Tag Archives: film review

In-Flight Movie Reviews (Part I)

A long flight means movies.  On my way to India, I watched a few relatively recent films, and here are the reviews.  This is Part I.  Need to bear in mind that I watched these on a mini airplane screen in a prescription drug-induced state, so my experience may be slightly affected.

Dorian Gray

I was really looking forward to this Oscar Wilde adaptation starring Ben Barnes (ie Prince Caspian) and Colin Firth ever since I heard about it.  The titular character is a beautiful young man who is immortalized in a painting. Dorian is then seduced into a life of excess and debauchery, but while his youth and beauty is magically preserved in real life, the painting begins to manifest his actions as it morphs into something horribly grotesque. Excellent premise that really fascinated me, but this film version fell flat.

Ben Barnes is indeed a beautiful man (and I say this with no homosexual undertones whatsoever – not that there’s anything wrong with that), but he seems to lack the requisite charm and simply ends up going through the motions. It just felt like something was missing with this one, which was very disappointing considering how much promise it had.

2 stars out of 5

Edge of Darkness

I believe this is the first Mel Gibson movie since the “incident”, and I expected it to be fairly decent. While it is smarter than the average thriller, it’s really just another violent Gibson revenge rampage in the mould of Ransom and Payback.

Gibson is a cop who picks up his daughter from the airport, and soon a violent incident has him in crazy mode, sending him on an investigation that takes him deeper and deeper into a mystery that, to be honest, I can’t exactly remember.  It’s not horrible, but overall, a pretty forgettable affair.

2.5 stars out of 5

(For Part II click here)

Movie Review: The Final Destination (3D) (2009)

the_final_destination_poster-337x500

The fourth instalment in the Final Destination franchise, simply titled The Final Destination, is pretty much what it looks like – more mindless, gruesome, outrageous deaths – but this time, in glorious 3D.

When reviewing a film like this, expectations need to be kept in perspective.  Let’s face it, if you’ve seen any of the previous three films of the series or seen the previews, you know very well what you’re in for.  It’s as though all the writers did was sit around a table and come up with a list of the most creative and gory ways for a person to die, then try and link them together into a semi-coherent storyline.  The aim was essentially to utilise the 3D technology to elicit shocks in the most efficient manner (ie, with sharp objects and projectiles coming at you).  You know those 10-15 minute 3D/4D films you see at theme parks which are fun while they last?  Well, The Final Destination is like one of those, except a lot longer, a lot cheesier, and with a lot more blood and guts.

The good thing about The Final Destination is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.  The first couple of films in the series were more serious, but by now they have accepted that it’s all quite farcical.  The storyline and dialogue is almost intentionally bad, and most of the deaths are ridiculously over the top and tongue-in-cheek.  As usual, the writers have been very creative in coming up with some rather clever (albeit entirely impossible) ‘accidents’.    Throw in a bunch of attractive young up-and-coming actors (Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano and Haley Webb), a couple of B-grade stars (Mykelti Williamson and Krista Allen), some skimpy clothing and gratuitous nudity, and that’s the film in a nutshell.

That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean the film is good.  Or enjoyable for that matter.  In focusing entirely on utilising the 3D effects and outdoing previous deaths, the movie forgot to be suspenseful – the reason why its predecessors were successful.  There were essentially two major problems.  First, the deaths were more likely to generate laughter than screams.  The film was definitely more ‘shock’ comedy than suspense horror-thriller.  They could have tried to accomplish both but the build-up was completely devoid of tension.

Secondly, the predictability made it tedious.  To be fair, they tried to make things slightly more interesting by tossing in a bunch of false alarms and red herrings to keep the audience guessing – but rest assured, you knew what was inevitably coming.  Watching the film became an exercise in speculating how the next person was going to die.  If they survive this time, big deal.  They’ll die sooner or later, just in another way.  You don’t care what happens because you become numb to it all.

I must also mention that out of the four films in the franchise, this one had the worst introductory ‘accident’ to set things in motion.  We’ve had a plane crash, a big car crash and a roller-coaster crash, all of which were quite suspenseful and/or spectacular (in my opinion), but sadly this one wasn’t either.  When you think about it, if it weren’t for the 3D gimmick, it’s hard to imagine that The Final Destination would have been made at all.

So there you have it.  If you’re after a couple of hours of brainless, adolescent silliness, The Final Destination could very well satisfy that craving – in 3D, no less.  But if you’re looking a little bit more than that, chances are the movie will disappoint.

2 stars out of 5!

Oscars/Golden Globes Film Reviews Part III

I’ve done it.  I finally managed to watch all the Oscar/Golden Globe nominated films I could possibly get to before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday!

Here’s the third instalment of my short Flixter film reviews and possibly the best of the lot!  The first instalment can be found here (Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler, The Reader, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, In Bruges, Pineapple Express, Burn After Reading, Tropic Thunder, Changeling, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight and Kung Fu Panda) and the second here (WALL-E and Gran Torino).

Again, ratings are out of 5 stars.

rachel-getting-married1Rachel Getting Married (3.5 stars)

Years of suppressed family emotions explode around a family wedding. Well-written script with some clever dialogue and witty interactions, even though this type of drama would not be everyone’s cup of tea. A remarkable performance by Anne Hathway (I didn’t know she could act this well) and a solid supporting cast. Not all of it worked but enough of it did.

 

doubt1Doubt (3.5 stars)

Extraordinary performances all round (Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as always, but Amy Adams really stole the show as the doubting nun), but it was an obvious play adaptation with lots and lots of talking. The characters were extremely well defined, though I couldn’t help but feel there was a certain clunkiness in the way things panned out. Not to take away too much from this film because it tackles many of the themes very cleverly through subtle actions and explosive dialogue.  Doubt is indeed an apt title for this film.

 

milkMilk (4 stars)

True story about the first openly gay public official in America.  Pretty incredible movie and a ridiculously superb performance by Sean Penn. It was entertaining, informative, frightening and enlightening all at the same time. Hard to believe it was only 30 years ago that this happened in our world. I particularly liked the ending where they showed the real life counterparts of the actors.

 

revolutionary-roadRevolutionary Road (4 stars)

It’s hard to know where to begin with a movie that explores the essence of life, love, marriage, children, work, dreams, hopes and reality. It is so rare to see such a brutal, honest, emotional portrayal of suburban and married life, no matter what era. Granted, some people won’t get it for one reason or another, but those that do will find a story that will resonate with them for a long time. All performances are outstanding – I know Kate Winslet has gotten all the attention for this role and The Reader, but Leonardo DiCaprio is really her equal in this film, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the same recognition. Michael Shannon was also brilliant and stole every scene he was in.

 

benjamin-buttonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (4.5 stars)

A strange premise but an ultimately rewarding film. The make up and special effects are the best I’ve ever seen, both the ageing and the de-ageing stuff is just phenomenal. The film works not really as a running narrative but rather as a series of moments, like its tagline. I found it very captivating to go through the journey of life with this bizarre character, through his ups and downs, flaws and all. There are some minor problems and it is a tad too long, plus Brad Pitt wasn’t truly able to capture the nuances of the ageing process (he acted like the way he looked rather than the age he was) – however, I think when it’s all said and done this is one of the more memorable movies in recent years.

*     *     *

NB: Just a few words about my rating and review system.  First and foremost, they are taken directly from Flixter, so are always short.  I don’t like to discuss too much plot in my reviews because I think it ruins a movie.  Which is why (even though I can’t help but watch them) I generally dislike previews because they tend to give away too much by revealing the best bits and almost always contain spoilers.  I also hate long reviews that reveal too much plot (this happens a lot these days in reviews I read) – what’s the point of telling everyone what the entire film is about?  With my ratings, they are out of 5 and are entirely subjective, always decided on the spot based on gut instinct after viewing.  I never re-adjust a rating afterward and I don’t compare them to previous ratings – hence two films can have the same rating but I may think one is better than the other.  Also, I tend to find there is a significant difference between 2.5 stars (below average) and 3 stars (good) and 3.5 stars (pretty good) and 4 stars (excellent), more so than other half-star differences.

Lastly, the only 5 star film reviewed in these 3 posts is The Wrestler, which I think is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.  For the Best Picture Oscar nominees, The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are tied with 4.5 stars, but I think the latter is the film I prefer.  Though it is a moot point anyway since Slumdog Millionaire is going to win!