Tag Archives: Michael Caine

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The-Last-Witch-Hunter-Movie-Poster-Vin-Diesel

You know, The Last Witch Hunter ain’t all that bad. At least from my point of view, it’s already a lot better than I thought it would be.

I hadn’t seen any trailers for it and thought it would be along the shitty lines of something like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, except with Vin Diesel doing deep-voiced Vin Diesel things — ie, act suave and charismatic with a smug smile and the donning same expression no matter what role or situation he’s in. By the way, I like Vin Diesel.

And so I was kinda shocked to see that The Last Witch Hunter: 1. has a sensational supporting cast that includes Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood and Michael Caine; 2. is much scarier than your average fantasy action film, with legit grossness and horror; 3. doesn’t take itself 100% seriously, with some solid one-liners that makes fun of its own ridiculousness; and 4. features some pretty awesome, albeit video-gamey action sequences.

As a purely visual experience, The Last Witch Hunter rocks pretty hard. Superb character and monster designs, cool weapons and special effects, all combined with slick stylistic direction and choreography — at times it felt as though I was watching a sick video game cut scene (there’s even one outdoor scene that looked like it was ripped right out of The Last of Us). It’s something the sweaty nerds will definitely appreciate and enjoy.

On the other hand, The Last Witch Hunter offers very little in terms of an engrossing story — or just any story. I’ll admit I wasn’t paying full attention, but it just seemed like the plot was far too convoluted for its own good. I didn’t get all of it, nor was I interested in getting all of it. Can’t we just see Vin Diesel defy death a hundred times a minute rather than him trying to convince us he can act?

Speaking of acting, the performances are solid — including Diesel — though I felt Rose Leslie, as hard as she tries, doesn’t quite fit as well as she should have. While there is potential for good chemistry with Diesel, right now it’s a little rough around the edges and can come across as awkward.

The result is an uneven and ultimately empty experience that is more eye candy than anything else. There are moments of visual awesomeness that brought out the inner gamer in me but also moments of plodding plot development that made me yawn. There are occasional ripping one liners but also occasional excessive seriousness that overshadows the tone, and a proper balance is never achieved.

Still, I’d put The Last Witch Hunter in the “better than anticipated” category thanks to its aesthetic qualities. If only it were a little simpler and less serious, the film could have ended up being a fun, campy popcorn ride. Vin Diesel has already announced that a sequel is in the works, so hopefully they can get the narrative right next time without sacrificing the visuals, action and horror.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Kingsman

Kingsman: The Secret Service is entirely bonkers. It’s also entirely enjoyable.

Based on the a UK comic book series created by Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Mike Millar (Spider-Man, Wanted, Kick-Ass), it tells the story of Eggsy Unwin (Taron Edgerton), a white trash Londoner who is recruited to a top secret spy agency headed by “Arthur” (Michael Caine) and “Galahad” (Colin Firth).

Like its source material, Kingsman channels the most famous spy who ever lived, James Bond, with loads of super cool gadgets and outrageous action sequences. It’s not quite Austin Powers — ie, it’s more tongue-in-cheek homage than parody — but it’s so deliciously over-the-top and unapologetically so that you can’y help but admire its audacity and sense of fun. The villain, for instance, is a lispy eco-terrorist played by a crooked-baseball-cap-wearing Samuel L Jackson, whose sidekick, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), is essentially “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorious with actual blades as prosthetic legs and Bruce Lee-like kung fu skills. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

What really elevates Kingsman above your typical action-comedy, however, is the direction of Matthew Vaughn, best known for Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. There’s a genuine energy to his approach that got my blood pumping, and he adopts a slick style that can only be described as cool. He’s a real talent who knows what works and has the skills to turn vision into reality on the big screen. One thing my wife said during the movie that stood out to me is that it doesn’t feel like a typically gloomy, drab British flick. And she’s absolutely right. In addition to the Bond films, Kingsman reminds me a little of the first Men In Black movie with the cool kid learning the ropes to be a new recruit angle, the innovative gadgets and the irreverent tone, as well as Kick-Ass for its stylistic — and shockingly graphic — violence. I’m sure there will be complaints about how violent it is,

The action is spectacular, as you would expect from the guy who delivered Kick-Ass, though here Vaughn takes it to another level with some of the best choreographed fight scenes in recent memory. One ridiculously complex set piece, forever to be known as “The Church Scene”, was a symphony of absolute mayhem executed with no rapid cuts and all swirling long takes. Epic stuff.

It doesn’t hurt that the cast is superb. Colin Firth looks and acts the part as Galahad, and the presence of Caine and one of my faves, Mark Strong, lifts the overall class of any film. Even Samuel L Jackson, who has been a “keep gettin’ ’em cheques” guys for a while now, appears to be having more fun than usual. I had never heard of Taron Edgerton before, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of him after witnessing how he held his own against all these big stars without a hiccup. He’s equally convincing whether as a scared delinquent or a suave secret agent. Looking forward to seeing him later this alongside the likes of Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis and Christopher Eccleston in the true crime drama Legend.

It has already received fairly good reviews, though I have a feeling Kingsman will be looked upon even more favourably years from now. It’s adventurous, edgy, sharp, funny, and filled with energy and style. It’s acutely aware of the traditions of the genre, but instead of overturning them it plays along with a cheerful wink and throws in a couple of wild surprises so audiences can’t quite put their finger on what’s going to happen next. While it spirals into ridiculousness towards the end, the film’s complete lack of sense actually helps the kind of popcorn experience Vaughn is trying to achieve. When it’s all said and done, Kingsman could very well turn out be the best action-comedy of the year.

4.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Inception (2010)

Spoiler Free!

Inception blew my mind.  It really did.  Christopher Nolan (writer, director, producer ) is a genius.

I tried my very best to avoid reading any reviews or anything associated with the film before watching it and I would recommend anyone else who hasn’t seen it to do the same.  Nevertheless, in the last few days all I’ve been hearing is how fantastic and unbelievable this film is and how I’ve got to watch it.

It sure seems like everybody’s been watching Inception, or at least trying to.  Word of mouth about the film must be spreading fast.  My first attempt, a 4:10pm session was completely sold out, so we bought tickets for the 5pm session.  That one was eventually sold out too.  Not a single seat left.  And when we left the cinema, people were already lining up for the next session.

To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to explain the plot of the film without giving anything away even if I wanted to.  So I’ll just skip straight to the critique.

Inception is mind bogglingly brilliant.  It’s one of the most original, interesting and entertaining films I’ve seen.  Ever. It’s the type of film that not just requires, but demands multiple viewings just to get your head around it all.  I’m not sure that’s even possible with so many layers and interpretations to sort through.  I paid careful attention the whole way through but there were times when I just had to accept what they were saying and what was happening and just go with the flow.  I plan to watch it again soon.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads a super cast including Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger and even Michael Caine.  Each role is weighty, signficant and important, and the performances were simply picture perfect.

Christopher Nolan has done such an incredible job with this film.  Having just studied screenwriting it frightens me how terrific the screenplay is.  For such a complicated, difficult storyline the general aspects of the film were surprisingly easy to follow and understand.  There is just so much confidence in his direction.  Even the special effects were amazing — at no time did I think I was watching CGI.  This is a master filmmaker who knows what he’s doing and he’s doing it at the height of his powers.

Best film of the year.

5 out of 5 stars!

In-Flight Movie Reviews (Part II)

(For Part I, click here)

This second part of my in-flight movie reviews rounds up the remaining 3 films I saw during my flights between Australia, Hong Kong and India.  As with the last set, please keep in mind that I was under the influence of prescription medication when I watched these films.

The Ghost Writer

A smart little political thriller directed by Roman Polanski (didn’t know and it gave me a shock when the credits rolled) and starring Ewan McGregor (who once again proves he is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood), Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall.

Brosnan plays a former British Prime Minister who is writing a memoir on his life and McGregor is assigned as his ghost writer to “polish up” the manuscript after the original ghost writer died under strange circumstances.  There is a mystery to be unraveled as the ghost writer is pulled deeper into the life of the PM, who is falling under increased scrutiny for his actions during several recent wars.

It’s a very interesting film, fictionalized, of course, but with touches of reality and topical issues. Apart from the ghost writing side of the publishing world we get to see, the thriller also raises some intriguing issues about civil liberties.
Polanski keeps the film simmering on low heat, allowing the tension and suspense to build while never making it too easy for the audience to figure out what is going to happen next.  My kind of film.

4 stars out of 5

Harry Brown


Comparisons to Gran Torino (one of my favourite films last year) are inevitable with this British drama starring Michael Caine as the titular character, an ex-marine who goes Dirty Harry on the local gangs in England.

However, the films are only similar in that the lead is a lonely old man and their neighbourhood is terrorized by local hoons.   Harry Brown is a totally different film because Caine’s character is entirely different to that of Clint Eastwood’s in Gran Torino.

Gran Torino is more about the relationship the protagonist develops with his “gook” (as he liked to call them) neighbours despite his prejudices, while Harry Brown is a more straightforward, ‘lethal old man pushed to the edge’ kind of violent drama.  Both are effective in their own ways, but Harry Brown isn’t quite as effective because there’s a feel of inevitability about it – you just knew what was going to happen and where the film was heading.

It’s nevertheless a compelling film to watch primarily because of Caine’s performance and the excellent depiction of the horrific world of British teen gangs, but Harry Brown lacks the subtlety and nuance to take the film to the next level.

3.5 stars out of 5

PS: And unless I am grossly mistaken about the advancement of forensic science in the UK, there are some major loopholes in this film.

The Book of Eli


I wanted to see this one since it was released at the cinemas but I never got around to it.  Without giving too much away, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world (aren’t they all these days?) where a mysterious man called Eli (Washington) is trekking across the barren plains with a special book in his possession.  Gary Oldman plays the bad guy (doesn’t he always?) who wants the book at all costs, and Mila Kunis is a feisty girl who gets caught up in the mess.

The synopsis sounds much worse than the film really is, but it’s just a fun action film that takes itself a little too seriously.  I can understand if some people think the whole thing is a piece of crap, especially after they find out why the book is so special, but it managed to keep my attention all the way until the end, where there are a few unexpected twists and turns.

Look, it’s not a masterpiece and it’s far too uneven to be a great film, but when all is said and done The Book of Eli is not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on a plane.

3.5 stars out of 5