Score Card

APRIL

    Amelie ☆☆☆☆
    Avengers ☆☆☆☆
    Bullet in the Head ☆☆☆
    Dawn of the Dead ☆☆☆☆
    Delicatessen ☆☆☆☆
    North By Northwest ☆☆☆☆
    The Hitcher ☆☆☆☆
    The Killer ☆☆☆☆
    Stage Fright ☆☆☆
    Frozen ☆☆☆
    13 Assassins ☆☆☆
    Night of the Living Dead ☆☆☆
    A Better Tomorrow II ☆☆☆
    The Manchurian Candidate ☆☆☆
    Uzumaki ☆☆☆
    War of the Gargantuas ☆☆☆
    X-Men: First Class ☆☆☆
    Yojimbo ☆☆☆
    Rodan ☆☆
    The Desolation of Smaug ☆☆
    World War Z ☆☆
    White House Down ☆

Review Roundup - Toothless

WORLD WAR Z (2013)

The whole zombie thing is something I rarely keep up with these days. Though the genre is still shambling along, I left it after a few teen years full of Resident Evil games and splatter movies. For me it's best when they don't take it too seriously, a perfect example of which is probably Braindead, (aka Dead Alive) a film as ludicrous as the premise of the living dead. That's not so say I don't appreciate the creepy classics, after all George Romero was at least at one time king of the zombies. Despite the source material here being based on his work this adaptation takes us back to the rabid, hyperactive kind of near-dead used so well in 28 Days Later. I can't knock the idea as it's an exciting device when done right, and after all the slow movement of rigor isn't always scary as noted in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately this is a relatively bloodless affair, without either the drool spewing craziness of Danny Boyle's infected or anything that resembles the madness of the best Tom Savini effects. Does it end up being an effective thriller in it's own right though? Not well enough to cover the other problems.

 Knife. Gun. Knife-gun.

I didn't have a lot of expectations having heard the stories of studio interference, rewrites and worst of all - too much CGI. So surprisingly it starts well - early sequences mix chase scenes with tension building, little touches like DIY survival gear are used subtly; and it all looks good visually. Brad Pitt isn't exceptional but does a reasonable job the rest of the cast is fair, so despite the lack of explicit horror violence I was engaged at first. It doesn't last though unfortunately as it becomes apparent they have written a story reliant almost entirely on convenience rather than logic. While the set pieces are rather good in places, the globe spanning events of the story seem to service them being introduced rather the other way around. Things don't feel like they're coming together naturally. Our lead Gerry just happens to be the man for the job, he just happens to come across the right clues, and when things get messy towards the third act he naturally finds himself exactly on the right path. Some of the story doesn't even make that much sense later on and so all the tension evaporates, and I started wishing for more arterial spray and flesh tearing.

It's not all bad as I say and having a troubled development could have led to a resulting film of far worse quality... but in the end it failed to make me care enough about what was happening as it was clear that nothing that nerve wracking was going to go down. All the running and climbing the zombies do isn't as distracting as I had expected it to be, but they never feel like a real threat when everything is so neatly averted - despite one or two interesting setups along the way. They should have focused on making the script interesting instead of clunky, but end up simply funneling the audience from one country to the next and not paying enough attention to the writing where it matters. 

2/5

BONUS REVIEW
FROZEN (2013)

Okay so this part was a lot of fun


The latest animated Disney effort has a few interesting takes on the usual plot elements they like to throw around, but I didn't think it was anything radical after a lot of hype, and it never feels that far removed from the standard formula. There are one or too catchy tunes along the way, and the snowman is a total show stealer; but this isn't really an improvement on Tangled which covered similar ground, and this even seems to use the same average style character faces. It never goes to a level beyond cute and moderately entertaining.

3/5

Review Roundup - Get ON With It

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)

The first installment in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit as a three part series had a lot of problems. It was slow to get moving, there were too many subplots, and there were a lot of characters to introduce; many of which didn't get dialogue. The word was that this would be more direct, having setup the story there would be room to get down to business. After all the main quest involves 14 characters, sometimes 15 while many others have to be introduced along the way. The Lord of the Rings trilogy had this trick down, despite one or two anomalies you got a feeling for who everyone was, they had personality and little things that were memorable. Could they manage the same again? Well in short, no.

Dragon tales, whoo-hoo

For a film called The Hobbit, Bilbo doesn't get a lot of screen time here. Considering this is such a straightforward fish of out water plot device, they don't seem to ever capitalize on that element. I would have also expected by now that the other dwarves that didn't have a speaking role in the first film would have come to the fore, particularly as Gandalf leaves them to go on another quest early on - this is a ripe time for characterisation. Unfortunately even though the story has three segments where Bilbo gets to become more heroic and show his development, they barely interact with him. Forgetting names for a moment - since even if you know them, the dwarves don't say much - what happens is just one madcap set piece after another so I just don't know who is who; I don't know them as characters or even just as placeholder titles like "guy with tattoos" and "guy with crazy axe wound". Even the leader Thorin is just "guy frowning" most of the time. There isn't enough real personality. Instead there are more unnecessary subplots, more links to the first trilogy that distract from the story in hand, and things like clich├ęd romantic scenes and comic relief moments shoe horned in which just brings everything down. Splitting the story up and dragging it out for this much running time could have been a good plan and I expected depth and detail, with time for everyone to have a moment. Instead there's just nothing but one note scowling, swirling camera work and effects spectacle.

Talking of spectacle, gone is the grit of Helm's Deep. The action this time is nearly all a CG mess of characters running all over the place, orcs leaping, elves spinning around and creatures running wild. It makes the Goblin Town escape in part one look restrained. Considering this is current day Weta Digital doing their best stuff, none of this is particularly convincing either. Even for a fantasy story the colours are garish and over saturated, characters leap around like something from an animation, and so the few shots of actors standing on a real location stick out instantly as having real lighting and detail. It's really strange to experience as you suddenly notice an actual landscape amongst the effects shots. And yes the titular dragon is pretty good when it finally arrives, the voice, the effects, the design work - but after their previous work on Gollum and King Kong, it's not that amazing. It stands out as being the most coherent and least messy sequence in the film, but even then there is constant editing to show other scenes and characters; it keeps cutting away when it starts to become engaging. There's a complete lack of focus all round that left me wondering what went wrong in the creative process, when even the notable themes in the soundtrack have been lost. Maybe the lack of budget constraints and studio pressure has just left the makers dizzy with the level of pure excess they can now achieve. I certainly felt that way after the credits rolled.

2/5

BONUS REVIEW
RIDDICK (2013)


After the headache of overblown exposition and endless Dutch angles that was The Chronicles of Riddick, those involved have stripped down the number of words in the title and gone back to basics - by doing Pitch Black again instead. Surprisingly though, it mostly works - and they hold off the more direct recycling until the third act. This gets points for some neat creature effects, some silly B movie moments, and ultimately making me laugh and keeping me entertained with a mix of survival scenes and sci-fi nonsense as our friend Richard fights off monsters and bounty killers. But while some dialogue is so bad it's good, a lot is just plain bad, and there are some sexist elements that are kind of embarrassing. But it's shlock I suppose, and doesn't try to be anything else at least.

3/5