Archive for the Action Category

Inception (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

Ok, I’m not going to write a synopsis, because if you haven’t seen Inception yet, you should be watching it without knowing anything of the plot beforehand…it’s all the more fun to discover it during the viewing! The only thing I’ll say is that it’s about dreams…

This is a movie that requires a bit of thinking from its audience…how refreshing is that? All of the actors are great, though some are given more to work with than others. Leonardo DiCaprio proves yet again just what an arresting screen presence he is. He carries this movie effortlessly. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is swoon-worthy (ok, so I have a crush), Marion Cotillard (as usual) manages to bring something special to every scene she’s in, Ellen Page is great as the young architect…and many of the other supporting players are similarly good. This a a great ensemble piece and it’s an added bonus that all of them are great to look at too.

This is a blockbuster, which makes this film even better because it doesn’t cheat the audience; it shows us that you don’t have to substitute substance for explosions. It was written, directed and producer by Christopher Nolan…we must all bow down to him!  I wasn’t too fussed on The Dark Knight (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a really good film, but not great. Definitely not 5 stars…) but this is fantastic. I was completely into it the whole way through and the movie just flew by. It’s a crazy ride…afterwards I was left with the sense that I’d been dreaming. Weird. Some people found this movie too confusing, but I just went with it. I hate it when people try to pick apart the logic of the movie after they’ve seen it. JUST ENJOY IT!

Inception has hardly any swearing and is not terribly violent (while there are plenty of gun fights etc, there’s no blood or gore), so it appeals to a wider audience. While the themes are quite dark (Marion Cotillard’s character, in particular, provides some creepy moments) it is suitable for teens and up. I won’t say any more about this. It’s a total crowd pleaser. Some have said this is an instant classic, and I might agree with them. Unless you’re one of those indie people that hates all commercial films (you know who you are!), I guarantee you will enjoy this one.

 My rating:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Teen with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

This is part one of the seventh installment of the hugely successful Harry Potter series. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about Harry and his adventures, and this film sets the scene for the grand finale. The question is, does it live up to its predecessors?

With Lord Voldermort in power, the wizarding world is now a dangerous place, where a Nazi-like regime threatens muggles and mixed-blood wizards. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are on the search for Horcruxes, objects that contain parts of Voldermort’s soul. Two horcruxes have already been destroyed, but they must find and destroy the remaining four before Lord Voldermort can be killed.  Finding and destroying the horcruxes proves more difficult than they imagined, and their friendships are tested and their lives put in danger….but hey, I’m sure you know all of this already!

There have been many mixed reviews for this film, but Potter fans will probably love it. It’s great to catch up with these characters and see them grow. Harry, Hermione and Ron really come into their own in this film, the first time they have been of age and away from Hogwarts. Their relationships with each other are more complex than ever, particularly in the confines of a tent as they move around the countryside. Apart from Harry, Ron and Hermione, not many of the other characters get much screen-time. We see the Dursley’s very briefly (which is a shame, because it would have been nice to have seen the scene with Dudley from the book play out) at the beginning, and also see the Weasley family at the beginning. We see Luna (the lovely Evanna Lynch), Snape (Alan Rickman), Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes), the Malfoy’s, a brief glimpse of Neville…but really, the primary focus of this film is the trio. This is essentially a road movie, and they won’t reach their destination until the next installment.

The performances are all fine. Alan Rickman is only in one scene at the beginning but he manages to steal it even when he says very little. His on-screen presence is impressive, and Rickman is certainly one of the best performers in the franchise (though he doesn’t have much screen-time in this one). Daniel Radcliffe is good as Harry, Emma Watson has really improved and is lovely as Hermione, and Rupert Grint gets some meaty angst that he plays it very well. Ron is a flawed character but he’s also very genuine, and I get the feeling he’s the firm fan favourite (but maybe I’m just biased, he’s certainly my favourite!)

Casual Potter fans will have trouble keeping up, and Potter first-timers will have absolutely no chance of understanding what’s going. The days of Potter being family entertainment are over; this is definitely not a film for children. It has got some scary sequences (especially with the snake) and mature themes. Romance blooms between Ron and Hermione (Yay! Adorable!) but it falters when Ron suspects that Hermione has feelings for Harry. DRAMA!

 The film has one main fault: it’s just too long. I really enjoyed the movie, but, as Part I of this book, 2.5 hours is much too long, it should have been 2 hours maximum. It tends to drag in places, particularly for people who haven’t read the book.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH>>>>>>> 

The Godric’s Hollow sequence is the most superfluous in the film, and could easily have been cut. It worked in the book but only weighed the movie down. We didn’t need to see Harry at his parents’ graves, and we certainly didn’t need to see the sequence with Bathilda Bagshot. It added nothing to the story. The only thing that furthered the plot here was that Hermione found the book by Rita Skeeter, which led them to finding out who the boy in Harry’s visions was (Grindelwald), but they could have found another way to do this, because this section of the movie really drags, especially since Ron is MIA. Another thing: if you’re a softie, be prepared for a few tears at the end when our beloved Dobby dies!

 END SPOILERS

I saw this film twice in the cinemas and I will be buying it on DVD. This is not a masterpiece by any standards, but it is very competent filmmaking and fans of Harry Potter will really enjoy seeing the saga played out on-screen. I, like many others, have come to love these characters and this world, and I will feel sad to say goodbye to Harry Potter, a franchise that’s been in my life since I was 10-years-old, when the 2nd Part is released next year.

My rating:

Twister (1996)

Posted in 1996, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Romance, Thriller with tags , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

Jo (Helen Hunt) was a child when an F5 twister ripped through their rural property and took her father with it. Fast-forward thirty years and Jo is a scientist obsessed with tracking twisters. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton), a former twister tracker himself, arrives with his new fiance in tow to get divorce papers signed. Jo shows him the new machine they developed together, the ‘Dorothy’. Dorothy is intended to be sucked up by the twister and emit signals and data. Suddenly the plot takes off…there’s a twister to chase! Arrrrrrr!

Twister is the ultimate disaster blockbuster. I saw it when I was young, and after that I had an inbuilt fear of tornadoes. Luckily Australia doesn’t get any of those, but it didn’t stop me from being concerned.

The visual effects are incredible. My latest viewing was on blue ray, and the film holds up incredibly well. Sure, there are some effects shots that don’t look so great, but generally the twisters still look believable. I can’t help but think of all the work that went into making this film. This must have been an enormous undertaking, because they had to deal with weather situations, vehicles, remote location shooting, visual and special effects etc etc. Must have been a producers nightmare, but I think the filmmakers can still be proud of this film.

 

The same can be said of the actors. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton headline, and both are good in their roles, even managing to squeeze in that romantic angst. Hey, everyone knows that having ex-lovers always creates romantic tension. There are several recognisable faces here, both in Jo’s team and the team of their nemesis. In fact, he is played by Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame. Among the recognisable faces is Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his first film roles. He is a highlight in this and he has some good one-liners.

A lot of critics panned this for its lack of plot. Um, WHO CARES??? Personally, I think it has just enough personal backstory to ensure that you are emotionally invested. Aside from the whole twister chasing thing, the main personal story here is the estranged relationship between Jo and Bill, and  I honestly think it’s done very well, even if it does take back-seat to the action plot.

Maybe the storyline is a little ludicrous, but it doesn’t matter. This is one I can watch again and again and again. It’s always exciting, and you always pick up new things along the way. Honestly, if you like disaster films or just ‘adventure’ish films, this is one to watch. Always reminds me of the 90s!!

My rating:

Braveheart (1995)

Posted in 1995, Action, Based on True Events, Best Film Oscar, Blockbuster, Drama, Epic, Period Film, Romance, War with tags , , on January 15, 2010 by filmglutton

Braveheart, winner of the Best Picture Oscar, tells the story of William Wallace, the legendary hero who fought for Scottish independence in the late 1200s. This film has Mel Gibson in the lead role, a rugged and brave man with a keen intellect and sense of humour. Oh, just so charming. Anyway, as a young boy William has to cope with the death of his father and older brother, killed in a resistance battle. He goes away to live with his uncle, and when he returns he is intent on marrying and making a life for himself on a farm. He wants nothing to do with the violence that took his family away from him. He marries his childhood friend, Murron, in secret, but a tragic event causes him to retaliate against the English, and from here it escalates into full-blown battles led by Wallace and his loyal men.

It’s really strange to think back to the days when Mel Gibson sat on top of the movie making world. Think about it: this was an ACTOR who won best DIRECTOR for the film that won BEST PICTURE. It sounds like something from a screenplay. I do find it hard to believe he directed this, because I always think of him as an actor, but with Braveheart he proved that not only could he direct, but that he was very, very good. Because this is an extremely good film. The cinematography is beautiful, James Horner’s score is fitting, and the direction really is commendable. The battle sequences are amazing, it convincingly looks like there are thousands of men onscreen.

Besides William himself, other characters include love-of-his-life Murron (Catherine McCormack), best friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson), evil Edward I (Longshanks) of England (Patrick McGoohan), insipid Edward II (Peter Hanley), his French wife Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), and claimant to the Scottish throne Robert Bruce (Angus Macfayden). The actors are all fine, but this is really Mel’s film.

The battle scenes are violent and brutal. Perhaps not as gory as some more recent films, but they certainly have a raw brutality; and do be warned, we do see throats slashed and heads crushed. But Gibson does not dwell on these moments, so anyone who is a bit squeamish (like myself) will be fine!

The film has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, corny one-liners, obligatory romance, for depicting only one side of the story, for supposedly being homophobic, and Gibson himself has been criticised for being too old (well, yes, especially when they want us to believe that Murron and William are almost the same age – yeah right!)  BUT Braveheart is not pretending to be a true historic account, it is presenting a myth. It is a piece of entertainment, a story of great breadth and excitement.

Braveheart is purely entertainment, a cinematic epic. And if you choose to look at it in this way, instead of an historical travesty, it joins the ranks as one of the great epic war films.
My Rating: 

Avatar (2009)

Posted in 2009, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Romance with tags , , , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by filmglutton

Yesterday I saw James Cameron’s long-awaited blockbuster Avatar.

The year is 2154 and a human corporation is living on Pandora, a far-off moon in a far-off galaxy that has a precious mineral called unobtainium that the corporation wants to mine and sell at a huge profit. The only problem is that Pandora is home to a native species of humanoids called the Na’vi. The story starts in a blur or story set-up as we meet our protaganist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine. Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) leads a team of scientists and researchers on the Avatar Program, which involves blending human and Na’vi DNA to create an Avatar that resembles a Na’vi. The development of these Avatars is extremely expensive. Jake’s twin brother was a scientist in the program but he died so Jake, who shares Tommy’s DNA, takes his place in the Program, and is esctatic about being able to walk and run in the body of his Avatar. Jake inflitrates the world of the Na’vi, where he learns about their ways and reports back to both Grace and the sinister Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who wants to destroy the Na’vi to get to the unobtanium (which is deposited in the ground below the Na’vi hometree, the centre of their literal and spiritual life). As Jake begins to learn and love the ways of the Na’vi, and develops a relationship with a female Na’vi warioress named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), he is at odds with the goals of the corporation and must fight to do what he thinks is right.

Phew, seems complicated (I do hate writing synopses)! There has been so much hype surrounding this film, and a lot of pressure, not unlike that of his last project, a little film called Titanic. Much of the hype has been about the CGI and the amazing new 3D techniques. I saw Avatar at a cinema that was not equipped for 3D films, and it really did not matter at all. The film stands without the 3D, but I am keen to see it in 3D now…although, a friend of mine did see it at Imax and she was annoyed a) because it didn’t fill the Imax screen and b) because it made her feel a bit motion sick, so perhaps that’s something to consider. As for the CGI, it’s certainly very elaborate. We see some of the characters as both humans and Na’vi, such as Jake and Grace (can I just say, there was something a little creepy about Sigourney Weaver’s Avatar, maybe it looked a little too much like her!!), while some of the Na’vi are never seen in a human form (such as Zoe Saldana). Their work is projected in an entirely CGI form. Motion capture has made them so human yet so different – the detail on their faces is amazing, it’s incredible technology that’s getting closer and closer to photoreal but it does still have that CGI ‘look’. Not that motion capture is anything new, but I don’t know if it’s ever been done quite to the extent of this. While CGI can get a bit overwhelming at times (and I will say that even without 3D the image can make your eyes go a bit funny), the CGI in this is amazing. It really brings this world and this story to life.

Which brings us to one of the strong points of the film, which is the story. Now, some will say that the story is the weak point, which in many ways it is. There are some corny things happening here, but overall the story is so incredibly immersive that you won’t care about the cliches. Avatar goes for about two-and-a-half hours but I hardly even noticed, I was engrossed. All of the actors were good, though some of the human characters could have been a bit more multi-dimensional.The film is technically amazing and should pick up some prizes at awards time!

Sure, there are plenty of things you could criticise about this film. Maybe you won’t like Sam Worthington’s America accent, or the voiceover, or the not-so-hidden references to imperialism, colonialism and environmentalism. Maybe you will roll your eyes at some of the corny one-liners, or that there is a love story amidst the action. Maybe you will hate the CGI world, hate the over-the-top spirituality of the Na’vi that’s a weird blend of Native American and African, and find the whole thing either to sentimental or too stupid. But I didn’t really think of any negatives until I left the cinema, because this is such an accomplished, impressive film that draws you in and delivers on its promises. Actually, I lie, there was one thing that really bugged me…a damn pop song coming in over the closing credits! Now, maybe James Cameron and James Horner (just as a side note, there are quite a few Titanic-esque moments in the score, you definitely know it’s James Horner again) are trying to recapture the success of My Heart Will Go On, but I just cringed, it was so out of place. Run from the cinema before it ruins the aura at the end!!

Forget the negatives, just enjoy this for the great piece of entertainment it is. I’m not going to talk any more about this, just go see it!

My rating:

Deep Impact (1998)

Posted in 1998, Action, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by filmglutton

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High school student Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) spots something strange with his telescope as he stargazes near the local observatory. Marcus Wolf discovers it’s a comet, but he is killed in a car accident before he can alert anyone. Fast-forward a year, and the government has decided it must destroy the comet so it does not collide with the Earth. They have a very ambitious and ludicrous plan to land on the comet and detonate it; retired astronaut Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall) is scouted to lead the mission because he landed on the moon once, so he has the best chance of landing on the comet, dammit! There are other various story arcs and characters in the film. Leo lives with his parents and has a crush on Sarah (Leelee Sobieski), the girl-next-door. Leo becomes a minor celebrity once the President (Morgan Freeman) breaks the news to the nation – they have named the comet Wolf-Biederman. Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) plays an ambitious journalist who has a meteoric (pun intended) rise in the industry because she sort-of uncovered the story. She becomes lead anchor on the story. Her arc also revolves around her relationships with her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and her father (Maximillian Schell), who has recently remarried to a woman only 2 years older than his daughter.

 

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The beginning of the film is really slow moving, with too much time dedicated to convenient character drama. When I think back to more successful disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow, which jumps right into the disaster in the opening act, Deep Impact seems positively frustrating in comparison. The idea of the disaster is introduced in the early scenes, but it then moves away from this to focus on the blissfully unaware characters. The troubled relationship between Tea Leoni and her father is particularly drawn-out, although I did like the ultimate pay-off in that story arc. Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski are both good in their roles, and I think we most connect with these characters. Morgan Freeman plays the President with his usual resonant voice.

Obviously the most interesting part begins when the comet actually hits (the scenes in outer space were supposed to be thrilling but are quite preposterous). The real entertainment value of Deep Impact lies in the excitement and horror as we see well-known cities and landmarks destroyed by something out of our control. As a young girl the image of that giant tidal wave, in conjunction with Titanic, made me quite fearful of water! Even though the special effects might be a little bit dated, they are nonetheless spectacular. These kinds of movies are interesting because they spark a few paranoid questions – Could this ever happen? What would we do? Would I survive? Who really cares?

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Deep Impact is a true film of the 90s, a time when disaster films were very much in vogue. It’s not great by any standards but it is pure entertainment, and you may just be on the edge of your seat in the final act. Not bad to watch on a quiet night in.

My rating: 111

Public Enemies (2009)

Posted in 2009, Action, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by filmglutton

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Based on a true story, Public Enemies is about infamous American outlaw John Dillinger. The film opens in 1933 with Dillinger staging a daring escape from the Indiana State Penitentiary. From here he and his gang embark on a series of bank robberies, quickly and effortlessly stealing thousands of dollars with every hit. Between prison stints Dillinger falls in love with Billie (Marion Cotillard), a woman he meets at a restaurant. Dillinger is regarded by law enforcement as being public enemy number one, so top dog Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is enlisted to apprehend him.

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I went into the film knowing next to nothing about the story. All I knew was that both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were in it – good enough for me! Unfortunately, the film left me feeling a little “whelmed”. The characters are rather one-dimensional, and they don’t really develop over the course of the narrative. Even Johnny Depp, as brilliant as he is, has very little to do. Christian Bale tends to play one-note characters, and Purvis is no different – it’s a shame, because he has shown himself to be a capable actor. The narrative is a bit messy and confusing, particularly in the middle section. The action sequences, while highly energetic, are hard to follow. This is partly because you are unsure of the characters (they all look a bit the same in their black coats and hats), but also because the movie was shot on HD instead of film. With HD the picture is so sharp, lacking the slightly softer movements seen on film. I found it very hard to focus on anything when there was a lot of action on the screen, particularly as a lot of it was handheld. One of the most chaotic scenes, a night-time gunfight, is especially hard to watch – my eyes were feeling rather tired by the end! I think it’s great that HD has a place in modern filmmaking (gives us financially-challenged filmmakers a bit of hope!), but it certainly has its limitations.

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The film seemed to run for too long, but my main issue was that it lacked any real emotional impact. There were only a few moments where I really felt anything for the characters (and that mainly came in moments of violence, most notably when Billie is in custody). I think that was the main problem with Public Enemies – it didn’t make me care for characters. In fact, I had a very flippant attitude towards their fates. I was taken on their journey but was never really bothered about what happened to them.

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All in all this is quite an enjoyable film. John Dillinger is an intriguing historical character and he makes for a good cinematic suject. There is nothing especially bad about Public Enemies, but nothing really stands out either. The film isn’t memorable but it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

My rating: 111