Monday, November 28, 2011

Seeking Justice

Year: 2011
Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau, Xander Berkeley, Jennifer Carpenter

Plot: After Will Gerard's wife Laura is assaulted, a man named Simon approaches him, telling him that he represents a vigilante group and offers to take care of the problem. Will agrees, but after that he realizes too late that Simon's price for his services is too high.

Review: Roger Donaldson, who has made diverse films ranging from Cocktail to The Recruit, manages to craft a steady thriller out of Seeking Justice. It is by no means perfect though, as the film becomes quite predictable and lots of plot holes are visible throughout.

Donaldson makes up for it by keeping things moving fairly well. The first half is smooth, and then the plot slows down as Will tries to outrun Simon and his men while trying to get to the bottom of things. But the pace picks up at the climax, and though it can only end one way, the journey there is thrilling enough.

Cage as Will is one of his better roles in the past year. I know he gets a lot of crap for taking all sorts of roles and further driving his once great career down the toilet, but as Will, Cage goes back to playing what he does best, being the everyman. Jones is merely here to support Cage's character, but it's nice to see her doing some real acting for once. Guy Pearce is pretty good as the villainous Simon, and manages to lift the film above average.

There is talk during the film that New Orleans, the city where this takes place, is going to ruin, and I think Donaldson should have tried harder to depict that. All he manages to show the audience is a few graffiti stained walls, some crime reports and an unfinished mall. He can certainly do better than that if he wants to justify a vigilante group's existence.

A decent thriller overall, a watchable film for Cage fans. (3.5/5)

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Year: 2011
Director: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Henry Cavill, Luke Evans, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Mickey Rourke

Plot: King Hyperion seeks a mystical bow that can help him release the Titans from their prison. Zeus refuses to interfere in the affairs of men and chooses instead to rely on a peasant named Theseus, whose mother Hyperion killed, to stop him.

Review: From the trailer, this film indeed looks promising. A sword and sandal epic is guaranteed to be bloody and violent, which would be fun if done right.

However, much to my chagrin, the local censors removed many bits that were deemed too gory for our senses. I'm used to watching films that are censored, but whoever did the job for Immortals did so badly, as the cuts disrupted the flow of the final cut that I watched. Damn you.

But anyway, I shall try to tell you my opinion regardless. Tarsem seems to rely a lot on CGI blood and CGI sets, as the rock cliff home of Theseus seems too good to be real (I could be wrong though). He focused so much on sets that there are virtually no scenes of travelling from one location to another, which made no sense to me. It felt like one moment the characters were in a place, the next moment they were elsewhere. This sure as hell threw the plot into a big mess for me.

Acting wise, Henry Cavill is a pretty good hero as Theseus. He reminds me of Sam Worthington in Clash Of The Titans, only Worthington was better. Mickey Rourke uses his similar sleepy villain style as Hyperion, sometimes it works, sometimes it's just annoying. Stephen Dorff makes a good sidekick for Cavill, but I wished they had focused more on his friendship with Theseus. Luke Evans makes an outstanding Zeus, and Isabel Lucas is just gorgeous as Athena. Another thing I wished for was more time with the gods and less with the humans, alas we don't get that. Freida Pinto was boring to watch unfortunately, she has no chemistry with Cavill.

Overall, Immortals was only so-so for me. They gave a lot of running time for the film, but most of it was spent on Theseus' journey, and not enough on the gods or the supporting characters. If I had a chance to see the violence they removed, maybe I'll like this film more. But for now, it's below my expectations. (3/5)

Monday, November 07, 2011

In Time

Year: 2011
Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Alex Pettyfer, Vincent Kartheiser, Olivia Wilde

Plot: In a world where everyone has been genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 and live for one more year, time has become the currency. Those who have years on their clock are the rich who live forever, while the poor live by scraping enough time to last the next day. Will Salas is a man from the ghetto who inherits a century from someone, and while being pursued by the authorities, attempts to make things right in the distribution of time.

Review: The moment I learned the plot from In Time and heard it was Andrew Niccol directing, it literally rang "Gattaca" in my head. The similarities are uncanny: it's set in the future, underprivileged man gets to live a life of privilege thanks to a kind man with the means, man falls for a girl from the upper class, someone suspects his ruse and investigates him. It's all there.

I have to admit though, In Time has an intriguing premise despite its familiarity. In this world, we don't carry cash, we carry time on our wrists. We can pass the time to another person as easily as passing money from hand to hand. The difference is, if you have no time, you're dead. From a logical standpoint, I still don't know how you pass time to another person by touch, but there you go.

Niccol's version of the future is kinda like Gattaca: it's sleek, inorganic and very formal. Kudos to Niccol and company for the great set design, as well as the stark change in transportation, where cars look like they run on electricity and even hum differently. Cars look very retro but at the same time, exude a futuristic image.

I like how the disparity between the two social classes are shown here, by using time zones that separate the wealthy from the poor. I also like the appearance of the Minutemen, thugs who steal other people's time by force, and the police force that are called Timekeepers. In a world like this, it's very relevant.

However, Niccol squanders a good opportunity to turn this into a good thriller by the time the film hits the halfway mark. At this point, Will and his love interest Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), who's wealthy, decide to become a Bonnie & Clyde pair and steal time from time banks, and then distribute them to the needy. This is where the story seemingly grinds to a halt, because Niccol stays on this plot to the end, and worst of all, doesn't even give it a satisfactory finale. In this part of the film, it feels as if he can't decide how to move the plot along or how to end it.

I've never been a fan of Timberlake's acting, and after this I'm not changing my mind. He's not awful, but inconsistent in his portrayal of Will. Amanda Seyfried isn't much better, she's basically following Timberlake's lead here. Definitely not one of her better roles. Cillian Murphy does what he can as the Timekeeper on Will's trail, but you get the feeling he's a tad miscast. Alex Pettyfer plays against type as the Minutemen's leader, but doesn't have a heck of a lot to do.

In the end, In Time is a a film with a lot of wasted potential. A real pity. Don't rush out to see this. (3/5)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Real Steel

Year: 2011
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie

Plot: In a future where robot boxing has replaced human boxing, a washed up fighter and his estranged son attempt to bring their underdog robot named Atom all the way to the World Robot Boxing championship.

Review: I remember seeing the trailer to this film many times in the last several months. The more I saw it, the more I thought it was gonna be a stinker. But the reviews were positive, and I love Hugh Jackman, so I gave it a shot.

To be honest, Real Steel isn't perfect, but these days when can you ever ask for perfection when it comes to movies? Real Steel, at its heart, is an underdog story, which is heavily inspired it seems, by Rocky, judging by the similarities.

Jackman is Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who tries his best to make ends meet by getting a robot that can help him win a fight. He is down on his luck, until his estranged son Max finds a sparring robot named Atom at the junkyard, and convinces his father to teach him some moves. Along the way, Charlie learns a thing or two about fatherhood and fighting for the people that you love. And of course, the underdog robot triumphs in his own way.

Director Shawn Levy successfully crafts a heartwarming story that will appeal to most people, even though it seems very familiar. It helps that Jackman and Dakota Goyo have great chemistry as father and son, and it holds the story together well enough. The real appeal however are the robot fights, that are very realistic indeed. You'd think that the effects would be choppy for a family film like this, but no! The robots look and sound real, every punch, swing and impact feel authentic, which make all the robot fights very exciting to behold.

My only gripe is that the film took a little too long to finish, but other than that, Real Steel is knockout entertainment. I'll admit, this isn't Jackman's best work, I still love seeing him as Wolverine. But if you love underdog stories and great action, Real Steel is a solid choice. (3.5/5)


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