Tag Archives: 3D

Movie Review: Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an all-time classic.  Animated garden gnomes are deliciously cute.  Elton John’s music is sensational.  James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are both likable Brits.  But the culmination of all of these things, Gnomeo & Juliet, is one of the worst animated films I’ve ever seen.  And it’s in pointless 3D.

I had reasonable expectations for this one for the above reasons, and the fact that the promotional campaign made it look like a fun, funny, musical spectacular with an all-star voice cast (including, apart from McAvoy and Blunt, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Patrick Stewart and Hulk Hogan!).

But somehow, Gnomeo & Juliet turned out to be painfully unfunny and entirely uninspiring.  How could this be possible?  The garden gnome jokes were essentially exhausted in the first few minutes, and the rest of it was repetitive and unclever.  Yes, the garden gnomes were cute, but that alone wasn’t enough to carry the film.  I actually had a couple of micro naps during the film, which has not happened since Van Helsing.

Worse still, Elton John’s music was criminally underused.  How they managed to screw up something with so much potential is beyond me.

The worse part is probably the lack of heart.  I wasn’t moved at all by the story or the characters.  Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks are light years ahead when it comes to creating a cartoon that connects with audiences.

And yes, once again the 3D served no purpose other than to rip people off.

1.5 stars out of 5

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: Resident Evil: Afterlife (3D) (2010)

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, but I must confess that only two posts after I savaged 3D movies (again!), I found Resident Evil: Afterlife (3D) (let’s just call it RE4), rather enjoyable.

Now, it may be because I’ve been a huge fan of the series since it was still a video game.  It may be because I love zombies and mutant monsters.  After all, I’ve watched and liked (to varying degrees) all of the RE films, even though I know it’s not entirely logical.  I don’t pretend the movies are good.  I just like them.

With that in mind, I rate RE4 as one of the better films of the series.  It’s exciting, explosive, slick and outrageous.  And Milla Jovovich certainly gives Angelina Jolie a run for the coolest ass-kicking heroine on the big screen.  Sure, it takes itself a little too seriously, but not all zombie films need to be horror flicks.

RE4 takes place almost immediately after the previous film, not that I can really remember.  Jovovich returns as Alice, the only human who has successfully absorbed the T-virus.  Ali Larter also returns as Claire Redfield, even though she is a much weaker supporting character than I would have liked.  I really liked the casting of Shawn Roberts as super villain Albert Wesker, who does a great job of reminding fans of the character from the video game.

However, the biggest stroke of genius is casting Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield, the original protagonist from the first game!  Not that it was a particularly terrific performance or character, but those who know Miller from the TV series that made him famous (and I don’t mean Dinotopia!)  will chuckle at Chris’s predicament and what he has to do in this film.

Truth be told, the plot is virtually non-existent.  There’s nothing particularly original about any part of the film.  But darn it, RE4 is fun and thrilling to watch.  There’s an abundance of super slo-mo fight scenes, explosions and crazy moves, all for the purpose of making the characters look cool.  And they are!

Kudos to the writers who managed to implement some of the other characters from the video games, such as the Las Plagas face-opening zombies, the giant, axe-wielding monster, and those lovable dobermans.  The fight scene with the axe dude is the highlight of the film, easily edging the somewhat anti-climatic final duel with super Wesker.

As for the 3D?  Well, considering how much I dislike 3D films in general, this was one of the better ones.  I’d say the 3D had a ‘neutral’ effect.  There were some scenes that brought out the positives of 3D — the exploding walls, the lethal propellers and the flying weapons — but these only made up a very small part of the film.  For the rest of the very suitable 97-minute running time, we’re left to tolerate the darkening, uncomfortable 3D glasses through the “boring” parts of the film.

Ultimately, RE4 is not a great or memorable film by any stretch of the imagination.  But if you’re looking for a bit of brainless fun and excitement that isn’t completely ruined by ill-advised 3D technology, then I recommend giving it a go.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (3D) (2010)

Big action blockbuster and Greek mythology — two of my favourite things.  Put them together, throw in a bit of 3D, and you get Clash of the Titans, the new remake of the 1981 classic.

The story is very loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar), and has numerous and significant differences from the original film.

There’s not much point in giving away the plot, other than to say that the film takes place in a world where humans have full knowledge of the Gods’ existence, and that bizarre creatures and mythical monsters live among them.  And in this world, Perseus, a demigod (ie half-man, half-god), is fated to go up against the Gods and save humanity.

If that sounds silly and cliched, that’s because it is.  Directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk), there is no serious attempt to make Clash of the Titans even a remotely believable film.  It feels like the makers decided that this was an impossible task, and instead went down the full-blown, technology-driven action route.

The result is a pretty exciting experience, albeit one you cannot really feel fully engaged in because of the campness, the laughable dialogue, and the lack of character development.  To be fair, they did try to inject a bit more like into the central characters, but the effect was so poor that it became humorous, and only wasted valuable time that could have been spent on more action.  Speaking of action, I would have liked to have seen less quick cuts and more wide shots, but for the most part it passed the grade.

The special effects were great, but not exceptional by today’s high standards, and the 3D added a little extra, but to be honest not a whole lot more.  I don’t think I would have regretted it had I watched it in plain old 2D.

Sam Worthington, Hollywood’s next big thing, seemed like he had plenty of fun.  There are no pretensions in his performance because he knows it’s all about the action.  He still lacks the “superstar aura” that Russell Crowe has, but maybe he’ll get there some day.  It was great to see Liam Neeson playing Zeus, and especially Lord Voldemort himself, Ralph Fiennes, playing the King of the Underworld, Hades.  Both inject star power without diverting attention away from the rest of the cast.  They even got Pete Postlethwaite to play Spyros, Perseus’ adopted father!  My only complaint was probably Gemma Aterton’s Io, who was just plain weird.

So Clash of the Titans is unlikely to be remembered as a classic.  There are plenty of things wrong with it.  It’s silly and cheesy and lacks heart.  But for those who like Greek mythology, monsters, sword-wielding action, and don’t need things to be taken too seriously, Clash of the Titans is a fun, exciting popcorn movie for the majority of its 118-minute running time.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: watching Clash of the Titans gave me a new appreciation for films like The Lord of the Rings, films that actually have heart and make you believe in their world while not compromising the thrilling action.]

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I just got back from watching Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, considered an “extension” of the Lewis Carroll novels “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”.  In 3D, of course.

The story needs no introduction, but keep in mind that it is not a direct adaption, not even a re-imagining, so while there are familiar elements and characters, not everything will be expected.

Visually and stylistically, it’s almost as impressive as anything I’ve seen from Tim Burton (I’d probably still say Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow were better).  The CGI is blended in seamlessly with the live action actors, led by Australian Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen.

As for whether the film itself was any good, well…it started off well, but after a strong introduction, Alice in Wonderland lost a lot of that initial intrigue and excitement.  It may have coincided with the appearance of Depp’s Mad Hatter, who was given a much bigger and more important role than expected.

I could tell Burton was hoping for more of an emotional connection through the relationship between Alice and the Hatter, but I don’t think he succeeded.  For once, I think seeing more of Johnny Depp actually made the film less interesting.  Blasphemous?

As for the others, Mia Wasikowska was a pretty standard heroine, not bad but not oozing with star power either.  Anne Hathaway, covered in goth-like make-up, was the ugliest I have ever seen her.  And Helena Bonham Carter, with her massively over-sized head, was my favourite character (and not a terribly horrible one for a villain either).

Anyway, I thought Alice in Wonderland was okay.  Good but could have been better.  It was a visual feast and about half of the 109-minute running time was pretty fascinating.  At times it was amusing and exciting (and even a little scary), but on the whole, not particularly entertaining by Burton’s usual high standards, and a film that got progressively weaker towards the end, including a pedestrian climax.

3 stars out of 5!

[PS: the 3D was good but to be honest I didn’t feel like it made a huge difference to the overall experience.]

Movie Review: Avatar (2009)

How do you follow up the highest grossing movie of all time?

Spend 15 years and more than $230 million dollars to make a technologically groundbreaking blockbuster!  Well, that’s exactly what James Cameron did with his latest sci-fi action masterpiece: Avatar.

In one word, Avatar is a ‘spectacle’.  Do yourself a favour and watch this movie in 3D because it is an unbelievable experience.  While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the special effects were entirely ‘photo-realistic’, it was pretty darn close.  My wife thought some of the computer-generated characters and creatures were partly built with models and make-up (as opposed to 100% CGI), and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one.  The computer-generated alien world was stunningly beautiful, and at times it was impossible to tell whether it was real or not (because some of it was real and filmed in New Zealand).

Without giving away too much of the plot, Avatar is set in a futuristic world on a distant planet called Pandora.  The title is apt but I won’t say anything more than that.  I was very disappointed with the previews, which, as always, gave away waaaaay too much.  Avoid them like the plague.  The film is predictable enough as it is without a start-to-finish synopsis of the entire storyline.  And besides, it really kills the ‘wow’ factor.

Avatar is the first genuine 3D film that I’ve seen.  The purpose of the 3D is to enhance the movie experience, not to act as a gimmick.  In movies like The Final Destination 3D or My Blood Valentine 3D, the 3D was all about making things fly at you at every opportunity, and it gets old quickly.  But in Avatar, it’s there to bring an amazing fantasy world to life, and it really works.  You become immersed in it.  You start to believe it is real.  The excitement becomes more exciting.  The thrills become more thrilling.  The characters become more believable.  It works.

New Aussie superstar Sam Worthington plays the lead character Jake Sully, and it’s easy to see why Cameron picked him (and recommended him for Terminator Salvation) out of thousands of ‘unknowns’ at the time.  He has this unassuming quality about him – an easygoing, down-to-earth disposition that makes it easy for you to root for him.  The rest of the cast is also solid – Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang as the imposing Colonel Miles Quaritch.  Each hold their own, though at the end of the day none manage to steal Worthington’s thunder.

I believe the critics have been less harsh with Avatar than they were with Titanic, though there are certain to be cynics out there.  Yes, it’s easy to point to the character designs and say they are a rip-off of the Smurfs (!).  Yes, the dialogue and jokes are cheesy (though some of it is intentionally tongue-in-cheek), it has stock-standard secondary characters, and the plot is entirely predictable.  And yes, it has the audacity to contain thinly-veiled but uninspiring messages about the environment, nature, and political greed (in particular American arrogance and self-righteousness).

But none of that really matters.  Don’t look too far for a deeper meaning when watching Avatar – just enjoy it for what it is – an awesome, utterly spectacular movie experience.  The action sequences, especially the lengthy final climax, are sure to go down as some of the greatest ever.  Despite being almost 3 hours long, I never once looked at my watch – my trusty yardstick for how enjoyable a film truly is.

Just days into its release, Avatar is doing exceptionally well, and may lead to the development of planned sequels, though I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.  That being said, I am already planning a second helping of Avatar – this time, of course, on IMAX!

4.5 stars out of 5!