Sunday, September 29, 2013


Year: 2013
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

Plot: Based on the true story of the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976.

Review: Ron Howard has made some of the most memorable films in the last 20 years such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Ransom just to name a few. Rush is a pretty solid addition to that list.

Rush follows the heated rivalry between British F1 driver James Hunt and Austrian driver Niki Lauda during the racing season of 1976. Howard shows how it began for the both of them back in Formula Three as they work their way up to the big leagues in F1. Their rivalry is shown not just on the track, but off as well.

The film also chronicles their personal lives and how different the two men are. Hunt is a brash yet charming party animal who loves sex and booze. Lauda on the other hand is a perfectionist who takes everything seriously, from racing techniques to car specifications. The only thing they have in common is their huge egos. Hunt's ego makes him hard to deal with on a personal level, as shown in his failed relationship with his wife, while Lauda's attitude makes him unpopular amongst his own crew.

Howard and writer Peter Morgan have done a splendid job in making this film. Their execution of the story is fascinating even to non F1 fans like myself. The races were very well filmed thanks to cameraman Anthony Dod Mantle, who gets many great shots from on the track, on the car, on the name it, he got it. The final race at the end, filmed in rainy conditions, was just beautiful to see. The personal story of the two men was well documented too, showing that despite their egos, they were ultimately human beings who are not infallible.

Chris Hemsworth plays James Hunt with a lot of charm and swagger, you would either love him or hate him, but you'll be impressed either way. Hemsworth's performance is almost similar to Thor but with less seriousness, and he's pretty solid in the role. Daniel Bruhl however impressed me just a bit more as Niki Lauda. Bruhl has improved tremendously from his time in Inglourious Basterds, here he plays a very driven man who really despises losing, up to the point that he is able to gather enough courage to come back after a huge accident. I liked Bruhl's performance a lot. Olivia Wilde is rather wasted in the small role of Hunt's wife, while Alexandra Maria Lara is better in comparison as Lauda's wife.

I was a tad disappointed that some of the races between the two men during the 1976 season was just skimmed through with the results being printed on screen. Perhaps this was Howard's way of saving time, which I get, but maybe a better way could have been used here. Hans Zimmer's music score was also very Dark Knight like, but I kinda dug it anyway.

I gotta say, Rush is a great movie that will appeal to movie fans including those who aren't racing fans. It's truly one of Ron Howard's best works. Recommended. (4/5) 

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Year: 2013
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

Plot: A desperate father takes extreme measures to find his kidnapped daughter, while a determined police detective tries his best to solve the case.

Review: Prisoners is one of those rare films where nearly everything comes together in perfection. The acting, the storytelling, writing and cinematography, and especially direction are all top notch.

In this story, two young girls do not return home, prompting a frantic search for them by their parents and the police, but to no avail. They have a suspect, who was seen driving an RV in the area, but he has a mind of a 10 year old, and the police release him due to lack of evidence. This does not go down well with Keller Dover, the father of one of the girls, who proceeds to kidnap and torture the suspect in order to get his daughter back. In the meantime, Detective Loki, the cop in charge of the case, doggedly pursues every lead while keeping a close eye on Keller.

This film is basically about what a person is willing to do to protect what matters to them. Denis Villeneuve (director) and writer Aaron Guzikowski have created a near masterpiece of a story that is compelling and heartbreaking for the audience to behold. Despite its length (153 minutes), it never gets dull as all the players involved contribute their own piece that adds layer after layer to the story as it twists and turns to the end. The great Roger Deakins as cinematographer only adds more greatness to an already awesome film, showing the dark and grittiness of the locations with nary a shot out of place.

We all know Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but here he is as intense as I've ever seen him. As the desperate Keller, we watch him torment whom he thinks is responsible for kidnapping his daughter, and we sympathise and fear him simultaneously. He ought to get an Oscar nod for this role. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki, the co-lead here, who is in a way, the other side of the coin with Keller. He's just as determined as the father and damn near as extreme, except he's a man of the law, and follows it mostly. Terrence Howard and Viola Davis are pretty solid too as the parents of the other kidnapped girl, who don't know if they should support Keller's actions or not. Maria Bello has her moments as Keller's wife, who conveys a mother's despair quite convincingly. Melissa Leo puts in an understated performance as the suspect's aunt, but it works so well. Finally Paul Dano is awesome as the suspect Alex Jones, who has barely a page of lines here, but is effective as a man whom the audience will have a hard time figuring out if he's genuine or putting on an act.

There were a couple of plotholes which were left unexplained, and I can't mention them without giving too much away, and the ending seems a tad abrupt after everything that had come before that. But these are not enough to ruin what is already a magnificent picture.

Overall, Prisoners is a must watch. It's disturbing, heart-wrenching and compelling. You will probably feel uncomfortable with some of the things that happen here, but it's very much worth it. Highly recommended. (4/5) 

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Year: 2013
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Jordi Molla

Plot: Betrayed and left for dead on a desolate alien planet, Riddick makes plans to escape by activating a distress beacon, which brings two teams of mercenaries to his location. One team wants his head in a box, the other wants information. Meanwhile, a huge storm and a whole lot of deadly creatures close in.

Review: Vin Diesel and David Twohy finally get their third film on Riddick's adventures off the ground. Pitch Black was solid and tight, being a cool introduction to the Riddick character as he becomes the unlikely hero to a band of crash survivors on a dangerous planet. Its follow up, The Chronicles Of Riddick however, was a step back. We were given an unnecessary background to Riddick, and the villains were somewhat uninteresting. So these guys have their work cut out for them to make Riddick (the movie) work. In my opinion, they didn't quite get it.

For this instalment, Twohy returns Riddick to the harshness and violence that made Pitch Black great. Unfortunately it also bears the excessiveness of Chronicles with it. As a result, Riddick feels quite bloated at times. Case in point: for the first half of the movie, we watch Riddick trying to survive on his own, injured and all, against hostile alien creatures. We then move to the mercenaries, who arrive and spend a lot of time bickering on who gets to catch Riddick first. This half of the film could have been easily trimmed down by at least 20 minutes, which would have made it easier to sit through.

It's only in the second half that the film starts to pick up, as Riddick teams up with the mercenaries (predictably) to survive the night once the aliens move in. This part is two thirds hit and one third miss. Watching men and aliens kill each other is quite fun, but some of it was too haphazardly shot, not to mention uninteresting. 

Diesel at the very least, deserves credit for holding most of the film together. He's still the badass we all know and love, though I didn't like how Twohy chose to end the film as far as the character is concerned. If anything, it made him unnecessarily vulnerable. Diesel is actually the best thing about Riddick, because the other mercenaries are either dull or not likable. The best one is actually former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, whose slightly goofy character makes him rather funny at times. However he gets less time compared to Katee Sackhoff's "I don't fuck men" sniper, who constantly becomes the butt of bad sex jokes, or Jordi Molla's annoying merc that loves talking big, or Matt Nable's honorable but dull merc leader. Even Nable's connection to Riddick's past isn't interesting enough to justify its inclusion. The rest are superbly dull, and they get way too much screen time.

You might be wondering whether I enjoyed this film. Well, I did, sort of. Riddick's always fun to follow around, even when he's alone and narrating for 20 minutes. Watching him take care of a dog was good too actually. But there's too much baggage here on a whole. With tighter editing and better writing, this would have been better. If they make a fourth film, they better get it right. (3/5)

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

Year: 2013
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey

Plot: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl have hung up their costumes in order to try and live a normal life, but the former's superhero activities has created more wannabe superheroes in its wake. Out of boredom, Kick-Ass tries to get back into crimefighting by joining a vigilante group called Justice Forever. Hit Girl on the other hand has trouble adjusting to high school. Meanwhile, Red Mist, now calling himself The Motherfucker, plans his revenge on Kick-Ass.

Review: I still have trouble taking Kick-Ass' mask seriously, simply because it looks so silly. Thankfully, this sequel is anything but.

While the first film was sort of over the top and surreal in its portrayal of violence and misguided heroism, this sequel is more grounded and dare I say it, touching. Don't get me wrong, Kick-Ass 2 still has plenty of violence, profanity and lewd jokes (it wouldn't be Kick-Ass otherwise), but this time I could actually relate to the characters better.

Director Jeff Wadlow, who also wrote the script, puts Dave Lizewski and Mindy Macready back in high school, each with their own problems. His approach to Mindy's character is the more interesting part (it's no secret that Kick-Ass's story focuses more on Hit Girl) as she tries to fit in with the cool kids at school at her foster father's encouragement, only to be cruelly punished by them (which in turn leads to her getting even with them). But it's the dramatic impact that counts and Chloe Moretz pulls off this part of Mindy beautifully. It's almost a precursor to what she's gonna show in the upcoming Carrie remake.

At the same time, I have to give credit to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for doing a great job as the titular character. He, like Moretz, gets to show his acting chops as well, and his chemistry with her is definitely there. Their friendship is the main attraction of this film in my opinion, not the humour or the violence.

Jim Carrey, who doesn't really get that much screen time here, makes every second of his appearance count as Colonel Stars and Stripes, the leader of Justice Forever. With a mask and a lower register on his voice, Carrey succeeds in making himself almost unrecognisable. Christopher Mintz-Plasse on the other hand is the weakest link of the film. His role as the antagonist is pretty disappointing, as he comes off as a wimp who pays other people to do the dirty work for him. That's probably the joke here, I know, but he did show some fighting skills in the last film, where did that go? And that mask of his, it's origin is pretty dumb too.

As for the action, it's more hit than miss thankfully. Moretz is still great in the ass kicking department, the standout being the van chase sequence. The camera was too close for some of the fight scenes though, I don't know why some people still make the same mistake in that department.

Overall, I had a ball of a time with this movie. I didn't think I'd like it since the first Kick-Ass was a bit OTT for me, but this one's awesome. Recommended. (4/5) 

P.S.: Stay till the end credits finish rolling.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Welcome To The Punch

Year: 2013
Director: Eran Creevy
Cast: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, Johnny Harris, Peter Mullan, David Morrissey

Plot: Max Lewinsky is a cop who's obsessed with catching Jacob Sternwood, the robber who shot him in the leg three years ago. When Jacob's son is shot and hospitalised, Max sees this as an opportunity to arrest Jacob when he shows up to visit his boy. However, there are bigger forces at play involving the boy, that threatens the lives of both men.

Review: Welcome To The Punch is reminiscent of a Hong Kong crime thriller, evident by the similar elements such as wide city shots, gritty action sequences, heavy violence and shady backgrounds of the key players. It's actually refreshing in that sense, as action films these days tend to be too stylish, but writer-director Eran Creevy grounds his film well and makes sure his action sequences hit hard.

One of the things I like most is the cinematography, where a bright blue hue is visible for most of the film which takes place at night. That, coupled with the aforementioned wide shots of London from the air makes the film look absolutely beautiful. The action sequences, mostly gunfights and a few physical scrapes, are shot realistically with no overstyling (there's only one slow motion sequence that I noticed).

The entire cast put in strong performances, especially the two leads. James McAvoy is getting better with every role he takes. As Max, he fits the troubled cop with a bad leg to a tee, not being immediately likable but definitely someone the audience can relate to. Mark Strong puts in a lower key performance than usual as Jacob, making his character more than just a smart robber. He's actually a fair man who doesn't kill for the sake of killing, but won't hesitate for a second if he needs to. Andrea Riseborough is pretty good also as Max's partner Sarah while Johnny Harris looks suitably intimidating as key villain Dean Warns.

The plot concerning politics, guns and corruption needs a bit of polishing though. McAvoy and Strong's characters need some development too. It would be too easy to sum up their relationship as cop and robber, and while their roles in this film are clear, a bit more substance would have been nice. And there are a couple of things left open at the film's end which should have been tied up.

Nevertheless, Welcome To The Punch is a gritty crime thriller. Quite entertaining, not perfect, but very watchable. (3.5/5)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...