Pompeii is the story of Milo (Kit Harington), who as a young boy witnessed the slaughter of his family. This attack led to his capture and now, as a man, he fights as a gladiator in the city of Pompeii. Soon, however, Mount Vesuvius erupts, which will cause the destruction of the city and the death of all those who failed to flee. In the final moments prior to the town's destruction, Milo attempts to rescue his true love, Cassia (Emily Browning), who's being kidnapped and forced into a marriage with Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland).
Pompeii is a film from Paul W.S. Anderson, so you know what you're getting into. I'm not a fan of Paul W.S Anderson's work, his films are mindless rubbish, and it's worrying to know that I was hoping Pompeii would be different. Unfortunately, it's more of the same. It's another dull film that follows the story of a kick-ass lead character and features a variety of slow motion 3D shots of objects flying into the camera and a bunch of mostly decent special effects that make this film the tinniest bit watchable. The only thing missing from this film is Milla Jovovich, it's rare to find Anderson making a film without her.
Most of the film's budget appears to have been spent on the special effects. Pompeii is a special effect extravaganza, but even the effects are far from perfect. There are moments in here where the effects are even cringe worthy, but the same could be said for a few of Paul W.S. Anderson's other films. But what everybody, or at least me, came to see is the eruption of the volcano and the citizens of Pompeii fighting for survival. We sadly only get this for a brief amount of time. The film wastes over an hour setting up character and then only around twenty minutes of the volcano actually erupting. By the time we get to see where 95% of the budget ended up, we're already wishing we'd turned the movie off.
The characters are underdeveloped, suiting the quality of acting. One of the worst aspects of this movie is that it stars good actors, great actors even, yet all of them look like they're here for the cheque. The film has a great line up with the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss and even Jared Harris, but they're all just reading idiotic lines for a brief period of time to earn a bit of cash. Kit Harington does phenomenal in Game of Thrones, and despite playing practically the same character here, he's sloppy. He seems incapable of making more than a single, bland facial expression, the same facial expression that the audience makes while watching the film.
The cinematography during the action sequences is unbearable. The fight scenes in Pompeii are a perfect example of cinematography and editing gone wrong. Within the span of a few seconds, there are literally dozens of interconnecting, fast paced shots. It's next to impossible to see what's going on. Every time that a character swings there sword a few centimetres, CUT! Every time a character takes a step, CUT! It's an excruciating viewing.
To sum up, Pompeii features a wasted budget that's spend entirely on special effects which, on multiple occasions, don't look that good. The actors are bored, the characters underdeveloped, the pacing slow and the cinematography sloppy.
Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 begins with a wounded Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) left for dead in an alley way. She is discovered and aided by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), who invites her to recover inside his house. While sipping on some tea, Joe begins to recount her life story to Seligman, who wishes to know why he found her beaten in an alley. This story is primarily a tale of her sexual experiences and how these experiences lead her down into a dark and abusive path.
Nymphomaniac is Lars Von Trier's crowning effort. I've seen a handful of Lars Von Trier films in the past, in fact he's a director that I've only gotten into recently, and each of them were unforgettable, The Element of Crime aside. Nymphomaniac is his broadest, most outrageous film and one of the few films of his to have more substance than style. It's an experimental film, but it's also a film Lars looks like he's comfortable with. This is his thirteenth feature, his fourteenth being Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2, and he looks more confident than ever. He's aware that he can push boundaries that other directors refuse to and he embraces it.
The film is a wild and intriguing ride. There are moments in Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 that come across mildly comedic. Some of the "chapters" in the film could almost be classified as a black comedy. While I'm not saying that this film is a comedy, I'm simply pointing out the outrageousness of it all. There's even a scene with the glorious Uma Thurman that's absolutely bonkers. It even managed to get a few good school-girl-like giggles out of me.
The film features some of the best performances this year. There plenty of career-topping performances present in the film, although it's doubtful that any of these performances will get recognition at any awards ceremonies. The biggest surprise in this movie for me, was Shia LaBeouf. I haven't been the biggest supporter of him in the past, but he shines in this film. His performance was unbelievable, and further elevated by his co-stars. While Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgârd don't get a lot of screen time in this first installment, their performances can't go without recognition. Although, the greatest performance in this whole movie comes from newcomer Stacy Martin, who plays a younger Joe. She literally stole every single scene she was in, which is a great deal of the movie.
The artsy editing only added to my love for this movie. It feels weird to say that I loved this movie as the primary story is about rebelling against love, but I freaking loved this movie and my rating won't be doing it enough justice. The editing is something new, something original. Its use of split screen, relevant visuals and on screen text allowed for a greater level of intruigment, and I don't care what you say as I consider intruigment a legitimate word.
To sum up, Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 is Lars Von Trier's crowning effort. It's a wild and intriguing ride with brilliant and life like performances and gloriously artsy editing. My rating for it fails to do this film the justice it deserves.
Hercules is the "untold story behind the legend." After being pushed through twelve perilous labours, Hercules (Dwyane Johnson), the son of Zeus, and his six partners in battle, are hired by the King of Thrace (John Hurt) to train his local farmers into warriors. Once this is completed, the men, along with Hercules, make their way across the country with the intention of taking down a ruthless tyrannical warlord, but the battle they will face may not be their biggest challenge.
Hercules is the most clichéd ridden film of the year. The film's crisp, but excruciating 98 minute runtime allows the film to cram in the pinnacle amount of clichés. Literally everything in this movie has been recycled from a previous film or television show, and I mean everything. The dialogue, the cinematography, the scenarios and even the message of the film have been done before and done better. These clichés lead to predictability and predictability lead to boredom. Not only could I work out how everything played out, but I was also bored out of my mind whilst doing so.
The humour is forced, cheesy and rarely funny. Hercules follows in similar fashion to the Transformers movies when it comes to the comedy aspect. While it isn't as racist as the Transformers movies, it's just as unfunny and forced. The jokes are out of place, and while the actors laugh at them, we don't. Not all of the jokes failed to impress, but it was rare to find one that did. This film does, however, contain one of the most badass and hilarious uses of the f-word that I've seen all year, and it's going to be a tough one to top.
There's brief moments of decent action, but it's not enough to make up for the overall sloppiness of the film. Hercules is a Dwayne Johnson film, and you know what you're getting into when your watching one. Unfortunately, this is a lower quality film than the other action films The Rock brings us. Throughout the idiotic, over the top and unbelievably dumb action, there's sparks of fun. A battle towards the end of the second act, although prolonged, helms most of these moments.
The quality of the special effects varies throughout. One of my pet-hates when watching films is when the quality of special effects fails to be consistent for the entire runtime. Hercules is one of these films. There are moments, especially in the battles, when the special effects look real. I could believe them. Then there's other moments when the film looks unrealistically fake. An example of this is baby Hercules grabbing hold of two dead snakes, not even Hercules looked like he belonged in this shot.
To sum up, Hercules is an uneven, cliché ridden, unfunny and forced film with a crisp, but excruciating runtime and special effects with a varying quality. There's brief moments of fun, but they come on rare occasions.
Devil's Knot is the true story of three young boys who were savagely murdered in West Memphis in 1993. The film follows the story of multiple perspectives, but primarily focusses on the mother of one of the victims, Amanda Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) and an investigator who wishes to be a part of the case, Ron Lax (Colin Firth). The film takes us in an almost documentary style through the court cases and investigations that occurred after the incident, all with the hopes of finding the killer.
Devil's Knot tries a new approach at making a biopic, but ultimately ends up all over the place. This film tries to tell us the true story in a new way, a way that makes us feel as if we're watching something that actually happened, much like a documentary does. The problem with doing something like this is that there's no real story to follow and no distinct character to root for. It feels like we're being force-fed information about the topic, but with famous actors being shoved into our faces making Devil's Knot one of the most convoluted movies of the year, right alongside Winter's Tale.
The performances are decent, but nothing groundbreaking. The actors in the film clearly tried. There isn't any performance that had me cringing or rolling my eyes about. Nothing in this film is horrendous, it's just bland. There's even one scene in which Reese Witherspoon almost brought a tear to my eye, but a) that's not hard to do and b) this was solely due to the fact that the film was a true story. If this film wasn't based on fact then the emotional aspects of it would be lost.
There's too much to the true story for a single 2 hour movie to tell. The true story behind this film spanned over several years and to make a film about it is almost impossible to do right. Devil's Knot makes an attempt at putting all this knowledge in, but, yet again, fails. New characters are constantly being introduced just so they can supply crucial evidence during one scene, but by the time that their screen presence ends we're still unsure as to who they were and what role they played in the film.
To sum up, Devil's Knot features performances that are simply fine and it manages to drag itself along due to the facts supplied by the true story, but it's ultimately a convoluted bore that force-feeds us the important information.
Sex Tape follows the story of Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel). Before they got married, the two were frequently having sex, but once they had married and children, their sex life decreased to a point where it's practically non existent. To spice things up a bit, Annie comes up with the idea of filming themselves doing every sexual position from a book titled, 'The Joy of Sex', but overnight the video is uploaded onto all the iPads that they gave as gifts.
I doubt it'll come as any surprise that is this film isn't really that funny. While the film sets up with an interesting premise, and an occasionally funny one if I may add, but then manages to go downhill, taking all the jokes along with it. While Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel have great chemistry, and their frantic behaviour brings a few laughs in the first act, not even they can save this film from its ultimately boring, uneven and unrealistic premise. I know, I know. Comedy isn't a genre that is known for being overly realistic, but there are moments in here that are just downright dumb and over the top. These moments take me out of the already sloppy film and set me free in a world of utter confusion.
The film's runtime is a brief 90 minutes, but it's almost a half an hour too long. Sex Tape is a film that would work much better as a crisp, twenty to thirty minute short film. This time frame is about the time when my brain begun to get tired of the movie, and it's also the time when I begun to start checking my watch for the first of many times. The most ironic aspect of this film is that it feels three hours, the length of the sex tape filmed in the, um, film.
Sex Tape drags itself along from one scene to another, with little flow in-between. Sex Tape, much like the Transformers series, tries to drag itself from one scenario to another. For the most part, the filmmakers don't even appear to be making an attempt at making a coherent story, but instead are trying to find ways to bring us from one joke to another. To make it worse, the film is predictable. As soon as a scene starts, or a character is introduced or a bit of dialogue is mentioned, I was able to work out how everything goes down. This is with the exception of one scene, a scene which was shown completely differently (and actually funny) in the trailer and a scene which I will not spoil.
To sum up, Sex Tape begins by setting up an interesting, and quite funny premise, but unsurprisingly goes downhill, taking the jokes along with it. The film drags itself along with no flow, it's predictable, dumb and would work better as a short film.
Enemy is the latest film from Denis Villeneuve, director of Prisoners, my favourite film from last year. Enemy follows the story of Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young high school teacher who, at the recommendation of a colleague, one night decides to go rent a movie. While watching this movie, he notices that one of the actors (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) looks identical to himself. Adam, unable to stop thinking about this man, soon begins on a quest to go out and find his mysterious double.
Enemy is not a film for everybody, it's infuriatingly important that I get this out of the way. Enemy, unfortunately, didn't receive an Australian theatrical release, but instead was released directly to DVD and Blu-Ray. While this is disappointing, it's also understandable. It would not have made a lot of money here. The film's content isn't overly inappropriate, minus the few sex scenes, but this movie is for us lovers of film. It is for anybody who has a remote interest in filmmaking as an art form. If there's anybody who's reading this that, and I hope there are a few, have an interest in making films or studying films or even critiquing films, then this film is a necessity.
Jake Gyllenhall gives one of the, if not the greatest performance of his career. Sure, he's given terrific performances in films such as Prisoners, Donnie Darko and Zodiac, admittedly I am yet to see Brokeback Mountain, but Enemy will be up there as one of his greatest performances. Not only does he manage to perfect the character of Adam, but he also plays Anthony, whom he perfects also.
Enemy is not a film that follows the traditional story structure. There have been many films in the past that attempt to bypass their way around the three act structure, many of these are considered masterpieces, and Enemy is one that slots into this category. It's a film that takes its time to start up, it isn't until halfway through the film that Adam and Anthony meet, and once it does, the structure is lost completely. There's no second and third act, just a series of engaging events, each with metaphorical meanings.
The film uses particular imagery throughout, all of which lead up to one of the most frightening and jaw dropping endings in history. There are multiple shots in this film that really make your heart pound. Not only do they arise questions as to their belonging, but they also help maintain the audience's already divided attention. By far, the most disturbing, upsetting and controversial moment in this film takes place in the final few seconds. The shot is one that leaves audiences both puzzled and curious as to what just happened.
To sum up, Enemy is a film intended for film lovers, a necessary one even. It's a film with metaphorical meanings, controversial images, an incredible performance by Jake Gyllenhaal and an ending that will leave you jaw dropped.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins a few years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Ceasar (Andy Serkis) is now the fearless leader of the apes, he's trying to both help settle a community as well as care for his newly founded family. On the other side of the city lives the few remaining humans, the ones that are immune to the deadly virus given off by apes. In an attempt to survive, the two species must go to war. A war which will determine which species will go on to rule.
I'm going to begin by stating that I'm a big fan of the Planet of the Apes movies. The original Planet of the Apes film is an absolute masterpiece, upon seeing it for the first time it just blew my mind away. There's nothing like it. Then the sequels came along and a few were good, but they were mostly a letdown. It wasn't until Rise of the Planet of the Apes came along a few years ago, that I could officially get excited for a new Planet of the Apes movie. The film was just shy of topping the original. Now we have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and it exceeded all previous expectations.
The film is part thriller, part survival movie and part war movie, but it blends perfectly. The first of the Planet of the Apes prequels, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was about evolution. It was about telling the story of how Earth transformed into the ape ruled planet we know from the original series. This time around the film takes a much darker turn. The film perfectly blends all the best elements of the first film, the original films, survival movies and even war movies. Its engaging story and brilliant performances mould together to make a cinematic masterpiece, instantly getting a spot in my top ten films so far this year.
The special effects are superior to all the previous Apes movies. If there wasn't a little film called 'Gravity' that was released last year, then I would be stating the fact that the CGI in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best CGI we've had since Avatar. It not only looks authentic, but it feels it too. While watching people dressed up in ape costumes is part of the reason the originals are so fun, the realistic manner of these apes makes the film even more believable. This is, of course, largely thanks to the performances of the actors. Not just the human actors, but the actors, such as Andy Serkis, who play the apes. Andy Serkis is living evidence that humans evolved from apes.
There's only one problem I had with the film and that is the fact that there's no distinct protagonist. The film begins by setting up Ceasar's story, with the implication that he will be our main character. It soon cuts away to the human element of the film with the implication that Malcom, played incredibly by Jason Clarke, is our protagonist. Once the humans and the apes intertwine stories, these characters go on to fight for our attention. There's no standout protagonist for the entire length of the movie.
To sum up, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an absolute cinematic landmark that exceeds its already incredible predecessor. The performances are brilliant, the special effects mind-blowing and the darker execution handled well.
4 1/2 Stars
Jersey Boys is the true story of the hit band, The Four Seasons. The film follows the story of four men, Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), as they grow up in New Jersey. They start out in a life of crime, stealing to make a living, but when they start to sing they find themselves in a whole new world. A world of fame and the stresses it brings along with it, stresses that could tear them apart.
Jersey Boys was one of my most anticipated films of the year, but it's also one of the most disappointing. Everything was looking great for this film. The film had Clint Eastwood at the helm, the trailers were incredible and the lives of the Four Seasons are thrilling in its own right. Unfortunately the film fails to live up to all the hype and the execution is dull, lengthy and terribly acted. It really is one of the most disappointing films I've seen all year.
The musical numbers were fantastic, however. The best thing about this film is the soundtrack. The music is enough to want to make you leap from your seat and dance in the theatre. Unfortunately the music is one of the few compliments I can give this film and when music that's decades old is the best part of your film then I'd say we've got another forgettable biopic on our hands.
The performances in the film vastly differ. There were a few performances, Christopher Walken especially, that stand out amongst the mainly mediocre acting. Performances from Vincent Piazza and Erich Bergen are show stealers, but when it came to the rest of the cast it went both ways. If they did well in one scene then they'd go horribly in another. For me, the weakest performance was from Michael Lomenda, who just looked like he was uninterested through all of his scenes. One reason for this is because his character doesn't really have a lot to do either, which was unfortunate.
The film tries too hard to be Goodfellas the Musical. Just by watching the trailer I was getting a Goodfellas vibe and the entire first act of the film is essentially Goodfellas the Musical, I wasn't wrong. The film even copies several techniques used when breaking the fourth wall that Goodfellas used first. This breaking the fourth wall was done so pathetically, and it had no real need to be there. A dumb decision was made by the writers and that was to make all four of the main characters break this wall which only led to more confusion as to who the main main character was and if they were talking to us or if they were talking to another character in some scenes.
The film's runtime is a major issue. The film runs just over two hours, two hours and fourteen minutes to be exact, but it feels close to three hours. Many moments dragged on and some of the minor plot lines weren't even necessary. Several scenes alter the flow of the film and feel out of place. The film is almost too eventful, making it unbearably frustrating to try and watch.
To sum up, Jersey Boys is another forgettable biopic with a lengthy runtime, irrelevant minor plot lines, varying acting skills and a style that tries too hard to be Goodfellas. There are a few decent performances and the music's catchy, but that's it.
Blue is the Warmest Colour follows the story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a young teenager who's beginning her exploration into sexual relationships. During her relationship with a handsome senior, Thomas (Jérémie Laheute) she feels as if something isn't right. Soon she meets a young, blue haired woman named Emma (Léa Seydoux) and practically falls in love at first sight. The film follows their love story and explores them attempting to maintain a relationship despite the thoughts of their friends and family.
Blue is the Warmest Colour blew me away. Prior to viewing this film I hadn't heard a single bad thing about it, I'd even heard a lot about the controversy it brought for not being nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars this year, which it very much should have. The main reason I was hesitant about sitting down and watching it, like I am with most films with the same issue, is that the film features a 3 hour long runtime. Thankfully the film featured breath taking performances, a deviating yet intriguing plot and an incredible screenplay which made the film feel no longer than 2 hours tops.
The performances are incredibly realistic The main actress in the film, Adèle Exarchopoulos is by far the greatest thing about this film. Her performance is so realistic, heart breaking and just damn powerful. She gives one of the best, if not the best female performance I've seen all year. The fact that she's new to film too only blows me away further. Adèle's counterpart, Léa, whom I've seen in previous films, gives Adèle a run for her money. While her performance is almost on par, her character is more mysterious and elaborate, which helps to bring a greater sense of chemistry on screen.
The film is much more than a love story, it's a story about life. The film is heavily advertised as a romance, which it very much is, but it has so many more layers to it that make it much more than that. The film explores a young woman's search into sexuality and the consequences and pressures put on her by her peers. Not only that, but it also follows the temptations that life brings us (none that I will spoil) and how this affects us and the people around us. The film explores all these issues and confronts them, resulting in a film that's near perfect.
Many will accuse Blue is the Warmest Colour of exploiting these women, but that's not the case. There are a few scenes in this film in which the two main characters have sex, and these scenes do linger on for just a little too long at times. There's a seven minute sex scene that pops up in the early stages of the second act and it's some of the most explicit sex I've seen on screen, but what the director isn't trying to do is make a pornography. He is showing the raw, realistic manner in which humans behave. In fact, he's holding back practically all the time.
To sum up, Blue is the Warmest Colour is a film that I deem nearly perfect. The film doesn't just explore the character's relationships, but it explores their lives. The performances are sensational and the runtime never feels its actual length.
4 1/2 Stars