As many would already be aware of, Woody Allen releases a new film on a yearly basis. Magic in the Moonlight is his latest film. It follows the story of the retentive and obnoxious Stanley (Colin Firth), a man with two careers. He's both a famous magician and he's famous for debunking other magicians. It is here that we meet Sophie (Emma Stone), an attractive young woman who claims to have a connection to the spiritual world. Stanley refuses to believe the hype, so he goes down to discover her ways.
I've never been the biggest Woody Allen fan. I've seen a decent enough handful of his movies to know what they're all about, but he's not a director that, for me, stands out. Yes, he makes a good film every now and again, but because he insists on releasing a film every year, his large filmography contains a lot of duds too. I can admire some of his movies for what they are, but his ratio of good films to bad films should be left unspoken. Magic in the Moonlight is not one of his good movies. It's not egregious either, which was a surprise, but it's nothing noteworthy.
It's the performances that really make this movie. As with most of the recent Woody Allen films, they're performance reliant. While the screenplay can be witty at times, although that's without saying that most of the jokes failed too, and the direction is fine, it's the performances that really push this film along. Colin Firth, although not at his strongest, does well. He suits the character, although not as much as Emma Stone does with Sophie. Her performance is marvellous. "She's a visionary and a vision," as the film puts it, which is all too true. Magic in the Moonlight is one of her better performances. It may even be her best performance, but I'll leave that up to debate. She has charm to her. Even a bit of mystery. That being said, the supporting cast fell flat. Stone's love interest in the film does nothing more than play a few songs and give a few trailer-worthy quotes. None of the characters feel fleshed out. They're there to be there. They're there to add to the mystery, when most of the mystery would remain without most of their presences.
After the first forty minutes, the film gets messy. The film started out promising. It was engaging and interesting. I was eager to see how the magic worked, but at the same time was doubting if there was even a logical answer to my doubts. This all falls apart after a certain scene that I won't spoil. The characters undergo an unforeseen change of personality, one that has little cause. Here is when the pacing is also torn to pieces, the after effects of this being dull and disastrous. The film also starts to foreshadow a little too much. I was able to work out all the little games and hints that, perhaps, weren't meant to be noticed.
To sum up, Magic in the Moonlight boasts decent performances and a bit of occasional wit, but Woody Allen is really driving on auto-pilot with a predictable screenplay that starts out intriguing, but ends up being dull and messy.
2 1/2 Stars
When I went to put in the disc for Walking With Dinosaurs, I couldn't help but let out a frustrated sigh. Walking With Dinosaurs begins in the modern day. It sort of follows the story of Ricky (Charlie Rowe) and his younger sister, Jade (Angourice Rice), who are going to dig up Dinosaur fossils with their uncle (Karl Urban). On this exhibition, of sorts, Ricky comes across a rather strange, and talkative, creature claiming to be a dinosaur (John Leguizamo). This dinosaur takes Ricky back to prehistoric time with the intention of teaching him about the once-living creatures that roamed our earth.
Walking With Dinosaurs is, to be fair, a film for very little children. It's a film that's not really aimed at an older audience. In fact, the five year old me would have gone and watched this film a dozen times over on opening weekend, and for that, this film more than likely won't be appearing on my worst films of the year list at the end of the year. But again, this film absolutely failed to captivate any interest in me and therefore it just may appear on that list. It's only safe to say that time will tell.
The film's mind boggling special effects is the only real praise I can give this film. Watching this dinosaurs come to life will bring countless awe-inspiring gasps out of children's tiny mouths. The effects are glorious. The dinosaurs look legitimate, they almost appear to be as if they belong, although not as much as the dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park series, but that's a different film entirely. The filmmaker's choice to make the film live-action was, perhaps, one of the only decent decisions made about this film. Having everything in CGI would have made the film feel more like an impressive animation than as a masterful work of digitally adding to what's already there. Unfortunately, nothing else in this film manages to be anything close to decent.
The out of place humour is infuriatingly juvenile. What I failed to understand about this film was why they decided to make it a comedy. This film isn't going to appeal to anyone who isn't a big time fan of dinosaurs, and they don't need a bunch of poo jokes thrown at them as they're already engaged in the topics being discussed. They'd rather see dinosaurs roaring than seeing dinosaurs get caught in trees.
Walking With Dinosaurs' dialogue was distracting. Not only is there forced and cheesy human dialogue at the start and end of the film, and occasionally in-between, but the dinosaurs in the film talk too. Unfortunately, they don't technically talk as none of these dinosaurs ever move their mouths for the whole film. The film appears to have been made without talking dinosaurs, but someone decided in post production that they needed to talk, so they hired actors to record some lines and there's that. It's a series of distracting voiceovers that are hardly in time with the actual film. Surely this can't fool kids, right?
To sum up, Walking With Dinosaurs is an infuriatingly terrible movie that insists on planting in juvenile humour and unnecessary talking dinosaurs to keep their target audience engaged. Thankfully, the special effects were awe-inspiring.
If I Stay is based on the best-selling book of the same title, a book which I particularly enjoyed. The film follows the story of Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young cello playing, classical music loving teen. She meets Adam (Jamie Blackley) and the two predictably fall head over heels for each other, which as her mum (Mireille Enos) so truthfully points out, is very inconvenient at their age. All seems swell until Mia and her family are involved in a fatal car crash, causing Mia to experience an out of body experience where she must decide if she wants to live or if she wants to die.
If I Stay is a very disappointing movie. I had hopes for this movie. High hopes, one could call it. I fell in love with the book, although not quite as in love as these two teens act, and the trailers could only be described as gorgeous. A statement I and at least one of my friends could agree on, most of my others weren't bothered to watch the trailer. I sat down, ignoring the warnings I'd been given, and for the first twenty minutes it wasn't too bad. In fact, I was enjoying it. It wasn't perfect, not even close, but it was decent. It soon hit the forty minute mark and there'd been a minimal amount of time spent in the hospital. I was loosing interest. Then it hit the hour mark, and also the second time I checked my watch. At least from here on out, the film maintained a steady quality, which is different to the slowly declining quality of the first hour. Then the film ended, thankfully. Although it was abrupt, I didn't care. I just wanted to leave, and leave I did. It was actually more of a jog if I'm perfectly frank. A jog to get out of the cinema and return to the realistic, imperfect world that we live in. A world were teenagers don't fall in love and stick with each other forever, a query that usually I'm ok with in teen films, but in this case I'm not.
Chloë Grace Moretz does a wonderful job with what she's got to work with. I have never found myself insulting her performances, even if some of her films aren't the best, and in some cases their far from it. She picks the fun films. In these films she never fails. She is one of the best young actresses working in Hollywood right now and her performance in If I Stay is the only thing it's really got going for it. Without her, this film would be excruciating. She's able to bring a pulse to this lifeless movie, although a beating heart would help too. The film tries so hard to be a tear jerker, but is unable to. The book is quite the opposite, actually. It's heartbreaking. That's because it knows how to create real people, something the movie poorly attempts to recreate.
When the film gets to its final act, it's only here where it discovers how to stir emotion. There's a very touching scene that occurs towards the end of the film. I won't spoil what it is, but it moved me. It's something that the film could have used a whole lot earlier, but it just didn't. It wasted time on the clichéd ridden love story between Mia and Adam, which is really supposed to be a minor aspect of this tale, rather than giving us time to care about the family we're meant to be rooting for. The family we're meant to want to live. Between the moments of mushy love, they do try to do just that, with her parents especially. It's the younger brother Teddy that's the least fleshed out character of the lot. He gets hardly any screen time, but at around the mid point of the film he's meant to be a crucial character. Odd seeings as how people who haven't read the book won't even remember his name by the time this scene comes around.
To sum up, If I Stay is led by wonderful performance from Chloë Grace Moretz, but she fails to save this film's clichéd, mushy and lifeless screenplay with little emotion and not enough time spent with the right characters.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared follows the story of Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), a hundred year old man living in a retirement home. Just before his celebratory birthday, Allan decides he's had enough of the dull life he's been living since the death of his cat, and so he decides to climb out his window and leave town.
The film oh-so-obviously tries to be the foreign language equivalent of Forest Gump. For the rare few that haven't seen Forrest Gump, you may not entirely understand my point, although a more important matter is why the hell you haven't already seen Forrest Gump. As Allan goes upon his adventure, which involves a bunch of crazy killer thugs, a stolen elephant, a nutcase of an ex-boyfriend and a rather sly fox, he also narrates the story of his past. In this story he gets himself involved in a series of events which lead him to come across several famous people, or as for Herbert Einstein it's being related to someone famous, in a style and humour that's practically identical to Tom Hanks' masterpiece.
Thankfully, this film also manages to bring along some of the charm from the film it's ripping off. For a very dark black comedy, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was also surprisingly sweet. We trail along with the innocent, or at least in his eyes, Allan, and it's undeniably wonderful. While the film isn't groundbreaking, it certainly is a blast. In fact, it's the little moments that pay off the most. The film approaches dark issues with lighthearted humour and a riot of a cast. The sequence in Allan's past where he's put into a prison (not a spoiler, don't worry) and meets an unusual friend is one of the funniest series of scenes in the entire movie.
The performances varied, although none stood out as miscast. Robert Gustafsson is the best thing that this film has going for it, and he's also the only actor that's able to steal every scene he's in, although I could also argue that Herbert Einstein was a show stealer. His performance brings serenity and innocence to this grim tale of murder, war and revenge. Alan Ford, the only recognisable actor, was oddly enough the most irritating aspect of this movie. His character is weak and all of his dialogue consists of him either yelling into his phone or yelling at one of his employees. His character isn't fun at all.
The film's runtime lingers on a little too long. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is far from a bloated movie, its watchable so long as you can suspend your disbelief for two hours. It's biggest flaw is that it's simply longer than it needs to be. There's plenty of fat to be trimmed, and it's almost embarrassing that some of it wasn't. The film is much better suited to a smaller ninety minute runtime than the length that it currently sits at.
To sum up, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared isn't groundbreaking and it clearly steals from Forrest Gump, but that also makes the film undeniably wonderful, with a charming lead performance to help.
Boyhood is a film that nobody has ever seen before. It was filmed over a twelve year period, following the fictional story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up and experiences the joys and perils of life on Earth, along with his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his mother (Patricia Arquette) and his father (Ethan Hawke). It's a simple premise told through one of mankind's greatest cinematic achievements to date.
There really isn't anything left to say about this movie that hasn't been said before. Due to the belated release date for this film in Australia, I'm only just now reviewing it, and because of this everything you will read in this review has presumably been said in dozens of other reviews. But, Boyhood is an absolute masterpiece and although there will undoubtably be films that try to copy what Boyhood has done, we'll never see anything as fresh as this film again. Every aspect of this film comes damn close to perfection. Everything from the directing to the performances to the screenplay and to the editing. Boyhood is a film you need to see.
This film demonstrates how fast life can flash before our eyes. I feel as if I've grown up with these characters. It's almost as if I was there, watching their entire lives. It's heartbreaking to see them transcend from childhood, or boyhood as the title suggests, into adulthood. These transitions are edited to perfection. There's never a point in the film where it states to you that a year has past since the previous scene. It lets you work this out yourself, and that's all part of the fun. When I say this, I don't mean that the film tries to hide the fact that a year has past, I mean that there's never a title card or a cut to black that signifies an alteration in time. You just know when it happens due to a character's new looks or deeper voice, etc.
Boyhood is both a heartbreaking and a feel-good movie. When a film spans almost two decades, this allows the writer (and in this case, director too) to play with our emotions. There are certain scenes, some building up over the years, that are difficult to watch due to our compassion and love for these characters and their well beings. These scenes are heartbreaking, but as the film goes on this heart break is mended due to the much happier emotions given off. In fact, most of this film put a smile on my face due to its sheer innocence, and retelling of events or moments of dialogue which I could heavily relate to.
To sum up, Boyhood is one of mankind's greatest cinematic achievements to date. The direction is unbelievable, the performances are brilliant, the script both heart warming and emotional and the editing is tight and sleek.
To write up a spoiler-free plot of Predestination is literally impossible. There is no possible way to describe the plot of this film without giving away practically all the twists and turns. In fact, plot is nothing more than mere fragment of this epic and preposterous, multi-genred, time travelling masterpiece. All I can really say about it is that it follows the story of an unnamed bartender (Ethan Hawke) who's assigned one final mission to complete. That's all there is to say, no more no less.
Predestination is unlike any sci-fi film you've seen before. Again, I can't really get into any details as to why it's like this, but it is. The film is so many different things all at once, sci-fi being one of the smaller attributes in this film of epic proportions. Time travel is always a subject matter that plays with people's minds. It's a topic that's impossible to digest and nearly always leaves the viewer with a new sensation floating around in their stomach. Predestination is one of these films. It left me distraught, and even lost for words. On one hand, Predestination is a successful experiment, and on the other it's a hard-hitting mind bender with nothing done by chance. Both of these answers are correct.
Obviously, the performances are incredible. Ethan Hawke gives a masterclass performance, but that's almost always expected from an actor of such high charisma and talent. The other lead, and arguably the more important of the two characters, is played by Sarah Snook. She's not new to the big screen, but she's new to most audiences, or at least those who haven't seen 2011's Sleeping Beauty or 2012's Not Suitable for Children. She boasts with talent in Predestination, this talent only expanding as the film goes on. Her performance can vary from heart break to redeeming within the space of a few minutes, and the execution is flawless. The progression of her character relies solely on her performance, and she fails to muck it up.
Predestination is a film that appears reasonable whilst watching, but comes across superficial after hours of thought. It's been nearly a day since my screening and I've been really struggling to put words to paper, or in my case computer. It's also a film I doubt that I'll stop thinking about for the rest of my life. As it goes on, I felt as if I was almost a step in front of it. I could sense where it was heading, but not from a long shot. I was only able to predict the events of the next few minutes, but it's not shocks that this film is seeking from us. It's deeper than that, but again I'm unable to discuss it.
To sum up, Predestination is an epic and preposterous, time travelling masterpiece, held tightly by stunning performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. It's a mind bender that's impossible to stop discussing, but I don't want to either.
4 1/2 Stars
Need for Speed is based on the video game series of the same name, so it's not too difficult to guess if this film's going to be a hit or not. It follows the story of mechanic and street racer, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul). After being set up by his ex-partner, Dino (Dominic Cooper) and planted in jail for a few years, Tobey is out for revenge and redemption. To do so, he joins a cross country race in which he intends on defeating his old partner.
Need for Speed is nothing more than another Fast and Furious wannabe. I've always found it a bit harsh that every film about criminals participating in street races are referred to as Fast and Furious wannabes, but it's true. This handful of films are also all terrible movies, and Need for Speed is no exception. It's nothing amazing, but I was at least hoping it would give a little more effort. From the trailers and certainly from the cast, this film looked as if it actually cared about the film they were making. It seemed like it was going to be a step forward for the video game to movie adaptations, but it's not, and for me that was the biggest let down.
The cast clearly look like they're trying. Need for Speed rounds up quite a cast, but unfortunately this cast aren't given a decent screenplay to work with. Need for Speed features some atrocious and unrealistic dialogue, yet the cast still make an attempt at making these lines sound like they belong. Aaron Paul is a phenomenal actor, the TV Show Breaking Bad in particular, but even his performance isn't enough to pull this film through. He's got the skills, but he doesn't have the material.
The action is rarely fun. The majority of the audience for this film go into it expecting fun, high octane action sequences. Does Need for Speed deliver the speed that the audience need? Terrible joke aside, no. There's a few decent stunts here and there, but for the most part it just doesn't work. There's a scene which involves one car jumping over several other cars, but this is about the only highlight of the film. The chase sequences have been done before and they'll be done again. It's never fun to see the same mediocre action sequences repeated in multiple movies.
The film goes at a pace that's much slower than it needs to be. The film takes a full thirty minutes to get past its prologue, a length that's beyond necessary. This thirty minutes comes to a conclusion when Tobey ends up in jail, yet it easily could have been no longer than ten minutes. Because of this extended hiccup, the film clocks in at a total of 132 minutes, a runtime that's easily 45 minutes longer than it needed to be.
To sum up, Need for Speed is another Fast and Furious wannabe with unoriginal and dull action sequences, cringe-worthy dialogue, a slow pace and a bloated runtime. The cast do their best, but not even Aaron Paul can save this terrible movie.
1 1/2 Stars
Devil's Due follows the story, or more appropriately documents the daily routine, of newly weds Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) and Samantha McCall (Allison Miller). One morning during their honeymoon, the two wake up with no knowledge of what occurred on the previous night. Soon after this occurs and the couple are 'safe' at home, Samantha falls unexpectedly pregnant. This pregnancy results in Samantha behaving in an unexpected, and occasionally animalistic way.
Devil's Due is another horrible found footage film that's been done before. I used to enjoy found footage films. I used to love them, they always had a realistic nature to them. Films such as Paranormal Activity and Chronicle are films that I still enjoy, but they're also now considered two of the few decent found footage films, not including the sequels. In the past few years we've been bombarded with countless amounts of garbage that's given the label of horror. It's rare these days that we consistently get great horror films, as they're all being made with a budget of a few thousand dollars and they're all making millions at the box-office. Nobody likes them and Devil's Due is one of the worst.
The film isn't even remotely scary, nor interesting. The first hour of this film consists of slow, messy and lousy storytelling that's practically just a bunch of pointless scenarios put in so the film runs long enough to show off its finale. There were so many scenes that had me questioning whether of not certain moments were meant to be considered a scare, as they weren't scary in the least bit and they shouldn't even be considered as a scare. Not only does it fail to be scary, but the film also fails to captivate any interest in both the characters and the storyline. Ooh they got married, ooh the film is fifteen minutes in and we're still at the wedding, ooh the film's now an hour in and nothing has happened yet, etc. I must admit that I do enjoy films that just show life, but I don't consider these type of movies to file under that label, even if the film is compressed of people yabbering on about topics I couldn't care less about.
The performances are unbearably bad. What seemed to work a few years ago with found footage films was that they'd cast actors that aren't well known or haven't starred in any previous films, so that the producers can play the film off as real footage. Nowadays, we know all this garbage is fake, yet studios still insist on hiring terrible actors to deliver terrible performances in a terrible film. It's almost as if the studios are aware that these films suck and so they deliberately hire terrible actors that'll play the part for a small pay check. In fact, I'm almost certain that's the creative process behind this movie.
To sum up, Devil's Due is another unbearably bad found footage movie with an obviously minuscule budget. The film isn't remotely interesting or scary and the performances are atrocious. I beg that you don't ever see this movie.
0 1/2 Stars
The Expendables 3 follows the story of Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), and his crew of soldiers, consisting of Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolp Lundgren), Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the newly founded Doc (Wesley Snipes). After they discover that the villainous Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is still alive after supposedly being dead for several years, the crew seek the aid of a younger group of Expendables to assist in the take down of Barney's old enemy.
When going into The Expendables 3, you know what you're getting into. The Expendables franchise knows that they're not good movies. They know that they're not going to get any recognition come awards season, and they couldn't care less. Their reason for existence is purely so they can entertain and, boy, do they do so. I am not going to hammer into this film, even if at times it feels like I am, but I'm not going to praise the film either. It is what it is and that's an entertaining action movie, and a decent enough way to kill a couple of hours.
The action is fast, exciting and testosterone built! The Expendables 3 ups the action of the previous two films by a long-shot. Although there are multiple characters that appear in the film solely to shoot a few people and say a cool one-liner, it's undeniably awesome. Half of the actors that appear on the poster to the right, are just on there so the film can say they managed to get this big star in the film, but I couldn't care less. Throughout all these explosions, shoot outs, chases and crashes, none can compare to the thrills that are brought upon in the film's finale. The final showdown, although heavily advertised, has to be one of the most entraining twenty minutes of the entire franchise.
The film is very predictable. I don't know if it's even considered negative for a modern action film to be predictable, or if it's become so common that it's just a part of the genre. Nevertheless, The Expendables 3 is both predictable and clichéd. Everything from the "you're too old" jokes, to the dialogue, to the ending, to the way that they try to stir a reaction out of us. We've seen it all before, but, like I've previously said, it's a f***ing Expendables movie so shut up and enjoy.
The film's budget was, presumably, spent on hiring actors rather than getting decent special effects. There were so many times when I was taken out of the moment of the film simply due to the lousy effects. In this special effects driven world, seeing a CGI helicopter isn't considered a part of the norm. Of all the rubbish effects, there was one that annoyed me the most, and unfortunately appeared the most frequently. As the film was aiming for a lower classification, every time blood spurts from a character, the blood has been digitally altered to look like dust. This is what I hated most about the film by a long shot.
To sum up, The Expendables 3 is exactly what it looks like. It's got fun and exciting action, the finale in particular, but it's also a very predictable and clichéd film with a budget that was blown hiring actors rather than on special effects.
2 1/2 Stars
And So It Goes follows the story of Oren Little (Michael Douglas), a grumpy man with a negative outlook at life. When his son, who he hardly sees, is placed in prison, Oren is left to look after his nine year old granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), who he only just found out even existed. Now he must figure out how to look after a kid, along with the help of his neighbour, Leah (Diane Keaton).
And So It Goes is not only a major disappointment, but it's also a massive failure. I enjoy Rob Reiner, he's both a decent director and actor, and so I was hoping he could pull this movie off, in fact prior to the reviews coming in I was almost certain he would. The trailers advertised it as an enjoyable film and so I was very much looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the trailers show every moment of humour in this film. The worst part about this is that, because I'd already seen the jokes, I only chuckled twice in this movie. No more, no less. I didn't laugh at the jokes from the trailer and the jokes that weren't shown, I didn't find funny in the least bit.
The character of Oren Little isn't likeable or relatable. I have nothing against films that feature a dislikable protagonist, but only if it's done right. In And So It Goes, Oren Little is an absolutely despicable character with no care for human emotions. I understand that the film is trying to show his transgression as a human being, but by the time that actually comes around I didn't care about the character or his fate. The protagonist of a film is our way into the story. He's the character we relate to most and the character that brings us along on the journey. It was impossible to enter into this world due to the fact that I wanted to hit the living-daylights out of Oren.
The film is very predictable. I knew going into this film that it was going to be predictable, but I was a) hoping I was wrong and b) ignoring my knowledge of this. Just from watching the trailer I could practically work out how everything in the film goes down, and as the film was nearing the end of the first act, these predictions were coming to life and it appeared that the rest of the film would go down this predictable path too, which it did.
The film's leads have great chemistry, but it doesn't help the film in any way. Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton give decent enough performances in this overly terrible movie, but there's nothing else in this film that stand out. The two leads begin despising each other, perhaps the only thing I could relate to in this movie, but as the film goes on, their chemistry grows and you could tell that they were having a ball during production.
To sum up, And So It Goes is both a disappointment and a failure. The two leads have great chemistry, despite the presence of Douglas' despicable character, but they can't save the film from being bland, unfunny and predictable.
1 1/2 Stars