By Liam Alexander
Ah yes, we’re nearing Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, and being the DC fan I am, we thought it’d be a good idea to take things back a little bit to the film that started the 21st century DC film craze, Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan’s revival of the caped crusader, a pivotal shift in the way comic book films were going to be perceived by the general movie going audience. Gone were the days of goofy fun, over the top villains and nipples…god…damn…BAT NIPPLES (Sorry, Batman and Robin does things to me). Say hello to a seriously serious crime drama, because that is what Batman Begins is, a crime drama…with a guy that dresses up every night like a bat. It may sound like it can’t really work, how could it work? The last time we saw Batman on screen was way back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was blasting ice puns right in our face. How could this film possibly work? But oh boy, it sure does with Christopher Nolan, Warner Bros & DC cooking up the first true masterpiece of comic book cinema all the way back in 2005, and it's the best revival of a character since Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction…I had to.
Batman Begins is the origin story of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), better known as Batman. The film follows Bruce from a child, developing his fear of bats and witnessing the brutal murder of his parents in the back alleys of Gotham, his training with the league of shadows all the way to his first act of saving Gotham city from a poisonous toxin attack as Batman. This already separates Batman Begins from every single live action batman film before it. We actually truly care and understand the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character within the first 20 minutes of the film, setting Bruce up as a prisoner in an unnamed camp, a trainee under Ra’s (Liam Neeson) mentorship and a broken human. That is something that Christian Bale excels in for the entire trilogy and especially this film, he understands that Bruce Wayne is really a facade for Batman, they’re separate characters and he plays them to a tee. Bale is the most complex and yes, I’m going to say it, BEST, Batman to ever hit the silver screen. He’s believable as a playboy billionaire, a broken man and a crime fighting bad ass… however, that could change come March 24th.
The film delves into Bruce’s training with the league of shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul. Liam Neeson absolutely kills it as Ra’s, and we don’t even know that he is Ra’s until later in the film, but he plays the wise and skilled master so well. He is one of the antagonists of the film, as well as Scarecrow, who is played exceptionally by Cillian Murphy. That is one of the major major reasons why Batman Begins and Nolan’s Batman Trilogy transcend and stand above many other comic book films, the villains. Neeson as Ra’s and Murphy as Scarecrow are fully realised characters, almost being complete parallels of Bruce Wayne and Batman, that is what makes them so compelling. Think about it, Ra’s and Batman both want to sweep the streets of Gotham, to make it a better city, they both have similar goals, but are on opposite sides of the same coin (yes that was a two face reference, more in The Dark Knight review). Batman just wants to do it with a little less deadly hallucinogenic poison. This provides amazing drama between both characters, allowing Ra’s to break out of the simple conventions of the “villain” and become something much more, a character who just thinks he's doing the right thing.
Now, let's take a look at the real heroes of this film (yes that was a Deadpool reference in a Batman Review, calm down Liam), director Christopher Nolan and co-screenwriter David S Goyer. Both Nolan and Goyer rejuvenate life back into the Batman franchise with a film focused more on story and characters then explosive action. Christopher Nolan brings the darkness, mood and grittiness that has always been sitting there in the comics just waiting, begging, screaming, to be put on screen and he just does it so well. The mess that is Gotham City is captured beautifully by frequent Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister, who relishes in the darkness of the film. It all feels real, tangible, like this could actually be happening somewhere in the world as I type this very sentence.
Nolan brings insanely good performances from the leads, as well as the supporting characters, including Michael Caine as the soft and caring Alfred Pennyworth, who helps Bruce every night is brilliant, Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox, who infuses some great moments of dry humour as he knows something is up with Bruce’s “strange” requests, and my god, whoever thought of Gary Oldman as the only good cop in the city, Jim Gordon, is a genius. He’s one of the best characters in the film and plays so well with Batman. When Gordon has to operate the Batmobile, I laugh every time at his reaction of its power, and when he utters the line “I gotta get me one of those” it's so, so good. Christopher Nolan constructs a film that not only works exceptionally well dramatically, but it’s also really entertaining. That is great filmmaking.
Now, you couldn’t have possibly thought I'd talk about Batman Begins without mentioning Hans Zimmer’s and John Newton Howard’s superb score, could you? Zimmer and Newton’s score for Batman Begins is brilliant. It encompasses the darkness, the epic moments and the tragedy of the character and the world, and it does what any great film score should do, go mainly unnoticed, but elevate the scenes to a new height when it is used. Zimmer and Nolan are probably one of my favourite cinematic relationships in Hollywood. My favourite track from the Batman Begins score is probably ‘Corynorhinus’, it’s exceptional and emotionally charged. Zimmer’s score’s for Batman only get better from here (hint hint The Dark Knight).
The ending to this film is one of the greatest teases ever, the joker playing card made me squeal the first time I watched the film and still does every time. With Batman Begins, Nolan brought back the caped crusader to all his glory. He gave the movie goers and the fans the Batman they deserved, it’s treated seriously and is first and foremost a great crime film, superhero second. It’s impact on Pop Culture and cinema is profound, Batman Begins may just as well be the French Revolution of Comic Book movies, but wait until my next review of Nolan’s 2nd Batman film, the Renaissance of superhero cinema, THE DARK KNIGHT. Ah yes…history references in a Batman Begins review, gotta love it.
By Chris Campo
Spider-Man is without a doubt one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. After 5 films and 2 franchises, people still went nuts when it was announced he would finally join the Avengers in this summer's Captain America: Civil War. Why? Because Spider-Man has always been a fan favorite for comic fans and movie fans. Anticipating his appearance in Civil War, I feel it's time to talk about all 5 Spider-Man films. Sam Rami's 2002 film based on the character is one of the first comic book films people really attached to... and for good reason.
Spider-Man follows the story of Peter Parker (Toby Maguire), a nerdy, yet brilliant, high school student. After a spider bite on a school feild trip, Peter learns he has aquired the powers of a spider. After the death of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), Peter suits up in red and blue as Spider-Man to use his powers for good. Soon, however, he must face the evil Norman Osborn (Willem Defoe), who's flying around as the villainous Green Goblin, as well as facing the challenges of growing up along side his best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), and long time crush, Mary Jane-Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite films. It was when I was young and it still is. Its not the best Spider-Man film, it certainly has its flaws, but it's probably my personal favorite. I adore it. It not only has a special place in my heart, but also a special place in comic book film history. The effects are revolutionary, the style is quirky and the characters are relatable. It's damn near impossible not to love this movie. This film is just so well made and the love I have for the character, the cast and the crew is incredibly tangible.
Toby Maguire, in my opinion, is the best Peter Parker so far. While I think Andrew Garfield embraces Spider-Man better, Toby is pitch perfect as Peter. He's relatable and believably geeky. All the performances are great, though. Willem Dafoe is utterly brilliant as the evil genius Norman Osborn. He's chillingly creepy and a really, really good villian, and while the design of his costume is rather bad, Green Goblin is probably my favorite villain from all the films. I wish I could say that either the lead protagonist or the lead antagonist were the standouts of the film, but easily the best performance in this movie is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. He steals every scene he's in and he's extremely funny. It's probably the single best casting for a character in a comic book film.
The action in this film is beautiful, too. Director Sam Rami uses such a variety of ways to film action, making every action set piece memorable in a different way. Nothing is as impressive as the train scene in Spider-Man 2, but it's still breathtaking, in particular the final fight, which I'll keep spoiler free. It's this final fight that's so well done, though, starting with a suspenseful sequence on a bridge, followed by an absolutely brutal final confrontation between Spidey and the Green Goblin. It's so unlike the CGI fests we get today in literally every single comic book film. It's a simple fight that's ten times more personal and satisfying than a huge battle or insane set peices.
This film also has a ton of heart. Whether it's heartbreaking or heartwarming, the film knows how to make me emotional each time I see it. The death of Uncle ben is earth shattering, and devastating for both Peter and the audience. Also, the film is quite charming, with many scenes making you smile and laugh. It truly feels like a journey and despite it being about a man with the powers of a spider, it feels human and real. I get goosebumps and emotional during the film's final scene probably every time I watch it.
It would be a disservice to the film to not mention the music. Wow. Some of my favorite music ever composed for film, Danny Elfman's score is just as iconic to me as the Star Wars or Jurassic Park theme. It's hard to imagine these films without it, and I doubt the film would be half as impactful. It's beautiful music, for a Spider-Man film or not. Out of all the Spider-Man scores out there, the music in this film is certainly my favourite.
I won't let the nostalgia get to me, "Spider-Man" has its issues. For one, as I already mentioned, the Green Goblin suit is just goofy. Maybe it would've passed in the 90's, but this film is 3 years after the 90's. Also, there's some scenes that are just odd, like when the Green Goblin throws a grenade that turns people into skeletons, or when Peter hides from Norman and Aunt May by sticking to the ceiling. Its a cute scene, but it just seems like they would obviously see him. Also, I know it was true to the comic, but Mary Jane is an awful character. She's a weak, cliché female role who is also a damsel in distress, which is a signature of her character, but doesn't quite work. Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man fixed everything about Spider-Man's love interest.
To sum up, Spider-Man is one of my all time favorite films. It's charming, action packed, beautiful and fun. It's really easy to see why Spider-Man is a fan favorite character based on this movie alone. The film itself may not be perfect, but it's perfect enough for me.
4 1/2 Stars
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
We are now under a month away from The Force Awakens. A MONTH! And what perfect timing. I've already reviewed the three Star Wars films we shouldn't speak of. The three unbearable ones are out of the way. It's about time that we looked past those failures and looked towards the light. With just a month left before we return to my favourite galaxy, it's time we think positively, and it's time to review the 4 Star Wars movies I actually like. So..... let's begin.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith begins, like all Star Wars films do, with a shot in space. We pan down to a battle raging on, Anakin (Haydn "Can't Act If His Life Depended On It" Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewen McGregor) amongst some of the republic members. They're here to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the evil clutches of General Grievous (Matthew Wood). Upon their return, Palpatine closes in with Anakin, attempting to turn him against his master and the rest of the Jedi council. He attempts to bring young Anakin towards the dark side, bribing him with ever-lasting life and the opportunity to save his now pregnant wife, Padmé (Natalie Portman) from death. It's an offer that's hard to resist, and so begins his transformation into the character we know and love; Darth Vader.
The opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith is one of my favourite moments in this entire prequel trilogy. The spectacle and the visual effects are jaw dropping. Seeing a battle of this scale is quite exciting, especially after being forced to witness the poor excuses for battles in the previous two films. We open with a two minute tracking shot through space, Anakin and Obi-Wan making their way through the chaos. Unlike the other CGI battles from the previous prequels, in Revenge of the Sith, the battle looks phenomenal. The special effects are on point, the visuals capable of blowing my mind every time I watch the film. It's quite the sequence.
Revenge of the Sith certainly does have the most impressive visuals effects of the lot, although they're not perfect. The big, epic space sequences and the final battle on Mustafa are without flaw, but a lot of the character designs and smaller moments are, much like most of the first two films, cringe worthy. There's a moment in which R2D2 takes on two Super Battle Droids and it looks like a b-grade cartoon. The effects are on par with the movie Free Birds, and we all know that film wasn't very good. Like, at all.
None of the Star Wars movies ever seem to have a very in-depth plot and with Revenge of the Sith, the same goes. It's a two and a half hour film about Anakin's turn to the dark side. That's it. And it works. It's the Sith coming to power, bringing down the last of the Jedi. There's a few subplots here and there, all involving a battle of some sorts, but nothing too important. The General Grievous plot, while entertaining, can pretty much be cut out of the film entirely. It won't change the final outcome in the slightest. After all, he does get killed off about halfway through.
Thankfully, the plot of Anakin's turn is an engaging one. It's what we would've seen had Luke caved in to his father's wishes in the original trilogy, and it's thoroughly entertaining. Despite some bad acting, over the course of this trilogy we've slowly seen Anakin's transformation. It's been an ongoing thing, starting with his temper and eventually evolving into the murder of younglings, fellow Jedi and then the attempted murder of his wife and Obi-Wan. Hayden Christensen still can't act, but he's given the opportunity to look angry, and it appears that he's better at doing that than he was with everything else he was made to do in these movies.
Amongst the many battles in this movie, one involves Yoda travelling off to Kashyyyk, the home of the wookies. It's here he runs into a young Chewbacca, before he met Han Solo, obviously. Now, Chewbacca is one of my favourite characters in this entire franchise and so I don't know why, but his appearance in this movie really annoys me. It's forced and pointless, the battle only in the movie to have yet another throwback to the original trilogy. If it had just been another random wookie, that probably would've been a bit better. It still would've been pointless, but it wouldn't feel as forced as Chewbacca was.
In the original trilogy, all we ever saw of Yoda was a sassy, wise cracking old Jedi isolated on an empty planet. In Revenge of the Sith, we finally get to see the Jedi in action. Sure, he's not as sassy or hilarious as he was in the original trilogy, but he was pretty freaking awesome. Towards the end of the film, Yoda takes on Palpatine, who has now transformed himself into the Emperor of old. The battle is fast and exciting, Yoda showing off just how powerful of a Jedi he really is. We got a brief glimpse of this at the end of Attack of the Clones, but the battle hardly lasted. Here, Yoda proves us to he is worthy of all his perviously mentioned glory.
The first half of Revenge of the Sith is really 50/50 for me. There are some great sequences, like that opening rescue, and then there are some painfully dull sequences, like the whole Padmé romance and visions of the future. Then the whole "execute order 66" montage happens and everything from here on out is wonderful. The Jedi are killed off one by one, Anakin finally turns to the dark side and we get one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire franchise. Not just the prequels, but the franchise. It's dark, it's upsetting and it's hard to turn away from.
That being said, there is one scene in the second half of this movie that I completely despise. Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson) and a group of unnamed Jedi approach Palpatine, hoping to arrest him. However, Palpatine takes out a lightsaber (because fuck it) and takes down the supporting Jedi. Nobody fights back. They just all watch as Palpatine approaches and slaughters them. Why does he even have a lightsaber? Who the hell knows? But that's not his only power. Once down on the ground, Anakin comes to the rescue, slicing off Mace Windu's hand. This gives Palpatine an opportunity to strike, and he does so by shooting his famous lightning from his hands, killing Mace Windu and transforming his figure into what we saw in the original trilogy. He doesn't seem the least bit phased by the fact that he just aged fifty-seven years. And to top it all off? He just randomly appoints Anakin the name of Darth Vader, because fuck you, that's why. It's one of the worst scenes in this entire trilogy, and there are a lot of terrible scenes.
From here, Anakin travels to the lava-planet, Mustafar. Padmé attempts to bring him back to the Jedi, but it's no use. He tries to murder her, Obi-Wan stepping in and putting a stop to it. They then proceed to have a 15-or-so minute fight that's violent, brutal and features edge of your seat thrills. Sure, like every fight in this trilogy, it's overly choreographed, but combined with the terrific visuals, not much can compare to it. It's lengthy and exciting, the battle just going and going and going. When we get to its eventual conclusion, you can really feel the emotional bond these two characters had. Anakin is lying on the ground, limbless and burning away, screaming about how he hates Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan is trying to convince Anakin that he loved him like a brother. It's a scene that really plays with your emotions, and it's unexpectedly grizzly for a Star Wars movie.
But good old Anakin can't die yet. No, Palpatine comes to his rescue, transforming him into Darth Vader once and for all. Why is Palpatine just conveniently on Mustafar at the same time as Anakin and Obi-Wan? Nobody knows. But he is, okay. It's stupid, but it happened, and there's no going back. Anakin is fixed, donning the iconic black suit. Upon hearing of his wife's death (who died from a broken heart.... are you fucking kidding me? A broken heart? Fuck off), Vader lets off a loud "NOOOOOOOO," and it's unintentionally hilarious. In case his legacy wasn't already tarnished by the prequels, it sure as hell was now.
This isn't the only poor wrap up to the story arc of original trilogy characters, either. C3P0 and R2D2 get their memories wiped and are placed on the ship we see them on at the start of Episode IV. There really isn't a lot of ways you could've gotten around the whole R2D2-and-C3P0-stupidly-in-the-prequels thing and so I guess I wouldn't have been happy with any conclusion, but it's just not good. They dug themselves into a hole that they couldn't get out of, and it's really felt. But that's this whole trilogy. Nothing really follows the continuity of the original trilogy.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the prequels. It's dark, action packed and (surprisingly) visually stunning. That being said, it's also a poorly paced, forced and occasionally dull installment, ruining the arcs of multiple characters.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Continuing on with my series of Star Wars reviews is Episode II - Attack of the Clones. While a lot of people aren't fans of The Phantom Menace, I'd argue that people like Attack of the Clones even less, and that is something I simply do not understand. It's not a good movie, but it's miles ahead of Phantom Menace. Although maybe I'm just saying that because I have a love-hate relationship with this movie. Well, technically it's more of a don't hate-kinda hate relationship, but it does change every viewing. I guess this time around it was the don't hate's turn.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones picks up ten years after the events of the last movie. Anakin (Hayden Christiensen) is now a young adult, well versed in the power of the force, returning to meet Padmé (Natalie Portman) for the first time in years. Joining him is his master, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). But when a bounty hunter is sent to kill Padmé, Anakin is assigned to protect her, and the two of them venture off to a safe planet not too far away, and it's here that their forbidden love blossoms. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is sent to investigate Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), a bounty hunter they believe may be behind the attack. It's here that Obi-Wan discovers that Jango has been manufacturing an army of potentially dangerous clones who are waiting around for orders to attack.
In my opinion, Attack of the Clones is a set up from The Phantom Menace. It's not a big step up, but it's certainly an improvement. It's still got a lot of problems and I will delve into those problems shortly, but it's a lot more entertaining than Phantom Menace was, and there's a whole lot less of Jar Jar, thank god. There's actually some action, and the scenes involving Obi-Wan are a blast. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ewan McGregor is the perfect Obi-Wan. He absolutely nails the character, giving it his all in his scenes. He's the sole reason that this movie is mildly watchable.
While The Phantom Menace had the acting capabilities of Liam Neeson, Attack of the Clones does not. Aside from McGregor, one of the only two actors who comes close to being decent is Samuel L. Jackson, yet he doesn't do a damn thing in this movie. He's a walking plot device, merely inserted into the film to allow other characters to mention important aspects of the plot, particularly that of Yoda (Frank Oz) and Obi-Wan. And while the story of how Samuel L. Jackson got a purple lightsaber is quite hilarious in interviews, in the film it just makes no sense, completely contradicting the lore set up in the original trilogy.
The other decent actor in this movie is Christopher Lee, who plays Count Dooku, a Jedi gone rogue. His screen time is limited, but it's worthwhile. Like all of the baddies in this trilogy, he doesn't have an awful lot to do, but at least he makes it to the end of the movie. *cough Darth Maul cough* His character is two dimensional and rather pointless, but it does lead to a somewhat interesting four way battle between him, Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin. It's not the most exciting lightsaber fight ever put on screen, but it's the only lightsaber fight in this movie so I'll take it.
Much like The Phantom Menace, the plot in Attack of the Clones is not a very intricate one, nor a very good one. The film is a big set up for it's CGI finale, which I will get into in just a moment. Throughout the original trilogy, we hear of the clone wars. Obi-Wan mentions that he fought in it, alongside the man who will eventually become Darth Vader, which we all know to be Anakin Skywalker. Attack of the Clones is two hours of build up, ending with the start of the actual war. It's George Lucas slowly telling the origin of Vader over the course of three movies, and once the war starts, you know shit's going to hit the fan pretty soon. You can sense that Vader is just around the corner.
While I admire Lucas' attempt to slowly build up the story of Anakin's turn to the dark side, the journey we get to witness in Attack of the Clones is tiresome. It's a real drag, mostly focussing in on the love between Anakin and Padmé. Neither of there performances are any good, Hayden Christensen putting the legacy of Darth Vader to absolute shame. He portrays a creepy stalker, staring awkwardly at Padmé even after she asks him to stop. At times, his performance can be unbearable, in particular his infamous speech about his hatred for sand. It's just..... it's just not good.
Their love story feels forced, their love never really being felt. You can never see the connection that they have. They just look uncomfortable for the entirety of the film, their dialogue even more cringe worthy than it was in the first film. The Han and Leia love story worked well in the original trilogy, but that's because it felt natural and wasn't the main plot of that trilogy. In Attack of the Clones, it's pretty much the central plot. There's a stupid "Jedi shall not know love" rule that is for some reason implemented and it's just dumb. Jedi could love in the original films, but in the prequels? Cock blocked.
Also in Attack of the Clones is the origin story of young Bobba Fett, played by Daniel Logan. In the original trilogy, Bobba Fett was a man of no words, and for one reason or another, he became a fan favourite. He was a relentless bounty hunter with a legacy. He came to get the job done and he got the job done, and then he went and got killed just thirty minutes into Return of the Jedi, but it's too soon to talk about that. I'm 4 reviews away, so stay tuned for those.
In Attack of the Clones, Bobba Fett is the son of Jango Fett, the previously mentioned bounty hunter who Obi-Wan is investigating. It's here that we get to meet the young Bobba for the first time, and he doesn't make the best first impression. We really didn't need to see the origins of Bobba Fett in this movie, yet George Lucas for some reason wanted everything in the prequels to tie into the original films. I didn't really need to know where this iconic character came from. The fact that we knew so little about him just made him a much cooler character, and now we know his beginnings. Now we know he's doing this for vengeance, and for me, it just took away from the character a little bit. That being said, the shot of Bobba Fett picking up his dad's severed head is still a really cool shot and I love George Lucas for crafting that.
For a movie titled 'Star Wars,' there really isn't a whole lot of stars..... or wars. The majoring of Attack of the Clones is spent on a variety of different planets, featuring a whole lot of politics and space chatter. It's a film scarce on action and heavy on dialogue, and it's not very often that you'll find a well written line. A New Hope really was a miracle because every other George Lucas-written Star Wars film since then just isn't interesting in the least bit. It's slow, mumbled dialogue for two and a half hours, delivered by actors who clearly look bored. Yay?
As for the subtitle, Attack of the Clones, surely this means we're in for some attacking of clones, correct? NOPE. Both 'Star Wars' and 'Attack of the Clones' are misleading because this film lacks all of that. It's not until the final fifteen or so minutes that any attacking takes place, and the battle doesn't make that much of an impact. Padmé, Anakin and Obi-Wan have all got themselves captured and are forced to battle it out against a trio of blood thirsty creatures. This scene, I'll admit, is quite a bit of fun. The dialogue is awful, but the situation is just what you'd want in a Star Wars movie. It's adventurous and thrilling. If only the rest of the trilogy was as well.
The fun then continues as a group of ships, commanded by Yoda, come flying down into the arena, starting a ginormous droid vs jedi battle. It's fun while it lasts, but it doesn't last long. The battle is over within a matter of minutes, the three of them hopping up into a ship and flying away, leaving C3P0 and R2D2 behind. I guess someone came back to collect them, right? RIGHT?!?!?! But once they've flown off, the film returns to mediocracy, featuring a bunch of average performances in completely CGI environments, delivering poor lines of dialogue. It had its moments of fun, but the fun failed to last.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is a small step up over The Phantom Menace, but that being said, the film itself is still mediocre, the dialogue unbearable and the performances mostly atrocious. It's a Star Wars film that lacks both stars and wars.
2 1/2 Stars
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Hmmmmmmmmm. Where does one begin with this movie? The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is the first film in a trilogy of grotesque films that have unfortunately risen to cult fame. You've probably heard of it before. Even people who aren't remotely interested in the genre of horror have heard of this movie before. Why? Because it's an infamously messed up movie. It's the movie even the least squeamish people watch and yes, they do cringe every now and again. I managed to avoid seeing this movie for a number of years now, but it seems my attempts to avoid it finally ended. Oh boy. Here we go.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) has a strange plot to summarise. There's no real protagonist and there's not a detailed enough plot to last an entire paragraph. I guess our main two characters are Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), two American tourists travelling throughout Europe. If films have taught us anything, it's that you should never travel Europe as bad things always seem to happen, and, obviously, bad things happen here. After popping a tire, they're forced to knock on the front doors of a surgeon named Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), who just so happens to be a human-hating psychopath. He drugs them, ties them up in his basement and, um, that's when things get a little weird. He..... he kinda.... he does.... he starts to..... well, basically, he surgically connects three different people, stitching up one person's mouth to another person's ass. Yeah..... it's not a pleasant sight.
Okay, let's begin with the positives. It does in fact finish at one point. Yep, that's all the positives. Now for the negatives. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a film that tries oh-so-very hard to be a complete gore fest. It tries to make you uncomfortable, it tries to make you cover your eyes and it tries to hopefully get you to throw up. It fails at this. The film itself is rather unpleasant, the scene where everybody is surgically put together making me rather uncomfortable despite being very short, but the film isn't all that gory. Once you see this centipede in action for a few minutes, the effect slowly begins to wear off, until eventually it just becomes another forgettable element of the film.
We're treated to a solid hour of this creation and it's not at all fun. It's like last year's Tusk, but a whole lot worse. They try to escape, they try to fight back, they try to scream for help. Nothing works. They're forced to walk around like an animal, fetching newspapers and casually strolling around in circles, and then of course someone has to take a shit and we all know how that's going to go down. It's a dumb movie with absolutely no substance whatsoever and I can't say I'd recommend it, even for people just wanting a gory time. It's not worth it, gore junkies. It's not worth it.
Tom Six, the film's writer and director, clearly has no idea how you actually make a movie. He understands that there must be characters and there must be a camera to record these characters, but he's completely forgotten about character depth, decent dialogue, having a protagonist, getting your audience to care about this protagonist and just having a plot in general. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is one of the worst things to ever happen to cinema. It's a 90 minute film that feels well over two hours and I couldn't have cared less about anything that was happening.
As soon as the first character opened their mouth and spoke, I wanted to turn the movie off. That's how bad the acting is. You don't know anything about these characters, not even their names. I didn't know anybody's names until I looked up the movie on IMDb. The performances are more cringe worthy than the imagery presented in this movie, and it doesn't help with you have dialogue as utterly mind numbing as "the Japanese possess unbelievable strength when backed into a corner!" It's line like this that made me thankful when they finally become the human centipede as they actually shut up.
To sum up, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is quite the abomination of a film. It's stupid, it's plot-less, the performances are painful and the screenplay is mind numbing. This shouldn't even be called a film. That's an insult to every other film ever made.
0 1/2 Stars
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For this second #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM, I tried to go in with a plan. Last year, the month was a free for all. I had random articles and reviews popping up all over the place. There was no order. Now, 17 days into the month, I've noticed that I haven't really been following any sort of plan. In fact, I'm meant to have reviewed 7 horror remakes by now, yet I've reviewed 2. So when I sat down to watch this film and I realised it wasn't necessarily a horror, but more of a fantasy, I thought to myself, 'fuck it. I'm doing this anyway.' So here you have it. My review for Pan's Labyrinth, just in time for my Crimson Peak review tonight.
Pan's Labyrinth is set in Spain in 1944 and follows the story of a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Basquero). Her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) has married the captain of an army and so the two of them travel to go and live with him, wanting to deliver the baby in his presence. One night, Ofelia is met by a fairy, and it's this fairy who leads her to a faun (Doug Jones). The faun explains to Ofelia that she is a reincarnated princess, her father waiting for her in the underworld, and to be reunited with the king she must follow through with a series of tasks, proving herself to be the princess after all. It sounds like a children's tale, but Pan's Labyrinth is far from it.
Director Guillermo del Toro is quite the visionary, and he doesn't need me to tell him that. Everybody knows it. When you look at films such as Pan's Labyrinth or the Hellboy franchise or even Pacific Rim, the one thing they all have in common (aside from mythical creatures) is their stunning visuals. He has a wonderful taste for colour, the corrections really adding to the scene, and his cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The film is a visual treat. There's always something on screen that draws you into his fantasy world.
From faun's to fairies to exploding toads, Pan's Labyrinth is full of weird and wonderful creatures, but their presence isn't overstayed, balancing out with the grimness of the war scenes. It's a film of many themes and multiple stories. On the one hand, we have the story of the war breaking out, and these sequences are full of despair, torture and disturbing imagery, showcasing the war as it really was. It's dark and it's bleak, and the hopefulness of the fairy tale doesn't take away from this at all. In fact, it improves it, providing us with some joy before bringing us back into the darkness. The two work hand in hand with each other and result in a wonderful movie.
The war is entertaining, but it's these fantasy scenes that really drew me in. They're fast and exciting, and you're never really sure what to expect. It's colourful and has an impending sense of doom. The opening shot of this movie finds our protagonist lying dead on the floor, so you know she's not entirely safe. The war sequences may drag, but the fantasy ones certainly do not. A stand out moment involves Ofelia coming face to face with the pale man, a creature whose eyes are located in its hands. It's just so bizarre and intriguing and it's one of the best sequences in the whole film.
Despite some clunky dialogue here and there, Pan's Labyrinth is a real treat. It's violent, it's magical and it made me feel all kinds of emotion. It goes down a path you will not predict, and the finale is certainly something. It had me hooked, and when we get to the eventual ending it took a turn I wasn't expecting. It's not necessarily a twist, but it doesn't end how you expect it to. In fact, it defied my expectations, and I really enjoyed myself. Del Toro has done a good job at bringing you into this narratively flawed, but quite whimsical world.
To sum up, Pan's Labyrinth is an inventive and original fairy tale that perfectly balances between the bleakness of the war and the hopefulness of the fantasy. It's creative, whimsical and unlike anything you've ever seen, even with its narrative flaws.
3 1/2 Stars
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Friday the 13th is a franchise that was never great. The original film, which I reviewed for last year's #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM, is nothing special. It's actually one of my least favourites in the franchise, and even then I still enjoy it. As the franchise continues, it just gradually gets more and more ridiculous, each film finding new definitions of the word campy. And then they send him off into outer space. It's a ridiculous franchise and a big guilty pleasure of mine. The remake of Friday the 13th literally cannot be a disappointment because the originals were never good. Because of that, I had fun with this movie. Yep, I enjoyed the Friday the 13th remake. I can feel you judging me.
The remake isn't just a remake of the first installment, but instead a remake of the first three films. Sort of. We very briefly see Jason's mother (Nana Visitor) at the start of the film, only to cut forward a few decades to catch up with the now-adult Jason (Derek Mears). A group of friends are spending the week at one of their dad's cabins by the lake. All is well until Clay (Jared Padalecki) and Jenna (Danielle Panabarker) discover Camp Crystal Lake. And any guesses who lives at Camp Crystal Lake? Yep, it's our good friend Jason, who's grown up to become a deranged serial killer armed with a machete, as well as a few other goodies he finds. So yeah, like the slasher films of old, everybody is pretty much fucked in this modern day retelling of Jason's violent story.
We open on a desaturated looking Camp Crystal Lake. The scene takes place in the 80s and we witness poor Mrs. Voorhees getting her head sliced off with what will soon become Jason's famous machete. We then cut forward in time and witness what I thought was to be the main plot of the movie. A group of campers are hanging out in the woods, having sex and planning weed sales. It was all moving suspiciously fast for a horror movie, and my suspicions were proven true when Jason showed up to murder practically all of them. It's a great scene, but it's way longer than it needs to be.
Now twenty-five minutes into the movie, the title finally appears on screen, and the film's actual plot kicks in. This is a ninety minute film we're talking about, so the fact that it's not until the twenty-five minute mark that the plot kicks in is not a good sign. And as the film goes on, we get to see just how underdeveloped the plot really is. There's a bunch of characters partying and getting killed, and there's really only one character who I remotely cared about. But that's Friday the 13th for you. Same complaints with every movie.
This instalment in the franchise provides us with a better look at the famous killer. He gets a bit more screen time, allowing for his character to get a bit more flesh. He's not just some masked psychopath. He's a masked psychopath with mummy issues and a habit of kidnapping girls for no other reason than a plot device. I guess that counts as depth, right? No? Oh. Well... he's given more screen time so does that count for anything? No? Really? Again? Oh. Well, I mean, he kills more people. That's fun, right? Yeah, thought so.
And fun they are. The murders in this film have never been so brutal. From bear traps to dear antlers to a crossbow, Jason is constantly finding creative ways to brutalise his victims, and brutalising has never been so entertaining. Well, technically it has, but shut up. I'm trying to defend this movie. Right from the (second) opening sequence of the film, you know you're in for a treat. It's got violence. It's got sex. It's got bad acting. It's got cheesy dialogue. It's got one mandatory black guy who will die at some point in the film. It checks off all the requirements of a Friday the 13th movie and the rest of the film follows this exact same path. It's just a lot of fun.
To sum up, Friday the 13th is a bad movie. It really is. But you know what? So is this entire franchise, and I love it. It's campy, it's violent, it's a mess, it's got bad acting, it's written poorly and it's entertaining as hell. I don't care what anyone says, this movie is a lot of fun.
[REC] is one of those rare, early found footage movies that was released prior to the found footage craze. Unfortunately, however, that doesn't necessarily make it a good movie. The film is set up to be part of a television series, the host being a young woman named Angela (Manuela Velasco). She, along with her one cameraman, are documenting what it's like to work as a firefighter. The firefighters are soon called out to attend to a screaming woman, because apparently firefighters do that now, and so Angela follows, documenting it all. When they arrive, however, they're soon locked in the building for unknown reasons, and it's here that they discover an abundance of evil.
Before I begin to delve into why this film just didn't work for me, I am just going to point out that I really wanted to like this movie. I'm a big horror junkie and when found footage is used right, and I heard that this film did just that, it can actually be rather effective. Just look at the Paranormal Activity franchise. The first three films in that series were insanely effective and rather frightening. Then they stopped using the found footage aspect well and the next two films were rubbish. [REC], in terms of quality, is more like the last two Paranormal Activity instalments than the first three.
While I can't necessarily say I found this film to be scary, I will give it credit for having a solid build up. This film's first act was great. It was shaping out to be one of the best found footage movies around, full of tension and atmosphere, plus there was a pretty logical reason as to why these characters refused to stop filming, even if that's lost later in the film. Then the build up kept going and going and going. There was a point where it should've stopped, but it didn't. It refused to stop setting up these characters, resulting in more than half the film's runtime being dedicated to build up.
What bugs me the most about all this build up is the fact that this film is only an hour and eighteen minutes long. I was thankful that the film itself was rather short as it's very dull, but it's only dull because of how much set up there is. There's not a lot that actually takes place until the final few minutes where everything seems to escalate dramatically. There wasn't enough time given to playing around with the scares and the atmosphere they created and the final result is far from good.
[REC] is also rather predictable, and in every sense of the word. The fates of the characters can be seen a mile away, the 'scares' are insanely obvious and the actual storyline follows down a familiar pathway. We've seen it all before, and not just in found footage horror movies, but in horror movies in general. There's a bunch of people just there to be killed or, well, have other stuff happen to them, but you'll have to find out for yourself what. These characters make dumb decisions too, which also results in a predictable scare taking place, hence the scare gets ruined.
It's not until the final few minutes where, as I said earlier, everything escalates and things begin to get interesting. Sure, it's still not overly scary, but the storyline goes in a very rapid direction that I didn't see coming. I was still one step ahead for the most part, but that's not what I enjoyed about it. What I enjoyed about it was that the atmosphere from way back when returned. Filmed in night vision, the film's finale is arguably the film's greatest scene.
To sum up, [REC] opens promisingly, hinting at what could be a classic horror movie, but then the set up keeps going and the atmosphere is completely lost for the next fifty minutes, only to be briefly resurrected for the finale.
The only good thing that I've discovered about Inherent Vice not being released in Australia until February is that it gives me plenty of time to review Paul Thomas Anderson's other films. Don't ask me why I chose to review this first, but go with it anyway. Punch-Drunk-Love follows the story of Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), a lonely business man who's incredibly troubled. One day, Barry is set up with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), a Brit who finds Barry attractive. At the same time as this, Barry is also forced to deal with a phone hooker whom Barry called up one night while he was feeling lonely, but cancelled his credit card before they could charge him.
You may need to sit down to hear this, but... Adam Sandler actually gives a good performance in this movie. No, actually Adam Sandler gives a sensational performance in this movie. I feel like crying when I see Adam Sandler do dramas. Not because he's terrible in them, but because he's amazing in them. He's beyond capable of being a good actor, yet he wastes his time doing rubbish like Grown Ups or Blended, the second of which I never intend on watching. Ever. In my life. Unless, of course, it's a matter of life or death. Adam Sandler doesn't just suit the role of Barry, he is Barry, well I don't have confirmation of the mental illness aspect, but just go along with it. Again. He brings this character to life, and because of how Paul Thomas Anderson-y this film is, he even gets more than a few chances at boasting off his comedic charm, which is always lost in his actual comedies.
The script is full of wit and charm. Punch-Drunk-Love is a very likeable movie. In fact, it may just be one of the most likeable movies I've ever seen. It's just so odd, unique and entertaining, all while maintaining a sense of likability. Aiding this is the little things. The habits of Barry or the humane things he does in his daily life, whether this be purchasing a tonne of pudding to get enough points for a plane ticket or if it's taking in a random piano he finds on the street outside his workplace, just add to how great this film is. Even his violent outbursts have a sense of life.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman's role, although brief, was utterly brilliant. His famous "Shut up! Shut-shut-shut-shut up!" speech a stand out, Hoffman is masterful. He suits the role, much like Sandler does with his, and his character is just as violent, if not more violent than Barry. They've both got a temper and this temper, when confronting each other, just bursts from the screen. There's a conversation the two have towards the end of the film, the contents of which I will not spoil, that has the two just bumping off of each other, attempting not to show awareness of how damn entertaining their scenes are. Somehow, they pull it off, and these scenes turn into some of the best scenes in the film.
This film allows you time to become connected to the characters. Anderson creates a strong emotional connection between the audience and Barry, or even Lena. Right from the first scene, which shows Barry on the phone with a pudding company and it's oh-so-delightful and relatable to watch, I knew that this was a character I could connect to. It was a character I knew I wanted to spend time with, and I did. I did spent time with him and I'd be happy to do it all over again and again and again. It's a film that does that to you. Watching it once is amazing, but it's not enough. You want more and you're probably going to end up getting more.
Paul Thomas Anderson directs this film with magnificence. Seeings as how I'm reviewing his entire filmography in the coming months it makes sense that I should discuss his quality of directing. I won't compare it to any of his other films as I haven't honestly seen too many of them, but in Punch-Drunk-Love it is, like most things in this film are, superb. The shots, the pacing, everything. It's all amazing, making this yet another brilliant film from a brilliant director.
To sum up, Punch-Drunk-Love is led by some sensational performances, surprisingly even Adam Sandler gives a great one. The film is likeable, witty, full of charm, relatable, innocent and magnificently directed. Bring on Inherent Vice!
4 1/2 Stars
To call this film underwhelming would imply that I had expectations for it. I had hopes, but not expectations. Daredevil follows the story of Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck). As a child he was in an accident involving biochemical waste, causing him to loose his sight. It wasn't a major loss though, as his other senses increased, allowing him to live as close to normal a life as possible. This doesn't end up being the case, however. Matt Murdock, as it turns out, secretly lives a double life, a life in which he patrols the city as the masked hero Daredevil, fighting evil and bringing criminals to justice. Things soon change for Matt when he meets Elektra (Jennifer Garner), a skilled warrior who plays as a love interest to the title character.
Daredevil is one of my favourite superheroes, aside from Howard the Duck of course, but it's questionable as to whether or not old Howie counts as a "superhero." As some of you may be aware, I read comic books, admittedly more Marvel than DC, but that's best left unmentioned. Daredevil is up there as one of my all-time favourite superheroes, right alongside the more popular choices of Batman or Iron Man etc. This movie could have been a whole lot better than it was, given the material it's based on. I'm not just saying this from the perspective of someone watching it for the first time during the peak of superhero films, it's just not a good movie. Yes, it does lack in comparison to newer Marvel movies, but it even lacks when compared to the ones that came before this. In fact, when you compare this to Spider-Man, which was released before Daredevil, you'll find a lot more than just a staggering difference in quality. They're practically the same movie.
With all its flaws, Daredevil does have the privilege of getting a decent performance from Ben Affleck. He's not the number one choice for the role, but he undeniably does a brilliant job as both Matt Murdock and Daredevil. He's believable. Although the alterations in some of his character details, particularly the origin, make absolutely no sense, Affleck does his best to bring us into his world and get us believing that this guy can exist. It's ludicrous, but believably so. Except, you know, the fact that going blind allows you to jump hundreds of feet in a single leap.
Speaking of ludicrous, this film can be absolutely ridiculous. Yes, some of it is made believable, but then there's moments such as Bullseye killing an elderly woman on an airplane and the flight attendant, who saw the incident, coming over and saying "aww, she's sleeping!" Bullseye is this film's most ridiculous attribute. He's over the top, obnoxious and completely ignored when he commits the most obvious of crimes. Yep, the plane scene isn't the only one.
I'm going to read to you what it says on the back cover of the DVD for this movie, and this is the exact quote. "Featuring spectacular special effects, sizzling fight sequences and nonstop action, Daredevil is an extraordinary thrill-ride." This, ladies and gentlemen, is quite possibly the most misleading advert you'll read all day. No no, all year. Daredevil lacks in fight sequences, nonstop action, thrills and spectacular special effects. It even lacks in decent special effects. They're horrible, boasting with computerisation.
In both the first fight sequence and the final one, neither of which are remotely enjoyable, there's a bunch of audio distortion. Why is there audio distortion I hear you ask? Not a freaking clue. For god's sake people, Daredevil is blind, not deaf. There's no logical reason for him to be hearing things worse than regular people do, which is what the filmmakers appear to be going for. He's quite the opposite actually. Hey, at least we had Daredevil-vision, which was an underused gem.
And finally, what the hell is the plot of this film? You may have noticed from the brief synopsis I gave way back in the opening paragraph that it's very vague. That's because there's no real plot. There's a love story between Daredevil and Elektra, there's a revenge story thrown in during the final half hour, there's no bad guy that's maintained for the entire film, the characters don't have any emotional investment and there's no real structure of any sorts. F**k you movie.
To sum up, Daredevil lacks in everything coherent and believable, despite efforts by Ben Affleck to make them so. It's over the top, stupid, lacking any thrills, boring and illogical. This film just sucks, despite Affleck's best efforts.