Tag Archives: Avatar

Movie Review: Sanctum (3D) (2011)

I seriously went into Sanctum thinking it was James Cameron’s next big 3D project after Avatar.  But be warned: it’s not.  I only discovered during the end credits that Cameron only acted as an executive producer and was neither the director nor a writer on this action-thriller about ‘cave diving’ explorations.

Never mind.  High expectations or not, Sanctum was okay — but certainly not a groundbreaking or memorable film.

Directed by Aussie Alister Grierson (Kokoda, winner of 3 Tropfest awards) and written by Aussies John Garvin and Andrew Wight, Sanctum is very much an ‘Aussie’ film.  It features a cast of predominantly Australians (with the exception of Richard Roxburgh, no one you would know unless you watch Aussie soap TV), with a couple of Americans (Ioan Grufford — Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four and Alice Parkinson) thrown in for good measure.  But on the whole, despite the healthy budget, it does have a distinct Aussie feel throughout.

Contrary to what I had hoped for, Sanctum is a nature-based thriller that doesn’t feature any monsters lurking in the unknown.  It’s supposedly ‘inspired’ by a true story involving co-writer Wight, who almost died whilst exploring a huge network of underwater caves.

I won’t give away much more than that, though I won’t really be spoiling much since the plot follows a pretty familiar trajectory for ‘disaster’ films of this sort.

On the bright side, I will say Sanctum is quite an interesting idea, and there are some decent moments of action and suspense.  However, like some of James Cameron’s films, the dialogue is somewhat cringeworthy (at times), and the attempts at character development aren’t exactly subtle.  The fact that the acting wasn’t top notch didn’t help.

As for the 3D (the film is only released in rip-off 3D), it wasn’t worth it.  The only times when the 3D mattered was during long shots of the caves, where the effects gave you a sense of just how deep they were.  But apart from that, it did little to enhance the viewing experience.

To sum it all up, Sanctum is a slightly above average, occasionally enjoyable though unncessary long film (109 minutes) that didn’t need to be in 3D.

3.25 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: The Last Airbender (2D) (2010)

The Last Airbender is not as bad as people make it out to be.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

That said, I did have lower than low expectations for the film (given it recorded an abysmal 6% at Rotten Tomatoes), and perhaps more importantly, I have never seen the popular cartoon series on which the film is based.  Keeping that in mind, I think writer and director M Night Shyamalan did a pretty decent job (and let’s face it, he had an extremely difficult job) in creating a ‘kids film’ that is, for the most part, entertaining and enjoyable.

The Last Airbender dropped the word ‘Avatar’ from its title because of that highest grossing film of all time.  It’s set in a fantasy land where people are born with the natural ability to ‘bend’ one of the four elements — earth, fire, wind and water.  Kind of like Captain Planet (he’s a hero, gonna take pollution down to zero).  However, there is only one person in the world that has the ability to bend all four elements, and that’s the Avatar.

Naturally, for a bunch of reasons, the tribes of the various elements are at war, largely thanks to the ambitious Fire Nation people.  Conveniently, the Avatar reappears, seeking to restore balance to the world with the aid of his friends from the Water tribes and a big flying animal that reminds me of The Neverending Story.

So yes, the idea and the story is actually pretty cool.  There’s an obvious Asian influence with all that martial arts and those taichi-like moves they do to ‘bend’ stuff.  The battle scenes are grand and reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings (or perhaps, more accurately, Narnia).  The special effects were genuinely excellent.  In terms of aesthetics, The Last Airbender is solid.

But of course, the film fails in a few other key departments.  It squeezes a ridiculous amount of stuff into 103 minutes, and as a result, the story jumps all over the place and is rarely coherent.  You just have to go for the ride and accept all the things that suddenly pop out of nowhere for the sake of progressing the story.

And the acting…poor Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire does all that he can to bring out the character of Zuko, and he’s by far the best of the youngsters despite some awkward lines.  Katara, played Nicola Peltz, received high praise from Shyamalan but didn’t feel like anything particularly special.  Her brother Sokka, played by Twilight‘s Jackson Rathbone, was, well, a bit on the stiff side, though to be fair he wasn’t given a whole lot to work with.  However, it is the strange kid with the constantly flaring nostrils, Noah Ringer, who plays the Avatar, that fails to deliver any semblance of real emotion whatsoever.  It’s his first acting role, so he deserves a break, but if he’s going to be in the sequels he’ll need to work on his performance.

Look, The Last Airbender was never going to be a great movie.  M Night Shyamalan has been absolutely caned over his last few movie-making attempts (in my opinion not all deserved) and he was always going to be on the back foot defending himself from critics.  The complex story required so much explaining that it was always going to be an uphill battle to begin with.  Taking all of that into account, I think things could have been a lot worse.  For all its flaws, it still has an interesting concept, great fight scenes and terrific special effects.  I certainly think it’s significant better than Dragonball: Evolution.

The film is actually only the first of three parts, and from what I understand, Shyamalan has already done a rough script of the second film.  If they make it, I’ll watch it.

3 stars out of 5

PS: So glad I watched the 2D version and not the 3D crap (which I hear added nothing).  We had a choice of a 2D and 3D session and went with 2D, even though that meant we had to sit in the fourth row.  And get this — we went on cheapo Tuesday which has $10.50 tickets (that’s supposed to be cheap?), but for 3D films there’s conveniently no discount.  And guess how much each ticket would have cost if we watched the 3D version?  $24.50!  That’s just insane, and another reason to hate 3D.

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.

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!