Category Archives: Uncategorized

Warcraft (2016)

warcraft_ver8_xlg

I must admit, Warcraft was my least anticipated major blockbuster of 2016, with the possible exception of Suicide Squad (I’ll watch that too, but expectations cannot be lower). Having never played the popular video game on which the film is based, or with any intention of ever doing so, it seemed somewhat destined to be yet another disappointing video game adaptation, following in the footsteps of the likes of Doom, Street Fighter, and Prince of Persia.

Having said that, director Duncan Jones is quite a visionary filmmaker, and many were apparently quite optimistic that Warcraft would buck the trend. However, the trailers did not instill much confidence in me — giant, muscular creatures in large-scale battle scenes with humans and magicians, and loads and loads of CGI-heavy special affects. It was pretty much just Hollywood telling the same old story.

It was with such a mindset that I went to see Warcraft, and I have to say that I came out of it very pleasantly surprised. There are plenty of flaws with it, some impossible to overcome given the circumstances, but on the whole it was about as much as I could have expected from a fantasy film of this nature.

I don’t want to get into the plot because it’s not really that important in the scheme of things, but I guess it should come as no surprise that there are humans, orcs, elves, dwarves and so forth -– but mainly humans and orcs –- who all all live in a magical realm with mythical creatures, magic powers, evil warlocks, master wizards and apprentice mages. It’s about fighting for your people and your tribe, honour and loyalty, family and friends and all that shit. It’s more less your typical RPG game.

Now, if you can get past the first stage, which is to take this kind of video-gamey premise seriously, then the rest of the film has a decent chance. Mind you, this does not have the gritty realism of something like say Game of Thrones — this is legitimate high fantasy, where you can actually see the light shooting out of magicians hands and souls being literally sucked out of bodies. 

When you take into account just what a difficult task this was for director Duncan Jones to get right, you start to appreciate the great job he did with this movie. While the storyline is indeed cliched, the storytelling is, for the most part, well done. Instead of making the orcs just brainless monsters hell bent on killing humans for no reason, Jones makes proper characters with proper character development. It’s not quite a two-sides-to-the-story kind of scenario, where the humans characters and orc characters are genuinely on an equal footing (hint: the humans still get more love), it’s at least good to see them apply a less conventional approach.

The cast is also really solid. On the human size, you’ve got Aussie Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper and Ben Foster, while on the orc side there’s Toby Kebbel (he will always be Koba to me) and Daniel Wu (I was shocked when I discovered he’s in it), and in between there’s Paula Patton, looking a little on the green side. None of these names are A-listers, but they’re all quality performers who bring gravitas to their respective roles. 

As for the action, it’s of course predominantly CGI, and to be honest it’s really nothing we haven’t seen before in terms of scale, creativity or choreography. What it does do well is the depiction of magic, which is rarely done well on film, and building up some character relationships so that we will care about the outcome of the battles and duels.

So absolutely, Jones should be commended for doing everything he could to make Warcraft the “great” film he tried to make. If you manage to immerse yourself in the story (like my wife, who said she really enjoyed it), you’ll likely think the film is a success. For me, on the other hand, there were elements I liked and places where I thought the film did a great job with, but I couldn’t get into the story or care for the characters as much as like I hoped I would. It really comes down to it being virtually impossible to introduce a whole new realm with all these different races and conflicts, not to mention focusing on both sides of the war, in a movie barely over 2 hours long. If this were a TV series where you have 10 hours to play with, then maybe you could achieve all these things. But given the time constraints and the need to devote a good chunk of that time to battle scenes, you’re going to have scenes and dialogue of obvious and annoying exposition cramming. 

Could they have reduced the number of characters and shifted the balance from CGI battles to more character and relationship development? Of course they could have. But as a one-shot opportunity to make a successful blockbuster for which sequels are no certainty, it would have been too risky an approach for any studio to take. It’s easy for critics to dismiss the cliched aspects of the movie, but sometimes commercial realities dictate these things.

The same goes for the CGI, which was limited by the technology and budget. As a result, it was a little patchy — photorealistic at times and like an Xbox cutscene at others. Perhaps part of it is also the way the orcs have been designed — they just don’t look like creatures I could genuinely believe, a feeling that is heightened whenever I see Paula Patton’s half-orc, half-human character, who looks basically like a human in green paint with two little tusks coming out the bottom of her mouth. It’s ridiculous.

Despite all these flaws, I still appreciate and admire the film Warcraft had set out to be. It’s not quite the “great” film Jones had dreamed of or the saviour of all video-game adaptation movies (that baton has now been passed on to Assbender in Assassin’s Creed), but as a high fantasy film with all the hard-to-swallow things that come with it, Warcraft is not bad at all. If you see it with an open mind, you might agree too.

3.5 stars out of 5

Welcome to the New Blog!

4.2.7

Greetings and salutations!

Welcome to the new website, a spin-off from my personal blog, pacejmiller.com.

This is a dedicated movie review website that will do its best to keep away from annoying spoilers and divulging key plot details.  On the left panel are a list of categories that will allow you to look through reviews from previous years, similar genres and review ratings. On the right panel I will occasionally post some of the latest trailers. The top menu features some of my best of, worst of and novelty lists.

All posts prior to this point have been imported from the old website, which will no longer be posting new movie reviews.

Lots of new content coming up!

2014 Movie Review Round-up confirms I like movies

Movie Posters 2014

Maybe the rumors that I’m too kind to most movies are true.

It usually takes me a while to complete my best and worst of lists for movies for the year because I like to get through as many as I can — and all the ones I want to see — before setting the lists in stone. As I rank films based on the year they are officially released as opposed to when I see them, it typically takes me months after the end of each year to get through all the movies of that particular year.

I didn’t do too bad this year. It’s only August 2015 and I’m finally ready to cast my votes for the best and worst films of 2014. There are still a few films outstanding that I might eventually get to, but my guess is that they won’t make it on either list. For example, I’m about three-quarters through the Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts film, When We’re Young, and my attempt to watch the acclaimed Mr Turner failed miserably (I just found it so boring and the dialogue audibly incomprehensible).

Before I get to the lists, here are some fun facts I discovered why tabulating the results.

– I watched a total of 155 movies with an official release date of 2014

– The first 2014 film I watched was the Robocop remake (which I sadly didn’t even watch until February due to childcare commitments), and the last was Son of a Gun, the Aussie flick starring Ewan McGregor (watched late last month)

– I managed to see everything on my list of 15 most anticipated movies of 2014.

– With a ratings system of 0 to 5 stars and 0.25 star increments, I ended up using every possible rating except 0.25, 0.75, 1.25 and 4.75. Zero stars count theoretically, but it’s a rating I don’t give out — no matter how badly I want to — as I acknowledge that at least some effort has been put into making every movie ever made.

Distribution of Ratings 1

– In 2014, I gave four movies a maximum of 5 stars and one film a low of 0.5 stars. My most common rating was 3.5 stars, which means “very good” and was dished out to 23 movies. This was followed by 4 stars, meaning “excellent”,  tied with 2 stars, meaning “bad”, with each receiving 20 ratings. The median score, 2.5 stars, meaning “barely passable”, received 14 ratings, while my real baseline for a “decent” movie, 3 stars, had 17 ratings.

– My average rating for the 155 movies was 3.077 stars, which according to my rating system would mean that the average film of 2014 is a shade over “decent.” On the other hand, my median rating was slightly higher at 3.25, which means “pretty good”. I think that reflects my overall sentiments well. A lot of mediocre stuff, some horrible crap, and a few memorable standouts.

– There is a vague bell curve to the distribution, though the chart does appear skewed to the higher scores. Couple with the average and median scores, I suppose that confirms I tend to be more lenient than most when it comes to judging the quality of a film. I can’t help it. I like movies.

– Ratings are handed out at time of review and never amended, meaning I sometimes shock myself when looking back at the scores I gave to some movies. Some feel too high, some too low.

– In hindsight, movies that feel like they probably should have received a slightly higher rating include: Gone Girl (4.25), Guardians of the Galaxy (3.75), Edge of Tomorrow (3.75), John Wick (3.5), The Rover (3). Movies that feel like they probably deserved slightly less include: The Good Lie (4.25), Horns (4.25), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (4), The Maze Runner (4), Big Eyes (3.75).

Up next, my worst 10 films of 2014. Stay tuned.

Stop this 3D madness!

Source: http://3dvision-blog.com

I’m so sick of watching a promising trailer for a new film, only to see in big letters at the very end, “Coming to you…in 3D”!!!

Here I go again.  I have been consistently vocal in my objection towards this current tidal wave of 3D films hitting our cinemas.  Sure, there are some movies that provide an enhanced experience in 3D — for example Avatar, or dare I even say Resident Evil: Afterlife, but ther vast majority of 3D films out there charge a hefty premium and give you a shitty time with the uncomfortable and darkening glasses and pointless 3D effects.

Worst of all, 3D films aren’t discounted at all, even on cheapo days, and even those that use movie money have to pay a few dollars extra.  For instance, if you go watch a 2D movie on cheapo Tuesday (in Australia), you can catch a film for around $10 (or less if you use movie money on any day of the week).  But if you watch the same movie in 3D, you can fork out up to $24 for an adult ($17.50 + $3.50 for 3D + $1 for Vmax + $1 for internet booking) and $19.50 for a child.  Enough said.

I thought after films like Clash of the Titans (where the 3D actually made the film worse) , the backlash against 3D will make studio execs think twice before making their latest release in 3D, but it hasn’t appeared to slow the trend at all.  According to this article from the Economist, 3D is relatively inexpensive, adding only a 10-15% to the cost of production, with a huge upside and low risk of piracy.  No wonder they’re even trying to re-release a bunch of old films in 3D to cash in.

Much of the blame of course rests with moviegoers that continue to go to 3D movies.  These days I choose 2D whenever the option is available, but I admit there have been times when I have wondered: will the 3D finally be good this time?  Needless to say, it never is.  I’m a frequent visitor to the cinema, but with a lot of people or families who only go a handful of times a year, 3D can seem like a real treat, especially if you haven’t experienced it before.  So I guess as long as people keep paying up to 240% the price of what they ought to be paying, the 3D rush will continue.

It was interesting, though, to see this New York Times article that discussed the backlash against 3D films in Hollywood.  Perhaps it is filmmakers who will take the charge to stop this 3D madness.

Movie Review: Red Hill (2010)

Red Hill is a strange one.  Starring Ryan Kwanten (who rose to stardom with True Blood), it’s an old-fashioned, modern ‘Western’ of sorts set in rural Australia.  It has a very simple (and may I say pretty predictable) plot, a scarred, ‘cliched’ villain, and it’s not particularly action-packed or fast-paced for the most part — and yet, for whatever reason, I really enjoyed it.

Kwanten is Shane Cooper, a big city constable who has just moved to Red Hill for “personal” reasons.  Red Hill is exactly what you would expect from a tiny rural town in Australia, where just about everyone owns a farm and police still get around on horses.  But Cooper is going to have one hell of a first day on the job, because Jimmy Conway (Tom E Lewis), a convicted murderer, just escaped from prison, and he’s heading back to Red Hill to cause havoc.

Written and directed by Patrick Hughes, Red Hill is a slick, well-made thriller that I liked a lot more than I probably should have.  Naturally, being an Aussie film set in the countryside, there are many wide shots of the beautiful landscape, but Red Hill kept me intrigued because of Hughes’s handling of the brewing tension and unsettling mood.

There are lots of weaknesses with this film, which I suppose some may consider boring and silly at times, and despite the unoriginal plot, it felt like I had just seen something a little different, a little more unusual.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Buried (2010)

I feel I must break my usual code and begin with a kind of spoiler as a warning to all potential viewers.  Buried, the new thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, is filmed almost entirely in one location with one actor from start to finish (I’ll say ‘almost’ so you won’t know what the ending is).

Accordingly, there’s a couple of ways you could look it.  The first is that it is one of the most inventive and intelligent films of the year because, as far as I know, it’s never been done before for a mainstream feature film.  Somehow, despite these constraints, the Rodrigo Cortes-directed film manages to tell an entire 94-minute story (and a thriller, mind you) in this manner.

On the other hand, you could consider Buried a stupid, boring and frustrating film that never really gets you anywhere because the protagonist is stuck somewhere he can’t get out of.

In my opinion, Buried is a bit of both, though I liked it a lot more than I disliked it (my wife was the opposite).  It was a pretty amazing film that kept me, for the most part, interested in what was going to happen.  The way they paced the film, the way they wrote the dialogue, and the way they built up the sense of claustrophobia and suspense, were all very commendable.  Conversely, because they had to fill up the running time, there was indeed a fair bit of repetition and what I would consider time-fillers.  It did get a bit frustrating and tedious after a while, and I was desperate for more to happen.  On the whole, I still quite liked it.  I wouldn’t call it a great film but it’s good to see movie studios producing something new every now and then rather than simply sequels and remakes.

3.5 stars out of 5

Is it worth paying extra for 3D?

One thing that’s really been annoying me lately is the extra price movie-goers have to pay to enjoy a film in 3D.  Where I’m from, there’s the “normal” price of the ticket, and on top of that there is the arbitrary price for the 3D, and then there’s the additional cost of the 3D glasses.  Some theatres allow 3D glasses to be reused, but others require you to purchase a new pair each time.  When you add it all up, the movies are getting ridiculously expensive these days.

Now if it is a genuine 3D film, like say Avatar (or even The Final Destination), where the experience is truly enhanced because of the 3D effects, I don’t have a huge problem with that.  You pay for it with extra cash and discomfort from wearing the glasses for the entire duration of the film, but it’s ultimately worth the trouble.

But the last two “3D” films I watched, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, both felt like they were riding the 3D tidal wave for a bit of extra box office income.  I was appalled by how little the so-called 3D effects added to the films.  Arguably, I would have enjoyed them more had I watched in ordinary 2D, without the irritating glasses frames, the darker tint of the lenses, and me taking taking them off constantly wondering whether I had accidentally walked into the 2D version.

So from now on, I’m going to be a 3D sceptic.  No more watching films in 3D if those effects have been added in post-production in order to ride the 3D bandwagon — unless, of course, someone tells me I’d be missing out on something amazing.

Book or Movie First?

Shutter Island is about to start at the movies soon.  I also happen to have the novel (by Dennis Lehane) on which it is based at home.

Except in very rare situations, I usually find the book to be superior to the film version.  A friend told me to watch the movie first, because then when you read the book, you can take your time to properly digest it.  And because the book will be more in-depth, it’s like adding to the movie experience.

On the other hand, watching the film first could lock up certain images in your mind (whether it be the way a character looks, talks or acts), which could be detrimental to the reading experience.  In other words, it limits the ability of your imagination to envisage the scenesor characters in your mind (eg, like seeing DiCaprio’s face all the time!  Argh!).

Just to take a few recent examples.  I read The Road first before seeing the film, whereas I saw Revolutionary Road first before reading the book.  Did it really affect either experience?  Not really.  Each had a different feel to it.

So what should I do?  Read the book first or watch the movie first?

The 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time

There are some films that, for one reason or another, have an extremely high ‘rewatchability quotient’ (as I like to call it).

You know, one of those movies that you happen to come across one night on TV when you have nothing better to do, and you end up watching till the end (even when there’s something else on that you haven’t seen before) – and you still found it enjoyable and not a waste of time.

Or if you have it on DVD, you might whip it out every now and then and put it on for whatever reason, and then find yourself sitting there two hours later, still captivated despite having seen it 10 times already.  The freakiest thing is that some of these movies actually get better the more times you watch it.

Following an agonising culling process, I have finally come up with my top 20 most rewatchable movies of all time.

Let’s count them down.

(click on ‘more…’ to continue)

Continue reading The 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time