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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: OBLIVION



Oblivion thinks it is much smarter than it really is. But the more you think about it after the credits start rolling, the stupider it gets. But I can compliment the film on two things: making an effort to channel Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and being just another dumb Tom Cruise thriller at the same time. That is not an easy feat to pull off. Oblivion’s strengths and weakness lie in the fact that it attempted do so.

 The movie begins with an unnecessary narration by Jack (Tom Cruise), one of the few people left on Earth after an alien invasion destroyed most of the planet. In the narration we are informed that most humans have left for Titan, Saturn’s moon.  Jack and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are there to give maintenance to drones in charge of cleaning up the Earth and killing off any remaining aliens. When they don’t fix drones they spend the time by enjoying candlelit dinners and skinny-dipping in a glass-bottomed pool that hangs 1,000 feet in the air. They live a pretty nifty life, while their boss, Sally (Melissa Leo) supervises them from a pyramid-shaped control center orbiting the Earth; she is awfully cheerful. And you know that, in a movie, when the boss can’t help but smile 24/7 something has to be off.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Jack and Victoria had a routine memory wipe five years prior. The only think Jack can remember is a cheesy backlit dream of a beautiful woman when met in pre-invasion New York. One otherwise average day, a pre-war shuttle crash-lands on Earth. The only survivor is Julia (Olga Kurylenko), a Russian astronaut that looks exactly like the girl in Jack’s dream. And then we are off into a space-chase adventure; to figure out whom is this girl, and what does Morgan Freeman’s character know that nobody else does.

There are a lot of question, and not all of them are answered. But for the most part the ride is beautiful to look at. The opening is immersive, gradual, and even slow. But it is perfect to introduce us to the world of the film. We see stunning digital landscapes of buried cities, dried up rivers, and ocean-sized desserts. The film’s biggest problem is that this world is much more interesting than any of its characters, which are all – for the most part – flat cardboard cut outs.

Take for example the cheesy love story in Jack’s dream. Julia is an idealized woman that he can’t remember, but she claims to be his wife. Victoria is the sexy redhead he goes skinny-dipping in the sky with. Guess which one is the evil one. Meanwhile, down below on Earth’s broken surface, everybody but the audience has to learn that Morgan Freeman is always right.

Director Joseph Kosinski’s previous movie, TRON: Legacy, was also a visual smorgasm with very one-dimensional protagonists. But it didn’t lie to itself about that; TRON: Legacy’s target audience was much younger than Oblivion’s and they ended up with what they paid for going in. In Oblivion, those who paid for a brainy Sci Fi that could work as some political allegory will get Tom Cruise, while those who paid for Tom Cruise will get a slow brainy world building Sci Fi that still doesn’t work as a political allegory.

The best way to enjoy this film is to relax and not think about it too much, yet at the same time not to expect Mission Impossible, or any other noisy movie of the kind. If you do, like I did, this can be a very enjoyable film. At the very least it is a very beautiful film.

Having said all this, I do have two random musings:

1)   This is not the first movie where an unexplained affection for Olga Kurylenko drives the main character. This doesn’t work for me. Not because Kurylenko is a bad actress, but because the protagonist should have a reason to fall for her, other than “just ‘cause she is the love interest”.

2)   The film could have used some more female ass kicking. Tom Cruise’s character is all man; he’s a sharpshooter, a mechanic, a sports fan, and gets to drive a cool bike. Meanwhile the women just run and follow instructions. When Kurylenko finally picks up a gun, the Kingslayer from Game of Thrones kills off the badie that was threatening her, so she doesn’t get to use it.

3)   Had the movie ended 30 seconds before it did, it would have been wonderful. The extra 30 seconds and an unnecessary level of cheesiness and just ruin the whole thing for everybody.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Film Review: Skyfall (Through the eyes of a Bond fanatic)

 
 The very first Bond film I ever saw was GoldenEye and I enjoyed it even before I knew it was part of an over 30 year franchise at the time. Having seen every single Bond film numerous times since then, I fell in love with every aspect of it: The cars, the girls, the action, the gadgets. It was all just pure escapist entertainment at its finest and I still love every ludicrous minute of them. Then I heard that Pierce Brosnan was stepping down/being booted from the role of Bond, and my heart was crushed. I didn't think anyone could replace him, because he embodied everything that I had viewed Bond as: suave, sophisticated, lethal, even funny when the time came. I'll openly admit that I thought Daniel Craig was completely wrong for the part. I was hating on the blonde hair too and I was afraid that the franchise would fade into obscurity because of it. Then I saw Casino Royale, and I, along with many others, were absolutely wrong. I was blown away by everything in it. Almost immediately I thought Daniel Craig succeeded more in portraying Bond in one movie than many others had in 4-7. I won't go so far as to say he's better than Connery, but he's definitely up there with him.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Film Review: MAMA




Well... it looks like we are starting 2013 with a rather fun ride. Mama, the new presentation by Guillermo del Toro, might not be breaking any new ground in the genre he helped define, but it follows the tradition of the twisted fairytale with full satisfaction. It provides a couple of nightmarish sequences, a handful  of good shock scares, and a chilling feeling running down your spine for most of the film, and a few good laughs - most of them nervous laughs. Could you ask of anything more from a film like this? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review: 2012 Top Ten





So it is once again that time of the year when everyone wants to shout out their opinion on which should be named the ten best movies of the year. If you think this blog is any different to all those rants you are mistaken; we will undeniably nominate ten movies as The Movie Watch’s “Top Ten of 2012”, as we have done in the past. But never the less we do hope our list will be somewhat enlightening in terms of tastes and options. And once again we do not intend to rank our choices in terms of elitist taste; these are just some movies we highly recommend you don’t miss, and probably best you catch before awards season. 

With no further ado, these are The Movie Watch’s Top Ten of 2012 in no particular order, other than alphabetical. Some have not been reviewed, we have been lazy this last few months, but reviews will come up ASAP. Anyway, here is our list:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Film Review: CLOUD ATLAS


Oh boy, where can I begin? Reviews have been mixed, and for a good reason; Cloud Atlas is a love it or hate it movie. I do not expect to find a middle ground. The great thing about movies like this is that they get people talking, debating, and thinking. So even if you are on the hate it crowd, this movie affected you in someway or other. Generally speaking, I’d say this is a good thing in any art form. Luckily for me, I am in the LOVE IT crowd. 

Cloud Atlas tells six stories interwoven to various degrees, all with the same thematic elements: primarily the search for freedom and the human desire to be together. Individually each piece is engaging enough, it would have made a good short story. But the editing turns all six into a thematic concerto that only film as an art medium can provide. To think that the novel was considered “un-filmable” means there is a lack of creativity out there. If anything Cloud Atlas proves the vast versatility of film as a story telling medium.

The six stories that we see are:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS




I can safely say you won’t see this one coming. Not because there is an unexpected twist at the end - or some other kind of cop-out - but because the characters in this movie are so unpredictable there is really no way of knowing what direction they are pointing their gun at, or when they might pull the trigger - accidentally or otherwise. This is a richly self aware movie, where the characters are literally writing the movie on the go. In an age where most movie characters - and writers - lack freewill and subscribe to common genre conventions a script like this might appear to lack direction or cohesion. But that is not the case here; it is just rare to see a movie where the characters truly have control of the events that surround them. Writer / director Martin McDonagh has done what many writers aspire to by breathing freewill into his characters.  
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