Posted by: themoviecheese | August 19, 2015

“Big Game” mini review by Tom Stewart

Big Game

Mini review by Tom Stewart

big-game-poster

I’d been looking forward to this for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s directed by Jalmari Helander who directed the excellent dark Christmas film Rare Exports. It’s a great little throwback to guilty-pleasure action movies of the 80s with Sam Jackson as the US president being shot down over the a Finnish forest, only to be rescued by child hunter Oskar (Onni Tommila, also from Rare Exports). Jackson and Tommila’s superb chemistry coupled with Helander’s visual flare and original take on action heroes are what make this film such fun to watch. Jackson especially is cast completely against type. Gone is the usual big-mouthed, dominating bad ass – here he is extremely vulnerable, and not a fighter in the slightest. This is exactly how I would imagine most high government figures to act in such a situation.

It won’t be for everyone. Some may find it horrendously generic, but there is originality to be found here in the characterisation of it’s two leads. Jackson and Tommila work so damn well together, and they aren’t written as out and out heroes who do everything right every time. The villains are simply much better and stronger than them at almost every turn. It’s this that makes the film so entertaining. You know that eventually these two are going to get to one up on the terrorists, and when they do it’s going to be epic.

It does suffer from weak villains. Without spoiling too much, one of them has a relationship with Jackson to an extent, but this is hardly touched upon outside of Jackson simply saying “Son of a bitch”. Also, Jackson has a line of dialogue containing the word “motherfucker”, but it is criminally cut short to “mother-“, much like the Yippie Kai Yay line in Die Hard 4.

The biggest downside to the film is it’s length. A lot of people praise films for being 90 minutes, but in this case it does hurt it. The third act of the film doesn’t necessarily feel rushed, it’s just over way too quickly. The whole film is enjoyable, but then the second it gets REALLY good…it’s over.  Still a blast though, a really great Sunday afternoon movie.
Rating: 7/10

maxresdefault

Advertisements
Posted by: themoviecheese | July 14, 2015

Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Jared Leto’s Joker

Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Jared Leto’s Joker

by Tom Stewart

It’s safe to say that Jared Leto’s version of the Joker from the upcoming Suicide Squad movie has fallen under a fair bit of scrutiny. That scrutiny has become even larger now that a full trailer for Suicide Squad is available. Of course, this is just stupid, and I’m here to address each of the most common complaints people seem to have with his version of the character…

1. It’s just Heath Ledger all over again
No, it really isn’t. He has short hair, tattoos, metal dentures, and bleached skin (as opposed to the face paint in Ledger’s version). Or are you referring to the squeaky voice and sociopathic attitude? So you’d prefer your Joker to have a deep voice and a heroic posture?

2. He doesn’t look like the “source material”
This seems to be the most common complaint…his “look”. Whether it’s the tattoos (more on that later), or the metal dentures, people just don’t seem to be happy about his look at all. Here’s the thing…Jared Leto’s Joker looks A LOT more like the “source material” than Heath Ledger did. That’s a monumental fact.

Here is The Joker (from his current visual interpretation in the comics)…

joker-latest

And here is Heath Ledger and Jared Leto side by side. Which one looks more like the above picture? Honestly.

photostrip-2015-07-14-2

Also, when you say “source material”, what do you mean exactly? Because every single DC comic book featuring The Joker has each had a distinctively different looking Joker. Just like how he’s always been distinctively different in live action films also. The below pictures are a great example of how there really isn’t a “source material” where the Joker’s comic roots are concerned, more a basic template, as artists will always alter his appearance just as film makers will.

photostrip-2015-07-14-1

3. The tattoos
At first glance, this seems like the biggest change to Joker’s usual look. However, firstly let’s not forget that this isn’t the first time the Joker has been seen with tattoos…

vzqkcNH

Secondly, I would disagree with the statement that tattoos are “against Joker as a character”. The “damaged” tattoo on his forehead is the only one I really have a problem with. The rest can very easily be analyzed. I can very easily envision Joker and Harley Quinn sat in a dark room somewhere fucking around with a tattoo gun, whilst laughing maniacally. Or perhaps he did them whilst locked up in Arkham to pass the boredom. In the new Batman vs Superman trailer, Batman says “20 years in Gotham, how many good guys are left?”, meaning he has been Batman for a full 20 years – Joker must have been locked up at some point during that time. It’s also heavily hinted that Joker has killed Jason Todd/Robin before the events of both films as he did in the comics, so perhaps that is why he was locked up, and maybe he did the tattoos as a way of marking what he sees as a great achievement in his games against Batman. That is precisely the kind of fucked up thing the Joker would do.

4. Jared Leto can’t act
I don’t know where this comes from, I really don’t. Dallas Buyer’s Club, American Psycho, Chapter 27, Requiem for a Dream – Leto’s resume is chock full of outstanding, award-winning performances. He is a great versatile actor who has shown ultra range again and again. If you genuinely think he is a “bad” actor, well…well you’re just plain wrong.

In Conclusion

That’s really all anyone is complaining about. The thing about the Joker is that he has no backstory, no history and no build up. He is simply a nameless sociopath who could literally be anybody, providing they have the right amount of crazy – which Leto has in SPADES. I never get when people say “[insert new actor to play the Joker here] doesn’t look like the Joker!” Well… which Joker? Dark Knight Returns Joker? Batman Noel Joker? Arkham franchise Joker? Golden/silver age Joker? 90s Joker? New52 Joker? Killing Joke Joker? Jack Nicholson Joker? Cesar Romero Joker? Heath Ledger Joker? The various different animated series Jokers? He’s had so many different appearances and looks and personalities, that honestly the only things that remain the same are the white face, the red lips, the green hair and the manic facial expressions, which – again – Leto has in spades. The problem here is that after Ledger, Leto has a serious fan base to please. Being such a well loved character, everyone seems to have this cookie-cutter idea of what “their” Joker should look like. But guess what? He’s not “your” Joker, and the character has had more visual interpretations that most other comic book characters around. “This Joker should be [this]”, “The Joker should be [that]”. No, the Joker shouldn’t be anything, because the very nature of his character means he’s capable of everything.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below, and as always thanks for reading!

Posted by: themoviecheese | June 11, 2015

Top Ten Films of 2015…So Far

Top 10 Movies of 2015…So Far (Mid-year review)

10. Maggie

AHNULD rises to the challenge in his most dramatic role yet in a film that has divided audiences down the middle. It is an admittedly slow paced film, but that was always the point. Instead of showing us the carnage, Maggie instead chooses to build on the tragic relationship of its two leads. Schwarzenegger really does act his absolute bollocks off, and this makes the film admirable if only for its ability to bring out the “actor” in him.

9. Ex Machina

Alex Garland’s directorial debut is a beautiful sci-fi that depends more on it’s intellect that its visual effects.  The visual effects are great, but that’s not what this film is about. Absolutely guaranteed to make you think, Ex Machina’s only downfall is that there’s not really anything that doesn’t feel familiar.

8. Big Hero 6

You’re not likely to have as much fun with a recent animated film as you are with Big Hero 6. I approached this film with trepidation, but my god I was wrong. It really is an animated child-friendly version of The Avengers (it’s even based on a Marvel comic book), but don’t let that put you off. Like most recent Disney outings, there is plenty here for adult and child alike in terms of comedy, action and heartfelt emotion.

7. John Wick

Keanu Reeves’ big comeback film is a sheer roller-coaster of expertly choreographed action sequences and a simplistic yet surprisingly effective plot. The gun-play in this film is insane, and a diverse supporting cast adds some brilliant characterization, including one of the very best on-screen deliveries of the word “Oh” ever.

6. Kingsman: The Secret Service

Matthew Vaughan’s relentless addiction to cartoon violence continues with Kingsman, a film that gives the most unlikeliest of actors (Colin Firth) one of the most badass roles in recent memory. Killer dialogue, great soundtrack and superb action sequences; Kingsman isn’t just stylized, it builds itself on the very idea of style. That church scene though…

5. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

This year’s ‘Let The Right One In’, Iran’s first ever vampire film is strikingly original combining several slow-burning horror tropes with that of the western genre. Not necessarily scary, but will crawl under your skin and pitch a tent there all the same. Ana Lily Amirpour is certainly a director to watch.

4. Spring

Spring is a rare beauty that I didn’t know what to expect from. Directed by one of the “VHS: Viral” peeps, I certainly wasn’t expecting what I eventually saw – one of the most unique and engaging films of the year. 2015 really has been a year for innovative horror films (I’ve no doubt It Follows falls under this category, but unfortunately I’ve yet to see it), and Spring is no exception to the rule. It’s spellbinding romantic yet haunting tale that will have you utterly engaged from the get go.

3. Whiplash

The word “tense” is thrown around a lot when reviewing a film. But, fuck me, Whiplash epitomizes the word! Simmons’ performance is terrifying and the pacing is breakneck stuff. Whiplash is incredibly taut stuff and doesn’t let up for a second. Whenever you think it’s going to allow you catch a breather, Simmons goes off on one all over again, and you begin squeezing your armchair all over again.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller is 70 years old. He’s 70 years old and yet he’s directed one of the most visceral and brutally entertaining action films of the past decade. Some people started to doubt it during the marketing, but here it is and it is better than any of us could have even imagined. Hardy may struggle with the accent at times, but talking was never a necessity to playing Max anyway (he has, what, 16 lines in Road Warrior?). Theron’s Furiosa is a great new addition to Max’s world and the villains are as colourful as ever. The whole thing is just stunning as well, with most of the action being *real* as opposed to an overabundance of CGI. CGI is used very sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, and the action sequences are a lot more entertaining because of this. Did i mention the director is fucking 70 years old?

1. White God

White God is essentially Rise of the Planet of the Dogs, but I can’t help but feel like I’m cheapening the film somewhat by saying that…it’s so much more than that. For starters, its the most tense and hard-to-watch film of the year, but it’s also the most satisfying and deliriously entertaining. Watching a group of some of the nastiest humans get what’s coming to them by an army of “man’s best friends” is more fun than you could think. Imagine a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, where the bird are replaced with dogs and you root for them instead of the humans. You don’t even have to be a dog lover to like this film. Even if you hate dogs, you’ll fucking *love* the dogs in White God. It’s a carefully plotted and paced film with the absolute best payoff/climax of the year (yes, even better than Fury Road’s)

Posted by: themoviecheese | May 6, 2015

“The Avengers: Age of Ultron” Review

The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Review by Tom Stewart (TheMovieCheese)

Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe ended with the eventual teaming of the Avengers, and so now Phase Two has built to that films sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Is it a sequel though? Is that what we can call it? Technically, it’s more of a sequel to both Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Soldier, since events that transpire in both of those films (Stark creating the Iron Legion, the collapse of SHIELD, introducing the “twins”) are what has led to AoU’s plot. SHIELD is gone, the team have an uncertain future, Stark is still having nightmares, and Banner is more afraid of the color green than he ever has been before. Somehow, MCU godfather Joss Whedon has to find a way to gell all these threads together into what will undoubtedly be the second biggest (sorry, but Star Wars) film of the year. Yes, the shit just got very real. Maybe.

Age of Ultron wastes no time in throwing us right into the thick of it, opening with a blistering action set piece featuring our team setting out to retrieve the staff from the first film. It’s a truly thrilling sequence featuring more than one shot that seems straight from a comic book panel. This is our opener, and it’s a Testament to what a *real* Whedon summer blockbuster can be – a full-on, two and a half hour thrill-a-thon. Age of Ultron barely stops for breath, and it’s a good job that’s the case, because the action sequences are definitely it’s strongest suit. Also, this time round this is a *true* Whedon film. Whereas on the first Avengers, Whedon merely did rewrites, here he has written and directed the whole thing and it really does show; mostly for the better, but also, it had to be said, for the worse.

image

The major problem I had with Age of Ultron is that it seems to lack a clear focus. Everything in the film seems to just *happen*. There is barely any build up at all to the creation of Ultron himself and it’s because of this that I found myself feeling a lot less excitement than what I thought I would. The films second action sequence is a very Whedon-esque sequence in which Ultron attacks a party that the Avengers are holding. It’s a great sequence, but the build up to it is ridiculously fast, not allowing the audience to build up any amount of tension. Instead of thinking “Oh shit, that’s Ultron!” I just thought “Oh… that’s Ultron? Okay”. It’s definitely evident that a large chunk of Whedon’s film has been cut by Disney/Marvel, and this is what gives way to the aforementioned lack of focus and indeed a huge pacing issue.

Another thing that severely hurts the film as a whole is an overwhelming sense of familiarity. I just couldn’t shake that I’d seen everything in Age of Ultron before, and that’s because it is literally Avengers Assemble all over again. Replace the Chitauri with robots and you have the exact same film. Ultron even acts exactly the same as Loki…and that brings me to my next problem: Ultron himself. Don’t get me wrong, James Spader does a superb job with the material he’s given; the problem I have is with the material itself. Why is it that Marvel have this huge army of writing talent (Whedon, James Gunn, Jon Favreau, Shane Black etc) and yet none of them can write a decent villain? Why is it that every single Marvel villain either turns out a wise-cracking douche (Loki, Ultron) or generic and forgetful (Ronnan, every single Iron Man villain). Why does every villain have to be a damn comedian? What ever happened to them just being threatening and, you know, EVIL? The problem with these Marvel films is that they keep writing their villains to be “cool”. I’m fine with a cool villain, but there has to be a level of threat.

image

Age of Ultron’s biggest problem though is that the appeal has been lost. This isn’t necessarily a fault as such though, as this is something that’s extremely difficult to replicate (although I’m certain that Infinite Wars will do a good job of it). What made Avengers Assemble so great was seeing these characters on screen for the first time. That’s something just fifteen years ago we never (ever) thought we’d see. However, now that we have seen that, the appeal of seeing them together on screen is lost. The action scenes are still exciting, but it’s essentially just another ensemble movie now, and the excitement you feel is akin to watching something like X-Men or Oceans Eleven – you enjoy seeing the characters together, but it’s not gonna “Wow” you like it did the first time.

However, I’m not here to destroy the film, far from it. Whedon is still a master of the summer blockbuster and this is no exception. There is a LOT to like in Age of Ultron once the initial disappointment dissolves. Like I said, the action scenes (whilst very similar to the first film) are superb, with two stand outs being a seriously tense fight between Captain America and Ultron atop of a speeding truck and a fight between Iron Man (in his Hulk Buster suit) and the Hulk. In fact, the Hulk/Banner is once again one of the best things about the film and features in one of the film’s most surprising narrative saving graces – a superbly written sub-romance between him and Black Widow. This subplot definitely gives gravitas to Banner’s character, but also gives much needed depth to Black Widow/Romanov.

image

Another character who is given a heft of depth and character development this time round is Hawkeye/Barton. It’s been no secret that Jeremy Renner wasn’t a fan of how his character was handled in Avengers Assemble, and it has definitely been rectified here. Without spoiling too much, he essentially becomes the main character for the whole film on several occasions – each of which are brilliant. His character is fleshed out in truly surprising ways and he’s also definitely the funniest and has undoubtedly the very best line in the entire film.

Ah yes, the jokes. This being Whedon, expect the gags to come thick and fast. As in Avengers Assemble, some of them are a hit, and some not so much. Whether you take to the dialogue as a whole does depend entirely on your judgement of Whedon as a talent, since this time round the screenplay is completely his baby. If you didn’t like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, your perception of him is not going to change here.

image

Of the new characters we have Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and The Vision (I don’t think that’s a spoiler at this point). Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver essentially take on the role that Hawkeye had in the first film, in that they are villains that are *not really* villains. The Vision, however, takes on a role that is totally vital. He also just happens to be one of the best things about the film and has two of the best moments in the film.

Conclusion:
In the end, Phase Two has been a backwards form of what Phase One was. Where as the solo films of Phase One all took part in building up to Avengers Assemble, in Phase Two only two of the films built up to Age of Ultron. Instead, Age of Ultron’s narrative informs us of things to come in small snippets. We are presented with a darker film than the first, but one that suffers from a sever lack of focus. It’s a film of random events that have been placed in narrative order with a throwaway villain that Marvel never have to worry about using again. The purpose of this film was to cleverly introduce us to new Avengers characters that could possibly one day take over the mantel from the team we’ve grown to love. In that regard, it’s succeeded in making these minor characters feel more significant than we first thought. But all of this – even wrapped up in superbly choreographed action sequences – can’t stop the sense of familiarity and the overwhelming feeling that a lot of plot has hit the cutting room floor.

Rating: 7/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | February 23, 2015

Oscars 2015 – My Predictions

So in a couple of hours (at the time of typing this), 2015’s Oscars will descend on our screens. As always, I’ll be watching the whole thing, updating periodically via twitter (@KlyFilmClub). For now, here are my predictions…

Best Picture

What should win: Birdman

What will win: Boyhood

Best Actor

What should win: Michael Keaton, Birdman

What will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

What should win: Reese Witherspoon, Wild

What will win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor

What should win: JK Simmons, Whiplash

What will win: JK Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

What should win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

What will win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Best Animated Feature

What should win: Big Hero 6

What will win: How To Train Your Dragon II

Best Cinematography

What should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: Birdman

Best Costume Design

What should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Director

What should win: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

Best Editing

What should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Foreign Language Film

What should win: Leviathan

What will win: Ida

Best Original Score

What should win: Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Song

What should win: “Everything Is Awesome!”, The Lego Movie

What will win: “Everything Is Awesome!”, The Lego Movie

Best Production Design

What should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Sound Editing

What should win: Birdman

What will win: Birdman

Best Sound Mixing

What should win: Whiplash

What will win: Birdman

Best Visual Effects

What should win: Interstellar

What will win: Interstellar

Best Adapted Screenplay

What should win: Whiplash

What will win: The Theory of Everything

Best Original Screenplay

What should win: Birdman 

What will win: Birdman

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts below…

 

 

Posted by: themoviecheese | February 13, 2015

“Fifty Shades of Grey” Short Review

Short Review – Fifty Shades of Grey

Dakota-Johnson-as-Anastasia-Steele-taken-from-the-trailer-of-their-film-Fifty-Shades-Of-Grey-which-has-been-released

If you’re one of those people – yes, you were right…It’s a pretty bad film. Most of our predictions were correct and we can now relax with a smug look on our faces for predicting something that was – let’s be honest – the most blatantly obvious thing of the year: Fifty Shades of Grey: The Movie is not good. The dialogue is so atrocious that it almost becomes the year’s funniest comedy, Dakota Johnson is awful as Anastasia, the “story” makes no sense, the entire film makes an absolute mockery of people who actually lead a fetish/BDSM lifestyle, the two leads have absolutely zero chemistry and the sex scenes are left feeling stale and completely devout of any eroticism as a result of this.

However, and I say this in the most loose way possible, it’s not completely terrible. The cinematography, for instance, is superb! Every scene (especially those concerning nudity or any kind of sexual tension) is superbly lit, and the set designs are brilliant. The “BDSM room” in particular is extremely true to form and authentic. Whilst the chemistry between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson is zilch, Dornan himself tries his very best with the car crash of a script that he’s been given, and his performance is certainly not as bad as Johnson’s. And whilst the dialogue is definitely bad (sooo bad), it’s no wear near as bad as the dialogue in E.L James’ original novel. Gone is the cringe-worthy first person narration, and gone with it are the stupidly annoying sections of Anastasia being unrealistically naive in her own head, saying things like “Wow” and “Oh jeez” whenever Christian gets his cock out – grown women just don’t talk like that. They just don’t.

However, this is rather like grasping for something bad in a film that everyone else thinks is good. It’s meaningless. A bad film is a bad film, and Fifty Shades of Grey just is no exception. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t really ridicule it because it’s bad. That would be like ridiculing a pig for being fat, or a skunk for being smelly – they are born that way, much in the same way that this film was fundamentally born this way. E.L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey novel is one of the worst written mainstream novels this side of the Millennium, so did we really expect anything else from a film adaption? Is it a close representation of the fetish/BDSM lifestyle? No, it is not. Is it ultimately the worst film of the year? No, ultimately, it won’t be. Last year saw the release of Mrs Brown’s Boys, and I’m quite sure something of equal caliber will be released this year. Is Fifty Shades of Grey as bad as Mrs Brown’s Boys? No, not even close. It may sound like I’m bigging up and attempting to defend what is ultimately a bad film, but allow me to put it into perspective: Fifty Shades of Grey is probably one of the only times I can think of in which “the film is better than the book”. Sure, in the case of Fifty Shades, that’s rather like how being kicked in the dick is better than being shot in the dick, but I still think it’s a very relevant point to consider. Now, can we all just forget about this poor man’s porn and look forward to some proper films?

Rating: 3/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (review)

Plot: Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the dwarves have successfully reclaimed Erebor from the dragon Smaug, but in doing so they have unleashed the dragon’s fury onto the citizens of Lake Town. And if Smaug wasn’t enough trouble, they’ve also got to contend with elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace), who wants to reclaim the white elven stones that are hidden within Erebor’s treasure. So begins an epic battle with five huge armies, bringing the Cinematic Middle-Earth saga to a close.

Beginning ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ with what should have been the climax of the last film is a bizarre move. Behemoth dragon Smaug, the main villain of the last film, is dispatched literally within the first ten minutes – before we even *see* the “Battle of the Five Armies” title card. Surely that’s not a spoiler. This is a prequel after all, so we at least know that Gandalf and Bilbo survive – they sure as hell weren’t going to accomplish that with Smaug still around.

image

So a bizarre opening it may be, but somehow it works and definitely pays off. Whereas ‘An Unexpected Journey’ took over an hour before *anything* happened, and ‘Desolation of Smaug’ seemed somewhat anticlimatic; ‘Five Armies’ is a non-stop 2 and a half hour battle with only about 30 minutes of real down time. It’s a massive spectacle the likes of which you could only imagine Jackson and a few other directors delivering. We are met with the battle with Smaug right from the off – it’s our opening scene – and it’s bloody brilliant. Lake Town is engulfed in a fiery blaze with only Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman the only one heroic enough to stand against the beast. Opening a third-parter like this is a huge gamble, because it means people will ultimately judge the ending of the previous film. But that if that gamble means we get a third film that is as breathless as this one, then I have to side with Jackson’s decision.

‘Five Armies’ is also the shortest of the three films, but that’s completely understandable with the film being essentially a 10 minute battle opening, 30 minutes of build up and dwarf politics, ending with a titanic hour-long battle. There’s also a short scene to reintroduce the White Council (Galadriel, Saruman & Elrond) in a superb sequence showcasing Christopher Lee displaying some serious Wizard-fu badassery. Alright, it was probably a stunt double, but that doesn’t make the scene any less awesome.

image

The bulk of the story concerns Thorin Oakenshield and his dragon sickness. With Smaug vanquished, Thorin can reclaim the gold deep within Erebor’s mountain. However, the sheer beauty of this gold is said to drive a man mad. And drive Thorin mad, it does. Richard Armitage proves that he has the acting chops to stand against the best in the series. Scenes where he displays absolute madness and even forsakes his own kin are up there with the likes of Viggo Mortensen and Andy Serkis’ best scenes. The chemistry he has with Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is the best here that it’s ever been. Speaking of Freeman, he is equally superb and excells at displaying both hilarity and heartbreaking emotion with real gusto. And lest we forget that Bilbo is indeed the title character of the film, he can at times seem second file to the bigger picture unfolding. He is still the heart of the film however, and part of his story (as well as that of his fellow dwarves) is absolutely heart breaking.

The best part of the story for me was the politics, with Thorin, elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace) and the men of Lake Town each attempting to lay claim to Erebor’s haul. It’s a back and forth battle of wits that reminds you Jackson *can* direct something other than decapitations.

image

The action (of which this film is 80% of) is pretty crazy – a film called ‘Battle of the FIVE Armies’ will do that. Sprawling field clashes, mountain-side swashbuckling, swooping airborne tussles, city-levelling sieges – it’s all here and in usual Jackson splendor. As with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, every single character is given ample opportunity to shine on the battlefield as well. The problem is (being some 20 years after Lord of the Rings was shot), it’s all a little CGI overload. LotR of course used extensive CGI, but the orcs themselves were at least real men in costumes and prosthetics. Here, even they are largely CGI. Whilst that’s not necessarily a fault (with Weta handling the VFX, everything looks great) it’s also annoying. Head orc baddie Azog is completely motion captured CGI and it makes no sense.

Another annoyance I have is one of the same issues I had with the second Hobbit film; the sound design. The first Hobbit film, ‘An Unexpected Journey’, followed the same trope as the Lord of the Rings trilogy of having some brilliant sound design and editing. The music was memorable, loud and empowering without drowning out the dialogue (I’m looking at you, Interstellar); and when somebody spoke during an epic battle, they spoke as if they were in the middle of a battle. In ‘Five Armies’, just like in ‘Desolation of Smaug’, the sound design is all over the place. Howard Shore’s score is muted to the point where it has next to no impact, and the ADR-recorded dialogue sounds like ADR-recorded dialogue, and not the dialogue of someone who’s on a battlefield with 10,000 other soldiers. There’s a Dwarf-centric scene half way through the film that should have been the most epic moment in the whole trilogy, but due largely to the muted score I just kind of shrugged and sipped my 7up.

image

The fight sequences are mostly superbly choreographed. Characters like Thorin, Legolas and Tauriel seem to have such trouble against lead orcs Azog and Bolg that you can’t help but wonder how the likes of Aragorn would have fared. I keep bringing up the battles, but there really is not much else to this film. That’s both a strength and a weakness. There’s no denying Peter Jackson’s bravado when it  comes to formulating an epic battle sequence. It’s almost like a mathematical project to him; like a world class chess player creating a mental blueprint of how each piece needs to attack and how each opposing piece needs to defend. When watching the film’s gargantuan warzone, you can literally picture Jackson stood at a large table with an assortment of little green army men formulating each sequence and order.

Surprisingly, battle fatigue never set in, at least for me anyway. By the 90-minute mark I’d seen 3,000 orcs get decapitated, maimed and pinned with arrows and yet I was ready to see another 3,000 more.

image

In Conclusion: People will ultimately compare ‘Five Armies’ to ‘Return of the King’, which is of course silly. The truth here is that whilst The Hobbit is in no way anywhere near as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, making that comparison is unfair. The Hobbit trilogy as a whole is a resounding success, and here’s why: The Hobbit novel that the films are based off… isn’t very good. Whereas the Lord of the Rings series of novels is a literary phenomenon, let’s face it, The Hobbit is merely a mildly entertaining children’s book that’s only good for one read and then it collects dust. The fact that Jackson and co. have taken this book and expanded it into a trilogy of (mostly) highly entertaining films is commendable. It is what it is, and it’s not as good as Lord of the Rings, but it was never going to be. If there is any trump card that ‘Battle of the Five Armies’ has over ‘Return of the King’, it’s that it has one singular ending as opposed to the sixteen endings that ‘Return’ had. Instead of indulging in itself by tying up every single loose thread (even the ones we don’t care about), it simply gives us a nice satisfying conclusion that ties directly into Fellowship of the Ring. Goodbye Middle-Earth, it’s been a blast.

Rating: 8/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | April 14, 2014

“The Raid 2” Review

The Raid 2 Review
by Tom Stewart (TheMovieCheese.net)

Title: The Raid 2
Stars: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Run time: 150 minutes
Rating: 18
Genre: Martial Arts/Crime/Action

Welsh-born director Gareth Evans first came to our attention with his hugely successful 2011 action movie The Raid. His first film Merantau (also starring usual collaborator Iko Uwais) barely broke DVD sales, despite being an excellent impression of Evans’ style of action directing coupled with Uwais’ intricate martial arts choreography. It was Indonesian film The Raid that left action junkies spellbound and brought Evans to the forefront of martial arts cinema, effectively making it mainstream again, in the same way that The Matrix did back in 1999. Very quickly, talks of a Hollywood remake were being uttered, and then Evans himself announced a sequel.

kitchen

Rama (Iko Uwais) vs. The Assassin (Cecep Rahman)

The Raid 2 has been out now for a couple of months (in various territories, around a week in the UK) and so the internet is awash with reviews. It’s rotten tomatoes score currently stand at a positive 80%. The trailers wowed everyone and pointed towards a much bigger complex story line when compared to the low-key, single location narrative of the first film. People were calling it the “greatest action movie since Die Hard” before it had even been released. The first screenings at 2014’s Sundance Film Festival had everyone going mental on twitter, claiming it to be the most eclectic movie they’d ever seen. “Absolutely amazing!!”, “Greatest action movie ever made!” and “The Departed crossed with Kill Bill!” were among some of the thousands of tweets from Sundance goers.

However, when the film was released commercially, the professional reviews were telling another story. Whilst they were largely positive (80% on RT, 8.9 on IMDB), they pointed out various flaws and worries that they stated almost overshadowed the action for them. The complexities and extended run time meant that the film flew over certain critics’ heads, causing them to enjoy the fight scenes, but not really care. And so, as a huge fan of both Merantau and The Raid, and Gareth Evans in general…I was worried. Would I have these same views? Then I remembered three very important facts: 1. I love martial arts. The Raid 2 is a martial arts movie…2. I love crime dramas. The Raid 2 is also a crime drama…3. Gareth Evans is slowly becoming one of my favorite directors. The Raid 2 is directed by Gareth Evans. This whole situation has taught me, as it has taught us all from time to time, that sometimes-no, most of the time, we just don’t agree with what we read. I expected The Raid 2 to be overlong…it wasn’t. I expected the story to feel contrived and messy…it didn’t. I expected some of the set pieces to feel ridiculous…they didn’t. I expected all of this and got none of it. What I did get is one of the best action movies of the past decade, and possibly the greatest example of on-screen martial arts choreography of all time.

Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in The Raid) returns as different character "Koto"

Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in The Raid) returns as different character “Koto”

I don’t class myself as a film critic, or even a film aficionado. I’m just a guy who loves movies and enjoys writing about them. However, martial arts cinema is another matter. I class myself as somebody who really studies the choreography in action films and always have. The choreography in The Raid was amazing. The choreography in its sequel, however, is something else entirely. Evans’ pacing is absolutely masterful, morphing each fight sequence into a screen dance the likes of which we would see in a Broadway musical. Fusing impeccable timing with teeth-grinding brutality sends your senses into overdrive. Evans’ film crew don’t simply *hold* the camera when shooting action, they *wield* it – treating it as a weapon within the film itself and treating themselves as characters caught up in the chaotic madness on screen.

The Raid 2 is bigger and better than its predecessor in absolutely every sense of both words. Adding a heft of much-needed complexity to Rama’s (Iko Uwais) continuing story line means we are treated to extended emotions that were admittedly absent from the first film. Opening mere moment from the closing of the first outing, The Raid 2 sees rookie cop Rama in a meeting with one of his superiors after tearing down an entire building of drug dealers in the first film. He is told that his one-man army victory was nothing compared to the bigger picture. There are much bigger, badder organisations out there that his initial bust were just a small part of. Rama is given a new task (fueled by revenge) to go deep undercover into these new organisations, first by being arrested and placed in prison where he will befriend a boss’ son, thereby gaining access into their violent family upon release from prison. What follows is part Infernal Affairs, part Game of Death as Rama’s mission soon goes way over his head before being pitted against dangerous mob bosses, a seedy puppeteer orchestrating a drug war, and several Tarantino-esque deadly assassins.

Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman)

Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman)

I live for films like this. The Raid 2 is a film that chooses character over story, and uses its unique outfit of characters to move the narrative along. A film that is completely reliant on its characters influencing the story rather than the story influencing itself. That is why I took to The Raid so highly. Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs is one of my favorite foreign films of all time, and The Raid 2 reminded me so much of it. You know, if Infernal Affairs was filled with balletic, blood drenching fight sequences. Oh yes, the action. What starts with a bone-cruncher featuring Rama taking on 20-30 guys in one toilet cubicle (no shit) quickly ascends into a series of some of the greatest action set pieces ever committed to celluloid. Inmate vs guard warfare in a mud drenched prison yard, a trio of hilarious assassin takedowns, a couple of car chases that put the Fast & Furious series to shame and a Kitchen-set one on one fight scene featuring some of the absolute best choreography and fight pacing I’ve *ever* seen are just a few of the highlights. With absolutely no CGI in sight, Evans stretches his film’s budget and restrictions to the absolute limit. Whether its steel-grinding car chases or gravity defying stunts, The Raid 2 has every morsel of your jaw glued to the floor for its entire run time; and that’s *some* run time. At 150 minutes, The Raid 2 is almost a full hour longer than its predecessor. At no point did I really feel it was too long however. Admittedly there are certain sequences that seem to linger a little too long. Evans edits all of his films himself and he does seem to love his regular cinematographer Matt Flannery’s work just a little too much. The bulk of the film, however, feels absolutely necessary.

As I said earlier, The Raid 2 is once again a character piece with a genuinely unique mix of supporting characters. Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in the first film) returns as a different character known only as “Koto”; a long scraggly haired, machete-wielding, hobo jacket-wearing badass with possibly the most emotional and relatable back story in the whole film. Newcomer Cecep Rahman pops up as an extremely deadly dual-knife-wielding assassin, and then there are The Twins: a brother-sister duo of assassins known only as Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl. Whenever these two are on screen you will struggle to keep a straight facial expression – either laughing hysterically at the way they dispatch their victims, or wincing at the extremely violent way they, well, dispatch their victims. And then there’s Rama (Iko Uwais) himself. Uwais returns with the same unquestionable amount of screen-presence and physical dexterity that he possessed in the first film. Indonesia’s answer to Jet Li, he is an impossibly fast and brutal tour de force who smacks badguys to the ground as if their bodies are made of wet tissue. It’s a credit to Rama that all the main supporting characters fight with gimmicks (hammers, bats, knives, machetes etc), as that gives each of Rama’s techniques an old school flavor, as he relies on his expertly trained Indonesian Silat.

Hammer time! Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) brings the pain

Hammer time! Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) brings the pain

If there are any flaws to be found, they are minor and certainly not the ones mentioned in a number of online reviews. I would of liked a short bridging sequence at the beginning, maybe even just tack on the final shot of The Raid where Rama is exiting the building’s main gate with his wounded comrades. An early motivation of revenge that fuels the first third of the film is very quickly forgotten about, and there are many instances where you can’t help but think “Why does nobody have a gun right now?”. The film also closes on an obvious set-up for the recently announced third film – but such complaints (whilst valid) are meaningless in a film filled with such sense-bending madness.

In Conclusion
Gareth Evans has returned to his masterful trilogy with a near masterpiece of modern action cinema. In an era of action films that are plagued by questionable CGI, muscle-less teenage superheros, cocky narcissists and 70-year old geriatrics who are way past their prime; The Raid 2 has spin-kicked its way onto our screens to remind us of what we used to love about action cinema and give us a glimpse of what the future of action could hold if more directors like Evans were on the scene. With balletic gunplay, impeccable martial arts choreography and a complex almost Shakespearean tale of waring gangs and families, The Raid 2 is unquestionably (and will probably remain) the very best action film of 2014.
Rating: 9/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | April 2, 2014

Top 20 Films of 2013

Top 20 Films of 2013

The year is over, awards season is upon us, and it’s that time of year again where film freaks the world over feel compelled to reveal their “best of the year” lists in regards to film. So who am I to not take part? In true “Tom style”, I have once again overcompensated and decided to increase my list to “top 20” (last year it was top 15). I do this because there are films that I see as deserving more than a mere special mention, they deserve a full paragraph. So, here are my top 20 films of 2013. As always, there will be films missing from this list that may make you think “What?! Surely that should be in there!” My reasoning for this is most likely…I haven’t seen it. Because I can’t be expected to see every new film in a year, not every ten star movie makes the final cut.

20. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

the strange colour of your body's tears_01

Beginning the list with a real “love or hate” movie, we have the most recent work of bizarre horror duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani. After their critically dividing, 70s inspired film Amer, Cattet and Forzani return with a film in which the narrative is equally as exhausting as their previous film, but in which the cinematic beauty that made them so famous has been rammed up to 100. As with Amer (which I also loved), style definitely stands tall over substance, but the style is to blisteringly gorgeous that you are left with a feeling of spellbound majesty. Or at least I was. I have a feeling not many people share this, due to the cut-down-the-middle 50% rating on rotten tomatoes.

19. After Lucia

after-lucia_02

After Lucia is 93 minutes long. Just one minute longer than that and I am almost certain that I would not be alive right now. My heart beat would of reached an alarming rate, and I would have died. After Lucia contains undeniable amounts of tension that will force you to pause the film half way through and question where or not you want to continue. Featuring some of the most realistic depictions of school bullying I’ve ever seen in a film, it is an ugly film that guides your hand into scenes that you simply do not want to see but find yourself completely incapable of looking away from. The film starts off nice…TOO nice. You know that shit is going to hit the fan, and when it does it’s going to feel like a brick. A very large brick.

18. You’re Next

youre next

I knew I’d love You’re Next. We all get this, that one film that you just know you are going to have a lot of fun with no matter what. You’re Next was actually filmed in 2011 and screened around countless festivals, but only just secured a commercial release in 2013. It is the latest in the “mumblegore” films, a new genre made famous by such directors as TI West (House of the Devil) and Joe Swanberg (VHS). It’s a mash of delirious slasher horror set pieces that amount to one hell of a fun time. West and Swanberg even pop up in cameos, and the film features one of the most memorable central characters of the year. The film is also written by Simon Barrett (brainchild of both VHS movies) and features some of his best and most witty dialogue. Great fun.

17. VHS2

vhs2

That brings us very nicely into our next film. If you’ve seen the first VHS film, then you know the drill as it is pretty much the same set up here. However, the second outing improves on its predecessor in absolutely every way possible. I was let down by the first VHS because I just felt there was constantly something missing. It also failed as an anthology as every segment seemed to feel almost exactly the same. Thankfully, VHS2 rectifies this and then some. The directors of one of the original found footage films Blair Witch Project direct the Ride In the Park segment and inject some real fun into the zombie genre, whilst Gareth Evans’ (The Raid) segment “Safe Haven” is sheer craziness and definitely the stand out.

16. Cloud Atlas

cloud-atlas-wbp07

The Wachowski’s return to Sci-fi with their good friend Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) in tow. Adapting one of the most thought provoking science fiction novels of all time, means we are treated to some of the best visuals the brothers have ever brought to screen, coupled with an absolutely massive story that spans generations. Each member of the film’s enormous cast does an excellent job of portraying their multiple roles (some of them even play opposite genders or different ethnicities). Each time-frame feels like a different genre, with the stand outs for me being the “current time” comedy with Jim Broadbent and the 70s mystery thriller with Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving.

15. Big Bad Wolves

large_Big_bad_wolves_2

Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film of 2013, Big Bad Wolves comes from Israel directing duo Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado who brought us the equally excellent Rabies. Their follow up film is a piece of work that pushes the boundaries of what is expected of a black comedy. The film centers on two controversial themes: pedophilia and torture. Did I mention it’s a *comedy*? Yeah. Somehow, however, this works. Basing its comedy on several deeply disturbing acts means that we question each time we laugh. You can’t help but laugh, but feel so damn guilty for having done it. The plotting is also excellent, with absolutely no hints of the twist ending right up until the moment it is revealed. It’s easy to see why Tarantino loved the film so much, with a story that is laced with graphic violence plastered with layers upon layers of the darkest humor possible.

14. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan-Partridge-Alpha-Papa1

The entity Alan Partridge fans have been waiting for for years. It’s finally landed and for the fans, it certainly does not disappoint. The film’s greatest strength though lies in its ability to bring in a new crowd; people who have never seen a single episode or barely even heard of the character or Steven Coogan himself. Alpha Papa is a film that anyone can very easily enjoy, not just the hardcore fans. It successfully caters to every film goer, with Steven Coogan reigniting the rubbery comedy that made Partridge so popular and coupling it with a modernized and instantly relatable narrative of forever-changing technology, mindsets and demographic.

13. Man of Steel

Man-Of-Steel-Henry-Cavill-Kal_El-3

Christopher Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder teamed up to return the king of superheros back to your screens. In comics, Superman is the most enduring superhero of all time and these three visionaries were met with the challenge of making Superman still relevant in a film world filled with narcissists (Spider-man, Iron Man) and sociopaths (Batman, The Punisher). Superman is just a guy from a farm who just so happens to be the most powerful superhero that’s ever existed. He’s unstoppable. How do you make something like that relatable? That is the sole reason I regard Man of Steel so highly, because they successfully took the Superman mythos and modernized it whilst still staying very true to the source. Henry Cavill was born to wear the suit, Russell Crowe as Jor El makes Marlon Brando’s overrated performance a distant memory, and Michael Shannon is as intimidating as ever as General “kneel before” Zod. But it is the dual efforts of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane that really give the film meat in the acting department, delivering the absolute best version of Ma and Pa Kent we’ve ever seen on screen. Sure, the second half comes a little too quick and the bombastic final fight scene seems a little out of place and a little too destructive, but this is a starter for a much bigger main course.

12. Pacific Rim

pacific-rim-101

Guillermo Del Toro returns to blockbuster cinema with one of the most anime-wanking films ever made. He could have actually just called it ‘Evangelion’ and probably gotten away with it. Ever single morsel of the film pays homage to anime in one way or another, whether its the fractured hero, the asshole who’s supposed to be on the same team, or the disgruntled general who barks orders but refuses to join the fight. Hell, the female lead is even Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi. And then there’s the Jaegers themselves; big hulking mecha that make the transformers look like, well, toys. Tasked with taking down the invading race of Kaiju, the film’s CGI 3D-enhanced fight sequences really popped whenever these badboys are on-screen. At times, it does still suffer from the same “What the hell is going on” visual problem that plagues the Transformers franchise, but these fight are easily a lot more distinguished. Many critics called it “power rangers for young adults”. I say, just what is wrong with that?

11. The World’s End

the worlds end

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring their “blood and cornetto” trilogy to a close, this time with a homage to the sci-fi end of the world movies of the 1960s (among other things). Featuring the exact same snappy dialogue and lightning speed editing that we have come to love from this trio, The World’s End is a superb final curtain. Pegg and Frost have their usual role-types reversed, with Pegg this time playing the dole-dossing annoyance, while Frost plays the straight-laced hard working family man. This makes for an ingeniously pleasant surprise within the film’s narrative structure and keeps everything fresh, which in turn helps with the film’s pace, especially as it is at least 45 minutes before the sci-fi aspect even comes into play. Once it does though, the film’s best feature is revealed – the fight scenes. Edgar Wright has always been an excellent action director along with the masterful editing prowess of Paul Machliss, but here he shows newly found skills in the fight choreography department. The fights in this film are simply amazing; a blend of messy bar brawls mixed with krav maga. I like to call it “pub fu”. Intriguingly, the film’s “special thanks” credits lists Jackie Chan.

10. The Battery

The Battery movie 2012 pic6

What’s this? A zombie film in my top ten?! The Battery is a new zombie film with a budget of around $6,000…but you’d have never guessed it. Following two former baseball players and best friends as they travel New England after a zombie outbreak, writer/director/actor Jeremy Gardner’s script is extremely witty but also touching. Like the best zombie films out there, The Battery is more about the living than the dead, making the relationship of our two main characters the main focus and making everything else a backdrop. It’s also a very classically made film in general. Gone is the usual shaky-cam ADHD-style of cinematography that seems to plague so many modern horror films. With two incredibly strong performances, and an astonishing final 30 minutes book-ended with one of the absolute BEST ending of the year, The Battery has cemented Jeremy Gardner as a name to watch in modern horror.

9. Django Unchained

Django-4

Quentin Tarantino returns with one of his most accessible films to date (next to Pulp Fiction of course). It also doesn’t suffer from that common Tarantino trait in that every character talks like Tarantino, in this they have their own personality and act like the person they are supposed to be acting like. Jamie Fox is a brilliant lead and Christophe Waltz once again turns in an excellent performance, as does Leonardo DiCaprio as the villain. But the performance that really struck out for me was definitely Samuel L Jackson; cast completely against type as a (well, I can’t really say), Jackson’s performance is the absolute stand out of the entire film and possibly his career, and that’s a bold statement.

8. Nebraska

NEBRASKA

Director Alexander Payne returns after The Descendants and Sideways with Nebraska, a hilarious character piece. It has to be said, however, that the entire film belongs to Bruce Dern. Playing central character Woody as he travels to Nebraska with his son to claim a million-dollar sweepstake prize, Dern is an absolute joy to watch. Placing the film in black and white was an interesting move and one that I can’t quite put a finger on in terms of reasoning. Nevertheless, Nebraska’s characters are fantastically written, with the father/son study forming the central root.

7. A Highjacking

A Hijacking_

A Highjacking is a brutally realistic – so much so it verges on documentary – film depicting the hijacking of a Danish-owned freighter by Somali pirates. Not to be confused with the Tom Hanks film Captain Philips, A Highjacking is a totally different beast. The entire film has an almost obsessive sense of realism, the whole film was filmed on an actual freighter, and not just any old freighter, but one that had actually at one point been highjacked. Knowing this before you watch heightens the film’s already almost unbearable levels of tension. Each shot within the tight walls of the freighter are met with an incredible “Holy shit, this actually happened” sense of dread. A richly-layered, uncomfortable and utterly gripping film.

6. A Field In England

a-field-in-england-1024_LRG

I was lucky enough to catch a preview of this stunning masterpiece. Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) has once again proven that he is the most versatile director that Britain has to offer. Revealing a film that is art before it is entertainment, he has crafted a story that is every bit beautiful as it is bewildering. Hellish battles, hallucinogenic visions, alchemy, resurrection and witchcraft. These themes all ooze through the seems of Wheatley’s and Amy Jump’s (Wheatley’s wife) script. Once the credits are rolling, you may not be entirely sure of what you have just seen, but please do not let that put you off. As with all Wheatley films, A Field In England also has a wonderful but cryptic sense of humor.

5. Gravity

GRAVITY

Yes, Gravity isn’t number one. I’m a travesty and an embarrassment to all film critics everywhere. Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with my constructive O.P.I.N.I.O.N shall we? Gravity was 2013’s Avatar, a big blockbusting 3D movie that took the format into new heights (literally). Brought to screen by one of my favorite directors Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron once again proves he is the master of suspense, employing his usual long-take style of film making bringing us the exact same stress that Bullock and Clooney are experiencing on screen. You feel like you are floating, panting for air, struggling to grasp for your life. This is full 3D immersion like we have never seen before. The only problem I have with Gravity is that I genuinely can not see it translating so well to 2D. It will still be an expertly directed and acted film with some of the best visual effects of this decade, but I fear that a large portion of the immersion – and therefore tension – will be lost. That aside though, it really is still a solid 9/10 movie with a career best performance from Bullock. Like I said when I came out of the cinema, if she doesn’t win an Oscar, I’ll eat my testicles.

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color

Blue-Is-The-Warmest-Color-2

Blue Is the Warmest Color is Romance in its purest form. So many words will go through your head when watching this. Beautiful, exquisite and refined film making. An art film lacking the usual pretentiousness of art house cinema. Three hours absolutely breezes by in a film that feels half the length of what it actually is. That’s an amazing feat in itself for a romantic drama. Adele Exachopoulos delivers the most riveting and authentic performance of the year. Her journey from confused young teen to a young woman discovering confidence, sexuality and responsibility. Yes, as you’ve probably heard it is fairly explicit, but it is never distasteful and it is always authentic. Rather than portraying sex as a cheap thrill, it’s showing us these two people really are in love. The first time they make love is astoundingly shot, focusing on their obvious animalistic nature, furious shot composure that focuses on the emotion rather than the body parts. Easily the most eye-wateringly beautiful film of 2013.

3. All Is Lost

mov_all-is-lost_130828

The third survival film in just as many months (Captain Philips in October, Gravity in November, this in December). Redford’s lifetime is absolutely chock full of stupendous performances. So to say he has delivered the very best performance of his entire career is a bold statement, but it really is true. All Is Lost is an absolute powerhouse performance on which the entire film is reliant. Don’t get me wrong, JC Chandor’s directing is outstanding and the cinematography is some of the best of the year, but “Robert Redford” is what you’re all going to be reading about in the various PR and reviews. He pile drives the entire film with the kind of “one man army” precision that only an actor of his caliber can deliver. He owns the role to the point where I can’t imagine ANY other actor portraying this level of everyman emotion. Not only does he have the grueling task of portraying his entire performance through his facial expressions (there are 3 sequences of actual spoken dialogue, and one of them is but one word), thanks to the excellent screenplay he also has the devilishly unique task of portraying the delivering the film’s entire narrative through his face as well. If ever there is a storm brewing, we are told through the “Oh fuck!” moments plastered all over Redford’s eyes. It’s inevitable that people will compare it to Gravity, and it’s so unfair to do so (even though it’s admittedly unavoidable), as they are two very different films. Whereas Gravity is a visual spectacle of CGI mastery that attempts to pluck your heartstrings, All Is Lost is an emotional drama that doesn’t just pluck your heartstrings, it rips them from your body and twists them around before trying to shove them back in. That’s not to say that All Is Lost doesn’t contain its fair share of excellent effects. At least 95% of them are practical, with director JC Chandor opting for real water on-location settings and sets. When Redford sees those storms, you get some amazing scope, and you’re right there with him, bobbing in the water fearing for your life. I think at the end of it, it comes down to one thing: All Is Lost genuinely made me cry. Gravity didn’t.

2. Final Cut: Ladies & Gentlemen

palfinalcut

I can confidently say that not one of us has ever watched a film like this. Utterly unique and ingenious in every possible way. Now bare with me, because this is going to be difficult to explain. “Final Cut: Ladies & Gentlemen” is essentially a love story featuring two central characters who’s story is spliced together using over 450 clips and audio cues from hundreds of popular movies throughout the decades. It would be ludicrous for me to name any of the films used. Basically think of your favorite film of all time, chances are it’s in this movie in some capacity. At first I thought this film would be mind-numbing and delirious, but in actual fact what I got was one of the best and most entertaining films of the entire year. The whole thing is an absolute joy – seeing John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” walk/strut cut straight into Oh Daesu from “Oldboy” practically reduced me to tears. Whether you have fun spotting which films are used or whether you simply appreciate the absolute staggering amount of work that went into creating this film. I can’t even begin to imagine just how pain staking the editing process of Final Cut must have been. An absolute masterpiece.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Mr Scorsese, a film maker with such a revered career. When a film enters with his name on the poster, it almost certainly scores big with critics. Director of such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. And yet…I’ve just never been all that fond of him. Don’t get me wrong, I love “retro” Scorsese, Goodfellas remains my favorite gangster film of all time. But this new wave Scorsese (Shutter Island, Hugo, The Aviator, even The Departed) just has me lost and yearning for the Scorsese I once knew. I caught a select preview of Scorsese’s new film The Wolf of Wall Street at the back end of 2013. I wasn’t expecting much. It has the same Scorsese lead (DiCaprio) with a few new additions thrown into the cast. I genuinely did not know what to expect. If anything I was expecting another self-indulgent film about how bad the central subject is. I neglected to realize that 90% of the time, going into a film in such a blind state and induce a reverse critical effect. I absolutely fucking adored The Wolf of Wall Street. The entire three hours felt to me like 10 minutes as I sat completely enthralled by DiCaprio’s performance and the Goodfellas/Casino-esque style of narrative. I simply did not want it to end. How wrong was I about those pre-film fears of a woe-filled film? TWOWS is hilarious, riotous and infectious. A film that neither glamorizes nor chastises its subject matter, but rather attempts to seat itself somewhere in the middle, becoming (in my opinion of course) the most entertaining film of the entire year. I genuinely never thought the day would come that I would say this, but it brings me great pleasure to do so: my absolute favorite film of 2013 is the latest film from Martin Scorsese and one he can add to his list of “masterpieces”, The Wolf of Wall Street.

How I Rated Everything Else (excluding the shit films)

American Mary 7/10
Les Miserables 7/10
VHS 7/10
The King of Pigs 8/10
The Last Stand 6/10
Antiviral 8/10
Bullet to the Head 6/10
Mama 7/10
The Bay 7/10
Stoker 8/10
Robot & Frank 7/10
Side Effects 8/10
Maniac 8/10
Compliance 8/10
Oblivion 7/10
The Place Beyond the Pines 8/10
Evil Dead 7/10
Iron Man 3 6/10
The ABCs of Death 6/10
Bernie 7/10
The Look of Love 7/10
Ernest & Celestine 8/10
Dragon 7/10
I’m So Excited 7/10
Star Trek Into Darkness 7/10
Mud 8/10
The Iceman 7/10
The Seasoning House 8/10
Hummingbird 7/10
This Is The End 7/10
Citadel 7/10
We Steal Secrets 7/10
Kick Ass 2 6/10
Elysium 7/10
Riddick 6/10
No One Lives 7/10
Rush 8/10
Filth 7/10
Rurouni Kenshin 7/10
Thor: The Dark World 8/10
Cold Eyes 8/10
Painless 8/10
Ghost Graduation 8/10
Computer Chess 8/10
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8/10
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 7/10
American Hustle 6/10

Coming next week I’ll be posting my “Top 10 Most Disappointing Movies of 2013” list. And then the fun really begins 😀

Posted by: themoviecheese | July 1, 2013

Top Ten Films of 2013…So Far

Top Ten Films of 2013…So Far

So we are officially half way through the year, and as such here is my top ten films list of 2013 so far…

10. Side Effects

side-effects-film

Steven Soderbergh injects his latest film with a staggering amount of suspense from the very first frame. At times I felt like I was watching a modern Hitchcock movie, with some absolutely brilliant plot twists that will stop your breathing dead in its tracks.

9. The Look of Love

Look-of-Love-UK-Quad-2

Steve Coogan kicks off an excellent year for him (with the up coming Alan Partridge movie) with the hilarious and touching biopic of one of Britain’s most controversial entrepreneurs, Paul Raymond.

8. Man of Steel

man-of-steel-quad-poster

Christopher Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder all team up to bring the king of supeheros back to our big screens with the huge reboot Man of Steel. Henry Cavill completely kills it as Superman and the dual father roles of Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner add some hefty emotional weight. Cue a last hour filled with blistering special effects and fight scenes, and we finally have the movie that Superman deserves.

7 The Place Beyond the Pines

Place-Beyond-The-Pines

Probably one of the most unpredictable films of the year, saying anything about the plot would simply spoil it. Beautifully written and featuring possibly the best soundtrack of the year so far.

6. Stoker

stoker_B_quad_poster_buy_original_movie_posters_at_starstills__20699

Chan-wook Park’s (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Thirst) English language debut is every bit as harrowing and complex as his efforts back home. The performances are brilliant and the visuals are probably the most gorgeous of the year.

5. Maniac

MANIAC_QUAD-final-1024x768

Frank Khalfoun remakes one of my favorite horror films of all time, featuring Elijah Wood in the absolute best performance of his career. Simply put, he is fucking mental in this movie. The POV narrative style really adds a sense of foreboding to each scene. You know when somebody is going to die, you just don’t know how. So you sit there anticipating it, twitching at the very thought of this onslaught of gore that it about to fill your peripheral vision.

4. Django Unchained

DJANGO-UNCHAINED-MAIN-X2

Quentin Tarantino returns with one of his most accessible films to date (next to Pulp Fiction of course). It also doesn’t suffer from that common Tarantino trait in that every character talks like Tarantino, in this they have their own personality and act like the person they are supposed to be acting like. Jamie Fox is a brilliant lead and Christophe Waltz once again turns in an excellent performance, as does Leonardo DiCaprio as the villain. But the performance that really struck out for me was definitely Samuel L Jackson; cast completely against type as a (well, I can’t really say), Jackson’s performance is the absolute stand out of the entire film and possibly his career, and that’s a bold statement.

3. Cloud Atlas

Cloud-Atlas-Poster

The Wachowski’s return to Sci-fi with their good friend Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) in tow. Adapting one of the most thought provoking science fiction novels of all time, means we are treated to some of the best visuals the brothers have ever brought to screen, coupled with an absolutely massive story that spans generations.

2. A Hijacking

A-Hijacking-UK-Quad-Poster

A Hijacking is staggering realism at its finest, featuring an incredibly in depth character study from the writer of The Hunt (my favorite film of 2012). The plot is tight and flows nicely as does the tempo of the film. Cinematography beautifully emphasizes the realism and atmosphere of the film, and even the score is wonderfully understated yet fully appropriate. One of the most suspenseful films of the year, no doubt.

1. A Field In England

A-Field-in-England-Quad-Poster

A Field In England isn’t even out yet, but when it does come out, I implore every fan of British cinema in any form to rush out for it straight away. I was lucky enough to catch a preview of this stunning masterpiece. Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) has once again proven that he is the most versatile director that Britain has to offer. Revealing a film that is art before it is entertainment, he has crafted a story that is every bit beautiful as it is bewildering. Hellish battles, hallucinogenic visions, alchemy, resurrection and witchcraft. These themes all ooze through the seems of Wheatley’s and Amy Jump’s (Wheatley’s wife) script. It will take a film of absolute, sheer perfection to beat this as my favorite film of the year. Plus, its commercial release is 5th July (right round the corner), where it will simultaneously release in cinema, on Blu-ray, DVD and On-demand, AND it will screen on Film4 that very night. So you really don’t have an excuse not to watch it.

So what are your favorite films of the year? Sound out in the comments below…

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories