Tag Archives: Sam Worthington

2014 Movie Blitz: Part II

The movies just keep coming, I can’t stop them. Here’s another batch of films I saw recently.

The Calling (2014)

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This was supposed to be good. Susan Sarandon plays a police detective living in a small Canadian town trying to track down a serial killer with illusions of religious grandeur. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, with the likes of Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace and Donald Sutherland. Unfortunately, while it’s not as horrible as some critics have made it out to be, The Calling lacked real suspense, emotion and surprise, and will likely become one of those movies no one remembers in a couple of years.

I initially thought The Calling was going to be a horror in the vein of Seven, but that was expecting way too much. The film started off well, building up Sarandon’s alcoholic character as a troubled but capable detective. Gil Bellows made a good right-hand man, and Topher Grace gave the police station a much-needed spark with his presence, though both of those guys were somewhat under-utilised.

The murders were interesting for a while, but after a while you begin to realise that the story’s not nearly as clever as it wants or needs to be. After a lot of build up in the first half there was a distinct lack of tension or intrigue in the second, as the perpetrator is revealed with very little mystery or conflict. I didn’t have a problem with the story veering towards the supernatural (which most critics tend to hate), but in the end the outcome was predictable and disappointing.

Though it’s one of those films that could have been a lot better, I’m also glad that it wasn’t a lot worse, which it very well could have been.

2.75 stars out of 5

Rage (2014)

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Seriously, trust those American movie producers to change what was an original and intriguing title like Tokarev to a lame and generic one like Rage. But it is what it is, and it’s still a semi-passable Taken-style movie about a former mobster who will do all that he can to find his abducted daughter — a considerable feat considering it stars none other than Nicholas “I’ll do anything” Cage.

Rage was savaged by the critics as an overly-violent, dull action thriller that belongs in Cage’s movie basement, but I personally thought it was OK. Cage has already been in one Taken rip-off, the blatantly titled Stolen, but this one’s a little different for several reasons I can’t reveal. And Cage, despite the tragic hair, is actually pretty good in it too.

The premise is intriguing — Cage, a former criminal gone straight, goes out for the evening with his lady friend (Rachel Nichols) while his teenage daughter (Aubrey Peeples) hangs out at home with her (boy)friends. A bunch of masked men come in and abduct her, setting Cage off on a rampage to track her down through his old contacts, one of whom he believes has betrayed him to his enemies. The journey takes Cage onto a path he can’t return from as we learn more about his dark past.

Rage is indeed ultra-violent, but it doesn’t have the oomph of Taken because it’s mostly just a lot of loud shooting and meanness. Rather than being a skilled badass like Liam Neeson, Cage is an angry badass, which isn’t nearly as exciting. At just 98 minutes, however, the short length does mitigate some of the dullness. The film loses steam towards the end, but I quite liked the ending because there is a tinge of morality among all the carnage.

3 stars out of 5

Sabotage (2014)

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This was supposed to be one of the big movies of the year. A post-politics Arnie back in full swing with Aussie star Sam Worthington by his side, along with a whole host of big names such as Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard, True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello, Lost‘s Harold Perrineau and Josh Holloway, Martin Donovan and Mireille Enos. It’s co-written and directed by David Ayer, best known for penning Training Day and writing and directing End of Watch.

The premise is a good one too — a bunch of corrupt DEA agents, led by Arnie, decide to skim a little off the top of their latest drug bust. But when the money they are supposed to share goes missing and team members start getting killed off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways, it turns the survivors of the once close-knit team on each other.

I knew it was going to be gritty, violent and explosive. And it was. But it also wasn’t anywhere as good as either Training Day or End of Watch. There are plenty of problems to point to, starting from the unnecessary gruesomeness of the whole thing. Sometimes the violence works, sometimes it’s it doesn’t — here it’s just kind of pointless. The other issue I had was with all the characters, none of whom are even remotely likable. It’s hard to watch a movie like this when you think all of them are basically brutish animals and a-holes you won’t mind seeing get whacked.

I wanted to like Sabotage, but there was way too much testosterone to be shared between all the stars, leading to a lot over-the-top swearing, sexism and fake macho stuff that just turned me off the story, which didn’t turn out to be nearly as clever as you initially thought it would be. And it even has this lengthy epilogue that was completely unneeded. Good performances, especially by Arnie, I suppose, but on the whole this is a misstep for Ayer and everyone else involved.

2 stars out of 5

Winter’s Tale (2014)

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What the hell is this? I don’t mind the occasional fable, but Winter’s Tale was way too unconvincing and sappy for my liking. It’s based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, and tells the story of guy (Colin Farrell) who is raised by a demon (Russell Crowe) and later falls in love with a sick girl (Jessica Brown Findlay) while riding around on a flying white horse/guardian angel. So…yeah.

I kind of get that Winter’s Tale wants to be this epic, sweeping love story that transcends time and space and all that, but I found the package difficult to swallow, starting from Russell Crowe’s bizarre, indecipherable accent to the contrived love story between Farrell and Findlay, and the fact that Will Smith plays the Devil. Fantasy or not, it’s just not sensible stuff.

A film like this needed to give audiences strong, likable characters we can root for, but despite the significant 118-minute running time it felt as though not enough time was dedicated to developing them. The story has a lot of on-screen magic in it but you don’t feel any magic while watching it. The action is also stale, and the romance — though I’ve seen much worse — comes across as forced. And my god, what the heck is Russell Crowe saying?

In the end, I have no idea what this fable is trying to say. Like most flicks of this type, there’s beauty, love, the magic and there’s miracles, but none of it helped to make Winter’s Tale a fantasy I could enjoy, let alone immerse myself in. It might have worked for the book, but it didn’t come close to working for the film.

1.5 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 5

Man on a Ledge (2012)

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The aptly titled Man on a Ledge is about — wait for it — a man (Sam Worthington) on a ledge. It looks like he’s there to commit suicide, but there’s more to the story because Worthington is actually an ex-policeman turned ex-crim who stole a very valuable diamond from a douchey businessman played by Ed Harris. Elizabeth Banks plays a negotiator with the most perfect hair in the world despite being summoned at a second’s notice, and Anthony Mackie is Worthington’s old partner. And Ed Burns plays an officer with the most annoying voice in the world (actually, that’s just because he’s Ed Burns).

Man on a Ledge is a fairly interesting film with a nice set up but it should have been a lot better. It’s a crime thriller that works backwards in the sense that you start off at a climatic situation without knowing what is going on, and the film takes you through various twists to turns to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Personally, I like such films, but the execution here is too weak to make the film compelling. Apart from the implausible plot and the even more impossible stuff that happens in the film, the tension was never there — even though you have a man standing on the ledge of a building the whole time!

Sadly, despite the great cast and interesting set up, Man on a Ledge is straight-to-DVD fodder.

2.5 stars out of 5

Piranha 3DD (2012)

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I watched the predecessor to this film, Piranha 3D, for some reason I cannot recall. I had been expecting a gimmicky Jaws-like tribute in 3D that was enjoyable in a campy sort of way. As it turned out, it was gratuitously gory, tasteless and not nearly fun enough. It was a film made for the stupid generation who just want to see naked girls and carnage. I think I gave it 2 stars, even though looking back on it I can’t see how it could have been so high.

The title of the sequel, Piranha 3DD, should give audiences a fair idea of what they are in for. With a smaller budget (US$5m vs US$24m for the first film) and a lesser known cast, Piranha 3DD tried to make up for it by upping the gore and tastelessness to a new level, including coming up with possibly the most gruesome sex scene in history (you can take a guess). Maybe I am showing my age again, but is this seriously supposed to be funny? What is wrong with people these days?

I have trouble remembering the plot but it had something to do with a family water park and the prehistoric piranhas being unleashed on the poor patrons. As expected, the carnage is epic and there’s a lot of over-the-top blood and guts and people screaming and fish being blown up. Strangely, I found all of it mind-numbingly dull.

The only positive worth noting from this film, if it can be called that, is an extended cameo from David Hasselhoff as himself, playing a douchebag parody of himself (potentially accurate depiction). Unfortunately, even that is nowhere near as funny as the filmmakers thought it was.

0.5 star out of 5

Project X (2012)

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I don’t care if everyone else in the world liked it or thought it was making some kind of meaningful social statement — Project X is without a doubt one of the worst films of 2012. This is one movie I will gladly admit I didn’t get it.

The film is allegedly based on the antics of Corey Worthington, the worthless Melbourne party boy who shot to international fame for about 15 seconds after holding a party at his parents’ house that spiralled out of control. The story itself was newsworthy, I get it, but I just didn’t understand why people think trashing your parents’ house is a cool thing to do.

That didn’t mean Project X had to suck though. But it did. Badly.

As the story goes, three friends want to throw a party to make themselves more popular. They invite a lot of people and the invitations go viral, and as a result the house is flooded with losers. Drinking, dancing, drugs, sex, infantile behaviour — all the stuff you would expect — ensues, before things get so out of control that police, firefighters and media descend upon them.

The movie is largely captured by a handheld camera belonging to one of the three protagonists, which adds to the obnoxiousness of the whole affair. If the movie was actually funny it would have made a huge difference on my opinion but sadly it was criminally unfunny, so much so that I have genuine fears about the future of humanity. It would be false advertising to market this movie as a comedy.

Add on top of that unoriginal, mean-spirited, moronic, charmless, and infuriating (and many more words not suited for this family-friendly blog), and what you end up with is one of the worst movies of the year, or any year. Sometimes movies are just bad. Project X is loathsome.

PS: It’s frightening that a sequel is in the works.

0.25 stars out of 5 — and only because I don’t believe in zero stars

Iron Sky (2012)

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I was excited about Iron Sky, or at least the concept of Iron Sky, which is about Nazis who fled to the moon (and colonised it) after their WWII defeat but are planning their return to conquer the world in 2018. It’s a premise so deliciously outrageous that it seemed like a cult classic waiting to happen.

With great expectations come great disappointment, and unfortunately Iron Sky was at best a mediocre farcical comedy that couldn’t quite get over the hump. The jokes were largely based on the idea that the Nazis were stuck with their primitive 1940s technology and their outdated political ideals, which worked for a while but soon became stale. The tone was also all over the place, making the film feel like a complete mess at times despite the occasional good joke.

The film also employs a cool colour scheme of mostly all greys and blues, which made it almost graphic novel-esque, and I kind of liked it, even though the dreariness got a bit annoying by the end.

In all, it was simply not good enough to be just a good movie, and not bad enough to be a guilty pleasure or cult classic; just a worst place to be for a film — frustratingly mediocre.

2.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans (2D) (2012)

 

For some reason, my memory of the predecessor, Clash of the Titans, was that it sucked. But when I checked my review of it I realised I actually said I quiet enjoyed it and gave it 3.5 stars. Beats me.

Either way, I am certain that the sequel, Wrath of the Titans, is better.

The second film begins 10 years after the first, where demigod and son of Zeus, Perseus (Sam Worthington, with long curly hair), is now a fisherman intent on raising his young son and wants nothing to do with the conflicts of the gods. But of course, he doesn’t get a chance because the gods are always angry with each other and he has to, once again, become the world’s saviour. It made little sense to me considering all the gods are kinda related to each other (or maybe that makes perfect sense) but I went along for the ride anyway.

Maybe it’s my bias towards Greek mythology, but I thought Wrath of the Titans was pretty awesome. It’s clichéd and predictable, but still — I couldn’t get enough of the mythological monsters and the spectacular battle scenes, of which there were plenty. There’s no Medusa or Kraken this time, but you do get to see Perseus take on a Chimera, Cyclops and a Minotaur, among others. From what I could recall of the first film I thought the fight scenes were better executed and more epic this time around.

The storyline, like the original, still doesn’t quite click, but I felt it had improved and was a lot more engaging. It was definitely less confusing and convoluted. I believe one of the main reasons is because the film is wrapped up in a manageable 99 minutes, whereas the original was far too long at 118.

I also firmly believe (without any proof whatsoever), that the makers of this second film (which was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who last did Battle: Los Angeles) got a lot of ideas from the sensational God of War III on the PS3. Seriously – everything from the creature designs to the way the battles played out reminded me so much of the video game that it cannot be merely a coincidence.

Sam Worthington is still a little “meh” but he does a good enough job as the hero Perseus. Nothing wrong with him but a bunch of Hollywood actors could have pulled off the role just as well, if not better.

Other returners include Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades, respectively, but Alexa Davalos is replaced by Rosamund Pike as Andromeda and Tamer Hassan is substituted by Edgar Ramirez as Ares. All are better than they were in the original.

Newcomers include Toby Kebbell as Agenor (whom for a very long time I thought was named “Vaginal”) and Bill Nighy as Hephaestus. Both are solid and provide upgrades over supporting characters from the first film.

So as you might have guessed, I thought Wrath of the Titans was better than Clash of the Titans. It had better action sequences, improved special effects, stronger characters and plot, and accomplished more in less time. Another reason could be because I watched the original in clunky 3D and the sequel in 2D, the way the films were supposed to be.

I know the film hasn’t gotten the best reviews but I hope they go ahead with the planned third instalment.

4 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: 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!

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

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I went to see Terminator Salvation with reasonable (albeit guarded) expectations, but the film absolutely exceeded them.  In my humble opinion, it’s the second best film (out of four) of the great Terminator franchise.  Bearing in mind that I thought Terminator 2: Judgment Day was one of the best action movies and sequels of all time, that’s a pretty big compliment for the new film directed by McG and starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.

As per usual, I’ll keep plot details to an absolute minimum.  All that needs to be said is that the story revolves around a grown-up John Connor (Christian Bale, or Edward Furlong from T2 and Nick Stahl from T3).  If you’ve seen the previous 3 films or have a vague idea what they are about, then no further explanation is necessary.

However, you don’t need to have seen any of the previous Terminator films to appreciate this one.  It stands up well as an independent feature, and is significantly different in style to its predecessors.  It’s substantially more dark, grim and gritty, capturing the pessimistic mood of the world perfectly.  But when it comes to action sequences, of which Terminator Salvation has plenty, it doesn’t do too shabbily when judged under the high standards set by the franchise.

While I said the story revolves around John Connor, the movie really belongs to new character Markus Wright, played by Aussie Sam Worthington (who will be appearing in Avatar later this year and will play Perseus in the remake of Clash of the Titans).  Worthington is arguably the lead character of the film, and shares just as much as screen time as (if not more than) Bale – and he has the more interesting story.  This is the second time in a row Bale has been relegated to second fiddle despite being the supposed ‘lead character’ for a major film (the first, of course, is when Heath Ledger’s Joker upstaged his Batman in The Dark Knight).  Maybe that’s the real reason Bale went American Psycho on the set!

While Bale and Worthington hog most of the minutes, Anton Yelchin absolutely steals the show as a young Kyle Reese.  He is terrific in this role, and I have become a big fan.  Also solid is Moon Bloodgood, a Resistance soldier, and Jadagrace Berry, too cute for her own good.  Michael Ironside grunts his way through the film for his paycheck, but it is Bryce Dallas Howard that has the most thankless role as as Kate Connor.  She really got short changed.

When people hear a guy named McG directed the film (you may remember him from such films as Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle), they cringe and refuse to give it a chance.  Poor guy, but that’s the nickname he was given from birth because too many relatives had the same names (real name: Joseph McGinty Nichol).  However, McG does a splendid job in Terminator Salvation, creating a realistic, believable world, keeping the action thrilling and dynamic (with creative camera angles and movements), while managing to add in some cool homages to the previous films.  I thought they were cool anyway.

The special effects were superb, but audiences don’t expect anything less than seamless these days.  Although there were some highly creative sequences, none of them were as iconic as those from T1 or T2.

I was surprised how relatively little fanfare accompanied the release of this movie, which was the first in the franchise without Governor Schwarzenegger in the lead.  I’m not sure if it was because I was hidden from the world during my studies, but to me, Terminator Salvation had none of the hype that surrounded the release of other recent major films such as Star Trek or Angels & Demons.  Of course, there was that infamous psychotic Christian Bale rant on set that made headlines all around the world, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the unexpected low-keyness of it all.  Then again, that didn’t stop the early reviewers of the film from spoiling the many wonderful surprises in this underrated blockbuster (if you haven’t seen it yet, dear reader, then I hope you had more success than me in avoiding them).

Okay, now the verdict.  In my opinion, it’s better than a 4-star film, but not quite good enough to warrant 4.5 stars.  Hence, I will have to settle for 4.25 stars out of 5!