August 22, 2014

Movie Review – Muppets Most Wanted

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   James Bobin
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast :   Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Sam the Eagle, Constantine, Walter, Rowlf, Rizzo The Rat, Janice, Animal, The Swedish Chef, et al.
Approx Running Time :   117 Minutes
Synopsis:   The Muppets, now back together, go on a world tour organised by “manager” Dominic Badguy, while Kermit is sent to a Siberian gulag when he’s mistaken for arch criminal Constantine; meanwhile the real Constantine pretends to be Kermit the Frog, and goes about with Badguy trying to steal the Crown Jewels.
What we think :   An hour and three quarters of meta-jokes, slapstick, songs, Hollywood cameos, and that unique brand of zany Muppet humor: what more do you need me to say? Although there’s a weird amount of time spent with the film’s key villains, the sense of fun and humor of 2011′s reboot remains as evident as always in this sequel. A lot of fun, and plenty of laughs.

**********************

Utterly entertational. Is that even a word?

If you ever wanted to see Danny Trejo singing a cabaret number (and if you haven’t, why not?), then have I found the film for you. Muppets Most Wanted, the sequel to 2011′s hugely successful soft reboot of the Muppet franchise, sees the story pick up directly following the saving of the Muppet Theater, only to go on a World Tour at the behest of ingratiating manager Dominic Badguy (it’s pronounced “Badgee”, apparently it’s French). As with most Muppet films (or, frankly, all of them), the story comes second to the opportunity to sneak a gag in, be it within context or – most importantly – utterly meta to the point of ridiculousness. Muppets Most Wanted delivers just that, and probably more, within its lengthy just-under-two-hour running time, as it skewers all manner of genres and subtle film references – the opening five minutes reference not only Oldboy but also Apocalypse Now, obscurely, while in-film references to The Great Escape and The Shawshank Redemption offer some nice laughs – to varying degrees of success. Naturally, the insanity of a Muppet film is aided by copious celebrity cameos, ranging from the excellent (one of Canada’s most successful female divas makes an appearance) to the really average (the aforementioned Danny Trejo has a momentary lapse in judgement by agreeing to sing in a film!), but the mantra of “anything for a laugh” has never been more pronounced than it is with Most Wanted.

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August 21, 2014

Vale – Brian G Hutton

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:12 am
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Brian G Hutton – 1935-2014

Film director and actor Brian G Hutton has passed away.

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August 20, 2014

Movie Review – Beauty And The Beast (2014)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Christophe Gans
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast : Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux, Andre Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega, Myriam Charleins, Sara Giraudeau, Audrey Lamy, Jonathan Demurge, Nicolas Gob, Louka Meliava, Yvonne Catterfeld, Dejan Bucin.
Approx Running Time :  115 Minutes
Synopsis:  The famed story of a young girl and the Beast she falls in love with.
What we think :  As far from Disney as you can imagine, this film version of the classic French story can be reviewed with but a single word: stunning. To say more, would merely limit this film’s magnificence to the bounds of my vocabulary.

**********************

This Beast rocks.

Anyone who knows me well has no doubt heard me claim French cinema to be “moist and sexy” – my experience with film from the European continent isn’t broad, I’ll admit, but the films I have seen shimmer with the look of wet, sultry charm that makes them almost impossible to resist. Christophe Gans, the man who gave us Silent Hill and the weird Mark Dacascos-martial-arts-flick-slash-French-period-piece in Brotherhood Of The Wolf (which isn’t a fantastic film, but worth a look for the cinematography, action and production design!), helms this lavishly mounted, gorgeous looking take on the 18th Century French fairy tale, La belle et la bête, better known to English speakers the world over as The Beauty and The Beast. Anyone who has lived through the last century should be familiar with the story, if not in detail then at least at a cursory level, with Disney’s Oscar nominated animated feature being perhaps the most iconic portrayal in the modern era of this classic fable. So how does this modern version cover off on the story? Does it transcend the Disney singing and dancing to become a successful, iconic film in its own right?

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August 18, 2014

Movie Review – Noah

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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Noah Review Logo Movie Review   Noah

- Summary -

Director :   Darren Aronofsky
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast :  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winston, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll, Frank Langella, Dakota Goyo, Marton Csokas, Madison Davenport, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand.
Approx Running Time :  138 Minutes
Synopsis:  God. Ark. Flood. Animals. Noah.
What we think : Heady, concussive attempt to bring the Noah’s Ark story to life, with a gamely led cast doing their best to elevate some uneven and often pedestrian material. The film looks amazing, at the very least. Visually striking, Noah is unfortunately unable to really tap into the divine elements of this early Old Testament story in a way that’s as impactful as it really needs to be. Still, it’s entertaining to a large degree, so there’s that.

**********************

In the beginning, God created Hollywood’s version of the Bible.

Hollywood loves a good biblical epic. While the rise of secularism in society has pretty much made Hollywood staunchly cautious about a film centering on a story from either Testament, occasionally a film like Noah, or The Passion Of The Christ, sneaks through into the mainstream. Noah’s Ark, one of the oldest stories in the Bible, is basically the tale of God hitting reset on humanity – in the time of Noah, people constantly fought, belittled and argued with each other, engaging in all manner of debauchery and depravity for their own pleasure (or pain)….. wait, so….. kinda like us now, right? Ahem. Anyway, God decides to send enough rain to flood the world, and tasks one dude and his family with building an enormous boat, filling it with all manner of animals (except unicorns and dragons, because nobody f@cking likes them, eh?) and sailing on until striking land again, much like Kevin Costner appropriated for Waterworld. We’ve kinda seen a Noah story already this century, with Evan Almighty, although one got the sense through that film that the word of God wasn’t exactly foremost in the minds of the film-makers, especially when a good laugh could be had. No, the story of God wiping us all out doesn’t lend itself to comedy, so naturally if you’re making a film you want to be completely unfunny, you hire two actors who have absolutely zero comedic timing in their repertoire – Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. Noah, directed by Pi and Requiem For A Dream maestro Darren Aronofsky, is a full-bore biblical epic – albeit without much reference to the core text – that goes for gritty, muddy sensationalism rather than stagey, studio-bound stateliness a la Charlton Heston’s famous descent from the mountain carrying those two “rock” tablets. So is this biblical story one for the ages? Or does it miss the point of the Old Testament story, washing away the reason for the story in pursuit of gleeful destruction and rampant visual effects?

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August 15, 2014

Movie Review – Transcendence

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Wally Pfister
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :   Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Paul Bettany, Clifton Collins, Cory Hardrict, Josh Stewart.
Approx Running Time :   120 Minutes
Synopsis: A dying man transfers his soul into a supercomputer, desperate to live on. When he achieves sentience, he begins to undertake to improve the quality of human life, only his achievements begin to strip humanity of the very thing it desires most – autonomy and self-awareness.
What we think :  A lumbering screenplay and inadequate plot threads bring Transcendence down from the insta-classic it so badly hopes to be. Characters are ill defined, the story snoozes through a turgid second act, and Depp disappears from the screen (figuratively) for about an hour of this movie, leaving audiences scratching their heads as to what, exactly, was the point of it all. Ultimately, a misfire, although you kinda get the sense that the intentions were motivated by a desire for conversation about a future which may yet still come to pass, which should elevate the importance of Transcendence’s overriding premise.

**********************

Hardly transcending.

Is there an actor working today who is as divisive in his career choices as Johnny Depp? Aside from starring in a number of Disney backed mega-projects, such as the enormous turkey reboot of The Lone Ranger, Tim Burton’s CG-fest version of Alice In Wonderland, and a creepy reboot of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Depp’s main poplar franchise remains the inexplicably successful Pirates Of The Caribbean series. When he’s not essaying Jack Sparrow, Depp’s cinematic output has ranged from lethargic to stupid to flat-out idiotic, so one approached Transcendence with a sense of reticence that the notoriously kooky actor would either sink or save cinematographer Wally Pfister’s debut directorial effort. Pfister, better known for lensing films like Inception, The Dark Knight and The Prestige for Christopher Nolan, helms Depp in the lead role, in a futuristic, sci-fi philosophizing jaunt that asks many questions about what constitutes intelligence and “life”.

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August 14, 2014

Movie Review – Bad Words

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Jason Bateman
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Jason Bateman, Katherine Hahn, Allison Janney, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall, Ben Falcone, Judith Hoag, Rachel Harris, Beth Grant, Patricia Belcher.
Approx Running Time :  88 Minutes
Synopsis:  After discovering a loophole allowing him to compete, a grown man takes on the challenge of winning a national, live televised, spelling bee.
What we think :   Jason Bateman’s directorial debut is low-key but terrifically funny, with Bateman leading the charge as the unscrupulously pot-boiled Guy Trilby, a foul mouthed, arrogant, driven man hell-bent on achieving success in the Golden Quill spelling bee. Laugh-out-loud funny and endearing as all hell, Bad Words is – like Guy himself in many ways - a winner.

**********************

Don’t look at me.

I’m not a big one for spelling: frankly, if it wasn’t for spell-checker, this website would probably be damn near unreadable. Or at least less than it is now! One of the most obscure-yet-popular “sport” in America is the good old fashioned spelling bee, competitions to determine who amongst the youngest and brightest has the best vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. Major Bee’s are broadcast on television, not bad for an event where its a bunch of kids standing about spelling words so obscure it’s surprising they even exist. Yet, people are enthralled with it – the Bee’s have become a cutthroat competition across America, the prestige and acknowledgement sought by all manner of wunderkind and their parents. Bad Words, a film directed by, and starring Jason Bateman, is set in and around one of the country’s most prestigious of the Bees, the Golden Quill, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve had so much fun watching one man be such an asshole as Bateman’s character is in this one.

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August 13, 2014

Vale – Lauren Bacall

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:31 am
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Lauren Bacall – 1924-2014

Legendary screen actress, and Academy Award nominee, Lauren Bacall, has passed away.

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Movie Review – Bad Boys II

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Michael Bay
Year Of Release :   2003
Principal Cast :  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Jordi Molla, Otto Sanchez, John Seda, Peter Stormare, Oleg Taktarov, Michael Shannon, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, Jason Manuel Olazabal, Yul Vasquez, Treva Etienne.
Approx Running Time :   148 Minutes
Synopsis:   Two loose-cannon narcotics cops investigate the flow of ecstasy into Florida.
What we think :  Smith and Lawrence carve a swathe of destruction, carnage and misogyny through the streets and waterways of Miami, while Michael Bay’s adrenaline-fueled camera barely captures the entirety of this film’s “plot”. Filled with loads of “banter” by the two leads, as well as Bay’s penchant for filming women up their skirts, and plenty of brutal gunfights, car chases and explosions, Bad Boys II is lo-fi storytelling with hi-fi money behind it. Extremely violent and utterly irredeemable as a piece of “entertainment”, the sequel to the fairly competent original is dirty, nasty, and utterly trashy. In other words: it’s a Michael Bay film.

**********************

Whatch’a gonna do? Find somewhere else to live, is what.

Michael Bay’s fifth film as director re-teamed Hollywood A-lister Will Smith with fellow “comedian” Martin Lawrence – I use the term with emphasis because I’m still unconvinced at Lawrence’s comedic skills actually being something a normal person might make a living off – for the sequel to the 1995 out-of-the-box smash hit, Bad Boys. With Bad Boys II, Bay channeled all his rampant sexualization of women, his fetish for wanton destruction and carnage, and off-kilter humor into what was, for him, a smaller film than those he’d done to that point. Coming off a box-office hit (but critical turkey) with Pearl Harbor, after three consecutive action hits in Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon, Bay’s return to the Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey show felt a little like he’d come full circle – it was where his career began, and thus the sequel felt a little like a tip-of-the-hat to the fans, the audiences who’d made him a (relative) household name. Bad Boys II is a bigger, badder, meaner, slicker sequel in every way, the kind borne of character familiarity and perhaps a sense of pushing the envelope beyond breaking point; while Smith was churning out box-office gold with almost every film he appeared in, Lawrence’s career to this point involved box-office poison like Blue Streak, Big Momma’s House, and the precursor to stupid medieval spoof movies like Your Highness, in Black Knight, all of which were rightly condemned as utter shit. Lawrence needed a big hit to get back into Hollywood’s good graces – and Bad Boys II was his meal-ticket. With Bay behind the camera, Will Smith once again charming the ladies and everyone else with his debonair swagger, and a budget set to cater for massive pyrotechnics and action sequences, would Bad Boys II recapture the glory of those halcyon days of the mid-90′s, or would it be yet another drubbing by critics at the hands of a director known for his lack of subtlety and restraint?

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August 12, 2014

Vale – Joe Viskocil

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 1:03 pm
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Joe Viskocil – 1952-2014

Academy Award winning Hollywood special effects artist, Joe Viskocil, has passed away.

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Vale – Robin Williams

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 9:02 am
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Robin Williams – 1951-2014

Academy Award winning actor and comedian Robin Williams has passed away.

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Movie Review – A Bug’s Life

Filed under: Movie Review,Walt Disney Collection — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  John Lasseter
Year Of Release :    1998
Principal Cast :  Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Ranft, Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, John Ratzenberger, Brad Garrett, Roddy McDowell.
Approx Running Time :   96 Minutes
Synopsis:  When his colony is constantly threatened by a horde of nasty grasshoppers, one lone ant tries to find help in the form of warrior ants.
What we think :  Pixar’s second feature shows no signs of sophomore blues, with a ripping yarn and delightful characters encased in some showstopping animation. A Bug’s Life is an instant classic.

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Following up after Toy Story was always going to be the danger film for Pixar. Toy Story had raked in the cash, been the talk of Hollywood for ages, and set the bar for future efforts. In most cases, the pressure to produce a film worthy of following Toy Story would have crippled most studios and creators. Not so Pixar. Thankfully, the next film they made was just as delightful, almost whimsical, and came out here in Australia just a few short months after Antz.

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August 11, 2014

Movie Review – Toy Story 2

Filed under: Movie Review,Walt Disney Collection — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  John Lasseter
Year Of Release :  1999
Principal Cast :  Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Kelsey Grammar, Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, Jodi Benson, R Lee Ermey, Joe Ranft, Dave Foley, Andrew Stanton.
Approx Running Time :    92 Minutes
Synopsis:   Andy’s toys return as Woody is taken captive by an obsessive collector – Woody meets his “toy set” companions, Jessie the Cowgirl, and Stinky Pete the Prospector, and must choose between returning to Andy or living out his life with his new family.
What we think :   If it’s possible to improve on perfection, Toy Story 2 managed it.

**********************

 

Once Toy Story, which was rightly hailed as a modern classic, was released to the public, Pixar still had four more films to go with their 5-picture deal with Disney in order to fulfill their obligations. With A Bug’s Life already in production, and on the way, the sequel to Toy Story was planned as a direct-to-video affair. When Disney saw how good the images for Toy Story 2 were looking, they decided to fund the film as a full length theatrical feature. This led to some conflict between Pixar boss Steve Jobs and then-Disney head Michael Eisner, the former feeling that the new film should be a part of the 5 picture deal, and the latter thinking it was not, since it was originally intended as a DTV piece.

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August 10, 2014

From The Editor – 10.8.14

Filed under: From the Editor,Website Update — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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August 10 2014 From The Editor   10.8.14

Morning folks! Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, and have caught up with all the new films out this weekend!

It’s been a while since I touched base with you all, so I figured now might be an opportune time. Why now? No reason, just felt like it.

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August 8, 2014

Movie Review – Elektra

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Rob Bowman
Year Of Release :   2005
Principal Cast :  Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Colin Cunningham.
Approx Running Time :   95 Minutes  (Theatrical Release)
Synopsis:  Deadly assassin Elektra must save a teenage girl from capture by the evil organization known as The Hand.
What we think :  Flat, passionless, pointless entry into 20th Century Fox’s Marvel canon that has plenty of great visuals, but zero audience interest. Jennifer Garner is solid in an undemanding role, and Rob Bowman’s direction teeters on schizophrenic as he battles to provide the film with either drama or excitement, failing to achieve both and leaving this film as a poor, red-headed stepchild to the rest of the genre’s successes.

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Lots of nothing.

After the middling success of Daredevil in 2003, I’m not quite sure exactly who was clamoring for a full feature on Elektra; the character had appeared in Daredevil opposite Ben Affleck, with Jennifer Garner providing a sexy, tough-and-rumble portrayal of the iconic Marvel assassin, yet it was a critical point in that movie that the character seemed lost on the periphery. Still, there’s no accounting for Hollywood wanting to see a hot actress dressed in red leather strutting about with a pair of sai, doing untold damage to all manner of henchmen and other Bad Guys. Elektra’s release was met with scathing critical reviews, and in the end only barely made its production budget back thanks to a lackluster box-office return. Considering how successful comic book films were back at that point (in the original X-Men heyday), it’s a surprise that the film wasn’t at least a financial success, even if it wasn’t impressive to the critics. Is Elektra really that bad? How badly could Fox screw up one of Marvel’s most famous female characters to the point that it killed off any chance of a sequel, including a continuation of Daredevil as well?

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August 6, 2014

Movie Review – 3 Days To Kill

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director : McG
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Richard Sammel, Tomas Lemarquis, Raymond J Barry, Jonas Bloquet, Eriq Ebounay.
Approx Running Time : 117 Minutes
Synopsis: A retired CIA assassin is blackmailed into doing “one last job” for the company, hunting down a terrorist arms dealer through a series of his contacts. Along the way, he attempts to rekindle his relationships with his ex-wife and his daughter.
What we think : Plenty of flair cannot overcome a wonky, slipshod family-in-crisis subplot, as McG’s spy-game genre entry sputters and stumbles through it misfiring trajectory. Worth a look for Costner’s gnarled, unkempt CIA operative slumming it in Paris, but otherwise this is a bit of a chore.

**********************

3 Days to Waste.

Let’s face it: the spy/espionage genre has long since been run into the ground with cliche, making every effort by Hollywood to produce something actually thrilling or engaging something of an uphill battle. Perhaps the most excruciating sub-genre of this kind of film is the “one last job and I’m out” kind, where a grizzled old agent is forced to take the most dangerous, least exciting, or possibly the stupidest mission yet in order to quit “the business”. Yup, we’re talking Luc Besson’s bread-n-butter here, with the French producer/director/screenwriter once more essaying all manner of cliche and generic plot device into a film so middle-of-the-road I’m surprised lead actor Kevin Costner didn’t suddenly have white lines demarcating his body. Although Besson’s hand-prints are all over this thing, director McG is equally to blame for the faults and problems 3 Days To Kill has going on, for while it’s not the most original or entertaining entry into the genre going about, it’s certainly not a terrible movie.

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