Films of 2012 so far

Sorry, no movie review this week. The box office was kind of starved this weekend; guess everyone’s afraid to release anything in the wake of Batman. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to quickly go over all of this year’s films I’ve seen so far. Hope this gives you an idea of my taste in film.

Chronicle

A fun new take on the found footage genre and a great way of showing the origin of a supervillain. The creators of this film are great young new talent and I can’t wait to see what they’ll cook up next. 8.5/10

The Woman in Black

Haven’t seen the stage play so I can’t compare, but it works as film on its own. It is genuinly creepy at times and is good start for the return of Hammer. I can’t help but feel that Daniel Radcliffe was miscast, but he does fine with the material. 7/10

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Oh, Neveldine and Taylor. You suckered me in once again and crush my hopes in your hands and then spat on them. No amount of brilliant and creative camera work or decent special effects can save this unoriginal, plodding, neutered mess of a movie. Not even Nicolas Cage’s overacting could push this past anything more than mediocrity. 5.5/10

21 Jump Street

Biggest surprise of the year so far. What could have easily been another teen raunchfest is instead a clever, self-referential mash-up of cop and high school movies. It also shows that Channing Tatum has a bright future in comedy if he actively pursues it. 8.5/10

John Carter

While I don’t think it’s the train wreck most make it out to be, it’s far from perfect. The pacing is erratic, it takes far too long to get exciting, and Taylor Kitsch is an uninteresting leading man. However, the visual design and the action scenes push it over the line to make an enjoyable ride if you lower your expectations. 6/10

The Hunger Games

An interesting and enjoyable, if somewhat unoriginal, experience. Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove herself to be an effective leading lady, and the film really creates some large stakes for our main characters to overcome which leads to some genuinely emotional scenes. Now only if they could keep the f***ing camera still! 8/10

The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists

While certainly not Aardman’s best work, it is a hilarious movie for both kids and adults. It’s great to see claymation still in use, and who better to do it that the masters of the art. 8/10

Battleship

Where to begin on this one? How about the end? F*** this movie and all its peers. I hope this method of filmmaking dies out before we are subjected to Connect 4: The Movie. 3/10

The Cabin in the Woods

HOLY S***! This movie is awesome! After many delays, this movie finally came out and blew all of my expectations. I can’t say anything without spoiling the experience, but if you love horror-comedies and you haven’t seen this yet, what is wrong with your brain? 10/10

The Avengers

After five years of teasing, the ultimate movie team-up has finally come and it does not disappoint. The film delivers on both the action and the characters, and shows that explosions and massive property destruction doesn’t always mean dumb and obnoxious. Joss Whedon can officially crown himself King of the Nerds for accomplishing what I think no other writer/director could, and I’m anticipating how the guys at Marvel are going to top this. 9.5/10

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen finally moves out of the mockumentary format (or should I say “shockumentary”?) and tries a more traditional approach in this zany comedy. While it lacks the charm of Borat, it still made me laugh consistently and that’s all I was asking for. 8/10

The Raid

Now this is how you do action. One of the most brutal, fast-paced and energetic films I have ever seen. Who cares if the plot here is generic? It’s simply there to set up some of the most interesting and violent hand-to-hand fight scenes ever caught on film. Die Hard, eat your heart out! 9/10

Prometheus

Ridley Scott, you now how to raise our hopes and then make us respond with a confused “ummm…”. Whilst a visual masterpiece and full of interesting ideas and performances (particularly from The Fassbender), the film quickly becomes a somewhat predictable sci-fi horror that seems more interested in raising more questions that answering the ones it initially asked. 8/10

Snow White & The Huntsman

A beautiful visual design and impressive technical display on all fronts is tarnishing by poor pacing and ho-hum performances from the entire cast. It’s very clear Rupert Sanders has no experience in feature films and I think he should stick to what he knows rather than stick his nose in an already crowded business. Could have been so much better in more skilled hands. 7/10

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Get past the silly premise and you’ll find a film that knows exactly what it is but doesn’t shove it in your face. Benjamin Walker shows serious acting promise in a film that doesn’t exactly call for it, but if you throw out all your sense of logic and physics out the window, you just might enjoy yourself. And seriously, if “horse-throwing” doesn’t become a meme up there with “fridge-nuking”, I will shove it down the Internet’s throat until it does. 7.5/10

The Amazing Spider-Man

Was it too soon to reboot Spider-Man? Maybe. Was this movie made more because Sony wanted to keep the rights rather than because of creative integrity? Possibly. But should that stop the movie from being good. Hell no! This movie captures the Spider-Man I know in a much more mature way that any of Raimi’s movies did (and I still like those). Andrew Garfield is the perfect Peter Parker for our time and his chemistry with Emma Stone is through the roof. Marc Webb proves he can handle the weight of a big budget blockbuster and comes out with a film that will thoroughly entertain despite its problems. 9/10

That’s it for now! Have a good weekend.

Next week: TED

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES review

So, it’s finally here. The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking trilogy that is probably the most hyped finale in a long time. Leading up to its release, I never doubted that it would be a good movie but I always knew it could never live up to expectations regardless of quality. So did it overcome this major obstacle? That’s a tricky question, but let me explain why.

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I won’t go into details on the plot, but I will say it is great. It ups the stakes from the previous movies and creates enough tension that you become unsure of every character’s safety. The pace remains fast and riveting, which is especially impressive for a film close to three hours long; I can easily say I was never bored. Its main flaw, however, is that it feels uneven at times.  People often complain how the Batman movies don’t focus enough on Batman himself, and TDKR is no exception. While Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is very key to the story, he spends very little time as Batman. The film feels like it has two protagonists; the other being John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The film focuses on this character a lot and, while he is an engaging character that you quickly come to like, I feel more focus could have been put on Bruce’s struggle against these impossible odds. The movie also gets a bit extravagant in its third act which, while thrilling and an awesome spectacle, leads to some plausibility and plot holes. Regardless, I think the story works overall and is also a very good cap to the entire series. I didn’t get teary-eyed, but I’m sure some fans might during its final moments.

The performances in The Dark Knight Trilogy have always been stellar, and TDKR continues this trend. All the familiar faces continue to do excellent work and feel they have developed much since the events of TDK, especially Bruce and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). You really feel the guilt they have around how this lie they created has put this city into a false sense of security and have set them up for a massive fall. Alfred’s (Michael Caine) role is very brief but very powerful during a certain revelation to Bruce. Morgan Freeman continues his charming role as Lucius Fox, and cameos from certain familiar faces from Batman Begins will put a smile on the faces of fans. But onto the new blood. As I said earlier, Gordon-Levitt works well as a secondary protagonist and you root for him as much as Batman near the end. Miranda Tate (Marion Cottilard) performs well, but that’s all I’ll say. In terms of villains, Bane (Tom Hardy) is very intimidating and definitely proves to be a good match for Batman, which is especially clear in their first battle. Hardy gets so much across here through just his eyes, though it is sometimes off-putting to hear that muffled voice of his. My main problem with him is how they treat the character in the finale. After a very big third act twist, his role feels diminished in the overall finale and his last moments are too rushed. However, the big surprise here is Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). She gives a wonderful performance, filling the classic femme fatale role brilliantly without falling into Schumacher-esque camp. I enjoyed every moment she was on screen and the film shows that Hathaway is a much more versatile actress than many assume.

Christopher Nolan knows how to deliver spectacle and he definitely delivers here. The scale is massive and the action is much more hectic and expansive than he has gotten in this whole series. And while it makes sense considering that this is the conclusion, I missed some of the quieter moments that were present in the climaxes of the first two. Here, once the actions starts it doesn’t let up until its over. On a technical level, the film is a pure treat. The cinematography is excellent, the editing mostly smooth and the score, while a bit too bombastic at times, fits well with the tone. While I’m unsure if this film will be up for any major awards come Oscar season, I’m sure it will have a major presence in the tech department.

In conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises is not the Second Coming of Movies a lot of its over-eager fanbase has been anticipating, but it is a satisfying conclusion to the story. I see it as the Return of the Jedi of the series: a good movie with a strong and finite ending but lacks some of the things that made its predecessors superior. I can honestly say I feel both The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man were better movies overall, but I feel all are flawed in their own ways; TDKR just has a few more. While I feel comparing these three movies is a bit unfair, it is an unavoidable discussion point. I definitely recommend you see it in a theatre (was unable to see it in IMAX, but I’m sure it looks amazing in the format) and decide for yourselves. Not everyone will be satisfied, but I think that will be more down to overhype rather than the quality of the film itself.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

 

P.S.: They showed the trailer for Man of Steel beforehand. It doesn’t show much, but it definitely feels like a Nolan production. It looks sombre and moody, and there is only a brief moment of Superman being Superman. Not enough to know whether it’ll be good, but it got me more invested.