Monthly Archives: January 2015

Big Hero 6

Little big Hiro

Have a kid? Well take them to see this film? Don’t have a kid? Well steal one and take them to see this film because whether you are an adult or a child there is a lot to love about this film entertained all through this film.

Big Hero 6 was a bit of an unknown entity to me until 4 months ago. I’d never heard of the film and I’d never heard of the comic that the film is inspired by but I only needed 2 minutes of trailer to see how adorable Baymax is to set my anticipation higher than Felix Baumgartner.

So for those who don’t know – presumably most people – the film focuses on Hiro Hamada a young genius in the field of robotics who sinks into a depression after his brother dies in fire. After realising that there is perhaps someone responsible for his brothers death he sets out to find those responsible. This is done with the help of his friends; Honey Lemon, Go-Go, Fred, Wasabi and more importantly, Baymax!

Ah Baymax; the sole reason you have to see this film. Well, not quite, but near enough. Baymax is a medical robot designed by Hiro’s brother but is covered with inflatable vinyl to make the robot less threatening.

Baymax is slightly podgy, runs like a toddler and when added to his minimalist design aesthetic he is one of the most endearing animated characters I’ve ever seen. His charm runs deeper than just his looks though. It’s the way he moves by trying to be conscious of his environment even though his portly stature doesn’t often allow it. Whilst physical comedy is the thing that makes Baymax stand out he takes everything literally which gives plenty of scope for fun and witty dialogue between Baymax and Hiro.

If you imagine a cross between a toddler, an inflatable armchair, C-3Po you have a decent pre-conception of Baymax.

The two characters quickly become inseparable and the way that this friendship evolves comes close to pulling on those tear ducts. Yet outside of these main 2 characters the rest of the group aren’t given enough time to develop. When first introduced I found the other four members positively irritating but what little character development there is did thaw my skepticism to them by the end. The problem is that the main two characters are so mesmerising that even characters that are “OK” become lost and bland as a result.

It’s not just the other characters that were a bit of a let down. Some of the animation style was a little too similar to The Incredibles most notably how Aunt Cass had a similar look to Elastagirl but the whole city of San Fransokyo also felt too familiar. It’s almost as if Disney had taken a Pixar blueprint and simply copied it in to the film. Of course by saying that I am only giving the film a back handed compliment given how strong the Pixar back catalogue is.

There is one character whose striking design really does stand out and that is our main villain. The look has Japanese manga written all over it and I loved it. The fact that the character is silent and always wearing a kabuki mask and long trench coat makes personifies the domineering figure that a villain should be.

Unfortunately I can’t say much more without stepping into a spoiler minefield whilst wearing magnetic boots but I can touch upon the “super-power” that grants the power to control very small objects. This makes for some stunning animated sequences as the villain can create an almost unlimited range of shapes and creations that, again, wouldn’t feel out of place in Japanese manga. These small objects also provide a visual barrage of tiny particle effects and with so much going on at any one time it is impossible to get bored when the kabuki mask gets screen time.

This is the first Disney animation to utilise any of Marvel’s intellectual property that lays a great foundation for a bigger better sequel. Whilst it is by no means bad It’s also not the big hero 6 out of 5 I was anticipating.

Go See

  • Baymax
  • Kabuki masked villain
  • Hiro and Baymax’s secret handshake. Worth the entry fee alone!

Avoid

  • Aunt Cass’ is a bit
  • We don’t see a whole lot of the other 4 friends
  • An animation style that you have probably seen before

Overall

4-stars

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The Theory of Everything

Amazing!… In Theory.

When you think of Stephen Hawking what comes to mind? Brilliant physicist? Tragic crippling disease? One third Dalek? All the above?

So if you had any questions about his life you’d want to know what he was like before his muscular dystrophy, or perhaps how and when he deteriorated, maybe even how he became a household name and how he did so whilst in a wheelchair right?

What you probably don’t care about is how and why his first marriage broke up and how his second marriage came to be.

The theory of everything lingers too long on this part of his life. Maybe I’m alone in this respect but I like to think that people’s private lives are private and apart from anything else I find “hot celeb goss” as tedious as doing household chores whilst listening to white noise and being drip fed soylent green.

That’s not to say that it has been executed badly. Quite the opposite actually. It was as interesting as it could be, but the point is that it’s not what I wanted to see. The start and the end of this film is where it shines for me and a lot of that is down to a more interesting subject matter on display.

The remaining part of that interest is the sheer brilliance that’s drizzled on screen by Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking. If you thought that you were watching an extended cut of a Stephen Hawking documentary you’d be readily excused. The on screen representation of Hawking’s diminishing motor system is startlingly realistic. It’s so convincing that it becomes easy to overlook the subtleties that Redmayne’s acting achieves by making Hawking appear to be a slightly nervous geek even among his fellow Cambridge elite.

Redmayne is surrounded by a supporting cast who are all on point and there is a real sense of friendship that shines through that silver screen. Yet this is a biopic through and through, it’s a story that is relatively well known so if you are not interested in his life, his affliction or his works then there is little in the film to tempt you.

Again, my only real gripe about the film is the amount of time devoted to Hawking’s personal life. It’s just not as interesting of visually striking as his formative years and also leaves a rather large plot hole. We see Hawking being lauded for his professional life then nothing for another hour of the film so when we get seeing his career he is suddenly a worldwide superstar who is jet setting off around the world and being ‘papped’ yet we don’t really see this rise to stardom and that is one of the most intriguing aspects of his life.

The only other thing I could hold against the film is its grainy aesthetic to match the 1970s setting. It’s been done a million times before and I it does add a level of realism to the on-screen imagery. In The Theory of Everything though a bit of polish would have been a better choice in my book. There is one moment that comes to mind to illustrate this: Hawking gazes up at the stars in wonderment, the camera then pans up to show the star filled sky but it’s grainy and lacks the splendour that a less grainy film quality could have easily added.

In summation the film is technically excellent. It is superbly acted and has a wonderful, if well known, story that’s well executed. However, insisting on having a major part of the film dedicated to marital life and overlooking the very thing he is famous for did very little for me. I’m certainly glad I saw film but it’s not something with any replay appeal, which to me counts for a lot but not everything… in theory.

Go See

  • Portrayal of muscular degeneration
  • Great performances all round
  • If you want to know a bit more about Stephen Hawking

Avoid

  • Too much time spent on Hawking’s family life
  • Displeasing visual aesthetic

Overall

4-stars

Annie

It’s a hard ’nuff film to watch

It’s amazing achievement that a musical film, which is based on an established Broadway musical, can crumple in a heap harder than a car crash using 1960’s safety standards and it does so purely based on the musical numbers in the film.

How the film manages to make them the absolute worst part of a musical film is beyond me. In fact it’s almost worth seeing just for the sheer farce of it all.

Now I haven’t actually ever seen Annie the theatre production nor have I seen the 1999 movie, nor the 1982 movie of the same name. Neither am I a musical aficionado, though I’ve seen my fair share. What I am trying to say is that I have no pre-conceptions of this film before seeing it.

I can only imagine that this film was once quite decent but then someone from marketing came along and demanding more material objects thrown in like bigger LCD displays and helicopters, less dancing and generally more douche-baggery wildly spewed on screen. I feel the phrase “no, we need to cheese-it more” was the yardstick used.

This film, in a nutshell, a bunch of shit adverts strung together by a generic drama that is only made palpable by Jamie Fox who is by far and away the best thing in the film by being both funny, assertive and compassionate. Oh, also there is a cute dog which is also a highlight.

A fucking dog. That’s one of the highlights.

It’s actually quite a shame because the film did have a bit of promise. The setting has been changed to be a little black girl instead of a little ginger haired white girl and that’s perfectly fine because the ideology of the film is about a foster child going from a bad situation to finding love and compassion in a new foster home. This motif absolutely must transcends race and even gender because every kid deserves the best shot in life. If you don’t think that’s true then 1930s Germany will telegram you shortly no doubt.

So the setting is perfectly fine, interesting even. We then have Cameron Diaz who actually plays quite a good shambolic drunk foster carer by taking up the role of Hannigan who initialy looks after Annie and a handful of other kids. Unfortunately ahe doesn’t feel brutal enough to really make any impact on the kids lives or indeed, those painfully sitting through the film. Whenever she shouts at the children in her care they just sort sit there emotionless and just shrug it off.

This blaze attitude is carried all through the film by Annie (Quvenzhan√© Wallis) so you don’t ever root for her to thrive under the care of Will Stacks (Jamie Fox). Even when she get’s kidnapped by people pretending to be her real parents the only emotion is ‘meh, oh well!’. Just another ordinary day being kidnapped.

Surely this must have been toned down in order to make it fully accessible by younger children as a family friendly film but there is something to be said about making Diaz’s character more menacing because really she doesn’t seem that bad. Even if you let this aspect slide though, there is no excuse for the piss poor musical numbers.

Almost every musical number is dubbed. Ok, fine. But there is so little background noise going on that it feels like a shallow music video that is obviously, and often poorly, dubbed. There is only one scene where Annie sings and it sounds like her voice, singing on location and it’s a shame on 2 fronts, it stands out as bizarre because it is so different to the other highly polished yet soulless mp3s that are laced over the top but also because Quvenzhan√© Wallis actually has a quite sweet voice and it’s simply wasted here.

Then there’s the dance numbers. So I have been break dancing for about 12 years, 15 years? I loose count. Whilst I barely have a chance to do it anymore I still get excited by interesting dance scenes. Again, the film shows some promise at the start with the ‘hard knock life’ song containing some ingenuity when Hannigan’s foster kids, including Annie, clean the house whilst dancing.

After that scene though the best dancing can be vividly described as ‘walking around a bit’. In one half arsed attempt at creating something that crawls above the level of woeful; Annie, Grace (Rose Byrn) who plays Will Stacks’ assistant and some other random woman literally walk around Stack’s penthouse apartment stepping on tables, hugging sofas and licking TV screens in awe of how much money Stacks has.

This is are as sophisticated as the scene get and if this is considered to be a dance number then you could argue getting stabbed is a professional appendectomy.

I deliberated giving this 2 star, with one extra given purely for Jamie fox who, again, was really really good but the more I think about it the more i’m disappointed with the film. Bring your kids to see it by all means but I suggest you bring an ipod, play some soothing rainforest or whale sounds and have an hour and a half snooze. You’ll have a better time.

Go See

  • Child friendly family film
  • Jamie Fox

Avoid

  • Terrible song/dance numbers
  • Generic supporting cast
  • Lacking any real drama

Overall

1-stars

Unbroken

Ego Trippin’

“Be Moved” is Sony’s current corporate slogan but I’m thinking that “Be Hacked” might be a more worthy mantra.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about their recent hacking woes because of the film about assassinating North Korea’s leader: The Interview. Part of that hacked material were internal emails claiming that Angelina Jolie is “a minimally talented spoiled brat” with a “rampaging ego”. Egotistical spoilt brat she may be but minimally talented? Let’s find out.

Unbroken is her directorial debut and is one that certainly doesn’t pull any punches. If you haven’t heard anything about it; the film is based on a true story and is centered around Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) an unruly dropout kid who ends up being rather brilliant at running. He becomes a high school track star and even runs in 1936 Berlin olympics. Louis’ dream is to win a medal in the forthcoming Tokyo olympics in 1940 but the outbreak of world war 2 sees him drafted in as a aircraft bombardier. After his Plane goes down, presumably somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, he is captured and becomes a Japanese prisoner of war.

What’s great about the film is that you really aren’t sure if he is going to live or die. The film could easily be tales recanted by those who knew him or it could be his auto-biography. The film achieves this by having frequent aspects of danger thrown at Louis’ life and this also helps to keep the pace of the film always moving. Whilst this was quite a long film it never felt boring or slow but neither did it ever particularly zip along.

I realise the film is meant to be about Louis but part of this world is his relationship with fellow officer Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and this is one of the areas where the film falls down. Jack’s chemistry with almost all of his fellow compatriots doesn’t have enough time to properly gel and there isn’t even instant chemistry to make you believe that he and Phil are best friends. This is a trend that continues with the other POWs he meets along the way.

I’m really happy to see Jack O’Connell playing a lead role because I think he is an excellent actor. I missed the chance to ’71 – his last film as a lead role – but was impressed with him Starred Up. Both of those films are gritty and brutal and it’s nice to see a softer side to O’Connell; a quiet, introspective, performance that is the antithesis of Starred Up proves that he has range as an actor if nothing else.

Another standout performance was that of Takamasa Ishihara who plays Watanabe; the captain at the POW camp. Watanabe is clearly psychotic and most likely a sadist as he seems to enjoy beating up the POWs and as mentioned above the film doesn’t pull any punches in this respect. There is a cold glint in Ishihara’s eyes that screams the same traits as Watanabe’s listed above and weirdly the chemistry between Ishihara and O’Connell is probably the one that has the most spark. This really helps you get invested in both these two integral characters.

Angelina Jolie could quite easily have slipped down the “Murica! Fuck yeah!” route but thankfully manages to avoid making the sweeping connotation that all Japanese people are pitiless brutes lacking any sort of remorse. One scene does show an unknown civilian part of Japan that is now lying in ruins which again helps to keep neutral balance of good vs evil which in turn keeps the focus on the individual characters in the film.

The climax of the film is the lifting of the beam, which is the image on the poster of the film. Without going to much into detail for fear of spoilers the scene is both heart-warming and saddening at the same time.

Whilst the story is hugely compelling and the acting is on point for the majority of the cast this well shot directorial debut is not without it’s faults. The main criticism here is the editing where shots seem to linger too long or be cut too short all too often. It’s often jarring.

Furthermore the narrative structure is disjointed. The start of the film leads with modern day interspersed with flashbacks of Louis’ past. This is fine on it’s own, after all there are numerous examples of films utilising broken chronology to build a film, but this story telling method stops after 30 minutes so the feel of the start of the film is totally different to the middle and end which spends all of 20 seconds in a brief flashback for the rest of the film.

I’m not sure if it was the disjointed approach or just a rather undramatic action scene at the start of the film but I was starting to wonder if this would be 2 hours of wasted time. Thankfully things really start picking up when Louis’s plane crashes.

Considering it’s Jolie’s first film in the director’s chair it’s a very good debut. Sure it’s not without it’s faults but its something that can easily be addressed in future films. Whether Jolie really is egotistical I couldn’t tell you but this moving and touching piece on Louis Zamperini’s life clearly shows that Jolie’s talent is far greater than minimal.

Go See

  • Moving and touching true story
  • The beam lift scene
  • Jack O’Connell

Avoid

  • Poor editing
  • Lacking chemistry between some of the characters
  • Starts a bit dull

Overall

4-stars