Thursday, May 30, 2013
Don't worry, you don't have to go stocking up your bunker. The Mayans may have been wrong about the end of the world, but filmmakers still seem very much enamored with the idea of the apocalypse. This year, it feels like there will be an unusually high number of apocalyptic films hitting theaters (not even including the post-apocalyptic ones). Here are some of those doomsday films to look forward to:
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Hit me with your best shot is back this week as we look at the 1963 film "Hud", starring Paul Newman. This pastoral family drama felt very much like a "writer's film", as it's main focus is on the conversations between characters. As such, the visuals don't immediately stand out to me, but it's nicely shot. It's in the fine details of the dialogue where the film shines. You get a good hint of the history between the characters, especially Hud and his virtuous father Homer. Lonnie (Hud's nephew) and Alma (the housekeeper) aren't as convinced of Hud's callous persona until later in the film. This enlightening moment sets the scene for my favourite shot.
Click below for my favourite shot...
Monday, May 27, 2013
Back in 1987, John McTiernan directed what some have described as "the manliest movie ever made", called "Predator". Well, you won't find me challenging that notion as its machismo was the first thing I noticed as I watched it.
The film tells the story of an elite special forces team that is sent on a mission to rescue hostages in wild Central American jungle territory. Leading the charge is "Dutch", played by the ultimate brawny action hero - Arnold Schwarzenneger. Unfortunately, they soon find out there is an extraterrestrial creature lurking nearby.
The overall concept of the film seems to embody the persona of the muscular, uber-manly Schwarzennegger. This is best encapsulated by an early scene where Schwarzenegger reunites with an equally hardbodied friend and they engage in a prolonged handshake. The camera zooms in to emphasize Arnold's bulging biceps, signalling the slightly vapid script to come. The plot is all about the action, forgoing thematic depth for frequent gunplay. The dialogue almost seems incidental to the plot, although Schwarzenegger's line delivery is a constant source of amusement. Again, his blank, simplistic lines are well suited to the basic premise of the story.
Truly, there's not much to the script apart from a bunch guys trying to kill an alien. There is virtually no time spent on exposition before the troops are launched into dangerous territory. After that, much of the onscreen activity involves trekking through the jungle, interspersed with moments of rapid gunfire.
Now, although the screenwriting is unremarkable, the direction is still impressive. There is a definite sense of impending danger and the atmosphere reminded me of the visceral immediacy of films like "Platoon". McTiernan demonstrates assured, purposeful direction through the film's tight pacing, proving vital to the success of the film. For all its moments of excessive violence, there is always a sense of firm control of the material. It's for this reason that it never feels like a cheap, pulpy "B movie".
Overall, it's a fine film if you are looking for a straightforward actioner. I would have personally preferred a more elaborate script, but it's perfectly satisfying for what it is.
This film is part of my List of Shame.
Friday, May 24, 2013
With its sensational box office, "The Great Gatsby" has put The Great American Novel back in the limelight and I couldn't be happier. Despite the divided critical reaction has lead to many persons encountering the novel for the first time. As a huge fan of the book, it warms my heart to see so many persons reading it and more importantly, appreciating its literary excellence. Jessica is one such person and she kindly shared her experience with both forms of the story on her blog. Go check out her reaction among other great posts from the past week:
Jessica reviewed The Great Gatsby, highlighting the tough decision of whether to read the book first.
Ruth shared her fascinating personal connection to Superman, in anticipation of the upcoming "Man of Steel".
Courtney wonders "Can There Be True Consequences in Summer Blockbusters?"
Jason at Your Face! reviewed one of my childhood favourites - Space Jam.
Lauren from Man, I Love Films wrote an interesting essay titled "The Obsolete Critic".
Tyson reviews the film that inspired the name of his blog - Casino.
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...