Hercules Review – Hack ‘n’ Slash


Director: Brett Ratner

Writers: Ryan J. Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay), Steve Moore, Admira Wijaya (graphic novel)

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane

Hercules


Release date: July 25th, 2014

Distributors: Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 98 minutes


 

 

 

2/5

Best part: Johnson’s casting.

Worst part: The topsy-turvy narrative.

In Hollywood, one man towers over all others whilst giving back to everyone within eye shot. He went from football to wrestling, all while honouring his Samoan-American heritage. Over the years, his kind smile has changed the game and set off a billion box-office tills. I’m, of course, taking about legendary manly-man Dwayne Johnson. Formerly labeled ‘The Rock’, this hard-as-nails badass is a stone-carved testament to the WWE.

Dwayne Johnson IS Hercules!

Dwayne Johnson IS Hercules!

Transitioning into a successful leading man, his latest, Hercules, will determine whether or not he’ll stay on top or fall from grace. Sadly, despite being one of Hollywood’s most unique and charismatic screen warriors, the studios don’t know what to do with him. Passing him off as ‘yet another’ tough guy, the big-wigs are yet to give him a franchise to carry by himself. Lord knows, he can carry anything! Sadly, Hercules is far from the fuel needed to keep his burgeoning acting career going. In a twist on the legend,  we are ‘treated’ to a Hercules of unconscionable modesty and honour…sort of. Here, Demi-god/war-lord Hercules (Johnson) is a mercenary on the verge of redemption. Thanks to his nephew/PR assistant Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), Hercules’ reputation has migrated across Ancient Greece for all to relish in. Talking of Hercules’ completion of the Twelve Labors, the surrounding districts seek out this particular anti-hero to do their dirty work. However, despite his reputation, Hercules is boosted by a merry band of warriors. Rounded out by loyal thief Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), rabid warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), and Amazonian archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), Hercules’ notorious squad bolsters his considerable prowess.

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John Hurt – King of Paycheques!

Hercules’ story – thanks to several movie and TV iterations – has been flipped and switched countless times. At first, Hercules presents itself as a balls-to-the-wall slice of pure escapism. We expect to see, judging by everything the alluring marketing campaign promised, a refreshing take on Herculean feats of wonder and awe. Oh, how we were wrong to expect anything from this bland and uninspired sword-and-sandal flick! Sadly, everything we were promised has been left on the cutting room floor or out of the script entirely. Sadly, notorious hack director Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour series, X-Men: The Last Stand) only cares about his expansive action sequences. Ripping off Gladiator and 300, Ratner’s work bares little resemblance to anything of style or gravitas. Within the first five minutes, this reboot/prequel/sequel abomination delivers everything we expect in a Hercules flick. Thanks to awkward narration and choppy editing, the prologue delivers a brushed-over account of the Twelve Labors and Hera’s Betrayal. From the prologue onward, Hercules scraps its interest factor to deliver a by-the-numbers military-action narrative. Depicting a simplistic account of Greek Mythology, the movie seems entirely uninterested in the original story. Instead, in true micro-blockbuster fashion, political debates and laughable moments hinder this mindless affair. Tasked with aiding King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes) and Tharacian leader Lord Cotys (John Hurt), Hercules‘ story divulges into unhinged backstories and convoluted exposition.

“I am Hercules!” (Hercules (Dwayne Johnson), Hercules).

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An even-more-badass Ian McShane.

Alarmingly, Hercules tries and fails to manufacture any sense of tension or tragedy. Hercules’ past, involving the death of his wife and three children, is sporadically picked up and dropped. It’s one thing to reinvigorate a character’s origin story to make a profit. However, it’s another thing entirely to throw the positive elements away. The premise, despite its more intriguing concepts, besmirches Hercules’ good name. By reinventing the legend, Ratner and co.’s efforts yield few rewarding payoffs or impactful moments. By presenting him as an advantageous tough-guy, the Son of Zeus becomes the movie’s least interesting character. Bizarrely, the movie strives to say something about our blockbuster-driven realm. Oddly enough, with ancient warriors talking like time-travellers from 2014, the movie is nowhere near as intelligent or witty as it thinks it is. Pointing out holes in Hercules’ legend, certain comedic moments highlight the movie’s own obviousness. Despite the flaws, Johnson uses his immense physicality and charm to power through this underwhelming action-adventure. In addition, Hercules‘ visuals and action sequences deliver a handful of enjoyable parts. Breezing through plot-points, cliches, and montages, CGI-heavy battles bolster this action extravaganza. The first fight, in which Tharacian forces fight green-skinned rebels, is worth the admission cost. However, despite shining throughout these sequences, the supporting  characters are sorely underdeveloped.

In all honesty, I would watch Johnson read the phonebook if it meant giving him more screen time. Flashing his muscular frame and likeable personality across every frame, Johnson’s Hercules is certainly an intriguing creation. Sadly, in this iteration, everything surrounding its lead is more rotten than a decapitated corpse. Thanks to Ratner’s bland direction, this version will be little more than a distant memory come next month.

Verdict: A D-grade sword-and-sandal adventure. 

Lucy Review – Running on Empty


Director: Luc Besson

Writer: Luc Besson

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik

Lucy_(2014_film)_poster


Release date: July 25th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 89 minutes


 

 

 

3/5

Best part: Johansson’s touching performance.

Worst part: The overblown final third.

French cinematic endeavours, to the common moviegoer, illicit significant emotional and psychological responses whenever they come to light. For most people, this movement sits on a certain pedestal. With that said, one writer/director/producer extraordinaire has spent the past decade turning these stereotypes inside out. With sci-fi extravaganza Lucy, Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional) aims to bolster his wavering reputation.

ScarJo training for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Relying on past successes to green-light future projects, Besson’s career now resembles a dying animal. Compared to his more substantial efforts, this cinema icon’s recent career turns are pitiful and tiresome. However, with Lucy, Besson is taking appropriate steps toward celluloid salvation. Tackling everything around him, this filmmaker is now embracing his darkest thoughts and pseudo-radical beliefs. Lucy, carrying a tried-and-true premise, tries to be more than the sum of its parts. The narrative takes hold as our lead character brightens up her first frame. As a struggling student, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is feeling the pinch of inner-city living. Pushed around by a sketchy boyfriend and overbearing responsibilities, she finds herself drifting off mid-conversation. However, with her will-power lower than her IQ, she becomes the unfortunate Guinea Pig of a bizarre and potentially- revolutionary drug trafficking scheme. Forcing Lucy into the drug-mule game, the local mob, headed-up by Kang (Choi Min-sik), push our lead’s resolve to breaking point. After a daring escape, Lucy forms a bond with determined French Policeman Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked). Fortunately, this information covers only a tiny part of Lucy‘s intricate and intensifying narrative. Exposed to a mind-bending new drug, Lucy is transformed into a gun-toting, super-powered badass with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Morgan Freeman as ‘The Voice’.

Unsurprisingly, this is one of modern cinema’s most overused and undercooked concepts. Everyone knows we use only 10% of our brains, so why does this fact appeal to big-name filmmakers? Well, according to Besson, accessing a higher percentage of brain power will cause worlds to collapse. Admittedly, it’s difficult not to compliment Besson for thinking outside the box. Unlike similar psychological thriller Limitless, Lucy reaches for weightier ideas and motifs. With that said, Lucy is still one of this decade’s most perplexing and laughable action flicks (and that’s saying something). Mixing existential sci-fi drama and mindless action-thriller tropes, Besson’s screenplay comes off like the result of an extended Red Bull marathon. Fusing unique concepts together, the first-two thirds deliver solid emotional moments and fun set pieces. Explaining itself, Lucy‘s narrative discusses the universe’s most valuable puzzle (or so Besson would have you believe). With Lucy Forming an alliance with Professor Samuel Morton (Morgan Freeman), this gripping thriller becomes the year’s most intriguing woman-on-a-mission flick. Sadly, the first-two thirds are undone by a woeful climax and nonsensical resolution. Resembling this year’s sci-fi dud Transcendence, the final half-hour spoils everything that came before it. As is Besson’s tendency, the writer/director’s popcorn-chomping-action side takes over.

“Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.” (Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), Lucy).

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Amr Waked as France’s least idiotic cop.

With our heroes going up against Asian gangsters and French police, the climactic action sequence lends little depth or personality to the final product. Despite this, I should give credit where it’s due. Unlike his preceding effort The Family, Besson’s latest dares to explore otherworldly realms. Looking past its conventional premise, Lucy’s overbearing message responds to everything effecting our world. Explaining Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Besson uses stock footage to explain the smallest details. Overdosing on visual metaphors, Lucy comes off like a stoned philosophy major shoving his/her theories in our faces. Matching gripping sequences with dodgy CGI, Lucy is certainly a mixed bag. However, certain highlights save it from critical and commercial lashings. The action and torture sequences, though over-emphasised, deliver enjoyable moments whilst bolstering its tight pace. The Parisian car chase injects adrenaline into Lucy‘s veins. However, eclipsing the whiz-bang set pieces, Johansson elevates this sci-fi flick above similar fare. With just a handful of expressions, Johansson’s searing performance lends a solid core to her inconsistent character. Unfortunately, Freeman and Min-sik are stranded in thankless roles.

From the opening scene – depicting Earth’s first primate/human inhabitant – onward, its clear that Lucy is not for the strictly religious or simple minded. Despite the big-budget spectacle and A-list stars, Besson’s latest forces us to revel in his warped mindset. However, like with similarly surreal The Fifth Element, his ideas don’t gel like they should. Like our lead character, Lucy is an inconsistent yet alluring creation.

Verdict: Like Lucy herself – slick but insecure.

Sex Tape Review – A Limp Effort


Director: Jake Kasdan

Writers: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper

Sex_Tape_(film)


Release date: July 18th, 2014

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 94 minutes


 

 

 

2/5

Best part: Diaz and Segel’s chemistry.

Worst part: The awkward gross-out gags.

Nowadays, romantic comedies follow the most tried-and-true formula in the history of…pretty much, everything ever. From day one, rom-com productions follow a pattern as predictable as death and taxes. Fortunately, these two things are excluded from most laugh-riots. However, unsurprisingly, Sex Tape‘s poster beats the trailer to the punch. By looking at these wall-strung ads, you can predict how this unfunny and tedious farce will play out.

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Jason Segel & Cameron Diaz.

So, with all that said, does Sex Tape live up to my  ‘expectations’? Short answer: absolutely! Spoiling the plot and funny moments within its heinous marketing campaign, this production shot itself in the foot before the controversy-stricken premieres commenced. With Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel lashing out against adoring fans, it seems even the movie’s A-list leads are hell-bent on eradicating this uninspired rom-com from Hollywood’s consciousness. Pathetically so, the movie itself does the job for them. The story, such as it is, latches onto one so-normal-it’s-boring marriage. Meeting in college, Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) spend their study hours gyrating on top of one another. Enjoying passionate sex for hours on end, these youngsters revel in each other’s company. However, with marriage and kids on the horizon, their sex life comes to a slow and painful halt. The movie jumps forward several years, and our once-freakish characters refuse to even glance at one another’s naked bodies. Controlled by momentous responsibilities, Annie and Jay begin to question their marriage’s future. Bafflingly so, this plot is copied and pasted from several well-known comedies. In fact, Sex Tape can’t even inspire fever dreams about similar efforts.

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Rob Lowe brings the funny…occasionally.

Sticking by its tepid premise, Sex Tape jumps into bed with vigour and gusto. Struggling for ideas, Annie and Jay make a sex tape filled with positions from best-seller The Joy of Sex. Wackily so, after the video syncs up with their friends’ new iPads (adding to the movie’s partnership with Apple and YouPorn), Annie and Jay decide to track them down and destroy them before the video hits the web. Like The Five Year Engagement and Get Him to the Greek, Sex Tape dares to look into a Magic 8-Ball. Despite the A-list cast and kooky gags, these comedies attempt to examine love’s trials and tribulations. With marriage driving the First World, these movies garner exhaustive profits and adorable reviews. However, from any angle, these movies glisten like Cubic Zirconias – pretty yet phoney. Disarmingly, movies like Sex Tape make condescending comments about us ‘lesser’ folk. This gross-out flick is, by the length of Judd Apatow’s run-times, the most transparent and uninteresting one to date. Sporting a by-the-numbers screenplay, the narrative takes every tried-and-tested turns imaginable. Wallowing in its own filth, Sex Tape‘s disgraceful sense of humour, leaps in logic, and conventional narrative don’t stand up to criticism. Questions form around the movie’s sporadic choices, transitioning from dull rom-com to wacky sitcom. Good for only one How I Met Your Mother episode, the outlandish premise doesn’t match the 94-minute run-time. In fact, the movie wears out its welcome before even the 1-hour mark.

“Nobody Understands the Cloud. It’s A f*cking mystery!” (Jay (Jason Segel), Sex Tape).

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Rob Corddry & Ellie Kemper’s big-screen hijinks.

Despite the production’s unadulterated swagger, Sex Tape climaxes way too early. Filling the first third with ‘sexy’ shenanigans, director/co-writer Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher, Orange County) delivers yet another predictable and shallow improv-fest. Lacking a strong screenplay, this comedy never escapes 22 Jump Street and Bad Neighbours‘ shadows. Like Kasdan’s previous efforts, Sex Tape is raunch for raunch’s sake. Lacking flair or charm, this is a sleazy and dull rom-com lacking the courage to justify itself. In fact, this comes off like a horny simpleton late to the orgy. Wearing the gross-out genre out, Kasdan’s style reeks of desperation and mimicry. Borrowing from Apatow’s grounded perspective, Sex Tape‘s message awkwardly grinds against the unrealistic hijinks. Much of this stems from the cast’s inexplicable lust for expletives and crude one-liners. Throwing in meaningless sub-plots, Sex Tape‘s trajectory is thrown off course whenever its characters open their mouths. Our performers, known for their spritely comedic chops, extend certain scenes just so…the story can happen. One set piece, in which Diaz and Rob Lowe snort coke and leer at bizarre artworks, is more repulsive and bland than the tape itself. Borrowing from previous roles, Diaz and Segel hamper this already grating romp. In peak physical condition, Diaz tries and fails to re-ignite her career here. Meanwhile, sporting a strange physique, a little of Segel’s ‘comedy’ goes a long way. Thankfully, Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper are exceedingly likeable in small roles.

As the cinematic equivalent of a mid-afternoon dry hump , Sex Tape goes limp before it can even say: ” I’m sorry, that’s never happened to me before!”. Sadly, sticking to the big-budget comedy code, this genre shows no signs of slowing down. Pleasuring only itself and its multi-millionaire leads, the movie’s improv-lead humour and plot-hole-driven narrative signify the importance of quality over quantity (learn it well, kids). I applaud Diaz and Segel’s chemistry, but mixing business with pleasure like this has delivered a…flop.

 Verdict: Raunch without joy or thrills. 

The Purge: Anarchy Review – Dial ‘P’ for Purge


Director: James DeMonaco

Writer: James DeMonaco

Stars: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez

the-purge-anarchy-2014


Release date: July 18th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 103 minutes


 

3/5

Best part: Grillo’s hard-edged performance. 

Worst part: The idiotic supporting characters.

Occasionally, and I’m saying very occasionally, a big-budget franchise will listen to, and take notes from, its eager-to-please fans. They, overcoming their own bloated egos, turn to the average Joe for advice on saving their most precious creations. One such example involves a newly gestating horror series and its invigorating premise. The Purge series, pushing its characters through hell and back, has boosted its shaky reputation on our dime.

Frank Grillo.

Before continuing on, I should explain what I am taking about. Whilst walking out of the original Purge feature, many folks pleaded for this series to start embracing its more outlandish ideas. Ignoring its premise in favour of a generic home-invasion plot, the original bewildered and underwhelmed horror aficionados and common filmgoers everywhere. Creating an opposing side for this blood-stained coin, the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, takes its arresting ideas and runs with them into the night. Gloriously, this instalment begins by erasing and re-writing its own dodgy rulebook. Within the inter-titles, the premise is whole-heartedly established as a force for good within our dying world. Every year, for one night only, America’s citizens are given the freedom to do whatever they want. Labelled ‘The Purge’ by the New Founding Fathers of America, this 12-hour event allows the public to commit heinous and disgraceful acts without police, fire department, or emergency service interference. Rape, murder, arson, looting etc. are all on the table here, as the nation invests in war instead of peace. Seems farfetched? Oh, you have no idea! This movie chronicles the Purge of 2023, as the world starts to uncover the cracks this event has caused overtime. First off, we meet Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo). Out for revenge over the harrowing hit-and-run death of his son, Barnes is determined to bring the irresponsible driver to justice.

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Kiele Sanchez & Zach Gilford.

I’ll stop right there, because I just described this silly yet entertaining instalment’s most interesting plot-strand. By continuing on, I’ll only be ruining audience expectations. Make no mistake; The Purge: Anarchy is significantly better than the bland and boring original. As a tiresome retread of Panic Room, the original spends too much time alluding to intriguing concepts whilst delivering stupid characters and a stack of horror clichés. This instalment, though not without its flaws, comes out swinging by sticking to its implausible premise. Stranding itself in Downtown Los Angeles, a crime-ridden metropolitan labyrinth in itself, this instalment answers to our suggestions whilst delivering a more interesting narrative. In addition to Barnes’ tale, we’re introduced to a young couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), on the verge of separation. Targeted by mask-donning warriors, the couple’s car breaks down, in LA’s business district, shortly before the annual slash-fest begins. Meanwhile, an African-American woman, Eva (Carmen Ejogo), and her daughter, Cali (Zoe Soul), are targeted by a Black Ops-like unit tasked with abducting lower class people and delivering them to one-percenters. The narrative, despite getting off on the right foot, throws in far too many contrivances, dumb characters, and plot holes. How do our leads all meet up in the same place at the same time? I don’t know, seeming as how the movie shrugs it off like a bullet wound. Beyond the glowing positives, the predictable twists and turns nullify the final product.

“People like us, we don’t survive tonight!” (Liz (Kiele Sanchez), The Purge: Anarchy).

The ultimate nightmare!

Fit for a late-night run-time on cable TV, this pulpy action-horror flick cheapens itself with laughable dialogue, distracting sub-plots, and a sappy denouement. Despite the issues, which may eventually hinder this series’ continuing existence, the movie earns points back by delivering on everything it promises. Looking past the trite narrative and inconsistent character motivations, writer/director James DeMonaco successfully ups the ante with this $9 million franchise buffer. Aiming for a pulpy Escape From New York vibe, DeMonaco’s fetishistic visual style delivers several thrilling moments and memorable images. One scene, in which our revenge-toting lead straps on Kevlar and guns, closely resembles the Punisher comic-book series. DeMonaco, aware that comic-book flicks and post-apocalyptic actioners are all the rage now, sticks to what he does best. His action, despite the odd shaky-cam disturbance, heightens the thrill-ride factor. Thanks to Barnes’ badass military skills, several shootouts and fistfights deliver on what this wild premise promises. Thankfully, Grillo has enough charisma and physical prowess to boost this generic role. Bolstered by Warrior and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grillo is certainly an actor to watch out for. However, the supporting characters, and the actors playing them, are nothing but two-dimensional distractions. With attitudes and intensity levels flying, these people all become irritating and unnecessary.

Certainly, if the Purge existed in real life, it wouldn’t have the desired effect. In fact, with The Purge: Anarchy sprouting viewpoints about everything from gun violence to population control, this series comes close to resembling a Republican wet dream. However, despite the premise’s sheer implausibility, it’s worth standing up and cheering whenever a gruesome murder or ‘fu*k yeah!’ moment occurs. Nowadays, considering the state of modern horror, we should be protecting the ambitious movies whilst eradicating the inept ones. Let the games begin, Hollywood!

Verdict: An intriguing yet silly sequel. 

Boyhood Review – Live Long & Prosper


Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Richard Linklater

Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke

boyhood


Release date: July 11, 2014

Distributor: IFC Films 

Country: USA

Running time: 165 minutes


 

5/5

Best part: Coltrane’s naturalistic performance.

Worst part: The antagonistic husband characters.

The film production process takes a helluva lot out of the directors, writers, actors etc. involved. Usually, these important people plan and execute a major Hollywood feature within roughly 7-13 months. Following this, the stars sit in chairs for extended periods as film journos ask them the same questions over and over again. However, in the case of coming-of-age experiment Boyhood, the process went a little differently. This dramedy sports one of cinema history’s most fascinating and exhaustive production schedules.

Ellar Coltrane & Lorelei Linklater.

Documentaries like the Up series develop time capsules marked by iconic moments and interesting subjects. Beyond Boyhood‘s behind-the-scenes allure, the movie itself suggests, then proves, that the journey is far more important than the destination. As per the Hollywood code, this dramedy is easy to understand so as to attract a larger audience. However, the movie’s development goes beyond the words of this or any other review. This is an experiment of monumental proportions. As you can tell from my manic hyperbole, I mark Boyhood as a game-changer for filmmaking, modern entertainment, and pop-culture. So, what is this movie about? Well, it’s difficult to explain within such a short space. Going beyond belief, the art of storytelling is flipped and switched here. The narrative chronicles the uneasy life and times of two youngsters. Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) is a child fascinated by everything and everyone on Earth. As a child, his lifestyle revolves around causing trouble and discovering the world. On the other side of the coin, his sister Samantha strives to fit in with the pack. Their story hits several snags, as their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is forced to shift and turn to suit everyone’s needs and desires. Living in a single-parent household, Mason Jr. and Samantha are forced to put up with a slew of drunken step-dads, empathetic step-children, and dramatic events. Despite the obstacles, they’re fuelled by their infatuation with Olivia and biological father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke).

Patricia Arquette.

Over this extensive timeline, the narrative points to, and fires at, everything the title suggests. The journey from childhood to adolescence, despite delivering a wondrous sense of freedom, is defined by major downsides and punishing conflicts. Surprisingly, for humans between 6 and 16, questions far outweigh answers. Boyhood extensively, and sensitively, examines this particular period. Director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, The Before trilogy) is America’s most invigorating indie-drama director. Covering the 1990s and 2000s, his succinct style and note-worthy agenda bolster everything he produces, writes, and directs. Putting his head and heart in the right place, this 12-year project is his most prescient and gripping creation. Intending to tell history’s most relatable narrative, Linklater’s latest effort marks specific moments and ideas. As the years collide, Linklater hurls us into this pacy and sumptuous 3-hour experience. Focusing on Coltrane and his own daughter, the acclaimed filmmaker’s style speaks wonders for the cinematic dreamscape and all its benefits. His goals and viewpoints, though unsubtle, elevate a potentially tedious story. With realism defeating fantasy here, Boyhood covers two people’s worlds and life’s tiniest details. Thanks to the poignant narrative, each character’s triumphs and tribulations hit home. Transitioning between milestones and significant others, our leads stay connected to one another despite the momentous hurdles.

“You don’t want the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers.” (Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke), Boyhood).

Ethan Hawke.

Of course, like with his previous efforts, Linklater’s agenda is pushed upon us unlike any other filmmaker’s. Set during and after the George W. Bush era, our democratic characters face off against a Republican-fuelled Middle America. Stepping into Mason Sr.’s shoes, several monologues are reserved for Linklater’s ultra-ambitious political beliefs to take flight. However, these viewpoints never become tiresome. Touching upon Barrack Obama’s pre-election promises, the movie even takes the time to point out the country’s most ecstatic and misjudged democrats. In addition, this family flick pays homage to Linklater’s immense, 12-year learning curve. Touching upon Dazed and Confused‘s subject matter in the third act, Boyhood chronicles this director’s ascension from indie sweetheart to determined professional. As the years go by, we see Linklater’s style adapt to its surroundings and improve immensely. From the School of Rock era to the Bernie period, the movie depicts his interests and pet peeves across an epic timeline. In addition, his idiosyncratic camerawork and pitch-perfect soundtrack choices develop a world of possibilities for the movie’s courageous narrative. Most importantly, Coltrane’s performance, by mimicking normalcy, soars above and beyond expectations. Tapping into his own identity, this effort examines this man’s mind, personality, and heart.

Most of the time, indie-dramas slip through the cracks to be left for elite cinephiles to lap up. With big-budget features casting a gigantic shadow over the industry, we’ve made a habit of complaining about these issues. However, every so often, breakout hits like Boyhood shine a light on the problem and bring people back to the theatre. These movies, delivering joyous surprises and winning stories, give us a warm, refreshing feeling every time. This achievement, blitzing filmmaking’s varying restraints, is the work of people in love with cinema.

Verdict: Linklater’s coming-of-age masterpiece. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review – Goin’ Apesh*t!


Director: Matt Reeves 

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Stars: Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell

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Release date: July 11th, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 131 minutes


4/5

Best part: Serkis’ fascinating performance.

Worst part: The irritating supporting characters.

1968, with new issues sprouting unexpectedly as the decade drew to a close, was certainly a revelatory and thought-provoking year for Hollywood cinema. Bolstering the decade’s taste in celluloid entertainment, sci-fi and action won out over the attention-hungry pack. 2001: A Space Odyssey proved Stanley Kubrick to be Hollywood’s greatest genre filmmaker, while Night of the Living Dead and Bullitt were dead-set box-office winners. However, one post-apocalyptic adventure flick dared to mix the zeitgeist with wild thrills. I’ll give you a hint: “You maniacs! You blew it up!”.

Jason Clarke, Kerri Russell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee

No, I’m not yelling at my readers. I’m, of course, talking about Planet of the Apes. Sadly, however, this type of blockbuster cinema has been left out in the forbidden zone to wallow in a slow, painful death. Nowadays, genres and styles are pushed and prodded to fit certain desires. Thanks to a hit-and-miss crop, 2014 was in line to become the touchstone for blockbuster fatigue. With this in mind, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes swings into our line of sight to save us all. Despite the lugubrious title, this sci-fi action thriller succeeds at being taut, relevant, and poignant at appropriate moments. Like the original, the outlandish premise is met with delicate minds. Following on from 2011 series jumpstart Rise of the Planet of the Apes, DOTPOTA begins by re-capping valuable information about this invigorating franchise. Using news reports and inventive graphics, the opening credits sequence charts man’s war against Simian Flu and complete anarchy. Our story then picks up 10 years later, as our favourite cinematic primates learn the ways of a once-thriving world. The ape’s leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis), runs an intricate, hunter-gatherer system within San Francisco’s Muir Woods. Despite an uneasy alliance with scarred compatriot Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s hyper-intelligence and reasonable motives make for the tribe’s best chance of survival.

Gary Oldman.

At the same time, a pocket of human survivors, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), move into downtown San Francisco. From there, our ape and human populations spark brutal confrontations. Here’s the thing about DOTPOTA – despite the noticeable flaws, the positives elevate it above most blockbusters of its type. The movie, moving out of the ’68 original’s shadow, lives up to our overwhelming expectations. With ROTPOTA  being 2011’s most surprising blockbuster, many fans and foes walked into this instalment with trepidatious movements. How do you reinvent an already reinvented franchise? Would it dilute the series the way Tim Burton’s ill-advised remake did? Thankfully, director Matt Reeves chose to take this silly franchise to blockbuster angst’s darkest possible depths. Despite the recent spate of apocalyptic popcorn-chomping extravaganzas, this sequel stands out from the pack whist sticking to a set list of reasonable goals. Like with Avatar, the narrative explores the inner-workings of a civilisation’s highest quarters and lowest troughs. Communicating through sign language and phonetic dialogue, the ape interactions deliver emotionally resonant peaks. In several instances, Caesar, his family, their allies, and Koba share moments that amplify Hollywood’s true potential. The opening sequence, in which our apes chase down deer and kill a Grizzly bear, is a masterclass in CGI storytelling. The first third, delivering key sequences designed to change to the narrative’s trajectory, lures us in before the gut-punches come flying. Sadly, the ape characters are far more intelligent and reasonable than their human counterparts.

“Apes! Together, strong!” (Caesar (Andy Serkis), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).

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Andy Serkis as Caesar!

Unfortunately, as the narrative reaches emotional peaks and enthralling set-pieces, cracks begin to occur in DOTPODA‘s stunning veneer. Throughout this simple tale of primates and humans going ape-sh*it, plot-holes and trite twists become unwarranted obstacles in this otherwise compelling story. Linking vital scenes to major action sequences and character beats, some moments are far more stimulating than others. Eclipsing these minor quibbles, this instalment examines, and delivers answers to, some of modern civilisation’s most confronting issues. With an arms race forming between our two stead-fast factions, Reeves and co. never succumb to corny speeches or obvious symbolism. In addition, with good and bad warriors on both sides, this post-war conflict exclaims profound viewpoints about man’s treatment of his fellow man. With peace coming second to firepower, the narrative clings onto Malcolm and Caesar’s quest for diplomacy. Fortunately, the visuals and attention to detail are the movie’s standout qualities. Thanks to Reeves’ atmospheric camerawork and stark tonal shifts, his unique direction keeps the audience on edge throughout the appropriate run-time. Extended takes, including a look at human/ape warfare from a tank’s perspective, deliver wondrous flourishes within an otherwise gloomy experience. Surprisingly, San Francisco’s breath-taking vistas are honoured with a post-apocalyptic aura. Of course, Caesar is this series’ most enlightening character. With Serkis at the helm, he and the SFX department deliver one of modern entertainment’s more meaningful creations.

Despite the hit-and-miss human characters and baffling conveniences, DOTPOTA is far-and-away one of 2014’s most intriguing blockbusters. With viewpoints and allegiances pushed to breaking point, the sombre tone and moral ambiguity hit hard during some of this year’s most heart-breaking scenes. With Serkis’ purposeful mannerisms and startling commitment shining through, his work may inspire others to revolt against Hollywood’s lack of respect for motion-capture performance.

Verdict: An entertaining and ambitious sequel.

2014 in Film: The Next Few Months


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2014 in Film: The Next Few Months