. Stealing priceless artefacts and destroying cities and communities, Adolf Hitler’s forces are taking everything to hell with them. Noticing their disgraceful actions’ impact, Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney, of course) presents his findings to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Cate Blanchett.

Given the all-clear, Stokes recruits representatives from Western Civilisation’s brightest sectors. After throwing Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon) back into the action, Stokes invites a gaggle of veteran soldiers to take-on Germany’s fiercest armies. Honestly, I’m trying to make this movie’s intricate plot seem more interesting than it is. Though their names aren’t important, the supporting characters are boosted by a plethora of acclaimed performers. Soon enough, Manhattan architect Sgt. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), sculpter Sgt. Walter Garfield (John Goodman), painter Lt. Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), theatre director Pvt. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), and Lt. Donald Jefferies (Hugh Boneville) join Stokes. Gathering intelligence proving Hitler’s Fuhrermuseum to be in development, the group infiltrates  Europe to such retrieve artefacts as the Van Eyck Altarpiece and Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. Sadly, despite the immense talent dousing each frame, star power and attention to detail don’t distract from The Monuments Men‘s crippling flaws. Obviously, the premise is boosted by these esteemed actors. It’s invigorating seeing these actors collaborate and crackle on screen. Unfortunately, from the twenty-five-minute mark onward, this rambunctious crew splits up to take on different missions. The narrative, separating into several under-utilised and tedious parts, exhaustively plods. Within the first third, the movie’s jarring tonal shifts and underwhelming turns stick out. After their separation, Granger meets up with disgruntled museum curator Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett). With Simone key to the mission’s success, Granger’s intentions become distorted. At least, that’s what I thought his story-line was about. For this subplot highlight’s the movie’s biggest flaw – cluttered with convoluted arcs and under-utilised concepts, the movie’s underdeveloped plot-lines are disjointed and meaningless deviations.

“Stop, stop. Stop. I seem to have stepped on a land mine…of some sort.” (James Granger (Matt Damon), The Monuments Men).

Bill Murray & Bob Balaban.

Beyond Clooney’s hubris blinding his gaze, his and long-time co-writer/producer Grant Heslov’s screenplay lacks depth, charm, and consistency. Steering away from emotional impact, the exposition-and-cliche-driven story-lines lack definitive resolutions. Considering Clooney’s greatest works (Good Night, and Good Luck, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), he should know how to fuse relevant, politically-driven narratives with eclectic, period-piece settings. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men‘s broad, bloated sub-plots distract from Clooney’s grand vision. With plot-strands switching from blissfully lighthearted to disturbingly dark and vice-versa, this homage to classic Hollywood already feels wholly dated. Irritatingly so, Clooney’s influences and viewpoints rest close to his heart. Like with The Ides of March, Clooney uses his democratic, no-nonsense agenda to kick this movie into overdrive. Thanks to the true story’s significant profundities, the movie almost  becomes socially and spiritually involving. Commenting on art’s effect on culture, the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the first world, Clooney’s fiery viewpoints reach breaking point. Amongst Clooney’s feisty attacks, the hit-and-miss gags also distort his intentions. Injecting slapstick humour into heartbreaking sequences, The Monuments Men awkwardly  connects contrasting genres and influences. Beyond the kitsch opening credits sequence (honouring The Dirty Dozen), Clooney’s overt sense of humour hinders this heavy-handed docudrama. Thankfully, Clooney’s visual style elevates this otherwise underwhelming dramedy. Along with the movie’s sumptuous and electrifying mis-en-scene, Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is jaw-dropping. Overcoming Clooney’s tonal transitions, the visuals are far more substantial than his overwhelming opinions. 

I hate to criticise Clooney’s work. For an entire generation, his scintillating screen presence and immense talent establish him as one of Hollywood’s greatest treasures. However, The Monuments Men, despite the commendable intentions, is an uninspired, confused, and weightless dramedy. Hampered by Clooney’s agenda and affection for classic Hollywood, his ambitiousness and profile prove costly. Somehow, this WWII docudrama lacks dramatic tension, laughs, and genuine thrills. Despite Clooney and co.’s involvement, its clear why Brad Pitt didn’t show up. 

Verdict: A lively yet disappointing WWII dramedy. 

Interview – Tim Nelson


Interview: Tim Nelson

Interview – Shell & Avahn


Interview: Shell & Avahn

Need for Speed Review – Crash ‘n’ Burn


Director: Scott Waugh

Writer: George Gatins

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott ‘Kid Cudi’ Mescudi


Release date: March 14th, 2014

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 130 minutes


 

1½/5 

Best part: Aaron Paul.

Worst part: The frustrating supporting characters.

Disastrous losing streaks aren’t enjoyable for anyone in Hollywood. They come without warning whilst embarrassing their victims beyond belief. In Tinseltown, losing streaks can happen to directors, writers, and actors. Sadly, Hollywood’s catastrophic run of video game adaptations is officially getting worse. After witnessing exhaustive action flick Need for Speed, I believe Hollywood should throw in the towel. The movie, despite its alluring cast and marketing campaign, isn’t worth the admission cost. Save your money and play the game instead. trust me, you’ll have a much better time. At the very least, you’ll gain some sense of control.

Aaron Paul.

Who’s asking for these video game adaptations, anyway? Everyone wants their favourite games, comic books, and novels adapted into movies. But why can’t people simply enjoy them for what they are? These adaptations, cashing in on a particular brand, prove that some entertainment mediums don’t cross over effectively. The mass divide between video game and cinema mechanics drifts Need for Speed into an inescapable vortex of mediocrity. It’d be simplistic and cheesy to make a significant number of car puns throughout this review. However, the plot, such as it is, relies on its viewers having low IQs, acute nymphomania, and Red Bull addictions. People who refuse to sit through 12 Years a Slave or The Wolf of Wall Street (you know, intelligent movies) will lap up Need for Speeds irritable ticks and predictable turns. The plot kicks off with testosterone-fuelled car mechanics being idiotic. After a sorrowful introduction from renowned radio presenter Monarch (Michael Keaton), we run into notorious grease monkey/street racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul). Marshall, running his late father’s garage, is haemorrhaging money faster than he can earn it. Gaining respect within Mt. Kisko, New York’s underground drag-racing scene, Marshall is considered one of the circuit’s hidden treasures. Celebrity driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) comes to Marshall for help. Hoping to settle their long-lasting feud, Brewster offers Marshall a spectacular opportunity. Brewster asks Marshall’s crew to fix-up the Ford Mustang acclaimed car designer/entrepreneur Carroll Shelby (don’t worry, I didn’t know who that was either) was working on before his passing.

Dominic Cooper & Dakota Johnson.

Before I go on, I’ll ask Dreamworks Studios and co. just one thing. Dear studios, this is based on a plotless video game, what did you think would happen?! The Need for Speed franchise consists only of uninteresting cut scenes and exhilarating car chases. This franchise, despite reaching the right demographic, can’t deliver acceptable cinematic endeavours. Congratulations Burnout and Gran Turismo, I now have more respect for you! Anyway, the plot takes sharp turns early on. After pitching their work to car dealer Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), Marshall gets back on Brewster’s bad side. Hindered by Marshall’s efforts, Brewster challenges him and his comrade Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) to a race. Using Koenigsegg Ageras, the three speed down the freeway before Pete is killed. With Pete’s sister and Marshall’s old flame Anita (Dakota Johnson) standing by Brewster’s word, Marshall is sent to prison. Before long, motivations, revelations, and speeches bust out of these irritating characters. This revenge plot, controlling this half-assed Fast and Furious rip-off, is as tedious as watching someone play the aforementioned video game. Even before the half-way mark, it divulges into derivative tropes and face-palm-inducing moments. Sadly, thanks to George Gatins’ interminable screenplay, the movie assumes its two or three movies into its own franchise. After its annoying characters are introduced, the movie pushes on without depth, personality, or originality. Separated from the franchises’ eighteen instalments, these characters are simply uninteresting hindrances. Another problem – trust me, there are a lot of ’em – stems from Hollywood’s current trend of adapting useless properties. Stunt coordinator turned director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) obviously doesn’t care about the movie’s slower moments. Not knowing whether to take itself seriously or take deep breaths, Need for Speed’s jarring tonal shifts become debilitating road blocks.

“Racers should race, cops should eat donuts.” (Monarch (Michael Keaton), Need for Speed).

The cars.

Tripping over the franchise’s baffling ‘mythology’, gullible thirteen year-old boys will be the only ones savouring this tumultuous experience. Deliberating on visions of the future, masculinity, and racing’s raw power, the movie’s spiritual side dampens its insignificant and questionable narrative. Predictably, plot contrivances, cliches, and unnecessary sketches extend the bloated story. Despite presenting itself as a homage to 70s drive-in flicks, aided by overt references to Bullit, the movie sorely lacks pathos, energy, and relevance. Beyond the plot-hole, and pot hole, driven narrative, the dramatic and comedic moments don’t help. The slapstick moments, led by irritating supporting players, are accompanied only by crickets and tumbleweeds. One act of defiance, involving one character quitting his job, is just plain tiresome. Paul, coming off of AMC hit series Breaking Bad, does his best with such immature material. Paul and Poots, developing a slither of chemistry within their Mustang’s small confinements, are charismatic forces in need of better projects. On the other end of the spectrum, rapper Scott ‘Kid Cudi’ Mescudi hampers every scene he coverts. As the movie’s most offensive stereotype (and that’s saying something), Mescudi should stick to his rap career. Somehow, Need for Speed‘s characters are less realistic than the racing sequences. Thankfully, the action set pieces steal the show. Created with flawless technical precision and attention to detail, the skids, crashes, and flips deliver tiny joyful moments. Thanks to immaculate practical effects, Waugh’s exhaustive knowledge of stunt-work pays-off here. Unfortunately, he and the screenwriters stall when it comes to everything else. Why should I compliment this abominable mess? The negatives far outweigh the positives. I could make more car puns and jokes, but they would distract from my anger toward this unending skid-mark.

Here, Hollywood has blessed us with yet another woeful and forgettable video game adaptation. Yawn! Surely, it can’t be that difficult to produce one worthwhile adaption. Up there with Doom, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia, Need for Speed steals this franchise’s rhythmic title and speeds off into the distance. Thankfully, this movie will probably crash and burn at the box office. Trapping Paul, Poots, and Keaton inside a fiery mess, this lazy car-race flick delivers cheap thrills and loud groans. Unfortunately, story-driven games are now being given short shrift. Thanks to the aforementioned franchise killers, the Last of Us, Halo, and Metal Gear Solid adaptations may never happen.

Verdict: A tedious and stupefying actioner.