Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Maze Runner

Lost in Trans-maze-tion

The more I think about this film the more I realise that it’s actually not that good. Like Cloud Atlas this has all the tells of a film adaptation of a book and if you dididn’t know… It is a film adaptation of a book.

So before I rant on about how crappy this film is let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed it. I think this will be a bit of a “guilty pleasure” along with the Fifth Element and discreetly farting in lifts – it’s like my own little who dunnit mystery.

Thomas awakes to find himself in an elevator. No memory. Not even a name to put to his own face. The elevator reaches the top and a hatch above him is opened revealing a flock of boisterous teenage boys. Is it technically a flock? I don’t know but it sounds about right.

These kid’s have all had their memories wiped and are sent into ‘the glade’ which is a idyllic slice of tranquility that is in the middle a giant ever changing maze. Sounds nice, no-one to hassle you, except it is solely filled with pubescent boys.

Over time these kid’s have set up their own community with their own laws and factions of people to do different jobs. It an awesome premise and one that you could have spent a whole film exploring but instead we are treated to whistle stop tour of “hey these dudes run, these dudes build stuff, these dudes farm… anyway moving on”. Perhaps the book takes this concept further but its a shame the film glosses over this.

The acting is actually pretty damn good across the board considering this is ‘just another teen adventure film’. Dylan O’Brian who plays our hero Thomas is particularly good; when he arrives in the glade you really believe that he feels scared and disorientated and similarly the lure of the maze feels particularly believable in his hands.

Again though this is where the film is underdeveloped. Within minutes all the teenagers remember their name but that’s it – no other memories come back. Thomas seemingly doesn’t remember that he was ever scared or confused because almost immediately he wants to go in this ominous mountain of a maze. At least find out people’s names first? I mean you wouldn’t take a single driving lesson and go cool – bring out the F1 cars.

After a while Thomas gets his wish and enters the maze and unfortunately enough for him it’s at night time where the maze is filled with these cool part robot, part squid, part cat things that have the sole purpose of killing everything they see. The scenes in the maze are really fun to watch and make up for a lack of world building elsewhere in the film. There’s also enough of these moments to keep your interest throughout the full hour and 50 minutes.

After Thomas becomes the first person to survive a night in the maze a woman is sent into the glade for the first time ever. I know what you are thinking; A love interest in a teen movie? Surely not.

I say love interest but really it’s like giving a pet to a ten year old because she gets all the attention when she first arrives and then she is just sort of ignored. They don’t even change her water.

One of the worst parts about the film is the reveal where Thomas remembers that he is somehow intrinsically connected to why everyone is trapped in the maze. There is no reference point for this. Simply proclaiming that ‘it’ is his fault means nothing because you don’t know what ‘it’ is in the first place.

All this builds up to a rather rushed ending that feels like it has chopped too much out of the book when translating this to a film but for all its faults it is a surprisngly enjoyable film and definitely worth a watch if you can find your way out of your home and down to the cinema.

Go See

  • The maze running
  • Lots of promising ideas
  • The ravagers

Avoid

  • Probably misses a lot of nuance from the book
  • The ending is kind of rubbish
  • Underdeveloped society within the maze

Overall

3-5-stars

 

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Gone Girl

Love and Marriage go Together Like a Missing Carriage

Ben Affleck is at h… WAIT!! don’t go!?

Still here? OK. Ben Affleck is at his best when he plays a vulnerable/troubled character as he did in the brilliant Argo or when he plays the loser like he did in Good Will Hunting.

When he is playing almost any other character role, like most people, I find him kind of dull to watch. I mean he doesn’t have the natural smarm that makes me want to punch George Clooney and he doesn’t have the I’m-awesome-and-I-don’t-care style that Robert Downey Junior carries.

In short and without spoilers; Gone Girl is about a girl who is gone. OK, that was dumb. It’s about the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and is not so much a whodunnit mystery but rather a “did her husband do it” mystery. Ben Affleck is actually a really good casting choice for the role of Amy’s husband Nick and it has to be said; he was very good in Gone Girl, only out-shined by Rosamund Pike.

The reason he is a good casting choice is because the film starts with a smarmy and confident Nick Dunne finding out that his wife Amy is missing, which at first he seems rather unfazed by. At this point you can’t help but find him as annoying as those jeb-ends who take photos with iPads at famous monuments but that suits the character. As the film progresses we learn more about Nick’s life and he becomes more and more of a conflicted character which brings out his best performance and really keeps your attention again suiting the character.

In case you didn’t know the film is based on a book of the same name. Now, I haven’t read… a book… so I can’t tell you how closely it follows the novel but I can tell you to avoid any plot spoilers (don’t worry this review is spoiler free). If you hear someone talking about the film then put your finger in your ears, sing “la la la”, run away and go watch this film for the plot twists because it’s brilliant and ironically one of it’s only minor downfalls.

We actually find out who did it about the half way through the film – thankfully that is not the end of the story by any means. This is undoubtedly one of the high points in the movie but it does means that the next 15-20 minutes fell like a bit of an anti-climax; it’s almost like a mid-season break in TV series.

Then, like a good wine, the film keeps getting better the longer you leave it. We find out more about what makes Amy tick and what makes her explode. Rosamund Pike delivers a full-bodied performance – quite literally in some cases – but these fruity notes give way to a refined ending, which is left frustratingly open making you salivate for more.

A lot of David Fincher’s work holds social statements to decorate his films narrative and Gone Girl is no different. It poses questions around the sanctity of marriage, the interpretation of domestic abuse and it also pokes fun at the fickle nature of shitty talk shows and biased news casts. These social statements are subtle enough so that it doesn’t clutter or over-power the film but adds depth not only to the screenplay but also to the characters on screen.

The only minor criticisms I had were that many of the supporting characters had jarring accents and the editing at the start of the film seems a little ‘choppy’. Others may find the film a bit long at 149 minutes but I never felt bored because once again David Fincher has given us a fantastic film.

Go See

  • Rosamund Pike
  • The twist
  • It’s another fantastic Fincher film… what more do you need to know.

Avoid

  • It’s long
  • It feels like there are 2 endings
  • Some grating accents and acting

Overall

4-5-stars

Dracula Untold

Let the Games Begin

In university I wrote my thesis about how a good fight is more often than not actually just a dance scene. Ok, I know strictly come dancing doesn’t have people getting punched through windows – although maybe it should. Fight scenes, like dance scenes, need to have to have a rhythm to it, it has to be fluid, dynamic and perfectly timed to keep the viewers interest.

I had high hopes for Dracula Untold because the visceral trailer captured my attention due to the twirling movements displayed on screen. I knew this wouldn’t be an Oscar winning film but figured it would be thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

What we get instead of a danse macabre is cheesy melodrama. It’s a shame that the film didn’t fully embrace the action genre in the same way that Boris Johnson fully embraces bonkers because it actually has a lot going for it.

The sets are good, the cinematography is great and the costume design is brilliant. The casting of our anti-hero Vlad, played by Luke Evans is also spot on. There is something about him that makes him a highly believable Dracula. A focused look in his eye that shows a weird, morally ambiguous, compassion for friends yet hatred for his foes.

The action sequences are of course great too but they are no more numerous and are barely any longer than what you have seen in the trailer. What we are left with in between these sections is soppy drama.

The saturated lighting and overacting in these scenes mixed with some crappy romantic twinkly music reminded me of parts of twilight. It ends up almost being a satirical version of itself.

The plot is simple enough; it’s how Vlad became Dracula whilst trying to protect his town and people. The only thing you are left guessing is will he or won’t he become the Lord of darkness… only you know he will because: Dracula.

The light plot makes the supporting cast mostly irrelevant with perhaps the exception of Tywin Lannister… sorry, master vampire (Charles Dance). Apart from Dracula the other characters aren’t really given much life but actually the film gets away with thanks the films aforementioned plus points.

If the trailer for this film has put a glamour on you then by all means go see it just be aware it lacks that killer bite to make it a great film.

Go See

  • Action scenes are still good fun
  • Beautifully shot
  • Beautiful costumes and scenery

Avoid

  • Soppy romance sections
  • All the best bits are in the trailer
  • Lacking in story development

Overall

3-stars

What We Did On Our Holiday

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film that feels so much like a eulogy to the loss of a friend. At times it’s touching and clearly a deeply personal film yet there is an overall feeling that you are a voyeur looking at something you know you shouldn’t.

I couldn’t help feel slightly awkward after watching. It’s like heading home after a few beers you feel warm and cosy but then you stumble past a woman crying. Awkward! Do I try help or do I pretend I didn’t see anything, continue home and wake up in the laundry basked confused, half naked and marinated in apricot jam.

It’s going to be really hard to elaborate whilst not spoiling the film but here goes. The basic premise is that a dysfunctional family goes to see their granddad in Scotland for his 75th birthday. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events the family learns to come together in the end.

The film opens with Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) stressing and arguing as they desperately try to get their 3 young kids into a car in a scene that is probably all too familiar for some parents.

Its quickly apparent that this is a low budget film and whilst this isn’t always a bad thing; this film certainly could have done with some polish.

The lighting is especially poor and the cinematography isn’t great as there is little in the way of tracking and panning shots to keep it visually interesing. It all combines to make the film feel like an extra long TV show.

The way that Doug and Abi are on the back foot when it comes to their kids also reminded me TV show; Outnumbered which, like this film, was also made by the BBC.

It’s only when the family arrives in Scotland that the film really gets going, thankfully though you don’t have to wait for too long for this. Doug and Abi meet up with Doug’s brother Gavin (played by a rather excellent Ben Miller) and conflicts of personality keeps the adults in a perpetual state of bickering. It’s here where we see the films biggest asset, Grandad Gordy (Billy Connolly).

Gordy’s outlook on life is so far removed from the squabbling of the other adults that the quiet moments where he is simply content with being beside a Loch becomes quite poignant when juxtaposed with Gavin’s technology laden house or Doug’s fast paced London lifestyle.

Gordy’s jovial and care free attitude means that he can quickly become the children’s best friend and mentor. This innocence is undoubtedly touching and leads to the films biggest plot hooks, which ends up being absurd but funny nonetheless.

Unfortunately the scenes with Gordy and the kids are too few and far between to keep your interest.

We are thrown back into the birthday party that is wrapped up quickly and the proceeding events even more so which mutes any potential moral messaging about not taking life too seriously… maybe it was marmalade and not apricot jam?!

That said there is a really heartfelt ending that rounds up a nostalgic look at the life of an old man. It’s clear to see that this was written and/or directed by someone who had the utmost respect and admiration for his Grandad.

Go See

  • A decent feel good film
  • Billy Connolly is excellent
  • Poignant and touching

Avoid

  • Uninspiring beginning 
  • Feels like a TV show
  • End of the party was underdeveloped

Overall

3-stars

Subscription, subscription, subscription!

Have you noticed how everything nowadays is a subscription service?

When I first wrote that line it had digital media instead of the word ‘everything’ but the more I thought about it, the more ‘everything’ seemed appropriate.

Think about it. Netflix or hulu plus or amazon prime offer tv and film. Spotify or Deezer or Music Unlimited offer music. PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live or EA Access offers games. But it goes deeper than that; you essentially pay a subscription service for your gym and you probably have one set up as a direct debit for your phone, your internet, your car insurance.

What you might not know is that there is one for your local cinema as well. Cineworld are the only cinema that currently offers an ‘all you can eat’ movie service in the UK- at least that I know of – and it provides phenomenal value for money. It certainly isnt a subscrip-off… Moving on. Cheap puns aside, thats the only thing you are looking for in a subscription service; value for money and that’s what the Unlimited scheme offers.

So let’s do the numbers. This year I have seen 51 films at the cinema. If we take the average price of a film at the cinema to be about £9 then that all adds up to be £459 that I should have spent. In actuality I’ve only spent £196.80 and there are still 3 months of films left!

OK. So I hear you saying that there simply isn’t 51 films that are worth seeing in a year? Fair point. But how do you know if you haven’t seen them?

Let’s look at it this way. That’s only 2 films a month to get your money back and unless you have no interest in films (why are you reading my blog then?!) I’m sure you could find 2 films a month that you would like to watch if not love to watch?

I thought as much. Now let me ask you another question. How many times have you been bored enough to watch the X – Factor or I dunno Holiday Caravans Under the Hammer or Finland’s Best Pet Costumes or something equally uninteresting ? Exactly. You may as well go see a new film, chances are you may like it and it’s effectively free. You might even discover a love for a genre you never knew you liked.

Now let’s be clear I have no affiliation with Cineworld and no sense of loyalty past the fact that the Unlimited scheme is so damn good – in fact this blog probably wouldn’t exist without it. Cineworld aren’t without faults. Like all cinemas the variety of snacks is pretty much limited to popcorn or chocolate, their booking system seems clunky at times (especially for Unlimited members oddly enough) and the new allocated seating hasn’t bedded in yet – “Where would you like to sit”… err I don’t know, how about in the right screen and not on someone’s lap? Fancy giving me some clues?

The service itself does have some downfalls. It’s not on-demand, there is no back catalogue available, any future price increases will feel painful and you have to leave the safety of your own home – sorry!!

That said the benefits are clear; watch any of the latest films as many times as you like on the big screen. You also get money off food and drink.There is a small uplift on 3D films but even those are free if you have been a member for over a year.

Obviously Cineworld won’t complain about you throwing regular money at them but you shouldn’t either because  as far as subscription services go you could do a lot worse than the Unlimited scheme. Whether you decide to sign up or not: go, run, be free, enjoy some moving pictures and keep the film industry alive.