Monday, May 20, 2013
It's strange how you can really enjoy a film and still have barely anything to say about it. Such is the case with "Star Trek Into Darkness", a fun visual spectacle that didn't give me much to ponder afterwards. After watching the film a few days ago, I planned to pen a review but I struggled to think of anything other than "It was fun and pretty". For me, there wasn't much for me to dig into thematically, but at least it kept me engaged. Well, here's what I managed to come up with after thinking through the film:
The film follows the crew of the Enterprise as theY go on a hunt to capture a villain who is hell-bent on mass destruction. Of course, this sounds similar to any other action/sci-fi/superhero movie and in many ways it's very much a retread of the formula for many other blockbusters. To its credit though, its strongest elements really do outshine most of those other films. Namely, the breathtaking visuals and the strong performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.
As the film opens, it makes good use of the 3D and the accompanying rich colour palette, giving an acute adrenaline rush that gets you pumped up for the coming adventure. The energy remains elevated throughout and provides a thrill for those seeking high-flying action. It may not be the philosophical Star Trek of yesteryear, but it has its own merits. It beautifully captures the grand scale of the space exploration(mostly due to advancements in film technology) and feels more immersive as a result. The script may not be as intellectually stimulating as a Trekkie would like, but it's fairly decent by summer action movie standards. The only setback is that it gives you everything you expect and nothing more.
Overall, it's an enjoyable film that is appealing to the eyes. Since cinema is a visual art, this is a good asset. It may not be remembered as a veritable classic of the genre(and it certainly doesn't match up to the 2009 film), but when it comes to sequels/franchises, you can do a lot worse.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
On this edition of Hit me with your best shot, we stick with the Italian setting of last week's film with the late Anthony Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley". This was my second viewing of the film and I must say, it was much better than I remembered it. I would be hard-pressed to point out its flaws, as I think it's quite outstanding all around. I loved the music, the cinematography, the dialogue and of course, the phenomenal cast. I even noticed the editing as there wasn't a dull moment in the film. What makes it all the more impressive is that it all feels so effortless. It's not exactly flashy, but there were many fantastic shots to choose from.
Click below for my favourite shot...
Monday, May 13, 2013
It was slim pickings this week as I only managed to watch 2 films. I wasn't overly enthusiastic about this film, but it was the better of the two. Here are my very brief thoughts on "No Way Out":
"No Way Out" is your standard crime thriller, with a cast lead by Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman. Costner plays a naval officer who investigates a murder of a beautiful woman in Washington D.C. This sets up your usual procedural with sex, romance, deception and suspense. Costner is fine as the leading man and any movie with Gene Hackman gets automatic bonus points from me. The chemistry between Coster and Sean Young also provides some interest. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really stand out and the admittedly surprising twist at the end doesn't add much to the narrative. It's an enjoyable flick, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it.
Friday, May 10, 2013
This week featured lots of interesting posts, including And Seen's nostalgia trip to the 90s with the movie Spice World. I particularly loved that they pointed out its admirable feminist qualities. Go check out their funny vlog among other great reads from this week:
Julie and Traci reviewed the ultimate 90s guilty pleasure Spice World.
Dan reviews Planet of the Apes as one the "Movies That Everyone Should See".
The French Toast Sunday gang discussed Movies That Make You Think for their latest podcast.
Mette, Nikhat and Sofia recently started their own podcast!
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
This week on Hit me with your best shot, we examine one of Katharine Hepburn's many Oscar-nominated performances, through David Lean's "Summertime". This is truly a vehicle for Hepburn's acting prowess, as she really is only reason to watch this. I was mostly lukewarm towards the film, especially the 1st half. We follow her as she explores Venice, but there wasn't much excitement. Thankfully, she eventually finds a companion and the plot gets more interesting. For my favourite shot, I focused on Hepburn's character.
Click below for my favourite shot...
Monday, May 6, 2013
Well, summer 2013 looks very promising if "Iron Man 3" is any indication. Despite loving both (yes, both) of the previous installments in the franchise, this actually wasn't that high on my anticipation list as far as this year's batch of summer fare. Thankfully, it duly delivered on everything I hoped this film would be.
The plot of the film follows on from the events of last year's "The Avengers", as Tony Stark is recovering from his near-death experience during that ordeal. He recovery is curtailed however as he comes up against a new terrorist in the form of the Mandarin(Ben Kingsley). As you can expect, this villain's main goal in life is to create chaos and the film goes through this usual formula.
Not much new ground is trodden here and I was initially very wary of this "been there, done that" feeling. However, the story does pick up and gave me all the elements I enjoy in the Iron Man saga. Most importantly, we get another great showcase of Robert Downey Jr.'s interpretation of Tony Stark/Iron Man. One of the things that draws me to Iron Man is the "realism" of his superpowers. Unlike superheroes like Superman and Thor, his abilities are derived from mostly believable real-world science and technology. It creates a sense of relatability in Tony Stark and its truly at its peak here. While we do get our usual snappy humour, we also see a vulnerability in this film that sets it apart from other action/comic book movies. I was quite intrigued to see our hero in such frequent moments of crippling fear and anxiety. It's well-played by Downey Jr. and makes for a leading man you truly want to root for.
A lot of this appeal is strengthened by Shane Black's smartly character-focused writing and he deserves a lot of credit. He understands the strangely "endearing douchiness" of Stark and portrays it with witty writing that keeps the proceedings fun and light. In fact, some of the scenes are downright hilarious. Even though the concept of terrorism and Mandarin himself is dark, the film doesn't feel too ominous. It's a strange approach to portraying evil(especially when it comes to Kingsley's character), but it somehow works. Like Stark himself, Shane Black doesn't take the mythology of Iron Man too seriously. Instead, he focuses more on creating an awesome spectacle.
When it comes down to the "nitty gritty" of blockbuster entertainment, this film scores high marks from me. It's action-packed with thrilling setpieces, fantastic visual effects and an entertaining story. I was certainly a satisfied customer.
Friday, May 3, 2013
This past week I've noticed quite a few reviews of some of my all-time Top 50 films. Check em out below among all the great posts this week:
Dan wrote about Dog Day Afternoon as one of his "Movies That Everyone Should See".
Julie and Traci kicked off their series of 90s movie reviews with a fun vlog for Jurassic Park.
Tyson reviewed The Dark Knight and gave it a perfect score.
Candice wonders "Does Race Matter in Nonfiction Films with Universal Themes?"
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This week on Hit me with your shot we look at a classic film noir - "Double Indemnity". Written and directed by the storytelling genius Billy Wilder, it's an engaging story of love, murder and deceit. This was my second time watching it and it held up very well, especially the deservedly Oscar-nominated performance by Barbara Stanwyck. As the slinky housewife (Phyllis Dietrichson) who is up to no good, she is the film's main attraction for me, so I decided to pick a shot that focused on her character.
Click below for my favourite shot...
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I'm sure you would agree that it has been slim pickings at the movie theater this far. Fret not though, summer is around the corner and from here on there are lots of exciting films in store. In addition to the films themselves, I'm always on the lookout for potentially great acting performances. As such, I've compiled a list of my Top 20 Most Anticipated Acting Performances of 2013. Hopefully we'll still be talking about some of these performances come Oscar season:
Monday, April 29, 2013
This week I would like to bring your attention to a solid little war flick from 1967 - "The Dirty Dozen". Set during World War II, this film follows a US Army Major who is assigned a dozen convicts and is ordered to train them to carry out an assassination mission.
Despite that plot synopsis and the implications of the title, this film is a light affair by modern standards. The "dirty" in the title is actually more literal than you'd expect, relating more to the physical hygiene of the men rather than their wicked ways. In fact, most of the men were simply unfortunate victims of a corrupt legal system who were harshly punished for making a mistake (some were on death row). Unlike your typical war films which highlight the brutality of wartime, this one focuses on the bonds that are formed in training.
The way the story is constructed feels quite old-fashioned, but it's very effective. The narrative has a clear focus and moves along briskly. It's an example of good editing, as every scene felt directly linked to the central plot. It certainly didn't feel like a 2 1/2 hour film. As the story develops, we become invested in the characters as the script pays close attention to crafting each individual character. We get to know each of the dozen as individuals with unique personalities and skills. This attention to detail is a great attribute of the screenplay and it's enhanced by the acting ability of its ensemble cast.
Indeed, the acting is a major draw for this film, as it features a fine ensemble of famous actors in some of their earliest roles. It's really a treat to watch the likes of Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson and John Cassavetes in their youth. The main attraction however, is the lead role of Major Reisman, played by Lee Marvin. I must confess, I had never even heard of him before, but he definitely made a good first impression. He brought this calm confidence to the character that just commands your attention. He is quite unlike other interpretations of "drill sergeant" characters. Whereas other films tend to portray them as ruthless caricatures, Reisman is undeniably firm, but he is also fair. It goes a long way in creating a believable situation where he is able to get his motley crew to work together.
For the most part, watching Major Reisman and his "dirty dozen" prepare for their pivotal mission is a lively, entertaining experience. Unfortunately, the film takes a strange sadistic turn towards the end. The cruelty of the mission's execution felt quite inconsistent with the overall tone of the film and it lessened my appreciation for the film. It's made even worse by the fact that we never get to see the cruelty of the enemy. It's understood that the Nazis were evil, but the way it's depicted almost demonizes the Americans and makes you sympathize with the Germans. I'm sure that wasn't the intent, so I would call this an unfortunate misfire. This is of course my personal opinion, so its likely that many other persons wouldn't be as disturbed by it. I would definitely recommend checking it out and deciding for yourself.
This film is part of my List of Shame.