Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Directed by John Madden

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a mix-match of a film that I’m a bit unsure about. It has a fantastic cast, with the likes of Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, Harry Potter), Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Judi Dench (Skyfall, Jane Eyre), but the wishy washy plot just doesn’t keep up the standard. We flick back and forth between the lives of seven travellers that all decide to visit the Marigold Hotel in India. A brief introductory shows the characters deciding on the trip and going to the airport. This time is also used to establish a loose blogging aspect, that’s only use is a half-arsed monologue to show the progress of time. The only real benefit, however, is we get to hear more of Judi Dench’s voice to steam us through the slow events.

I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, I mean it has its moments. Some of the characters you can feel for at times, it just seems that the writers were making the story too character based, yet giving the characters one trait each to work with. Evelyn lost her husband, Graham wants to find his lost love, Douglas… I don’t quite know what he wants but his wife Jean is unhappy, Muriel is racist, and Norman and Madge just want to get lucky. Not one of the characters has time to branch out and show deeper levels, despite the good acting. Interlinked with all of these ‘character explorations’ is yet another story of the hotel owner Sonny (Played by Dev Patel known from Slumdog Millionaire) trying to be with his girlfriend. It’s all just a jumble that doesn’t click well together. There was one good moment was between Evelyn and an office where she finds a job. She is speaking to them about how call centres speak to elderly people on the phone and how unsentimental they are. This small story was touching and meaningful: and more of what this movie needed. It shows the writers can write, they just need to focus more.

The movie on the whole was sweet and some topics to do with aging were covered. But the plot and tone just needed that extra push. It rather had that thing your mum or nan might like, rather than living up to its full potential.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Hollow Man, Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven… the director of classics such as Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Robocop and…. Hollow Man? Heard of it? No… me neither. But hey, watching it at the universities’ sci-fi and fantasy society, I was sure it’d be just as good. A tale of scientists who discover how to make living things invisible! Which presents the movies first problem: ‘why’. What possible reasons would scientists have to spend so much money on making living creatures (with their main goal of humans) invisible? I pondered this for a while and thought, ‘maybe military?’, where my friend Sam mentioned how their equipment would still be showing. Well… how about… … … yeah, I’ve got nothing. I guess it’s pretty… cool? The scientists scripted reasons don’t seem to be ever mentioned, but let’s pretend they have one.

So, the movie opens with a test subject (an invisible gorilla) that the team want to revert back to being visible again. This sets the movie up in a strange way. We have to realise pretty quickly that the team have already achieved their great feat and actually are working to reverse the process. I’ll put that ‘why’ question under the ‘I’m sure they have a reason’. Anyway, this plot point leads to a pretty awesome scene where the gorilla is shown to gradually start converting. While this is done in quite old CGI, it still looks pretty awesome. The gorilla builds back from its veins, to its organs, muscles and skeleton, to finally its fur. However, I like being picky. So, the process makes a living thing invisible… meaning it effects their cells. But, what about foreign objects in the body? Why are they effected? The most obvious flaw is food… had the gorilla not eaten for days? If it had eaten, where is its digested food? Or are we to presume it, too, is effected by the miraculous science. If you’re making a serious sci-fi horror, you’re going to get asked these questions… so think about it.

So, not really a spoiler as the film is called ‘Hollow Man’ but the scientists decide to try out their stuff on one of their own. From there, the whole thing sort of goes downhill. It could be classed as a slasher film with sexual tension, where the villain constantly complains that he’s not doing anything wrong, just sneaking out invisibly to ‘fetch some stuff from his apartment’. If the invisible guy wasn’t Kevin Bacon, I think I’d have lost interest more quickly. Also, there’s an under-used thing going on with the infra-red, animals they could have done more with (though the invisible dog scene was fun). It was all just a bit… bland.

This movie works for the visuals, but that seems to be all it was made for. “Hey, this guy turning invisible would look cool with all the bones and muscles melting away… let’s make it into a movie!” There’s some plot threads floating about and they try to include character interaction but its lacking a certain completeness. It’s quite fun if you just want a dumb sci-fi movie… but for Paul Verhoeven films, stick to total recall.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Contagion, Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Every so often these apocalyptic films pop up, sometimes being good (The Road, War of the Worlds and Children of Men) and some less so (The Happening and Skyline). Few of these are films following the progression of viruses (unless you go the way of the Virus-aftermath such as in I am Legend). Perhaps this film can show us why there aren’t many. Contagion was directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven) and stars people such as Matt Damon (Saving Private Ryan), Judge Law (Sherlock Holmes) and Kate Winslet (Titanic).  While this movie sounds promising, something must have slipped it up.

The first main issue is that it’s so boring. It tries to show a true depiction of responses of the U.S Centres for Disease Management. By staying true to government reactions it takes the entire scare out of the prospect. It takes you through all of the painstaking details of finding where the disease comes from, stopping the spread, finding a cure and dealing with the dead almost like it’s a government ‘how to’ video. I feel like I should get paid for watching this film; like it expects me to sit with pen and paper taking notes. Not only does it go all official on you, it also spits out medical jargon and chemistry at you. Maybe you can make a film for intellects, but I’m sure even they like to have fun in their movies too.

If the slow paced action wasn’t enough, some of the scenes and camera angles were a bit off, too. You’d be watching one plot thread and it’d flick to a flashback with no real warning. This was perhaps meant to be clever (making the audience work it all out and all that) but it wasn’t clever, just annoying. These flashbacks were linking to one character thread of the several we had to try and follow. The personal character stories weren’t even that good because you never found out much about any one character. The two most likeable characters were, perhaps: Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) and Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne). However, neither of these stories were interesting… I guess Mitch’s was a little touching as an ending note.

Overall, it wasn’t a great movie. Where was the action? Where was the screaming? The plot threads were there, but they were badly written in. Everything tied together to create a bland soup of realism. Bring on the fantasy. A good star cast, but very disappointing.

Rating: 1/10

Film Review: The Prestige, Directed by Christopher Nolan

This mystery drama came out back in 2006, but I only recently had it suggested to me. Christopher Nolan is more well known for his take on Batman (Batman Begins in 2005, The Dark Knight in 2008 and the Dark Knight Rises in 2012) and I feel The Prestige has been lost under the super-hero hype. The film tells the tale of two magicians in the 19th century. The two become rivals after the death of Robert’s wife Julia in one of their tricks. Both become famous but also obsessed with the others tricks, trying to expose their competition.

As with a few of Nolan’s films, it’s very cleverly made.  The interactions between the two rivalling characters flow smoothly and we can root for either side. Forget ‘Team Edward’ or ‘Team Jacob’; bring on ‘Team Hugh Jackman’ or ‘Team Charitian Bale’. Either side you choose, both characters are great and their plans of sabotage even greater. One of the main interests of the film is getting to see a glimpse of history not really covered in history books: magic. Magic has always entertained audiences and I gain a certain mild inside knowledge as my fathers a magician. This magic knowledge unfortunately let me have a good stab at the ending twist (or fortunately on my count, I find certain sweetness in being able to guess a twist). However, there were still things that were a surprise and the twist is very well done.

Whether you just like Nolan films, or you have an interest in magic… or if you enjoy watching two people try and mess the other’s life up, give this film a shot!

Rating: 9/10

And, for your entertainment, heres a video about Christian Bale that ran through my head as I watched the film: (Contains swearing and cartoon nudity)

Darn my internet-loving friends…

Film Review: The Room, Directed by Tommy Wiseau

I first heard of The Room watching the Nostalgia Critic Review and have since heard my friends chatting about it. Now finally came the time when we decided to watch it just to see how bad it was. We weren’t disappointed. Tommy Wiseau made the film in 2003, being the flick’s director, writer, producer and actor. While this might sound… stupid or impressive depending on how you view it, it’s not really showing off his talents.  Shots were re-used blatantly and he was the worst actor in it. It’s laughable. In fact as the film gained popularity for being one of ‘the worst movies ever made, Wiseau even re-pitched it to be a comedy rather than the original intention for a serious drama.

The plot follows Wiseau’s character Johnny and his fiancée Lisa. Lisa decides she’s had enough of old Johnny and starts seeing his best friend mark. Around all this, there’s various… I guess what you could call ‘sub-plots’. These include the quickest dealing with a drug dealer imaginable, involving the young Denny who “just likes to watch” Johnny and Lisa in their day to day lives. That’s not the only odd line. There are some odd and very poorly acted lines. From Wiseau shouting “I did not hit her, I did not” to Lisa’s mother boldly declaring she “definitely has breast cancer”. There’s simply no sub-text and many pointless scenes. There’s one scene where a couple just walks in to Johnny and Lisa’s house, then Lisa’s mother walks in. She says “What are these two characters doing here?”… well you tell us, cause we sure don’t know.

No matter how you ‘pitch it’; there is nothing good about The Room. It’s a story that’s way too big for itself, has an awful script, just as bad acting and is directed, acted in and written by a guy who should have never had his own company.

Just so you can experience its terrible ‘highlghts’, here’s a fan-made soundboard:

http://theroomsoundboard.com/

Rating: 0/10

Film Review: Silent Hill: Revelation, directed by Michael J. Bassett

In my housemate rushes to tell me how they’ve just bought Silent Hill Revelation for ten pounds and want to watch it. “Okay!” I agree, not knowing what I’ve let myself in for. “Ok, so usually sequels aren’t great, right? But hey, this one has Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones in it”, is what I thought.  I regret it. This movie is awful. It was released back in 2012, directed by Michael J. Bassett (who also had a hand in Soloman Kane). Shall I say, he should never have bothered? The original Silent Hill (2006, directed by Christophe Gans),  was based on a popular console game of the same name and was commended for its atmosphere. Unfortunately, what it lacked was film-savy plot. Its sequal, therefore, was never going to be great.

In this film, Heather Mason (the kid from the first film) is now considerably older and living with her father. Her father disappears and the people of silent hill want her, and her newly introduced love-interest, to return to Silent Hill. Why? I don’t even know. But for some reason they want her back, so we can see the extended footage of what we saw in the first movie, but in less of a creepy setting. Oh, but before we get there, we just have to see our heroine in some sort of kid playground which for some reason has a load of psycho clowns in it. This links, of course, to the finale which takes place in an old fashioned theme park.

The script and acting are awful, we get no character development and the exposition is given so clumsily because this film has no plot of its own. It was probably only made because someone thought the triangle-head guy would look funky in 3D.

Go home and try again, Bassett.

Rating: 1/10

Film Review: Mama

Ever since the popular Woman in black came to our cinemas, there’s been a renewed interest in jump scare horrors. This brought Andrés Muschietti’s Mama to crawl onto the big screen today. I’m at a stage in life where jump-scares just aren’t enough for me anymore. The cinema was filled with teenagers that would squeal at every classic trick. I want a bit more from my horrors now, perhaps having some actual horror rather than opting for a jump-scare so often it becomes predictable.

Thats not to say Mama was a bad film exactly, just that it could have done with being a little bit more inventive with its scare-techniques. I’ve grown up on horrors such as The Orphanage by Juan Antonio Bayona, Saw (The first only) by James Wan and Mikael Håfström’s 1408, that create a category of ‘intellectual’ horror/thriller, with a good story. One thing Mama has in common with these is it has a promising story. It follows two children Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nélisse) who are abandoned in the woods and looked after by a ghostly guardian until their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) take them in and try to adapt them back to society. With such a good potential, it’s a shame that the film reveals itself too quickly. In the first 15 minutes of the film, you’ve already had a fair good look at the ghostly Mama which robs her image of some ‘scare’. It makes the horror dull and the director should have stopped relying on jumps and more on the slow reveal and suspense of the character.

The actors were generally good. The kids were wonderful: as is rare for child-actors and Megan Charpentier worked well with them. Their character relations could have done with a little bit more development, but you got the gist. In fact, the hints that Annabel wasn’t a born mother were thrown quite evidently into the audiences’ faces when she celebrates a negative pregnancy test. I guess it’s a clever angle, but perhaps a little more subtlety wouldn’t go amiss, so the audience could work out the characters. Lucas wasn’t as convincing, especially nearing the end when I thought his character had been possessed because he delivered a line so badly. But ah well, you can’t get everything right when it comes to popular cinema.

Generally, Mama was a decent film. Its shocks may have been predictable, but it still gets you off-guard occasionally. Its plot was good, but they showed it all too quickly leaving nothing to work out. So, I guess it’s good for anyone who just wants a jump with no real hard work.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review – Les Miserables, Directed by Tom Hooper

I hadn’t seen the stage version of Les Miserables, but had heard people say how great it was. I thought that a good way to test the waters and see if I would enjoy the stage performance would be to watch the new movie by Director Tom Hooper. I really hope I was wrong to presume it’d be a good comparison. The movie came to cinemas in early January and has brought people flocking since. I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been more outcry.

While there were the occasional strong song (Anne Hathaway’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ cover and Samantha Bark’s ‘on my own’) the movie in general was riddled with errors. Everything from settings, to tone, and even basic film choices were flawed. Beginning with settings: some such as the house at the site of the revolution looked like they were part of a stage setting. I’m unsure if this was intentional, but it’s downright wrong. We had some general establishing shots which were all well and good.  But when zooming out on a particular scene we didn’t always seem to be able to move passed what would be considered the ‘stage’. We watched the action from afar. The director may have been trying to manage the film so that it echoed movements of the stage, but it didn’t fit in. If you’re going to make a movie, make a movie… its already on stage.

Tone errors included the Thenardier and Madame Thenardier. Their song ‘Master of the house’ was fun, but it was a stark contrast to the rest of the film, which meant it got you by surprise. The tone of the rest of the movie was dark and realistic, but when it got to the Thenardier’s song, everything went awry seeing everything from slapstick falls to a promiscuous Santa. Such humour could have been included, but some smoothing over to introduce it might have been nice. By ‘basic filming choices’, I note the one scene where Jean Veljean is talking to Marius in the house and you literally have to tilt your head because the shot is jaunted… and for no particular reason.

Overall, I feel greatly let down with the movie. The director made some bad choices. On a brighter note, however, the songs were brilliantly done – even more so knowing they were recorded by the actors themselves rather than a pre-recording. The actors were also very well chosen. It was sure interesting to see Russell Crowe singing. It was just a shame that his death was more funny than shocking, with the comedic ‘thwack’ that sounded like something out of a cartoon. Theatre wins again, I think!

4/10

Film Review: Dredd – Directed by Pete Travis

Pete Travis brings us a storm to DVD this year with his 2012 hit, Dredd. Travis brings us a graphically modernised view of the 1995 film by Danny Cannon complete with guns blazing and a brand new suit. This is, by anyone’s standards, an action film through and through.

The film is set in a futuristic world where judges (kick-ass people on blocky motorbikes) are sent to seek out criminals and give them their sentence. We focus on two such judges in particular: Judge Dredd and Anderson. Anderson has to prove she’s worthy of full Judge-ship by understudying Judge Dredd on a job. She gets to pick and unknowingly chooses the worst option imaginable. They end up trapped, inside a gang-block owned by psycho Ma-Ma who loves to kill people in inventive ways. For such a basic story, the film carries it through quite well. There’s true tension running through its veins as Dredd and Anderson hurry through the many intertwining corridors to escape the goons chasing them. This then leads to where things step up a notch and we see some proper action as Ma-Ma herself gets involved in annihilation.

Style-wise this film is beautiful. From the sleek black uniform of Judge Dredd, to the city shots and the slow-motion action sequences, everything looks great. The slow-motion is used very well, making the action picturesque and deadly. One scene where Ma-Ma is in the bath is shown this way and the movements of the water is intensified as beautifully as the blood splatter when some unlucky thugs are thrown down the centre of the tower block. The falling scene is particularly effective, in terms of visual effect, as you see from the eyes of the character for a few seconds and you feel like you’re actually falling. You can sense that some of the shots, such as this one, were included for 3D bonuses, but they’re integrated so well into the film style that it doesn’t bother you when watching on DVD.

Overall, Dredd was a good action film. The visuals were pristine, the slow motion well used and, while having a basic plot, worked quite well. The main antagonist could have been harder to kill to make her more intimidating, but as a character she was interesting. But this is definitely an impressive show.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Brave, Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Brave is the new film from Disney Pixar directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), and co-directed by Steve Purcell. I remember the trailers for this film being quite enticing. It showed beautiful scenery and an interesting story about a girl being forced into a clan’s tradition of marriage. So yes, both were in the movie… but they should have stuck to just that. Instead, they decide to play purely to the kids market and have Brave delve into magic. While the inclusion of magic could have been interesting if consistent with the rest of the plot, it instead side-lined the whole first third of the movie. Obviously Disney is a child-focused organisation, but surely they can stick to a promising storyline without making it silly. However, the film went on to tell the tale of how Brave needed to un-do her magic, while the beginning plot of finding a suitor went down the pan loosely tied up in the second third.

Character-wise, the two main characters: brave and her mother’s intentions were well portrayed. We understood Brave’s need to be free, while we also understood her mother’s want for her to be a traditional princess. What we didn’t see was anything else. These characters had no other traits. The mother was obsessed with making Brave into a princess, while Brave just wanted to run off… and that was it. This made their decisions very plot driven and stopped the characters going their own way. It made the whole thing very predictable and meant the film needed other characters to drive it forward. Not that the other characters were much to mention. The three sons were unnecessary and the three suitors (and their fathers) weren’t distinguishable enough.  On top of the weak character development came a weak backstory that was briefly mentioned just so they could add a scary bear in at the end.

Overall, the animators and actors did well, but the plot wasn’t thought out enough. It was choppy and swapped aims part way through, to then be decorated with a scattering of backstory and be tied up with a piece of string. What was quite a promising movie went in the complete wrong direction, relying on cheap humour and attempts at creating tension. What Disney should have done is stuck to the ‘suitors’ thing and brought in more information about the ancient folktale that was briefly dotted about. Kudos however, to: the composer, Patrick Doyle (also composed for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Thor), Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, British folk rock group Mumford & sons, singer Birdy and songwriter Alex Mandel, for the beautiful soundtrack that becomes the best part of the movie.

Rating: 4/10